When we hear the word “trust” it’s almost automatic to feel warm and fuzzy. The word elicits feelings of safety, friendliness, and caring. It would not be unusual to talk about “trusting someone’s good intentions,” or to say, “My heart doth safely trust in thee.”
You shouldn’t allow these feelings to cloud your understanding when you read the word “trust” in the Call to Action.
Let me use “trust” in a few sentences to illustrate how we need to understand it from now on at the local level, then explain where that usage is found in the Call to Action report.
- Trust us when we say, “Within twelve months you must close the churches in your district that are in the lowest 5% of the Vitality Index.”
- Trust us when we say, “If you are unable or unwilling to close the bottom 5% of the churches in your district, you will be removed from your position as district superintendent.”
- Trust us when we say, “We will close your church in twelve months if you are unable to raise your Vitality Index score by 50%.”
I made these percentage figures up, but that’s the gist of the meaning of “trust.” It means the same as the word “believe” in this sentence: “Believe us when we say this.” This is what “trust” means when everything is interpreted under the new financial, corporate, and cultural rubrics of accountability and measureable results.
Obviously efforts will be made to avoid the hard feelings and bitterness caused by church closures. A number of models exist for alternatives to the stand-alone, single-church charge. But these are difficult to pull off, and “courageous” and “principled” leadership will be required to do the necessary deeds.
One of the goals of the proposed reforms includes “Better-defined leadership roles, responsibilities, and accountability; and improvements in trust (greater clarity about job outcomes and clear accountability for achieving and reporting results).” (25)
Trust = “greater clarity about job outcomes and clear accountability for achieving and reporting results.”
“Trust…is related to accountability,” and “accountability…is related to trust.” (138)
Our United Methodist leaders must now earn the trust of the real bill-payers by demonstrating measureable results in the reallocation of resources (e.g. unproductive real estate holdings) and in attendance and membership in this time of acute economic crisis.
“Trust vested in authority requires accountability.” (160)
The Apex report does contain a discussion of trust issues that reflects various kinds, causes and organizational levels of a lack of trust.
Sources of distrust ranged from “old wounds” to representative and/or protectionist behaviors and agendas that were not putting the broad interests of the Church [read: survival and solvency] first. Lack of accountability was also cited as a root cause of distrust – when people are not accountable for their actions and behaviors, they cannot be trusted. Interviewees related that trust and good intent was not presumed in relationships and frequently the opposite was true. Trust was often mentioned as a leadership issue – particularly in the context of power and authority. People are not trusted with power so they are not given authority – they are not accountable so they are not trusted with power and authority. (160-161) (emphasis added)
This is a valuable springboard for discussion. Suffice it to say now that anyone who has “old wounds” can only be further wounded by this bare nod acknowledging their ordeal. Healing “old wounds”? Confession and forgiveness have no place in this discussion of accountability and measureable results. “Bishops and superintendents must…Exercise their responsibilities in ways that emphasize and assure tht the MC’s paid leadership is competent and accountable.” (21)
Supposedly, bishops and superintendents have always been accountable for things like ethical behavior, the expenditure of funds, etc. What is different now is what they are being held accountable for. Accountability now deals with how effectively the superintendents and pastors “align” themselves with the new Survive-and-Thrive, four-fold mission of the Church.
And produce measureable results in attendance and giving.
[To see a complete list of Call to Action posts, click here.]