There’s an old curse that goes, “May you live in interesting times.” For better or worse, the times we live in are indeed interesting, at least in the UMC. The actions of a number of clergy and some bishops in the UMC have seriously undermined the force of our canon law. The status of the actions of the General Conference is up in the air. The restoring of Frank Schafer’s credentials throws these matters into sharper relief. In light of recent events, one might ask to what extent the actions of the General Conference are binding and whether they have any de facto force. To put the matter differently, our method of self-government has broken down, and we don’t really know how to fix it.
I have no idea what the future holds. I feel like the denomination is being pried apart by a relatively small percentage of its members and leaders. We are considering changing our internal governance structures in significant ways in order to accommodate the ideological divide that has become the focus of much of our public discourse. I don’t have the wisdom or insight to see a way forward. I pray someone else does. I’m grateful for those folks who have offered plans for how to move forward, but I haven’t come across one that I can affirm in good conscience.
Meanwhile, great work is going on at the level of the local church. The people I most care about in all of this are those sitting in the pews, faithful women and men who want to know God, do good, and fellowship with other believers. I think of my mom and dad. My mom is a life long Methodist, and my dad has been a Methodist for at least fifty years. They have always loved and tried to serve the church. They have served on United Methodist Women and Men, driven for Meals on Wheels, given their money, sung in the choir, served on church boards, taught Sunday school, and attended worship just about every week. They are not particularly ideological people. The last thing they need is for the high-level politics of the denomination to come crashing down into their local church life. I pray that doesn’t happen. There are many people like them.
For those of us who are elders and deacons in the denomination, let us remember that regardless of the state of our church, we are still under the mandate to care for the spiritual well-being of our charges.
This is a time for cool heads and reasoned responses. No, the present state of affairs cannot continue, but let’s remember in all of this that we’re Christians. That should mean something with regard to the way in which we engage one another. Whether we stay together, separate, or find some happy medium between the two, let’s remember to do no harm, do good, and attend upon the ordinances of God. Whatever comes next, it should be discerned in prayer, repentance, and humility.
We live in a society that is increasingly polarized. Mainline Protestantism reflects this. Now is the time for us to set an example of disagreement without malice. We’re Christians. As we move forward through this mess, let’s act like it.
29 thoughts on “Keep Calm and Pray”
Great post David
To tell you the truth, I have just quit even about this stuff. After reading all the proposals, I just don’t see how anything major is going to change anytime soon. Any major change would take a majority vote and I just don’t see that happening.
Also, I agree about concerning ourselves with the people in the pew. I went home this weekend and saw the Holy Spirit moving mightily in the UM church that I grew up in. God reminded me that they are who I am called to serve. Although I recognize that I am part of the church universal, I also recognize that the UM is the body of Christ that I am called to serve in . . . they’re my family . . . warts and all.
All this stuff is going to get worked out pretty soon. The “progressives/liberals/whatever you call them” are really alienating themselves through their actions.
No one should be surprised that the NEJ Committee on Appeals overturned the trial court. When Scott Campbell was the Chair, they overturned the Stroud verdict that was later reinstated by the Judicial Council. This would have been overturned by the Judicial Council as well since it relied on a Judicial Council decision from 43 years ago (before merger) on a Discipline that has been changed in the thirteen General Conferences since. Unfortunately, this is likely to mean that orthodox conferences (those that follow the Discipline) will simply defrock rather than provide any type of “mercy penalty.” Pushing the envelope will only create a backlash. You can’t have a connectional denomination and not be concerned about what happens in other areas.
Thanks, David. These are the times that try our souls, but let us not be weary in well doing. Thanks for this. The local church and the vast majority of our folks who are not caught up in this mess should be our chief concern, for it is there that the mission of God is chiefly carried out.
Your title is quite appropriate but apparently not followed by many. I would add “stand firm” (Ephesians 6:14). It doesn’t say “argue firm”, “debate firm”, “convince firm” – it says STAND firm. Can’t we believe and stand firm without harming others with our words or actions? We can’t convict others to agree with us or our side; only God can but we can stand firm. I believe God is raising up many to stand firm “for such a time as this” to continue to boldly PROCLAIM THE GOSPEL. The Great Commission is still just that – the Great Commission. That’s what we’re to be about. I’m sorry if I don’t have any high theological comment or words – I’m just a pastor’s kid who became a pastor’s wife and who is, above all, a Daughter of the King with a big family!
There are many who are fearful and just want “the mess” to go away, and there are many who see opportunity at hand to exploit fear and despair to advance the novelty of same-sex marriage across the church, indeed, to seed the church with ideas that turn biblical truth on its head. What does it mean to confess Jesus Christ NOW? We didn’t choose the hour of our witness; we were “called and appointed” for this hour.
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