In a recent movie, A Thousand Words, Eddie Murphy plays a fast-talking, lying Hollywood agent who falls under a curse giving him only 1,000 words to speak before he dies. The movie, which I have not seen, raises an interesting observation regarding the upcoming General Conference and the work of the delegates.
This is critically important because only the GC can speak for The United Methodist Church. The issue for many has become that the Book of Discipline and the Book of Resolutions have grown so much that they have become unwieldy.
So many changes have been made to paragraphs over the years that in many cases there is no flow to the text and sometimes the paragraphs don’t make good sense. In many areas, the book says we are against an issue but then says it is OK in certain situations. I am reminded of friends who have copies of the Book of Discipline from 75 or 100 years ago, when Methodism was the dominant and fastest-growing denomination in the U.S. Back then, the book was small enough to fit into a shirt pocket. Today the two volumes are almost 2 inches thick.
It is also a big mistake for delegates to think that most people in the pews really care what the Book of Discipline and Book of Resolutions say.
For example, our official position is that we are against gambling, but there are surely thousands of United Methodists who buy lottery tickets and visit casinos.
This brings me back to the movie. What if we limited the size of the books? If someone wanted to add something new to our church law, something else would have to be removed. What if we decided that the Book of Discipline and the Book of Resolutions would be limited to 1,000 words, like in the movie?
I do think we would be a better denomination by saying less, but I don’t know how to go about implementing the change. Maybe if the reorganization of the General Church is approved at conference, we can have one of the new management groups deal with the issue.
I do know this – what we are doing is not working. Few people check the Book of Discipline and Book of Resolutions before taking action in their private lives. In fact, the books are more often used as weapons against the folks with whom we disagree.
What do you think?
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 email@example.com.