Stop the Military Language in Committees [mission.hack]

A mission.hack is defined here. We look at mission statements or at mission initiatives and examine different ways of expressing them. Hacking them...if you will.

An important and refreshing change happened in the first minutes of the UMC's General Conference with radical implications for our local church committees and ecumenical business gatherings. It is that important.

From lay delegate Will Green on the ground at GC:

[A] member of the New England delegation, my friend We Chang, asked the Bishop to change her language around a motion being "defeated" so that we don't use war and violence language. The Bishop loved the suggestion and it got applause from the gallery!
Thus, for the whole of GC2008, measures are not "defeated" they are "rejected."

It started me thinking:
  • How often do your church committees "defeat" measures? Reading through a church's committee minutes can sound at times like armies swathing across Europe.
  • How often do you vote with "ayes" and "nays?" Hearing it like two opposing sides can seem like there are only two areas, black and white, no shades of gray, reinforcing the opposing sides mentality.
Perhaps a change in language will assist us as we grow in mutuality towards each other? Maybe examine your own committees and see if the very language we use promotes combative relationships and "winners" and "losers."

Thoughts on this?


Scott April 26, 2008 at 8:44 AM  

How is "reject" any better than "defeat"?

The only way we could get away from win/lose (and black/white) language I think would be to use consensus models.

Steven Manskar April 26, 2008 at 11:58 AM  

Because the church is organized around a legislative structure and governed by Roberts Rules of Order we will always have "winners" and "losers." Petitions will necessarily be viewed in black and white, right or wrong. From the very beginning of American Methodism we've made the mistake of believing that God works through the legislative process. We have also gotten ourselves into the trap of believing that passing legislation is the same as actually accomplishing or changing something. This, of course, is self-deception.

Legislation and changing our language from "defeated" to "rejected" changes nothing. It only gives the illusion of change.

I am convinced that we need to dispose of Roberts Rules of Order in favor of a process of discernment steeped in prayer and fasting. We need to give space for the Holy Spirit in our decision making.

When General Conference convenes, with all its politicking, arguing, and pridefulness God looks upon it all with disdain and goes about the business of finding people who will join him in his work of bringing good news and liberation to the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized, the refugees from war and violence.

coolwaters2000 May 5, 2008 at 6:23 AM  

I'm sorry, but this word policing stuff is somewhat silly, and worse, it's a waste of time and effort when we are supposed to be working on substantial changes. This was not progress, it was a distraction.

Rev. Jeremy Smith May 5, 2008 at 9:49 AM  

Thank you for these responses, but please consider that while there are certainly critiques (most of which I agree with!) of this language change at General Conference...the focus of this post was on local church.

How many of your churches operate on the conflict model? If so, and if consensus is not obtainable at the moment, then how can we at least make our language reflect "truth seeking consensus" not "truth in conflict"?

We know in worship services that changing language can open hearts...why not in times of worshipful work?

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