On the Imminent Separation of The “United” Methodist Church

Qualifier

From several sources and outlets have I been asked my opinion concerning the UMC and the present plan of separation. It should be noted that, in the UMC the General Conference (the governing body of the global UMC; consisting of clergy and laity alike) votes on such matters, and certainly other plans of separation will be considered this year along with the most advertised plan (on which I will be commenting in short). With that said, it would appear as though separation is imminent, one way or another.


I, personally, play no role in General Conference directly. My opinion on the matter is as a United Methodist, a United Methodist pastor, a trained theologian, and an acute social observer and commentator. On this basis is my opinion sought and, in return, offered.

Three Observations

First: I am thankful that, unlike the UMC, which is a Democracy in its governance, the United States is a Democratic Republic.
Last year (2019) a special session of General Conference was called and a vote was taken concerning the ordination of “openly practicing homosexuals” in the UMC. The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church states that such a lifestyle is incompatible with biblical teaching. However, this interpretation of the scriptures was being challenged, and some were living contrary to “The Book of Law of The UMC.” The votes were tallied and the majority (53%) desired to keep the historical view of The Discipline and the UMC.

Democracy simply ensures the will of the majority over the minority. In this sense, the minority, which questions the historic interpretations as antiquated, are discounted and their values further marginalized. Incidentally, a Republic assures not just that the people have a vote, but that every person’s voice matters (the reason for the Electoral College), and not just a simple majority.

Secondly: The minority (47%) in the vote last year did not accept the outcome of the democratic vote, and have spent the past year contesting – via protests, the withholding of Apportionments (the monies paid into the global and local UMC), and various other activities, etc. all in the Hope’s of nothing short of a redo – a new vote on the matter. I suppose that the aim would be to continue to vote until the desired outcome is reached.

I question the logic of this point of view. Shall we agitate and aggravate the matter until the majority somehow, someway decides to acquiesce? Do we ignore the vote and, therefore, the Discipline, making ourselves illogical for lack of first principle? In other words, how are we United Methodists if we do not submit ourselves to The Book of UM Law? We’d rather force our values onto others.


And finally: There is a sense amongst some leaders (and possibly others) that this subject is a distraction from the mission of the church. My response is, What?! If we are really concerned with God’s worldview, then how, exactly, are we distracted? I have not sensed a distraction from the mission at all. Perhaps we’re asking the wrong question. Maybe the mission itself is the real question that is not being asked or answered. Who is the church? And what is its purpose?

A Worldview

So, as for myself; I have no desire to question anyone’s sense of calling, regardless of lifestyle or orientation. Simply, I do not accept the notion that I am some sort of moral/ethical police. In fact, I know of no such purpose for the church in any sense or fashion. Certainly the church (in general) and individuals within it (specifically) have taken upon itself/themselves this type of role, but I firmly disagree. I understand all humanity to be the church (“In Adam all have died; in Christ all are made alive” – Romans and the Corinthian Correspondence). And if all humanity, then culturally diverse and different (which, by the way, doesn’t simply mean different skin tones, but also differing lifestyles).

I am of the simple opinion of Freedom – We are free to find our way in life with God’s grace. And it is in the context of community in which we live out this freedom. We are certainly “free” to live in isolation, but logic then questions the notion of freedom. Likewise, if everyone in our community thinks, acts, walks, talks, and smells the same, then where exactly is this freedom? And to what, or from what are we exercising this freedom, logically speaking? No, we are free to trust God to take us to where we are supposed to be. And the church should be a place to live out this freedom.

If General Conference votes to adopt the plan of separation in question – that a “Traditional Methodist Church” is created, while the UMC changes the Discipline to accept the ordination of homosexuals – I cannot, in good conscience with my understanding of God’s worldview, join with the new denomination. I would not stay within the UMC because I agree with their tactics, but because I agree with their assumed notion of freedom.

However, if such an assumption is not realized in the UMC, but a majority lording over a minority (once again), then I would be forced to revisit my decision to stay. Yet, I still could not join the new “Traditional” denomination because, by definition, freedom is in question.

Final Thoughts on the Matter

Finally, I must comment on the fact that, after struggling with this topic for years, the UMC finds no other option but a separation to answer the question. This is both disappointing and disheartening. The notion that two denominations are somehow “United” is illogical. Certainly the two can respect one another and work with each other, but please don’t insult the intelligence of the people. Perhaps, while we are renaming and rebranding things, we should use a term a friend has coined years ago – The “Untied” Methodist Church.

If voted into reality, this separation will cause each Annual Conference of the UMC (In America, usually divided by state) to vote on which denomination it belongs; as well as each local church must vote to determine its affiliation. Then, churches will have to be aligned with pastors of the same affiliation.
Other Methodist denominations could be formed out of this plan, too!

Obviously we are “untied.”

Encased In Concrete

It is time, once again, to be reminded of elementary principles.

Reap The Vision

I credit the church for recognizing that things are changing. I question the church in its answers to address the change. The church has realized that, though it was, at one time, walking along beautifully with God, God turned a corner somewhere (a paradigm shift) and the church was immobile; encased in concrete. We were so entrenched in our church system that we were unable to move and unprepared for God’s move. The church’s response has been an attempt to restructure and reorganize the system (“in the name of God”). But remanufacturing will never remobilize us. It will serve only to reproduce immobile idols; disciples of the system. To escape the tomb, we must (again) experience the Resurrection. To move with God we must (again) be the resurrected Body of Christ. To shift with this paradigm we must think differently.

The Cross and Resurrection Event

The church is not to…

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Counterfeit Faith

Bringing this back around… Be warned! This one cuts deeply!

Reap The Vision

Faith and religion are not synonymous. Nor is faith an object in the subject of religion. The notion of “the plurality of faith” is unintelligible as well. This is something the Church must understand if it is to be, once again, an agent of change in humanity. As long as Christians insist on arguing the validity of the “Christian Religion” they will always be entangled in the distraction of arguing the irony of a pointless point-of-view. Likewise, as long we are willing to accept the fallacy that Christianity is a “superior religion” we will always be hopelessly ineffective and helplessly self-contradicting.

There is no religion in the world that is any better than any other (nor can there be).  Religion is a human attempt to reach God (at best) and is a human attempt to counterfeit God’s grace (at its worst).  Religion (of any sort) is expressed by a varying…

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Order of the Butt

This entry originated five years ago, having experienced two opposing situations. It still speaks today.

Reap The Vision

Do not misunderstand, I did not decide one day to be an agitator stirring the proverbial pot of stagnate thought and rancid understandings. Long ago I did not draw the conclusion that, when I grow up, I want to aggravate and agitate the church (or whomever I happen to be irritating at the time). Hey! As long as I could be married, I would easily conform to the life of a monk. If it were up to me I would mind my own business; after all, I only want to be left alone to imagine God and speculate upon His logic. I could socially respond to humanity via the Internet; I could interact via email and text messages. But alas, what I am in my flesh does not align with what I am called to be in spirit.

I was a part of two distinct groups last week, each polarized…

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The First Cause

The First Cause

Logic demands a First Cause for all that is in existence. Interestingly enough, logic is, in fact, the First Cause that it, itself, demands!

In the Greek, our word “logic,” is logos – spoken thought; reason. Philosophically, Heraclitus (in 500B.C.) understood logos to be the principle which structured and controls the universe. The Stoics (3rd century B.C.) believed that the logos was, “the soul of the world.” Emperor Marcus Aurelius (A.D. 161-180) saw spermatikos logos (the “seeds of logic”) as the generative principle in nature.

What I’m saying is that Logic, literally, was face-to-face with God (theologically, The Prime Mover). Logic experienced an existence of equality and intimacy with God (by definition). Like the Hebrew tradition of Wisdom, logos is personified, in my understanding. And logos is the embodiment of God’s worldview. Unlike the Hebrew tradition (where Wisdom is a separate entity from God) all of God (by definition) is fully expressed in God’s Logic.

When Space/Time first came into existence, the logos was… God’s Logic has existed alongside God as long as God has existed (eternally, by definition). The Logic of God has always been everything that God is, everything that God does. In fact, the logos – the Logic of God – is the instigator, the initiator of all that exists in the universe. The kosmos (the arranged universe) came into being by means of the One who’s always been in “being” beyond Space/Time. And without the Logic of God there is (literally) nothing. For Logic demands it.

This same logos zipped-up entirely in human form, back in the annuals of time. “The logos of philosophy is the Jesus of history” – Bernard. The Logic of God, from forever, beyond Space/Time, pitched a tent and lived here with humanity, historically, to express God’s worldview to human beings. That worldview speaks of a Killing Cross and Resurrection Life, and a return to eternity (mastering the Laws of Physics) in human form – the Logic of God; the First Cause.

Paradigm Shift

Still Shifting…

Reap The Vision

Will you explain what you mean when you say, “the church is in a paradigm shift?”

When I use the word “paradigm” I mean, “the norm by which things are.” In theology a paradigm could be considered a dispensation – “one portion of time distinguished from another.” For example: In the Old Testament, from Adam to Noah was a dispensation or paradigm. From Noah to Moses is another dispensation or paradigm. And from Moses to John the Baptizer is yet another dispensation or paradigm. Different paradigms are clearly distinguished from one another when the accepted norm changes. Those points between paradigms – those times of clear distinction – are known as “shifts.”

The New Testament paradigms become very interesting when Jesus comes onto the scene to complete the “shift” of John the Baptizer. The “norm” of the later Old Testament times was dictated by the religious leaders. Coming in the…

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The Excluded Middle

 The phrase, “It’s neither here nor there” defies the Second Law of Logic – the Law of Excluded Middle. If it is neither here nor there then where, exactly, is it? We as human beings generally, and the church specifically, find ourselves EITHER here OR there. HERE and THERE can be viewed as paradigms, and in the midst of a paradigm shift we find that humanity is divided between the two.

I think (pretty-much) everyone has heard it said: “We have never done it that way before.” But, logically, that which got us HERE will not get us THERE. That which got us HERE was designed to only get us HERE, and can in no way get us THERE. If it were designed to get us THERE it would not have gotten us HERE. Clearly, HERE is not, at the same time, THERE. It is going to take another and different kind of thinking to get us from HERE to THERE.

Here: Putrefaction

A guy named Eric Hoffer once wrote, “Learners inherit the future. The learned find themselves well equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.” Concerning the Church, to quit learning is to quit hearing God (lest we think we know everything God has to say). When the Church ceases to hear God it necessarily usurps authority (Church-centered) and thus removes Christ as the focal point (Christ-centered). It confounds the point and purpose of the church, minimalizing it into a status quo, making it pleasantly manageable. This fatalistic mentality has only proved to cause corruption, in the real sense of the word (i.e. putrefaction). Without a life supply (the resurrection life of Christ), and fresh air (the Holy Spirit), the church becomes a tomb (a building). Sealed from the inside (club members only) it suffocates from its own constraints (moral/ethical codes of rules and regulations).

There: Resurrection Life for Living

The thing we must learn today is that the “church” is not a building that is built in the middle of a community, but the church is the people. It is the community at large, perhaps with a building as a community center. What got us HERE is the attempt to filter the community into the church building; thus, “churching” them. What will get us THERE is embracing the community as church; which, conversely, will “un-church” the churched. Church is not something we DO. Neither is it what we do TO someone or even FOR someone. Church is something that we ARE. It is that which we are WITH others. Church is humanity as community expressing Jesus Christ. The Church is where God meets the needs of the community.

Us and Them: Division

HERE we put out our signs saying “All are welcome.” We put on our party hats, decorate our building, and bake our cakes. Our aim is to convert the heathens to our own culture; after all, “it’s the Christian one!” But we find that “they” are not coming. So we change our times, styles, and/or days of service, but to no avail. Defensively, HERE, we say, “Well, they just don’t want God in their lives.” “This is how we’ve always done it.”

We and Us: Diversity

THERE we live in and out of our community. Our aim is not conversion, but collision; not with the ivory tower of Christianity, but with the Person of Jesus Christ. With the understanding that God has not called all people to be one culture, but all cultures to be one people we offer ourselves as living sacrifices to others; being WITH others; living WITH others. THERE church is every day; a way of life; a lifestyle lived out as Community, where “we” are the expression of Jesus Christ on the earth!