the sleeping dragon of the #UMC middle

English:

Schism, my left Calvinist cheek!

There are hopeful spots popping up in the most unexpected places, rays of light that forecast both hope and gloom.

First, pastors and laity in the North Georgia Annual Conference, they have signed a unity covenant. The United Methodists of Mississippi are passing one, at least around. The North Texas Annual Conference rebelled against the IRD. What you have are United Methodists in the Deep South standing against schism (ironic on so many levels). Finally, Adam Hamilton and Mike Slaughter, UMC megachurch pastors, have their own signing statement going around. There are some issues with the statement, but the truly remarkable thing is that there is a statement that people can discuss.

There are several proposals and more to follow.

This looks good…

And this looks bad. If there is a schism, it will not be this or that annual conference, but the schism in the UMC will reach down to the congregational level. What then? What pastors will be without a church and what sheep without a pastor? This is not a geographical issue, as we saw in the 1840’s, but an ideological one, as we saw in the 1820’s when the MPC split.

Speaking of splits…while the UMC is “new” it is the union of the ME and the EUB. The ME is the reunion is of the ME and the ME-South (split in 1844) and the MPC (split in 1828). What happened? The ME kept going as groups left…and rejoined a hundred years later (give or take a long decade).

The Gang of 80, I believe, have awakened the middle, as they did in the 2004 General Conference. While some will claim these 80 represent thousands, they don’t. They officially represent no one but themselves, at least according to the covenant of the Book of Discipline. The annual conferences, on the other hand, represent something official — and they represent unity. While there are those who are opposed to unity, such as the Minnesota Annual Conference, there are many more who are supportive.

The middle is present, regardless of those who either dismiss it, call it names, or redefine it so as to suggest the middle must remain either quite or side with the so-called conservatives. We see it. Some of us, many of us, are it.

Post By Joel Watts (10,115 Posts)

Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Website: → Unsettled Christianity

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9 thoughts on “the sleeping dragon of the #UMC middle

  1. “Schism, my left Calvinist cheek?” Oh, chortle, chortle — we thought Father John was Wesleyan through and through. LOL!

    Great wrap-up. Picking up for UM Insight.

  2. Just clarification, the NGAC has not passed a unity resolution. Some pastors have drafted and signed a unity statement. I believe the same is true in the other Conferences mentioned. I only mention for accuracy.

    • Thanks!

      “As of June 3, about 460 United Methodists in the North Georgia Conference had signed the covenant, including 191 clergy.”

      More than some… and I got a chance to go back and see this update:

      “The Rev. Steve Wood, pastor of Mount Pisgah United Methodist Church in Johns Creek, Ga., has been involved in conversation with the 80 clergy calling for amicable separation. He said he does not remember signing the call for separation. At the same time, he did not sign the covenant either.”

      So, it’s not 80…. more like 79?

  3. I will say, Mr. Watts, that the 80 represent me. They, in fact, do represent thousands of those in The UMC. You fail to realize that many of those in the “middle” are only there for pragmatic reasons (pensions, appointments, etc). It’s not theological for many, and, if it were, they would be much more at home within the evangelical expression of Methodism. Also, I would ask you to please examine your posts for sarcasm and arrogance before you post, either in your blogs or on Facebook. You often treat anyone with whom you disagree as unintelligent or not worth your time. Please, for the sake of Christian love, at least approach your brothers and sisters with grace rather than sarcasm.

    • let me count the ways your comment is not true….

      Spencer, as I and others have expressed numerous times, in a myriad of locations, via media is a theological position. It is not about pensions, etc… but about preserving the unity as sought after in John 17. As a matter of fact, we have often quoted John 17 as the main theological passage in our attempt at reaching out.

      I have yet to encounter someone who wants to avoid schism solely for the purpose of a pension.

      Spencer, as far as your personal comments on me, while there are times I may get sarcastic – who doesn’t?, I always try to treat others as intelligent. You seem to mistake the pithiness required on forums for lack of interest. I have no need to restate, or overstate, my comments.

      Now, for the sake of Christian love, I hope you pay better attention to via media and attempt to understand where people are before you judge them prematurely.

      I am interested in your “evangelical expression,” however. What do you mean? Do you wish to do away with the connexion, the episcopal structure, and/or the liturgy?

      • Hi Joel. I apologize for my pointed comments. I do hope to understand those in the middle more, as I’m trying to understand those who are more progressive as well. I am discovering myself to be more of a liturgical/sacramental evangelical, so, I don’t hope to do away with the connexion, structure or liturgy. Again, please forgive my comment.

        • No worries.

          I realize that in trying to be straight to the point, my language is often brutish. I apologize. I am actually trying to avoid any subjective reaction to it, but sometimes I do fail.

          I respect the “traditionalists” and in many ways, more than I value the liberal protestantism of the “progressives.”

          I do not believe Scripture teaches that homosexuality as we know it as sin, but I also do not believe in pluralism to the point that everything is equal or okay. If Christ is the way, he is the way. That’s it. Further, Scripture (while not infallible/inerrant) is primary and the authority for our doctrine – interpreted through Reason and Tradition.

          Finally, I am in the middle because “one does not simply overturn nearly 2000 years of Church teaching.”

        • Hey, Memorial: Thumbs up for your humility and listening in the face of disagreement! I don’t even care which of the two of you I agreed with more, I’m just moved by your…humility.

          Thank you for being a bit of an inspiration today!

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