July 26, 2012

A House Divided

Historically The United Methodist Church has been on the forefront of pressing social issues, dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries around things such as the institution of slavery, the role of women in the Church and on through the Civil Rights era. This is not to say that we, by any means, have been perfect along the way. Our “walk” has not always followed our “talk.”

I’m wondering if once again The United Methodist Church has the opportunity to be an example on the issue of homosexuality, though perhaps not how you might guess. Is it possible The United Methodist Church could demonstrate what a graceful transition into a new denomination might look like? I’m not suggesting which “side” should chart a new course but rather if there is a way we might facilitate this, for either “side,” while demonstrating and living in the grace that is foundational to our theology?

With the completion of The UMC conference season and the division that has become more apparent moving from General Conference into the various Jurisdictional Conferences on the issue of inclusivity, I can’t help but wonder if it is only a matter of time before one “side” or the other will be forced to leave. The words of Jesus come to mind, “a house divided against itself will fall” (Mthw 12:25; Mk 3:25; Lk 11:17). Under our current “united” structure, I believe the hurt will only become deeper as individuals continue to press the issue, an issue that will not be going away anytime soon. We all share the goal of “creating disciples for the transformation of the world,” but the longer we remain divided, the more energy we all spend away from this mission.

Would the creation of a new denomination free both “sides” to do ministry in the way they feel called, respectively? Could a graceful creation and transition into a new denomination alleviate the hurt? Or would it cause more? What might another resolution look like?

I would really appreciate hearing your thoughts, I hope you feel welcome to share and brainstorm with me.


j thornsbury said...

great piece on a possible pathway forward toward an inevitable future for the un-United Methodist Church. There are so many hurdles and most revolve around money and buildings -- typical church stuff...looking forward to hearing the rest of the conversation...

Emily Hope said...

I'm personally of the opinion that unity should not be equated with uniformity. We can be truly grace-full if we learn to live with and love those with whom we disagree even on some of the most divisive of issues. I don't know if you've ever read Wendy Gritter's blog (btgproject.blogspot.com), but she writes about a concept called "generous spaciousness"--allowing space for people to grow in their faith, allowing space for disagreement between sincere believers, acknowledging that we can be wrong and we're all making our best (but ultimately imperfect) effort to apply the wisdom of the scriptures to our daily lives. She specifically writes about the possibility of same-sex marriage being considered a disputable matter like eating meat sacrificed to idols Romans 14 (see the tag "disputable matter" on the sidebar of her blog).

Realistically, I acknowledge that this is a difficult ideal to achieve--but the thing is, the only church that could possibly have truly homogeneous beliefs is a church of one. Any more, and we have to live with at least some disagreement. What does it look like to live as the unified Body of Christ, disagreements and all?

John Wesley Leek said...

It may be possible that the branch that is United Methodism needs pruning before it can grow again.

The Liturgy Nerd said...

Hmmm ... I know that the word 'schism' was bandied about frequently during GC2012 with relation to the homosexuality questions. It was all very emotional and reactionary.
People being scared of the church splitting was also a factor back in the 60s when the UMC began ordaining women. There was no split then, over a very heavy issue.
There are other things worth exploring, such as the idea of making the US it's own Central Conference. It might speed progress along, without splitting the church.