By now, most of you have read Scott’s post, chastising our United Methodist bishops.
When the Western Jurisdiction by their authority, rather than the authority of The United Methodist Church, raise an ordained elder who is an avowed homosexual to the office of bishop, separation will happen. At this point, many will have no reason to stay given that the covenant is irretrievably violated. Where is the Council of Bishops and that commission they promised? Further, at least four bishops have allowed their Annual Conferences to issue statements of rebellion while others allow their BOOMs to countermand the voice of the General Conference.
I wonder how long I’ll stay.
Some find this covenant an individualistic enterprise, where we are able to determine to what extent we abide by the covenant. It’s not. Scripture does not assign well the fate of those who practice such maneuvers. Rather, similar crises have erupted and have caused destruction. I have to wonder how different the 4th Century of Christianity might have been had Bishop Alexander dealt as a faithful leader with the Presbyter Arius, who appealed to the day’s political power and current philosophical trends, rather than allow him to exercise his office while matters were settled. Instead, the century nearly tore the world apart and would eventually lead to the sacking of Rome. In fact, I would argue we are still in the aftermath of one Bishop’s leaderlessness.
This constant cycle of a lack of leadership bringing something worse is a historic trend, and one that seems destined to completely undo Protestantism, even of the Anglo-Catholic variety. Maybe this is a good thing. Afterall, what are we protesting against? The Roman Church had become so ingrained in the culture that it no longer stood against some things. Zwingli, Calvin, and Luther challenged that, reorienting the Gospel. Today, Protestantism is doing its best to ingratiate itself into the culture, perhaps a leftover effect of the 1950’s when it was dominant. Those seeking after the culture seek power, control, and self-righteousness because of a fear of loss. Protestantism — and Christianity — has lost its place in the American society. This scares many and we see both extremes doing things that speaks to the worst parts of our Christian Tradition. There are two forms of authority — leadership and force. Because we no longer have leadership, we must now look for ways to force our will upon others.
I would recommend a strong look at 1 Corinthians. St. Paul stands firmly against factionalism and against leaderless churches. In fact, there is no church where there is no working episkope! Further, I would recommend that those who believe the Church is something more than a social organization prepare themselves for the end of The United Methodist Church. It will happen, and unless the Council of Bishops steps in, it will happen in a very ugly way.
The lack of leadership is exactly why we are drifting, why we are coming apart, and why we cannot offer a witness to the world.
On a side note, this feckless leadership is not contained within the UMC, but is exhibited worldwide. In fact, I would offer that the fear-driven reactionary/radical acts exhibited by too many in the UMC mirrors many of the secular tactics driving current secular decisions.
Update – 12 July 16
The Southeastern Jurisdiction bishops have issued a pastoral letter (pdf). In part, it reads,
We, the Southeastern Jurisdictional College of Bishops, grieve over the deep divisions in our beloved United Methodist Church. We recognize the pain felt both by those advocating for and those opposing change. We also view the acts of nonconformity as a violation of our covenant and as divisive and disruptive.
As a College of Bishops, we are fully committed to keeping the promises we made at our ordinations and consecrations, including:
- shepherding all persons committed to our care;
- leading our areas in mission, witness and service;
- ordering the church, including administering processes for handling complaints about violations of our Book of Discipline that occur within our episcopal areas;
- and seeking unity in Christ, including the work the General Conference requested the Council of Bishops do in relation to the Commission on Human Sexuality;
I am very glad to see actual leadership emerge.