No Schism — But (con-federated) forward

Response to Dr. Ritter’s Response to my original posting. I’ve kept this for various reasons. 

Dr. Ritter is the first up with a response, linked to above. I want to briefly respond.

He writes,

I have never met Joel Watts, but I like him.

That in itself is enough, because many who have don’t! But, seriously, I think Ritter has the same love of the UMC and the Gospel as I hope he sees in me. Now, on to serious matters.

  • He sees this as the Local Option. I am against the Local Option, finding it, well, congregational. As much as a plan that depends on a a congregation as this one, it still binds them together within the UMC and without the UMC. So yes, they are doubly yoked under a denomination as any current federated congregation is — and no federated congregation is considered a local option. I would rather see it as a jurisdictional solution, without the legislation and without the AC votes. I guess, we could call it the Local Jurisdictional Option, but I will stick with “federated.”
  • Under Ritter’s plan, the AC would vote to choose the jurisdiction. Then, a second vote is possible. If a local church is “out of harmony” with the AC, they could then vote to go with the other jurisdiction. Under the federated plan, the only vote required is if the Charge Conference wants to federate. It is not required. No voting is required. No changing is required. The only time a vote is require is if the Charge Conference wants it.
  • Now, his second point is a bit more on target and I have already recognized that in my plan above. He writes, in part, “there also has to be another local church of that denomination for which the UM congregation to federate.” He is technically correct. Here is the thing. As I suggested, we need a spirit of Grace. Yes, as I said and as he noted, we could go start independent denominations, but if we are to afford each other some courtesy, we could forgo much of that. Note, I also suggested that, to skip the required votes for lifting the trust clause, we also forgo transferring property. I point back to Broadway UMC in Chicago for an example of this.
  • Let me also point out that while the BoD has a property transfer process for federated congregations, it does not require it.

This is the process I envision:

  • An actual denomination is established within US laws. Surprisingly, this is simple, at least from the legal standpoint. Yes, there are some hurdles, but this is not as a stretch as one would imagine.
  • Bishops agree, with a resolution from the Council of Bishops, to allow congregations who wish to federate with the new denomination to do so, within certain guidelines. Such as, a vote by the Charge Council and the local congregation, no transfer of property, and several restrictions on the new denomination. Remember, the Book of Disciplines allows for transfer and federation with evangelical denominations. Thus, the new denomination has to be evangelical (whatever that may actually mean). The resolution could then clear up the process I noted above, the same one Ritter spotted as a problem.

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13 Replies to “No Schism — But (con-federated) forward”

  1. While some Methodist Churches serve two masters (i.e. federated), others are houses divided holding separate (e.g. conservative and liberal) worship services in different locations under the same roof. Still others are served by ministers from a different tradition (e.g. Baptist trained, Methodist called). Somehow, I really don’t think this is what John Wesley had in mind when he got this snowball rolling.

      1. And Luther didn’t intend to split from Catholicism. However, once these snowballs get rolling, the tend to create their own inertia.

  2. So I suppose I wonder why another denomination would need to be invented at all. Why not just allow those who want to to affiliate with other churches in federations? That seems simpler.

    And I wonder how you calculate that the impact of essentially halving contributions to apportioned giving by those congregations that choose federation at this point would not adversely affect the worldwide mission of The United Methodist Church.

    I imagine you have answers for both– but these questions kind of leapt out at me.

    Peace in Christ,

    Taylor Burton-Edwards

    1. Taylor, I’m not sure your first question. Do you mean, why not just allow people to federate with, say, UCC or PCUSA? If so, I would answer it this way. 1.) Not sure their rules. 2.) It could sever the Wesleyan connection 3.) It may require the transfer of property.

      As far as the apportionment issue? That is a question – which is why the new denom is almost essential. Because it allows a covenant of sorts to be set. One such part may be to cut apportionment by 25%, rather than 50%.

      I would say that question 2 can be solved best ONLY if there is a new denom.

      1. dollars to donuts the denomination would be $ ahead to just continue to scold congregations (and change appointments) for churches who do not pay apportionments in full. Federating would just lock in the $ losses.

    2. Also, by affiliating with a paper denomination, it leaves open the door for reconciliation with the full denomination at some point down the road should that be chosen. The paper denomination could agree to pay a full apportionment (I would be shocked if they did) and then use the rest as a local church for mission etc. while having the denominational leadership such as it is work on a volunteer basis. Much more flexible this way.

  3. Our congregation proposed this in 1996 to our Bishop, who summarily said NO and asked our pastor for her credentials because she would not promise to discontinue performing weddings for our GLB members. She transferred her credentials to the UCC, as have many other gifted UM clergy in our Oklahoma conference. That was 19 years ago, so it might meet with a different perspective, but I’m skeptical.

  4. “so that one group may minister towards justice while another ministers towards righteousness, as both groups define it. ”

    A view from the pew: Problem is these two concepts should not be separated, they are the individual and social aspects of Christianity as envisioned by Wesley. To be effective, justice must be sought by individuals pursuing righteousness. Wesley was the proof of this statement by C.S. Lewis:

    “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were those who thought most of the next. The apostles themselves who set out on foot to convert the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Aged, the English evangelicals who abolished the slave trade, all left their mark on earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven [the pursuit of righteousness]. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become ineffective in this one. Aim at heaven [pursue righteousness] and you will get earth ‘Thrown in.’ Aim at earth and you will get neither.”

    John Wesley pursued righteousness in his own life and that led him to unexpected places where he enabled others to pursue righteousness in their own lives; the church, England and America were “Thrown in.”

    Wesley’s primary focus was not social justice issues but connecting individuals to the triune God of holy love and then enabling them to live transformed lives centered in God 24/7 regardless of their circumstances. What he set in motion was so effective, that within his lifetime the economic status of Methodists had improved so much, they became spiritually complacent which resulted in Wesley accurately predicting that Methodism would not cease to exist but become the form of religion without the power!

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