Breaking Up Is Hard to Do



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Civil Disobedience or Anarchy?

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once defended his moral right to "disobey unjust laws when those laws do not square with higher moral laws." But then he added, that anyone who willingly disobeys a law no matter how unjust and refuses to accept the punishment is not standing on principles, but rather is an anarchist. United Methodist clergy are not following in the footsteps of Martin Luther King, or Gandhi, as they sometimes claim, if they insist that they ought not be held accountable for breaking laws with which they disagree. Until the mind of the denomination changes on this issue by a vote of the General Conference, no UMC clergy is above the law. And for that matter the more moral thing to do would be to accept the consequences of abridging the law and leave it others to come to your defense because again in the words of MLK "unmerited suffering is redemptive." Again, it was not Dr. King's harsh rebukes of the "hate-filled" people who opposed him, but his love for them and his willingness to trust God because as he said: "truth crushed to earth will rise again" that brought of goodwill to identify with his cause and pressured Congress to pass the civil and voting rights bills.
This debate also reminds me of the duel between the two mothers in the story of King Solomon's good judgement as recorded in First Kings 3:16-28. The truthful (morally superior) mother refused to have the king cut the one live baby in half. Perhaps it's time for the party that claims moral superiority over the other to do what the truth-telling mother chose to do. For it's either that or cutting the church in half. On the other hand, perhaps we might just need to make the hard choice and go our separate ways because there is no coming together on this issue. Thankfully, we have examples of other denominations that have taken this course of action.

Dogba Bass more than 5 years ago

I would be totally on board with this, except

for one thing. Suppose we do divide into two church bodies, one which affirms LGBTQ marriages and clergy and one which does not. For those of us which desire the former, that sounds very wonderful, but what of the youth left behind in the hard-hearted church? Will the LGBTQ among them therefore but subjected to ex-gay torture? Will their classmates be taught to bully and harass them as their parents do? Will they grow up in a religion unrecognizable to Christ where who can go in what bathroom gets the backs up of the ignorant and the hateful? If the answer is of course not, then let's go. But I do not believe evidence indicates that it is.

George Nixon Shuler more than 5 years ago


The UMC has an intentional and prayerful process for decision-making at General Conference. The decisions of GC are binding on UMC organizations and clergy. Clergy in the UMC covenant to uphold the Discipline upon their ordination. While I don’t question the sincerity of your motive to do “what faithful ministry looks like in our social location”, I do question the value of a governance process resulting in decisions that covenanted persons are free to selectively disregard.

Perhaps unintentionally, it seems to me you’re advocating for congregational polity. The present debates about human sexuality rest on the broader question of the nature of UMC connectionalism. If people are permitted to be clergy in good standing while acting on their personal conscience on any particular theological or social issue, that’s congregationalism. I would support that. In fact, I think congregationalism is inevitable for all expressions of Protestantism. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s the only surviving polity a hundred years from now.

What doesn’t make sense is to continue to say the UMC’s episcopal polity and GC governance results in binding policy while allowing covered individuals to selectively disregard any particular policy they can’t support, even though their non-support is based upon their sincerely-held theological understandings and the dictates of their individual consciences.

Without some kind of Third Way or “agree to disagree”, there’s no room for individual civil disobedience inside the UMC. The only option for objecting clergy will be to leave the UMC.

Clif Guy more than 5 years ago

Breaking Up

I was ordained an Elder in 1970. Two years before the passage of the first explicit negative reference to homosexuality. Eight years before I dealt with my own issues and left full time parish ministry for a special appointment. Every four years I would watch General Conference news for signs of repentance or at least a lessening of the hardline anti-gay position hoping that I might be able to return to pastoral ministry. I retired in 2002. I still watch. I still tell myself I must let go of this. It is too late to be writing comments about this and getting worked up about it. For most United Methodists this is a side issue that does not affect them. They may intellectualism it pro or con but there are no consequences to live with. They have no skin in the game. In recent years there are more straight allies. But no enough to change the course or momentum of General Conference...or sustain a separate inclusive new Methodist Church.. So this quarrel will continue with more drama, more disruption of lives, more hurt, more trials and expense and negative press, and more people like me watching from another inclusive denomination because they too cannot take it anymore...but can't quite let go of it either.

Sarah Flynn more than 5 years ago

explicit reference

That's interesting; are you saying there was an earlier time without the explicit negative reference? I am not a member of this church, but I grew up with it, so I guess there 'was' a time when I was a member (even with a 'confirmation'). Now at age 51. Thanks for any reply.

S. Radcliffe more than 5 years ago