Joel has put up an excellent piece on this that I encourage you to read. It can be found here. The press release about the “just resolution” (it is neither just nor a resolution) can be found here. I have chosen to use the RMN version of the release so as to hopefully avoid the appearance of only referencing those sources which are more conservative in nature.
A church trial was avoided and that would be a good thing if there issues at hand had been resolved. They unfortunately were not. At the end of this ruling absolutely nothing is any different. Not one thing. A resolution of any sort results in a change, and a just resolution results in change that includes justice. This does neither. It does affirm the Bishops a whole lot which is nice…if you are a bishop I suppose. I am not. The people hurt the worst by this are not either. We are humble participants in the thing we call church desperately trying to find our way forward with leadership that only seems to be able to turn left or right. We have been entrusted with this living breathing and vital thing called The United Methodist Church and have come before the earthly powers that be, Bishops etc., holding this fragile, yet full of potential life in our hands, begging you to decide who it belongs to. We are full of desperation for a just resolution. We need a wise decision. You have instead given us division. You have instead taken this fragile, yet full of potential church, and split it in two. At least you are trying to.
In this non-resolution, those who brought the complaint said we are sorry if anyone was hurt, but we are right and would do it again. The one whom the complaint was brought against said I am sorry if you were hurt, but I was right and would do it again. This is not resolution. It is, at best, a delaying kick the can down the street type of tactic, and at worst, a thinly veiled attempt to give bread and the circus to the masses in the hopes they ignore the reality that nothing has changed. I hope that this time they have underestimated the masses. So the question remains, what is the just resolution? What is the wise choice? I propose that it is not only biblical, but extreme (and quite probably impossible to carry out as we are more a political bureaucracy these days than a church).
1 Kings 3:16-28 tells us a story of two prostitutes who have a dispute over a child that has been brought before the king for a judgement. One has killed her child by rolling over upon it in the night suffocating it (sort of like a bureaucracy run wild suffocates the people it proposes to govern), and the other has a living child. The question is which woman is which. They both present their story to the king (note the story is exactly the same save told from opposite sides, sort of like two extreme groups in the church screaming the same things at each other). The wise king makes his decision and orders the child equitably split so that both sides can have what is “theirs”. One woman realizes that the unity of that fragile life is of paramount importance and gives up her claim on the child, in essence trusting God’s claim on it instead. She says, no, I will give up the child so that it may live. The king, recognizing her as the mother, the one most concerned with the nurturing and protection of the baby, and gives her the child. OK, so what you ask?
What is the wise ruling? Give the church to those who are not screaming for it to be cut in half. It is not a secret who are the more activist bishops, pastors, caucuses, etc in the UMC. Many of us know their names. Get rid of them. They call for the child to be cut in two. They scream if I can not have this living, breathing vibrant church, then no one can. Be wise and recognize that for what it is. I know that this is not terribly likely to happen. I know that our bureaucracy is so large and that there are halls of power in the church that will prevent such a thing. Yet still I can not shake the feeling that it is this or we are cut in two. This not just non-resolution is little more than a sword hovering over the church. It sits perched waiting to slice us in half. It is up to us to be deeply moved, out of love for the church, to say enough. To give up our selfish desires and pride for the sake of His church.
I have been asked what my hope in all of this is. It remains the same, and in fact only, Hope that I have ever had. My Hope is that the only Wise King will see this and recognize that His church needs to be entrusted to those who would keep in whole and not those who would cut it in two for selfish gain and desire. My hope is that His wisdom will run through us all and that the mission that Christ has entrusted the UMC with remains whole and not split in two. My hope is that the Holy Spirit moves through all those consumed with selfish desire and concerns of power and breathes a new and wise life into them so that we may remain on this journey together. Who are we going to be? Are we going to scream for splitting the living and breathing church in two or are we to act as good caretakers and give up our selfish desires for the sake of a single living body over two dead halves? I pray we make a wise choice.