I had the great privilege of sitting in a room with our bishop last weekend as he talked to conference leaders about the need for something new. He drew a picture of concentric circles, and talked about the center of these circles being the giant "hairball" of United Methodism. He talked about how we often put all of our energy into the "hairball" (the administration and hierarchy), while real ministry happens on the edges, the boundaries, the fringes. He talked about how Jesus happens on the outside, with those who are rejects and downcast and not in the loop.
For me, this is really good news because I back-assed my way into United Methodism and consider myself a "fringer" for all intents and purposes. I also really like hanging out with people who are typically on the margins. Artists, musicians, women in tiny villages in Mozambique. I'd much rather drink PBR in a skeezy bar or learn songs in Xitswa while visiting widows than attend annual conference sessions or sit in administrative meetings. I don't know anything about the Book of Discipline, I don't know how many people are required to sit on what committees, and (don't tell anyone) I have no idea what all those acronyms actually stand for (except, of course, for PBR - duh).
What I DO know is that I love God with all my heart.
I know that I want to love my neighbor like I love myself.
I know that when I engage in mission and service, I find Jesus.
I know that we're called to love kindness and do justice.
This is a generation of people who don't care about rules and regulations and procedures and hoop jumping and "hairballing", but who are instead looking for genuine, authentic connections to a real God whose primary concern is the outsider. As we look forward to the future of United Methodism (or any denomination for that matter), let's stake our claim on the fringe.