Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
March 10th, 2015 by Joel Watts

The #UMC Centrist Petition (Vote No)

Polish political propaganda leaflet for an ant...

Polish political propaganda leaflet for an anti-left, anti-right, centrist party. Pre-1939. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Across the several UMC-orientated groups on FB, representatives of the Centrist movement have started to post the below and ask people to take it to their annual conferences:

Whereas Jesus Christ has made clear his intention that His Church live and witness as a united body (John 17:20-21).

Whereas when the Church was deeply divided on the question of to what degree were gentile Christians expected to adhere to the law, the early Church followed the leading of the Holy Spirit in crafting a compromise measure at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:1-29).

Whereas the United Methodist Church is deeply divided on questions of same gender marriage and the ordination of self-avowed practicing homosexuals.

Whereas committed, Spirit-filled, fruit-bearing disciples of Jesus Christ reside on all points of conscious in regard to these questions.

Whereas there is an undercurrent within our blessed church believing “schism” or “amicable separation” is an option in response to our differences on these questions.

Whereas there are persons who have or are in in the process of crafting “middle-way” plans which will result in United Methodist Christians and congregations to continue together in shared ministry within one denomination while making space for both progressives and traditionalists to live out their convictions on these questions.

Whereas the monumental work of considering all of the middle-way plans, choosing one and perfecting it for consideration by the 2016 General Conference over the course of just ten days is both virtually impossible and unwise considering the size of our denomination and all the resources at stake.

Therefore, (insert your annual conference) calls for the 2016 General Conference to create a theologically balanced task force charged with prayerfully considering all middle-way plans to keep our beloved church united in Jesus Christ. The task force will choose one middle-way plan and work to perfect it over the course of a quadrininium (2016-2020). The plan will be considered by the 2020 General Conference.

Recognizing that new possibilities may emerge via the Holy Spirit’s leading, the task force will also be given wide latitude to create a new middle-way plan not yet conceived with the purpose of allowing the United Methodist Church to remain united despite our differences on the questions of same gender marriage and the ordination of self-avowed practicing homosexuals.

The United Methodist Centrist Movement (West Ohio)

(Feel free to insert your name or group if you have not yet organized a UMCM group in your conference).

via Here is the UMCM’s Petition to the General… – United Methodist Centrist Movement.

I have addressed concerns about the Centrist Movement before and find their lack of focus on the actual issues — no shared orthodoxy, no real shared creeds, lexicon, or mission — disturbing.

Number one on the UMCM’s list? Fiscal responsibility. Ironically, the UMCM born and raised in the West Ohio Annual Conference, which due to some changing numbers, is expecting a windfall return on investment in the coming year.

But, to the basic point. I cannot support this nor would I want my Annual Conference to support this. The preamble is bad theological exegesis. If we are to strive for Christian unity, then let us reunite with other Wesleyan denominations, then back to the Anglican Communion, and then back to Rome. Further, the Council in Acts was not about moving forward for the sake for moving forward, but attempt to discern what God was doing with the Gentiles because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. To suggest the First Council is somehow related to what will happen at General Conference is to stretch the passage in so many ways it should be a new Yoga move. 

To rest
rict the plans to so-called middle way plans – a bogus concept if there ever was one – would mean to force again, at a future GC, another fight. It does nothing to address the issues at hand, to restore trust, or to honor our Wesleyan heritage. It does nothing to honor the people in the United Methodist Church. Further, if diversity within unity is what the Centrist movement is really about, then shouldn’t they consider all plans? What, exactly, would be the litmus test for a “middle-way” plan?

Unlike Via Media which is concerned with orthodoxy as a uniting vision of the church, third way/middle way/centrist groups are concerned with unity for the sake of unity. Only a church firm in doctrine is prepared to discuss ethics. 

If I see this at WVAC15, my voice will be raised against it. I hope you do as well. 

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

3 Responses to “The #UMC Centrist Petition (Vote No)”
  1. Too much to read. But two things:

    Amazing that a UMC in Columbus and a UMC in Lima actually agree! I’ve been to both cities/towns, and they are on different planets (college town/tank town).
    This sounds reasonable to me:

    “However, we do believe that continually putting clergy on trial for violating this isolated issue needs to come to an end as soon as possible.”

    “Clergy fail to uphold the Book of Discipline in many other ways that aren’t regularly resulting in a trial.”

    ““So my advice is, leave these men alone. Let them go. If they are planning and doing these things merely on their own, it will soon be overthrown. But if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You may even find yourselves fighting against God!.” (Acts 5:38-39 NLT)”

  2. A view from the pew: I agree with you that the divisive issues run deeper than the homosexuality argument. After spending several years cruising the internet, listening to a myriad of voices, I came to the conclusion the different sides were talking and peddling apples and oranges to each other–and I may be being generous by allowing that both sides can be characterized of at least peddling a fruit. Underneath the disagreement over homosexuality I identified a lack of consensus in at least four areas: who God is and who we are in relation to Him; interpretation of scripture; the mission of the church; the role of the church in relation to society; and the role of General Conference and the Book of Discipline in the life of the church. Allowing the differing factions to stand under the United Methodist umbrella will only tell the world that we are an organization that does not know who we are and what we believe, much less what we need to be doing. I question whether or not people will be knocking at the doors to be part of such an organization. As a lifelong Methodist, my assessment of the United Methodist Church–spoken in love and disappointment–is that it exceeds my expectation of messiness and diversity that should be present in any organization that expects to survive! I am all for diversity; but the level of diversity the UMC is currently experiencing is toxic. Maybe that is what has been fueling 50 years of decline.

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