Methodism at The Crossroads

In mythology, the crossroads has some interesting meanings and imagery, but my favorite imagery of the crossroads comes from 20th century blue songs. See, in these songs, the crossroads are where you go to make a deal with the devil. If you are unfamiliar, I humbly suggest “Sold it to the Devil” by Black Spider Dumpling (or John D. Twitty) as a good example of the genre. So here you are UMC, at the crossroads. The Council of Bishops has decided that there is a deal to be made, that is little more than a rehash of the local option that has failed, in somewhat spectacular fashion, for several years. You will spend millions of dollars to discuss (again) a deal of sorts, that will “contextualize” human sexuality and sexual ethics in some way shape or form. Other legislation will likely be introduced that will hold to the historic and traditional understanding of the matter. Things will come to an end, one way or the other as the church can not continue on the path that it is going. The pressure will be to adopt an option that allows for disagreement on sexuality and allows for the denomination to declare, simultaneously, that some actions are both a sin and not a sin. That is the basic situation. The details about how the plans work and such are not the point of this, and largely are an administrative function, so I won’t attempt to go into them here.
I want to be clear before I go forward about a couple of things. I am not engaging in an attempt at hyperbole with the things I am about to say. This is not an attempt at exaggeration or fear mongering. This is not a statement from, or about, any particular caucus group, etc. This is how I see the situation. At best it is a warning and a plea to the church that I love, and at worst it is the ranting of a middle aged man. Take it as you will.
In songs and stories, you have to deliberately go to the crossroads to summon up the Devil. The UMC has done just that. Even before the 1972 language, there was an effort to allow for sex between two of the same gender. Rev. Gene Leggett was an openly gay pastor in Texas who was defrocked for immorality and after went on to become an activist. So, even before the language was added in 1972, this was seen as immoral, and was enforced, at least to some degree. No, the church did not change it’s belief in 1972, it stated them so that there was no question. The activism to allow this also started before the language was added, so do not allow yourself to be deluded that this occurred because of some language. Since that point, there has been an organized and concerted effort to skirt the rules and to continue to allow for such behaviors. such is the journey to the crossroads. There are those who delight in using the ‘just resolution’ process to skirt the will of the church. This is neither just, nor is it a resolution, it is another step toward the crossroads. The justice of the church is to reflect the justice of God, that is to say it should bring us back into proper relationship, or, in situations of unwillingness to be in right relationship, to leave peacefully and seek our path elsewhere. Anything other than this is not just or a resolution, but steps to the crossroads. After forty years or so of wandering through the wilderness of sexual morality, we have reached the inevitable destination. Some would have you believe that the promised land is some sort of contextualized situation where churches can decide what they believe is holy living or not, but the truth is that this is no promised land, but the crossroads. This is no solution that is pleasing to God, bu rather a deal with the devil.  (As an amusing coincidence, the word count of this blog was 666 after I typed ‘devil’. Go figure)
Here is the problem with any type of option that exists for the denomination to contextualize sexual morality. Truth is one of the essential attributes of God. Truth is a reflection of the nature of God. If truth can be contextualized, the God Himself can be. If truth can change based upon which UMC church you walk into, the God changes based upon which UMC that you walk into. Such things turn God into a changing puppet of our whims instead of the unchanging author of creation. This is not about the question of contextualizing sexuality, it is a question about the very nature of God. This question has progressed in a very real way. First, it was a question of interpretation, then it became a question of authority, and finally we have come to the end and question the very nature of God Himself. The God who is, was, and, will always be, the author of creation and truth, is simply not the same as a god of human conjuration whose “truth” is subject to the will of those who “follow” him. This is not about a compromise that allows for people to practice the same faith in different ways, it is a compromise that turns away from the one true God, and turns instead to human “wisdom” and “understanding”. Compromising faith is not the virtue of a Christian, it is a vice from the pit of hell. A Christian should not, in good conscience, say that sin is allowable in their fellowship. When it occurs, it should be corrected and we all continue on. If the sinner is recalcitrant and refuses to amend their ways, then yes, they should be removed from our society. Should they amend their ways, then yes, they should be welcomed back in. How many scriptural allusions do we need? Double minded men are unstable in their ways? Luke warm and vomited out? There are many. UMC, you are at the crossroads, but there is still time. Don’t make the deal with the devil to save the institution, remain faithful so as to save the church. They are two different things after all.

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5 Replies to “Methodism at The Crossroads”

  1. I can respect the side which demands one way or the other. I disagree with one side, of course, but I can respect standing for what you believe to be true.

    The compromise being put forth by the COB is nothing short of evil. Yes, I said it. There is no honoring God here – just compromising everything to appease as many as you can. Totally the opposite of what God has demanded of his children since the beginning. And anything that is that far from God must be termed evil.

    At least, that’s how I see it.

    1. I hear you. Which ever side is right is not relevant to this idea really. One is and one is not, and I believe that God, in His infinite mercy, will forgive our ignorance. What God will not do is forgive our unbelief, and compromising convictions amounts to disbelief so far as I can tell.

    2. After selling his soul to the devil, Robert Johnson had a fantastic career. In just two years he recorded 29 songs. He was 27 years old, thought he had everything to live for then he was taken from this earth. I pray the UMC is not going to a short term glory followed by an early death.

  2. You hit that proverbial nail right on its head with a resounding smack! I grew up in The Methodist/United Methodist Church with an understanding that it was a unique branch of the holy catholic/universal Church with a set of unique beliefs. Such is not the case; among all the labels by which everybody identifies themselves, there is no single, clear cut United Methodist identity.

    I agree with your assessment that the problem is not who is “right” or who is “wrong” but that the theological plurality has been allowed to run rampant for so long, different factions have emerged with strongly held competing/conflicting beliefs. The end result is that the church has absolutely nothing in particular to say. And for too long, Bishops have believed that their main job is to keep all the theological balls in play. All this theological plurality/free thinking does not reflect a Wesleyan understanding of a single faith tradition that is part of the Church universal, and it certainly does not reflect a Wesleyan understanding of the person who is truly of the catholic spirit that believes and let believes.

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