aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

Death and Rebirth (maybe)

From all that I'm reading, I think that within two years, The United Methodist Church as we have known it will start to split up. Quite a few prominent voices in the church are suggesting that we do so now, that we take the opportunity to negotiate a division of assets and a setting up of separate organizations before General Conference meets in May, 2020.

I'm not sanguine on that possibility. That would take humility, grace, and the facing of many painful facts. Tough enough when there are no egos involved. And even if people are ready to deal, there's not a lot of time left before we reach the deadline for legislative petitions to GC20 (some time this summer). But what are the alternatives to such an orderly and gracious process?

If we just kick off the second half of the match between progressives and traditionalists, we're screwed either way. If the traditionalists prevail again, the chances of which are better than even right now, I can't see the progressives accepting it. Various large chunks of United Methodism will begin to peel off. They are functionally separate now; it wouldn't take much to simply formalize the process.

And if the progs reverse the victory of the trads next year? I think that would be the equivalent of pulling a barbed spearhead back out the wrong way. It would tear all the muscles and big veins on its way out. The Africans, certainly, would probably disaffiliate from the whole. A large minority of the American trads, including perhaps several whole Annual Conferences, will leave, too. We could easily wind up with not two, but three or more successor denominations. And the legal hassles would continue to plague us for years.

Unless God has a miracle up his sleeve, I don't see any likely scenario yielding a functionally whole UMC after GC20. Now, I believe in miracles, but assuming that one will come along and rescue you before you go smash is poor planning. On the other hand, I do think we can count on God bringing good out of evil, and rebirth following the death of earthly hopes.

Whatever comes out of GC20, God will be with us. What matters now is how we conduct ourselves in the playing out of things. If you want the church you eventually wind up with to be blessed by God, you don't want its (re-)creation to be marred by hatred and skullduggery, at least not yours.

In Genesis, we read of the parting of Jacob and Laban. They set up a memorial stone and said, "The Lord watch between thee and me while we are absent one from another." This is called the Mizpah Blessing. What we often miss in quoting this, however, is how deeply Jacob and Laban disliked and distrusted each other. They were glad to be quit of each other. Their witness stone basically marked a boundary each was agreeing to stay on the other side of, and you could translate their mutual blessing as "Remember, the Lord is watching when our backs are turned."

But however they did it, and with what feelings, they parted in peace and quit scheming against each other. And the children of Jacob became the children of Israel when he received his new name on the way back to Canaan. Maybe when we quit fighting each other, the fragment we inherit will find a new name and a new wholeness on our way to where we need to go.

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