Recently, a group of pastors put out a proposal for amicable separation. It has received much criticism from those in the UMC who believe otherwise. I personally hope we can find a third way, but my biggest criticism of the group is that they chose to remain anonymous. All of us must deal straight up with each other. Anonymous statements do not reflect the courageous character of our Wesleyan tradition. Other than that, those who have been stridently critical of these pastors need to think twice. Why?
If indeed, these persons who have proposed amicable separation are bigger than the church, as one bishop suggests, then it can also be argued that those who willfully violate the Book of Discipline and perform same sex marriages also believe they are bigger than the church as well. It works both ways and one cannot have it only one way. And for those of us who desire a third way, we need to be careful how negatively critical we are of both sides who have deeply profound convictions on this issue, albeit very different convictions. A third way cannot be found if we alienate those on either end.
And that is precisely part of the problem we face. We deceptively think that it's only the other side that is guilty as too many on both sides believe. Our side can do as it pleases because it is in the right, but when the other side resorts to the same tactics they arrogantly believe they are at the center of it all; they are bigger than the church. Of course, when one says this I ask, what church do they mean?-- just the United Methodist Church or the one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church throughout history? It seems to me that in the midst of our current struggle, the latter is not seriously considered simply because we Protestants seldom consider the church universal in any major debate we have, which-- coincidence, coincidence-- happens to be larger than the United Methodist Church.
My point simply is that there are those on both sides who need a little more humility in working through this. Please remember that the last outfit each and every one of us will wear in this life will be put on us by someone else. And after each one of us is in the ground "moldin' in the grave," the Church of Jesus Christ will continue.
None of us is bigger than the church nor the God who willed the church into existence. That is true for everyone, regardless of where they stand on any issue.
We are Lilliputians.
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I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)