Tuesday, November 13, 2018

When Will We Ever Learn?

I’ve made these two statements so many times now, and I believe they ring so true, these have become my most common mantras whenever I can’t avoid thinking about the fate of the UMC:

(1) The Church cannot make faithful, effective decisions by voting governed by majority rule

We have bought into this procedural method hook, line, and sinker because we have been culturally immersed in it all our lives, but it is totally antithetical to the Spirit that indwells the Church. Any substantive decisions on which a consensus cannot be reached (or at the very least a super-majority agree) should not be made.

(2) The drive to make the UMC a legislatively linked global institution was a mistake.

Whether it was a naively idealistic but misguided dream of a single worldwide Wesleyan Church as a counterpart to Roman Catholicism, or a calculated, cynical power play driven by the sinful human desire to win and thereby gain control over others, I fear it may well be our death rather than our redemption. Autonomous regional churches, free to organize themselves for mission and ministry according to their distinct cultural contexts, but connected through a re-envisioned World Methodist Council could have accomplished all the good aims of globalization, while avoiding the fatal dismemberment of the denomination, accelerated by the sinful aims of globalization.

I fear it may be too late for the UMC, the denomination that introduced me to God’s love in Christ 48 years ago (at a Lay Witness Movement at St. Matthew’s UMC on N. Shepherd in Houston), baptized me, helped educate me, married me, baptized my children, to which I dedicated 38 years of my life in ordained ministry, and which is now breaking my heart.

But I hope and pray that whatever survives . . . or rises from the ashes of our prideful self-immolation . . . will learn from this tragedy and avoid these two fundamental mistakes in the future.

I won't pretend to know if Jesus gives a rat's ass about the institutional future of the UMC, but I'm guessing he stays pretty sad/pissed about the way we've been treating each other in the name of "orthodoxy." 

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