Examining the #UMC #viamedia in #UMCSchism – the Faithless extremes

Triumph of Faith over Idolatry, by Jean-Baptis...

Triumph of Faith over Idolatry, by Jean-Baptiste Théodon (French, 1646–1713). Church of the Gesù, Rome, Italy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The middle is getting disparaged. Matt O’Reilly doesn’t understand it. Others, on the right, suggest it doesn’t exist or simply lump it into the left. On the left, they suggest “we don’t get it” or lump us into the right. Both sides now demand action and see us as the force preventing their goals.

Another new caucus group, The Methodist Crossroads, demands at gunpoint the bishops act according to the BoD.1 Other voices from the Left demand action as well. Love Prevails threatens to disrupt every meeting until they get what they want. Others have suggested that since they have read a few posts, they now can pronounce judgment upon the middle as actionless conservatives or retreat to identity politics to dismiss the middle.

Yet, the middle does exist and as Allan R. Bevere has said, we are people with deep convictions. Some suggest the middle way is a form of discipleship. I would concur with that and add that in the end, via media is rooted in embracing not only Tradition and Change, but rests in the faith we are demanded to have. To stand in the middle, even against our convictions on this particular issue, demands we embrace patience. Patience is sometimes the essence of faith because it is in patience we come to know fully what it means to rely upon God.

GOD’S divine power has bestowed on us everything that makes for life and true religion, through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. In this way he has given us his promises, great beyond all price, so that through them you may escape the corruption with which lust has infected the world, and may come to share in the very being of God. With all this in view, you should make every effort to add virtue to your faith, knowledge to virtue, self-control to knowledge, fortitude to self-control, piety to fortitude, brotherly affection to piety, and love to brotherly affection. If you possess and develop these gifts, you will grow actively and effectively in knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. – 2 Peter 1.3-8 (REB)

There are biblical examples of impatience. None of them work out well. In Genesis 16, Abram is given a promise of salvation and justice in the future by the untraditional birth of a son. After a while, he loses faith and soon takes a concubine to give him a son. This causes trouble for Abram and, even though God takes care of Ishmael, Abram must dismiss his son and concubine. Of course, this causes problems for Israel for generations and is an ugly stain on the father of so many.

In Isaiah 30–31, Israel makes an alliance with Egypt  — because they have lost faith in God. Indeed, Isaiah is all about waiting — which means we have to give up our notions of justice, our notions of “God’s time,” and our need to control the situation for God when it comes to the things of God.

but those who look to the LORD will win new strength,
they will soar as on eagles’ wings;
they will run and not feel faint,
march on and not grow weary. – Is 40:31 (REB).

There were no messiahs until Jesus and even then, it was divinely cautioned that patience was needed to see if it was really from God (Acts 5.34-39). There is actually a biblical history of waiting upon God and not following those who claim to speak for God while urging their followers to their own destruction (Jeremiah, anyone?). I could add the example of Saul, Peter cutting off the soldier’s ear, or even the “burned.”

Or again, you are God’s building. God gave me the privilege of laying the foundation like a skilled master builder; others put up the building. Let each take care how he builds. There can be no other foundation than the one already laid: I mean Jesus Christ himself. If anyone builds on that foundation with gold, silver, and precious stones, or with wood, hay, and straw, the work that each does will at last be brought to light; the day of judgement will expose it. For that day dawns in fire, and the fire will test the worth of each person’s work. If anyone’s building survives, he will be rewarded; if it burns down, he will have to bear the loss; yet he will escape with his life, though only by passing through the fire. – 1 Co 3:9–15 (REB).

I believe in inclusion — and I fully understand that the way I approach this issue may be because I am a straight white male or it may be because I tire so easily of everyone speaking for God when no one actually listens — and I believe that if it is of God, it will happen and happen because of Scripture. I believe if it happens it will happen without destroying the Church and our covenant with one another.

What I see in the extremes, spearheaded by various lobbying efforts, is not a resting in God, but a violent means to force others to bow to the whims of the caucus groups. As a whole, neither of the extremes have faith in God, but in what legislation, petitions, and signage displays can gain. They have a faith in their language — either the sinner of the oppressor — but not in the language of God. Yes, each side has their positions but these positions are theirs to gain as if they are borders to expand. This is not faith, but agendas.

There is a place for active disagreement because that is how change and reform take place. Don’t get me wrong; I do not believe in apathy. Just the opposite.

The middle does not need legislation or petitions or protests to get things accomplished, because they rest and wait upon God. If the Church really is God’s, then we are not called to save it. We are called to maintain it. I have faith that in the end, God will reign supreme — that our actions of prayer, listening, and engaging is God’s ultimate call for the middle, and that this is what will carry the day.

  1. I have no issue with this demand, but it is the “or else” bit that I throw my hands up at.

Post By Joel L. Watts (10,125 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 “Examining the #UMC #viamedia in #UMCSchism – the Faithless extremes

  1. With apologies to John Fawcett:

    Blest be the tie that binds
    Our hearts in Christian love;
    The fellowship of kindred minds
    Is like to that above.

    Before our Father’s throne
    We put on pretentious airs;
    Our way is the only right one
    We don’t care how the church fairs.

    We give each other woes,
    It’s their cross to bear;
    We step on each other’s toes
    As faith we shred and tear.

    We’re pulling the church apart,
    While giving each other pain;
    But we don’t give a fart,
    Tomorrow we’ll do it again.

    We live such glorious lives
    We know know other way;
    We’re each little bee hives,
    And we sting all the day.

    Sorry only for our pain,
    Others our hypocrisy see,
    We like driving others insane
    Guess it’ll be for eternity.

  2. We don’t function as a connectional denomination without trust particularly without trust in a shared agreement to obey the rules that have been voted upon to govern ourselves especially including those rules we don’t agree with. Otherwise, we have anarchy or at best a congregational denomination. If we are a congregational denomination (de jure or de facto), then why would we, for example, subsidize the bishops in the Western Jurisdiction? As part of the middle, if we don’t have the rule of law then what is the point?

  3. Wow, I feel so honored to be featured in this post, after calling me a liar on Twitter a few days ago I’m surprised you took the time to read my post. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, this was an interesting read.

  4. Trust is essential to move forward. What is interesting is that simply calling for the Discipline to be obeyed qualifies one for the middle. The real test is what people do when there is another set of demonstrations in Portland.

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