How Denominations Split: Lessons for Methodists from Baptist Battles of the '80s



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The Situation

This situation is certainly one of Irreconcilable Differences. In the midst of this, we need to remember that God does not change and neither do His Commandments. John Stott said the theme of Jesus Sermon on the Mount was that we must be different from the world. Here, the subject is morality, so we must have a different morality from the world. If you want to follow Jesus badly enough, you will be different from the world, making Him first in your life. Isn't it great that God love us so much?

Skipper more than 2 years ago

Dr. Nancy T. Ammerman's Baptist lens ...

...yields a remarkably superficial view of what can (or will) happen in United Methodism after the legislation of GC2019 is adjudicated by the Judicial Council.
Although Dr. Ammerman teaches at Methodist-related Boston University, she has failed to dig deeply into the internal drama that culminated at General Conference. Instead, she merely dusts off her old research on the shift of the Southern Baptist Convention over time to fundamentalism. This is helpful as a roadmap for how fundamentalists can engineer a "takeover" within a denominational system in general, but it utterly fails to consider the meaning of our recent Methodist history, including the effort at GC2016 to "stop the clock" on pending traditionalist legislation and pending disciplinary actions for three years while a special commission attempted to craft a "Way Forward" that was endorsed by a large majority of the Council of Bishops and then rejected by the GC2019 in special called session. Nor does it take into consideration the global demographics of United Methodist polity, which is so very different from her Baptist model. In other words, Dr. Ammerman hasn't done her Methodist homework.
Maybe Dr. Ammerman was on extended sabbatical leave during the last three years. Or perhaps BU lacked the institutional incentives to send her as an observer to GC2019 or give her the means to collect significant social research.
But the result is that she's flogging her own academic credentials and research from the 1980's rather than using her insights from her study of the sociology of religion to tell us something we don't already know from an insider's perspective.
This article may be useful to non-Methodists who know next to nothing about what Methodists have just been through, and perhaps to a few Methodist Rip Van Winkles who have just awakened from a very long nap, but otherwise it reads like filler.
Not only that, it's written with a certain determinism that assumes and predicts exactly how a Methodist "schism" is going to happen. Even though Dr. Ammerman seems to have totally missed the word "Africa" as a political factor when she points to "deeper social divisions" as reasons for schism.
I hope that RNS didn't have to pay her big bucks for the right to print this article. If I had to grade Dr. Ammerman for her essay at the undergraduate level, I could generously give her a B minus. But that might not reflect the high academic standards and expectations at Boston University.

Wayne more than 2 years ago