General Conference and the NFL Draft

How is the United Methodist Church's General Conference similar to the National Football League's annual draft?  The answer is that, like the NFL, we won't know for sure what we really have for a couple of years. When NFL teams draft players, it usually takes a number of years before a team knows if a player really pans out.  Similarly, it is often (admittedly not always) difficult to discern the full implications of an action taken.  By way of example, in the 1996 General Conference comprehensive legislation on ordination of Deacons and Elders was adopted.  Sixteen years later we are still adjusting to those changes.  One change in 1996 was to adopt a 3-year probationary period.  By General Conference 2008, we had decided the residency period was too long and reduced it to 2 years.  Despite the best intentions (to raise the level of clergy competence), we made the process too complex and discouraged people from entering the UM process. This is called the Law of Unintended Consequences. (The building of the interstate highway system and its adverse impact on small towns across America is considered a classic example of the Lw of Unintended Consequences.). Often the full consequences don't unfold until we live with the new situation for a while. As I write this, it is Friday morning, May 4th.  Currently we are wrestling with the budget.  We have already taken significant  action -- stressed vital congregations, restructured the General Boards & Agencies, rejected a set aside bishop, created a new episcopal area in the Congo, gone through our continuing struggle on human sexuality, given annual conferences more freedom in creating their own  structure, done away with guaranteed appointments, reinforced mission initiatives taking the gospel into communist lands -- the list goes on!  As General Conference draws to a close, it is important to catch our breath, pause for prayer, and remember John Wesley's admonition:  "The best of all is that God is with us."