The Fight Between Tame and Good: The Coming UMC Schism

The Fight Between Tame and Good: The Coming UMC Schism November 6, 2018

The WCA schism will lead to a tame denomination–safe and clean and neatly heterosexual, although I continue to worry about the sexual issues of the children and grandchildren of those who have founded this movement. Ultimately, however, it won’t be good. 

tame cat

The cat is finally out of the bag–a group of “We know we are right and anyone who disagrees with us is wrong” “united” Methodists are actively planning for schism if things don’t go their way at GC2019.

It fascinated me that several of the Bishops, those who have vociferously prosecuted others who they claim violated the sections of The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, cannot see their particular egregious violations of that very same Discipline.

A quick refresher, for those who don’t want to wade through the arcane, often circular, periodically contradictory legalese in the BOD:

Under the job description, found in Section 403.1, we read as part of their duties that Bishops are to maintain:

e) A passion for the unity of the church. The role of the bishop is to be the shepherd of the whole flock and thereby provide leadership toward the goal of understanding, reconciliation, and unity within the Church—The United Methodist Church and the church universal.

Here are the Bishops who have disqualified themselves from that office by standing in active rebellion against the unity of the UMC:

Kasap Owan South Congo Area;

Scott Jones, Texas;

J. Michael Lowry, Central Texas;

Mark Webb, Upper New York;

Gary E. Mueller, Arkansas;

Eduard Khegay, Moscow Area in the Northern Europe and Eurasia Central Conference.

All are listed as in attendance and/or as speakers at the Wesleyan Covenant Association meeting held Nov. 2, 2019. At that point, they unequivocally stated their position. Should the GC2019 not give them what they want, i.e., effectively to be able to welcome the money (oh yes, especially the money), gifts, and talents of the LGBTQI community but to refuse leadership privileges, marriage privileges and ordination privileges to them, they will leave, taking as many churches and people as possible.

It’s probably time, but also problematic and non-biblical. There is a way to find peace, vitality, and unity in mission in the UMC. It comes with the price of recognizing human differences in the ways we perceive the world. We have to admit that many viewpoints offer truth. But such admittance is anathema to some.

not a tame frogMy husband and I are preparing for a trip to the tropics, including some time in the Amazon. Thus, I have been dusting off some of my readings in Anthropology. Once again, I must acknowledge that two human beings, standing in the same space at the same time, can observe radically different things.

What one might see as a threat, the other might see as a welcome meal for a hungry people. What one might see as beauty the other might see a likely death through poison.

What we see depends on our life experiences, our education, our religious, or non-religious, beliefs and dozens of other factors. By the way, the photo of that beautiful frog is also the photo of death: it secretes poison from its skin. Beauty for some; death for others. That’s human nature.

There’s extensive research documenting what I am saying. I think Jonathan Haidt’s book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, is one of the best and worth a read.

The Hidden Tribes project, a year-long research program hoping to discern what is causing such a polarized political environment, also has much to say about our equally polarized religious environment. Many of the factors pushing the political divide have common roots in the factors driving our religious divide.

I think the word “Tribes” in the latter work helps us to understand the problem. Most find their emotional, mental, spiritual and physical security in a “tribe” of some sort, i.e., a group of like-minded people where they can find safety and not have to be on guard all the time for fear that their speech or actions or thoughts are going to lead to interpersonal conflict.

By forming and aligning with our like-minded tribes, we tame the world. We make it safe, with few surprises as possible.

The problem: the church, the gathering of those who have decided to live in radically different ways, also says that we cannot, should we want to be faithful to Jesus, indulge in such safety.

One simple verse illustrates this–one too often ignored by the “There’s only one way to see things” people–Galatians 3:28.

Galatians is one of the earliest books written after the death of Jesus and written to one of the nascent gatherings trying to figure out how to re-create a sense of community outside the more traditional boundaries of Judaism. The meetings were, to put it mildly, challenging and full of conflict. Many people wanted to go back to the way of long-ago received rules and the firm boundaries that delineated precisely who is in and who is out.

But the Apostle Paul writes, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” In a world where each of these named groups, Jew, Greek, slave, free, male, female either resented or looked down upon the “other,” Paul says, “Figure it out: you are now one. Make it work. That’s what the church is about.”

Aslan: Not a tame lionIt’s the whole Aslan statement: He’s not a tame lion, but he’s a good lion. Nor is Jesus tame–but Jesus modeled goodness for us.

Tame offers comfort and uniformity. Goodness reaches across tribal boundaries and seeks to find commonality despite differences and without the insistence that everyone agree on everything.

The WCA schism will lead to a tame denomination–safe, clean and neatly heterosexual, although I continue to worry about the sexual issues of the children and grandchildren of those who have founded this movement. Ultimately, however, it won’t be good.

Frankly, goodness is harder. Goodness demands much more from us than cleanliness and neatness. Goodness is not safe, and it is indeed not tame, but it is real.

Goodness changes lives. Tame keeps us stuck.

Photo credit: rickcameron on / CC BY-NC-ND

Photo credit: Drriss & Marrionn on Visualhunt / CC BY-NC-SA

Photo Credit: By The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe DVD, Fair use


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