The BOD in all its glory
Let’s get this straight. I am not one to slavishly follow rules. I know that with Robert (of his Rules of Order) you can run a meeting well. I ask for a motion, second, ayes, nays, or abstentions but, truthfully, that’s about as far as I go.
If you thought Robert had a lot of tedious rules, well my friends, he has nothing on the Book of Discipline (BOD) of the UMC. The founder of Methodism, John Wesley, once slipped the original BOD nicely into his breastplate as he trotted from one church to another. If Wesley tried to carry a BOD today, the poor guy would be so top heavy that he’d flip right off his horse.
For you non-United Methodists out there (and you know who you are), every four years Methodists gather from around the world for General Conference. This is an opportunity to ostensibly celebrate the church and all the ways it’s changing the world for good. It’s also a time for the gathering to hash out its differences – some more successfully than others. This is where changes to the Book of Discipline are made.
In 2016, there was an addition to the BOD. I know you’re rushing to find your copy. Now, go to Paragraph 340.2.c.(2)(c) – did you get that? There you will find the following (please, read aloud with me):
“…the pastor, in cooperation with the financial secretary, shall have access to and responsibility for professional stewardship of congregational giving records.”
In short, this means that clergy can know who gives what. I know that this sends shudders up many a clergy spine. This does not mean that you must know. It means that you can know. And that’s a big difference.
I’ve heard from too many clergy about a finance person who is the sole owner of all information. It’s a control issue. And that can be a dangerous and frankly irresponsible path to follow. If you don’t believe it, read about one church’s struggle. This new BOD rule can help solve this issue.
Some of you don’t want to know who gives what. And that’s perfectly fine. No one will force you to look at the stewardship records.
Others of you do want to know – for a variety of reasons. You may have a large ask that needs to be made for a capital project and you want to know who the right person is to go to. You may want to know if there is a sudden change in giving which may indicate a job loss or a spiritual crisis that needs a pastoral response. That’s fine too. Giving is a spiritual issue – as I’ve been saying, lo these many years.
However, if you start treating people differently once you know what they give, friends, that’s a Staff-Parish Relations Committee issue. SPRC should also know if you treat someone as “less than” because are they going through a divorce or a family member got a DUI or they like Black Sabbath.
Though you won’t hear me say it often, thank God for the BOD. You now have it in writing that you, as a clergyperson, can have access to the giving records of your congregation. What a shame that it took legislation to make this happen. Let’s pray that people will have more trust in their clergyperson to handle sensitive stewardship information with the same care and concern that clergy hold sensitive spiritual, emotional, and other information that is shared with them. John Wesley would most certainly want it that way.
P.S. Here’s another article about the BOD change from the Interpreter magazine.