June 2, 2011

Ode to the Book of Discipline...

Oh Book of Discipline, how do I love thee...

Let me count the ways.

I love that when I am confused about how to proceed regarding a new parsonage purchase, you contain orderly directions.

I love that when I wrote my papers for ordination nearly every question could be found within your beautiful pages.

I love that as a new pastor I can use you to add weight to my words... because it says so in paragraph such and such of the Discipline.

The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church 2008-2012I love that as I look through prior editions, I can see how our church has grown and changed.

I love that you contain, without apology, the history and tradition of our roots and that those pages cannot be changed.

I love that you hold the outcome of our shared wrestlings as the people called United Methodist about difficult issues and theological quandries.

I love that as much as I love you, we both know that you are never completely perfect and that each time our General Conference meets we can fix typos and make amendments and add clarifications.

I love that you are dynamic and changing and yet, at the same time the foundation for our shared ministry through time.

I love that in the words of the 2004 edition, you are "the most current statement of how United Methodists agree to live their lives together." 

I am running to be a delegate to our General Conference in 2012.  And this afternoon I recieved a phone call from a fellow pastor who had some questions for me.  I thought it was awesome that she has taken her own initiative and is doing more research on each person to make an informed decision.

One of the questions that I was asked was whether I will uphold the Book of Discipline as it stands... or something to that effect.

At first, I hesitated.  Because as an ordained elder, I am under this particular rule of law.  These are the agreements that we have made together about how we are going to live together.

So the first words out of my mouth were, "yes, as a pastor, I will work to uphold the Discpline." 

But immediately, I had to qualify that statement.

Because you see, every four years, the Book of Discipline is subject to change and scrutiny.  Every time our church meets together as the General Conference, we "amend, perfect, clarify, and add our own contribution to the Discipline." (tenses changed, again from the BOD2004)

The Book of Discipline is not holy or sacred.  It is a conversation through time.  It is the product of our connectional spirit.  And while we meet for fellowship and celebration of ministry and worship at General Conference... we also meet to speak on behalf of the church and to figure out how we are going to agree to live together for the next four years.

The United Methodist Church is diverse, global, changing, and - I pray - Spirit led.  As such, we adapt to new situations and ministry fields, we attempt to respond to the new problems the world throws at us, and we continue to try to be faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ in this place and time. 

So yes, I will work to uphold the Discipline that I love... but if the case is made, if it will further the work of God in this world, if we will make more disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world... I will vote to change it in a heartbeat.

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