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Should the UMC Schism Happen?

Discussion in 'Denomination Specific Theology' started by The Liturgist, Dec 6, 2020.

  1. The Liturgist

    The Liturgist Traditional Liturgical Christian

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    For those of you who don’t know, leaders in the UMC have been planning a schism as a way around the traditionalist coalition of nearly all African, and a plurality American parishes that adhere to Biblical Christian doctrine on human sexuality, and which at every General Conference since 1972 have voted as a block to prevent the UMC from following in the footsteps of the Episcopal Church, the PCUSA, the ELCA, my old stomping grounds the UCC, and other mainline denominations.

    Under the proposal a new traditional church would be separated from the UMC and given $25 million. But to me this seems unfair, especially to people who have seen their local Methodist parishes taken over by heterodox clergy (I have a friend whose parish received an arrogant new elder who was an avowed Arian, rejecting the Nicene creed as he disagreed Christ was “of one essence with the father,” and who alienated the very talented organist and her husband, who led the choir, causing them to go to another parish.

    Given that the traditionalists have the votes, what baffles me is that no one in the Methodist communities online is talking about the alternative, which would be to defrock the clergy, and break ties with seminaries, that do not agree with the 1972 doctrinal statement of the UMC affirming a Biblical view of human sexuality. This would save many declining congregations, where people have been alienated and have left to join other churches, and in the few parishes where the majority of the laity actually support an unbiblical view of human sexuality, these need to become mission parishes, where the most faithful and doctrinally solid pastors can be sent to spread the true Gospel to a hostile audience, and call the laity to repentance.

    This can’t happen, obviously, if the UMC divides itself. And also, why should the non-traditional church get to keep the name, given that the majority of United Methodists worldwide would affiliate with the traditional church?
     
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  2. seeking.IAM

    seeking.IAM Episcopalian Supporter

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    As a former Methodist PK and a 50+ year Methodist before leaving, I have interest in this subject. I hate the thought of schism fracturing the UMC, for which I still have affection. The rest of my family is still Methodist, and your question is one that pains my traditional Methodist sister the most -- that she one day may not be able to call herself "Methodist" anymore because the name will be taken by the other faction. I don't know how they arrived at the decision of who gets the name, but I find their choice illogical. It seems to me the group that most closely holds to the historical tradition of Methodism retains the name. But they didn't ask me.

    As for me, I no longer have a dog in the hunt after exiling myself to The Episcopal Church. But as an outsider, I'll say the one thing I don't respect is the UMC's failure to act. They have been kicking this can down the road for decades referring the matter to this or that study group. I would like to see them decide something or anything. Just decide and get on with it or lay it to rest.

    Whatever else one thinks about denominations that have already decided this - in whichever way they have decided - I applaud them for acting on the courage of their convictions and not being afraid to face and resolve the issue head-on. The UMC's failure to decide seems almost masochistic preferring to stay in pain by prolonging the debate instead of deciding, moving on, and healing.
     
  3. chevyontheriver

    chevyontheriver Well-Known Member Supporter

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    There are lots of schisms that perhaps shouldn't have happened, where a call to return the whole to faithfulness should have been heard and acted on instead. Too late. Sorry to see the United Methodist slow motion train wreck but it seems all sides have agreed to it, at least among those who have power and voice if not everybody.

    The conservative side will eventually thrive, even though smaller, as the liberal side continues to lose members and slides into an inevitable obscurity. Hopefully the conservative side will be free to work with other more traditional religious groups to undo some other schisms after suffering through what looks to be an unavoidable schism in the breakup of the UMC.
     
  4. The Liturgist

    The Liturgist Traditional Liturgical Christian

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    indeed, I hope so. But what still baffles me is why the conservatives don’t simply use their majority to oust those clergy not preaching the Gospel? Why settle for a schism when you could take the entire church?
     
  5. hedrick

    hedrick Senior Veteran Supporter

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    They have the votes in the General Conference, but to do what you suggest would require actions by bishops and Annual Conferences. I don't believe that would happen. You'd end up with a schism anyway, but in a more destructive way.

    I'm also not sure the more hardcore evangelical churches even want to remain in the existing denomination. Recall that they have championed a split, and didn't seem interested in remaining in control of the current UMC. The UMC has a large organization, with lots of small churches that will probably be unsustainable in the long run.
     
  6. chevyontheriver

    chevyontheriver Well-Known Member Supporter

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    The radicals seem to always win. The middle seldom holds. Read Saul Alinsky.

    Unless you wanted to follow through and weed out every, and I mean every single person who didn't preach the Gospel, they would embed and come back. And they might not like being weeded out and dig in even deeper. The Catholic experience from 1985 to 2013 is that we thought they would grow old and retire and die off and we would be done with them. So we didn't weed them all out, hardly weeded at all. Many were rooted in deep, and when conditions improved for them it seems the weeds now predominate and are spreading wildly. I don't know if you guys had the guts for such weed pulling. The Catholic Church didn't. And it seems that even Jesus didn't advocate heavy weeding in Matthew 13: 24-30. You will be better off leaving. If you stayed and fought it would just add to the toxicity and there is no telling how long it might take to win. Nor what winning would look like. This way you get to start again without those who you fought against so you can work towards something positive instead.

    When you do that, keep in mind your other Christian brothers and sisters. There are so many schisms to undo if you have the stamina for it. I remember back 40 or so years ago there was a Methodist-Catholic ecumenical dialogue, not as famous as the Lutheran-Catholic dialogue. but a nice start in itself. Maybe it will be possible to continue that, and maybe it will be even more fruitful than before. We can at least talk.

    For now, I feel your pain.
     
  7. Andrewn

    Andrewn Well-Known Member CF Ambassadors Supporter

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    I think this applies to Christians, not the leadership. The letters to church leaders in Revelation show a different picture.
     
  8. chevyontheriver

    chevyontheriver Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Maybe. I want to be able to expect faithfulness out of Christian leaders. Can you explain more of what you mean and how it could or should apply to the UMC?
     
  9. GOD Shines Forth!

    GOD Shines Forth! Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Truth. There is no evolution upwards, man is always devolving downwards. Even some of the early Churches soundly established by Paul were devolving away from him, setting themselves up as prey for "grievous wolves".

    I am thankful for the African brothers and sisters who have held the line against the perverters of truth whose teaching, unfortunately, has "spread like gangrene" (2 Tim. 2:17).
     
  10. GOD Shines Forth!

    GOD Shines Forth! Well-Known Member Supporter

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    This reminds me of a commentary I read on 2. Thess. 2 re: Paul's "mystery of lawlessness". Cant remember which commentary, but it said:

    "This 'mystery' of St. Paul's lies in solution, waiting to precipitate itself"
     
  11. chevyontheriver

    chevyontheriver Well-Known Member Supporter

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  12. tampasteve

    tampasteve ✞ Away until May 16th ✞ Staff Member Administrator CF Senior Ambassador Angels Team Supporter

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    Because that is not really how it works in the Methodist church. Sure it does on occasion, but overall most Methodists are not so heavy handed. As several UMC have told me, the Methodist church is "kind of choose your own adventure". And let's be honest, that approach would only lead to further division and bad blood between whatever people remain in the post-schism church. You would end up in the same schismatic condition with only ill will and litigation remaining.
    I am not sure they care about keeping the UMC name. There are plenty of other names they could take that would retain "Methodist" in the name. Unless they can't have that, which may be the case and I just was not aware of it. Even if they had to drop that they could take a Wesleyan name or similar. I think they want to drop the UMC moniker for a fresh start to differentiate themselves from the organization that they see developing.

    As a recent returnee to the UMC, I am disappointed in the schism, but not surprised. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
     
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  13. Rhamiel

    Rhamiel Member of the Round Table

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    Once it splits each denomination should get a new name
    Both would have Methodist in the name of course but it would be more honest since this is going to render apart the United Methodist
     
  14. The Liturgist

    The Liturgist Traditional Liturgical Christian

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    Except strictly speaking, there would be no schism if non-compliant clergy were defrocked. They could form their own denominations, analogous to the Continuing Anglicans but with the opposite values, but there would remain one integral United Methodist Church with all of its parishes and financial assets.

    Either way, my hope is that the Africans will vote down the schism, regardless of what they do afterwards. And there is a lot they could do other than merely defrock the contumacious clergy. They could, for example, allow them to form a new denomination, while the traditional church would retain the UMC name and all the parish buildings.

    The works of heroic Methodist missionaries are such that the UMC should at present be understood no longer as a mainline American church, but as having transformed into an African church that has a smaller (in terms of members and attendance) group of parishes in the US, similar to how we view, for example, the Coptic Church.
     
  15. hedrick

    hedrick Senior Veteran Supporter

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    There is no way Africans are going to make American annual conferences defrock ministers. It's hard to predict exactly what events would happen in what order. But the one thing that wouldn't happen is that.

    If the traditional plan was actually enforced, several annual conferences would leave or be ejected. That's called schism. It's not clear just how many. But it's silly to push that, because no one thinks it's a good outcome.

    Here's a recent interview with one of the traditionalist leaders: United Methodist Split Update - Juicy Ecumenism. I don't think either side is backing away from the separation. Remember that the traditionalists were planning a new denomination even before the separation plan was widely accepted. I don't think they actually want to own the current denomination. It's not in their interests from either a fiscal or mission point of view. There's just no upside to trying to remove most of the ministers from a denomination. My impression is that everyone is in the process of implementing the separation already.

    So why the traditional plan in the first place? My guess is that they thought they'd be able to suppress ordination of gays without making major changes to the denomination otherwise. But when it became clear that a large number of American conferences wouldn't accept that approach, an alternative was necessary.
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2020
  16. hedrick

    hedrick Senior Veteran Supporter

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    Doing a Google search suggests that churches on both sides of the controversy have started departing. The issue needs to be resolved.
     
  17. tampasteve

    tampasteve ✞ Away until May 16th ✞ Staff Member Administrator CF Senior Ambassador Angels Team Supporter

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    So they would be defroked, and their parishes suppressed or closed? It's not like there is a conservative Methodist coven in hiding waiting to fill the pews of the newly cleansed church. Those buildings and infrastructure would be an albatross until the new conservative parish could fill out, if it could. Forget not that many of these ministers run parishes with congregations and conferences that fully support their views, defroking and cleansing the rolls will only cause more strife and division among parishes.

    I am not certain that the new Traditional Methodist church really wants all of the "assets". Many of the buildings have become a liability. I am sure that many would desire to keep their buildings, and hopefully given the congenial manner this is happening they will be able to. This, fortunately, is not happening like the TEC schism, which is still playing out in the courts.

    It is really unlikely that the African's will reject the plan as many are still beholden to cash from the USA. Many are self supporting, but a lot are still not entirely so.

    As for the name, it is just a name. It only came about since the 1960s, so it is not even really a historic name. I would see the traditionalists as more supportive of a new name. Traditional Methodist Church, Wesley Covenant Association, or whatever emerges.
     
  18. hedrick

    hedrick Senior Veteran Supporter

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    Methodists have always been in some sense socially conscious. The form has varied over time. But it's that church that created the Methodists in Africa. At the moment the form taken by social concern is different in Africa from the US. But it's certainly possible that African Methodists will back away from trying to replace the Church that brought them the gospel with something else.
     
  19. seeking.IAM

    seeking.IAM Episcopalian Supporter

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    Well done, The Liturgist. I have always fashioned myself to have a quite broad vocabulary, but you have just increased it by one word, sending me off to a google definition search. Probably too long, though, to be of any help to me in Scrabble. Still, I'm one word smarter. :clap: :wave:
     
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  20. The Liturgist

    The Liturgist Traditional Liturgical Christian

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    Why suppress and close the parishes? When you have an intransigent presbyter, the traditional solution in episcopal polities is to depose them, reducing them to the laity, and in recent times and places, excommunicate them, but in the early church this was usually prohibited; a disobedient laic can be excommunicated but a cleric cannot be, because one could not under the ancient canon law of the early church, in the first millenium, punished twice for the same offense, it is for this reason that canons usually are worded with a format “If any in holy orders does X, let him be deposed, and if he (still) persists, let him then be excommunicated.”

    Then, with the real estate still belonging to the diocese (or its Methodist equivalents of conferences and districts), replacement ministers should be sent, not necessarily presbyters, but faithful lay preachers who could call an errant congregation to repentance, which one might argue is a prerequisite to those things one needs an actual ordained elder for (although my knowledge of Wesleyan sacramental theology is not clear enough on this point; I don’t know if what I feel the UMC ought to do is what Wesley would do, but I doubt Wesley would “agree to disagree” on this point as some suggest, because when it mattered, he I think tended to be more of an iron fist in a velvet glove than most of his Latitudinarian contemporaries in the Church of England).

    On that last point, by the way, I am intentionally invoking the Anglicanism of Wesley which is a point of fact and which greatly influenced the Methodist Episcopal Church, which only came into being, like the Protestant Episcopal Church (Episcopalian) as a result of the C of E itself turning its back on its former colonial congregations after the Peace of Paris.
     
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