So, what if we get our way? What if something like the (modified) Traditional Plan passes. What will we do then?
Let us be under no illusion that passing the TP will solve our problems as a denomination, or bring joyful unity to all parts of the church. It won’t. Even passing enhanced accountability and a gracious exit provision won’t do either of those things. All the hard work of proclaiming the gospel and living out the truth in the unity of the Spirit will still be there to do. And if that comes at a cost of a thousand clergy trials, well, then, we’ll have a thousand clergy trials. And we won’t take any more joy in that than those who are being tried.
The TP doesn’t “fix” things. It just means that we continue to serve as we are, where we are, as we always have -- with maybe a little more clarity, a little more accountability.
Several of the writers I admire over at National Review Online are given to saying, “politics is downstream of culture.” And that is as true of ecclesiastical politics as it is of secular politics. The reason we are in the situation we’re in is that the culture of The UMC – especially, in America – has moved in a post-Christian direction. We traditionalists have been complicit in that, in that we have prioritized “getting along” rather than constantly opposing the fashionable elites who have pushed us in that direction. We have gone for the Hezekiah option: as long as the Big Crash doesn’t come in our time, we’ve been okay with the status quo. But the Big Crash always comes if you just let things ride.
The task before us is to renew The UMC spiritually, theologically, culturally. Only then will our politics enhance our unity instead of damaging it. So the grinding of gears that is politics in an age of confrontation will go on for quite a while – and will never quite go away. But while we’re working on stemming the tide at GC, we also need to be upbuilding a better connection through other means than just trying to seize control of the machinery of governance.
A better future for The UMC starts with becoming better clergy, better disciples, and better congregations. And that is a long-term work that cannot be legislated.