My skepticism and outright dislike of the Uniting Methodists movement, the Centrist Movement before it, is no secret. I just want to go ahead and acknowledge that up front. I have questions of them that remain unanswered in general, and more questions after their vision statement was released. It’s no secret what I think about the two proposals the CoB is looking at. Despite the theological questions, and likely differences, that I have with the Uniting Methodists movement, the single biggest reason that I dislike them is that the claim to be something different. I dislike what amounts to misrepresenting yourself as a movement. They say that all are welcome, but what they mean, like other caucus groups (and let’s face it, that’s all this is), is that all are welcome so long as they think like us. They say “We are not interested in being another combatant in a denominational tug-of-war.” (Vision Statement of the Uniting Methodist) Then go ahead and support and advocate for proposals that will go to the General Conference firmly placing themselves as another combatant in the denominational tug of war. The say “We affirm the Wesleyan commitment to personal and social holiness.” Then say immediately after “We recognize that we sometimes disagree on how best to pursue holiness, and those differences can lead to conflict.” (vision statement) So, in essence, they are committed to something that they can not actually define. My favorite though has got to be “Sole adherence to one’s perspective leads to tragic division” (Vision statement) I want to break that sentence down just a bit. Sole (being the only one) adherence (steady devotion, support, or, allegiance) to one’s perspective (the facts known to one) leads to tragic division. So what is being said here, by the definitions of the words, is that you can not actually follow what you know to be true, or there will be division. That makes pretty much most of the Christian faith impossible to actually define meaning that it can not be communicated or taught by anyone, let alone an entire denomination….but I digress. Finally though, as the called General Conference approaches, it has all come full circle though. Many people involved in the Uniting Methodist movement have rather vocally stated their displeasure of the perceived influence that the theological traditionalists have over the African Bishops. Now, I don’t want to ignore the reality that they seem to think that the Bishops can not think for themselves, it is an ugly thing, they have decided that they now want to be make an attempt to be the influence. The call has gone out from the Uniting Methodists. “Friends: As we live into our vision of Uniting Methodists sharing a vision of unity with deep respect for diversity and contextual ministries, we are seeking to strengthen our engagement with leaders across the Central Conferences, especially Africa. If you have had direct involvement and formed a relationship with one or more of our UMC bishops in any of the annual conferences in Africa, would you please immediately contact us? We have an opportunity to share in conversation and we’d be grateful for your assistance. Please send an email as quickly as possible to email@example.com with the following the subject line:
I Know One of the Africa UMC Bishops
Please provide a very short summary of your engagement and involvement, indicate if you believe the bishop will be amenable to hearing affirmation of the Uniting Methodists vision, and please note your cell phone number as well as email address. We need to hear from you IMMEDIATELY. Thanks, The Uniting Methodists Steering Team”(https://mailchi.mp/334d30b155bf/contact-with-africa-umc-bishops) For a group that goes to great lengths to say how different they are, they are certainly acting like, and engaging in, many of the activities that the condemn in other groups. I guess when you are not actually bound to any particular beliefs that type of cognitive dissonance is easier perhaps. I think what troubles me most is that I personally have had interactions with several people in this group, whom I like and respect, that can not see what is right in front of them for whatever reason. I am not likely to ever agree with the positions of the Uniting Methodists. They seem to flirt with, if not cross over, the line of antinomianism, and I have little use for that, and neither did Wesley or the early American Methodists, but I could, at the very least, respect them if they would admit who and what the are instead of trying to hide it behind nebulous language and statements full of words, but devoid of real meaning. It honestly reminds me of something similar to Orwellian double speak where meaning is often difficult, if not impossible to discern, and everything said means something different than the sum of the words used to say it.
Make no mistake, the Uniting Methodists are exactly that which they have claimed to not be. They are a group of people trying to advance their vision of the church that is not open to those who disagree, just like any other group. They seek to use the political process to do this. They engage in the same type of activities as any other caucus group. The only real difference is that the other groups at least admit it instead of trying so very hard to hide. The Uniting Methodist Movement has finally, with out a doubt, shown themselves to be exactly the opposite of their claim. They are just another combatant in a denominational tug-of-war, they just won’t be honest about it.