I started looking for a church to attend in Albany shortly after I had sung in the church choir back in my hometown of Binghamton, NY (Trinity AME Zion) in May of 1982 for my maternal grandmother’s funeral. I used to attend there regularly, but for over a decade after high school, I fell away for all sorts of reasons.
The first visit to Trinity United Methodist was June 13, which I remember because the pastor, Stan Moore, spoke positively of the anti-nuke demonstration in Manhattan I had attended the day before.
Not only did I join the choir that December, but eventually became president of the Administrative Board (think Congress) and the Council on Ministries (think the US Cabinet) at different times, not to mention leading a social group called the Ogden Fellowship and participating in a book club for well over a decade. I even put together the church’s community page online.
But the subsequent pastor was pushing for a more “efficient” form of church governance, one that was allowed by the United Methodist Church. I specifically remember one church member, one of the choir folks, ask, reasonably, “Where are the checks and balances?” More than one person shouted him down; “give it a chance.”
So the church was then run my the pastor and his small cabal. There were no regular church meetings unless called by said group or by 10% of the membership, and the latter meeting could only be done about that stated topic. That 10%, BTW, included shut-ins and members who were away, so it was a difficult threshold.
So when the SECOND Spanish-speaking congregation was forced out in January 2000 by the pastor, with the ascent the District Superintendent, less than two months after the English-speaking congregation overwhelmingly agreed that they should stay, I was furious. Extra copies of the letter to the Hispanic congregation from the DS I was passing out to the “Anglo” congregation, because they had NO idea this was going down, which was the whole idea.
I was attending the Hispanic service only because the choir for the Anglo service had been suspended by the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee, which had no authority to do so – long story, but it was basically bogus. And the meeting in March to try to “reconcile” the situation was one-sided and terribly handled.
But I didn’t leave over the choir suspension or the Hispanic congregation getting the boot. I left because the church, in ceding its power to essentially one person, provided no way to respond to the injustices. No Administrative Board to appeal to.
The new system WAS more efficient. Efficiency in church governance is HIGHLY overrated.
I brought this up now for a specific reason, which I’ll write about soon.