This is the way the church ends, not with a bang but a whimper

13254468_10209706104757556_5568848561874307641_nPardon the title, I like the poem Hollow Men, and this seemed a fitting time to use it. The church isn’t ending of course, the church will always prevail. The UMC has though, at least in any form that we would recognize. What has been done can not be undone. Not in any real sense. There will be Judicial Council rulings and such of course. However they go is pretty much irrelevant at this point. Some may see it as a bang, but it is really just the dying whimper of a dream that could not be. The dream of the big tent has became the nightmare of speculative latitudinarianism. Instead of investing ourselves in the rich history of Wesleyan theology and all those things that influenced it, we instead invested in the theology of ad campaigns and slogans leaving us little more than straw men burned to commemorate what might have been. We were offered and accepted the ever flowing water of eternal life and then turned our souls as dry as the Sahara desert in response. We have rejected the authority of Christ that He established through the church and instead determined that we would be our own authority. We started by putting God in a box and then eventually threw the box out in favor of our own thoughts and opinions. We reduced discernment to a solitary activity instead of a corporate experience.

We have lied to ourselves. We have said that we have differences of opinions when have differences in the nature of Christ. We have said that everything is a matter for our interpretation, when what we mean is that we want to be our own authority. We have screamed about rights, but not about what is right. We artificially separated right belief and right action so that they exist contrary to one another instead of in conjunction with one another. We have made Jesus the center of faith, but lost who He is. We say Jesus is Lord, but we mean that we are. We have rejected the God who is in favor of the God we want. We are a renewal movement that can not be renewed and a revival movement that can not be revived. We have embraced nearly all that Wesley began the Methodist societies to reform. We have become the monster we were created to destroy.

In our obsession with all that is modern, we have embraced everything that Wesley stood against. What he called ““the spawn of hell, not the offspring of heaven” we have made our rallying cry. Where Fletcher said ” “It appears, if I am not mistaken, that we stand now as much in need of a reformation from antinomianism as our ancestors did of a reformation from popery. People, it seems, may now be ‘in Christ’ without being new creatures, and new creatures without casting old things away. They may be God’s children without God’s image.” we have said that these things are instead valid expressions of faith.

I say we in all these things because, realize it or not, like it or not, we are based in a connection system. Yes, what is done thousands of miles away affects me. It affects us all. It is Paul’s use of the body as a metaphor played out in the structure of our church. The Western Jurisdiction can not say because I am west, I am not a part of the body. Just like in Paul’s analogy, each part of the body has a purpose, yet those purposes are not the same. The West (or east, or any number of BoOMs or ACs) can not decide that because they do not like what the General Conference has decided that it can do as it pleases. In any other body when the parts do not work in conjunction we call it an illness. In the UMC we have made it a virtue. We have done this because we forgot we are one body and instead decided we are several parts. We have taken the connection designed to do the Lord’s work and instead allowed such division and strife that it has become the devil’s playground. While I am thankful to all of those who have remained faithful and loyal, appreciate their efforts, and value their leadership, if we are connected as we say, then we all have done this. This connection, this one body that we are all supposed to be a part of, we never fully realized, and now it can not be. Not in the way we are now. Not in the UMC as it is now. The church catholic will survive. It always has and always will. The church that we love though will not be the same.

This is the way our church ends
This is the way our church ends
This is the way our church ends
Not with a bang but a whimper

 

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13 Replies to “This is the way the church ends, not with a bang but a whimper”

  1. The red in the image looks like blood to me. The flame is gone and we are back to the blood of Christ she’d for us? Well, that is where we started. It’s a good place to start from again. I think the discussion is good. Let’s just do it with an understanding that we are all (all) saved by the blood of Christmas. May God bless us all with His peace and understanding.

    1. And so now we have it: we are saved by being straight or, at least, not being gay. There is a new “gospel” in the land: salvation by right sexual orientation. The work of Christ is sufficient in all things, with the lone exception of human sexuality. If someone is gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, their salvation depends upon becoming straight. It’s a salvation based upon the WORKS of the Law (Leviticus 18 and 20), and not the saving work of Christ Jesus.

  2. “This is the way our church ends”!

    Man, doom and gloom. I do not see it. One gay bishop is elected, and the church ends? Is the UMC so feeble, that it can’t handle the situation? As I remember, the Catholic Church had a female Pope, that got pregnant. Maybe I got it wrong, but “suck it up, live with it”. The world is not ending.

    One little gay bishop ends the church? I would laugh, if it wasn’t so ridiculous.

    1. Gary, is you think that this is about one gay Bishop being elected, then you have missed the point. I know that the polity of the church is not of great concern to you. (That is not a slight at all incidentally.)It is not that one gay Bishop was elected, it is what the ripples of that stone in the pond cause because of our polity and the covenant that holds the UMC together, or in this case, the lack of covenant that is destroying it. It is about this being the proverbial straw that stresses our differences to the point where there is no coming back. This is the point of no return so to speak.

      1. Perhaps so. Not knowing anything about this new bishop, I googled her and her church, Glide in a bad section of San Francisco. Seems to do a lot for the local community. First thing I thought of – “Man, what a tough crowd to minister to”! Realizing that certain areas are predominately gay, I think I can accept gays ministering to gays, regardless of the doctrine existing in the church. Now bishop – I don’t know what tasks that entails. Maybe there needs to be a secondary position established – maybe “missionary bishop”, as in – gays ministering to gays, lepers ministering to lepers (not slighting gays, just using OT terminology), hookers ministering to hookers (ok, maybe too much of a stretch). Whatever – also, I don’t think bishop ought to be a lifetime appointment.

        But, I wonder if anyone would have the courage to go into the glide church, and preach the conservative side of doctrine with such vocal energy? Angels might have the courage, but Abraham didn’t – assuming Sodom had anything to do with gay marriage, which it didn’t.

        How many willing to volunteer to go to the San Francisco church, and preach against this new bishop’s lifestyle, her covenant breaking, and against gay marriage? Not me! As an aside, it sounds like there are a lot that attend the church (that’s a lot, not Lot) 🙂
        Don’t know if that is true.

      2. Oh – just as a point of reference… Our pastor mentioned the election of a gay bishop in service today.

        Two points noticed:

        1. No oh’s or ah’s from the congregation. Actually, not even people turning and commenting to each other. I actually thought everyone was asleep.

        2. Supposedly the pastor will hold a discussion time about it sometime in August. I might just attend, to get a feel for people’s opinions. But coffee and donuts after the service seemed to stir up more excitement than the announcement.

  3. It just makes me angry. In world that people are killing people because they hate our freedoms as Americans and faith-bearers. When people use guns to extinguish anyone who differs from our belief system, and when a misogynistic, bigoted, arrogant, money hungry, hedonist is loved by Evangelical Christians, and he chooses a running mate who wants to own women’s bodies and keep children from having the best education, harping and hating people who have partners of their same gender seems to not even get a blip on the radar of God’s redeeming love and grace monitor. Concern yourself about the hate in the world and learn love and respect and understanding. You are a sick person if all the rest is less important and your focus is on how and who people are who love. Jesus told us to love, Wesley just gave us a way to forgive with grace through Christmas Jesus.

  4. Christ Jesus…not Christmas Jesus…spell correction doesn’t comprehend Jesus, like the writer of the article.

    1. I thought of many ways to respond to your mini rant from the mean spirited to the gracious. Having examined them all, I have decided that this is the most appropriate…..HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

  5. Thank you Scott for sharing your thoughts and pain. I sense that the Western Conference may have caused the UMC to “jump the shark” as they say.

    At General Conference the Bishops called for a “truce” of sorts. Conservatives appeared to have the votes to pass the legislation they wanted…but because they did not want to loose their more liberal brothers & sisters they agreed to the “truce” in order to give the Council of Bishops space to lead. However, BoOMs, various ACs, & the Western Jurisdiction have seemed to have no desire for the truce for which their delegates wanted.

  6. Scott, in many ways I agree with your article. I think we HAVE lost touch with Wesley. I know that when I quote from his sermons, it seems to fall on deaf ears. People are more concerned with protecting their position than they are in working toward a solution.
    As Wesley wrote in sermon 75:
    “But it is observable, that exceeding little good has been done by all these controversies. Very few of the warmest and ablest disputants have been able to convince their opponents. After all that could be said, the Papists are Papists, and the Protestants are Protestants still. And the same success has attended those who have so vehemently disputed about separation from the Church of England. ”

    I believe that our slide away from Wesleyan righteousness started at the General Conference of 1924. That’s the first time, that I can find, that the Methodist Church re-interpreted the Bible away from Christ’s words. And, I believe that trend has continued in every, or nearly every, General Conference since that time.

    So what is to be done? Do we rewind to the BoD of 1920? (That might actually be a pretty good choice). Or do we soldier on with the path we are on?

    If people pick up and join another denomination, or even start their own, the same issues are going to be there and they’ll rise again. Just look at the difficulty the Wesleyan Covenant Association has had getting their Faith Statement off the ground.
    If we keep working the direction we’re going, and all of us commit to prayerful, respectful actions, there is a chance we will emerge from the wilderness. But it won’t happen without prayer, hard work, and help from God.

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