Are We Cutting the Baby in Half?

If Webster is right, then the proposal announced this week by the Connectional Table of The United Methodist Church, a group of fifty or so folks charged with shepherding the vision of our denomination, is not really the compromise that they are advertising that it is.  For the dictionary definition of that term suggests a “middle state between conflicting opinions that is reached by each side making concessions.”  It is difficult to see, however, how the present proposal altering our church’s stance on same-sex issues actually accomplishes that goal at all.  For in suggesting what is essentially the same local option put forth by Adam Hamilton in his “Third Way” notion, the Connectional Table has not truly conceded anything to those who hold to evangelical or even simply orthodox convictions.

True, the proposal will not require any individual pastor to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies or mandate any annual conference to ordain openly gay or lesbian clergy.  But in allowing those decisions to be made on the local level it will cause those who may find themselves morally or theologically opposed to the ideas to have to accept them within the inconsistent broader church of which they are yet a part.  And likewise, as even one of the proponents of the revisionist position has suggested, it still leaves our gay and lesbian members in many places subject to a position which they find quite personally hurtful.

To pull a biblical analogy from 1 Kings 3, thus, what the Connectional Table resolution–as well as Hamilton’s “Third Way” idea–both propose is actually to “cut the baby in half” in order to save it, i.e., let one half of the church believe one truth, and the other half another.  It should be obvious, however, that such a solution will eventually result in the death of that child, or in our case at least, the ultimate demise of any chance for the United Methodist Church to actually remain “united.”

It is for that reason that I have authored a resolution coming before the Texas Annual Conference and other regional bodies that represents a true compromise indeed.  For recognizing that the philosophical basis of our current position rests in the Social Principles statement on human sexuality, the resolution scraps the current language in Paragraph 161F in favor of a new and more gracious rewrite.  It begins by acknowledging that human sexuality “by the design of God” is a gift intended to bless all those who are created in the image of God.   That gift is one that requires “careful stewardship and exercise,” however.  And then it suggests that “in our historic understanding of the scriptures, sexual relations are to be affirmed only when practiced within the legal and spiritual covenant of a loving and monogamous marriage between one man and one woman.”

Admittedly, progressives will want to alter that definition of marriage, though those on the traditional side will counter that we do not have the “legal standing” so to speak (as marriage was God’s idea, not ours) to do so.  And pragmatically, it is fairly clear that without that traditional definition affirmed the rewrite will not pass in a General Conference which may be leery of conceding the current language.

But what the proposal does do in return is to eliminate any specific reference to homosexual individuals, removing them as the subject of the church’s disapprobation.  Instead, the rewrite acknowledges that God’s gift of human sexuality has been twisted in any number of ways, all of which are equally problematic for those who would follow Christ. To quote the resolution itself at this point:

“We reject all expressions of sexual behavior that do not recognize the sacred worth of each individual, or that seek to exploit, abuse, objectify, or degrade others, particularly any who may be unable to defend themselves.  We similarly grieve at the destructive impact of promiscuity, infidelity, bigamy, multiple or serial marriages, pornography, human trafficking, and all attempts to commercialize the gift of human sexuality within our societies.” 

The proposal then ends with an affirmation that God’s grace is available to all and a commitment to be in ministry for and with all persons, along with an exhortation to those within our families and churches not to reject or condemn any individuals based upon their gender, sexual identity or orientation.

In short, the resolution is a genuine compromise that has the potential to actually move us out of the conversational cul-de-sac in which we have been circling for decades and into a new and more gracious expression.  It recognizes the historic stance of our church while acknowledging that people of faith elsewhere may hold other views.  It replaces the current language of “incompatibility” with a call towards holy living by all.  And it does not single out one segment of the church while failing to reflect the broader issues around human sexuality that may affect us all.

I would never suggest, of course, that this resolution is truly Solomonic in its wisdom.  But on the other hand, its adoption at least gives the baby a chance of survival, something which the other proposals would not seem to do.

 

 

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

35 Responses to Are We Cutting the Baby in Half?

  1. Edward Monto says:

    BRAVO!!

  2. drkaj says:

    A question. Would you consider also recommending the removal of the prohibition against UM clergy participating in same-sex unions and such ceremonies being held in UM churches? I realize that the easy response would be to refer me back to the resolution’s language that “sexual relations are to be affirmed only when practiced within the legal and spiritual covenant of a loving and monogamous marriage between one man and one woman” and then point out that same-sex unions do not fit within this definition. But just for a moment, can we try to move beyond the easy response?

    After all, what is being affirmed is the (1) legal and (2) spiritual covenant of a (3) loving and (4) monogamous marriage (5) between one man and one woman. Same-sex unions celebrated in states where they have been legalized potentially satisfy 4 out of 5 of these conditions. I say potentially because we cannot know for sure that any couple, regardless of gender, coming forth to be married truly presents a (2) spiritual and (4) loving covenant, or intends to remain (4) monogamous. In the absence of a means of certifying these conditions, we more or less take them on faith at face value. We can reasonably certify the satisfaction of the (1) legal condition by asking for the license. All of this suggests that we consider condition #5 (one man, one woman) the deal-breaker. But why? Not because it is the “biblical model for marriage,” because, despite the popularity of that phrase, there is no such thing. So why do we make this one condition the deal-breaker if the other 4 are all met at least as well by a same-sex couple as by a more traditional male/female couple? Could it be because “one man, one woman” has been the preferred or only model for marriage in most of the cultures in which Christianity has thrived for most of its history? And if this is the case, is that a sufficient reason? Sounds a little like “but we’ve always done it that way.”

    But let’s suppose condition #5 is simply too important to set aside. And besides, the Bible says homosexuality is wrong, doesn’t it? Before dismissing the issue, let’s turn to the resolution’s list of other “twisted” expressions of sexuality. “We reject all expressions of sexual behavior that do not recognize the sacred worth of each individual, or that seek to exploit, abuse, objectify, or degrade others, particularly any who may be unable to defend themselves. We similarly grieve at the destructive impact of promiscuity, infidelity, bigamy, multiple or serial marriages, pornography, human trafficking, and all attempts to commercialize the gift of human sexuality within our societies.” Let’s pick one from the list, maybe multiple or serial marriages. Isn’t there just as much biblical “evidence” that divorce is wrong as there is that homosexuality is wrong? Aren’t the prohibitions every bit as clear? And yet we don’t prohibit UM clergy from consecrating second, third, even fourth marriages, nor do we declare that such unions cannot be held in UM churches. Why is this so? Why is this not a hypocritical double standard? Could it be that divorce and serial marriage became common enough, over time, in those cultures in which Christianity thrived at the time that we decided to contextualize this prohibition? Or could it even be that we have discovered that couples who have been previously married can still satisfy enough of the conditions of our definition of marriage that we believe that God can and will bless their union?

    These are not easy questions, Chappell, so let’s work toward some of the not easy answers.

    Keith

    • I appreciate the irenic spirit of your questions, Keith, and you make some valid points. With respect to the question of same-sex marriage, I suppose that I would look not so much to the expressions of marriage which are found in the Old Testament (which, as you suggest, are varied indeed and include multiple instances of multiple marriages, or polygamy) but I would focus instead on what is inferred from looking closely at the Genesis narratives where God’s ultimate will and design can be seen in the complementariness of His creation. That idea seems to be affirmed by both Jesus and Paul in their repetition and endorsement of the words “for this reason shall a man leave his father and mother and shall cleave (dabaq) unto his wife and the two shall become one flesh.” That would be the hermeneutical basis upon which I would attempt to draw any theological understanding of marriage. Therein lies the problem for same-sex marriage in my mind. It is not that two persons of the same gender are not capable of truly loving one another and even living together in a committed covenantal relationship. Rather, it is that the deeper biblical understanding of the idea of marriage (as endorsed by Jesus) visualizes a different scenario, that is, one between one man and one woman.
      In the end, thus, I don’t believe that I have the locus standi to change that definition, however sympathetic I might feel towards individuals who don’t exactly mesh with the canons based upon this understanding that have predominated for millennia.

      Having said all of that, dear brother, if you or someone else wishes to introduce a resolution recommending a change in our polity such as you have suggested, you are certainly free to do so, but I would not want to tie it to the resolution I’ve written, which I am convinced would be defeated if it is changed in that way. As I heard a respected leader in the reconciling movement say, sometimes it may be more important to make progress than simply to make a point. The aim of my resolution is to do the former, and I hope that those from several perspectives might see that and be able to support it.

      • drkaj says:

        Thanks for your reply, Chappell, as well as for acknowledging the validity of some of my points. Let me return the compliment in the same terms. And, as you know from past experience, I am nothing if not irenic. :^)

        I should add that my comments were somewhat rhetorical resolution-wise, I wasn’t so much asking you to modify your resolution as to add grist to your mill for future thought on the subject.

        I was disappointed that you decided not to engage my final remarks, on the double standard of permitting marriage after divorce. To use your own words and hermeneutics, if “God’s ultimate will and design” for marriage can be fulfilled only by one man and one woman,* then surely a configuration involving one man and one woman, then another woman, then another woman, etc. falls just as short as does one man and another man, or one woman and another woman.

        * As usual, it all comes down to biblical interpretation, doesn’t it? I agree that one man and one woman is clearly the model envisioned in Genesis, but my exegetical and theological principles won’t allow me to identify that ancient etiological story as universal or absolute, let alone a perfect depiction of “God’s ultimate will and design.”

  3. Keith, you suggest that there is no real “biblical model for marriage” and that “one man, one woman” marriage is only some sort of Christianized cultural concept. That only works if Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 19 and Mark 10 is ignored or undervalued.

    It isn’t a case of “we’ve always done it this way.” It’s a case of “God’s always WANTED it this way.” Human beings have failed to live up to that ideal, even those portrayed in the scriptural accounts. That doesn’t negate God’s will and design.

    • drkaj says:

      Neither ignored nor, I hope, undervalued, Karen. Just not taken literally, so interpreted in a manner other than yours. To me, Jesus is answering a question about divorce, not making an ultimate pronouncement about the eternal nature of marriage. Of course, we have gotten quite comfortable with ignoring or undervaluing what Jesus says about divorce, haven’t we? No UM clergy being put on trial for performing second marriages.

      • Troy says:

        two things:
        1. A second marriage isn’t necessarily wrong
        2. Even if second marriages were wrong, it doesn’t make it ok for clergy to perform gay marriages

        Present another argument

      • drkaj says:

        Troy, I don’t believe a second marriage is wrong. But then, I also don’t believe that a same-sex marriage is wrong either. You may be reading my statement without a full appreciation of the context within which it arose. You need to go all the way back to my lengthy comments to Chappell, in which I asked why following “God’s ideal model” for marriage, as expressed in the Genesis creation account, would prohibit same-sex marriage but not remarriage after divorce, since he (Chappell, not God) identified both as distortions of God’s vision. If you want to engage in that larger discussion, I’ll be glad to do so, but I won’t make any further response to your comment to a reply I actually made to someone else.

      • Troy says:

        “You need to go all the way back to my lengthy comments to Chappell, in which I asked why following “God’s ideal model” for marriage, as expressed in the Genesis creation account, would prohibit same-sex marriage but not remarriage after divorce, since he (Chappell, not God) identified both as distortions of God’s vision.”

        I don’t think anything needs to be said regarding divorce from the Genesis passage (or Paul and Jesus’s repetition of it) since permanence was assumed (“become one flesh”).

        I think what you are trying to do is negate this passage by saying that it was not “comprehensive” enough to define what marriage is. I would ask that you take a sincere look into your mindset and please don’t make what is clear in Christianity foggy so that everything comes down to “interpretation”, as you state. This is too important of an issue to do this with; I could understand if this same line of thinking was used with, say, eschatology, but not with sexuality.

        I appreciate your civility

      • drkaj says:

        Troy, it is precisely because this issue is so important and life itself is inescapably “foggy” that I feel interpretation is essential. You say, “please don’t make what is clear in Christianity foggy so that everything comes down to ‘interpretation’,” but if you are suggesting that the Christian understanding of marriage is “clear,” I would beg to differ. Indeed, I would point to the fact that we and so many others are having this discussion as proof that it is not clear. Persons of profound faith and good will hold differing views. So unless you are prepared to say, “My side is right and anyone who disagrees with me is wrong,” I don’t see how you can suggest that it is not a matter of interpretation. If you are prepared to say that, then I have nothing else to discuss with you.

        In light of your mentioning eschatology, I wonder if you are equating interpretation with speculation. Speculating about eschatology is indeed a favorite hobby of mine (see my book, God Explains It All), but that’s because doing so is of no consequence. We do not and cannot know anything about what might or might not happen. But real issues that impact my brothers and sisters in the faith require and deserve hermeneutical heavy lifting. I am no relativist. I do not feel that all opinions on a given subject are equally valid. But neither do I believe that the Bible provides us with clear, self-evident and universally applicable answers to the questions that arise in a postmodern world. We are called to do the work of interpretation within the community of faith in an effort to understand as well as we can what God intends for us.

      • Troy says:

        “but if you are suggesting that the Christian understanding of marriage is “clear,” I would beg to differ. ”
        I agree that it may be hard to define marriage using solely the bible. However, in the context of the CHURCH (which is what this article was about), the issue of same-sex marriage is clear. It’s clear because scripture is clear that homosexual practice is sinful. It’s only when we are talking about defining marriage for the STATE (where believers AND non-believers abide) that it can become foggy, and it is here where I begin to allow my brothers and sisters room for their own conclusions.

      • drkaj says:

        Troy, you didn’t say it in so many words, but you just basically said “I am right, and anyone who disagrees with me is wrong.” You say, “in the context of the CHURCH (which is what this article was about), the issue of same-sex marriage is clear.” Surely you know that four mainstream Christian denominations officially accept same-sex marriage, as well as several million Christians in other denominations (including the UMC). So, unless you are prepared to declare all of these NOT part of the Church, then the issue is not, as you suggest, clear. As I said before, if you are prepared to say that the UCC, TEC, PCUSA, and ELCA are not part of The Church, then please let me know, because I will not continue this discussion if that is the case.

        You also say that the issue of same-sex marriage is clear because scripture is clear that homosexual practice is sinful. Yes, there are several biblical passages that condemn homosexual behavior, but many of us who are faithful, committed, fruit-bearing Christians feel those passages need to be interpreted in their ancient contexts and in light of the historical and cultural limitations of their human authors (yes, I said human authors, because I do not believe that God wrote the Bible). And when they are interpreted in this manner, they have nothing to do with the kind of loving, committed, monogamous same-sex relationships being accepted or even celebrated by so many Christians today.

        Here’s the part of “the Bible says homosexuality is a sin” argument that I just don’t get. There are many other biblical passages that condemn practices that are much more common, some of which you and I both undoubtedly engage in. By your hermeneutic principles, they should be clearly wrong. But I don’t hear Evangelicals protesting against them. I don’t see Traditionalists presenting resolutions to General Conference to prohibit them. Why is that so? Why is this one particular issue such a big deal to Evangelicals and Traditionalists? I ask this question all the time, in all kinds of settings, but never once have I gotten a simple, straight-forward answer from the anti-homosexuality crowd.

      • Troy says:

        I should have said it clearly: God is right, and everyone who disagrees with Him is wrong. Do you believe scripture is inspired, and without error in everything it teaches? Do you believe truth is objective? I’m afraid that if you answer no to either than this debate will simply go nowhere.

        Also, your point in saying “Troy, you didn’t say it in so many words, but you just basically said “I am right, and anyone who disagrees with me is wrong.”” is to make me feel like a bigot, as if I’m the only one here making a truth claim. This is unwarranted, as I could just have easily said this about you.

        You are furthermore attempting to put me in a corner by trying to get me to say that ALL people from the 4 denominations listed are not a part of the Church. I believe there are the faithful AND unfaithful in every denomination and to cast a whole denomination aside is a gross error. That being said, I have serious concerns with the mainstream denominations of our day, and the fact that they are now starting to affirm homosexual lifestyles can only support the ‘argument to the people’ falacy – not useful in a debate.

        Lastly, the passages about homosexuality leave no room for cultural shifts. I’m sure you know 1 Cor 6:9-10 “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” By my ‘hermeneutic principles’, each of these are wrong, each separates oneself from God for eternity if continued in. Why does it seem like evangelicals have it out for gays you ask? Because it is the only sin listed here that in our day that is widely celebrated in the culture. Every other is generally still frowned upon (barring maybe fornication). That’s why it’s a ‘big deal’. It would be strange to have evangelical leaders walking to the Hill to discuss fraudulent business practices since there are laws against them and none celebrate them; similarly, to have the General Conference take up the issue of drunkenness. Does this make sense?

      • drkaj says:

        Troy, what world do you live in that you think homosexuality is the only activity in the Corinthians list that is celebrated, or maybe fornication too. Adultery is celebrated in books, movies, and websites. Drunkenness is practically the national pastime on many of our college campuses. Modern society and the Church are both filled with idolaters, worshiping patriotism, the military, prosperity, numerical growth, and the Bible. And greed has become the ethos that inhabits our politics, our corporations, and many of our churches, mega and not-so-mega.

        But all of that is moot as far as I’m concerned, because I don’t consider the opinions expressed by Paul in writing to the Christians in Corinth to be eternal and universal truths. Yes, I know, shocking isn’t it? You ask me, “Do you believe scripture is inspired, and without error in everything it teaches? Do you believe truth is objective?” Yes, I believe scripture is God-breathed, but I’m pretty sure what I mean by that term and what you mean by it are not the same. As for “without error in everything it teaches,” flatly no. After all, countless number of contradictory teachings can be found in the Bible, so how can it be “without error”? Do I believe truth is objective? I believe that Truth is of God and is, therefore, not fully knowable by us, especially not from the pages of an ancient collection of sacred writings produced by people of faith in response to their encounters with the mostly unknowable God. What we call “truth” is, at best, a poor simulacrum of God’s Truth. If this means that our discussion is at an impasse (I won’t call it a debate because I have neither the desire nor the intention of trying to “win” by convincing you), that’s what I previously said.

        As a final thought, let me encourage you to aim a bit higher. Even if homosexuality is a sin (which I don’t consider it), our Lord always had harsher words for those who committed spiritual sins (e.g. greed, hate, failing to care for the marginalized) than for those who committed the “sins of the flesh.”

      • Walker says:

        Troy, Jesus clearly states that second marriages are wrong though. ““It was said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife must give her a divorce certificate.’ But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife except for sexual unfaithfulness forces her to commit adultery. And whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. (‭Matthew‬ ‭5‬:‭31-32‬ CEB)” what about that is unclear about a second marriage being wrong?

      • Troy says:

        testing reply location….

      • Troy says:

        Hi Walker, I think you meant to say this in reply to drkaj. I said second marriage isn’t NECESSARILY wrong, which is consistent with what you said

      • Troy says:

        “Adultery is celebrated in books, movies, and websites. Drunkenness is practically the national pastime on many of our college campuses. Modern society and the Church are both filled with idolaters, worshiping patriotism, the military, prosperity, numerical growth, and the Bible. And greed has become the ethos that inhabits our politics, our corporations, and many of our churches, mega and not-so-mega.”
        You are not distinguishing what is common from what is viewed by most as acceptable.

        I would recommend Michael Licona’s work with respect to contradictions in scripture. I don’t know how much research you’ve done, but the vast majority of cases can be easily dismissed. I would encourage you to take a sincere look into this issue, for it is a very slippery slope to follow your loose method of interpretation.

        “I believe that Truth is of God and is, therefore, not fully knowable by us”
        How can I know that this statement is true then?

      • drkaj says:

        Troy, I can’t say I appreciate your calling my method of interpretation “loose.” I won’t bother with reciting my credentials for you, because they don’t ultimately matter. Just be assured that I don’t feel the same need you do to be right.

        You ask how you can know my statement, “I believe that Truth is of God and is, therefore, not fully knowable by us,” is true. That’s just it. You can’t. But some of us doing fine without insisting on knowing the “truth” of propositional statements because we have a relationship with the Living Truth within a community of believers.

        Hey, it’s been fun, but I grow weary of this. You aren’t going to persuade me, and I have no desire even to try to persuade you.

      • Hey Keith and Troy–thanks for a good discussion and for upping my stats on the comments section. I think it might be time for you guys to take this outside, however. 🙂

      • drkaj says:

        Already done. Feel free to delete my comments if you like.

      • Troy says:

        🙂 Sorry

  4. David says:

    Dear Chap,

    Thank you for your wonderful blog postings and very insightful thoughts. When it comes to the survival of the United Methodist Church I am sad to say that I see no other way forward but for an amical split. I know for many that this will be an extremely painful event. However, even with your thoughtful proposal, both sides will not really be pleased and those who want full, unlimited inclusion of the GLBT community will surely not want to compromise in any form or fashion. I will pray for you and the Texas Annual Conference delegates in Portland because it is going to be a circus and not a happy one.

    Sincerely,

    David

    • You may be correct, David. But I can tell you that this proposal has indeed garnered the support of many from both sides of the question, an encouraging development indeed. Likewise, it is quite similar to a proposal I made in Tampa which actually passed the Faith and Order legislative committee where it was discussed, with those on both sides of the aisle, so to speak, favoring it. I was actually sitting on the platform at General Conference ready to present it when Adam Hamilton and Mike Slaughter’s resolution came up first, and as you know, following the melee that ensured, all resolutions dealing with sexuality in any way were subsequently stifled, or more precisely, moved to the end of the agenda when it was clear we would not have time to discuss them. In my mind that was a lost opportunity which I still regret. Hopefully if this can pass and go forward to Portland, we will be able to actually deal with it honestly and openly. Or perhaps we’ll simply find some lion tamers for the circus!

  5. Lynda Miller says:

    Dear Pastor Chappel,

    I like what you have written and hope it goes through. It will be a sad day when the church splits, if that is what happens. My belief is that Jesus said, “Who will throw the first stone?” and the saying “Judge not, least ye be Judged.” It truly is not up to us to judge people who do not act as we do. They need Jesus and the Father, possibly more than we do. Not to say we don’t, heavens no. We need to look beyond the box and look at more of Jesus teachings. I feel the rewrite of the resolution is a good one.

    Lynda Miller

  6. Thanks, Lynda. You can pray for this when it is scheduled to come before the Texas Annual Conference on Tuesday morning, May 26.

  7. Pingback: Why We Need Clarity, Not Compromise, In the UMC! | PreacherRich.com

  8. drkaj says:

    Gee, am I the only Liberal/Progressive who reads and replies to this blog?

  9. David Fowler says:

    Interesting image.

    It seems to me that the wisdom of Solomon was such that he knew… or felt he could soon determine… who the true lover of the child was by the two’s reaction to the proposal to cut the child in half. The true mother, cared more for the child’s life than for having her half. The true lover/mother was willing to let the child go… out of love… and surrender the child to the less loving and the one who turned out to be a liar in order to save the child’s life.

    Sadly there is no one (this side of eternity) willing to judge between those who are claiming to love (and want to raise) this baby: the church, and those who want to cut it up.

    And sadly too, there are many (and maybe this is the play of those who are illegitimately claiming the UM Baby) who will out of love for the Lord, leave to let this child be raised by another.

    One issue our progressive sisters and brothers have not addressed is their (for lack of better terms) “racism” or “elitism” toward the world church and the planned schism from them. (We are approximately 40% African) World Methodism, which is growing, is grossly under represented on the Connectional Table… so much so as to make the group hardly “connectional” at all. Claiming to support unity, the CT proposal would willingly lop off this huge section of the church. Why? No doubt because they suspect they are in substantial disagreement with an agenda.

    You can’t be for unity while actively scheming for schism. It’s simply a lie.

    So who gets the baby?

    Dave Fowler

    • drkaj says:

      David, not all UM’s were in favor of a global denomination, and not for theological reasons alone. Global United Methodism presents a logistical nightmare. Plus, each regional “flavor” of United Methodist is being asked to give up of its culture that is vital, if not essential, to its identity. And for what? What does a global UMC actually accomplish that could not be gained through enhanced cooperation without organizational unification? After all, organizational unification is not the same as unity, not by a long shot. Personally, I favored strong autonomous national/regional churches coupled with a revitalized and truly effective World Methodist Council.

      As cynical as this sounds, ask yourself how many supporters of a global UMC favored it because (1) it would allow us to brag about a large, growing membership once more, and/or (2) the addition of a significant number of new members, primarily from Africa, would shift the theological balance of the denomination once and for all toward the conservative end of the spectrum.

      • David Fowler says:

        My brother,
        You do not divide the church and end up with: “strong autonomous national/regional churches coupled with a revitalized and truly effective World Methodist Council.” If you think that possible you’re quite a dreamer. The World Methodist Council would end up in one camp or the other…probably the progressive one. I agree totally with you that, “organizational unity is not unity.” But with separate organizations, there can only be the flimsiest of unities. An occasional shared cause, an occasional worship service. I’d say about the only thing they could do is disaster relief…most everything else is political… so it wouldn’t unify…and one group or the other would not support it. With your “strong autonomy” comes strong responsibility for where a local strong church’s money goes. You will have to pitch the apportionment, as well as the itineracy. Local autonomy has it’s own nightmares…and a strong W. Metho. Council would not be the result.
        Plus, unlike you, I don’t see anyone asking any region of the church to give up it’s local flavor. Where do you see that? Unless you’re saying that some jurisdictional “flavor” is LGBTQ. If anything the UMC is a big enough tent to have many flavors. Yet to have many theologies is perhaps another issue.
        As to World Methodism: At some point General Conference decided to quit treating world Methodism as a step child and give them actual representation. Perhaps that impulse rose from a rightful and well placed guilt over racism. (I doubt it was for either of the reasons one and two that you offered above) We still are not including them at a level that is commensurate with their numbers…but that is just another injustice that is those who champion such causes should be happy to embrace.
        We either favor true inclusion of people (regardless of their flavors) or we do not. It seems if including Africa hurts your cause, you are against it. For practical reasons? For logistical reasons? Ask yourself, is that really fair? You’re against it because it’s difficult… a nightmare you say.
        So maybe I think sending LGBTQ pastors to many congregations will be difficult…even a nightmare. It seems you’d want us as a denomination to rise to that challenge. In that case you might even say, that just because it’s difficult is no reason to avoid doing it. I guess you and I are at a impasse “difficulty” wise.
        You say having a global church is a logistical nightmare. Catholics have done it, with various seasons of success and failure no doubt, but if anything they have been invigorated by what for them is currently a Pope from “world Catholicism.” (Wrong hemisphere, wrong side of the ocean)
        Maybe Methodism will find be similarly invigorated when the western jurisdictions welcome an African bishop.
        What are we really saying is most important if we will lop off a section of the world church in favor of our local flavor…which in this case is the LGBTQ cause. Sexuality is more important than unity in Christ? Really?

      • David,

        Thanks for your reply, though to be honest, I had to go back and see what I had written–it’s been a while.

        Unfortunately, I don’t have time for a lengthy reply right now, but I’ll try to respond to some of your concerns.

        “You do not divide the church and end up with: “strong autonomous national/regional churches coupled with a revitalized and truly effective World Methodist Council.” If you think that possible you’re quite a dreamer.”

        To begin with, I wasn’t so much advocating dividing the UMC as putting the brakes on our efforts to turn it into a global denomination. Methodists around the world who do not currently belong to the UMC might have some comments for you about being part of strong, autonomous national churches. What exactly is it that advocates of a global UMC think we are gaining that we don’t already have? And besides, what’s wrong with being a dreamer?

        “With your “strong autonomy” comes strong responsibility for where a local strong church’s money goes. You will have to pitch the apportionment, as well as the itineracy. Local autonomy has it’s own nightmares…and a strong W. Metho. Council would not be the result.”

        I’m not sure you understand what I mean by strong, autonomous churches. I’m not talking about autonomous congregations, or even annual conferences. Our connectional polity would not change at all if we just left well enough alone, nor would apportionments or itineracy. I’m thinking of a structure more like the Worldwide Anglican Communion, with the UMC being the equivalent of the Episcopal Church (USA).

        “Plus, unlike you, I don’t see anyone asking any region of the church to give up it’s local flavor. Where do you see that?”

        Almost the entire membership of the Western Jurisdiction feels like they are being threatened with dissolution of their jurisdiction and absorption into others, all in the convenient name of efficiency as we grow into our global future. But if you know anything about UM-ism in the Western Jurisdiction, it definitely has its own “flavor,” which would be lost if they were absorbed into other jurisdictions.

        “As to World Methodism: At some point General Conference decided to quit treating world Methodism as a step child and give them actual representation. Perhaps that impulse rose from a rightful and well placed guilt over racism.”

        This is actually my point. The UMC and Methodism are not synonymous, so why should the UMC, a denomination that is thoroughly American in its history (I see Francis Asbury as casting a much bigger shadow for the UMC than “Mr. Wesley,” who was politely told by the American General Conference less than 30 years in, “Thanks for your instruction/orders, but we’ll take it from here) and primarily, but not entirely, American in its DNA feel like it needs to exercise any kind of authority over Methodists in other parts of the world?

        “We either favor true inclusion of people (regardless of their flavors) or we do not.”

        I’m all for fully including all people, including LGBTQ people (whom I’m guessing you might not be so willing to grant truly full inclusion to–e.g. marriage, ordination of those called by God). I just don’t subscribe to the school of excessive/obsessive conglomeration, especially on a global scale. Bigger isn’t always better.

        “I guess you and I are at a impasse “difficulty” wise. You say having a global church is a logistical nightmare. Catholics have done it, with various seasons of success and failure no doubt, but if anything they have been invigorated by what for them is currently a Pope from “world Catholicism.” (Wrong hemisphere, wrong side of the ocean)”

        The Roman Catholic Church (by no means the only “Catholics” out there) has sought to be a worldwide church from the very beginning, starting when the “world” wasn’t quite so big . . . or so diverse. As it spread across the world, it colonized, raped, and murdered the indigenous population, imposing a blend of European culture and Roman Catholic religion on them that they were incapable of understanding. After centuries on this path, it’s hard to imagine they would turn from it and decide to operate in a regional manner. But, does that make them a good institutional model for the UMC? I think not.

        For me, the true full inclusion of LGBTQ persons in the UMC is a justice issue. To reduce it to “sexuality” (though that is not a small matter) is unworthy and disingenuous. I would ask you, “Is growing a big ol’ global church more important than justice? Really?”

  10. David Fowler says:

    Hi,
    Wondered if you might report, or link us to a report of how the Texas Conference came out on the proposal mentioned.
    Dave

    • Dave–I’m happy to report that the proposed rewrite was affirmed by the Texas Annual Conference and will now go as a petition from the TAC to the 2016 General Conference. The vote was approximately 60-40 and I am enormously grateful to those on all sides of the question who were able to get behind this. I am aware that some within other conferences, including North Texas, Arkansas, and Virginia, are also looking at the resolution and I’m hopeful there will be additional support before we come to Portland for the General Conference next spring.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s