The Penchant for Purity Will Kill the Church



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"Doctrinal Purity" = "Political Correctness"

John Shelby Spomg wisely noted creeds do not unite, they divide. Eventually you get to a situation where only two are left standing and one says, "None are pure but me and thee, and I worry about thee." True faith is faith in God, not men. Men wrote scripture and it can be interpreted nine ways to Sunday. Better to follow Bokonon's maxim, "Live by the foma and be happy." (Bokonon was Kurt Vonnegut Jr.'s misfit Caribbean prophet in his novel "Cat's Cradle" and "foma" was an item in his pidgin lexicon meaning essentially "lies.") The mandate to love supersedes any "doctrine," As hatred and fear are the building blocks of doctrine, we're better off without it. Love your neighbor and trust your heart. Nothing else matters.

George Nixon Shuler more than 5 years ago


Rev. Thomas, your article was well written. Your analogy explained well the points made. It was a joy to read. You were taking my thinking in a direction somewhat uncomfortable for me. However, you kept me engaged.

I liked your anology, your logic and initially your outcome. But I could not put my finger on what didn't fit together until at the end.

Using your anology, what if your guests in your house were people who's views and values were different than yours. What if they were not only different but you were in total disagreement with their views and values. You love them but disagree with them. Would you have allowed them to stay?

David Bryan more than 5 years ago

Progressive purity?

For more than for decades, conservatives have held a grip on The United Methodist Church's doctrines about human sexuality, especially with their ban on accepting homosexuality claiming heterosexuality is the only form of human sexuality acceptable to Christians. I see their resistance as a way to maintain their view of sexual purity. Progressive Christians over those years have pleaded with their conservative colleagues to be more inclusive by allowing others in the church to be fully inclusive of a broader understanding of human sexuailty even if conservatives don't accept this broader understanding. For the life of me, I don't equate such broader understanding as a form of purity but a form of inclusiveness. At that point, your argument breaks down. I joined The UMC 48 years ago during the Civil Rights Movement because it supported inclusiveness not because of a strict personal purity which has been maintained by controlling a political conservative agenda at General Conferences during those decades. I don't see this understanding of sexuality as a duelism but as a struggle for liberation.

Daniel Gangler more than 5 years ago

A more practical question

Doctrine--what you believe--informs how you act and live. Right now the multiplicity of doctrines present within the UMC is already producing conflicting results: The RCRC is taking the wrong approach; the RCRC is taking the right approach. Same gender and heterosexual relationships are both ordained by God; only heterosexual relationships are ordained by God. Only Israel is to blame for the problems with the Palestinians; Israel is not the clear aggressor in the conflict with Palestine. How can a church be an effective witness to the world when it is simultaneously saying two totally different things that literally cancel each other out? How can the UM Publishing House support such divergent views. How does the GBCS function in a way that is representative of such divergent views?

And in response to "Doctrinal purity": I believe in things such as the trinity and the virgin birth; they inform my understanding of who God is and who we are. People who do not believe in the trinity and the virgin birth have a whole different concept of who God is and who we are. And more to the point, believing that Jesus is truly the creator God who chose to become truly human, produces a whole different view of him than a belief that sees him as something else.

Doctrine matters!

Betsy more than 5 years ago

Doctrinal purity

The problem, of course, is in where do you draw the line, or do you draw it at all. Is someone welcome to be a pastor in the United Methodist church if he/she does not believe in the Trinity? Is someone welcome to be a pastor in the United Methodist Church if she/he is living in an adulterous relationship? If not, why not? To exclude them could only be done in the name of "doctrinal purity." By the way, both the adulterer and the Unitarian, like the practicing homosexual, should be welcome to worship at any United Methodist Church.

In Christ,

The enemy hates clarity

the enemy hates clarity more than 5 years ago

Line Drawing is the modus operandi of fear

The subject recalls Edwin Arlington Robinson's wonderful epigram, "Outwitted:"

He drew a circle to shut me out
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But love had I and wit to win
I drew a circle that took him in.

George Nixon Shuler more than 5 years ago

Wesley's "pure doctrine"

Even as Wesley insisted every Methodist be grounded in a single doctrine, that doctrine was not pure in the sense it came from a single faith tradition. He started with Reformation theology and stirred in what he perceived as the best of other traditions, including Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox and the German piety movement. So, although Methodism preached a single "pure" doctrine, it was a unique blend of multiple faith traditions. It is entirely possible that the discord currently besetting the United Methodist Church is the result of different factions working from an incomplete understanding of one piece of the whole pie that Wesley assembled. The church most definitely has an incomplete understanding of the catholic spirit as Wesley taught it. Wesley is a brilliant man who has a depth of understanding of human nature that is missing in the church today. Since Wesley's thoughts are spread out across a plethora of writings, including his letters, it is the height of folly to assume that any given person has Wesley "right" unless they have dedicated their lives to studying and understanding Wesley. Ken Collins, Kevin Watson and Andrew Thompson are three people who have a good grip on who Wesley really was and what he really did. I am sure there are others, but they are the ones I have encountered in a significant way.

Betsy more than 5 years ago

Know your history.

Methodism was born in doctrinal purity! Because of a disagreement over doctrine, John Wesley could not wait until he could separate from the Fetter Lane Society and move to the Foundry. During his lifetime, Wesley was very particular what was taught and preached in the Methodist Societies under his lifetime. His understanding of the catholic spirit did not include the type of theological/doctrinal diversity that is currently running amuck in the UMC. I personally can not wait for the UMC to downsize its theological tent; it is only then it will be effective. If any given church was destined to be doctrinally pure, there would not be so many versions of church. The united Methodist Church came into being because of a specific and unique message and method; when she reclaims both, then she will have a unique contribution to make to the Christian landscape. I have personally found the theological diversity running amuck in the UMC to be toxic and confusing. When the pedal hit the metal and I needed answers about myself and God, it was only when I distanced myself from all things church that I discovered the trine God of holy love who is most definitely worth worshiping. It was my lesson in what all I did not understand about basic Reformation theology with a Wesleyan twist. I have basic Reformation doctrine with a Wesleyan twist has not been clearly and consistently taught in the Methodist/United Methodist Church for over a century. By losing our doctrine, we have more than exceeded Wesley's fear that Methodism would become the form of religion without the power; as you state so well we are a house divided against itself.

Betsy more than 5 years ago