Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
September 12th, 2016 by Joel Watts

Franklin Graham, Hypocrites, and “unity”

Unity means, now, everything is up for grabs

Unity means, now, everything is up for grabs – even to the point of attacking others for their belief. This screengrab is used on a petition, not a truthful one, but a a public one nevertheless

Unity. That is the catchphrase that is the most meaningless one I’ve heard in a long time. Seriously, there is no definition of unity given beyond securing apportionment dollars for the church hierarchy.

Since the General Conference, several conferences and jurisdictions have passed resolutions of “non-conformity.” One jurisdiction has blatantly violated the Book of Discipline by electing an avowed homosexual as bishop. Well, 88 delegates.

In one breath, progressives celebrate these decisions as “unity” while demanding that their separate actions not actually matter to the global church.

Let me be clear before you proceed. I am not a fan of Rev. Franklin Graham, but readily acknowledge that his organization does a lot of good. His belief system is not Wesleyan and I would argue that if it was taught from a UMC pulpit, it would violate our doctrinal standards.

In comes a recent decision by several United Methodist congregations to attend and promote a Franklin Graham event. All over Facebook, and the muck and mire that is (left-) UM social media, progressives are whining that our social principles are being violated, that we need to bring charges, and that the Book of Discipline should be adhered to. In fact, some have gone so far as to suggest that Graham is outside our doctrinal standards which should prevent UMC congregations from supporting him.

[bctt tweet=”If the BoD was still in effect, maybe we could have a church trial” username=”ejoelwatts”]

Friends, this is the height of spiritual blindness. They can suggest that the Book of Discipline is little more than a good suggestion when it comes to doing what they want and then turn around and bemoan the fact that UMCers aren’t following it because they attend and promote a Graham rally.

If only someone cared about the BoD all the time maybe they would have an argument, but they don’t. Suddenly, unity now means adherence to the standards and doctrines of The United Methodist Church (of which Graham teeters on the outside right). Of course, electing someone who mocks St. Paul, denies Christian Tradition, and stands apart from the qualifications mandated by the BoD… well… screw the BoD then…

This is the current state of the UMC. You have bullies on the extreme Left who demand the vast majority of the Global Church bow to them in everything. Since the covenant is broken, there is no longer a demand that UMC congregations remain Wesleyan in doctrine and practice.

By the way, does anyone find it hilarious that we are seeking a new hymnal that remains true to Wesleyan theology all the while official organs are telling us that there is no official Wesleyan theology? 

The absence of legal or moral reigns upon congregations is now here. I say make the most of it. Support Beth Moore, Driscoll, or Graham. Or the UCC, the UU, or paganism. If Unity is nothing more than combining money to do good works through UMCOR and to ensure the church hierarchy has a paycheck, then that is what we have now.

If we had a BoD that worked, then I would suspect there would be grounds for prohibiting congregations from participating in this sort of endeavor. Of course, some of us have been arguing this for a while – that what is good for the bully is good for the bullied. Now, we are starting to see that come about. 

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

12 Responses to “Franklin Graham, Hypocrites, and “unity””
  1. Tom McCann says

    Like you, I have mixed feelings about Graham. Samaritan’s Purse does a world of good around the world. Franklin taking them for half a million dollars a year is only one of the things I despise about the man.
    I was aware that people were floating petitions to get the UMC churches to withdraw their participation, but was unaware that people were referencing the BoD and church discipline in regard to it. IMHO, any congregation should be able to pack a bus and head off to whatever kind of sceance they want to. My congregation is visiting an Islamic Center this week. Is that a violation?
    As a committed progressive / liberal / socialist, I will say that I will actively discourage any attempt to shut off access to other views. It is only by seeing and hearing people like Graham that we can understand the damage he is doing to God’s Kingdom on earth. It is only by visiting with Muslims that we can learn the pluses and minuses of Islam, and thereby strengthen our faith in Christ.
    Wesley certainly didn’t think that visiting prisoners would make you into a criminal.

  2. “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, charity.” Augustine.

    Graham, non-essential.
    Politics, non-essential.
    Sex, non-essential.

    The problem with the BoD is that it is a cookbook, to cook everything under the sun. It should only include essentials. Meat and potatoes, not possum and skunk.

    • Gary, what do you think is essential?

      • Joel,

        UMC Book of Discipline, 879 pages.

        My KJV of the Bible, 785 pages.

        Me thinks the BoD is overkill!
        A case of beuracracy gone wild.
        Although, to be honest, I would never want to sit down and read it. And have never even attempted to read it. So…maybe I have to speak in ignorance.

        But to answer your question directly, with an example, I don’t expect a UMC Methodist church in Africa and a UMC Methodist church in San Franscisco to be so connected, that they have the same social and political and theological views on socialism, communism, capitalism, death penalty, gun control, birth control, planned parenthood, or gay marriage. Thus, I would say the hot issue of gay marriage is non-essential to being a Methodist.

        This is one case where we should be Gnostics! If no one was allowed to have sex, then the question would be irrelevant. 🙂

        Plus, we’d have no divorce or student loan debt!

        • Gary, that’s fine and all… but what are the essentials to being a Christian or even just a Methodist?

          Also, I do agree with you about the rise of bureaucracy in the BoD. The one form 1896 is about a 3rd of the size of the current BoD.

          And your KJV is lacking pages…

          • “but what are the essentials to being a Christian or even just a Methodist?”…

            I think I’ll let the scholars and theologians answer that. I am not qualified. If I had to answer, I’d have to say the often quoted, “I know it when I see it”. So I plead ignorance.

            I am guilty of hyperbole. My KJV, KJV Gift & Award Bible, Revised, 2002 by Zondervan, is 785 pages to the end of Revelation. If I include the dictionary, maps, and miscellaneous at the end, it comes out to 823. Still short of the BoD.

            Btw, I only have the KJV for comparison purposes. And it was cheap. The greatest advantage of any KJV. Prefer the RSV. But mostly use the NRSV, because the commentary is good. And I can’t get the RSV with commentary anymore, unless I go Catholic.

          • You need the REB, the one Jesus used.

            The Christian essentials are summed up in the Creed – the methodist essentials is to take the creed and put it to work, so that when we say Jesus loves the world, we mean it.

          • Trivia alert. Put REB into Google, you get
            “a traditional Jewish title or form of address, corresponding to Sir, for a man who is not a rabbi”.
            Are you sure Jesus used it? 🙂

  3. I like a lot of Graham’s message, having worked with Samaritans Purse several times over the years they are fantastic.

    As for his salary well I think it’s way too much. I believe pastors should volunteer their time just like the laity. I know that doesn’t set well with many but our church clergy have never taken salary. They get a travel stipend at times but that’s it.

    I recently saw a pastor on TV say he no longer believed yet he didn’t mind taking their check. I thought to myself wow this happens more everyday. Then it occurred to me this has been this guys life. He probably went to college for it, preached his whole adult life and now questions his whole life. He should have had a secular job and lived off it. I’m guessing like each of us he wouldn’t have been any happier. At least Graham started at the bottom with Samaritans Purse and did get his hands dirty.

  4. A view from the pew: Beginning with GC2012, I have spent 4 long years monitoring a myriad of voices across the UMC, I have progressed through 4 images of the UMC: The first was a gianourmous square raft with umpteen oars lining the four sides each paddling the best it knows how. Next it was as water spilled on the floor with a sense of connection being the extremely short dam that kept the church from running away from itself. The most recent is cats with their tails tied together.

    Some progressives are very adept at knitpicking the BOD, turning it against itself. And yes, they can protest to their hearts content, but just let the “other side” protest and they are squawking up a storm. Check out this article which is a critique of the WCA:

    http://um-insight.net/perspectives/what-to-do-with-the-we-can-also-wca-group-in-my-church-a-par/

    In it, the author questions the validity of the WCA serving communion; this after the progressives inserted their own separately consecrated communion elements into the communion provided at General Conference. I do not think these actions represent all progressives; but there is a faction of them that there is no talking to them–there is absolutely no common ground/perspective in common. I find them disturbing; their only focus is their “cause”. They are the ones that keep stirring the pot on the sexuality issue keeping everything at a boiling point. They are the one that most readily promote the existence of Big Tent Methodism assuring everybody there is room for all…Problem is they are viewed as just one more rational/legitimate voice present in the UMC. What happens when they get a new burr under their saddle?

  5. Re your comment about a new hymnal faithful to Wesleyan theology while others are saying there is no Wesleyan theology: within the UMC the right hand most definitely does not know what the left hand is doing. I lay this on our structure which is very disconnectional for what is supposed to be a connectional organization. I was stunned recently when somebody said that we are not a creedal church–news to this cradle Methodist who cut my teeth reciting the Apostle’s Creed every Sunday and did so up until 2001 when a pastor arrived on the scene that knew what needed to change! Has anybody told Seedbed there is no Wesleyan theology? What is in all of Wesley’s sermons and letters? How could he enable individuals to live a life centered in God if he was not imparting an understanding of God to them?

    Trying to be part of an organization that has absolutely no clue who it is and what it is it needs to be doing is absolutely insane. I used to think being part of a denomination was an advantage–now I wished I was non-denominational!

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