Rev. Chris Ritter has preemptly posted a response, somewhat, to the latest statement by Bishop Ough, the president of the Council of Bishops. Ritter still has his plans on the table — and so I’m going to take this moment to reshow mine, although I’m still working to update it.
I have a few issues with Bishop Ough’s statement released yesterday. I believe it does not do justice to what is actually happening in the UMC and in fact does more damage than good. Here are some quick thoughts I had yesterday.
First, the Wesleyan Covenant Association has yet to meet, but seems to the target of the Bishop’s ire as he has erroneously placed it next to official bodies of The United Methodist Church. It is irresponsible to suggest that this unconvened group is equal in blame to those ACs and the WJ who violate the BoD intentionally and with malice. Again, this group has not met and has gone further — insisting that the vows are upheld. It is hurtful and does nothing but deepen the fissure between those who will join the WCA, the COB, and the progressives. Where are the mentions of the myriad of progressive groups that openly insist people break their vows?
Dr Kevin Watson has written a piece on this very issue that you need to read.
Rather than allowing the commission to develop the way forward organically, what Bishop Ough’s statement presents is a guideline for what the Commission will do — and it seems to insist that the Commission will only recommend a progressive denomination. Since the very beginning of the “plan,” the plan has taken shape to force change rather than see what is working and how to make it work better. I am not a fan of social engineering.
I do not see in this document an honest appreciation of the views of those who hold to the current view in regards to human sexuality, or an assumption that there may be any outcome other than a progressive denomination.
While I commend him for attempting to find unity in the Trinity, this sentiment completely ignores those progressive leaders who openly detest Christian doctrine and Tradition as archaic and harmful, even suggesting the Trinity is mere interpretation, or poetry, or outdated assumptions of Empire. How can we find unity in the Triune God when so many deny the Trinity’s reality?
Bishop Ough’s statement, “will redefine our present connectionality” troubles me most, I think, because he seems to say in this line that he is willing to dispense with Wesleyan connexionalism in order to achieve unity — which is a deeply ironic statement. What is unity anyway? Is it found in redefining our connexion to fit those who don’t want to live in it? It would appear unity is for unity’s sake, regardless of where it is drawn from either in our Wesleyan Tradition or the Great Tradition.
In regards to the definition of the connexion, what is what with the one Wesley laid down? Indeed, this version grew the church, and in fact shaped this country in many progressive ways. And unity? I want unity, but unity has at its heart commonality and with commonality, there is accountability. The problem is, we have unity, but we lack enforcement.
There are a several ways to achieve unity, either as an ecumenical gathering or in sectarian mission; however, the unity proposed by Bishop Ough is not the unity that is healthy for a people. And I think both sides, largely so, are seeing that.
I am happy to see the hard dates for the selection of commission members. I am happy to see that there is now an effort to move this on faster.
Friends, I’ll see you Chicago for the first meeting of the Wesleyan Covenant Association.