[UMC] extremism in spotlight

a mystical möbius — curating facts, ideas, text, and media to create a contemplative space.  


Serial narration


A series of 3-minute readouts [30, counting this one] regarding the United Methodist Church [UMC] and getting unstuck (beginning here) …. (reset’ here and here) …. (last editionis meant to be generative, not definitive. Non-absolutism is key to “The 95% solution.” 

—Scriptural underpinning for ‘The 95% solution‘ (getting unstuck) is Isaiah 43.19Micah 6.8John 17; and 2 Corinthians 5.19-20



Extremist overreach

Hard-liners on both sides of the same-sex marriage issue are right: there is no middle ground

That’s the clarifying subhead immediately under the headline in a recent The American Conservative article entitled: “Sorry, Anglicans, There Is No Third Way.” The article makes the mistake that I’ve been writing to correct, i.e., it conflates extremists on both sides with their corresponding group’s non-extremists (i.e., non-extremists are the vast majority — I’ve speculated 95%). 

Of course, “conservative hardliners” (and progressive hardliners) agree with the subhead. Their perception is colored in extreme ways! That’s what makes them hardliners — their extreme certitude. Contrary to the article, it is extreme to believe and to claim that there is no middle — not all conservatives deny the middle, only hardliners (extremists) do. To Wesleyans, any notion of “no middle” is tantamount to blasphemy.  

Paul’s hierarchy

I posted a scriptural meme to social media last week. Over it, I posed a couple of questions. 

Do Saint Paul’s words establish a hierarchy of Christian understandings?
For instance, where does “imposing conformity” fit in the hierarchy?
Of course, as modernists, Americans tend to think of most any hierarchy as an ascending pattern of inferior to superior. One interlocutor pointed out that Paul’s spiritual “milk” is not inferior; rather, it is foundational. This is a fair reading that avoids the modernist traps, but it does leave the problem of readiness about which Paul seems rather concerned. [read Paul’s argument here]
Further, it is still fair to use Paul’s spiritual food hierarchy as a metric for our understandings. For instance, our global United Methodist community presently believes/teaches that imposing conformity globally is appropriate polity. Is that understanding foundational (milk) or mature (solid food)? Whatever the case, in practical terms, how does that understanding work locally? 

Limits of unity?

Has James Baldwin identified the space just outside the outer limit of a unity grounded in an “infant’s” (spiritually immature) understanding?



Obviously, Baldwin — both Black and Queer — describes the arrogant overreach of the certitude of the powerful exploiting the vulnerability of the powerless, who are being seen as less-than (i.e., sinful, inferior) and thereby marginalized. Ought any church or ideology be devoted to this kind of dehumanizing discrimination?

Putin’s transparency

Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin have been pursuing anti-LGBTQ initiatives for decades. In The Road To Unfreedom Timothy Snyder talks about Kremlin funding of early far-right Evangelical conferences and gatherings in the US organized around anti-homosexual themes. Putin points to the West’s “Satanism” (advocacy for LGBTQ rights) as justification for his aggression against Ukraine (and NATO/USA, if necessary).

Recently, Putin has upped the ante. This BBC story (here) makes very clear the twofold purpose of Putin’s anti-LGBTQ strategy:

The new law bans “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” amongst all age groups.

Olga Baranova, from Moscow Community Centre for LGBT+ Initiatives, told me that the new law will further stigmatize LGBT people. “We will go fully underground, there will be fictitious marriages, fictitious families.

That’s right. The aim of Putin’s LGBTQ criminalization campaign is justification for, and distraction from, his failed/failing aggression in Ukraine. However, a calculated by-product of Putin’s justification/distraction maneuver is to drive the community back into the closet. 



Pope Francis

[Jesuit priest, Ricardo da Silva, associate editor of America Magazine, The Jesuit Review, was interviewed on WBUR‘s Here and Now program regarding the pope’s recent remarks (listen here)]

The pope gave an interview last week in which he demonstrated that he understands the harm that the Church has done. Francis called for the Catholic Church to work to decriminalize homosexuality.

The pope must walk a very thin tightrope, but he seems to understand that the anti-homosexual teaching of the colonial church significantly contributed to the contexts in which homosexuality has been criminalized. Criminalization seeks to impose conformity through the rule of law. Pope Francis has called for the Church to repent from the harm that it does/has done and to work to heal the damage.

Nicole Winfield writes in an article, “Pope Francis: Homosexuality not a crime,” for the Associated Press:

Declaring such laws “unjust,” Francis said the Catholic Church can and should work to put an end to them. “It must do this. It must do this,” he said.


The crux of the matter?

The more I study and contemplate the dynamics of the human sexual identity discourse in the UMC, the closer I come to the conviction that the debate is finally over whether the Church (Christianity) is ultimately a system for controlling humans or for liberating them. Perhaps it’s both: the former being for Paul’s spiritual infants and the latter for the spiritually mature. [see here]


Next week: [UMC] imposing conformity. [this post ~850 words (3-min. read)] 


Your thoughts? 


3 thoughts on “[UMC] extremism in spotlight

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s