We now have most of the election results from yesterday's voting, and it is clear that the country has shifted the balance of power once again in the federal government – with Republicans given a majority in both houses of Congress. This means that during the last two years of President Obama's second term, we have a Democrat in the White House and Republicans in majority in Congress – and both sides will need to cooperate in order to get anything accomplished.
This is not a new phenomenon, and in fact it is most typical throughout U.S. history. There have been very few years when either political party has had strong control of both the White House and both houses of Congress. Whenever that has happened (as it did in 2008 when President Obama had a Democratic Congress), almost always the American voters have changed that in the very next election.
Why? Because, as my political science professor taught me years ago in college, we Americans do not trust our government. Our very system of government is a balance of power, or a division of power – to prevent total control from anyone for very long. We simply do not want to yield too much of our independence to any one person or party. In fact, you can argue that our system of government is designed for stalemate – and that is what we often get. There are exceptions – such as during part of the tenure of President Clinton when he worked well with a Republican Congress and much was accomplished. We Americans want our elected officials to either work together or to be stalemated – again because we do not trust government.
Of course I must note that our United Methodist Church government or polity is designed the same way, probably because we developed our church polity during the same time the new American government was created. So we have a legislative branch which includes church or charge conferences, district conference, annual conferences, jurisdictional conferences and the General Conference. We have a judicial branch which is composed of our Judicial Council. And we have an executive branch which includes the appointed "pastor in charge," district superintendents and bishops.
But in our UMC there is no centralized authority. We must work together to accomplish anything. And, just like the American public, our UMC membership seems to like it that way. We are distrustful of anyone having too much power and authority, so we have set ourselves up for either cooperation or stalemate.
This is all clear to me as I am attending the meeting of the Council of Bishops – a gathering of active and retired UM bishops from all over the world. We have protestors here representing both ends of the UM political spectrum – some even carrying signs and demanding that we bishops "fix" various issues in our church. While I respect their right to voice their concerns, they seem greatly mistaken in their belief that we bishops are the final or single authority in our UMC. We bishops have some authority and some responsibility, of course, and we must not shrink from that, but we do not write the Book of Discipline, we do not adopt Conference or General Conference budgets, and in fact we are prohibited from voting anywhere in the church except in our own Council meetings.  
This whole "balance of power" thing only works when real, human, fallible people are willing to set aside their egos and to cooperate for the good of the whole church (or the whole country in the case of Congress and the president). No one is "in charge" in our systems, but we all are called to work together and fulfill our various roles.
I pray that our U.S. government will find ways to cooperate and to accomplish their tasks. I pray that the various parts of our UMC will also find ways to cooperate and to accomplish our tasks. Our systems can work, but only if we all do our part with humility, grace, and wisdom.