aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

Another way of looking at the conflict in The UMC

The arguments over what constitutes proper teaching and practice of "the faith once delivered to the saints" are not a new phenomenon. The need to tend the garden of doctrine, lest it grow rank with weeds, is one recognized from the very beginning. That said, we have been able to finesse the differences among the faith(s) taught and practiced in Western Christianity for some time, which gives us the illusion that there was a time of innocence and unanimity among the teachers. Certainly, Methodism -- particularly in that stream which is now called The UMC -- has been largely comfortable with the cognitive dissonance -- or at least, has managed to stay together despite it -- since at least our reunification in the 1930s. That is now in doubt. But even when we were all institutionally secure and looking forward to a successful future, the seeds of our current predicament were sprouting. Eyes that could see could identify what was coming. The following quote is from an address given by C.S. Lewis to Anglican clergy in 1945.

It seems to the layman that in the Church of England we often hear from our priests doctrine which is not Anglican Christianity. . . . It is not, of course, for me to define to you what Anglican Christianity is . . . But I insist that wherever you draw the lines, bounding lines must exist, beyond which your doctrine will cease either to be Anglican or Christian: and I suggest that the lines come a great deal sooner than many modern priests think. I think it is your duty to fix the lines clearly in your minds: and if you wish to go beyond them you must change your profession.

This is your duty not specially as Christians or as priests but as honest men. . . . Men who have passed beyond these boundary lines in either direction are apt to protest that they have come by their unorthodox opinions honestly. In defense of those opinions they are prepared to suffer obloquy and to forfeit professional advancement. . . . But this simply misses the point which so gravely scandalizes the layman. We never doubted that the unorthodox opinions were honestly held: what we complain of is your continuing your ministry after you have come to hold them. We always knew that a man who makes his living as a paid agent of the Conservative Party may honestly change his views and honestly become a Communist. What we deny is that he can honestly continue to be a Conservative agent and to receive money from one party while he supports the policy of another.

I first read this quote over forty years ago, and it has formed my opinion of some of my radical colleagues ever since. I understand what they're saying, and while I disagree with it, I don't think them bad people for their opinions. Nevertheless, they forfeit a great deal of my respect for continuing to take money under false pretenses. They are paid by those who think they will teach them one faith, but they are teaching another. The fact that they think the new faith will be better for those they teach is irrelevant. It's just plain dishonesty. Have the integrity to resign or seek a body in which your opinions are officially countenanced.

That goes double for bishops.

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