Are We Moving Towards a “Mexit?”

It was pure happenstance that we arrived in the country just one day before it happened. When we woke up the day afterwards, however, it was to a different world indeed. For despite the pleas of many to “Stay Sane and Vote Remain,” the British populace chose instead to make a dash for it, leaving the European Union after more than forty years as a part of that continent-wide community.

What’s more, it wasn’t exactly a pleasant parting of the ways either. For after a rather bitter campaign–with near apocalyptic claims on the part of both sides–the 52-48% vote was split along largely urban/rural and north/south lines, with Scotland, Northern Ireland, and the city of London all wishing to remain in the EU but the rest of the nation opting to go it alone. In turn, though the prime minister suggested that they would take the transition slow and easy, by Friday the other European nations were already telling the Brits to just “pack their bags and go,” sooner rather than later.

The “Brexit”–or British Exit–made me wonder, however, if we are not now seeing the same kind of accelerated sociological/societal split within the United Methodist Church. For not only have the boards of ministry of numerous conferences announced that they will no longer follow church guidelines regarding the ordination of those who perform same gender marriage ceremonies, or who may be engaged in same-sex behavior themselves, but now at least one annual conference has proclaimed that they will act in “non-conformity” to all of the passages within our Book of Discipline regarding that subject.

And in a similar fashion, another conference has voted to support an abortion-rights advocacy group that the General Conference, speaking on behalf of the entire United Methodist Church, just voted to withdraw from, defeating–after twelve years of struggling against parliamentary maneuverings–the minority which embraced our membership in that coalition.

Yet oddly enough, it is the same conservative Methodists who have patiently played by the rules for four decades that have often been labeled by others as “schismatics.”  And no matter what one’s personal views on the particularly painful subjects involved may be, such would seem to be a rather jaded and jangled way of thinking indeed. For the very definition of the word “schism” itself suggests the withdrawal or secession of any group owing to doctrinal or other differences which generally will lead in turn to a formal division of a single church into two distinct bodies.

Thus, if some conferences have already determined to “go their own way” on a subject that the general church has clearly debated and ruled against, has not a schism already occurred, whether we’ve formally acknowledged it yet or not?

In turn, the proposal that entire jurisdictions should adopt a stance of “non-compliance” quite logically may lead some elsewhere to question just why they should continue to subsidize areas that have already determined not to keep the connectional covenant which binds us together. At least from one vantage point, thus, it would seem that the “Mexit” or “Methodist Exit” has indeed begun, led by those on the left.

There is still time perhaps for a solution to emerge, hopefully from the bishop’s commission that will be appointed to study and review “all that is before us” with regard to the sexuality questions. But because of the actions of those unwilling to give that group even a chance to organize before trying to change the conditions on the ground, that time is ticking away rather rapidly.

Indeed, I think of the words of William Bradford, an American who lived in the days following our own national separation from those in England.  Quoting Shakespeare who had penned that “the times seem to be out of joint,” Bradford sighed that “the world wears a strange aspect at the present time…a determined ministry is bringing things to a crisis and seems to foretell some great event.”

We might be well advised thus to heed the latest lessons from the land of the Wesleys. For though some might think it unthinkable that we would actually divide a denomination that has existed in its current configuration for 48 years now, I suspect that many likewise assumed that after 43 years in the EU that Great Britain would never have left it either.

But then they would clearly have been wrong.

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11 Responses to Are We Moving Towards a “Mexit?”

  1. pruth says:

    (I think what I just wrote has disappeared, so I’m trying to post again.)
    Excellent points. While you are likely there to visit Julie, you might remember another marriage issue while ou are there. Ironically, Henry VIII broke with the Catholic faith because the Pope (Clement VII) would not annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon for failure to produce an heir. Pope Julius II (who presided in between) had already granted the king a special dispensation to marry Catherine, the widow of the king’s brother and daughter of Queen Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon who ruled with separate institutions in the area now called Spain. In arguing that Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon could be annulled, Henry’s theological experts had argued that the dispensation should not have been granted because of the principle of affinity based on Leviticus 18:16, 20 and 21. The part in question says “You shall not uncover the nakedness of your brother’s wife; it is your brother’s nakedness.” Other theologians had argued that the dispensation had been correctly given under Deuteronomy 25:5:“When brothers reside together and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the deceased shall not be married outside the family to a stranger. Her husband’s brother shall go in to her, taking her in marriage, and performing the duty of a husband’s brother to her. So, the Pope was placed in a tough spot of being asked to declare his predecessor’s permission to marry “invalid” effectively admitting a papal mistake. Therefore, the Pope declined the king’s request to grant the annulment. The king was not pleased. He had his people confiscate church lands, killing a few clergy and launched the Church of England, a predecessor of the Methodists. He was able to do this because the average person was appalled by clergy wealth and the lack of attention to the needs of the community. Of course, wars between the faith of different peoples resulted, becoming a nasty page in church history as Christians are to be the peace bearers. I hope and pray that the Church will learn from the nasty past and realize that people just want to marry the ones they love. I also hope the Methodists will not be afraid to admit they were wrong about certain language. After all, we all just might still be Roman Catholics if the pope could have done that. And, while you are there you might also take in some of the work left by Hadrian, a bi-sexual who persecuted the church. You have to wonder how the world would have changed if the early church leaders had tried to convert him, assuming they did not, though this is something for future research.

  2. Edward Monto says:

    The separation, seems to me, appears to be inevitable. An absence of leadership created the vaccumn where the different views could not be reconciled and the roots of the disaccord have taken deep hold on both sides. I wonder what the new name of the UMC will be!

  3. T Gilts says:

    Hi Chap, I appreciate your writing and forward most of your emails to Kip. He just told me you are a great speaker and an even greater writer. Ok, there’s a daily affirmation for you. Keep up the good work, Tammy Gilts P.S. Hello to Julie.

    Sent from my iPhone


  4. Nancy Schulz says:

    Interesting, Chap. And sad….

  5. Lucille Massey says:

    Sad and disturbing to think what might be; thankful for your writing. Hello to Angie & family.

  6. JoLynn Daugherty says:

    So many thoughts which I am not brave enough to share. But what truly unites us all within the UMC? Or any church of believers for that matter. Is it not the saving grace of Jesus Christ? And what do we do with that? We divide it?

  7. Jessica LaGrone says:

    You mention being hopeful that a solution will arise from the bishops’ commission. Can you think of a solution they could propose that would restore unity? If it displeases either side they will either Mexit or continue in absolute rebellion (causing the Mexit of the other side.) Not sure what we’re hoping for them to accomplish.

  8. Nancy Palmer says:

    Yes! I get his blogs too. Should be forwarded to Renfroe

  9. Doreen Grieve says:

    Denominations within our denominations? I think in time the true answers will become very clear and there may be a need to have separate groups now but in time they will come back together. I would suggest new definitions be a place to start, marriage remain defined as a man and woman, bespoken defined as two of the same sex, and a strong stance from both sides that polygamy is a sin. You know the challenge of multiple wives for one husband will be next for our society. Birth control needs to be very clearly defined in some terms not to imply it is an act of abortion, and deadly abortion identified as the point from 4 months on that a unborn child has the possibility of surviving with medical help outside the womb. At least defining the issues will help with the morality decisions. The church does need to tackle all these topics since it is going to get more and more difficult to define marriage and even life itself. What about the issues when the very wealthy can regenerate their body forever? Or even buy organs for transplant now? Arranging sperm and donor to create a being designed by it’s owners seems wrong somehow, what does the church say? Destroying fertilized eggs in a hospital lab seems to be more heartless than any abortion done out of need. Is distributing birth control a better option than allowing the suffering of pain, ignorance and neglect? The church has an opportunity and obligation to lead government and society, not to stay silent. I don’t know the answers but I am praying Methodists rise to the challenges first and lead the way! Thanks for giving us some insight into the issues Chap and thanks for giving us a place to share in the discussions.

  10. pastorjvickers1573 says:

    Excellent. Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

  11. Georgia C. Trudeau says:

    Excellent blog, Dr. Temple!

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