Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
November 14th, 2017 by Joel Watts

At all costs: Roy Moore, “Big Tent Methodism,” and “United Methodists”

This won’t be a long post. I don’t think I need more than a few words to get this point across.

There is nothing wrong with a moderate amount of inclusion — or exclusion. There needs to be a variety of opinions in most organizations, especially the Church, so that we do not become legalist (progressive or conservative). I am not saying that a tent is a bad thing.

I am saying a big tent lends itself to relativism, so that there is no real cohesion, no mission, no coherent teachings. I am also saying that doing things for the sake of the institution merits nothing except a “win at all costs” mentality, which begets us what we see in the support of Roy Moore.

We have seen statement after statement from politicians and voters supporting Roy Moore, the Republican Senatorial candidate for the Great State of Alabama. Statements have been made in earnest, that it is better to vote for a pedophile than for a Democrat. Today, a Congressman said, when asked, that he is afraid of the dangers of Democrats.

Note, this is not about whether Moore is guilty or innocent – at the moment, he is legally innocent – but about his supporters who would vote for him even if he was guilty.

The Republican Party used to be “the party of family values.” I remember a lot of arrogant and self-righteous speeches against President Clinton and others — and sometimes they were justified. They held themselves up in high esteem in regards to morals, seeing themselves as principled Party.

But to win, to hold the power together… they have started to discard anything that matters to them. They are done with their principles if their principles get in the way of winning.

There is little wonder those on the sides – with firm principles — will not support “Uniting Methodists.” They presented themselves as arguing for the gray as if there is nothing defined in Christian Tradition regarding of the key foundational elements.1 However, when we are speaking about these issues — such as the authority of Scripture and Tradition — there is no middle ground; there are excuses.

When we are speaking about Wesleyan foundational elements, such as social holiness, there is no middle ground. The Left cannot support Uniting Methodists and neither can the right. “Traditional compatibilists” are merely progressives that haven’t identified as such yet. “Progressive compatibilists” are those willing to sacrifice others for their own stability.

Dr. David Watson wrote something today, analyzing the preliminary report by the Commission on “the Way Forward.” In part, he writes,

The problem is that we  lack not only a common vision for the church, but a common vision of the church. Put differently, it’s not just that we disagree over what the church should do. Rather, we disagree over what it means to be a church.

Where we lack vision, we have substituted control devoid of principle. Each side has an agenda – to disciple towards a particular worldview. Centrism, by definition, cannot do that because there is no universal conviction. It is right, but only maybe, for right now and maybe only for this one person. Where there is no vision, the people perish. The vision of the Church involves swords, and hate, and cutting, and binding, and loosening. To suggest the vision of the Church is nothing more than “getting along” or “finding commonality” is to suggest something antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I see no difference between those are willing to lead a theological life unexamined or to throw away principle in order to save their institution (namely, The United Methodist Church), and those who chose to vote for someone like Roy Moore just to win against the Democrats. If we have to stretch ourselves past who we are called to be — and who we present ourselves to the world as – in order to hold a coalition, organization, or Church together… we have lost.

At any point in the history of the Church catholic have we seen “centrism” succeed? In the history of republics, when the voting class forsakes principle and country for party, what follows?

  1.  That’s not completely fair. I understand some of my friends support Uniting. That’s fine. I can think they are wrong, and still be friends.
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 “At all costs: Roy Moore, “Big Tent Methodism,” and “United Methodists””
  1. Since I know a person that switched Lutheran Synods because of this issue, I wanted to see the differences between ELCA and LCMS. Seems like UMC lies somewhere between the two. Assuming that “The Way Forward” is leaning this way, I think UMC will end up looking like ELCA. Might as well become ELCA Lutheran. Maybe UMC’s original mistake was forming a common Communion Agreement with ELCA, allowing ELCA and UMC to share pastors. But realistically, I think the future UMC’s will have two Synods, UMC-ELCA (“American” seems to be very appropriate here) style, and UMC-LCMS (more global) style. Only question is what the membership of each will be.

    The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. 2.3 million baptized members. Similar to current UMC BoD on homosexuality.

    Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. 3.6 million baptized members. More like Catholic on homosexuality.

    UMC Church- 6.9 million. I think it is maybe prophetic that you split the UMC membership in half, you get the ~3 million members of each Lutheran Synod.

    The root cause of the trouble is different takes on authority of scripture. It might be more useful to argue bible authority than homosexuality. And for the left, quit using 60’s style protests in a church or Conference environment. You are just embarrassing yourself.

    From this site:

    http://www.stjohnhubbard.com/cms/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=23&Itemid=42

    “…one might notice that ELCA congregations have women pastors where LCMS churches do not.  One might also see members of Methodist, Presbyterian, the United Church of Christ, or Episcopal churches going to communion at ELCA altars, where one wouldn’t see that in the LCMS.  For that matter it would even be possible to see pastors from these other denominations officiating at ELCA services where one would never see a non-Lutheran pastor serving an LCMS congregation.

    The real truth most people don’t know is the ELCA and the LCMS have very different understandings of what the Bible is and what our relationship to it should be.

    ELCA seminaries promote the use of numerous critical approaches to holy Scripture.  Pastors are taught to question whether the various parts of the Bible are in fact God’s Word or whether they are statements conditioned by the prejudices,

    In contrast, LCMS seminaries, while teaching its pastors about critical approaches, reject those approaches as valid ways to interpret Scripture.”

    • Oops. I got the two mixed up.
      ELCA is not like Catholics. The LCMS is. ELCA is like what UMC might become. Too many acronyms and positions floating around.

  2. Ronald Greilich says

    Analyzing can be an interesting activity. I respect those who attempt to analyze what the Commission has done. We must keep in mind that what we have seen so far is a “preliminary report. I expect there will be significant changes in at least parts of the report that is presented to the COB and the special General Conference. I am willing to wait and see what finally develops.

  3. How bout not looking to a building…how bout praying at home and leave the buildings behind….most have fallen prey to false doctrine and one must know by now a True Relationship with Christ is obtained by a personal relationship with him one on one….going to a church to listen to one mam’s personal opinion on the gospels isn’t necessarily the best tactic. Praise and reading from the Bible is all that Church was meant to be…..

    May Christ guide Us Thru
    Amen

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