Last night I spent an hour and a half combing my UM Book of Discipline to find out what it says about this question. In the end, I almost threw the dumb thing across the room. What a bureaucracy we have! It’s almost impossible to find some things in there!
The situation is this: someone in the local church got the idea that we needed to spend a vast amount of money to upgrade our audiovisual system. Everybody I have talked to since the idea was first floated has been opposed to it – everybody. Yet the idea has gone forward. Even though only about half the money has been pledged, and it appears no more will be forthcoming, it has been decided – by somebody – that it must be done. Whoever did the deciding has even decided that a loan must be taken out to help pay for it.
That’s the situation. But what I really want to know is, who decides these things at the local church level in the United Methodist Church?
The pastor? Most UM pastors I have encountered are of the attitude that it’s not for them to decide – “It’s your church, not mine. I only work here.”
No, from what I could figure out in my BoD (Book of Discipline), it’s a combination of a number of people, mainly in committees. There is the Worship Committee, the Church Council, the Board of Trustees, to name a few. And I’m sure the guy who came up with the idea has a lot to say about it, as well. And who has the final say on this? From what I can tell, the Board of Trustees are the ones who can finally say yes or no.
But how can such an idea go from someone’s idea to final fruition with so little support from the congregation? Don’t we get to vote on things like that? (Apparently not.)
I guess the members of the committees are vested with the authority to do things like this because they are representing the members and are supposed to be well-educated on such issues, so we let them decide, like in a representative democracy. But what if they decide to do something the majority of the church opposes? Yes, they did solicit opinions from the members of the church. They forged ahead anyway.
So what recourse do we have? How do we fight it?
Well, in my church, nobody’s going to raise a stink about it. They’ll just let it happen. The people who are for it and who have already given money towards it will eventually respond with more, when it appears that the rest of us won’t, and it will be done. And then the rest of us will have to decide if we can live with what they did, or we’ll just go church-shopping.
And no, I don’t think that’s the way it should be.