OK, I admit it. I am a rabid college football fan. I find that I enjoy all that comes with college football, and my focus – no my passion – are the University of Texas Longhorns. I was raised on the rivalries of the old Southwest Conference (actually, I was a Texas Aggie fan as a kid), and I loved the opportunity to drive short distances to see the Horns play Southern Methodist, Texas Christian, Rice and Houston. I was sad when the SWC broke up. I have tried to embrace the Big 12, but with little success. The rivalries with the old Big 8 schools, with the exception of Oklahoma and Nebraska, never really became important to me.
So imagine my disappointment as I now watch the Big 12 fall apart. First, Nebraska and Colorado leave, and then the unthinkable happens – A&M leaves for the Southeastern Conference. Now, as I write this article, OU and Oklahoma State are considering leaving. How is this possible? Of course, I realize that many are saying that it is really the fault of UT – the Longhorn Television Network is creating an unfair advantage and the big ol' bad Longhorns must have their way. Regretfully, as I look at college athletics today, I may be in agreement.
As I was pondering the current situation, it occurred to me that the BIG boys – Nebraska, Colorado, UT, A&M, Oklahoma State and OU – have lost their "connection" to the other schools. These schools are now only focused on their needs, their wishes and how to protect themselves. They really don't care about what happens to the other schools in the Big 12. What about their commitment to each other when they formed the Big 12?
Why have they become so self-centered and focused only on their needs? Of course, the answer is money. How can I connect the actions of the Big 12 with The United Methodist Church? It seems that we United Methodists have lost or are losing our connection to one another. Most of us consider our connection to be what separates us (but not makes us better) from other faiths. Yet our actions do not reflect our words.
Many of our congregations operate in silos with little concern for what is happening in our struggling churches, especially those in the older sections of our cities. We regret their situation, but it is not our problem because we have our own problems. Our budget is a challenge, and we struggle to pay apportionments so we just need to take care of ourselves. It's that money thing again.
I do realize that we have some great examples of connectional churches in our conferences, but I believe that the majority of our churches don't feel connected. I hope I am wrong. I hope I receive hundreds of complaints that I am off base about this.
Could we see the UMC follow the Big 12? I pray not, but what about you?
Richard Hearne is Lay Leader of the North Texas Conference, which stretches from just this side of Bogata to just that side of Burkburnett. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.