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14 thoughts on “More of this

  1. I just heard Adam Hamilton speak yesterday at Change the World at Ginghamsburg UMC. The issues of biblical interpretation and application that he names are certainly huge and divisive. I agree with much he says, but can’t simplify many things as he has either. Related to that, Mike Slaughter made the comment today that if the UMC split, he wouldn’t have a place to go. I would face the same dilemma. The particularly messy thing about where this division is leading is that it isn’t a clean division. Issues of biblical interpretation and how that gets “divided” in the event of a schism aren’t as clearly divisible as, for instance, historical examples such as slavery (either you believe it is acceptable, or that it is not) or the Filioque controversy (either the Son proceeds from the Father and the Spirit, or just the Father – ‘just the Spirit’ didn’t seem to be on the table for discussion). My fear is that what could happen is less of a schism and more of a splintering/scattering.

    1. I am sure Mike and Adam will find a way to keep food in their tables. As for not having a place to go, why should that matter? That sounds to me like idolatry of an institution. Perhaps I’m reading more into it than is necessary but why worry? I believe that 2 options are available to keep us together: either the progressives repent or church discipline is enforced. In this way unity is maintained. If we do not do these, then schism will be necessary and God will take care of His own. I, and I’m sure Mike, will continue doing the work God has called us to, Lord willing, wherever the Spirit leads.

  2. We only know the character and nature of God through scripture and the Holy Spirit. Thus, biblical authority is vital and has its place at the center of Wesleyan Doctrine. However a greater question to ask in finding your new home if a division where to take place is “Where can you accomplish the Great Commandment and the Great Commission?” What we cannot do is to continue the madness of wasting valuable human, financial and spiritual resources fighting among ourselves instead of feeding the poor, defeating human slavery, and offering people the hope that is only found in Jesus Christ! This is insanity! This is not a “United Methodist Church”. I will run towards the emerging denomination where I can leave behind the insanity and carry out the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. People’s human destinies are at stake…I don’t want people to live another day without knowing the freedom and hope we find in Christ.

    1. Charles, when I look at the Southern Baptists and all the liberal denominations that have embraced gay marriage, I don’t see signs of any of them growing. Some may be struggling more than others, but these denominations that are free of our infighting don’t seem to be doing a lot better at carrying out the Great Commandment.

      1. If I were to “tweak” slightly, I would note that the Assemblies of God continue to show robust growth (here and overseas, as Jenkins points out), and they are one of those denominations free of same-sex agitation. I would add that in dialogues I’ve been a part of, it has become a liberal shibboleth of sorts to opine that theology has no growth effect. Of course the purpose of a shibboleth is “to create a broad rule of action by generalizing from a narrow assumption.” My contention is that the generalization should be challenged as false.

        1. I’m not trying to say theology has no impact on growth. I just remain unconvinced by those on both sides who tell me that this issue is the reason we do not grow.

          Progressives say we are driving away young people, and yet young people are not flocking to progressive churches in droves. Traditionalists say our evangelistic zeal is muddled by these fights. And yet I don’t see the Southern Baptists growing.

          Assemblies of God is an exception (and Mormons), but are the reasons for their growth this issue or something else? I think that is at least worth discussion and not just taking as an article of faith that if we split somehow we will have destroyed a barrier to growth.

        2. I think all talk of growth and/or decline completely misses the point. Again, I go back to what I think matters most: How are we being faithful to a holy God who calls us to be holy? If the answer to that question means “many of his followers walked away” then glory be to God. If it means that many flock to us, then glory be to God. Jesus did not chase after the rich young ruler because he feared loss in numbers. His entire ministry was done in humble obedience to his Father, and he died with 11 disciples. I want to be found faithful to that Lord, not to the whims of millennials.

  3. Adam Hamilton posted the following on Facebook about their meeting:

    “Over Memphis barbecue, long walks, and glasses of iced tea we discussed what we share in common, our hopes for the church, our differences and if there is a way forward for the UMC that avoids dividing over the issue of homosexuality. I’m not sure that is possible, but I hope and believe it is. It won’t come from name calling and demonizing those with whom we disagree. If there is a way forward, I believe it will come out of conversations like these that begin with mutual respect and a focus not only on our differences, but on what we share in common. I also believe it will only happen with the Holy Spirit’s work in and through us.”

    This sounds nice but feels empty. I have no doubt that the people who disagree with the church’s stated position on homosexuality are nice people. And I agree that demonizing each other isn’t going to solve our problems. The way forward, however, is not more walks on the beach and discussion but action. Either Adam or Maxie is wrong. Either one of them is condoning sin, or, if that person is not, one of them is putting an unjust burden upon God’s children. No matter which side you stand on, you have to see the other as being in sin and in need of repentance. Either I need to repent for grieving the Holy Spirit or Adam and other progressives on this issue need to repent for the same thing. The way forward is through repentance, not more conversation about the things we have in common while ignoring that one of us is in grave sin.

    What I hear from Adam is essentially, “Yes, one of us is an adulterer but there is much more we have in common than this. Let’s focus instead on all the good we can do together.”

    1. Chad, you have nailed it here! The fiction working its way around the blogosphere (frequently scooped up and rebroadcast) is that our church crisis only manifested itself in the wake of a couple of stealth additions to the Book of Discipline. This is a fabulous canard, and a devilish deception. The church crisis is due to the Great Divide on scriptural authority and message, but it is being played out as a rift on marriage & sexuality. This did not just pop up 40 years ago, and it’s not just about us. What’s at stake is our relation to historic ecumenical Christianity.

    2. Chad,

      What differences would you see as permissible in the church? And by this I mean over moral issues?

      I know clergy — and certainly laity — who believe all killing is wrong. I know others who applaud the death penalty and cheered when Osama bin Laden was killed. Should we split over that issue as well? One side or the other is in error over a question of killing other people.

      Hamilton and Dunnam disagree over whether sexual immorality (as in 1 Cor 5:11) includes every instance of anal sex between two men or only a subset of such acts. I don’t think the church needs to split over that disagreement.

      Now, there surely are people who are trying to split the church and have that as a goal. I don’t think either Hamilton or Dunnam fit that category.

      1. You raise a good question. I’m not sure I have any adequate answers. It seems in the history of the church there are certain things which we can agree to disagree on. I could be wrong, but I don’t get the sense that anyone is trying to turn us into a “war affirming” church where we celebrate war and killing (even though some members may). I think those who are Just War theorists and pacifists alike would all agree that “war is hell” and killing is never something to celebrate. I realize you are only giving an example and I am sure there are many more, and perhaps some of them are worthy of dividing over. The fact is, though, it is this issue that is before us causing such contention and the question remains:

        What is the best way forward which honors God? If what we are talking about is truly sexual immorality, which I believe it is, then would not I along with everyone else who believes it is sin, be acting in disobedience if we do not either discipline those who are unrepentant or excuse ourselves from their assembly? That is my dilemma. I care less about preserving an institution such as the UMC and much more about being faithful to God. Without repentance there cannot be any reconciliation in the biblical sense of the word. Whatever sort of “united” we continue to maintain just for the sake of unity is, IMO, a mockery of the sort of “one body” Jesus prayed we would be. It CAN be that, but only if those who are in sin repent, or those in charge exercise their God-given authority to “purge the evil person from among” us (1 Cor. 5:13). Without either of those two things, a split is the only faithful option, IMO.

  4. Either the discipline and decisions of General Conference are enforced, or the church becomes disunited. I cannot understand defiance while still claiming and seeking to be part of UMC. I would feel the same way had the decision and discipline been opposite.

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