Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
June 18th, 2016 by Joel Watts

UMC Unity is (about) Dead

There can be no unity between the radical progressives and the moderates, conservatives, and others. Indeed, as demonstrated by both New England, Cal-Pac, and the Desert Southwest Annual Conferences, The United Methodist Church is in a state of rebellion. Yes, there is a system to still play out, but as members of at least one of those Annual Conferences are sharing, they care little for the process, the Judicial Council, and the General Conference.

Cal-Pac throws off the bonds of Union

Cal-Pac throws off the bonds of Union

Note the body of the dissolution, er, I mean, resolution from New England:

The NEAC will not conform or comply with provisions of the Discipline which discriminate against LGBTQIA persons, including marriage (161.B), the incompatibility clause (161.F), ordination and appointments (304.3), homosexual unions (341.6), AC funding ban (613.19), GCFA funding ban (806.9), chargeable offenses pertaining to being “a self avowed practicing homosexual” or to officiating at weddings for couples regardless of the sex of the partners (2702.1b,d).

The NEAC and its members will not participate in or conduct judicial procedures related to the Discipline’s prohibitions against LGBTQIA persons.

The NEAC insists that any benefits available to clergy and employees and their families are available to all clergy and employees and their families, regardless of the sexes or genders of the partners, and requires the District Superintendents to inform all clergy under their supervision of this right.

13419230_10209846681953422_4050863210855285317_nThe NEAC will realign its funding to reflect these commitments, using no reserve funds to pay for judicial procedures related to the Discipline’s prohibitions against LGBTQIA persons, and instead request that the Connectional Table and Conference Council on Finance and Administration develop and fund programs of cultural competency, anti-racism, anti-ageism, anti-sexism, anti-oppression and anti-homophobia training at the conference and district levels, as well as for advocacy and implementation efforts related to the same.

When the courts do not function, there is no Rule of Law. These conferences are doing exactly what the South did in 1844, setting up their own ecclesiastical structures. My hope is that the process, once carried out, will be heeded in order to given the Commission time to work.

I am not going to go into the legalities of this, the ignorance of this, or the theological problems of this. But I am going to tell you from my heart, that this is bad.

When I left fundamentalism, I did so because I realized that it wasn’t the people that were corrupt, bad, evil, or sinful — rather, they were mere actors. The system itself was the oppressive evil. Progressivism, that spirit of the age haunting many of our Annual Conferences, creating rebellion, strife, and idolatry, is a system every bit as evil as the most sectarian Christianity. The people are mere actors, enslaved to that thing. Preach against the system, not the people.

Read these words (and comments) by Dr. Bill Arnold

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 “UMC Unity is (about) Dead”
  1. George Plasterer says

    Joel, I respect your assessment of these matters. I did not know about Cal-Pac and the Desert Southwest Annual Conferences doing anything like New England, although it does not surprise me. Some have said that if you go far enough to the Left and Right, the Left and Right merge. Your statement reminds me of that. The Fundamentalist and the Progressive present equally as oppressive and divisive systems. Well said.

  2. Michael L. McKee [not the bishop] says

    Joel,

    Here’s what i replied to Chuck. [we’re colleagues in the same conference]

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~

    ‘The sky is falling, the sky is falling,’ is sadly often the cry of conservative voices.

    Conservative voices have always overreached in the human sexuality issue with the claim that if we don’t hold the binary line it will surely be the end of biblical authority and the doom of our churches.

    i think i get it. Anxiety and fear are tough. A death grip on what we think we’ve had can be almost unconscious. Jesus advised strongly against engaging with anxiety and fear though, especially fear.

    So, i predict the bold action of the NE AC will go differently.

    Their act of faithful disobedience will afford the commission some actual experience and data of what happens when our churches declare their intent to live inclusively, with openness, and authenticity.

    Of course this experiment is rightly a reflection of the NE AC context. The violation of our ‘Do no harm’ rule and concern over how our language does do harm has gained ascendancy for them there.

    Every context will not be ready to make this kind of declaration of intent, but when the sky doesn’t fall and when the faith life of the churches in the NE AC doesn’t really prevent the churches in Texas from living according to their readiness/or not to be inclusive, perhaps then the people called United Methodists will finally be able see its not the plural reality that will kill us, it’s clinging with a death grip on our binary polity.

    Thanks for your post.

    • Mike,

      I’m not sure you know what “do no harm” means, as you seem to use it in the normal liberal sense, void of context and absent any real meaning.

      This is what I predict — the rebellious conferences will soon be shown the door. The sky is not falling, you are right — but the UMC is splitting.

  3. Scott Fritzsche says

    Faithful “having or showing true and constant support or loyalty
    : deserving trust : keeping your promises or doing what you are supposed to do”
    Disobedience “refusal or failure to obey rules, laws, etc. : a lack of obedience”
    Those two words are diametrically opposed. One can not be faithful by being disobedient.
    Plural “more than one in number.”
    Reality “the world or the state of things as they actually exist”
    Again, when two things are diametrically opposed, they can not both be true.
    Binary “something having two parts”
    Polity ” a form of government”
    You say that the binary polity is what is killing us and I could not agree more, except that it is precisely what you are proposing. We have a form of polity in the UMC. You are advocating for another form of polity to exist within that it seems. Once can not have both the connexion and be free church at the same time. You are either advocating for both at once which can not work well, or you are advocating for getting rid of our current polity in it’s entirety it seems.
    As to your characterization of traditionalists as being possessed of fear and anxiety, it is not only a poor caricature, it is also a blatantly false one.
    As for “do no harm” I don’t know if you are unaware of how Wesley used it, or if you are distorting how it was used to fit the narrative that you are trying to present, but either way, it is not used properly here.

  4. Tom McCann says

    “One can not be faithful by being disobedient.”
    Unless you are being faithful to a higher order than the one you are disobeying.

    • “I am now, and have been from my youth, a member and a Minister of the Church of England: And I have no desire, no design to separate from it, till my soul separates from my body. Yet if I was not permitted to remain therein without omitting what God requires me to do, it would then become meet and right, and my bounden duty, to separate from it without delay. ” John Wesley, On Schism

  5. Mike Childs says

    I have great respect for Bill Arnold, but he is dead wrong and not grasping the reality of the situation, when he urges conservative Methodists to remain patient and stay in the UMC. They are already leaving, and going to other denominations. We do not have time to wait until 2020. Schism has already happened, and it happened in the Progressive Conferences that have defied the Discipline and will not no longer play by the rules. We are now a denomination that permits gay marriage and gay ordination, and you will never put that genie back in the bottle. Now is the time for an Orthodox alternative to arise, if the Methodist movement is to survive.

  6. Regardless of left, right, progressive, conservative, schism, unity…

    Dearest sympathy for the flooding in West Virginia. Hope you and family, friends, fair well.

  7. As an orthodox person in the pew in Texas who has been monitoring the sexuality debate for 4 years, I am taking a wait and see attitude. The NEAC and the other conferences that have voted to be non-conforming are already part of areas that are experiencing numerical decline that is faster than the American part of the denomination as a whole; these areas also contain the highest concentrations of local liberal UM churches within the UMC. I’m curious if this non-conforming stance will further exacerbate the declining numbers–it is not like these decisions were unanimous and these churches were probably not growing numerically. True orthodoxy–which is not the same as modern conservative fundamentalism–is not dead in these areas where the UMC is experiencing the most dramatic numerical decline. Shortly after GC2012, I tripped across a story about a local, liberal UMC in the northwest that was forced to abandon its large facilities and move to a smaller one because of declining numbers. A flourishing orthodox non-denominational church bought the large abandoned facility. Like the other commenter stated, these conferences may provide interesting data for the commission. If their numerical decline accelerates, it could all become moot point before the next General Conference.

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