a mystical möbius — curating facts, ideas, text, and media to create a contemplative space.
Notable is a nuanced take by Dr. David W. Scott, “A New Era in United Methodist Politics: New Parties.” His groups: “Traditionalists,” “Exiting Liberationists,” “Progressives and Remaining Liberationists,” “Institutionalists,” “Innovators,” “Internationalists,” “Regionalists,” and “Localists.” Scott’s General Conference/political [GC] focus is a good bit different than mine; however, I do find a significant amount of potential overlap in our categories.
—The “institutionalists” that occupy my care/concern are The People Called United Methodist. This means the entire body. The UM body’s best expression is seen in her compatibilists [e.g., non-absolutists, 95+%] of all stripes. My vision does not call on anyone to walk the plank. As I’ve shown, incompatibilists [e.g., absolutists, 5-%] actually cast themselves out. However, my approach does call out the incompatibilist groups (1 & 5) for the discord and tension with which their certitude and absolutist rhetoric infect Christ’s holistic community, the church. I want to trust that, with our awareness of it, we can inoculate ourselves against extremism and not allow it to destroy us.
Several conversations led me to the recognition that the UMC not only has the 5% problem that I’ve been trying to describe; it also has what I call a 1% problem (GC politics) — i.e., those behind the GC curtain orchestrating political machinations with the goal of WINNING. We witnessed this in microcosm at the Florida Annual Conference in June. In that case, what I saw was a Putin-scale miscalculation by change activists who created a dreadful situation when their political scheme didn’t work.
Along with gridlock, it is this hyper-cynical, Machiavellian-feature of politics in our sorted/polarized church (and society) right now, imho, that causes an alarming number of people (e.g., nominal nihilists) to, effectively, become accelerationists. Perhaps they can’t articulate their sense of it; perhaps it’s tacit knowledge, as we discussed last week; but their frustration embraces accelerationist sentiments, their rhetoric often betrays it under closer examination.
As I wrote in March of 2019, Love Wins Can Be Misleading, any forward movement on the issue of expanding inclusion and human-minority rights in the church and society that is occasioned on “winning” in any form is misguided and only leads to more difficult problems later on, often including unwelcome regression.
“Winning” is not the way of Jesus’ transformative justice, in my humble view. That forms an excellent segue.
Humility and certitude
I wrote in the first post of this serial blog (July 1, 2018) that many/most of us on the leading edge of change who want to expand inclusion and LGBTQ+ rights in the UMC have simply failed to lead effectively. What did I mean?
I’d like to share a piece of video with you to help illustrate. Queued to the spot, 18:52-20:30:
Rev. Hamilton is my colleague in the Great Plains Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. What he and the people of The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection [C.o.R.] have accomplished is truly extraordinary. Why do I mention this?
I said in part 1 (snip):
During my experience serving Christ in ten smaller country churches, the above was true. However, all ten congregations, while living in holistic community, were unwilling (afraid?) to engage in any discussion of LGBTQ+ issues. The sense was that if we do so, someone will get mad and leave. The problem was/is, these churches didn’t/don’t have a spare participant to lose. Churches that are just barely making it strongly resist anything at all that might rock the boat, e.g., the same with discussing systemic racism.
This experience is why I was bold enough to write in 2018 that those on the cutting edge were failing to lead; I knew that I had failed to make (any perceptible) change, though not for lack of trying. Most colleagues whom I knew who wanted to be change agents in their similar contexts experienced basically the same as I.
What makes C.o.R.‘s witness so incredible? Their context didn’t just magically become 72% inclusivists. Change toward openness was the product of a willingness and determination on Rev. Hamilton’s part to graciously raise, and keep raising, the issues despite resistance that came from some congregant families. Then, too, Hamilton encouraged the hard work of leading change through countless reconciliation-focused, one-on-one relationships in the body of the church. That’s Christ’s holistic community doing the work of Christ’s ambassadors of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5.19).
Next week: Part 4. [this post 825 words (3 minute read)]