GC2016 — How We Got Where We Don’t Want to Be

There are very few people here in Portland who would say that The United Methodist Church is in a good, healthy place (no, I don’t mean Portland).  We have come to a crisis point, where we cannot say we are united in Christ, or of one mind, heart, soul, and spirit.  So, how have we come to this untenable place?  Simple answer: we were taught to be here.  The complex answer is: we have chosen what to learn and believe, and have adopted conditional reality as absolute truth.  We are fighting over opinion and conflicting information as if they were immutable laws and definitive principles.  We have chosen to do this.  We have intentionally set diverse views in opposition, and we have used our scriptures and Discipline as weapons, to frame a battle in terms of winners and losers.

The reason we are not coming to grace-filled consensus indicates that we don’t want to.  We are wallowing in our divisions, and we do not wish for compromise or concession. We want our way.  We want validation.  We want confidence that what we have been taught, what we have learned, and what we believe is true.  We are not overly interested in facts.  We don’t care what science has to tell us.  We don’t care much about cultural or contextual differences.  In short, we don’t care about perspectives that differ from our own.  Other beliefs and opinions are wrong, and therefore not worth considering.

The only way out, the only way forward, is to decide we want things to work out.  It is a conscious decision and declaration.  We are talking about a comprehensive paradigm shift, adopting a very different level of engagement.  We need to accept full responsibility without placing blame.  We need to shift focus to creating a future rather than dwelling on past and present hurts.  We need to commit to reconciliation beyond restitution and restoration.  We cannot go backwards to undo the past as a way forward to create a future.  True repentance and apology will be necessary, but from all sides.  Perhaps most difficult will be to receive different bases of information and data in an objective, non-prejudged manner.  But beyond information, we must prayerfully seek transformation as one body, not as disconnected parts.  The “us/them” that has defined us must be set aside for an “all of us together” culture.  The key to all of this is that it must happen by intention and design.  If we will not make a commitment to love our neighbor as ourselves, we will not move to a new and better place.  Enemies must become friends.  This cannot be a one-sided movement, but we must agree to all move together.

We have created the place where we now stand.  Only through concentrated and collaborative effort will be create a new space.  If, at the end of a truly dedicated and concerted effort, we decide we cannot be Christian together, we may have to concede that we must be human apart.  It may be that our personal and human needs and desires are too great for the Holy Spirit to transform.  I, for one, do not believe this is so.  I truly believe God can heal us and help us become the people God wants us to be.

8 replies

  1. Saying that everything should be put on hold for two years is not leadership. What are they going to do about the disobedience that is going to continue to happen in the meantime? How many couples will Bishop Talbert marry in the next two years? How many openly gay non-celibate unmarried clergy will be ordained by BOOMs in the next two years? But, the COB then expects people in the pews to pay the bills???? Unsustainable.

    • I think that is the point. Extremists on both sides are tearing the communion apart. Both sides share equal blame in this. The traditionalists share just as much blame as the progressives. They are wasting time, resources we should not be using for trials and all the other process that is simply witch hunting. The progressives protest by ignoring the BOD at any chance they get. Both sides have made the ordination process, what should be a simple process, a landmine field. The appointment process has become tabloid fodder. They have ruined seminary,(they have driven up expense and its more a long term interrogation than education) and annual conferences and now they have destroyed GC. Both sides have pushed for the appointment of Milktoast Bishops and then feign being startled when they do what they want them to do which is nothing. So thank you to both sides. Thank you for ruining my life. Thank you for ruining seminary,Thank you for making going to Chuch the most miserable part of my week.

  2. I was sharing with a clergywoman from Iowa who is at the camp for a VIM week. I told her how messy things have gotten at GC and she didn’t seem surprised. She seemed to expect it. That spoke to me about how our attitude and outlook has also shaped where we are. When either side of the human sexuality argument considers what “winning” looks like, it involves the other side of the argument either leaving or suddenly, radically changing their fundamental beliefs. The expectation isn’t how to compromise or find middle ground to help us get to a working solution. It isn’t about finding the commonalities that allow us to do great ministry while we continue to have difficult discussions on a regular basis (more than once every year or four years). Moreover, I think both sides are tired of talking. They want a resolution at all costs…I just hope they have all really thought through what that cost would be to ministry for either side to achieve “victory.”

  3. Perhaps “unity” has become the idol/focus of much of the UMC-maintain the UMC as one church at the expense of
    Scriptural truth. Let’s compromise truth-my understanding, yours and all interpretations and understandings of Binlical Truth just to maintain the body when instead seperation might set all of us free for ministry as we believe we are Spiritually lead and understand God to have called us. No one seems willing to compromise truth as they’ve been taught or come to believe so unity is impossible. Quit chasing it and get on with facilitating seperation and ministry. Is not 40 years of beating our heads against immovable walls enough?

  4. When we point fingers, be sure to point one at ourselves. The General Conference had an a opportunity to use a simple alternative to Robert’s Rules which allowed for conversation, connection and discernment. The delegates rejected a community based decision making approach in favor of a legalistic one that produces defeat. We have to find another way of making decisions.. It is impossible to have true unity when you can not even sit together to discern God’s will. Not our will be done but God’s.
    I blame the lobbyists who polarized the body before they arrived in Portland.
    I accept accountability to reason together with my brothers and sisters in Christ even if I do not agree with you.
    I yearn for a do over for this General Conference but I’ll settle for do no more harm.

  5. Perhaps we are not tired of arguing and beating each other up yet. When we no longer have the energy to fight each other, maybe then we can join hands and kneel before God and admit that we are indeed powerless to be the church Jesus calls us to be. Then in humility ask for and accept the Spirit’s power to walk us through our differences. Repentance for the mess we have made and the mess we are would be a good first step.

  6. I posted this blog on my Facebook page. A friend of mine posted the following:
    I fundamentally disagree with what he has to say. I think the right wing has a long history of, whenever the left wing says “we wish to compromise and form consensus with you,” they simply grab for more power and move the needle further in their direction. I therefore think there’s too much history to be willing to compromise with them.
    Knowing people on the right; I suspect they would say the same about folks on the left.

    • How sad! Lefts and rights and lack of trust infinity. What everyone seems to forget is that the church has a middle and we’re weary of manipulation and polarization from the various sides.
      We’re called to be a community of Christians.. Consensus building is not about compromise it’s about discerning God’s will together.
      in Portland we saw what the lefts/rights can do and it was not pretty. As United Methodists, we are the people of the extreme middle holding in tension the 2 Commandments: love God and love neighbor. Both/and – not either/or.

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