Sociologist-Pastor Takes Impartial Look at UMC’s Divide

New Book to Become Part of 'Courageous Conversations' Series



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The divide is not recent

The actually start of disunity goes way back to the founding of the country by various groups. "American Nations" by Collin Woodward demonstrates this to an astonishing degree. While the South was established by oppressive slave owners from Barbados, the New York City area was built on Dutch tolerance. What is now Flushing, NY, declared religious freedom for "Jews, Turks, and Egyptians" and "all," back in 1657, and is now one of the most diverse places on earth. Then there was a Civil War whose fault lines still reflect current political divisions. American anti-intellectualism is very apparent in rural areas. People want something simple to follow in black and white, and not that which needs to be considered at length.

The gay rights movement followed on the heels of the Civil Rights Movement, which was essentially the North and West ganging up on the South to end their hateful culture. Gays faced a more difficult road due to the illegality of gay sex. Even within my lifetime, it was technically illegal for two gay men to have dinner together in a restaurant due to New York State law. The rapidity of change in this area is remarkable and 67% of Americans now favor same sex marriage. The areas of opposition to this tend to be the same that fought against civil rights in the 1960s.

The big mistake the ME Church made was probably bringing the ME Church South back into the fold. The cultural differences between North and South are too great to bridge as we have seen in politics.

David 219 days ago

Well, Rob Renfroe says...

...that we (progressives) don't understand them (reactionaries). I believe this assertion is not very well informed. What we wonder is, as Rev. William Barber II says, "Why do they care so much about what the Bible says so little [sexual orientation] and so little about what the Bible says so much [opposing the oppression of the poor]." But in the other writings of the right-wing United Methodists, they reveal themselves. They articulate World War II Era prejudices against LGBTQIAs, with such turns of phrases as the sneering "gay lifestyle" as if one's capacity to love is as trivial a thing as a round of golf. No, I think the problem is we understand where they are coming from all too well. That's the activist, right-wing viewpoint.

There are others, too, like a woman in our District meeting to present the three alternatives who articulated a "market-based" argument against the plans which recognize the dignity and worth of LGBTQIAs: She felt we should not change because already our church body is disdained by Southern Baptists and the like for their perception we are liberal and to accept our LGBTQIA Brothers and Sisters would somehow even further reduce our market share. In small towns where prejudices and judgmental behavior she has at least a practical consideration. It's kind of like if the Disciples did (and they did, against Samaritans and so forth) try to steer Christ away from blessing the outcasts of that time and place.

George Nixon Shuler 220 days ago


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