Where do we go from here?
In their recent communications, the Camping Board has acknowledged the “hurt and confusion” their announcement created. They are certainly right about this. Many across the Missouri Annual Conference, justifiably I think, are emotionally invested in our camping facilities. Over the last week, I have been publishing this blog to in an attempt to clarify that objections to the Camping Board are also grounded in good reasons, and good theological reasons.
Given these reasons and this justified pain, what comes next?
The Camping Board has acknowledged that their announcement has eroded trust in the Conference, and has suggested that they would like to return to a point wherein their plan might be put forward as “a proposal” to the Annual Conference. I believe that the Camping Board is acting in good faith. But continuing upon the road that they have lain out at this point (implementing their decision without allowing a public dialogue) will continue to undermine the creditability of the Board and the Conference as a whole. As such, I am hopeful that they will immediately make good on the insights they have had since making their announcement by turning these insights into action. In order to repair the damage done, the Camping Board should engage in steps that rebuild trust and make a genuine and respectful dialogue on these issues possible. This would entail postponing the implementation of their decision in order to create space for a productive process of discernment that might bring about consensus across the Annual Conference. As the Board has stated, the economic situation is not determinative here, so a one year hold on their plan for public discussion and revision should not be problematic.
Lest we lose our camps without adequate time for discernment, however, if the Camping Board is unwilling to create this space for dialogue, advocates for our camps should not remain idle.
First, we should all be active in prayer. We are in need of wisdom and compassion as we move forward. Only with wisdom will we be able to find our appropriate path, and only with compassion will we be able to move forward together. So, in addition to praying for our camping facilities, let us pray for these virtues as we continue on.
Second, we should maintain focus. The Camping Board’s announcement has produced a great deal of passionate reaction. It is important to channel this passion and not to let it flag over the coming months. It would be a shame to allow such an important issue fall to the side as the decision is implemented to the point of no return. So, I advocate that advocates for our camps seek to maintain their sense of contact with our camping facilities. If you have the time, plan a family outing to one of our camps, stop by to thank our Camp Directors for their service, and ask them if they have any insights into this situation! Take some time to write up your favorite camp story in a blog or on facebook. We would do well to fill the internet with the stories of God’s grace expressed through our camps! Have your church add a Camp Litany to its service. Finally, tune in regularly to the facebook page for SaveMOUMcamps and “like” the pictures there of good times from the past of our Camping Ministries. As we know from our prayer lives, regular practice can keep us focused on what is important, and even small amounts of attention given to a practice every day can keep us passionate!
Third, advocates of camping can act by informing themselves and others about the situation. Part of the reason I wanted to produce this blog series was so that it might be a resource for those who question the Camping Board’s decision. Even if the Annual Conference is reticent in holding open meetings on the future of our Campus Ministries, there is still no reason that this should hold back advocates of camping from gathering to share information and to discuss our future. I am deeply grateful to SaveMOUMcamps both on facebook and on their website for providing a forum that might promote this project. Hopefully, through our connections, we will be able to continue developing more insight into the functioning of our camping facilities and into the process of the Camping Board. We should use these resources to discuss the issue in Sunday School, hold special meetings as a church, and to reach out especially to those that you know who are active at the meeting of the Annual Conference (more on this in a moment).
Finally, in the event that the Camping Board does not walk back its implementation of the Camping Decision to produce a dialogue, it will be necessary to pursue a remedy through ecclesial activity. Here, the Camping Board has suggested the route for those who wish to advocate for our camps. As the chair of the Camping Board states, the Camping Board will be approaching the next meeting of the Annual Conference in order to ask that the camping facilities be sold. He states: “while technically according to our church law The Mission Council could make that decision to put the properties up for sale, that is not our intent. We believe that that decision needs to be made by the Missouri Annual Conference … now if we decide to keep them that means we also have an obligation to be better managers and stewards of these properties than we have been …” (53:10) Taking the Camping Board and the Bishop to be functioning in good faith, such a statement offers a last resort for producing the dialogue about our camping ministries that our Annual Conference so needs.
Unfortunately, preparing a movement to vote against the sale of properties cannot wait long. Advocates for our camping facilities need to build their connections and reach out to voting members of the Annual Conference in order to express their concerns. Camping advocates will also need to make sure that the vote at the Annual Conference be by secret ballot. While I trust that the leadership of the Annual Conference would never penalize members for voting their conscience, in order to alleviate any concerns the Annual Conference should do whatever is necessary to make it possible for members to vote freely.
With what is to be done in our sights, let us prepare ourselves for the future. The coming months will require both patience and passion. Let us go forward in strength, knowing that the God of ages is at work in our activities. May the Lord’s blessing be upon our camping ministries in the coming years, and may we all be able to share in its bounties.