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!

Encased In Concrete

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 be a place of prevention, but permission. We are not attempting to prevent humanity from sinning; we are giving humanity permission to seek God to find healing and wholeness. The church is not the gate-keeper of the moral/ethical edict, but a safe community where we encounter the life supply of the living Christ. It is faulty theology to explain that Christ came and died to prevent people from sinning. His Resurrection is precisely because we are sinners. The Cross and Resurrection Event is permissive. Jesus gives us permission in His Resurrection Life to be who God has called us to be. The Good News is not “do not do this or that and you are good” (preventative), but God saying, “I love you. Enter into the life of my Son” (permissive).

Prevention

If the church sees itself as a preventative measure – the long-arm of the Law (of God) – then it trusts no one; even its own and especially God. Where there is no trust there is only control. Control is a manageable system. The system demands complete allegiance and accountability to itself from its “disciples.” Forgiveness and permission are offered only to the system, but never by it. Converts owe everything to the system. This is not about Vision, but maintenance. This is not love, but fear. Fear controls the masses.

Permission

But if the church is permissive, then it trusts God; then it operates in faith (by definition). Contrary to popular belief, the permission-giving church is organized, not chaotic; however, it is not based on a managerial model, but one of personal responsibility. Honor, integrity, respect, and forgiveness (i.e. Permission) are mutual, but are not based on reciprocity. Accountability cannot be dictated (or its tyranny). The community, logically, holds the leaders accountable by the fact of their leadership. Permission is freedom. Freedom is risky. Risk is real love. Do not fear failure – failure is simply not trying – rather, fear only not taking risks. Risk, and therefore, love are uncontrollable. Love permeates humanity.

Church as Agent of Change

It is highly illogical to recognize the change but, then, expect to change, also, by thinking the same as before the change. Likewise, the prominent system before the change cannot, logically, be prominent thereafter. Neither can it be the means of change. We must think differently, but cannot if the system is all we know. Though it can include the system, new thinking comes from without the system. Change requires a change in thinking; a mental adjustment; a change of how things get done because of how we think. In the new paradigm, the church is to be the Agent of Change.

Pierced From Within

[From the Conversation at Spring Lake on “Easter Sunday” 2017]

An Indestructible Life

When the primitive church moved the “gathering day” to Sunday it was out of the understanding and celebration of the Day of Resurrection – the day that Jesus rose from the dead. Thus, the celebration of the empty tomb was every Sunday. The early church taught that a true understanding of the Resurrection was vital to authentic Christianity, for it is the basis for life as a Christian, and as the Church.

Not only that, but the early church lived out of Resurrection Life, daily. They did not simply live in remembrance of the resurrection, but their lives were powered by Resurrection Life. Remembrance defines an historical event that occurred somewhere back in the misty recesses of time. Resurrection Life empowers a living definition, spoken by the living Christ, of what it means to be a Christian and the Church, today. If the Church simply remembers the historical resurrection event then it loses touch with the present power of Resurrection Life.

Nearly 2,000 years ago Jesus Christ left the tomb empty by the power of an Indestructible Life. That Indestructible Life, likewise, resurrected humanity in the form of the Church; in the Form of the Crucifixion (the Cruciform). The power of the empty tomb is the power at the center of the life of the Church today. If Christ is resurrected, then Christ is alive. We don’t simply reminisce about resurrection; we live according to its power in Resurrection Life.

Followers as Witnesses, according to the Life of Christ

In the gospel accounts the disciples experienced the Life of Christ. In his first letter, Peter is recorded as saying that the Historical Christ was “benefacting;” that is, “giving gifts and mercy as would a ruler to his subjects.” He said that God preached peace to Israel through Jesus Christ. Peter describes himself (and certain others – i.e., the disciples) as “witnesses” of all Jesus had done, including His hanging from a tree, His resurrection on the third day, and his command to tell others about the good News. In Acts, Peter mentions (speaking from the Jewish Scriptures) that all who believe receive forgiveness of sins in the name of Jesus (10:34-43). Where Peter sees followers as “witnesses” to the life of Christ, Paul, on the other hand, calls us “expressions” of His death.

Form of Expression, according to the Cross of Christ

Obviously, for Paul, the life of Christ is an historical fact; but, for Paul, the life of a follower of Christ begins at the Cross of Christ. In his letter to the Romans (6:3-5) he states that anyone identifying with Christ through baptism (the “Christian” identity) has been baptized into His death – the Baptism of Death. The Cross of Christ is the point where we abandon our fallen identity and embrace our new identity in Christ. This identity, however, necessitates a death like His; which death then brings a resurrection in the same power as His. Not because we are a certain few; not because we magically become Jews; but because we have buried, and then died with Christ (don’t miss the burial then death).

In his letter to the Colossians (2:11-14) Paul explains that believers are pierced from within. The “circumcision of Christ” is the killing of the flesh on His cross. As we are crucified with Christ, not in a literal sense for Paul, neither is this spiritual jargon, but in a mystical/organic union with Christ has our flesh, too, been nailed to the cross. As we mystically experience the death of our “natural/religious selves” on the killing cross, God, through the faithfulness of Christ, gives us life from the dead. The fact of forgiveness of sins is effectual for us, not only in the resurrection of Christ, but in the Resurrection Life of Christ in His “form” – the Church.

Resurrection Life – Life for Living the Now, But Not Yet

According to Chapter 3 of Colossians (1-4) this resurrection is not just an eschatological (last things; end times) event, but also a fact of life for the community, today. It is by the resurrection of Christ that we believe we will be resurrected as well (1Corinthians 15), and it is by this future resurrection that we experience Resurrection Life, now/today, as the Community of Christ (Now, but Not Yet). Today, we don’t “remember” the Life of Christ, and attempt to follow him in our natural/religious selves (Eph. 2:3-7), but we experience the Killing Power of the Cross and live in Resurrection Life (Eph. 2:8-10).

Writing to the Philippians (3:10-11) Paul gives us the clearest definition of what it means to express Christ. To “witness” of Christ is to speak of the things He has done, but to “express” Christ is to experientially know Him; to experience the power of His Resurrection Life, being willing participants in His suffering (Col. 1:24) by becoming like Him in His death (the death of the natural/religious self), and finally attaining to the future Resurrection of the Dead, now/today.

This is no self-help ideology. Nor is it a kind of self-denial in the name of Christ. But this is an experiencing of the Resurrection Life, right now/today! This Resurrection Life in the present is the equipping of the church as the full expression of Christ in creation. This Resurrection Life is a guarantee of the future Great Resurrection of the body, entire. And it is the reason for the raising from the dead of Jesus Christ, bodily, to Resurrection Life.

“America” Defined, Again

Independence Day 2016… A challenge to think (again) on “America.”

Reap The Vision

This time of year many conversations revolve around politics. I do not use my public platforms to argue my political views (of which I am very opinionated) and I do not wish to do so, here, either. However, we do need to establish a fundamental fact concerning our political views. The fact is that this is America. And while we are free to think as we please (precisely because this is America), we are not, logically, free to make up our own definitions of “America.”

“America” is an ideology of how the United States is to function. The name “United States ‘of America’” makes this point obvious. The dilemma is concerning the definition of “America.” There are two main ideologies (with second order ideologies for each) that have their own definition of “America.” Thus, the discussion should be definitional and, therefore, logical.

“America” is an ideology, of which the Constitution…

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