Camping 2

As we reach the time of the Missouri Annual Conference meeting, several blog authors have posted discussions on the camping votes that will take place. Geoffrey Posgate has offered a qualified endorsement of the Camping Board’s proposal, and Andy B. (sorry, wish I knew the full name!) has offered some thoughts in favor of some alternative resolutions. I would like to celebrate the discussion we are having across the Conference at this point, as I think that a lively public dialogue is exactly what this issue deserves.

While I am celebrating, however, I wish to offer a final few words in favor of the SaveMOUMCamps resolution, which will also be voted on at the Annual Conference.

In Andy’s blog it is noted that there will votes on two resolutions which propose selling two of our camps (Jo-Ota and Wilderness) to voluntary regional “associations” of Churches at minimal cost. I shall call these the alternative resolutions to distinguish them from the SaveMOUMCamps resolution and the Camping Board’s resolution. Andy suggests that the alternative resolutions seem like a viable compromise between the Camping Board resolution and the SaveMOUMCamps resolution. It allows the Conference to shed ownership without losing connection with the camp sites.

As a person who has been involved in SaveMOUMCamps from fairly early on, I can tell you that such proposals have been frequently discussed by participants in the movement, and have significant support from some. Andy may be right that such a plan represents the most viable direction for moving forward with United Methodist camp sites in Missouri.

So, why should one vote for the SaveMOUMCamps proposal if these alternatives are on the table? I will suggest several reasons, some of which Andy has already raised.

The details for these alternative plans of sale are not yet ironed out. For instance, as Andy notes, the current funding structure for our camp sites depends on apportionments for portions of the camp site budget. How would the new structure of ownership make up for the difference if this support were withdrawn? The lack of such details is not a knock down argument against the proposals, but it raises the point that time is needed to figure out whether the plan is viable, and if so how.

The SaveMOUMCamps resolution is designed exactly to provide time for the development of such alternatives. The SaveMOUMCamps resolution should not be read as a rejection of change in the Camping Ministry of the Missouri Annual Conference. Far from it. I don’t know anyone in SaveMOUMCamps who favors continuing on with camping exactly as it has been in the past. Explicit in the SaveMOUMCamps resolution is the proposal to conduct a feasibility study and develop a plan to run camps “at little or no cost to the Annual Conference.” In short, the SaveMOUMCamps resolution is designed to provide time for ironing out the details of plans like those proposed in the alternative resolutions. A vote for the SaveMOUMCamps resolution is not a vote to keep everything as it is, it is a vote to enter into a deliberative process for thinking through alternatives to the current situation.

Finally, there is a strategic danger for camp advocates in voting for the alternative resolutions. Andy is considering voting for the Camping Board proposal and then voting for the alternative resolutions for sale of the camp sites. But Andy also recognizes the problem here:

Is there any way I could be assured that the alternative resolutions would pass before voting on the initial recommendation to sell them at all?

There is a danger here that by splitting the votes of camp advocates, camp sites will be lost entirely. It is possible that some will vote against the SaveMOUMCamps proposal with the hope that they will be able to win the vote for the alternative sale proposals. But this is a risk.

On the whole then, it seems reasonable to me for camping advocates to vote in favor of the SaveMOUMCamps resolution, against the Camping Board resolution, and then for the alternative sale resolutions if it comes to that. Andy is right, there are ways to find compromise on the issues in front of us. The best way to do this would be to enter into an open process where all alternatives can be explored. But if necessary, we should accept a plan that retains some camps even if we have to make it up as we go.

With all of those involved in this discussion, no matter what side, I pray for a fruitful and loving dialogue at our Annual Conference, and a prayerful vote.  If anyone wants to talk more about it, I will be hanging around the SaveMOUMCamps booth for most of the Conference!