General Conference 2012 approaches, and so we hear more talk of schism or “amicable separation” within the denomination. (It is curious that we use a euphemism for divorce when the cause of the imagined split is partially over arguments over the meaning of marriage.)
Over at The Confessing Movement, Thomas Oden has an essay about schism, John Wesley, and the early Methodist movement. His basic thesis is that until the church requires he do something that violates his conscience, he views schism or separation as inflicting grave harm on the body of Christ and against biblical teaching.
Near the end of the essay, he lays out his personal decision.
My own decision about whether to leave the United Methodist Church hinges on this steady and clear conviction: As long as the classic Wesleyan doctrinal standards (Wesley’s Standard Sermons, Notes, and Doctrinal Minutes) are in place and constitutionally guaranteed, my intention is not to leave the church that baptized me and ordained me. Nothing that the political activists do will cause me to think that either my baptism or my ordination is deficient. But if the church requires of me some act to which I cannot in good conscience consent, I will, like Mr. Wesley, consider it “my bounden duty to separate from it without delay.” I hope and pray that such will not be required. For now I appeal to classic Wesleyan doctrinal standards on those matters of sexuality that are rending the body of Christ.
That such essays need to be written suggests to me that we are moving closer to a separation. I may be reading that wrong, though. I am fairly new to the fold.