'I'm Going to Make Stuff Up and Say That's Why the UMC Is in So Much Trouble'

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Let us not blame the progressives/liberals...

because they are not the source or what is wrong. The problem is we, as a church forgot that social justice is not the main thrust of the church, God transforming individuals into the person he created them to be is. We, as a church have forgotten that salvation is not a group plan but has to work its way into individual lives. Yes, we probably need those that call themselves progressives and liberals to get us up and moving. But what we don't need is progressives/liberals bypassing the first step which is proclaiming the good news of the existence of a triune God of Holy love who is most definitely way more verb than noun; an unfathomable God of mystery who loves each and every one of us more than we can ever think about loving ourselves. And I can state for a fact that is not happening in any consistent fashion within the UMC because at the tender age of 59, after being made to feel like a second class citizen by my long time local church--and I am not even gay--I abandoned all things church and discovered the Heidelberg Catechism and the existence of such a
God! Wesley never ever started with "go and do good works", he started with repent and be saved. He was about holiness of heart and life.

Orter T. more than 2 years ago

Some Questions and Points

A few questions and points:
-Where do I blame the problems of the UMC on progressive Christians? Where do I even the UMC in the post you are critiquing?
-Why did you completely ignore the other example I gave, who is in fact a very popular Patheos blogger?
-Why did you ignore the distinction I made - including complimenting some progressive Christians - between Christian progressivism and progressive Christianity?
-I had never before heard of the 8 points or this particular group before, until a fairly active (on social media) Methodist pastor shared the 8 points to great acclaim on his Facebook wall. The group itself purports to have almost 3000 folks in its network, including mainline congregations (which have doctrinal statements contrary to the 8 points). On my original post, I had some (apparently progressive) folks share that originally the 8 points had more identifiably Christian content, but apparently their beliefs have shifted. If you don't think this group adequately represents what I identify as "one brand" of progressive Christianity, take it up with them. They clearly think they do.
-What is a "missions council"?

Drew McINtyre more than 2 years ago

A response!

Where do you blame? The article is on a titularly United Methodist website, addressed to United Methodists, and specifically addresses the same, tired, old ways the whole problem with UMC can be laid at the feet of self-proclaimed "progressives".

I ignore the distinction because it is one without a difference. I do not detect any respect in the content - they are, after all, not after "Truth" and they don't mention the Trinity - so I can't note what I don't find.

I have never heard any of this before either . . . except from every right-wing United Methodist, including the IRD, for over a quarter century. My problem with the list is not only its lack of originality, but the refusal of a single person to come forward and name themselves as supporters of these alleged points. As I further make clear, there is nothing un-Christian about any of them, and I can find myself supporting them without necessarily supporting this particular set, seeing as it's anonymous. Kind of like that list of people who threatened schism last spring in the run-up to Annual COnference Season. I don't like anonymity.

"Missions councils" was a misspelling on my part that Cynthia must have missed. It should have read "missions" counsels. That would have made the sentence far more clear than it is.

And I'm waiting for something substantive in the way of a criticism.

Editor's Note: Geoffrey Kruse-Safford has posted an extended reply to Drew McIntyre on his own blog at https://noihasseen.wordpress.com/2014/09/13/disingenuousness-and-plausible-deniability/

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford more than 2 years ago

Tempest in a Teacup

This article was posted on a variety of places, some UM-related and some not. Don't assume that the place you came across it was the only one where it was listed. Again, I do not mention the UMC once in this piece. I cannot control the conclusions to which you jump.

These "alleged points" are from a site with thousands of names, and some churches attached. It has apparently been around a while, so I hardly invented it. And again, you completely ignore the more egregious example I gave from a very popular (non-UM) Patheos blogger. I could have used others (John Spong would be the obvious choice), but for the sake of space I chose two instances that had come across my desk recently.

I have no idea where the IRD comes into play or where the conspiracy you seem to suspect might be. If you do not think this list is an accurate representation of progressive Christianity, then take it up with the website/community that endorses it.

As best as I can tell, you saw a critique of something with "progressive" and "Christianity" listed close together, and you saw red.

Lastly, if you are going post nonsensical rantings prooftexting my blogs and distorting my claims, the least you could do is include a link so that your readers can read the original. That's just common courtesy.

Drew McIntyre more than 2 years ago

What I saw

What I saw was yet another "conservative" "confessing" - or whatever name you give yourselves these days - United Methodist using some list they found somewhere on the Internet as a club to beat over the heads of United Methodists. The IRD came in to this because I was making the rather important point that this article of yours, Drew, is neither new nor even particularly interesting, but yet another in a series of decades-long attacks on some imagined bogeyman called "progressive Christianity". It's tired, it's old, it's boring, and I wanted to point and laugh at it. And I couldn't care less where else you posted it; you posted it here, and the only reason I can possibly fathom for doing so is to make sure United Methodists saw it and nodded sagely at the horrors perpetrated upon their denomination by "progressive Christians", again, from some website somewhere.

As for nonsensical rantings, I never accused you of prooftexting. Nor, should I add, did I fail to include a rather long blockquote from your original comment, nor not one, not two, but THREE links to your original piece. Furthermore, you ongoing criticisms demonstrate, as I noted on Facebook, that you have yet actually to read anything I wrote.

As far as I'm concerned, this is yet another right-wing job by another right-wing commentator who gets his feelings hurt when someone comes along and points out how ridiculous his writings are. And if that hurts your feelings, well, I'd be sorry but I'm not. I'm long past caring about the bruised egos of those who stomp their feet when challenged. And when you have something substantive to say about what I wrote, I'll be glad to respond.

Geoffrey more than 2 years ago

On The Trinity

Since you bring up the Trinity, I thought it might be kind of important to ask some questions about that. Are we talking about the western Trinitarian formula or the Orthodox? The Coptic, Marionite, or Syriac? We Protestants have our own non-Trinitarians, such as the Unitarians, the Friends, The Jehovah's Witnesses, and the Latter Day Saints. Further, I doubt most ordained clergy could give more than a text book explanation of the Trinity, distinguish between the economic and immanent Trinity, or describe the meaning of the processions or whether or not the Son of Man was Eternally with the Three Persons or adopted in human form at the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.

As a Trinitarian myself, I find it to be the singularly unique contribution to western thought; it not only explains the experience of the Divine in human history, but summarizes the Gospel story "from above", giving us a God's-eye view of how the God who created the Universe interacts in this particular way, through this particular person, for all of creation. This does not, however, mean that I write out of Christian confraternity non-Trinitarians, or non-western-Orthodox Trinitarians. Christian thinkers from Schleiermacher to Gordon Kaufman have had problems with the dogma, and it's little wonder. Demanding adherence without thought, without clarity, without explanation, to the single most difficult dogmatic declaration of the Christian faith is ridiculous. Ours is a faith seeking understanding, most especially here. For those who would set aside the Trinity, for whatever reasons, or reason it our differently than a western Christian might, is no less a Christian than we are. They are just different in how they express their understanding of the Divine-Human encounter.

So I await, again, a substantive reply on something - anything - that I've written in response to your original article.

Geoffrey more than 2 years ago

Sigh

Geoff, it's not my feelings you have to worry about. You clearly see the world in very black and white terms - such that, despite my regular and even quite popular critiques of the IRD and the UM right, I am lumped in with them despite my clear affiliation with many Christians who affiliate neither left nor right.

If you don't think the fact you completely made up the point of my original post is a substantive critique, then you are deluded. I am not bothered by your lack of accuracy or honesty, though I am troubled that Cynthia would describe the article you wrote in terms that are so obviously false. Again, I never once mentioned the UMC in this post. Moreover, I clearly delineated between healthy and unhealthy forms of progressive Christianity, which you simply ignored. I could do the same for conservative Christianity, I just not have had the time or opportunity.

As far as the doctrine of the Trinity - you ignore the main point, of course - which is that there is a serious strand in progressive Christianity that can be dismissive of core, basic, Christian doctrine. I'm not sure I want to go much further than this because if you identify Jehovas Witnesses and Mormons as Protestants you clearly don't have a good sense of doctrinal or religious history. Congratulations on giving a laundry list of big words, though.

Lastly, people who pontificate about "bruised egos" should be wary of protesting too much, especially if their own egos are so fragile they cannot even allow comments on their own blog. I quite enjoy debate and dialogue - I even had a good exchange with Cynthia and many others on my blog about this particular post.

Drew McIntyre more than 2 years ago

Just . . . wow

Yes, I made things up to criticize, except for all the parts where I took the points you characterized as "progressive Christianity" and made clear they are well within the mainstream of Christian doctrine, so I'm not sure why you characterizing them as "progressive" is some epithet. As for the Trinity and related doctrine - the emphasis upon doctrine over the practice of Christian living is yet another example of right-wing Christians wielding a cudgel they fully believe is theirs and theirs alone. Since you did not at all address the matter of which Trinitarian doctrine you believe is at issue, I suppose I could wait for clarity. Not that I'll be holding my breath.

Yet again, a right-winger pretends disingenuousness in the midst of an agenda so clear to those of us following controversies within the UMC. You don't mention the UMC to give yourself plausible deniability. Yet you clearly deride "progressive Christianity" - to which I am not an adherent; culled from some website somewhere that represents no one in particular - as a way of making clear what you believe is at fault with the UMC. When called on it, you try the whole, "Who, me?" schtick, which I have seen time and again. And you have yet to make clear where I went wrong in my substantive comments on what you obviously feel is so horrible about "progressive Christianity". Instead, you say I do things I didn't do; you accuse the editor of this website of some kind of bias instead of considering, just possibly, the fault dear Brutus lies not in our stars but in yourself.

And your last paragraphs is such a marvelous textbook example of an ad hominem I think it should be included in creative writing classes. Now, please, if you don't mind, how about answering just one question instead of throwing perpetual tantrums: In what way is recognizing the plurality of human religious expressions in any way a denial of the efficacy of the Christ event? How is honoring the faithfulness of non-Christians in any way a violation of the demand that we preach the Gospel to the whole world? If you can answer that - even if I disagree with you, then I believe we will have made some progress.

Geoffrey more than 2 years ago

Right winger?

How sad that anyone who offers a critique of progressives is automatically labelled right-wing.

If you think Mark Sandlin is in the mainstream of Christianity, you have no meaningful definition of mainstream. Remember, you're also the person that called Mormons Protestants...

Recognizing a variety of religious expressions and honoring the faithfulness of those persons violates nothing of Christian conviction; hospitality and openness to the other are wonderful Christian virtues. Treating Jesus as not particularly unique, however, as the 8 points does - which, by the way, has a network of thousands of names attached to it, despite your conspiratorial rantings - goes beyond respecting other faiths to sheer pluralism.

And actually, if you read my piece, I explicitly delineate between the witness of progressive Christianity and the syncretistic paganism of Christian progressivism. I have no qualms with Progressive Christians; in fact, I married one. Not very right-wing of me, eh?

Drew McIntyre more than 2 years ago

Dogma, History, The Trinity

I spent this past summer reading Jean Delumeau's massive historical work "Sin And Fear", an examination of the rise of what Delumeau called "Western Guilt Culture" from the late Medieval period through the early modern era. He produces examples literally from thousands of confession manuals, monastic rules, and sermons both Protestant and Catholic that emphasize doctrine and dogma, yet this reader would not recognize what these saints of the church had to say about the dogmas themselves nor how they worked in the life of faith. Because, simply put, doctrine is not "a thing", but a living searching after understanding the ineffable reality of God's Revelation in Christ through the Holy Spirit. I prefer the western Trinitarian formula. The filioque clause expresses the unity and equality of the Divine Persons and their common presence in all Divine Acts. Yet in Seminary I had a revered professor of theology and historian of Wesley who preferred the Eastern formula. His point was simple: the procession of persons in the East preserves the priority of the Trinitarian Reality of God, setting to one side matters of "being" that so confounded the west for centuries because the unity was given pride of place over the Triunity. Now, I ask - who is right and who is wrong?

As for the failure to explain the Trinity, I am wondering if in teaching you not only explain the matter of homoousios, but hold to it as a way of grasping the interpenetration of the Divine Essence among the persons, particularly the Father and Son. Since no one, except perhaps some members of the faculty at the Philosophy Department at Catholic University of America, take Aristotle or Plato very seriously, how would you explain to a contemporary the necessity of adhering to thousands-years-old philosophical dogma as a way of understanding the unity of the Life and Love of the Triune Godhead?

This is what has always puzzled me about the emphasis on doctrine. Not to say it isn't important. It is only to say that it is not now, nor ever has been, a single, timeless formula to which all Christians in all times and places adhere in exactly the same manner. One can bewail the failure of the teaching office of the church in neglecting the importance of all sorts of doctrines without ever once pretending we are dealing with timeless truths. The latter are for folks who think people are the same wherever you go. Me, I'm in favor of taking people as they are, when and where they are. That includes making clear that Christian doctrine is a living thing that each generation has to sort out for itself the best it can. Now, again - if you think this is nonsensical, I really don't think we have much to say to one another. On the other hand, if you wish to respond, I look forward to it.

Geoffrey more than 2 years ago

Doctrine vs. Theology

I think a fundamental difference between us is that what you call doctrine is what I would call theology. Christian doctrine is precisely that body of Christian teaching that has been held since the apostolic times (the "Apostles' Creed is thus named it because it it is believed to accurately reflect the fund of faith handed down from Jesus' first disciples). The Vicentian Canon from the 5th century defines orthodox doctrine vs. heterodox precisely in the terms that you reject: "that which has been believed everywhere, always and by all."

Theology is better understood as a long conversation across time and space about the nuances of orthodox doctrine, and is a more flexible category than doctrine.

To say doctrine is fixed doesn't make it "non-living" as opposed to theology. The great work done by orthodox scholars through the centuries - Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant - shows that. As Chesteron wrote, doctrine does set some fences, but they are the fences of a playground.

As far as the fight between the East and West over the filioque, for ecumenical reasons I side with the East. Even the Catholics have largely ceded that they should not have made that change without consulting the East, and they are not requiring Byzantine Catholics to recite the Nicene Creed with the filioque. This shows, moreover, that it is possible to have both perspectives within one communion. Pointing out that limited, technical distinction within orthodox doctrine variety does nothing to diminish the necessity and importance of doctrinal teaching within the church, or the heterodoxy of a position like Sandlin's or that of other Christian progressives who deny anything recognizable as Trinitarian dogma (like the Mormons, for instance - who you named as Protestants but are actually tritheists).

Drew McIntyre more than 2 years ago

Doctrine & Theology

Your explanation that I use doctrine when I should use the word theology completely misses the explanation that doctrine is not a thing set in stone, but an ever evolving set of ideas. Did you know there used to be a doctrine concerning how the dead are buried? Not a theology, but a doctrine? So yet again you miss the point by failing to understand what I am saying because it doesn't fit with what you think is and is not true. Doctrine is no more fixed than anything else in a Universe that is expanding, yet also increasing in entropy. Your continued insistence that doctrine is fixed just ignores two thousand years of Christian history. Doctrine is teaching, and to believe for even a second that what we've taught as Christians has not changed in two thousand years is to believe in the Easter Bunny. In your final paragraph you completely ignore the whole issue of non-Trinitarians, except to dismiss them out of hand. Because . . . why, exactly? Do you think God dismisses them because they understand Divine revelation and existence in a way different than you or I do? Orthodox, heterodox, heresy - these words literally have no meaning for me precisely because they are presumptuous. Which is not to say doctrine should not be taught. It should be taught with humility; i.e., always with the insistence that no matter how often this or that teaching is repeated, this or that formula is expressed, it may very well be as wrong as the earth-centered Universe was.

Which is where our fundamental difference lies: You wish to use doctrine to divide. I wish to use doctrine to begin a discussion of who we are. So, please, fo ahead and talk about heretics and people who get the Trinity wrong and how Mormons aren't even Christians and blah-blah-blah. Because the one thing I have discovered in this exchange is YOU ARE RIGHT.

Geoffrey more than 2 years ago

We agree

On your final point, we both agree. :)

Drew McIntyre more than 2 years ago

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