Going somewhere in a hand basket

Today I am going to talk a bit about Matt Berryman. Mr. Berryman is the executive director of Reconciling Ministries Network as well as a member of the Commission on a way forward. As the executive director of RMN, I assume that when he publishes a piece, on their blog, for public consumption, it is a policy statement. I do not find this to be a poor assumption. I mention Mr. Berryman for two reasons. First, to establish that he is the executive director of RMN, and as such speaks for them, at least when they release his statements, and second, to point out that he is a member of the commission on a way forward that is currently undertaking the daunting task of trying to find a way forward for the United Methodist Church.

On April 29. RMN posted a statement about the Judicial Council Decision regarding Bishop Oliveto. This statement, along with yet another slogan, is apparently heavily influenced by Galatians 5:22-23, the commonly cited passage on the fruits of the Spirit.

Gal 5:22  But the fruit of the Spirit is: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, 
Gal 5:23  meekness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 

In a strange and unbelievable turn of events that I never could have fathomed, Mr. Berryman and I agree. Against these things there is no law. Luckily the UMC agrees as well, against these things there is no law. Where we start to diverge, unsurprisingly, is that Mr. Berryman claims that ordination standards, specifically the standard that one must be either faithful in heterosexual marriage (the only thing the UMC recognizes as a God ordained marriage) or celibate in singleness. Somehow, in his mind, and consequently the mind of RMN, not being able to marry a member of the same sex and be ordained in the UMC means that one can not exhibit love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, meekness, or self-control. Before you jump on the what about love bandwagon, keep in mind that this is agape, not eros. That is to say this is not the love expressed in marriage, but to be as simple as possible, it is the love of God for man, and the love that man is supposed to reflect back to God and to each other.  Against these things there is no law, this is true. Thankfully the UMC has no law against these things. Based on this terribly poor understanding of scripture, Mr. Berryman goes on to assert that RMN, and apparently Northern Illinois and New York (I have no idea if he is in a position to speak for them or not) will not abide by the rulings of the Judicial Council.

For a moment here, let’s make sure that we understand what the purpose of the Judicial Council is. “The Judicial Council is the highest judicial body or “court” of The United Methodist Church. Its nine members are elected by the General Conference. The Judicial Council determines the constitutionality of acts or proposed acts of the General, Jurisdictional, Central, and Annual Conferences. It acts on these either on appeal of lower rulings or through requests for declaratory decisions. It also rules on whether acts of other official bodies of the denomination conform to The Book of Discipline. This is done in accordance with procedures established in The Book of Discipline.”  (http://www.umc.org/who-we-are/judicial-council) This is their description. So, in one statement, RMN has said that it will not abide by the constitution of the UMC, the General Conference of the UMC, the Judicial Council of the UMC, or the doctrine of the UMC. RMN, and more importantly Mr. Berryman, have said that, in essence, at any point in time that they do not like something about the UMC, they will simply ignore it and do their own thing. No they did not directly say this of course, but isn’t that the implication? So long as they are convinced in the righteousness of their cause, they will do as they please. In those days, the UMC had no authority, so everyone did as they pleased. I can find no finer sample of latitudinarian thought this side of 18th century England. In an interesting twist, Wesley s[poke against this way of thought often. Before you ask but can’t we love alike keep in mind that arguably his strongest admonishment of latitudinarian thought comes in the very same sermon that oft used quotes comes from. Latitudinarian thought is not a part of catholic spirit.

What really concerns me the most however is that Mr. Berryman sits on the commission for a way forward. While no longer a UMC type, I do keep the commission in my prayers as I know many do. I am concerned because Mr. Berryman has stated several times that the end game of RMN is nothing less than full inclusion. The language that he uses describe a way forward where I, and the majority of Methodists world wide, not to mention the majority of Christians (and let’s not forget the majority of  Muslims and Jews) are evil, unjust, oppressors whose beliefs are embedded in disgust, shame, and fear. That is not the language of a way forward. Quite frankly that is not the language of the Fruits of the Spirit. It’s also the type of language that caused me to leave the UMC, and continues to keep me away. RMN claims to have 837 reconciling communities representing 34,953 individuals. (This number is fluid, though accurate at the time of this posting). That means in a very real way that 837 communities that comprise 34,953 individuals find me to be an evil, unjust, oppressor whose beliefs are rooted in disgust, shame, and fear. How is that a way forward? Though not present any longer, I love the UMC dearly. As much as it pains me to say it however, Mr. Berryman, as well as those he represents, seem to be guiding the basket somewhere, but it is certainly not a way forward.

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6 Replies to “Going somewhere in a hand basket”

  1. When you make him say things he didn’t say, it sure is easy to criticize him. The point is not that gay people have to marry in order to have the fruits of the spirit. The point is that the fruits of the spirit should be the source of our discernment about holiness and sin.

    1. Everything stated he said in the link that I provided, or is the logical extrapolation of what he said.For example, a reasonable person would extrapolate that if a belief is evil, those who hold that belief are, in part at the very least, evil.

      ” The point is that the fruits of the spirit should be the source of our discernment about holiness and sin.”
      How? The fruits of the Spirit are not going to override what is contained in scripture. Also, discernment is a separate gift of the Spirit. We are all able to exhibit the Fruits of the Spirit, but we are all not gifted with discernment.

  2. “We must never lose sight of the tremendous scandal that lies at the heart of the church’s policies embedded in disgust, shame, and fear. There is not now, nor has there ever been, any excuse or justifiable reason to condone or sanction the mistreatment of LGBTQ persons. What there is now, however, is a clear and unadulterated vision of judgment that awaits all those who continue to uphold such evil, injustice, and oppression.”

    Sounds pretty inflammatory to me. What church is he talking about? Nazi skin heads? I think he needs a cold shower, to chill out.

    And I support gay marriage! This guy needs to be fired, if RMN is any reasonable organization.

    1. This is not the first time he has made such statements. He has, on past occasions, said that traditionalists worshiped Ba’al and the Golden Calf, were murderers, etc. if it were once, I’d get it. We all say things we regret when frustrated. This is a repeated pattern of behavior for him. I disagree with RMN, but I would like to be able to at least respect them. With him at the helm, not only can I not respect him, it makes it difficult for me to have dealings with anyone who is a part of them until they start making enough of a stink that he is gotten rid of.

  3. My whole problem with the most extreme progressives, is not their “cause” but they way they go about dealing with it. They live a version of Christianity that I do not want to have anything to do with! And the sad thing is they do not get what a turn off they are. To me, they have become a “clanging gong and a clashing cymbal”. I am appalled that leadership considers them as just one more “legitimate voice”.

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