Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
October 6th, 2014 by Joel Watts

A question after World Communion Sunday #umcschism #umc

La consécration de Déodat (huile sur bois)

La consécration de Déodat (huile sur bois) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yesterday was the annual World Communion Sunday where Protestants attempt to strive for ecumenical unity by holding communion with other congregations of different denominations. Our Church held a joint-communion with the American Baptist congregation across the street.

Admittedly, I did not participate. Not because I do not like the American Baptists – although they aren’t in the Apostolic Succession – but because I was ill and had to rush home.

But, it caused me to consider.

If there is a schism, or any sort, either by double jurisdiction or an outright splintering, would the conservative portion (say, the Confessing Methodist) join in the world, joint, communion with the progressive (say, Progressive Methodist) portion?

If I were a member of the Confessing Methodist Church, I could not given the sinful nature of the Progressives. If I were a member of the Progressive side, I would not because the Confessing side was buried with injustice, suppressing the truth. If I were via media, I would refuse communion with both given they had split the church – one for Apollos, one for Paul.

I guess this goes back to the break down in ecumenical goals in mainline Protestantism. We reached a high-water mark in the merger of the EUB and the ME… maybe? If we are having communion together – if the Table is there for us as a sign of unity, of the progression to unity, then why is schism considered?

Anyway, what are your thoughts? If in 2017 there are two versions of the UMC, do you think they’ll take communion with one another? If you were in one, would you take communion with the other?

Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. 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).

Comments

5 Responses to “A question after World Communion Sunday #umcschism #umc”
  1. Know More Than I Should says

    Stranger things have happened.

    Half a century ago, in the town were I grew up, some black and white churches of the same denomination persuasion held joint evening services. Occurring at the time when segregation was giving way to integration, the practice raised more than a few eyebrows among more conservative folks!

    A couple of decades ago, the head of the religion department of at a certain Lutheran college offered an olive branch to Catholics. The result was an exchange of clergy and ideas.

    At about the same time, much the same thing happened when fundamentalist/evangelicals aligned with Catholics on abortion. Although that union was more for political expedience than from theological reconciliation.

    In my experience, however, these experiments in ecumenicism are short lived. Many of the same fractures that caused these denominational splits still run underneath the surface of civility. Also, too many muck-a-mucks would rather be big fish in small ponds than risk being just another fish in sea. Nonetheless, egos, politics, and religion always fun to watch.

  2. I have stopped attending worship at my church because I have finally figured out that the senior pastor is a “progressive” Christian. He makes up his own prayer of Thanksgiving, and seldom uses the UMC communion liturgy. He preaches endlessly about God’s love and does not mention sin or redemption or sanctification. I have come to see him as a cult leader. I can no longer support the congregation I attended for 10 years following my retirement from the ministry. The congregation has not formally adopted the name “reconciling” or “progressive”, but it IS. I have trouble “being loyal” to the United Methodist Church when it veers into serious error.

  3. “American Baptists – although they aren’t in the Apostolic Succession”…
    🙂
    Who is? Or who isn’t?

  4. Scott Fritzsche says

    I will take communion with anyone who confesses Christ. Isn’t that the point? Then again, as you described them, I am not a confessing, progressive or even a via media Methodist, so I guess I will have to settle for being just a Christian. Maybe that is the point too.

  5. I think this is an excellent question. Maybe at GC, in order to get the conversation going, there should be three tables set up for opening Holy Communion. One conservative, one progressive, one “everyone is welcome.” Those who commune at the “everyone is welcome” table get to keep the name, “United Methodist Church” at the split. The others will take names signifying their exclusive stances (which are on both sides).

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