By not paying attention and asking the right questions I have to confess that I’ve gotten myself into an embarrassing position. I’m part of a group that agreed to meet with the treasurers of the annual conferences. To readers who aren’t familiar with the United Methodist Church, annual conferences are the regional judicatories by which the denomination is organized. We are to listen to their concerns about The United Methodist Church, specifically, its economic health. Sounds benign so far, doesn’t it?
The treasurers wrote a memo a few weeks ago stating that the budget process of General Conference, the governing body of the church, is out of control. They also proposed that the budget should be fixed before General Conference, in effect, disenfranchising delegates from the debate and negotiations that result in a budget and giving them, instead, the option to rubber stamp a budget prepared beforehand by others.
So that’s some of the background for this meeting, and it needs to be discussed.
But here’s the kicker for me. The treasurers have chosen to meet in Las Vegas. The United Methodist Church is present in Las Vegas and there are many loyal, faithful, earnest United Methodist Christians there. This is not about them. This is about the wisdom of the venue of Las Vegas for a meeting to discuss the budget of the church. It’s about the symbolism of meeting in a venue noted for something less than stewardship and personal restraint.
Now, if you like to visit Las Vegas, or if you live there, I’m not criticizing you in any way. There are local churches in Las Vegas conducting meaningful ministry and it’s appropriate and relevant for the church to be in the city and it’s wonderful that we are there. Further, I’m not saying you have to believe as I. But I am saying it seems to me to be unusually tone deaf for me to go to a meeting in this venue to talk about the budget of The United Methodist Church. and I’ve embarrassed myself by not being more attentive at the outset.
I’m just saying for the treasurers of the church to select this venue to talk about the finances of the church is a tone deaf thing to do. I am reminded that the General Commission on General Conference only a couple of weeks ago changed the venue for General Conference because Richmond has a minor league baseball team that uses a Native American mascot.
Given the position of The United Methodist Church on gambling and human sexuality it seems equally important to give attention to the Las Vegas venue in light of the positions of the church as to Richmond and its mascot.