On Friday, Bishop Sally Dyck, one of the several bishops preaching during General Conference, delivered what progressives held to as a sermon as inspired as anything in Scripture, and conservatives saw through as bitter and pointed, if not completely devoid of reason while serving as an inaccurate presentation of the doctrines of The United Methodist Church.
Before that, however, separate stations were set up by Love Prevails (“queer-friendly stations”) as a demonstration against The United Methodist Church’s current policies. Sadly, two episcopal office holders partook of these stations.
— RMNetwork (@rmnetwork) May 11, 2016
Surely, this violates our concept of consecration and our understanding of the Eucharist as an open table and converting ordinance.
Yet, that is not the point here. We have Bishops Dyck, Stanovsky, Radar, and Talbert — representatives of the episkope of The United Methodist Church who have vowed to “guard the faith, order, liturgy, doctrine, and discipline of the Church” and who must have a passion for the unity of the Church perform or participate in acts not only counter to the Book of Discipline, but likewise counter to unity. As noted earlier, the vows and liturgy of the Bishop require the Bishop to work for the unity of the Church. Indeed, the very elements of the Table are signs of the office of the Bishop.
If you survey the mood of those on the ground, the reactions on social media, and the general feeling, you’ll note that the feeling is that we as a denomination are dead. There are several notable progressives writing to this end, attempting to chart a way forward with a separate progressive-UMC denomination.
Why is this separation imminent?
Is it because we have two sides? No. We have sides on all sorts of issues.
Is it because these sides are seen as irreconcilable? No. We can have positions that are as such and yet live together.
We are at the point of schism not because of the extremes, but because the Bishops (the visible representative of the Center) have failed to live into their mission. Not as a whole, but when you have the above enumerated reasons along with silence from the Council of Bishops, then the unity that all are supposed to work is dead.
- General Conference will consider mandatory minimums imposed upon violators of the Book of Discipline because we don’t trust our bishops with grace.
- General Conference will consider terms for the episcopacy (60510).
- General Conference will consider lifting the trust clause so that we can make this disunity official
- General Conference will look for ways to hold the bishops accountable in the so-called Just Resolution process (60807)
Because we don’t trust our bishops — not as a whole, not in unity. Too many of our bishops are partisan. Because we don’t trust our bishops, we must now work to contain them. Because of this, we are not unified. Because of this… because of the way the bishops have sat quiet while other bishops have pointedly and expressly worked to destroy the unity — because the Center no longer exists, much less holds… can we stay together?
Bishops, if you want us to stay together, then lead.