Okay, I realize that many in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) still don’t know about the Mission Alignment Coordinating Council. Others, frankly, don’t care all that much about the effort to align the general (and probably soon, the regional) church’s structures with its mission and to better serve congregations. But they should (IMHO).

The MACC is an 11-member group that has been working for about a year to figure out what needs to be done to improve the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). That’s an extremely general description of their work; click here if you want specifics.

Today they made their report to the denomination’s General Board and asked for feedback. Now, the report’s been out for about a month — most General Board members have probably read it. So the biggie today was the feedback. Given the responses via Twitter and email, I wondered how this would go, because the responses I’ve seen and heard to the MACC’s proposals have been all over the map.

First off, let me just say that the MACC’s members have done a lot of difficult and thoughtful work, and have tried to look to God to guide that work. Everyone we’ve heard from has also noted this, and I want to reaffirm it. No doubt, these folks have invested a lot of time and energy into trying to move the church forward, and forward in the right direction.

My own concern with the MACC is that, while they identified the need for transparency as paramount, their proposal doesn’t say much about it. And they didn’t model it for the rest of the church — DisciplesWorld wanted to attend their final meeting in January — and we were informed in no uncertain terms that the meeting was closed. We at DisciplesWorld have addressed that in an editorial, which will appear in our May issue. ‘Nuff said about that, for now.

One of the most interesting things today was how the MACC solicited comments and questions about its work. Instead of doing the traditional, Roberts’ Rules-governed practice of having people step to the microphones to speak, they asked people to get into table groups of 4-5. People were directed to comment on what struck them most about the MACC’s proposals, and what questions they have. After about 15 minutes of discussion, people switched to another table, with one person from each table group, who had taken notes, remaining behind to ‘host’ the next group. After two rounds of table discussions, table recorders were asked to come and report one item from the table discussions. Here is what they reported:

1 – Liked the proposal to extend the timeline and the feeling of not rushing anything.
2 – we can’t determine structure of domestic ministries without talking about the content and purpose of those ministries.
3 – “Our church needs bolder vision and bolder action.”
4 – “Change brings conflict and these proposals bring major change”  Let’s walk through conflict with courage.
5 – The MACC is doing good job of identifying problems and naming outcomes. But they are failing to ask individual entities to come up with the structure to accomplish the outcome. Feels like the oppressor telling the oppressed how to come up with the outcome.
6 – Who will be accountable to whom, and can there be action after dialogue with the General Board?
7 – For these things to be effective and foundational, we need relationships that lead to trust and to accountability.
8 – This seems like an indirect effort to shut down Disciples Home Missions. And NBA (National Benevolent Association, now Disciples Benevolent Services) is perceived as the problem, and it feels punitive.
9 – It was felt that it began with a theological basis but the theology is not carried out in proposals. They should be more theologically considered.
10 – How does this proposal resource the regions in the “movement toward wholeness,” in support of the 2020 Vision, etc.?
11 – Appreciation that we’re dealing with systemic change, rather than personalities.
12 – “This is an approach avoidance document.”
13 – An acknowledgment of the amount of work that was accomplished because of [MACC’s] intent and intentions to include all persons.
14 – Seems like technical fix rather than a mission-driven and delivery fix.
15 – There’s concern about how many next steps are lodged in Office of General Minister and President’s office – are we overburdening, and also, how much does  that centralize a church-wide conversation.
16 – There’s a need for clarity about what General Board can recommend and what it can mandate among these proposals.
17 – What is the expected outcome for justice and advocacy?
18 – Questions about the pastoral table – who is at it and are we inadvertently locking in 2009 agreements? And where are women, Haitians, regional ministers, etc.?
19 – Proposal #8 regarding new churches should be under the second desired outcome (celebrating and affirming diversity) – as opposed to grouped with programmatic issues in third desire outcome.
20 – Perhaps MACC assumed that general units’ work is still necessary to local congregations?
21 – We question the purpose of the pastoral table being fulfilled by being entirely race-based in its membership.
22 – “Turf protection dimishes ministry.”
23 – Are we doing what we always do – talk things to death – or will there really be substantive change in moving us forward?

Here’s what I see as a challenge. How does the MACC take in such a broad range of critiques, suggestions, and questions, and narrow those down? Are they really listening, or just letting people vent? Which comments will impact their proposals and the future direction of their work (they’ve asked for another year to continue meeting, and the General Board will most likely approve that request)?

And then, their next step is to go back to congregations during a conference in June, and find out what those congregations need to be resourced for ministry. This is a critical step for the MACC, because they didn’t get much feedback from congregations and individual Disciples last fall. One of the main objectives of their work is to better equip congregations for mission.

It seems (from this meeting) that regional and general ministry heads are quick to offer up their suggestions, and that’s great. But if the MACC’s work becomes dominated only by the concerns of general and regional ministries, then it’s not going to do what it set out to do.

Ironically, I don’t think that a failure of the MACC would impact Disciples congregations all that much. Many congregations figured out long ago how to “resource” themselves. The big loser here will be the general church. As I see it, the MACC process is about how to make the general church relevant to congregations. To succeed, they need to stay focused and may need to say “no” or “not yet” to much of what they heard today.

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