General Conference Wrap Up

PN4eqLdAI can not imagine the turmoil that the delegates to this General Conference faced. Watching and listening from home, I felt some small part of it and could only be thankful to be close to my support systems. I can not imagine being for far from them. What is there to say really? There was legislation, some liked it others did not. Going into detail about any one piece seems a disservice, yet also impossible given the enormity of what occurred with the bishops’ recommendation. With all that in mind, I am going to try and reflect here about what my thoughts are on the General Conference and what happened there and pretty much ignore the legislation specifically as I do not think it paints the picture of what is occurring.

The first thing that we can say is that the United Methodist Church is becoming more conservative in the places where the church is growing and more liberal in the places where it is shrinking. This is not necessarily a cause and effect type of scenario, yet there does seem to be enough data to suggest correlation if not causation. If there was any doubt that this was the case, it should have been dispelled by this General Conference. It seems as if the center of Methodism has even shifted to be center right on most issues. Just my observation there. The fact is that United Methodism is shifting to a more conservative denomination. Some think it is good, some think it bad, but whichever it actually is, it is true.

The second thing we can observe is that we trust each other less now than even four years ago. The accusations toward a presiding Bishop demonstrated in a public way what has been happening in private for a long time. Conservative and progressive are no longer descriptive terms used to simply reference theological positions, they are pejoratives. Fundamentalist is now the favored term for anyone who supports following the teaching of the church, followed a close second by homophobe and bigot. There is no civil discourse. It simply does not exist on any large scale. As I am typing this, I was just called a homophobe and bigot. That ends conversation. That shows there is no trust and even less understanding.

The third thing that can be taken away from is that there is a deep desire for some sort of unity, but no one agrees on what unity looks like or means. Mind you, there are unity through the middle road folks. They are fine with allowing for a great deal of theological diversity and a more localized structure for the church theologically. There are those who are for full inclusion period without any allowance for traditional understandings of sexual immorality and they want unity through that. There are traditionalists who favor the historic understandings of sexual immorality and they want unity through that. Everyone wants unity, and very few seem to know what that means. Fewer still seem willing to submit to the authority and teaching of the church to have it. It shows how deep our problems actually are.

The fourth thing that can be taken away from the conference is that it is not over. Maybe it hasn’t been for many years. If it were over we would be discussing where the church is and how excited we are to be going in the direction we are. There would be hope and unbridled joy that we have a vision and focus for what is to come. There is not. There is cautious optimism at best, and outright disappointment and rage at worst. Yes, I am sure that some believe that the Bishops plan is the proper way to move forward and it will result in something workable. To most (it seems to me) it is the last desperate attempt at saving something. To me it seems like trying to have a baby to save the marriage. A desperate attempt to save what is already ended…often with tragic results. All that said, I remain hopeful as there is a Truth that can work in all of this. Jesus is Lord. Because of this there is always hope. Because Jesus is Lord, the impossible becomes an option. But we really have to allow Him to be Lord. I admit I am having trouble seeing that in the United Methodist Church right now, but I am trying to. I am even committed to. I admit it is difficult to see hope, but I have faith that it is indeed there and will become clearer.

The final thing is that we are very different groups of people. We come from different cultures, with different histories and have different views. The one thing that has the capacity to unite us is the church. In fact, it is the only thing that can. Are there things that rightly cause separation within the church? Yes, if there were not Methodism would not be here after all. Is sexual morality one of those things? Maybe, time will bear that out. IS sexual morality even the thing that we are arguing about? Probably not, but it is the symptom and just like a doctor, all we can treat is the symptom when the disease is unknown.

What can we take away from the General Conference of 2016…we can take away that it is not really over yet and will not be until there is an answer. Because it is not over, there is hope no matter how it appears. Because it is not over, God can work by the moving of the Spirit. What can we take away? Jesus is Lord, and if we let Him be, we will find our path.

 

 

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11 Replies to “General Conference Wrap Up”

  1. Scott: Good post about General Conference and its possible sequelae. Now, let’s do a thought experiment much like Einstein utilized. With respect unity in the UMC, would you remain in the UMC if General Conference in the future allows full inclusion of LGBTQ persons? I’m not trying to be provocative, only to see what our concepts of unity really mean.

    1. I get this question a lot. Yes with stipulations. First, no blanket forcing of clergy on who they had to marry. Given recent developments in the PCUSA, our Judicial council would have to review that could happen.
      Second, it would have to be a theological change with a reasonable biblical rationale. It could not be “a justice issue” generically, or based on some sort of perceived discrimination. Included in this is that it has to not be some sort of jurisdictional shenanigans. It makes little sense to me that sex between two people of the same gender is a sin and marriage is between a man and a woman in West Ohio, but in East Ohio it is not. The church has been wrong and changed it’s theology before and I suspect it will be again. Let’s just be honest about it. If it were brought about by a local option or jurisdictional solution I would most likely leave, but not because of same sex marriage, but because I think that breaks the connection in spirit. Attached to this, I am hopeful that one day we will be able to talk about divorce and how the UMC is doing that wrong in my often not humble enough opinion.

  2. Here is what we know about the next 2-4 years. The LBGT folks will continue to be unfaithful and justify it by calling us homophobe and Bigot. The games and outright disobedience (betrayal) will continue. The Africans who live on a continent where many Christians know someone who was martyred for his faith will not take this betrayal lying.down so when these ‘recommendations’ come down from on high they will not pass them and after they are done being amused by the juvenile antics and protests of the LGBT folks they will pass the resolutions that would have passed this year upholding the Discipline.

    Then we will see who ‘Loves’ more or is more interested in being ‘right’ My money is on the 10.0 schism earthquake originating in Progressiveland.

    1. 14If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. 15Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

      1. What the International church, or National church, does, is irrelevant to me. What the local church I go to does, is the only thing that counts for me. Since it tends to be liberal, I have no doubt that it will be business as usual for many years to come.

  3. I also favor unity. Through schism.

    I saw supposed UMC members tweeting with the hashtag #notourchurch. I’ve seen others claim they do not love the conservative UMC… only the moderate UMC. That is to say they love the Church so long as it agrees with their liberal sensibilities.

    Frankly… unity with such people is a lie. Its a lie we tell to ourselves and to others.

    We can lament schism till we are blue in the face. The reality is… the schism has already happened. I have no interest in sharing a pew with people who call the UMC abusive. I have no desire to share a pew with people who deny the divinity of Jesus.

  4. We seem so quick to forget the the UMC is not the Church, the Church is the Bride of Christ. Our beloved UMC is already two schisms away from the Church and yet some pretend a third schism would draw us closer. I have found no scriptural documentation for the first separation under Henry VIII but more a desire for supremacy. ( 1534 – The Act of Supremacy is passed, establishing Henry as head of the Church of England.) This first schism was consummated When King Edward VI approved the first book of prayer and 42 articles of religion. These do not appear to as much driven by The Word of God but more by a political tie King Henry VIII had made to ally Germany. [These had been partly derived from the Thirteen Articles of 1538, designed as the basis of an agreement between Henry VIII and the German Lutheran princes, which had been influenced by the Lutheran Augsburg Confession (1530)]. The separation of the Methodist Episcopal Church from the Anglican Church was not desired by John Wesley but was more the result of the Revolutionary War.

    In short separation has never brought unity to Christ’s Church. instead it brings two unified divisions we call denominations.
    Each paragraph and sub paragraph in our BOD should reference Scripture or divine revelation similar to the Roman Book of Catechism. ( http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_INDEX.HTM)

    Please join me in continued prayer for the restoration and unity of Christ’s One Church.

  5. The current state of affairs within the United Methodist Church made me think of a blog post I placed on http://www.mikefrosolono in Nov. 2014. Simply substitute liberal/progressive and conservative/fundamentalist for democratic/liberal and republican/ conservative, respectively. The point is, focusing on LGBTQ issues in particular, we need to recapture the UMC from theological/doctrinal extremists on both sides; that is, we need a strong center to hold the UMC together:

    http://mikefrosolono.com/will-the-center-hold/

      1. Center position = “I don’t care. Let God decide”. Who am I to stick my nose into other people’s business.

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