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The 95% solution
My ‘UMC schism, a holistic take’ project is, first of all, grounded in my all-in embrace of *unintended consequences* and the divine power of that grace. That’s correct! I deeply trust that the Law of Unintended Consequences [LoUC] is a sacramental of G-d‘s Divine Grace. It’s a practical spiritual law, not only a temporal one.
What greater spiritual gift could humans receive than a divinely-ordained space filled with retroactive grace? A space in which we can say, “I don’t deny the thought/speech/deed; however, that was not my intended result. I didn’t even see that part coming!” When the LoUC is paired with a peace & reconciliation process, it can represent the healing and blessing that result in an assurance of a clean spiritual bill-of-health; that is to say, a personal-experience of G-d‘s bona fides regarding divine forgiveness and what John Wesley called justifying grace.
The 95% solution: Has a problematic obstacle
As noted in parts 1-4, a significant problem is that Group 1 & 5 Incompatibilists are absolutists. Activists on both “sides” use absolutist rhetoric that creates a schismatic structure in our denominational discourse regarding inclusion/authority. The 95% solution is plain and simple; and yet the absolutist problem has created a significant obstacle: i.e., our idolatrous devotion to winning. That demon (e.g., control spirit) needs to be cast out and released so that the scales may fall from our eyes, and we can see a common path forward.
The 95% solution: 50 years of very difficult lessons
—Some helpful background by Kathy L. Gilbert, April 27, 2016 (here); Don Hand, July 4, 2014 (here); Rev. Dr. Thomas A. Summers, January 28, 2016 (part 1 here) (part 2 here); Rev. Phil Thrailkill, January 28, 2016 (part 1 here) (part 2 here). Please don’t miss: “The UMC as a Global Church: 1968 to the Present,” by Phillip Wingeier-Rayo.
Dr. Summers tries to describe it in his part 1, i.e., the late 60s and early 70s featured an outbreak of polarized culture war in the U.S. nearly as intense as what we have today.
Additionally, in 1968, the year that General Conference [GC] (the “Uniting Conference”) minted The United Methodist Church, while some solid foreign mission connections and outposts were already established, the idea of being a “global church” was aspirational, yet unrealized. The vast majority of the delegates to the 1968 GC were Americans with their anxious American context front and center. The new UMC was mostly ignorant regarding the dynamics of global relationships and change.
The “International Mission Conference in Whitby, Canada, in 1947 was to encourage more partnerships, mutuality and autonomy for the ‘younger churches’ that had reached ‘advanced stages of development.’ (see here)” Still, while there was no malice involved, GC was mostly U.S.-centric in 1972, as well. The UMC had no clue about the long-term consequences of decrees made in top-down fashion by the new denomination — especially, in relation to local/regional contexts that fell along a very wide spectrum. We didn’t even know yet what we didn’t know!
As we’ve seen in parts 1-4, the language of “incompatibilism” is absolutistic and creates mutually-exclusive win-lose relationships. Nevertheless, while undoubtedly meaning well, yet knowing very little, the first debate regarding homosexuality was set in motion on the floor of GC in ’72. An amendment offered from the floor by Don Hand was added to the legislation meant to establish the language regarding human sexuality in the “Book of Discipline” [B.o.D.]; and the amendment/legislation passed (here). Thus, we were locked into decades of bitter dispute; unintended consequences that basically created a schismatic structure in our theological/ecclesial discourses.
I hope that by now Don Hand claims the grace of *unintended consequences* regarding his 1972 amendment. That would depend on his having gained a recognition of the harm that has resulted from his so-called “incompatibility clause.”
Fifty years of strife have taught us well that issues as complex as human sexuality cannot be legislated away by top-down decrees. Rather, human sexuality is a matter that we trust people of good faith will reconcile in their local contexts/churches/communities. A solid case for local grace and contextualized reconciliation, e.g., faithfulness to 2 Corinthians 5.19-20.
The 95% solution: How to move forward?
We go back to the future! At GC2024, we simply revert the B.o.D. to its pre-“incompatibility clause” state. We start over, sans the error. This authorizes local churches (and their Annual Conferences), guided by the Holy Spirit in their own contextual stream going forward, to navigate as they discern their place in the pluralistic tides of our global waters.
Next week: And, if pain is a premise?
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