The Gadfly Bishop

I am an early morning person.  I’m talking about a 4:00 a.m. person.  I find that I am most productive from about 5:00 a.m. till 12 noon.  I can get more done, and my mind is sharper.  I attribute this to the fact that it has not yet been filled by the cares of the day.  Yesterday I finished Bishop Will Willimon’s book entitled, Bishop: The Art of Questioning Authority by an Authority in Question.  I will be looking at some of Bishop Willimon’s thoughts.  It is important that we keep asking ourselves what happened to this once thriving church known as Methodism?  Methodism, the bearer of the good news of the Gospel in the Wesleyan Arminian tradition has run aground.  It is like a ship adrift.  A good leader according to the bishop will always hold up before the people the reality of the situation.  Willimon is frank.  He does not mince words and that is what we United Methodist need to hear.

It was with great fanfare that in January of this yearUnited Methodism  made a great deal about an initiative called Vital Congregations.  Part of the fanfare had to do with a Dashboard that every pastor within the denomination would be able to enter the goals that where set at Charge Conference thereby creating a database so that we as pastors could be held accountable by those in authority that we were meeting the expectations that we  pastors and congregations had made after a time of discernment together.  The Dashboard is yet to be up and running.  We were able to key in our goals but as far as entering information weekly we are  not yet able to do this.  I find it amusing that the North Alabama United Methodist Conference under the leadership of Willimon had a Dashboard designed and operable.  You would think that someone in United Methodism could have designed a Dashboard that worked.  It is just another sign that those in decision-making positions can sometimes get things wrong.  I cannot speak for Willimon but I think he would use the word inept.

“Mission is what you measure.  Numbers don’t show everything about the church and its ministry, but they are reliable indicators of spiritual vitality and a major way of focusing and energizing our ministry.”-Willimon.  This is a true statement.  Willimon goes on to say, “Christians cannot live without asking the basic, quantifiable question that Jesus asked in a number of his parables: What have you done with what you have been given?”  If United Methodism is to survive then we must be willing to ask this question.  Sadly  most of we United Methodist are not willing to answer this question. 

Willimon makes no bones about this fact that he is considered a gadfly, which according to Webster, “is a person who stimulates or annoys by persistent criticism.”  None of us like to be  criticized but the hour is late. We cannot continue waste time.

Willimon will be retiring as bishop this year I am sure to the relief of some.  However, at least he had the guts to stand up and say it’s not working.  United Methodism is dying on the vine.  I close with one more quote by Willimon.  “A church all full of platitudes but devoid of much discernible fruit is the sort of church that Jesus warned against, a church that had all the right slogans like Lord, Lord! but failed to combine its declarations of love with actual instances of obedience.”  May God give us more bishops like Willimon that are willing to stand up and say “thus saith the Lord.”  

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