I was asked by some United Methodists about my reaction to the called session of General Conference in St Louis recently. I have not been involved in the debate and I’m essentially an outsider now that I’ve left my former work in the church. So my opinion hardly matters.
But I started to write my thoughts and before I knew it, I had six pages and over 2,000 words. Too much for a blog post unless it’s a long form read.
So I extracted a few random thoughts. I’m not interested in re-engaging this debate. William Sloane Coffin said, “The problem is not how to reconcile homosexuality with scriptural passages that condemn it, but rather how to reconcile the rejection and punishment of homosexuals with the love of Christ.” Can’t be done.
Here’s the short version. I’m simply sharing my views. You may agree with these thoughts, disagree, or disregard, but I’m done with debating.
- I’m disappointed, heartbroken, frustrated and angry.
- The hurt that has been done to LGBTQAI persons is so deep it is difficult to see how it can be repaired.
- The legacy of theological malpractice by the missionaries from mission sending agencies of the church for the past 100 years took a seat at GC2019, as Dr. Pamela Lightsey so correctly posted on Twitter and Joey Lopez posted on the website hackingchristianity.net.
- A generation that has grown up in the digital environment and is turned off by judgmental religion is lost to The United Methodist Church.
- This decision is a rear guard action (See Yuval Noah Harari, Homo Deus, p. 277) by a church looking backward, reacting to a genuine movement for liberation, and it raises the question, Why would skeptical, informed secular people who are open to seeking spiritual growth bother with this church?
- The existential crisis affecting The United Methodist Church is indicative of a much broader existential crisis affecting the whole Christian community today and it raises another question, If it can’t get this right does this church have anything of value to say to the world?
- Broadly speaking, the faith narrative of the 20th Century does not hold up in the 21st Century and the biggest theological challenge facing Christians now is to re-frame Christian belief to show it is meaningful and relevant. Phyllis Tickle was right! See The Great Emergence, p.162.
- It’s inevitable that a new unitive Christian narrative will emerge because the old Greek idea that the world can be explained in dualistic terms as material and spiritual, later adopted by Christian thinkers, is running out of steam. As science searches for a unified theory of everything, even postulating a multiverse rather than a universe, Christians are challenged to think holistically about God, Creation, and our place in the cosmos.
- By putting this issue forward as a matter of the authority of the Bible, the self-styled Orthodox movement has assured that the authority of the Bible is diminished even further because the explainers of meaning, to borrow Richard Rohr’s phrase, are no longer limited to the clergy, the church and sacred texts. They are the scientists, technologists and media producers who are shaping culture, changing our lives and explaining the cosmos. Authority has shifted and expanded.
- A church that arrived at this decision risks making itself irrelevant in the secularized, technologized, media-saturated world of the 21st Century.
- The claims of Traditional Plan advocates that the vote assures the future of a global church committed to their understanding of orthodoxy is as hollow as it is naive. As Harari points out “History is often shaped by small numbers of innovators looking forward rather than by backward-looking masses.” (Harari, Homo Deus, p. 271.)
- African and Asian United Methodists will experience the same challenges of secularism, scientific authority, technological change and generational conflict as the U.S., including legal rights for LGBTQAI persons.
- The decisions by mainline communions including The United Methodist Church in past decades to withdraw from participating in public media leaves the church outside the public conversation and incapacitated to influence attitudes toward justice for LGBTQAI people. “Religions that lose touch with the technological realities of the day forfeit their ability even to understand the questions being asked.” (Homo Deus, p. 271.)
- Alternative giving options should be considered to assure that financial partnerships support empowerment, justice and equality and do not contribute to discrimination against LGBTQAI persons, women and other marginalized and disempowered people.
Something new and fundamentally different will emerge. And it will be of God.