NOTE: I made a mistake in the body of this. I combined a sitting Bishop and the statements made from the General Conference and a newly elected Bishop who shares those views into one person. I am sorry for that mistake. This is what you get for writing without sufficient coffee. Rather than rewriting the piece, I will make that note here.
After a little over a year of discernment, Mary and I have decided that it is best for our family if we leave the UMC. I mention the time frame because I want anyone who is bothering to read this to understand that is was not a snap decision, nor a decision based on one singular event. In short, this is not a reactionary move, it is a thought out and prayed over move. I am going to go over a few of the reasons here so that anyone who cares knows why, but also as my final attempt to demonstrate what I have often said about how the situation in the UMC affects the laity who happen to think as I and my family do.
The first reason is mine alone and it has to do with online interactions. Now let’s be honest about a couple of things from the start. Pretty much all of us have made a comment online that we regret. Pretty much all of us have gotten heated and spoken out of turn. While not a good thing, it is a very human thing. I am not talking about those times when a person gets heated in a passionate debate. I am talking about consistent combative behavior that is rude, uncalled for, and quite honestly mean spirited. I am also talking about pastors in the UMC. When I went and looked through my block list, which is not terribly extensive mind you, what I found were pastors. All of them, save one. When I started looking back at those who had treated me the worst I found pastors were the vast majority. Now I want to be clear here as well, I have been treated kindly by many pastors as well, in truth by the majority that I have interacted with, but the minority is sizable enough that I really want no part of it. It is a poor reflection of the state of the church when one can not enter into a Methodist conversation without the expectation of being called names by a Methodist pastor. It is a poor reflection of the state of the church when one can not enter into a Methodist conversation without the expectation of being told by a pastor to go to the SBC, not because that would be a better theological fit for you mind you, but because they find it to be a hate filled and bigoted organization and you belong there. It is a poor reflection when you are told that the hope is that no one who holds your theological views stays in the church…especially when your theological views are in line with the church. Pastors telling you to go because you agree with the church. The amount of dysfunction that exists in that is staggering. How long before that ends up spilling over to Mary or to the boy? I won’t wait for that.
The second reason has to do with our family. The UMC can not decide what it believes. I understand that there is one voice, the General Conference. I understand that voice has spoken. I understand that voice has been killed by the cancer of hyper individualism that says what I believe is the primary concern and to hell with what the church teaches. I am tired of ridiculous taglines and mottos. It’s time, just because it is the majority does not make it right (for the record, just because it is the minority does not make it right either), love wins, unity does not mean uniformity, etc. They serve no purpose. For the love of all that is holy, we are supposed to be a church with a deep theological tradition, not some political rally where the only things of substance can fit on a piece of poster board as a protest sign. For that matter, I am tired of the protests. I am not categorically opposed to change. I am not opposed to protest as a vehicle for change in civil society, in fact I embrace and welcome it. We are not civil society but we sure look like it. At various times our General Conference looked more like a protest in town square than a meeting of the church to determine it’s future. It’s a sign of rot that the best we can do is look like the rest of the world. I refuse to try and raise a family in that sort of environment within the church.
The third reason has to do with the lies. There are lots of them. A bishop was just elected who, from the pulpit while preaching at the General Conference, under what was claimed to be the guidance of the Holy Spirit, told a bold faced lie about church teaching. Bishops are elected for the whole church. That means this is my bishop. That means that one (and if truth be told more than one as several have made the same claims) of my Bishops has claimed the Holy Spirit has told them to lie. I refuse to believe that the Holy Spirit will ever call on a person to slander the Bride of Christ with lies. I also refuse to be a part of a denomination that not only allows it, but in many places celebrates it as prophetic and holy. If you happened to be an outsider from a different denomination, and I told you that the Holy Spirit had instructed several of the UMC Bishops to lie and slander the Bride of Christ, I doubt that you would believe it. In fact, I hope that you would (gently or not) set me straight on how absolutely ludicrous that claim is. When one is charged with defending the doctrine of the church and chooses to lie about the doctrine of the church to do so, it is not only a poor reflection of the church, it is not only slandering the Bride of Christ, it is a sign of an internal rot that will only spread unless cut away. There is no indication that we will do that and in fact, we have allowed it to continue.
The final reason is the theology. We don’t have one. Not really. The guardians of our doctrine don’t even believe it, so how can we? We don’t agree on what scripture even is half of the time. We allow pastors to deny the historic truth and understanding of the Trinity, we allow pastors to reject Articles of Religion, we allow pastors to preach contrary to our standards of faith and we do it all in the name of theological diversity. We have degraded ourselves to the point that we now need reform. How Wesley would be pained if he knew that his reform movement was now that in need of reform. We need to be about fulfilling the great commission. We can not do that. How can we teach what Christ has taught when there is constant and vitriolic disagreement over just what that is and just what that means? How can I, in good conscience, be a part of the church where that is the case?
There you have it. There are more reasons of course, some of them personal, some of them larger than that. We will not leave the church catholic, but we will leave the UMC. Most likely we will not leave the Wesleyan tradition as I still believe it is the best expression of Christianity that there is. I just don’t think that the UMC can continue in that tradition with what we have allowed for. Individuals in certainly can, as can churches within it, but the denomination can not. The connection is not broken. What is broken can be fixed, the connection is demolished. It has been a slow destruction, but it has finally happened. We have not reached a tipping point, we have passed it. At best we are grasping for branches on our way down the cliff face. It pains me that this is the last time I will get to use “we” in a posting, as one of the great comforts of my life has been the ability to do that in reference to the UMC. The connection let me do that. Since the connection is destroyed, there is no more we. I don’t expect much in the way of comment, there really is not much to comment on. I hope that in reading this, you do reflect and realize what it is doing to others however. While I am pained that I can no longer be apart of the solution, I do pray that you all find one that is faithful to the scripture. We will still be brothers and sisters in Christ, we just won’t live in the same house any longer. That seems to be the best thing. Peace.