Thursday, June 23, 2005

Poor Reviews Mar Conference

UPI--A flurry of activity marked the recent sessions of the Central Southwest Northern Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church, but by many accounts it was wasted effort. The nearly week-long meetings are devoted to prayer and worship as well as church business, but some leaders questioned the effectiveness of this year’s work.

Paula Zuzim, one of the Conference’s 918 members and president of Methodists for Movement, a group that supports liturgical dance, said, “It was a disaster. We did almost nothing we came here to do. Of all the legislation we passed, only one or two have the potential to make an impact on the life of the church.” Zuzim’s pastor, Rev. Jon Fuldemayer, agreed. “I came here with high expectations, but left feeling let down, like a cat squashed by an SUV--guts oozing out all over the place and everything.”

Even Bishop Emily Tudor, the Conference’s executive officer, had harsh criticism. “It sucked,” she said. “It was the suckiest suckfest I’ve ever been involved in. Suck, suck, suck!” A bystander reminded the Bishop that the Conference had passed a resolution earlier in the week barring the use of the word “suck” at its sessions. Tudor retorted, “Conference is over, suckface.” Then, she turned and stormed off.

Tudor’s words echoed the atmosphere of the entire week. A lay person from Graveside United Methodist Church summed up the feelings of most delegates in a tear-stained speech from the floor on the last day. “How can I go back to my church and tell them what happened this week? They expect me to return with stories of vital ministries and innovative leadership. They have come to expect that from our Conference, but this year, what can I say when I stand before their shining faces eager to hear my report? Nothing. I am ashamed.”

The Rev. Tom Chokowitz used a biblical image to describe the group’s failures. “We were like a Tower of Babble out there today. Get it? Hee hee.”

Of course, not every member of the Conference was as disillusioned. One of Methodism’s key advocacy groups, The Status Quotians, released the following statement: “We celebrate with our brothers and sisters in Christ the high achievements of our work this week.” The press release specifically referred to a resolution and a rule change passed by the delegates. The resolution affirmed, “in the strongest terms possible, that ‘Amazing Grace’ is a nice hymn.” The rule change settled a long-standing controversy in the Conference by specifically allowing the Bishop to recognize the birthdays of retired pastors who live in other states and are too old to attend the meeting.

The Status Quotians, however, were in the minority in their praise of the Conference. Most were of like mind with lay member Billy Tuesday. “We have sunk to a new low, and we were already in a pretty deep hole. Next year I’m bringing a pillow.”

Tom Molton, staff writer for Things That Suck magazine, also contributed to this story.

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