A plan is in the works to save the United Methodist Church by splitting it – saving us from never-ending wrangling over human sexuality by separating the warring camps entirely.
Nobody is dancing for joy about this proposal, not even those who put it together. But it has a couple of things going for it.
Number one, it’s a negotiated settlement involving key representatives of the major constituencies: so-called traditionalists, centrists and progressives. These people are formally committed to making it work. So this thing might actually lead us to an “amicable” division.
It puts some hope in our hearts. It’s a light at the end of a long tunnel.
Number two, it gets the fundamentalists out of the UMC, on their own, where they’ve always wanted to be. Now they can mess up their own church and leave mine alone.
It should let us say goodbye to Good News (always bad news), the Wesleyan Covenant Association (almost as Wesleyan at heart as Franklin Graham), and the Institute on Religion and Democracy (a right-wing hate group whose mission is to destroy all faithful Christian witness in the U.S.).
Sure, we have to pay a huge bribe to make them go away – $38 million in all. (That’s $25 million directly plus $13 million for missions, made possible by their decision to “forgo” receiving those funds directly.)
But it may be worth it to be rid of them. Since its inception, Good News and its allies have been looking for some issue – any issue – to split the church. They finally settled on homosexuality as the best wedge to do it. The ploy appears to have worked.
So the big tent of United Methodism will shrink into two (or, possibly, but not likely, more) smaller tents. The UMC will have to scale back its mission and ministry efforts drastically. But we were already going to have to do that anyway, because the bureaucracy has just gotten too big to support, and we are still losing members at a frightening pace, partly because of the prolonged sexuality debate.
Remember the “Imagine No Malaria” campaign? Already it’s been reduced to “Imagine Less Malaria.” We won’t be able to eradicate disease any more than we were able to eradicate division. But we will continue to do what we can. Our global mission impact will suffer, but it will not disappear. We will be a smaller United Methodist Church. But we will continue to serve our world parish in the tradition of John Wesley.
It’s beyond sad. I have been a part of this church since 1974, when I was introduced to it by Linda, my wife to be. Since then I have served it as an active lay person, and since 1993, in various roles as clergy. If you can love an institution, I love this church.
But it’s not the church it used to be. It has been infiltrated by insidious forces that have brought about this schism for their own agenda. It is no longer possible living with these people. They want their way and only their way. Maybe this way, they can have it, and the rest of us can serve faithfully without their distracting influence.
Yeah, we might have to fiddle with the name. We were never really fully “united.” So the name no longer seems appropriate, does it? Will the other side really call themselves “Traditional” Methodists? Aren’t there truth in packaging laws anymore? How about “Radically Separatist Methodists”?
There’s a long way to go before this thing gets settled. In the meantime, as always, pray for the mission and ministry of the United Methodist Church.