Realism, Not Cold Water

Realism, not cold water.

That is my message to all my friends in Metho-nerd land today.

For the past two weeks, we’ve had the breaking news of General Conference delegate elections from all across the country. It is fair to call it a “wave election,” toward the Moderate-Progressive side. It’s STUNNING in some places.

My DMs are blowing up with “Did you see this?!!! Did you hear that?!”

And, yes, it’s all AMAZING….AH-May-Zing.

Let us pause and give thanks to God for this awakening of God’s Spirit, happening (by no accident, I am sure) during the week of Pentecost.

God’s people are rising up, all across America, and RESISTING…

But.

But, we have to immediately make sure we understand what the result of this will be. I’m already hearing lots of friends (here in North Texas and across the nation) mistake this wave for a sign that the United Methodist brand can be “won back” from the Traditionalist Plan.

The math is something like….
Flip 50-70 delegates or so, and the Traditional Plan can be defeated, and something else can pass.

Let me push this….here comes the “Realism, not cold water” part…

Let’s pretend we can flip 150 delegates. (Far beyond what *any* observer believes possible…)

What does that get us?

A “winning” margin of perhaps 55-58% percent.

And while, yes, that’s an impressive swing, what it means is the UMC will STILL be deeply divided.

We cannot “win” this battle legislatively, with plans for a unified United Methodist future. I hope you have all heard me say this consistently and carefully since the afternoon General Conference ended in February. That fight is OVER.

Continuing it….fighting to “flip” delegates to get a “winning” percentages into the mid 50 percent range…means signing up for a protracted Vietnam-style land war….fighting hill-by-hill…for decades yet to come.

Friends: No progressive I know, in our part of the country, will sign up for that war. We know the costs. We know that people are more important than brand, and we will not fight and die for a brand.

These amazing results DO point to something postive, however. They show that the American Church is decidedly Center-Left. This is a statement I have been making for over a decade now. The American Church, however, has (to borrow a phrase from politics) been a non-voting area.

Now, the true social views of the American Church are being revealed. We are Center-Left. We need a Center-Left polity.

These elections show us that we have the political strength to come to the negotiating table with the WCA and work out a future for us all…one that ends the land war for all time.

That last sentence…that’s the deeply hopeful message of these elections.

And, make no mistake, it’s deeply helpful and hopeful.

Negotiated peace? Yes, please.

Protracted, decades long land war? Hell no, we won’t go.

So, friends, I simply offer this reality check, which I hope does not strike you all as cold water…but as warm and hopeful realism.

There is indeed a hopeful future for American Methodism, and we are seeing it be born in front of our eyes.

It makes me more hopeful than I’ve been in years.

How about you?

I’ll end by posting the questions from my last post (analyzing the elections in our own annual conference….)

What does it mean to *really* include all of our people of color as full partners in a church of the future?
What does it mean to fully support and welcome our LGBTQ brothers and sisters?
What does it mean to potentially still be in different theological places, and yet maintain that very Wesleyan desire to “walk hand in hand” with those whose hearts are the same as ours?
What does it mean to support our rural churches, which have different contexts from the city?
What does it mean to listen to the feedback of the Minneapolis and Kansas City gatherings, and incorporate some of the values and goals from those gatherings into our future dreaming in our conference?

I will hope and believe that all these delegates being elected are ready to dream a new church based on these questions…

Buckle your seatbelts.

You’ve never seen anything like what’s about to happen in American Methodism.

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Eric Folkerth is a minister, musician, author and blogger. He is Senior Pastor of Kessler Park UMC United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas. Previously, he was pastor at Northaven UMC in Dallas for seventeen years. Eric loves to write on topics of spirituality, social justice, music/art and politics. The entries on this blog reflect that diversity of interests. His passion for social justice goes beyond mere words. He’s been arrested at the White House, defending immigrants and “The Dreamers,” and he’s officiated at same sex weddings in his churches, in defiance of what some believe is Methodist teaching. Eric is an avid blogger and published author, and 2017 recipient of the prestigeous Kuchling Humanitarian Award from Dallas’ Black Tie Dinner. (Human Rights Campaign) Eric has led or co-led hundreds of persons on mission trips around the globe, to places such as Mexico, Haiti, Russia, and Nepal. He has worked with lay persons to build ten homes, and one Community Center, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dallas. He’s a popular preacher, and often tackles challenging issues of social justice in his writings and sermons. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, is a State District Judge for Dallas, County. As judge of the 303rd Family District Court, she consistently gets high ratings from area lawyers, and was named “best judge” by The Dallas Observer. First elected in 2004, she was the first Latina ever elected to a county-wide bench in Dallas County, and is currently the longest service district judge in that district. She was re-elected for a fourth term in 2018. They have the world’s best daughter, Maria, and an incredible dog, Daisy. Find links to Eric’s music-related websites, at the top of this site’s navigation menu.

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