I just read the heartbreaking report that some 60 (unnamed at this point) conservative pastors and theologians in the United Methodist Church have held a phone conversation about the deepening divisions within this denomination.
From the news report:
The group said that they were forming a smaller working group to bring suggestions to the larger group for responses, including suggestions of withholding funding from the church, advocacy with the Council of Bishops for greater enforcement of the Book of Discipline, and the possibility of creating a proposal for the division of the United Methodist Church into two denominations. [Boldface mine]
And so, I make this prediction: be prepared for a sordid history of the Inquisition to repeat itself here.
Do not think that the conservative clergy are going to give up the assets or the name of the UMC. Their goal will be to force out the progressive/emergents. These are the clergy and laity who, after engaging in prayer, biblical scholarship and pastoral ministry, have come to the conclusion that the discriminatory policies of the UMC against the LGBTQ community are both unbiblical and morally unjustified.
The language currently in the Book of Discipline, inserted in 1972 and not part of the powerful history of the UMC and its willingness to stand with those on the margins, does support those discriminatory practices.
With the power of that language, conservatives will insist that any who wish to continue as clergy in this connection swear fealty to the Book of Discipline. (This is what happened in the Frank Schaefer verdict).
It means this to the progressives/emergents: either lie or leave. Preferably leave, so the “pure” church can go forward.
The conservatives have the power. The fact that using power in such a way is profoundly unbiblical makes no difference.
The inquisition will be necessary in order for conservatives to maintain their doctrinal purity. That’s what the drive to doctrinal purity always does. It splits and splits and splits until only a few are left–but those few are so deeply sure of their holiness that the collateral damage seems also to have been a holy move. I lived in that world a long time. I know what happens.
This is church history.
And I believe that unless there is massive repentance and a renewal of humility throughout our entire connection, we are about to see the death stake driven into our mutual hearts.
And for this, Jesus died.
I am so grieved I am writing through tears streaming down my face. May God have mercy upon us all.