By David Reinholz
May 11, 2016 | Portland, Oregon

Powerless. That’s how it can feel sometimes as a member of a large bureaucratic and hierarchical institution. We have bishops, district superintendents, elders, deacons, and lay servants. There are boards, councils, committees, and jurisdictions. There always seems to be someone above us in the hierarchy. The United Methodist Church is a huge institution.

David Reinholz
David Reinholz

Large institutions like the UMC tend to have enormous inertia that resists change. This is particularly true when leaders of that institution rely on their position for their livelihood and grew up in in the institution when life was good. We remember the good times and want to go back to the glory days. We can’t see another way of being successful than the way we’ve always done things. So, we tweak things at the margins, looking for just the right program or rule that will help us regain success and stabilize our decline.

Attending my first General Conference I have the profound sense that our beloved UMC is incapable of changing itself. I have observed the machinations of rules adoption, debates about petitions, and how Robert’s Rules can be an effective tool for stifling conversation and preventing change. We have more rules than any institution could possibly need and nobody seems to know or understand them anyway. From bishops to lay leaders there are plenty of voices calling for change but we don’t seem to know how to begin or where to go.

Yet…and, yet. With several thousand brothers and sisters we sang familiar hymns, listened to a multitude of languages reciting scripture, and heard the Word preached in dynamic fashion. As I experienced the vast diversity in culture, race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation that is The United Methodist Church, I felt part of something much bigger than my own perceptions about the way things are. With tears streaming down my face, I sang “will you come and follow me if I but call your name?”

Maybe the problem isn’t so much the institution, but each of us being afraid to do what God has called us to do. Perhaps it is easier to debate rules and rewrite policy than it is to actually be the church in a broken world. We are not called to make United Methodists or to preserve the institution. We are called to love God and love God’s creation – all of it.

Maybe God needs me to step up. Maybe the church needs me to actually do what I claim to believe. Maybe change starts with me.

David Reinholz is the PNW Conference Associate Lay Leader and serves as the reserve lay delegate to General Conference. He is a retired USAF officer and former high school teacher. David’s passions include music and mentoring youth and young adults.

Photo Credit:
Photo by: David Reinholz, 
Plenary Floor General Conference 2016, Day 2


  1. David R., thank you for such a moving post. I agree perhaps it is time for people to stand up and do as Jesus did in love.

  2. I wasn’t having much hope until I read your piece. I’ll continue to pray that a better way of dealing with our critical issues is found in love. Thanks for writing this, Dave!

  3. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Everyone should read your message. BTW, thank you for your service in the military.

  4. You are correct, David, God does need you to step up, and the church needs you to actually do what you claim to believe…..and the same goes for all the rest of us! Thanks for your inspiration!!

  5. I have been feeling very anxious about the happenings at General Conference. Your words were clarifying and helpful to me. Thanks for sharing these thoughts. It is time for all of us to stand up for what we say we believe.

  6. May the power of the Holy Spirit lead our global delegates to engage in sacred conversation, wise yet bold decision-making and a passion for making disciples of Jesus Christ through our local churches and through each one of us!

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