Thursday, July 24, 2008

“Politics" in Electing United Methodist Bishops? Learn from Us, You Democrats and Republicans!

"I want to be a United Methodist bishop!"

A conversation with Luke this week tipped me off to the practice of creating websites for episcopal candidates within the United Methodist Church. He pointed me to the Southeast Jurisdiction Candidates and North Central Jurisdiction Candidates where nearly 100% of them have created a website specifically to promote their candidacy.
--- comment as posted at

Once again it has been “election time” in regard to something referred to as the episcopacy of the United Methodist Church.

Jurisdictional conferences have met, ballots have been cast numerous times, and out of all this activity certain persons now wear a hat with the label “bishop” on it.

Questions have increasingly surfaced about the “process” and the fact that it has become a game of politics each quadrennium. Conferences, certain groups and individuals have their “favorites” whom they want to see elevated to that coveted position of being a “shepherd” at the episcopal level of the United Methodist Church!

Like it or not, campaigning is now a very real part of getting to be a bishop in the U. M. C! Web sites are set up advertising all the so-called “gifts and graces” along with documented history and educational background of that man or woman and how he or she will be the perfect one to grasp the shepherd’s staff in some conference somewhere!

I remember seeing one web site 4 years ago with all the campaign rhetoric which would make the Democrats and Republicans look like amateurs by way of comparison in demonstrating how to get your candidate elected. By the way, the person on that web site did make it for bishop – a Las Vegas gambler would have bet that it was an absolute sure thing! Sorry for slipping that one in, since gambling is a great abomination among many United Methodists – but also keep in mind, one ought not to roll the dice, but it’s ok to mutilate and murder unborn children – no protesting on that one!

Actually I don’t make it a practice to check out all episcopal candidates when that time rolls around each 4 years – for the simple reason that the stuff promoting even one candidate goes a long, long way and my stomach can barely handle just one!

The main difference between the United Methodist and the Democratic/Republican style of campaigning for office is that the Dems and the GOPers don’t attempt to dress up their stuff with a lot of pious talk and activity.

What would happen if a Biblical approach was tried? Suppose the names of all who aspired to be bishop were dropped in a hat – then have two or three days of fasting and prayer with the attitude that God knows the best person for the position. Then have a 5 or 6-year-old boy or girl draw out the name or names! Hey, don’t get bent out of shape yet – think it through – it really couldn’t get any worse than it is now with the loss of tens of thousands of members every year.

Ooops! I forgot – that would probably lead to extensive “campaigning” as to who that boy or girl would be who would draw the names out of that silk hat!

Mister chairperson – I withdraw my motion that we attempt to select our bishops by lot. Instead I resubmit a motion to invite high level Democrats and Republicans to witness first hand what real campaigning is about during the year preceding our jurisdictional conferences – they will positively learn a thing or two about how to get a candidate elected!

Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him, "Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?" He answered and said to them, "Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: 'This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.' For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men; the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do." And He said to them, "All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition." --- Mark 7:5-9