When Martin Luther King, Jr. clashed with the Via Media Methodists

Paul Hardin

On first glance, making an analogy between anyone and one of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s adversaries is akin to tripping Godwin's Law by comparing someone to Hitler. Because MLK was always absolutely right and perfect and above all criticism and anybody who ever disagreed with him was a mean and evil racist. Except that's not real history. When Martin Luther King, Jr. and his entourage descended on Birmingham, Alabama in early 1963, a group of well-intentioned white clergy leaders including … [Read more...]

The two women who got me to carry the rainbow flag

Despite the fact that I've been pretty vocal on my blog about LGBT issues, I haven't been fully "out" as an ally in my face-to-face interactions with my congregation and other clergy, though it's probably been very silly to think I can somehow separate the two worlds. Today represented somewhat of a milestone in that regard. Two years ago, when the rainbow people held communion outside of the annual conference, I had a very brief and nervous conversation with one of them whom I knew but didn't … [Read more...]

#VAUMC14: We voted for real conversation about sexuality; that means the onus is on us to have it!

Yesterday, my colleague Tom Berlin put forward a motion to postpone the resolution that had been put forward to change the United Methodist Discipline's language on homosexuality so that we could have a year of dialogue as a conference about sexuality as proposed by our bishop. I imagine that there were some people in the room who felt quite betrayed by this motion (which I not only supported but encouraged Tom beforehand to propose). A woman stood up to say that justice delayed is justice … [Read more...]

#VAUMC14: Connection — institution vs reality

Part of our annual conference program each year involves a teaching study led by a seminary professor. This year we have Dr. Elmer Colyer of Dubuque Theological Seminary in Iowa. Colyer gave a provocative presentation this morning on what the Methodist buzzword "connection" should mean for us. He said that the real underlying problem the United Methodist church faces in all of our conflicts is not a lack of discipline, but a lack of connection, because discipline is only effective within the … [Read more...]

The Virginia Conference talks about sexuality

Like many annual conferences of the United Methodist Church, the Virginia Conference is considering a resolution to change the language in the Book of Discipline about homosexuality. In an effort to have a better conversation than convention hall speeches, about 300 of us gathered last night to listen to representatives from each side give speeches and then split up into groups of 8 to share our convictions and stories with each other. Our conversation gave me a lot of hope in a time when we … [Read more...]

What does a safe and fruitful church conversation about sexuality look like?

The Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church will be meeting next weekend in Hampton, Virginia. Among our business is a resolution to recommend omitting the Book of Discipline language around homosexuality. I've been dreading the series of angry speeches that will take place in an environment in which it's impossible for authentic prayerful dialogue to occur. My colleague Tom Berlin has proposed that in lieu of the annual predictable polarizing legislative battle, we try to have some … [Read more...]

Should the #UMC ask King Solomon how to cut a baby in half?

Two women stood before King Solomon in 1 Kings 3:16-28 with one baby, both claiming it was theirs. So Solomon offered to cut it in two. The woman who actually loved the baby was willing to give it up rather than see it die. The other woman had become so embittered by their argument that she didn't care if the baby lived or died; what mattered to her was to see the other woman get punished so that they would both suffer the same grief. It's an excellent metaphor for today's conversation about … [Read more...]

What if conservatives and progressives need each other?

Nobody gets on my nerves like sanctimonious moderates. You know, the kind who are religiously committed to maintaining an absolutely mathematical balance on their facebook wall between criticisms of Republicans and Democrats. One of my seminary friends has a blog where she describes herself as "the opposite of moderate." I just think it's intellectually lazy to assume that the average of opinion must be right. I believe there are times to be measured and times to be radical and no set formula … [Read more...]

Is there any #UMC accountability for resisting injustice and oppression?

It seems like in United Methodism as with many things, there are unspoken rules about which things we say for nicety sake and which things actually have teeth. One of the things that sounds pretty to say but doesn't actually have any covenantal teeth to it is the second question of our baptismal vows, "Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever form they present themselves?" If this question had any danger of being enforced with … [Read more...]

Let them go in peace and start over from scratch like Wesley did

The United Methodist blogosphere has been fired up after a recent announcement that 80 prominent pastors and theologians have called for planning a split in the United Methodist Church on account of our differences over the homosexuality issue. Differing perspectives on this announcement have included David Watson, Joel Watts, Kenneth Pruitt, Steve Manskar, Chad Holtz, Drew McIntyre, Tom Lambrecht, and Jeremy Smith. I think that the United Methodist Church should help facilitate the departure of … [Read more...]