I really would like to know how this class meeting unfolded... if they respected your "off the table" topics, in particular.
Sunday School went very well, I think. I was concerned that my caveats (we won't talk about homosexuality or clergywomen) might not be respected, but in the main they were. I opened the conversation by saying that I knew they had had several sessions with the senior pastor on various topics, and that he rarely got to his planned comments, so I decided not to plan ahead. Instead, I would take questions or comments about the UMC ("Past, Present, And Future"). I explained the caveats by saying that I knew that they'd discussed them at length and that I could not really add anything to his remarks, except that he'd left Dorcas out of the discussion on the authority of female clergy, and I would have included her.
So the first question was about the decline of the UMC: why did I think we had lost so many million members over the last 30-40 years? This came from the head of the class, with whom I had discussed the caveats. I chose not to say simply, "well, many of them died." Instead I talked about the decline of the mainline churches, and that the nondenominational churches, which had been growing, were starting to show a little decline. I think that (and this is a gross generalization) the UMC in particular and churches in general have coasted for years on the post WWII high, when everyone went to church. Now we can no longer assume people will just show up, and we need to work a little harder at reaching out to them, especially those who have not grown up in church and don't share our familiarity with arcane terms such as offertory and doxology.
His response: "So you don't think it's because of the homosexual issue?"
And that's really the only time it came up. Basically, I feel that my conditions were well accepted, and I think most folks in the room were glad to have those issues off the table for the day. It was a good conversation about why people leave the church, questions about the episcopacy, and why I'm optimistic about the future of the UMC. I would do it again, with the same terms, of course.
Thanks, DogBlogger, for asking. Maybe one day the WonderMutt and I will come over and play with you and your person.