Steve Blow, one of my very favorite columnists, wrote in today’s (5/29/14) Dallas Morning News these words about the Tea Party take-over of the Republican Party in Texas: “Texas Republicans can’t keep appealing only to angry, fearful whites. It may be a winning short-term strategy, but it’s long-term suicide. Texas Republicans have to find a platform that is more hopeful and inclusive.”
Now, a quick game: let us substitute “The UMC Good News contingent (AKA “The Gang of 80)” for “Texas Republicans” and see how it reads:
“The UMC Good News contingent can’t keep appealing only to angry, fearful whites. It may be a winning short-term strategy, but it’s long-term suicide. The UMC Good News contingent have to find a platform that is more hopeful and inclusive.”
Frankly, you could take Blow’s entire column and substitute “The Right Wing Gang of 80” for “Republicans” and get a very good prediction of what is going to happen if they do finalize their coup d’etat of The United Methodist Church.
I suggest everyone who thinks the unnamed cohorts of the Gang of 80 have pure motives take the time to read this article. It was written in 2006, and gives an important and well-documented history of the Good News movement and their nearly despicable involvement with the IRD (Institute of Religion and Democracy), a Washington think tank funded generously and nearly entirely by a group of white men whose theology springs from the Christian Reconstructionism movement.
A summary of that theology, quoted from the article referenced above:
According to Christian Century, in the Reconstructionists’ brave new America: minimum-wage laws and Social Security for younger workers would be eliminated; most old-age security would be covered by personal retirement plans or by care from adult children; and the federal government would play absolutely no part in regulating businesses, public education or welfare….all inheritance and gift taxes would be abolished, while income taxes would be no more than 10 percent of gross income (and then only until government was shrunk further). Gleaning for the poor on private farms after harvesting would be encouraged (Shupe, 1989).
I became sadly familiar with the IRD and their underhanded tactics in the late-90’s. Someone who apparently thought I would be sympathetic to their goals invited me, paying all my expenses, to attend the Re-imagining Conference in Minneapolis, MN, in 1998. When I got there, I discovered that they had multiple and well-laid out plans to disrupt the entire conference and to essentially take over the platform with their right-wing views.
Even though I did not agree with some of the theology expressed at the conference, I was, to put it mildly, horrified at the tactics of my IRD hosts. They appeared to me to be a group of mean, vengeful, right-wing women who were out to defend “orthodox” Christianity and were sure no other viewpoint besides their own could or would be tolerated. This group is a big driver of the UMC Confessing movement from which Good News springs.
I said this before and I say this again: I love The United Methodist Church. For a while, I thought it was our structure that is killing us and wrote this about it after the Judicial Council effectively overturned every major decision made at the 2012 General Conference.
But now I contend that this movement to take-over/schism poses a far greater threat than our fumbling and nearly unmanageable bureaucracy.
I wrote this then and reiterate now:
We have the most powerful theology of grace that has ever infused the human race. We have words about God that tell us that God is ever before us, wooing the world into repentance, relationship and wholeness. We have an understanding about our redemption and forgiveness that forever sets us free. And we actually do believe that we can, in cooperation with the Spirit of God, be perfected in love.
Let’s hold onto that. Let us find our perfection in love, be rooted in that grace, and embrace the fullness of hope. That includes embracing the Good News folks who want to send out those who disagree with them. Let us be bigger than that and say, “We are and we will be the people of God, created by love and for love, and with the hope of healing the world.”