I am tired of using secular terminology to describe viewpoints in the Church. Yes, all terms are really open and have a fair use, but given the highly charged atmosphere in the United States, perhaps would could use terms not associated with the two political parties.
Progressive really isn’t. Progressive usually means moving forward but with the Progressives I’ve dealt with, they are moving left, into the secular realm, even into deism and agnosticism. Conservative means to conserve and yet many conservatives want to move us to congregationalism and away from traditional Wesleyan values. We aren’t really called to be either (although, to be honest, I’m sure I could make a better argument for traditional progressive Christianity than I could for conservative). Then you have all sorts of other labels people just don’t get. Liberal. Confessing. Evangelical/evangelical.
Our binary language of good/bad; conservative/liberal; etc… is not helpful when discussing something so vital. It doesn’t allow for those who may stand somewhere in middle. Of course, can draw the binary of flesh/spirit or freedom/matter, but the former is biblical and the latter is shown to not encompass all that there is given the former. So, forgive me if I am forced to, in this instance, use a binary to state my case.
I would like to propose some new terms. This terms will help in discerning our view on church government and orthodoxy, not on inclusion and exclusion. I do not like binaries, because the world is not binary. Yet, in observing the UMC as of late, there is developing a binary of sorts — based not on homosexuality and inclusion, but on the role and limit of church governance.
1.) Free Church — those who want to divorce themselves from a traditional view of orthodoxy, residing on something of a congregational or confederation basis with a “Jesus-only” attempt at Christian spirituality (either passively or aggressively). This has happened before:
By the mid-nineteenth century, Methodism was clearly evolving from a movement within the Church of England to a separate church. By the end of the century, partly under Hugh Price Hughes’s leadership, Methodism as a whole had become identified with the Free Churches. Official Methodist statements, such as The Nature of the Christian Church (1937), resisted any suggestion that the Methodist societies had broken away from the Church of England: they were never properly part of the Established Church. The Methodist Church was guilty of no schism, for it was ‘compelled’ to become a distinct religious community (pp. 25f.).
Further, they view “love” as “inclusion” and righteousness as “justice.” This alone is the bound of Christian orthodoxy. Activism is their mission.
2.) Creedal — essentially, those who want to maintain the connexion with each other through the Book of Discipline as something unbreakable (not unchangeable) as well as believe the connection to the tradition of the Church is not something to be lost. “Love” is defined through a traditional understanding of the atoning work of Christ, redeeming people from sin. Love, then, is not necessarily exclusion but redemption.
In the end, this is really what it comes down to: our view of church governance and orthodoxy. This is why you have many who argue for inclusion but likewise argue for the BoD and orthodoxy.