Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
May 16th, 2016 by Joel Watts

the drive of Episcopal inertia

On Friday, Bishop Sally Dyck, one of the several bishops preaching during General Conference, delivered what progressives held to as a sermon as inspired as anything in Scripture, and conservatives saw through as bitter and pointed, if not completely devoid of reason while serving as an inaccurate presentation of the doctrines of The United Methodist Church.

[bctt tweet=”pessimastic, or., pessimist + schismatic; one so worried about losing #UMCGC they schism ” username=”ejoelwatts”]

Before that, however, separate stations were set up by Love Prevails (“queer-friendly stations”) as a demonstration against The United Methodist Church’s current policies. Sadly, two episcopal office holders partook of these stations.

Surely, this violates our concept of consecration and our understanding of the Eucharist as an open table and converting ordinance.

Yet, that is not the point here. We have Bishops Dyck, Stanovsky, Radar, and Talbert — representatives of the episkope of The United Methodist Church who have vowed to “guard the faith, order, liturgy, doctrine, and discipline of the Church” and who must have a passion for the unity of the Church perform or participate in acts not only counter to the Book of Discipline, but likewise counter to unity. As noted earlier, the vows and liturgy of the Bishop require the Bishop to work for the unity of the Church. Indeed, the very elements of the Table are signs of the office of the Bishop.

bishops, do His willIf you survey the mood of those on the ground, the reactions on social media, and the general feeling, you’ll note that the feeling is that we as a denomination are dead. There are several notable progressives writing to this end, attempting to chart a way forward with a separate progressive-UMC denomination.

Why is this separation imminent?

[bctt tweet=”The Bishops represent the Center. If it does not exist, it cannot hold” username=”ejoelwatts”]

Is it because we have two sides? No. We have sides on all sorts of issues.

Is it because these sides are seen as irreconcilable? No. We can have positions that are as such and yet live together.

We are at the point of schism not because of the extremes, but because the Bishops (the visible representative of the Center) have failed to live into their mission. Not as a whole, but when you have the above enumerated reasons along with silence from the Council of Bishops, then the unity that all are supposed to work is dead.

Now,

  • General Conference will consider mandatory minimums imposed upon violators of the Book of Discipline because we don’t trust our bishops with grace.
  • General Conference will consider terms for the episcopacy (60510).
  • General Conference will consider lifting the trust clause so that we can make this disunity official
  • General Conference will look for ways to hold the bishops accountable in the so-called Just Resolution process (60807)

Why?

Because we don’t trust our bishops — not as a whole, not in unity. Too many of our bishops are partisan. Because we don’t trust our bishops, we must now work to contain them. Because of this, we are not unified. Because of this… because of the way the bishops have sat quiet while other bishops have pointedly and expressly worked to destroy the unity — because the Center no longer exists, much less holds… can we stay together?

Bishops, if you want us to stay together, then lead.

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

6 Responses to “the drive of Episcopal inertia”
  1. Bishops….”Because of this, we are not unified.”

    Well, from my limited database, I would say not. As I remember, the vote on Rule 44, for good or bad (since I am not sure a bureaucratic rule on parliamentary procedure would accomplish anything), was about 4 hundred something, to 3 hundred something. So majority against, but not overwhelming majority.

    Conclusion – a lot of people have different opinions, regardless of the “wild and crazy” bishops.

    I have no solution. But it would seem that the Catholic Church survives, when they have “lefties” and “righties”. Seems like in the 70’s, there were “righties” calling the “lefty” Catholic priests and nuns in South America, who supported poor, being called “commies”, as in communists. And wonder of wonders, the current pope came out of that history. No split, as far as I know.

    Maybe, “don’t ask, don’t tell”, as in the temporary military solution, would happen, if Bishops cracked down on rules. Movement would go underground, but there would be no miraculous changing of people from gay to straight. I personally think every church should stay Methodist, but have left and right wings, based upon local church votes. This “unity” thing simply does not exist. Unless the delegate votes 300 to 400, doesn’t really reflect the actual total membership split on the issue. Just let the “lefties” ignore the “righties”, and “righties” ignore the “lefties”.

  2. Oh oh! Trying to get the live broadcast. Seems like today, is not a good day for unity. Unity? Not so much.

  3. Sorry, it’s not funny…but I can’t help but notice the motto:
    “Therefore Go”.

  4. What do we think Christ would say about this judging each other. This keeps the Church from its primary mission ‘to bring people to Christ and to love God.’ Why can’t the leaders of the Church apply a principle first put forward by Wesley ‘Let’s agree to disagree.’

    • Did Wesley agree to disagree when he expelled people or called his ministers into check? No.

      • Although I would support the effort, I found the Black Lives Matter demo rather unseemly, for a UMC gathering. Maybe Demo or Repub convention. But the poor old Methodists? These people protesting obviously haven’t been members of a religion that is REALLY right wing, and anti-all liberal causes.

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