The recent judicial council decisions in the United Methodist Church have sent the blogosphere into a state of - energetic, if not friendly, blogging that I haven't experienced in a while. The decision over whether or not a pastor has the right to deny membership to practicing gay and lesbian persons has been particularly troubling, with the Council of Bishops already issuing a statement that leans toward (by my reading) clear disagreement with the Judicial Council on this issue.
What does this mean for the church? The United Methodist community?
Over at WesleyBlog, Shane Raynor has recently written a post titled, "The Left Gets Ridiculous," where he concludes, "The far left is losing its stranglehold on our denomination, so they're beginning to say and do ridiculous things in an attempt to hang on to power. Meanwhile, the UMC continues to move in a more conservative and more evangelical direction."
As a self-defined member of the "far left," I'm surprised ot hear we've had a stranglehold on the UMC. I guess that's a matter of perspective, because it has felt like an uphill struggle most of the time.
My concern: One of the things I've so appreciated about blogging is the chance to converse with people of widely divergent theological views. Connectionalism at its best in a new format. Folks like Shane and John have been a real blessing to me, and I feel like we have some blog-dialogue that we don't always get face to face. But the tone of Shane's comments, and comments from many others (and I don't want to put words into Shane's mouth, so I say tone) leaves me feeling like some are just holding out hope that eventually all people of divergent viewpoints will just go somewhere else, so that everybody in the church can agree and get on with things. I think folks on the right (and the left) sometimes express these thoughts, directly or indirectly.
John asked recently if we (on the left) are ready for amicable separation yet. Not many responded that they were. We don't like to talk about it, many of us. We've been a church with people of very divergent viewpoints for a long, long time. And we've lived together. But John raises a good question, I think.
What is it we really want? Do we want a church where everyone has the same viewpoint? Same understanding of scriptural authority and interpretation? If we want people of varied views, how varied can views be, before, to use a question from John, the line is drawn and crossed?
What are the benefits of staying together? What are the benefits of splitting up?
If we stay together, is our goal really stay together, or is it just to wipe each other out - to "win"?
I feel like there is a lot of winning and losing language floating around, a lot of power language, a lot of victory/defeat language. Is that what we're about?
Do conservatives really doubt the motives of those of us on the left? I hear a lot of talk about our "pro-homosexual agenda." Do conservatives doubt that my motives are based on something other than a sincere belief that God is calling for a fully inclusive church? Believe that if I interpret the Bible differntly, I must automatically hold it in a lower place in my life?
Do liberals doubt the motives of those on the right? Do we believe that conservatives are bigoted and close-minded?
I don't have answers to all of my own questions, just more questions. Where do we go from here? What do we really want?