Methodist Anschluss

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Trolling in the murky waters of Internet news feeds, the Adorable, the Deplorable and the Misbegotten, I came upon a dull back page item striking a sad cord. The item was well hidden, though even the 2nd Coming might be left to Page 2 behind the multi-megaton barrage of ink blasts detailing the evil that is Trump. Harry & Meghan’s Brexit from the despicable anonymity occasioned by their subordinate positions in the royal hierarchy takes up what little space left in the public attention span. Given that competition, the back pages are left to carry the news that one of America’s largest religious denominations is headed for a divorce.

The United Methodist Church (UMC) appears riven by irreconcilable differences, legal teams already deep into “discovery” negotiations. The Adorable overlords of the UMC, otherwise known as the UMC’s Bishops & loyal water carriers, have announced that after intensive and lengthy committee negotiations these deep and irreconcilable differences cannot be overcome. As a result, it will be the recommendation of the church leadership that the UMC split into two separate denominations.

The envisioned split is over “theological issues” and thus would be defined as schism, a term with a long and contentious history in Christianity. Used to describe serious disagreements over Christian doctrine, the word carries the smell of the battlefield, the acrid tang of burnt gunpowder. Today, however, the word has acquired a more sophisticated bouquet, carrying instead the odor of academic disdain tinged with the strong flavor of that familiar modern taste, the condescension of the educated for the “ignorant”.

But despite the fractious past of schism and the inflammable uses to which it has been put, the history of Christianity is the story of schism. One has only to go to the Book of Acts to find the Apostle Peter and his fellow elders of the Jerusalem Church squaring off against the Apostle Paul in debate over what might be termed schism. Luckily for Christian porkivores, Paul carried the day and among the many benefits coming out of his true faith carrying the day is my freedom to enjoy bacon with my eggs.

While the bedrock of Christianity is the Bible, the revealed word of God Himself, it appears in the eyes of men as a bit of a hodgepodge, a compendium of diverse material, authored by many, written over hundreds if not thousands of years. While internally consistent, the Bible is a patchwork of writings; great stretches of narrative biography, along with historical exposition, prose and poetry, prophecy, philosophy and legal doctrine.

This great assemblage of God’s Word given to his people over a wide stretch of time and place requires interpretation and nuanced understanding by its readers. It must be said that God expects readers to approach the text with open minds and most importantly, open hearts if they are to drink of its life saving richness. The Bible puts it this way, “its words are foolishness to the unbeliever, but to the believer the very power of God.” Given the serious purposes to which these understandings are put in the lives of people, it is only natural that misunderstandings might arise.

One suspects this opacity, this indeterminism on so many issues, might well have been God’s purpose. The record of His people when possessed of unchallenged orthodoxy coupled with secular power is decidedly mixed. And that is giving militant Christianity a very large benefit of doubt. When the infinite meets the finite, it is well to remember the fable of the elephant and the five blind men.

While the year 325 AD sounds like it must have been within the very lifetime of Jesus Christ, it was in fact 300 years after his death. To put that in perspective, the United States is only 225 years old. Consider if you will, the arguments today in our high courts and law schools regarding the original intent of our Constitution’s Framers, a group much closer to our time than was Jesus to 325 AD.

Over that stretch of time, from the time of the Crucifixion to 325 AD, there was little superstructure and its need for political harmony. Christians in those early years had the Bible, but each church was left to its own leadings in a loosely organized common communion. It is not surprising that substantial disagreements had arisen by then, which exasperated the people charged with running the Empire.

And so in the manner of important and powerful men throughout the history of the world, the reigning emperor of Rome moved to exercise his secular authority, forcing the grandees of the Church to tidy up God’s affairs. This Emperor, Constantine known to history as The Great, called the leading figures in the Church, the Wise, the Learned and the Politicians, together and required them to reach agreement on “the true and final” statement of Christianity’s beliefs.

To the frank amazement of the modern reader accustomed as we are to the dithering and meandering of leaders and their lawyers, they came up with a short clear statement, in itself proof positive that God sometimes – Just Does a Miracle. That statement of belief has stood the test of time as well as innumerable “schisms”, coming down to us essentially unchanged through 1700 years. This formulation of basic Christian belief was called “The Nicene Creed”, after the town of Nicea where the Emperor Constantine convened the council. Nicea is now known as Iznik, Turkey some 90 miles from Istanbul, or Constantinople as it was then known.

Within the memory of young adults, some variation of the Nicene Creed was a fixture, taught believers and regularly recited. In the church of my youth, we recited it at every service, a bit like the Pledge of Allegiance also once a daily ritual in public schoolrooms. At least in my own small part of the Adorable Universe, those practices have fallen into the abyss of a past beyond remembrance.

In the modern world, One’s own Truth often conflicts with definitive confessions of belief causing these public recitations to fall into disfavor. I believe our leaders, both secular and religious, may be concerned that the recitation of such creeds might tempt us, the faithful in the pews as well as the innocent in the schools, into thoughtfulness, or other habits equally destructive of the Republic’s tranquility.

The various flavors of Christianity still agree on the tenets of the Creed even though very different structures of doctrine and practice have evolved to express those tenets. Reflecting its millenniums long blending of Church & State the Catholic Church is a complete and sophisticated administrative apparatus while independent Evangelical churches are left to bob and weave as the Spirit, given structure within the Word, guides them.

Somewhere in the middle of Christianity’s spectrum of organizations, the UMC is a cohesive body of churches with a complete and comprehensive code of belief and conduct that all of its members are expected to obey. The name of their governing document, The Book of Discipline, tells you all you need to know. The Methodist denomination, a mid 18th Century outgrowth of the Church of England, got its name from their “methodical” approach to worship. In common parlance – “They got rules and you better follow them.”

I know. I was a loyal Methodist for twenty years, attending church as well as active in church leadership positions. I know how it works ‘cause I been there. And ‘cause I been there, I am personally pained by the coming heartache. It is a sad thing to see your old family torn apart, even though you may no longer be invited to sit down at the table for the Sunday roast dinner.

The Methodist Church I remember was concerned with doing good in a “social justice” kind of way before “social justice”, in a futile search for unicorns, stumbled into the fire swamp. In many ways I look back on my experience as a member of the Methodist Church like my experience working with utility companies. I’m glad they exist because they make the world a better place. On the other hand, I could not make a career there. I know there exists within myself an irresistible urge to explore the dark forests of ambiguity rather than live a peaceful existence within the brightly lit and well-fenced orthodoxy.

The UMC that I remember excelled in being a neighborhood church, providing a spiritual home for the people in the neighborhood, asking in return only predictable and minimal obligations of its members. The people I went to church with were the kind of people you would want for neighbors. It was a church with deep local roots peopled by upstanding citizens concerned with being good neighbors.

If any church symbolizes the rock solid America that I remember from “the good old days”, the America of Norman Rockwell, it is the Methodist church. So what are these irreconcilable differences causing the dark stain of divorce among the good neighbors and solid citizens of the UMC? As if you couldn’t guess.

The UMC is in upheaval over the question of gender and its proliferating permutations. There are many thorns on the bush of contention not least of which include bathroom etiquette, gays in the clergy, gay marriage, the many faces of LGBTQ, etc. Evidently this is the issue, the bush of contention that has raised the armies, the battleground upon which they will fight. The issues of sexuality and gender, who can have sex with whom and under what conditions, is the compromise that cannot be made.

What can I say? Their house – their rules. It isn’t my fight, but perhaps I might recount my own reasons for leaving the UMC some 30 years ago. Back then, precipitated in part by upheavals in my own life, i.e. approaching middle age, financial stress, career uncertainty, etc., I fell – or perhaps more honestly said – sought refuge from my inner turmoil in a bout of extended dissatisfaction with my church home. Nothing is so ill natured as a soul uneasy within itself.

As a senior member of the Church’s Lay leadership, the Pastor and myself had come to a certain impasse, occasionally crackling with electricity promising future lightning. While the gentleman in question had a prickly personality as well as lacking in the skills of Biblical exposition, he did make up for it with a pedestrian manner of speaking from the pulpit. I, on the other hand, had not yet achieved the mature and respectful manner now graced me by old age and retirement some thirty years in the future.

God works His way with us in His own way and in His own time. Back then He spoke to me as he often does – in the words of my wife. At her urging, we started attending other churches, testing the waters so to speak. July 3, 1988, was a Sunday to remember, a day that changed my life

It was the July 4th weekend so my wife and I expected a fairly empty church that Sunday. We had been conditioned by our years in suburban UMC churches to expect an empty building on holiday weekends, the church parking lot an asphalt desert. Instead we arrived to find a full parking lot and – ominously – the cars were empty, the people already inside. We hustled ourselves in and found a packed auditorium, luckily finding space in a back row. While sitting there, taking in the sights and sounds of a new church service, I saw something that impressed me so vividly that I can still clearly see it if I close my eyes.

Sitting in the row ahead of us was a man, a man about my own age wearing his King Soopers uniform. I couldn’t take my eyes off of this man. His work uniform told me he was on his way to or from work, on a holiday weekend, and he was in church! When the Pastor launched into his message, this man in the King Soopers uniform took his own well-used Bible that he had brought with him and opened it, reading along. I was thunderstruck. I had never seen anything like this.

In a bit of a daze, it gradually dawned on me that the Pastor was taking his message from the Bible rather than my usual Sunday morning’s experience, a soliloquy drawn from the pastor’s bedtime reading of “Chicken Soup for the Soul”. The Pastor was deep into a sermon series on the Book of Ephesians, taking one group of verses each Sunday, speaking on what the verses said, what they meant, why Paul had written what he wrote and what it meant for our lives.

Glancing around, the people were listening attentively, most having their own personal Bible open on their laps for ready reference as the pastor spoke. Not only that, no offering plate had been passed!! Let me repeat myself, no offering plate had been passed!! At no time during the entire service had there been talk of offerings, or tithes, or money or membership drives or the begging for volunteers. I blinked back tears that morning. Aldersgate had been regained.

After the service when we picked up our kids from Sunday School, the annex building was packed as well, alive with kids, parents and teachers. We were sold, both of us. We both were totally taken, the UMC a fading image in our rear view mirror.

Over the years, we have stayed at that church through the good, the bad and the ugly. It is our church home. We have come to know its weaknesses as well as its strengths. It is made up of a bunch of people after all. We have lived through the difficult times of changing leadership and, sad to say, the introduction of the offering plate.

But through it all, this church, our church, knew what it believed and did its best to live in the light of that belief. Perhaps it is easier for a single body of believers with no remote hierarchy – along with the inevitable internecine politics coming with them – to be true to a certain doctrine, an interpretation of eternal truths. I certainly have learned in my own life of the growing need for compromise and political dexterity as responsibility and reach increase. But as I sail the turbulent seas of my own disputatious nature, I can rely on the lodestar of my own church, a safe and calming harbor, holding true to its stated beliefs.

And I believe that to be the burr under my saddle some thirty years past. To be sure, the UMC Pastor was an acquired taste, but I was definitely looking to pick a fight. Living with myself for more than a few decades now, I recognize in myself a hypersensitivity to what I perceive as hypocrisy. I regret much of what I said and did in my conflict with the pastor back then, but there were deeper currents than the foibles of our own weak characters raising waves in our relationship.

I am one of those, afflicted with the curse of listening, and taking seriously, the words of my leaders. That may well be why I have such difficulties working for anyone else. Leadership and hypocrisy are sometimes difficult to tell apart, reflecting as they do the biases of the observer. Back then, I would hear things, read things, said by the leaders and prominent voices of the UMC. Again – their house, their rules. But I think most people get uneasy when the rules, whatever they are, are no longer enforced, when the beliefs are no longer believed.

I am tempted to think statistics an artifact of satanic manufacture, created to facilitate the propagation of his trademark, the deceitful truth. But the stark truth of it is that the UMC has lost a lot of butts in the seat over the past three decades. Their own numbers show a 50% drop in the number of American butts sitting in UMC pews in the 10 years from 2003 to 2013.

As consenting adults, we all understand, at some level, the need for flexibility, for the accommodating ambiguity found in grey areas, but there are rules and there are rules. We may regularly break the speed limit, but we get uneasy when people want to take our guns away.

One of the many lessons to be drawn from the Old Testament is that ruin seldom comes suddenly or unseen. Ruin, whether of nations or individuals, usually is a slippery slope of long and gradual descent. With this thought in mind, we might look further, examining the recent past for an explanation of this “schism” in the UMC.

It is difficult to take seriously the claim of any denomination, or sect or church to authentic Christianity unless that particular set of truths enumerated in the Nicene Creed is the rock on which they build their house. Some may build sprawling mansions on extensive connected foundations, others may erect cantilevered wings, ill-supported but still buttressed by the Nicene Creed. The UMC, an integral piece of the Christian mosaic, explicitly references the Nicene Creed in its Book of Discipline, affirming the Creed’s primacy of doctrine.

Perhaps the agreement of the notables in Nicea was not so amazing. The Nicene Creed is no more than a lawyerly synopsis of the Apostle Peter’s first sermon at Pentecost, as told in the Acts of the Apostles. But as noted earlier, most people get uneasy when the rules, whatever they are, are no longer enforced, when the beliefs are no longer believed.

In the modern world, we have the practice of educating rather than training our leaders, sending them to colleges or universities to learn their trade. More often than not, church leaders are educated in special university level schools known as seminaries. The UMC has its own string of seminaries for the education of future UMC pastors and church leaders. One of them is in Denver, the Iliff School of Theology.

One might expect a school of theology to have a strong commitment to the teaching of theology. One might also expect the theology of a Christian seminary to be a Christian theology, to have a strong focus on the Bible, founded on and in concordance with the basic truths expressed by the Nicene Creed. Looking over the Iliff School of Theology’s website gives one cause for doubt.

Of course, I am speaking of that which I have not directly experienced but I am taking their promotional materials at face value. In fact Iliff’s Mission Statement is:

“Iliff educates and develops leaders with courageous theological imaginations and, reflecting its United Methodist heritage and relationships, is committed to social justice, inclusiveness, and religious diversity”

Given their special mention of “courageous theological imagination”, I imagine them to have a missionary focus? Perhaps they emphasize overseas missions to their graduates rather than pastoral care? I can only assume, given the school’s name and its Mission Statement, that theology, Christian theology given their UMC association, is at the center of their education.

But then there is that prominent commitment to “social justice, inclusiveness, and religious diversity”. What does that mean? Alas, in perusing their website, one finds much to warm the heart of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, but, sad to say, one is hard pressed to find any mention of God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit or the need for Man’s salvation.

Does Christianity need Christ or can “courageous theological imaginations” allow courageous theologians to pioneer a post-Christ reality? Illiff’s Core Values – boldly positioned on the website – have no mention or even faint echo of anything mentioned in the Nicene Creed or for that matter even the Bible.

The name of Jesus Christ does appear once or twice, but only in what must be described as suspicious circumstances, while any reference to the other two members of the Trinity is notably absent. While the Illiff School of Theology claims to be Christian, the torturous meanderings on the subject in their website puts one in mind of Former President Bill Clinton testifying before Congress on the meaning of the word –“is”.

One of Illiff’s professors, the resident rock star if I am to judge from their website and Google Search, is a former Buddhist monk, self described as a “lapsed Buddhist and a current atheist”. In a brief survey of other faculty bios and statements, it appears this former Buddhist monk, an atheist teaching courses in Christian theology, is among like-minded faculty – congenial to his experience and faith position. Needless to say this charismatic professor is frequently cited and interviewed as a Christian authority by NPR and various media outlets.

Again – their house, their rules. I left because, even thirty years ago, the future was clear if anyone bothered to look. Given the membership numbers, more and more UMC parishioners are looking. No matter whose numbers you look at, the UMC in America is losing a lot of members. Glancing through the public statements of UMC leaders and its prominent voices on the pending dissolution, one can only conclude that the UMC leadership sees the future of their church in the progressive Adorable urban enclaves of the United States. Given the religious skepticism endemic among progressive urban Adorables, perhaps I was right in my thoughts about Illiff’s missionary focus.

But one must never forget irony. I often think of irony as God’s inside joke, perhaps a bit of humor that He shares with his angels. I expect they, God & His angels, find much to amuse themselves in our human need to do things our own way. God most times allows us to simply get on with it with the results speaking for themselves – irony the punch line accentuating our pratfall.

The leadership of the UMC is an Adorable group of folks, solidly committed to “social justice, inclusiveness, and religious diversity”, or at least the current progressive definition of those ideas. So why isn’t the implementation of their preferred solution to the bush of contention a fait accompli? Why divorce? In very similar circumstances, most American organizations, i.e. education, government, mainline church denominations and business, have silently reordered themselves around the ideals of their Adorable leaders. What happened on The Road to UMC’s Pretoria? Is the UMC leadership incompetent?

Back in the day, the UMC’s historical conception of social justice, inclusiveness and religious diversity may have lacked “courageous theological imaginations”, but it did have a strong missionary focus, particularly in Africa. The message of the Gospel, underlined by the selfless dedication of UMC missionaries, struck a chord in that hurting land. Today, nearly half of the church membership the UMC is in Africa, heavily concentrated in Tanzania and the Congo. While the African membership is growing rapidly, driven in part by the devastation there visited by the AIDS epidemic, the US membership is in steep decline.

As I noted before, – the methodical Methodists being committed to following the methodology, the UMC “got rules and you better follow them”. Changes to The Book of Discipline must be voted on. UMC delegates meet in General Assembly every year and vote on such things as the current interpretation of “social justice, inclusiveness, and religious diversity”. Even the Adorable leadership has to follow the rules. What a novel idea!

The bush of contention and its many thorns has been the subject of proposed changes every year at the UMC General Assembly, with the US leadership virtually unanimous in their support for belatedly joining the Western World’s rush to abandon traditional morality. But every year, the few remaining “conservative” US representatives have joined with their African brothers and sisters to vote them down. As the US membership is plummeting and the African membership growing rapidly, it is clear that the Adorable leadership’s approach to the bush of contention and its many thorns is not going to be approved – ever.

Even the Adorable leadership has to follow the rules – but wait!! What is the use of an elite education if it can’t be used to evade the votes of the ignorant? Stymied by the wishes of its membership, the US leadership of the UMC simply looked around the culture at their fellows and, following their example, adopted the familiar Adorable playbook. One wonders if there is a website where such materials and consulting services are available.

In control of the UMC’s “Deep State” and its channels of communication, the Adorable leadership of the UMC went ahead and began doing what they wanted to do anyway – in flagrant contempt for their Book of Discipline. In doing so, the UMC resembles so many other organizations in the United States and Europe. An insulated and pampered elite, educated beyond common sense, has replaced simple faith with amorphous guilt, seeking redemption in the rites of rights. When the hoi polloi, i.e. unwoke bourgeoisie and peasants, fail to acknowledge the superior sensibilities of their masters, they simply use the power with which they have been entrusted and implement their vision of salvation anyway.

Despite their being bound by the methods of Methodism, the Adorable leadership of the denomination is not incompetent. They know how to play the game. Let’s revisit the leadership group that recommended the split, a group The New York Times called “church leaders from Europe, Africa, the Philippines and the United States” – in other words a group with a “broad ideological and international character”. In truth the group was composed of 12 Americans, one European, two Asians and one African – so much for “broad ideological and international character”.

Divorces need property settlements and custody agreements. The proposed settlement, brokered by the above mentioned leadership group with “broad ideological and international character”, allows for the “traditionalist” UMC to leave with a war chest of $25 million. A search of the Internet for an estimated net worth of the UMC comes up empty, an interesting point by itself. But the net worth of other denominations, similar to the UMC in membership and real estate portfolio, runs into tens of billions of dollars. Now we can see who has the better divorce lawyers, but really?

Another interesting point to think about – a recent poll from the Pew Report says that in the US, “15% of UMC members call themselves ‘liberal’”. So, the Adorable leadership, totally unrepresentative of their membership, championing ideas totally at odds with that membership and their own rules, not to mention clearly heretical to their own clearly professed faith, keeps the house and all the marbles.

Individual churches that don’t like the new regime can vote to leave – but as I understand it, the UMC keeps the church. The custody arrangement says the Adorable church keeps the kids as well, unless they emancipate themselves. Whatever else you might think of Adorable America, they clearly know how to take care of themselves.

Despite the fact that the African church totals nearly half of the membership and is decidedly at odds with the US leadership, the African Church has been finessed neatly. Foolish and simple Africans! They thought all that talk about “social justice, inclusiveness, and religious diversity” was for real. On the other hand, they are now free to go their own way, though they will now have to make it on their own. But on the bright side, these African believers have a new mission field – Adorable America!

Thus we are left with the delicious irony of the African church standing in direct opposition to the self-righteous Adorable Americans of the UMC. What is more fundamental to the superior Adorable morality than their affectation of a special condescension towards “the oppressed” – most especially people of color? But then when the people of color manage to find their own voice, it isn’t progressive or even Adorable. One smiles – remembering Lord Cornwallis’s choice of tunes at the Yorktown surrender, “The World Turned Upside Down”.

One can spend a warm snuggle in the blanket of delicious turn-about, but it is ultimately a sugar high. Even as God and his angels smile at the irony, an irony innate to the human condition, they must blink back their tears. They know the cost of irony. While the leaders prance in self-deluded circles, their followers, the simple followers entrusted into their care, are left to founder in the dark. As the Prophet Isaiah put it in his own time and place, nearly three millennia past:

O My people! Your leaders lead you astray
And confuse the direction of your paths.

“O my people”. The people in the pews, the sheep of God’s fold, are led astray. One must have a heart of stone to not hear the anguish of God the Father in the words of Isaiah, for his people in their distress.

Or of more recent vintage, one might listen to Jesus Himself, the founder of Christianity and until recently at least, the purpose for which the UMC exists. Jesus had a broken heart for sinners, but wrath for religious leaders.

“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.”

I chose the King James Version’s reading of the above passage in Matthew for the archaic quality of its language. The very peculiarity of the language serves to express and heighten in our ears the sense of rage Jesus felt at the leaders who so abused those they led. But it is clear from both Isaiah and Matthew, as well as many other biblical writers, that false shepherds, either foolish or venal, have been with Mankind for a long time.

But it is also very clear from the story of Israel in the Old Testament that the divorce of the UMC was not caused by the bush of contention, i.e. questions of gender and its proliferating permutations – not really. Questions of gender and sexuality are vexed topics in the modern world of the West, but blind sheep stumble over branches easily stepped over by those who can see.

One can only wonder at a church that is blind to their leaders willful ignorance of our need for the Cross. One can only wonder at a church blind to the deliberate sleight of hand of its shepherds. How can a body of believers acquiesce in the abandonment of the beliefs called out in the Nicene Creed, yet run to Divorce Court over lesbian Bishops? One can only wonder at a church that has allowed the Ten Commandments to fall into dusty neglect while rising to battle over Leviticus 18:22.

Returning once more to the King James translation for more of Jesus words on shepherds from the Gospel of Matthew,

“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits . . . . . every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”

In our inspection of the UMC’s fruit, we might consider one of the UMC’s special missions to the world. The United Methodist Building, owned by an arm of the UMC, is across the street from the US Supreme Court in Washington D.C. How can it be that for many years this UMC building in this strategic location was the headquarters for the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights, now known as the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice? The organization’s Mission Statement speaks volumes:

“ a broad based national interfaith movement that brings the moral force of religion to protect and advance reproductive health, choice, rights and justice through education, prophetic witness, pastoral presence and advocacy.”

I guess it was their “prophetic witness” driving the organization’s name change from “Abortion Rights” to “Reproductive Choice”. While Old Testament prophets used blunt and straightforward language, modern prophets understand the need for dissembling and obfuscation. Time marches on and the modern church of Adorable America understands the advantages to be gained from a partnership with savvy media professionals. “Lets not talk about abortion, the people in the pews might misunderstand.”

In the science of the battlefield there is the concept of the “salient”. The strict definition of “salient” names it a part of a battle line extending into enemy territory, a bubble surrounded on three sides by enemy forces. Wise generals take great care to avoid the development of a “salient” as it cannot be defended, eventually costing heavily in the lives of their soldiers when it inevitably falls.

The bush of contention, gender and sexuality, is a salient. The thorns on the bush of contention involve battles that should not be fought, need not be fought. A salient is formed because other more important battles are not fought. The Nicene Creed says nothing about gender and sexuality. The Bible says very little about gender and sexuality. Their focus is on much more important things, on God and Man and how Man can enter into a personal and eternal relationship with God, on Man’s need for Salvation.

Those of us who remember are saddened by the advancing secularization of the West. Perhaps the remembered piety of past days was more lip service than genuine faith, but there is no denying that we are now a coarse people living in steadily coarsening times. The approaching Methodist Anschluss, the annexation of the UMC by popular culture, is simply a sobering reminder of what is writ large everywhere we look.

There is much in our entertainment, our politics, our business and our private lives that distress us. But as we bluster about sexuality and gender, we are straining at gnats while standing in quicksand. The bush of contention is simply a small tendril on the edge of the briar patch we have allowed to grow in our fields.

The rumble of marching feet is clearly heard in the pews of Methodist churches.





One Response to “Methodist Anschluss”

  1. Russell G Kyncl says:

    Well written and accurate. One of my elderly clients is a 60+ year member of the Methodist congregation across the street from Iliff School of Theology. The recently departed pastor self-identified as a Womanist, that is a black feminist, covering two intersectional victim groups. Had she been Latina, she would have been a mujerista. My client represents that last generation of Methodists who were taught to believe what the Bible teaches. They are confused by what they hear on Sundays. As they pass on, I predict the finances of these groups will disappear. Similar stories in much of the Presbyterian and Episcopalian branches of our faith.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Email Updates

  • Categories

  • What I’m Reading

    What I’m Reading

    The Twelfth Department
    By William Ryan

    What happens when we forget, or never bothered to learn, what we believe in and why we believe? What happens when the emotional whirls of Facebook and Twitter are the depths of our understanding? Evil, great evil, is regularly found lurking in the unexamined depths of good intentions. Mathew Arnold put our present political climate in memorable words years ago:

    And we are here as on a darkling plain
    Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
    Where ignorant armies clash by night

    Novels, good stories, provide a lens to see life, including our beliefs, without camouflage. As an example, JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy is one of the finest Bible commentaries ever written. Progressive political ideals may lack in recent electoral success, but have undisputed possession of today’s moral high ground. And while death and taxes may be the only sure bets, the eventual victory of those holding the high ground have very good odds in any battle.
    And so fiction provides a look at eventual victories. There is no question that the outlines of today’s progressive agenda can be clearly seen in other times and places. William Ryan takes us to a time and place fondly imagined, idealized at the time, by the forefather’s of todays progressive leadership. In The Twelfth Department, we see a police captain in 1930’s Moscow. Captain Alexei Korolev is just a man trying to be a good father, a good citizen, a good police officer. In many ways Alexei is a fortunate man, with a good reputation and many more material advantages than the average citizen. But a high profile murder brings him into ambiguous circumstances. The tone of the book is respectful of life in Moscow, with no axes to grind. It is just a portrait of a man trying to do his job, bringing a gruesome killer to justice, among ordinary human beings seeking only to live normal lives in a progressive paradise.

  • Recent Comments