Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
November 10th, 2014 by Joel Watts

United Methodist Centrist Movement is a Third Way, but it is not Via Media

English:

English: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is another plan aiming to combat not the problems of the United Methodist Church but manifestations of those problems. It is put forth by members of an Annual Conference in Ohio. They call it a centrist plan and it is a third way. However, as I must remind you, the middle or third way mentality is not via media.

Let me also say that like others who have taken the time to write a plan, prayerfully, I trust that these authors have crafted this plan with a love of the United Methodist Church and a distaste for the constant wrangling over one issue. Any perceived attacks on them in this post is due not to my intention, but to my inability to fully craft it with as much grace as possible. I am frank, and sometimes that comes across rough. That is not my intention. I honor those who put something forward in good faith.

Others, more capable than I, have addresses some of the issues. My goal in this is to address it from my position, that of via media.1

The first line is likely a deal breaker. It reads:

The United Methodist Centrist Movement is made up of clergy and laity who love our denomination and believe the local church is the hope of the world

Isn’t this one of the problems in the UMC? We has forgotten that we are supposed to proclaim that Jesus Christ is the hope of the world. Second, we have forgotten our connexional foundation and the universality of the UMC’s polity. It should be that what one UMC congregation teaches as doctrine and intent, another does as well.2 Indeed, this very line is at the heart of the problems in the UMC — our increasingly small communities centered not on our connexion but on individual personalities or geographic locations. We even see the rise of individualistic, and often baseless, interpretations of Scripture far, far removed from the greater Christian orthodoxy and Wesleyan orthodoxy not to mention Reason and Tradition. We cannot even agree on the role and definition of “experience.”3

They propose to do away with the General Conference, the only real voice for the United Methodist Church. As Watson has said, there is a bureaucratic mess generated with each GC. Yet, instead of tackling that particular issue, they want to do away with it and instead allow regional conferences to take its place. This would, within a short time, create the bureaucracy of the GC at the regional level. It would also lead to regional conferences becoming denominations within a short time. Not only that, it would likely cause us in the United States to abandon the voices from today’s Central Conferences, given they are more conservative than many of our jurisdictions. This is not the image I want to see promoted. This is colonialism, even if it is a reverse of what we usually understand as colonialism.

Their call to the current itinerant system is interesting. I agree it needs to be overhauled, with something along the lines of forced itinerant systems. One of the issues I believe we face today is the cult of personality, where pastors stay too long to be effective. This occurs in our larger UMC churches, where the pastors suddenly become the dominant voice. Not the DS, the Bishop, or even Staff-Parish. The pastor is now in control. Overall, I am not sure their plan here is all that bad.

Their section on “Mutual Respect” is more American than anything. It gives power to those who break the BoD, ending any responsibility for their actions. What good is it then to have the Discipline if it is merely a soft guide?  Mutual respect is first earned when we share in mutual responsibility. What about the mutual responsibility and accountability of Bishops? What about the respect to the Book of Discipline and our individual responsibility to it.

In the end, this plan is truly a third way plan because it runs away from the actual root of our problems. In effect, if something is a problem, they only seek to change the reaction to it, and not the root. That is not a pattern we need to set.

There is nothing here in rediscovering our doctrine, our creeds, our connection to the Great Tradition. Indeed, there is little in here that actually moves us forward, rather than backwards (congregationalism).

The Centrist Movement is Third Way, but it is not via media.

You can find and you should read the plan here: The platform and beliefs of the United Methodist Centrist Movement.

Thoughts?

the best thing about this plan is that it has killed A Way Forward. Rev. Mike Slaughter is one of the authors/supporters of this plan. 

I’ll edit this later, but wanted to put it out there now. 

  1. I do not speak for VMM, but speak as one who believes via media is the correct way forward.
  2. Note, this does not mean conformity in thought, but unity in doctrine.
  3. Experience means the Christian “new life” and it is but a tool in interpreting Scripture.
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

One Response to “United Methodist Centrist Movement is a Third Way, but it is not Via Media”
  1. This is a fair and (I believe) accurate appraisal of the Centrist proposal. When I read the proposal I cringed at that first line. Glad to see that others have found that to be problematic as well. Thanks for your thoughts here, Joel!

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