Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
April 24th, 2014 by Joel Watts

The Hypocrisy of transplanted schismatic United Methodists #umc

English:

English: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Most of you know my story. I was raised a fundamentalist. I was educated, indoctrinated, and carbonated. Well, not that last bit. However, the time came for a needed change. So, when I went looking for a place where I could find the same God I saw family members worship and serve, the same God who spoke about justice, and the same God who created this world I found the United Methodist Church. I could actually go anywhere I wanted. I could go somewhere that was about me, but in the end, I wanted to experience God free of baggage. Yes, there are (theological) differences I have with the United Methodist Church, but I am not attempting to force a change or force people out who are different than I. I have no need to re-create the United Methodist Church in my image, believing that it is part of the Church universal and thus is part of the Body of Christ. I seek rather to do my part in the UMC.

Now, let’s meet Chad. Chad is a current pastor in the United Methodist Church but is only a pastor in the UMC because he could not be a pastor in other places due to his divorce.1

I quickly discovered that there were several denominations that were not options for me because I have a divorce in my former life.

This is a rather selfish use of the United Methodist Church, in my opinion, and hides much of Chad’s previous theological stances. Further, he demonstrates that he, not wanting to change himself, is more than willing to attempt to force others to change. If Chad was called to be a pastor (and I am not challenging that) and then suffered a divorced, maybe he shouldn’t be a pastor. That’s actually my former belief system.2 Instead, he decided to leave to go find a place a little bit more liberal so he could become a pastor and now because he meets others who are a bit more “liberal” than he, he wants them to leave. Note that Chad wants those who believe (simply believe!) in inclusion to leave the UMC. While he can pretend to admire our integrity, his comments say otherwise.

Let me quote my friend Chad,

We who are calling for church law to be upheld and who defend the biblical and traditional view of marriage do not want to rid our churches of gay people.   We only want you to either repent of calling what God calls sin a blessing or to leave.   Period. 

Let me, from the position once held by Methodists and still held by those who rejected Chad’s call to ministry rewrite that:

We who are calling for church law to be upheld and who defend the biblical and traditional view of marriage do not want to rid our churches of divorced people.   We only want you to either repent of calling what God calls sin a blessing or to leave.   Period. 

You get it, don’t you? Not only is Chad attempting to reject others like he was once rejected, but he is not suggesting they amend themselves according to his vision as well as those who support inclusion. Chad was welcomed into the UMC not because they thought him a rockstar, but because of the history of inclusion and theological reflection. Now, he wants to insure that others do not enjoy that same benefit, even for simply believing a different way.

Let’s break this down a bit further. Did you know that Chad may not be welcomed in some annual conferences as a pastor? Annual conferences are allowed to restrict divorced people from serving as pastors. There are many United Methodists who would not view Chad as capable of serving as a pastor because he has broken “God’s law.” (I do not support that position.)

He then attempts to give something of a send-off to the “progressives” (I find that funny, because in many congregations, Chad is a progressive) by looking to the women who fled other denominations in order to answer the call to ministry and to be accepted as full and equal members in the Church. Chad doesn’t seem to remember the time when women could not be ministers in the United Methodist Church (or, rather, its predecessors).3 What happened? They worked on it. Yes, it took a long time, but eventually the “biblical position” of a male-only clergy was changed to a “biblical position” of a gender inclusive clergy.4 Of course, he politely calls this “biblical obedience” whereas in so many churches and congregations, Chad or an ordained woman serving as pastors are signs of biblical disobedience.

Finally, Chad’s often used analogy of marriage and divorce as schism continues to fall flat. We are not married to one another but to Christ. His use of this, I believe, betrays more about him than he realizes. His misuse of Scripture doesn’t speak well of the Duke education he tries to hide, either. If, as he points out, the disciples were commanded to leave if people didn’t receive the words of Jesus… then I guess rather than a schism, there needs to be a lot of transfers out of the United Methodist Church from both sides.

By the way, it is the United Methodist Church, and not simply the Methodist Church. That hasn’t exist since 1968.

Chad, I’m praying for you. Come home.

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  1. Chad is attempting to respond to a post by Jeremy here. Unfortunately, Chad disparages Jeremy and attempts to hide what he is actually saying by ridicule. For recent posts by Jeremy worth reading, see here, here and here.
  2. In one former congregation, it was recommended that divorced and re-married people divorce again to avoid sin.
  3. Note, Wesley had no issue giving licenses to women to preach. The Anglican Church did. I believe the history of Christianity shows a historic connection for women clergy.
  4. There are still problems in some UMC congregations with women in ministry. I’ve asked on a public forum how long would a “conservative” UMC allow women ordination, citing the example of the Anglican Church in North America retreating from ordaining women.
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 “The Hypocrisy of transplanted schismatic United Methodists #umc”
  1. Juan Carlos Torres says

    That is hypocrisy all right.

  2. Thanks for this. You have, better than I could, summarized my thoughts when I read that blog article he wrote. I was absolutely flabbergasted at the irony of wanting to shut the open doors now that he has come in. Me personally…I miss the old Chad. I found his early writings when he was living in his 15 minutes of fame to be passionate, honest, open, and challenging. Blessings.

  3. Schism? You want schism? Now here’s a schism. That’s what I’m talking about!
    UMC is a tempest in a teapot.

    http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2014/04/24/vatican-popes-phone-calls-dont-change-doctrine/

    • Notice the obvious tension in the Vatican response…“The magisterium of the church is not defined by personal phone calls.”
      I can only think of one old response that comes to mind…
      “That’s enough to even piss the Pope off!”

  4. I agree that, when it comes to this particular pastor, it is very hypocritical. But what about someone who joined the UMC with the understanding that same-sex marriage was not allowed and would thus only be defending the status quo? I think that would be an honest approach regardless of their former denominational background. In fact, they could say “if I left denomination X because it was too conservative rather than try to change it, then you too can leave the UMC if you’re not happy with a rule that has always been in place”.

    Note that I’m affirming and attend an inclusive church, so I’d definitely welcome a change. But, as much as schism is to be deplored, I don’t really see how the current division in the UMC could end well. It’s already to a large extent hypocritical: the official stance is that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian practice, but there are many churches and annual conferences that disagree and disregard this doctrine. The move that preserves unity is to “agree to disagree”, remove all mentions of homosexuality from the Book of Discipline and let annual conferences decide what they want to do. But even this is a bridge too far for many conservatives. And since there has been more growth overseas where people tend to be much more conservative, I doubt that it will get better over time.

    I’d say that there will eventually be a de facto schism, as in the Anglican communion. I suspect that, if you’ve been welcoming same-sex couples in your church, it’s hard to then decide to send them elsewhere to get married because people thousands of miles away have a different view of human sexuality (which they are entitled to — no-one is asking them to marry same-sex couples). And it makes it difficult to convince people in such relationships that your church would truly be a good fit for them. Now that churches are legally allowed to perform same-sex ceremonies in many states, the number of pastors who choose to disregard official policy can only grow larger.

    At any rate, I’m an outsider (Wesleyan in theology, but overseas with no UMC church nearby), so take this with a grain of salt 😉

    • Damien,

      But what about someone who joined the UMC with the understanding that same-sex marriage was not allowed and would thus only be defending the status quo?

      I want to briefly answer that. I think defending the status quo is fine – because otherwise, there wouldn’t be a fight and change. However, it is what he is doing that goes beyond that. Instead of defending the status quo, he is attempting push out anyone who disagrees with him. This is the hypocrisy. He was welcomed in – loved, appreciated, and recognized even tho other congregations would deem him a sinner, etc… – and yet when it comes to welcoming those with disagreements, he does not.

      There doesn’t really need to be a defacto split. Rather, we can treat it like we do divorced-and-remarried clergy. A conference by conference basis.

      Thoughts?

      • My UMC church has an open communion. Anyone welcome. So does that mean a marriage ceremony has higher status than the communion? I think not. If a state law says its legal, then a church ought to be ok with it. If a pastor does not want to participate for their personal reasons, that’s ok. I’m sure there is someone else in the congregation that can perform a ceremony.

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