On my recent cruise I learned the captain is not allowed under maritime law to dock the ship. I found that rather strange. As a matter of fact, I didn’t believe the information at first, possibly because I heard it originally from my brother. Yet, I did some research and found that it is true; a pilot is brought on the ship to advise the crew on conditions of the waterway. Because maneuvering the boat through the most difficult areas is the highest risk, someone with special skills and knowledge of the local waterway is needed. Pilots are expert ship handlers who possess this knowledge. They are responsible under the law and maritime custom for conducting the safe navigation of the vessel, even though legally the captain is still responsible for the ship.
I had this new knowledge in my head as I read the Facebook discussion about the end of the United Methodist General Conference. This annual meeting of the denomination ended as it often does in people’s hearts every four year; without much change made. I need to admit my frustration with reading statements of despair over the fact General Conference had not made the changes this person or that person desired.
I don’t believe disciples are made for the transformation of the world on the floor of this conference. My apologies if this opinion offends anyone. I appreciate the process and am committed to following my denominations expectations. However, inside of the nursing home room this morning, the daughter preparing to say goodbye to her mother doesn’t care what was decided in Tampa last month. As our youth gathered last night to talk about their upcoming mission trip to Memphis, I don’t think anyone brought up the debates from the Tampa Conference Center.
The waterways that I maneuver as a pastor are often tricky, yet I like to think that I am knowledgeable of the waters. Or at least I am aware of the some dangerous areas or where it is congested on this path of faith for this particular group of disciples. I have been given the authority by the United Methodist Church to guide this vessel within this specific place and it is these waters that lives are changed.
Don’t get me wrong, I have the UM Book of Discipline on my shelf right above my computer. I actually have Book of Disciplines back to 1880, but that is for another blog. I get that the “captain” is still legally responsible for the ship. I believe that this gathering of pastor and laity representatives is important and represents the structure of the United Methodist denomination. I know the discussions that took place on the floor of the conference and in the hallways were sometimes difficult but needed. Our denomination is facing change. Do not be mistaken that just because decisions for the change some wanted were not officially made by May 4th, that the waters were left unchanged.
I’m just sayin’ - when it comes to guiding the ship in the midst of these crazy waters, it comes down to the pastor.
The metaphor is not complete (trust me, I am well aware of where it sinks).