aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

Paths to Unity for The UMC

I have been participating, off and on, in a wrangle on the UM Clergy Facebook page. One of the participants, from the Western Jurisdiction, says that all the talk of schism is just hooey. The progressives are just going to do what they will do, and that's that. We can disagree, but they will not obey the rules. And then she said, in reference to any attempt to hold disobedient clergy accountable, "we will protect our own," meaning nullify any process brought against them.

There is the language of schism.

Now, it seems to me that we can have unity only in one of four ways. FIRST, we can have unity of conversion. In this mode, one side convinces the other (or at least, most of the other) of the rightness of its position. We are simpatico. We will sink or swim together. This is what both sides have wanted, I think, but it has eluded us for forty years. Both sides now think that only a miracle could bring us together in a common understanding of what is right.

Well, SECOND, we can have a unity of obedience. That means we can disagree, but we will all obey the same set of rules. That has been the pattern over the last forty years, but the progressives have become impatient and have decided that obedience is not going to get them what they want. So they have decided to obey a different set of rules of their own making. This is not sustainable. You can't pour dye into clear water and keep the dye separate from the water. In the end, we will become all one thing or all the other. But if we disagree over the rules to be followed, how will that come about? Well, one side must either leave or be expelled.

The THIRD path to unity is the unity of voluntary separation. One side or the other leaves. I don't see the progressives leaving, so the question is, will the traditionalists leave? Well, if the progressives get away with what they're attempting, so that our Church becomes what we have fought against all our lives, then I see us going the way of other mainline denominations which have done this deal. Within a generation, there would probably be only three million UM members in America, as opposed to almost nine million now. All of them would be okay with the program, but there would be far, far fewer of them. And this isn't just because they would be against same sex marriage, for at bottom this whole fracas turns not only on one's attitudes toward homosexuality but on one's attitudes toward authority -- specifically the authority of the Scriptures and the Church. We would become in all Jurisdictions as weak as the Western Jurisdiction has made themselves.

The FOURTH path to unity is the unity of expulsion. This seems the least likely, since Methodists are not great enforcers of anything. The idea that we would simply throw people out, en masse, is way too hot for our cool heads. But when everything else has been tried, this may be where we end up. In the end, General Conference has the power to simply eliminate Jurisdictions and Conferences and reallocate the congregations and clergy thereof to other bodies which are willing to enforce the rules. This would be a traumatic thing to go through, but at the end, we might find ourselves freed from this argument that has been so debilitating for so long. The UMC would go from being a mainline church to an evangelical one, more or less. We would shrink a good bit in the process, since most people would prefer not to join a denomination that is eating its own, but once the process was over, we would be far healthier and better able to do our work.

So, which of these options am I for? Well, only the first two attract me. But if I can't have either of them? The other two both appall me. But ONE of them must be chosen, if the first two fail. Which will the Church choose, in the end? I have no idea.

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