Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A Few Confused Thoughts on UMC Schism

I've been reading a lot of discussions about the United Methodist Church, sexuality, and schism recently, and to help me sort through some of my thoughts, I'm going to write out what I've been thinking and where I've been confused.

I used to be absolutely, without a doubt, in favor of changing the Book of Discipline to allow United Methodist ministers to perform same-sex marriages and to remove the language about not ordaining "self-avowed practicing homosexuals." I doubted whether such a change would actually have a hope of going through anytime soon, but that was my hope.

My interest in the church as an institution has been growing, so I watched a lot of the live feed of Annual Conference this year. When I realized people were livetweeting it, I started following them. I was pleased when the aspirational motions related to sexuality passed at NEAC. (Here's one of them.) A little while after conference, though, I realized that I had created a bit of an echo chamber in my Twitter feed; the UMs I followed tended to agree with each other. So, I sought out others.

I'll admit that I haven't ended up following many people who are as conservative as the progressives I follow are progressive, but I do read a number of traditionalists. I also happened upon the group of people from Via Media Methodists, and they in particular have made me think a lot over the past six or seven weeks.

I think trust is really important in the church. I've come to deeply value corporate faith and United Methodist connectionalism. As I considered that more, I started to think that upholding the Discipline is really important because it allows us to trust each other. But I read a book by Ursula K. Le Guin yesterday called Powers, and then I read the #NotMyChristianLeader tweets, and I started thinking about power and trust.

It seems like there are two issues of trust here. Some people are calling for the UMC to uphold the trust we have in each other as a single institution by following and enforcing the Discipline. Another (though not entirely disjoint) set of people sees a marginalized group that can't fully trust the church while the Discipline states that "practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching."

(I'm not sure this is really representative, but I think it's closer than I was. I'd love thoughts on any of this post, but especially that last paragraph.)

I had only been considering the first kind of trust, and I still think it's important. I also think it's important to hear the second group of people and recognize that there is a feeling of a betrayed trust. There is a difference in the two, I think, because the default assumption of the UMC is - and should be - that the Discipline will be upheld, whereas in the second case the thing causing the lack of trust is part of the institution and clearly stated. I'm not sure how that should change how we approach the two different issues.