Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
September 13th, 2017 by Joel Watts

another, separate, uniting methodist group forms

I guess because the United Methodist Centrist Movement wasn’t… uh… unifying enough?

Have you seen this newest, separate and independent from all other groups, group that looks to unify United Methodists? I mean, Rev. Mike Slaughter who was part of the UMCM is with Uniting Methodists. How does that happen?

The “team” is the usual cast of RMN supporters, centrists, and other progressives who… I’m guessing without the money afforded by the conservative wings of the church… won’t have a job much longer or will not have a cause to allow them to have an internet following.

I find this latest, separate and independent unifying group a bit silly and harmful.

What this would do is to create a warring denomination — where one side actively competes against the other, much like we have now. Look at their “points.”

Yes, great. Let’s make disciples; however, what are disciples? To some without any sort of Christian understanding, disciple means “activist.” Others understand that it is to follow the Jesus as historically taught by the Christian Church. How might this play out? In one group, you will have disciples understood to mean political party diehards fighting the lasting election battle over the latest social trend while in the other, disciple will mean those who fight against sin as traditionally understood. Both “United Methodists” will actually wage war against the other, with one side believing LGBT people are sinners while the other believing those who think such things are the sinners.

Again, this is a matter of social holiness and as such, is actually a separating matter.

To suggest

Despite our differences, we have learned to live together and to love one another as brothers and sisters in Christ, affirming the same historic creeds, attending the same churches, Sunday school classes and Bible studies, and participating side by side in mission and ministry. We are bound together in a Wesleyan understanding of God’s love and grace.

… is pure fakery.

Why? Because we don’t affirm the same creeds. Let’s not forget the Nicene Creed was rejected at GC2016, with numerous creeds and affirmations having made their way into the Book of Worship, some of which are unChristian. We have pastors who cannot vouch for the Virgin Birth nor the physical resurrection of Jesus. We have pastors who turn their nose up at the blood atonement. The same creeds? Only if by that you mean we have them in the Book of Worship.

We aren’t on the same mission. Part of one side’s mission is to make the world safe for all forms of consensual sexual expression, gender identity, and an erasure of cultural norms around sex, gender and the body while the other has as part of its mission the reestablishment of traditional Christian sexual norms.

And my guess? The “Wesleyan understanding of God’s love and grace” will differ broadly among these groups, as well as from that of Wesley and the early Methodists who viewed sin as something individual and sometimes related to sex — but always within the bounds of traditional Christianity.

They proclaim to uphold the Doctrinal Standards of The United Methodist Church. What about Article 22? Marriage is a ceremony of the Church. To deny marriage to one group that has been allowed by the Church or to proclaim marriage to one group denied by the Church violates Article 22, not to mention the countless heretics who deny the Trinity, the Atonement, and the authority of Scripture.

And somehow they think that this is a matter of “interpretation.” No, not really. Here we must include the whole of Christian Tradition. We as Wesleyans are not biblicalists. We are prima scriptura. In other words, to suggest this is really about interpretation is to, well, deny Wesleyan understanding of the role Tradition plays in our understanding of Scripture. It also denies the numerous times Wesley split with others because of matters of interpretation. Further, let us not confuse this with slavery, as only the most disingenuous reader of Scripture and Christian doctrine will confuse the two.

But, I do want to step back here and see if I can put it into terms more familiar to United Methodists. What if the northern and southern Methodists, rather than splitting, had simply allowed Pastors to keep slaves while telling northern pastors to not say anything about it? You know… so that “boards and agencies” would still be funded?

This is a hilariously sad attempt at more posturing meant to preserve the institution at the expense of people — and an attempt separate from all previous attempts. Where have they been during times of disobedience? Suddenly, they want to uphold the Disciple and the Articles if it doesn’t conflict their innermost feelings? Where are the international faces? If mean… if you look at the cast of characters… it seems mostly white, mostly male, all progressive, and… American. Another fine example of colonialism.

Finally, I recall the story of Judas who, for 30 pieces of silver (a goodly sum) sold Jesus to be killed.  Think about it. There are some who suggest that this is one way — in the far future — to make the UMC all inclusive (although a few actually go so far as to say what that means). That’s fine. But let’s break that down a bit. If the UMC stays together for a while, then who benefits? Many pastors, such as many in the West and New England, are facing a substantial loss of income if separation occurs. If they stay together, these (I would bet mostly straight white male) pastors continue to be paid and have a platform.

But who is hurt? LGBT people who will still not be validated by their denomination and in many corners of the denomination, have their lifestyle condemned and they will be evangelized as the problem of the UMC. If you are for inclusion and are willing to wait, aren’t you simply selling the LGBT people for a few more years of solid salary?

And why in the world is an official UM body using monies for this…stuff…? There is literally an Abingdon email at the bottom of one of the pages.

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

17 Responses to “another, separate, uniting methodist group forms”
  1. carlsamans says

    Well said. Great slavery analogy. Finally – a slavery analogy that actually makes sense and is relevant to the issue at hand!

  2. Well, you certainly have mastered the straw man argument.

    • Scott Fritzsche says

      Calling something a straw man does not make it so. Using the positions of a group and then refuting them is not a straw man…one might even say it is the opposite of a straw man. It is called a rebuttal however and is a common and necessary form of discourse. Perhaps you could provide examples from the text of what you found to be a straw man argument exactly or are you simply interested in drive by insults absent evidence?

    • hmmmmmmmm….. seems the ad hom is strong with this one.

  3. Uniformity has never been the norm of the faith. Unity has been. I support the effort here to keep the beauty of our diversity yet move forward.

    • Yes… the “diversity” that allows for “bishops” to deny worshiping Jesus, “pastors” in New Jersey to hold seances, and people to break the discipline when they see fit. At no point would any of the Christian faith actually tolerate this.

      Of course, this pertains to the Christian faith, of which I do not see many “progressives” actually subscribing too.

  4. The promotion of sex between people configured by nature to produce offspring is normative and holy. The promotion of sex between two men or two women is actually heretical.

  5. Thomas McCann says

    It seems that the opening premise, at least, is that there was already a Centrist group. Why do we need another one?
    Why indeed? Why did we need the WCA when we already had the Confessing movement, Good News, and others? Somebody (perhaps myself) suggested that the (non)Wesleyan (non)Covenant Association is simply Good News with dues.
    When you went on to suggest that the discussion about people with differing views sharing together in small groups was “pure fakery”, I kind of didn’t need to finish the rest of the paper. I’m one of those people who prays, worships, and studies several times a week with people who do not share my views on a number of UMC-related issues.
    ” Let’s not forget the Nicene Creed was rejected at GC2016″. Well, actually, it was rejected by John Wesley. It’s incorporation into the WCA dogma is what makes them non-Wesleyan.

    • Tom,

      1.) Can you pray, celebrate the ordination of, or other rite of white supremacists? Not all differences can be united around. Let’s be real here and see this issue as one of social holiness. Not all differences rise to that level.

      2.) The Creed wasn’t rejected by Wesley. His plan was quite simple. Given that the Holy Club began by groups reciting the creeds, as well as Wesley at times speaking well and employing it…

      3.) I am not a WCA member. Maybe it is Good News with dues. Many of their board members seem to reflect that. Of course, the big, big difference between WCA and Good News is that… the WCA… wait for it… isn’t a caucus group…like Good News is.

      • Thomas McCann says

        Oh. . . That Caucus thing. It completely slipped my mind. I’ll remind my fellows of that over donuts next week.

        Bur – can I pray for and accept as a Bishop a White Supremacist? I don’t know that I’ve ever been asked to in those terms, but I suspect that somewhere in my lifetime the UMC has had one or more who would answer that description. Even if they didn’t come out as members of the KKK. And I KNOW that some of the laity answer, and some don’t make a big attempt to hide it. Do I pray for them? Yes, because Jesus commanded me to do so. Do I accept them as my fellows? Yes, because they are there, and it’s not my calling to close the door on them. Do I like it? Nope.

        And you;re right about the creeds. But Wesley decided that they wouldn’t be a fundamental part of Methodist doctrine. It is, IMHO, ironic for an organization that wants to be recognized as Wesleyan to lead off with “John got it wrong”.

        • Scott Fritzsche says

          You would be perfectly fine accepting their authority and preaching of such things as a white supremacist would do such as Christian Identity and Serpent Seed theology? You are really going to say that you would be fine with that? I mean you sure are quick to condemn anything that doesn’t line up with your beliefs now, why should we expect that to change because someone is a Bishop?
          As to Wesley and the creeds, your assertion that “Wesley decided that they wouldn’t be a fundamental part of Methodist doctrine.” is speculation at best, and rather funny considering that the creeds are then affirmed in the Articles of Religion, not by name, but by the standards of belief that the church was to be held to. It’s worth noting that the Uniting Methodists movement affirms the creeds as well, so please feel free to slam them for it. ”
          “It is, IMHO, ironic for an organization that wants to be recognized as Wesleyan to lead off with “John got it wrong”.”Despite our differences, we have learned to live together and to love one another as brothers and sisters in Christ, affirming the same historic creeds, attending the same churches, Sunday school classes and Bible studies, and participating side by side in mission and ministry.” Guess they must be just as bad as the WCA to you.
          You should then be just as critical of any para-church group that supports full inclusion. The standards of faith are against SSM after all, so they are, by your way of thinking, saying the same thing. It seems more like your dislike of anything resembling the historic faith is clouding your ability to make honest and rational judgments and comments. It is also clear that your dislike of the WCA is so great that you are willing to continually insult it at every chance for no apparent reason.

          • Thomas McCann says

            I’m glad to see nothing has changed with you Scott.
            No, I wouldn’t be perfectly fine with Bishops preaching things I don’t agree with, but that’s been happening since I was a child and I haven’t left the Methodist Church yet.

          • Scott Fritzsche says

            Neither have a good many of the traditionalists Tom. Nice dodge of a specific question though. And no, not much has changed. Still looking for consistency in centrists and progressives, and not finding much of it. Still looking for direct answers to direct questions and finding little more than evasions and refusals to do so.

          • Thomas McCann says

            I only see one question (actually two onm the same subject) – about whether I would support Bishops who were white supremacists. I answered that. Is there another one?

        • Tom,
          That’s the thing. There was a time when methodists couldn’t abide with bishops owning slaves. a split occurred.

          yes. let’s pray for and with those we are separated from. the decision of the church universal is up to God, but for me, denominational structures and organizational membership is up to us. we don’t have to be with people we disagree with on the most essential things.

          yeah… i still have to disagree. wesley’s view on the american church and their forced separation should not be taken as a stand against this or that doctrine. Indeed, if we read him closely enough, we see how he could not see the american church as operating independently of anyone. simply, i don’t think he thought it should last without England’s involvement.

          So i don’t think john got it wrong on the creeds – but simply, he didn’t tell us everything as to why. or else, john would have us be practical donatists with the removal of that article.

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