Divorce: Church Style

Divorce: Church Style May 3, 2022

Experience teaches me that nothing stops a person who wants a divorce. Begging a person to preserve what no longer exists is a waste of energy. The only people who never understand this are church people. Leaving a church is breaking a relationship. As a pastor, I no longer exhaust myself by begging such people to stay. And so, it is with relief I see that the Global Methodist Church is born. But I see actions and attitudes that are always involved in the break-up of a relationship.

The Church Divorce

I have a history with church divisions. My home congregation suffered a vitriolic split. The group that considered themselves as upholders of traditional morality left the larger congregation. Their congregation meets near where I live. They have a large parking lot that is never full.

The myth that churches divide and grow is falsified by these two congregations. The quality of ministries have continued to slide. Neither church has treated their ministers very well. The bad feelings on both sides continued.

The most telling act about the congregational split happened the day it was announced. A leader of the splinter group said to the Elder who announced the split, “You are a liar!” Lies were being told. But it was hard to tell which one was telling them.

Declaring Peace

I read many written offerings by people within my Annual Conference. The clergy who wish to remain in The United Methodist Church often offer their departing colleagues warm wishes, prayers, and “farewell.” Those who are planning to leave never offer the same. The fact is they cannot do so without undercutting their purpose for leaving.

The leader mentioned above needed to accuse a former life-long friend of something to justify the split. Else, why would the fellowship need to break at all?

The Divorce Vitriol

Close relationships do not usually end well. Nothing hurts more than an intimacy that is betrayed. It may be because the betrayal does not stop. Such is the case with the WCA/GMC faction. I read loud claims of how their members feel betrayed and persecuted. The claims are voiced even in conservative conferences. I know of times I have personally said and done something I am of which I am ashamed. I have talked briefly with some of those I personally harmed and asked forgiveness. But there have not been that many. If progressives cause the traditionalist people in my Annual Conference harm, how is it done? Disagreement is not persecution.

There has been a recent incident of a WCA member publicly and shamefully disgracing himself and the leadership of our Annual Conference by lying during an area revival meeting. Many WCA clergy are fast to accuse others publicly of the same thing they do publicly. This happens during divorces.  It poisons any hope of reconciliation.

A local WCA leader spoke Sunday about “the hoops” the membership will have “to jump through” until they finally join the Global Methodist Church. If a clergy person wishes join another denomination, all they need do is surrender their credentials as the Council of Bishops requested from one of its members.  Individual lay members can simply join another church. Congregations wishing to withdraw and keep their property must “uphold the discipline” of the Annual Conference for separation. It is not complicated to understand.

Imaginary Claims

Divorce proceedings tend to unnecessarily complicate matters. It is not because of the legal issues. The demands of the parties involved complicate matters. The “Protocol,” which no General Conference has yet agreed to, sounds like it would do that. But consider that in the Special Called General Conference of 2019, the “traditionalists” got everything they wanted. They still desired to leave the denomination that agreed to the demands. Why should anyone believe this “protocol” will be respected by the traditionalists?

Spouses seeking divorce often do the same thing. Claims of abuse, treachery, and obstruction of getting on with the proceedings are made without any evidence. And sometimes they are made by the person who is guilty of them. Changing demands is common for the spouse who wishes to twist the knife some more. The other spouse can not give in to every demand.

One can allow a spouse to leave the relationship. They can move out of the house. But the other person can not allow them to burn it down in the process. This is the behavior I see taking place. It is time to call out divided loyalty and put a stop to it. Bishops and other leaders must be firm.

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