" ... seek an honorable exit"



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invitations can be act of grace

Rev, Harnish
I wonder if you’ve ever dismissed a staff member who in good conscience could not live by or abide by the vision, values and policies of the particular church you were serving? I would guess you probably have, or have had other colleagues done so graciously. I ask, because this invitation seems more directed towards ‘employees of the church’, ie bishops, clergy, (who have taken vows to uphold the Discipline and beliefs of the UMC) rather than just everyone who comes to worship.
Still even more so, in your actual analogy about differing people coming to worship, it seems you in a way may be stating something very similar to the WCA. For you write that you “only ask them to accept the fact that the person sitting beside you in the pew might see it differently than you do, and that you still accept that person as your brother or sister in Christ.” Does this mean that you invite people to worship on this basis that there can be this shared understanding? And if they in good conscience cannot abide by this belief, by your article you state that it was appropriate for them to have decided to leave on their own accord? For I do not read the WCA as stating “if you do not agree with us then get out”. Instead it says “We further call upon those who feel they cannot in good conscience (in other words by their own decision) abide by the doctrines and discipline of the church (standards agreed upon by the General Conference) to seek an honorable exit (of their own accord) from our denomination.”
For example if a Fundamentalist Calvinist came to worship with in your church, that would be one thing, but if they said ‘I cannot in good conscience listen to your free will teaching and so I’ve decided to set up their own Bible Study within your church teaching TULIP’, my guess would be that you would say that’s not permissible. Or say an Anabaptist, came to church and said ‘Baptizing children is not in the Bible so I am going to set up a Baptismal pool in your church and call all the adults to be re-baptized’. Again I would figure you would most likely reply, that’s not what the United Methodist Church believes and practices. In those cases, it would seem good to invite them (as I have and as I have seen other UM Pastors do) that if their conscious bids them to be fundamentalist Calvinist, they would probably be better suited to worship with the Reformed church down the road, or if they cannot in good conscious watch a child being baptized, that the Baptist church down the street may be a good place to worship for them. In this light, we extend this invitation to them (to genuinely consider checking out other churches), not because of any animosity or hatred for them, but instead because we are seeking not only what’s best for our church, but also actually for them. We extend this invitation then because we believe that the that the Kingdom of God is in fact larger than our own little church, and in fact even larger than the UMC.

David more than 4 years ago

The do or die issue for the WCA

That clergy will abide by the promises they made at their ordination which was not to live by their own understandings and conscience but to abide by the designated decision-making processes of the church. And what nobody is acknowledging is that progressive non-conformity with the decision making processes of the church is no longer just about sexuality, it is also about non-conformity with decisions made at GC2016 about the Religious Coalition of Reproductive Choice as well as Israel. Then there is the fact that they inserted their own unique communion stations at GC2016. They have clearly declared they are above the processes of the church. Where is the logic in restructuring the existing covenant to include those that have clearly demonstrated they have absolutely zero intention of living by the current one. Theological conflict is one thing; but conflict over how the church operates takes the problem to a whole other level. The track record for progressives is to pick and choose which parts of the process are "working"--all they are looking for is a specific answer that fits their perceptions of how they want the church to be. We either believe that God is working through our designated processes--as faulty as they are--or we don't--there is no in between. Revisit how the apostles selected a replacement for Judas: with a very human process known as a roll of the dice. They rolled the dice once, accepted the choice and moved on; they did not continually roll the dice until the "correct answer" appeared.

Betsy more than 4 years ago

From my perspective in the pew

It is the progressives who have made sexuality the do or die issue for the church by insisting that they are the enlightened ones and everybody must bow to their desires. Things have come to a sad state when a well respected pastor casts those who are willing to uphold and abide by the designated processes of the church as the problem. And as to the efficacy of the Big Tent which has produced the great sexuality debacle--the mumbled message of the UMC left me living in a non-descript gray area caught somewhere between God and the world, unable to find peace with either. Ultimately the church left me so broken, lost and confused I finally distanced myself from all things church and discovered teaching that blew out all the cobwebs, fuzziness and partial understandings that had accumulated after a lifetime of being a good church-going Methodist/United Methodist. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that The UMC is in existence because John Wesley was determined to construct a "practical religion for a plain people". It would behoove the church to reclaim that as its ideal because then it would have a unique and much needed contribution to make to the Christian landscape in America that just might reverse the almost 50 years of uninterrupted numerical decline that has the potential to make the church disappear altogether. I now know what it really means to be a Christian of the Methodist persuasion and The United Methodist Church in America is nowhere close.

Betsy more than 4 years ago

'Seek and Honorable Exit'

Jack has enriched the church with his ministry and writings but is slightly askew in this post. Our church would be hurt if all who disagree were asked to leave, for where there are 2 Methodists, there are 3 opinions. The issue is not disagree...it is disobey. An Italian politician was asked if he was faithful to his wife and replied, "Frequently." Honest process exists for folks who wish the church to change its teaching or practice to make the case for the global church to decide. The problem that wounds the trust vital to a healthy connection is when some act with a notion that they will disobey but stay. Imagine churches or clergy that adopted this regarding infant baptism, women's ordination, paying apportionments. It is fair to say to those who have moved toward a policy of selective obedience in contested issues where church teaching is clear, If you cannot live with us, we affirm your shift to an alternate version of the Wesleyan family. Unlike the horror show of Episcopal and some Presbyterian settings where fighting over property and benefits have cost millions, I see the WCA suggesting that folks who feel they cannot in good conscience be faithful to the seamless fabric of the church's teaching make such a move but can take property, benefits, pensions and ongoing shared ministries (UMCOR, etc) in continued partnership. Healthy division gave the global church the Salvation Army, the Free Methodists, and other groups. Not an angry explosion or expulsion but the nurture of collaborative visions that differ in detail enough to merit varied formats for mission but remain at heart part of the larger Wesleyan connection and way.

Bob more than 4 years ago

Different views

Of course we can all hold different views on a variety of issues. The problem is not differences in opinions but in defiance and disobedience to our mutually agreed upon rules. If someone has reached the point where they can no longer live by our rules then separation is the only solution.

Kevin more than 4 years ago