Monday, April 2, 2007

It's No Longer "Here Comes the Judge" But Look Out, Here Comes the Bishop!

Last summer following a lot of intensive meetings and "campaigning" the Western PA Conference of the United Methodist Church adopted a massive program under the name of "Believe Again!" -- this "strategic plan," which is quite possibly the most ambitious project ever launched by a conference, is supposed to bring about all kinds of results which will make United Methodist churches in the western third of PA more high profile and powerful in their ministries. Bishop Thomas Bickerton has been the spark plug in this venture which in some ways would make a Washington DC politician envious at the structure, the details, and the financing involved!

Here's the kicker -- most of the churches were to get a nice refund on payments previously sent in on pastors' health plans. Want to guess who came up with the bright idea to have those churches receiving reimbursements to sign the checks and turn them over to help finance this great "Believe Again!" campaign?

The pressure was about as high as it could get without blowing a valve -- not just on congregations but even worse, on the pastors also! Turn those reimbursements over to the "campaign!" Most seemed to go along, but some chose not to financially commit and to not turn over the reimbursement money they had received. Isn't this still supposed to be a republic where choices can be made without a lot of pressure to make a choice in favor of what certain leaders WANT??? Not if you are in a certain denomination and you have leaders who expect pastors and their congregations to march in lockstep like a bunch of programmed robots to their every demand!

Now the word is out that those non participating congregations are going to be asked to "reconsider" their decision about not contributing to the "cause" -- and then the bishop wants to meet with pastors and lay leadership to discuss why the congregations have not responded!

Will these actually be meetings where the bishop, smiling from ear to ear, attaches the strings and the Western PA Conference will reach the point where all the bishop has to do is yank the strings and ALL pastors and ALL congregations say, "Yes, sir -- whatever you say, sir -- your suggestions are our commands to carry out without question or objection!" Remember now, this will be done under a pretense of "piety" but with a not so well concealed threat that "if you don't pay now to the 'cause,' you'll pay a price later on down the road!" Retaliation has been known to have been employed in cases where pastors and/or congregations failed to "cooperate" when expected to do so!

BTW, you can see some comments about this "Believe Again!" campaign now underway in the United Methodist Churches in western Pennsylvania at Believe Again! OK! But What Is It That I Am Supposed to Believe? It has been written by yours truly. Enjoy!

On second thought, maybe someone can revive those old wringer washers from the age of antiquity and run those reluctant UMC congregations and their pastors through the wringer -- that should get every last cent out of them for the "campaign" with an additional "perk" wherein we can brag on 100 percent cooperation and support as we "Believe Again!"

And always remember -- intimidation is alive and thriving among the churches of the Western PA Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church -- would some of our brethren in the priesthood of the Roman Catholic Church please come give it the last rites? It's long over due!

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