In Response to “Regarding United Methodism’s Future.”

reconciliationGood News Magazine recently published “Regarding United Methodism’s Future,” which is intended to be a report on the collective work of faithful United Methodist clergy and theologians navigating the disagreement of the Church’s relationship with homosexuality.  Many are presenting this document as a fair and centrist opinion of the church itself, which unfortunately is not the case.  “Regarding United Methodism’s Future” seems to suggest a traditionalist’s view of a means for moving forward in this long and exhausting debate.  Although I applaud these 80 participants for gathering to discuss this difficult and divisive topic, “Regarding United Methodism’s Future” is well crafted to positively position a traditional view while negatively expressing progressive understandings.  To be fair, the document does not claim to hold any authority, nor does it claim to be an unbiased presentation, so my major concern is with this document being shared as if it is either centrist or somehow official.  With that said, here are three reasons why “Regarding United Methodism’s Future” is unhelpful.

1. Assumption of Crisis– The document begins saying, “We have come together because of the crisis besetting our beloved United Methodist Church.”  The young gay man who finds a safe place to be in ministry does not understand this to be a crisis. The two women who have been living together for 25 years do not see this as a crisis. The perception of crisis is a symptom of fear.  Some would use the word “Liberation” or “Maturation of faith” to express the struggle many in the church are facing.  Some would express the tension in our pews to be a manifestation of a wilderness journey toward a promised place of inclusion.  I may be a bit dramatic, but so is using the word “crisis.”

2. Presentation of a False Dichotomy–There is the assumption that one is either a traditionalist or a progressive. If there are only two sides presented you must treat a false dichotomy with swift and immediate suspicion. Resurrection means there is a Third Way, a way beyond compromise, a Third Way of Gospel truth. The world says there is life and death. Jesus said there is life, there is death, and there is resurrection. To be fair, social liberalism is based in defense of a perceived victim. Liberals don’t know what to do without a victim to defend. Likewise, social conservatism is founded in protection against a perceived enemy. Social conservatives wouldn’t know what to do without a perceived enemy. With crisis language and only two camps in the discussion, this is clearly written from the social conservatism view.

3. The Flavor of Language–The language used to describe the traditional view is positive, for example, “Traditionalists are convinced that God’s will . . .” and “Traditionalists affirm the sacred worth,” whereas language describing progressives says, “Progressives cannot change their minds . . .” and “Progressives will not be satisfied.” So the language suggests that Traditionalists are trying to please God while Progressives rest upon their own understanding and uncompromisingly want all or nothing.

I do not pass judgement on the document itself.  It’s not a bad stab at reconciliation, but nor is it entirely good.  It is carefully crafted to present a positive traditionalist view, creating a literary environment in which Traditionalists are the good guys looking for a “win-win” way forward while Progressives are causing crisis and division.  You may agree that this is, in fact, the case.  I’m not saying it isn’t; rather I feel compelled to point out that this document is not an unbiased and centrist opinion.  I understand the importance of finding the Via Media, a sacred middle path through which the bread is broken and the importance of sharing the common cup into which Christ’s blood was shed.  I’m just saying . . . this document isn’t it.  Just sayin’

About mrawle2000

United Methodist Elder in the Louisiana Conference.
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8 Responses to In Response to “Regarding United Methodism’s Future.”

  1. John Thomas says:

    Matt– couldn’t agree more. Why would anyone believe that Good News would publish a fair report regarding LGBTQ concerns? And who are these 80 people? (I wouldn’t be surprised if they were largely heterosexual, white, male, elders, and over 40 years old).
    It appears to me, as Jeremey Smith states, it’s often the conservatives who want schism, or at least for “liberal” (whatever that means) clergy to leave… (and go where?), folks on the left know schism solves nothing– there will still be LGBTQ children and youth growing up in super-conservative UM churches, and then there will be no voice to tell them they are loved by God.

    • mrawle2000 says:

      John,
      Thanks for the reply! To be fair, I don’t know who makes up the 80. Could be white, black, male, female. I don’t know and assuming doesn’t help. A lot of this certainly has to do with ethics and theology, but don’t miss the fact that is also has a lot to do with money. In a divorce, someone gets the house . . .

  2. billy turner says:

    Matt, though certainly not a rock star, I did have an opinion on the work, and I simply said I admired the tone of the piece, which frankly seemed less emotional than yours even if you seem more right than did the author. I read it a scond time end and certainly there are some code words in it that tip it away from being unbiased as you said, but your reaction seems quite “flavored,” as well. I would argue that if we are not heading to a possible separation crisis, by 2016, which will certainly have a massive effect on all three sides, as you said quite interestingly, I don’t understand the word in the least. My point still is that we’ve all got to talk with each other or we’re going to be talking about each other and no one wins that, certainly all of us broken folk.

    • mrawle2000 says:

      Billy,
      Thanks for the comment. My response certainly is flavored. Although I disagree with the article’s presentation of what it looks like In Medias Res, I wanted to draw attention to the flavor of the piece for those who are presenting it as centrist and somehow official. And who said you aren’t a rock star?

  3. Trey McNabb says:

    Matt, your description of social liberalism requiring a victim and social conservatism requiring an enemy is spot on We don’t need to create–or to be–victims or enemies. We need to love God with all our hearts and to love our neighbors as ourselves. I hope Methodists can find a way to do this in the coming years.

  4. leekarlpalo says:

    It strikes me that the “80” were caught up in groupthink and straw-man arguments in their statement. I’ve attempted to point that out by commenting multiple times. Hopefully I can spark some interest in dialogue. As often happens, and I believe is noted above, labels like “traditionalist” and “progressive” can give people the impression that there is some type of unanimity under those names. In fact there is a lot of diversity with regard to how those positions are articulated.

  5. Shawn Moses Anglim says:

    “In Christ there is no male or female.” Really?!
    if we are in Christ, then we can’t be having the RIGHT kind of sex!” Oh, Oh…
    Honey….

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