It all reminds me of that great scene in A Man For All Seasons, where Will Roper, the perennial suitor for the hand of Thomas More's daughter, is arguing with him -- again -- this time, about Richard Rich, the man who ultimately betrays More. In the play, Roper starts out as a rabid Protestant, arguing with Sir Thomas about reforming the Church; he ends up a starchy recusant in the Catholic faction. Roper is always very sure of himself.
MORE: . . . The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal.
ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's!
MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact -- I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of the law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God . . .
ALICE: While you talk, he's gone! [Rich, who has slunk off]
MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law!
ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law!
MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that!
MORE: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you -- where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast -- man's laws, not God's -- and if you cut them down -- and you're just the man to do it -- d'you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake.
The point being, those who think it a fine thing to disobey our rules in the name of a greater truth will, if they are successful, create a Church in which no rules can be enforced except by direct tyranny. Those who protest that obedience is nurturing bigotry will wind up being either the victims or practitioners of a far greater bigotry down the line -- and which would be worse, in the end? To ask for freedom from the rules is to ask for slavery -- and you can't always guarantee which end of the whip you'll be on when slavery comes in.
A wise friend from a charismatic background once said to me that she didn't understand all our Methodist rules, "but," she said, "I believe God blesses obedience." ALL of us are better served by clergy who abide by the rules and by a Church where rules, made in open process by those we elected to make them, are followed -- and enforced.