Seven pieces of institutional clutter the UMC needs to leave behind

The “majority” almost always votes with the current power block. But the prophetic voices come from the margins, from the people without that all-corrupting power.

The “majority” voted for Barabbas to be spared, not Jesus. Holy conferencing, the centerpiece of the United Methodist connection, is completely shut down by Robert and his currently

Holy conferencing, the centerpiece of the United Methodist connection, shuts down with Robert and his carefully followed, labyrinth and manipulatable Rules of Order in charge.

Four: The “God must be blessing it because it is growing” mantra.

Cancers grow and grow rapidly. So do the kinds of weeds that choke healthy growth. People flock to easy Christianity, authoritarian theologies, and cheap grace because they justify spiritual and mental laziness.

The decisions to define a church or a clergy person as “effective” based on how many people show up for worship and how much money they give compromises the core of the gospel.

Yes, healthy things grow. If a church does not grow, there is something unhealthy about it and it needs uncovering and healing. Rootbound, totally-self-centered churches should be repotted and replanted–and sometimes that hurts a lot.

But fast growth means nothing in the scheme of holiness or blessing. Healthy growth comes in different forms and at different rates.

Five: The current adoration of The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church.

The untrimmed grapevine known as the Book of Discipline adds to the institutional clutter
Photo credit: sph001 via Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC-ND

This cumbersome, nearly unreadable, often contradictory, many-times amended book, possibly fully understood only by the few experts who define their lives by legal minutia, is slowly strangling the life from this one glorious connection.

Rules should set us free, not turn us into multiple Gullivers, tied up in knots and immovable.

Grapevines have to be radically pruned yearly to stay vibrant producers. With proper care, they can live for generations and bless all who enjoy their abundant fruit.

An untrimmed grapevine looks sturdy and can provide great shade, but it produces little fruit. That shade too often protects us from seeing the real light. We must radically trim The Book of Discipline to bring life back to this connection.

Six: The structure that permits decisions that affect the entire church made only once every four years.

Sigh. This structure probably did work quite well in the 1800’s. But now? Seriously? Gulliver again anyone? Things turn on a dime now, and our inflexibility leaves inadequate space and zero flexibility for good responses to rapid changes.

Seven: Our obsession with bedroom activities and our inability to define holiness in ways that go beyond but still include sexuality.

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  • P J Evans

    Those seven rules sound like they came in from the Southern Baptists or the Pentecostals. They aren’t the Methodist rules I grew up with, and I wouldn’t join any church that thought those were even reasonable rules to live by.

  • Bob M

    Well, my thoughts run the same as yours. I am a baptized and confirmed UMC who was the first youth person on our Administrative Board way back when the Methodists became “United” (yes, I am old…) I am also an out gay man, and am no longer UMC, but not for that reason. I found a home with the Presbyterians (PC-USA)Yes, we have and are traveling down many of the same roads you talk about although we do meet on the top denominational level every two years. WE also have people saying the very same things, doctrinal purity, everybody abiding by the “rules” WE do have an interesting history of division, we seem to have done it a lot over the years.

    This morning I had a thought come to mind. People want nice neat boxes (rules, consensus, doctrine, neat Bible verses) while the Holy Spirit is more of a coloring out side the lines kind a person.

    Will the future be uncertain, probably. Will it be what we want, maybe not. If I remember many of the same things were said about women in ministry…we seemed to have survived that, I think we will survive this, too.

    A favorite quote.. ”

    When you come to the end of all
    the light you have

    and take that first step into the
    darkness of the unknown,

    you must believe, one of two
    things will happen

    there will be something solid to
    stand upon

    or you will be taught
    how to fly.

    • http://www.christythomas.com Rev. Christy Thomas

      I love what you said about the Holy Spirit is more of a cooring outside the lines type! Exactly. Whenever the fresh winds of the Spirit blow through, all the tight little boxes get blown wide open.

      • Guthrum

        There indeed needs to be a time of fellowship, talking informally, and uplifting times. Just enjoy the company of others. Don’t get caught up in strictness, formalities, and separating out. Maybe there is too much beauracracy.

    • Guthrum

      The Episcopal Church – US, Presbyterian Church – USA, and the ELCA are denominations that are in a state of total collapse.

  • Linda Coleman Allen

    In 1962 I left the Southern Baptist Church because of this kind of behavior. I went to the UMC and found a healthy and kind environment. So sad to read this now.

    • http://www.christythomas.com Rev. Christy Thomas

      I also found the wonderful environment of the UMC after years in Baptist/Independent Bible churches. I ache to see what is happening with us.

  • George Waite

    Church is boring.

    • http://www.christythomas.com Rev. Christy Thomas

      Sometimes it is. Sometimes we need to have our souls bored into. Sometimes we need stillness and others to discover the presence of God.

      • George Waite

        Wow, if that isn’t pseudo-profound, I don’t know what is!

  • Guthrum

    Majority: okay, but the views and opinions of the church members need to be listened to. Decisions should not be made by a small block of people with an agenda. The Episcopal Church – US and the ELCA made decisions in stacked voting assemblies that ignored the members. Social statements and policies were approved that have proven disastrous for both denominations: losses of millions of members and thousands of churches. Decisions that went against Biblical teachings.
    Look at this: Episcopal diocese of Atlanta offers communion to non-Christians ! Are they kidding ? Apostate!

    • Pastor Kimberly A Rapczak

      I am not sure what you mean by “stacked voting assemblies.” In the ELCA, every congregation is entitled to a minimum of two voting members at synod assembly. As congregations become larger, they are entitled to additional voting members. At synod assemblies, people are chosen from among those attending to become voting members at Churchwide assemblies. It is completely democratic. I have often struggled to get people from my congregation to attend synod assemblies. ‘It’s boring.” “I only get so many vacation days.” “Who cares about what happens at synod assemblies?” When people then complain about what is passed, I remind them that they chose not to participate in the process. An additional fact: According to the ELCA constitutions, synod assemblies must be composed of 60% lay people. Should they choose to do so, they could outvote clergy every time. If anything, small congregations have greater power because a congregation of 20 people can have two voting members at synod assembly, the same as a congregation of 100 people. So, I really don’t understand what you mean by “stacked voting assemblies.”

  • http://toholdsway.blogspot.com/ Jamie Carter

    It seems to me that #1 fails to recognize the Wesleyan Quadrilateral – experience can be used to interpret the Bible and that’s why women are allowed to preach in Methodism. The Southern Baptists always considered it a slippery slope: if you let women preach, then the LGBTQ community will want to preach … Like it or not, you can’t grant freedom for one group to preach and use the same logic to deny freedom to another group to preach. At least the SBC is consistent in not allowing either group to preach.