Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
January 24th, 2015 by Joel Watts

Bill Mefford, the #Pro-Life #UMC, and Grace

English: Lakeville United Methodist Church, th...

English: Lakeville United Methodist Church, the oldest UMC in New England (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The other day, the civil rights director at the Global Board on Church and Society did something stupid. This is not beyond ordinary for the GBCS, as they, as routine as Monday is to the first day of the week, do stupid things. He went to the March for Life rally, wrote a sign, too a picture, and posted in twitter. The usual sources picked up on it and went bananas.  What is not usually noted is that Bill issued an apology. Since his blog is by access only now, and his twitter account deleted, I have decided to repost it via Google cache:

It seems my picture of me holding a sign that said “I March for Sandwiches” has been taken entirely out of context and has caused quite a stir among some in the Twitter and social media world. I tend to hate general apologies – when people say they are sorry for “whatever they may have done that offended people.” I don’t think those are very sincere.

I also want to say that when I was at the event holding my sign I received nothing but laughter and cheers. Making folks laugh was my sole intent – it really was! It was afterward when this started making the rounds on social media that the hurt and anger began to rise. I understand why people are angry.

So, I am deeply sorry for the hurt and anger that this has caused people since the event. I honestly love to make people laugh and think, and the hurt and anger that people are feeling is not something I enjoy. At all.

I hope you will accept this if you are one of those who are offended. I would prefer to talk face to face, or to message somehow. I honestly believe that is how true reconciliation happens and I am more interested in that than in general apologies which might or might not be sincere. So, please reach out to me if you prefer that too. Maybe we can all be strengthened through this.

If you only want to hammer me, go ahead. Hey, it’s only Twitter.

I am committed to making a better world. And a funnier world. And that is why I post this now.

In a comment on this post, Bill writes,

Context matters so I will explain, I saw the march and was, as usual, impressed with the turnout and the good nature of the crowd. I then saw pro-choice marchers and marching and there was an instant change of the mood when they came into contact. In that context of anger between the two sides that I wanted to be funny. I actually talked to folks in the crowd and there was genuine laughter between me and the crowd while I was there. The anger and hurt have come later and for that I am truly sorry. I hope that helps.

Likewise, Bill Mefford’s boss, issued an apology.

This hasn’t stopped anyone from demanding Bill’s head, consequences, or even firing. Further, you now have Red State, that great bastion of right wing intellectual virtue, wading in, declaring the the UMC is pro-abortion.

I reached out to Bill during this fiasco yesterday to tell him he is in my prayers. Don’t get me wrong, I think the entire thing was stupid on his part. But, I also think we should take him at this word, that this was a poorly judged attempt at humor. Further, has asked forgiveness, said he was sorry, and acknowledged the hurt he has caused. As a Christian who proclaims that the man who said that we must forgive 70*7 is the same man who said, without anyone asking him to, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” is the same man Bill and I both declare is Lord.

If someone asks forgiveness, then give it to them.

Before one actually assumes The United Methodist Church is “pro-abortion” you need to read two statements. The first one is by Stephen Fife. The other one is the official stance of the UMC. Not only does the UMC reject late term abortions, but:

We recognize tragic conflicts of life with life that may justify abortion, and in such cases we support the legal option of abortion under proper medical procedures by certified medical providers. We support parental, guardian, or other responsible adult notification and consent before abortions can be performed on girls who have not yet reached the age of legal adulthood. We cannot affirm abortion as an acceptable means of birth control, and we unconditionally reject it as a means of gender selection or eugenics.

See also here.

If you browse the right wing sources, you will see all manner of diatribes against the pro-abortion UMC. Yet, our governing documents does not support this. What they want is an anti-abortion stance, even if the life of the mother is at stake. What they fail to realize is that virulent anti-abortionism among Protestants is something relatively new.

We need to be better than we are. Human dignity, I believe, begins at conception but does not end at sin or stupidity. What Bill did was stupid, but he apologized. Ask yourselves: if you were stupid, but asked forgiveness, wouldn’t you want it?

The Red State blogger who is attempting to lie about Bill and the UMC has since blocked several of us on Twitter. As such, I’m including a picture of the tweet mentioned above:

IMG_3907.PNG

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

10 Responses to “Bill Mefford, the #Pro-Life #UMC, and Grace”
  1. No apology necessary. Freedom of speech not withstanding…apologize for a placard? No obscenities, no mention of Nazi’s, no anti-anything. Sandwiches are universally accepted as valid tender. Get over it.

  2. The problem in situations like this or Talbert’s is that the apology is really not an apology other than they are sorry if YOU are offended. The “explanation” just doesn’t make sense. Where did he get the signboard and marker? Why would he think that saying that sandwiches is what he believes in would be taken as anything other than disrespect? Who was he joking with? The pro-choice counter-protest? Does he really think that anyone in the March for Life actually thought what he did was funny? He is obvious that he (as too many of the staff) has spent far too long in their own echo chamber where they are thoroughly convinced both of the wisdom of their policy positions as well as the methods they use to “achieve” those goals.

    • Creed, I don’t think you can compare this apology to Talbert’s “apology.” As far as your questions, you should direct them to what we know and not what you assume you know.

  3. Thanks for helping us think through this, Joel.

  4. Joel, I realize the questions are awkward for Mefford. But, the “explanation” leaves much to be desired.

    The Talbert and Mefford situations are similar in that the “apologies” are that they are sorry if you were offended. There is a big difference between that and apologizing for what you did.

  5. MarciaS says

    I would forgive Mefford if he actually apologized for what he did, but he didn’t – he’s only sorry for the “anger and hurt” that his childish, undignified little stunt unsurprisingly caused. But sorry or no, I strongly feel he should offer his resignation, as he is a poor representative of the UMC and ecumenical Protestantism in general.

    At some point in their lives, probably sooner rather than later, most if not all of the young antichoice evangelicals at this march will experience some kind of personal crisis that leads them to question their commitment both to this misguided movement and to their pastors’ unbending literal approach to the Bible. How many of them will embrace the UMC or other ecumenical church, and how many will give up on religious involvement entirely? Clearly, actions like Mefford’s do not help our side of this equation. At a time of steep decline in ecumenical Protestant church affiliation, we simply cannot afford to countenance this sort of poor judgment by those who serve as our public face. OK, end of rant, thanks.

  6. Here is what he should have said: “I am sorry. I did a stupid thing without thinking. I won’t do it again. Would you please forgive me?” That is an apology. No explanation, no excuses. Just contrition. What Mr. Mefford said is not an apology.

    In christ,

    The enemy hates clarity

  7. Sorry, but I disagree with your assertion that the UMC is not pro-abortion. The UMW and GBCS are both proud members of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. And church member tithes go supporting both of these.

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