Crowd funding disobedience addendum

edwin-louis-cole-author-obedience-is-an-act-of-faith-disobedience-isBill Trench had some remarks on two blogs that I wrote on September 24 of this year. There seemed to be some disagreement of what I had written and his interpretation of it, so I would like to take this opportunity to first thank Mr. Trench for taking the time to read and respond to what I had written. I am flattered that he felt it important enough to respond to and am humbled that my words had reached so far as his eyes. You can find the original posts here and here and can find Mr. Trench’s response to them here.

This isn’t really an addendum as I am not adding anything left out, it is more of a clarification of what I said given the confusion…but addendum is a pretty fun word and I do not get to use it often.

In a blog with the very promising name of “Unsettled Christianity,” Scott Fritzsche argues that Christianity is not unsettled at all. It is settled once and for all.

I have said no such thing outside of the historic standards fo the faith contained in the Apostle’s and Nicene Creed and reflected in our own Articles of Religion and Confession of Faith. If Mr. Trench was referring to this idea, then yes, I have said and will continue to say just that. If he was referring to something else, then the statement is false. In the UMC we have a process to change the Discipline of our church. I have said, and will continue to say, that those who feel the need to change it should take the steps to do so and work within the process so that the will of God can be properly discerned through our General Conference and the unity of the church may be preserved through our standards of faith. He goes on to mention ordination of women, the abolition of segregation etc. as examples of things in the church that have changed. I have not said that the current understanding of the UMC on practicing homosexuals could not change. (I have said that I do not support it changing, but never that it could not) I have only advocated for working within the system that we have as we trust that system, however imperfect it may be, to allow us to properly discern the will of God for the UMC.

Looking back, we know that all of those things were wrong and it seems clear to us now that we can draw a straight line from the biblical witness and the teachings of Jesus to our present understandings.

Agreed. We should have known many things to be wrong from the beginning that we understand as wrong now. He is convinced that intercourse between two people of the same gender is one of those things, I am not. The difference that we seem to have is that I am not so prideful that I feel as if my opinion should over ride the voice of God as discerned by the UMC, rather I will do what is in my power to advocate for those things I believe to be true, within the established system, to add my voice to the chorus of believers with the faith that God will reveal Himself and the UMC will properly reflect His will. I am also not certain if Mr. Trench is implying here that we only need to look at the words of Jesus or not, but it seems that way to me. If he is suggesting that we are only to look at roughly 6% of the scriptures, then we will disagree there as well. If the Bible were meant to be a pamphlet, I am confident that God would have guided His church to make it so.

Scott Fritzsche’s complaint is that those who support the full inclusion of LGBTQ persons within the United Methodist Church, particularly those who have officiated at same sex weddings, have been disobedient to the doctrines and policies of the church and that such disobedience is the result of unbelief. Because we are a connectional church, he asserts, all of us are affected by this. “What one does affects us all,” he writes. “What happens to one affects the other. When disobedience is allowed to occur, I am complicit with it, whether I like it or not.”

My complaint is, again I must say this and it is getting old, not about the individual beliefs of any one person regarding anything related to LGBTQ questions, but yes, it is very much with those who violate their vow to uphold the BoD. Yes, I also believe that it is the result of unbelief, specifically belief in our system of discerning the will of God. If there is belief and trust in the process of the GC, then there is no need for disobedience to it. I will quote here from the first of the blogs I wrote: “It is not about me, or local concerns, it is bigger. God is bigger.” When we act in disobedience, we make it about us. It is indeed about something bigger. I also stated rather clearly that what is done in the connection, good and ill, affects us all. I am unsure what issue there is with this statement as it is commonly used by those who advocate for full inclusion as they claim that they are complicit in the actions of the theologically conservative. If we do not understand this, then the UMC may already be lost. The connection is not a fancy name for our polity, it is the ideal for living a life holy and pleasing to God.

Next comes the accusation that I, and those who are of the same mind, are being disobedient to the gospel.

What we disagree about is the nature and source of that disobedience. Those who advocate a more inclusive church are not the ones being unfaithful. On the contrary, it is those who are opposing and obstructing the full inclusion of LGBTQ Christians within the United Methodist Church who are being unfaithful to the Gospel and to the teachings of Jesus.

I have little desire here to try to get into the theology of sex between two people of the same gender. I will say that this is a bold accusation absent any evidence or opinion to support it except of course it is against the gospels and the teachings of Jesus. At least we have progressed from the pamphlet of the teachings of Jesus to 4 of the 66 books in the canon. Mr. Trench will mention John Wesley and Martin Luther and John Calvin as examples of people charged with disobedience to justify the disobedience of others. He also makes the wrong side of history argument dressed up in the following way:

It may appear at first to be disobedience, but when we look back we will call it leadership. And we will call it faithfulness.

It is a poor argument as we have no way of knowing what history will judge this as. There have been many who claimed history would view them kindly that we call tyrants and many who thought themselves not even a foot note in history become famous. What history thinks of us is of no consequence, what God thinks of us is. I do not believe that God would be pleased with disobedience in His church.  “God’s purpose is not disobedience, but rather a call to obedience.” I addressed that already as well.

Finally to this:

The Episcopalians, the Lutherans, the Presbyterians, the United Church of Christ, Reformed Judaism and Conservative Judaism have all become inclusive. They have all changed, and so will we.

First and foremost, I have little concern for what a different denomination chooses to do or base their belief in. Just as I trust the will of God to be expressed through our GC, I also expect the same of the other denominations. If all the other denominations jumped off a bridge would you? It seems silly when you say it that way….but what is especially telling is this line “They have all changed, and so will we.” In this one line we have the core of the disagreement and misunderstanding here. In this one line we see what the motivation is. It is not to trust the t\process to discern the will of God, it is rather a singular goal that is going to happen no matter what. Mr. Trench believes that this should happen and he seems to support it happening at all costs. He mentions several times that ‘we’ will change our BoD, etc. That is his prerogative of course. Mr. Trench has the agenda of full inclusion down and I have little doubt that he will work toward it and find ways to justify it all. I believe that he, and others who share his opinions, will do what they can to change minds and try to move the vote in their favor to accomplish their goal.

I will close here with a quote from Joel Osteen, who I think is as much a pastor as the potato salad I made for a picnic tomorrow is.
You can be committed to Church but not committed to Christ, but you cannot be committed to Christ and not committed to church.”

The disobedience allowed and encouraged shows where the commitment lies.

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9 Replies to “Crowd funding disobedience addendum”

  1. Scott, all in all, I think you handled that better than I would have. I would have called attention to Bill’s poor use of history, logic, and current statistics. I would have laughed at this inability to see that those things – women, slavery, et al – that he listed as changed was not really changed, since the Church historically did allow women a role, excluded slavery, et al. Then, I would have poked fun at his use of such things as the EC, UCC and the mythical “the Lutherans” as reasons to proceed forward given that the EC and the UCC are dying quickly and “the Lutherans” do not exist. I might have also said something about the “disobedience” of cults, but this would have been in the rejoinder to his poor use of logic.

    But, that is why you are considered the nicer one.

    Also, I would have slammed his poor ability to do research as to what is meant by “unsettled” but that would have been rather personal since it is my title.

  2. Fritzsche, I am not at all satisfied with your response to Trench. It was so good that I have followed all the links from it that I can find, and want to hear even more. Where in Wesleyan tradition do you find your account of ‘connection’?

    It is an incorporative ecclesiology; it is true 🙂 But elsewhere in Christendom, an incorporative ecclesiology usually arises from a participative soteriology. Plainly, such strong ties among believers originate in a saving union with the Person of Christ, so that their relations among themselves are internal to his Body. Thus, wrong relations within the Body are sins against Christ, whatever else they might be. Scriptural allusions to this are abundant.

    The whole Wesleyan tradition is the great and embarrassing gap in my theological knowledge; where do you find this incorporative ecclesiology in Methodism? I do know that Methodists have bishops, so that one could perhaps infer an incorporative ecclesiology from the fathers known to the Wesleys (eg Irenaeus, perhaps the Apostolic Constitution). I have also heard that the Wesleys had a theosis doctrine that could count as a participative soteriology. But have they, or other major figures in your tradition, connected these dots? Or have you found the truth by another path altogether?

  3. And for clarity, can we identify the strictly ecclesiological error of Trench? If I have correctly understood his position and your response to it, then a Methodist should agree that Trench is running on undisputed ground when he argues for the authority of a future conference– general or central?– that speaks for a church well unified in Christ by the Holy Spirit. Like Wile E. Coyote however, he runs off the cliff at the point where that authority reflects, not the Spirit in the Body, but the Spirit in secular history changing the Body by infiltrating it. At that point, he relates to himself as an agent for a victorious zeitgeist, not as a member of the Body who owes love to its other members. And indeed he addresses you as an opponent; perhaps others differ, but his post does not reflect the Love that moves all things. He may not yet have looked down, but the chasm yawns below.

  4. I am sorry that this has taken forever. I took ill and was laid up for a time.
    I can not do justice to Wesleyan theology here, but there are several easily found resources for more information on it. First and foremost, Wesley’s sermons are available online here: http://www.umcmission.org/Find-Resources/John-Wesley-Sermons/John-Wesley-Sermons and The Wesley Center Online is a fairly good resource most of the time as well. http://wesley.nnu.edu/
    Wesley overall showed influence from the Eastern church, but tempered that with the influences of the Western church. I find one of the more unique aspects of Methodism, again, as understood by those who inspired it, is the great balance between influences from the East and the West both. Wesley viewed scripture as the final arbiter of truth, but also viewed tradition as a large and important aspect of the church and Christianity. I imagine if he came across tradition that he felt contradicted scripture, it would have resulted in a great deal of study and prayer to come to understanding. Wesley would not have dismissed tradition out of hand because he didn’t like it or find it relevant, but he also would not have accepted tradition that was not firmly rooted in scripture. Wesley also introduced to Methodism the delicate balance between the mysticism of the Eastern church and the practicality of the Western church. Holding neither above the other, but both in tension.
    Wesley does touch on theosis. It would be correct to say that any proper understanding of the history of Wesleyanism is rooted in the idea of transformation from what we were before Christ to what we are after Christ, to what we will eventually become because of Christ. All this accomplished by the Holy Spirit working within us of course. Transformation is at the core of the message for the people of faith. It is through Christ and the Holy Spirit that we are continually conformed to the likeness of Christ and in that continual transformation we (hopefully) find brothers and sisters on the same path and recognize our unity both in Christ and the Holy Spirit, but also in the act of being conformed to the likeness of Christ. Hopefully, as we have not completed that, we also find the grace to forgive the faults in others and ourselves as we hope that they will do for us.

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