The WCA has now officially made its desires known. The WCA wishes to divide the United Methodist Church into at least two new entities: One for traditionalists, one for progressives, and possibly a third for “compatibilists.” (They do make clear that defining these groups purely by doctrines relating to sexuality would be unwise.) This is not surprising… From the beginning, the WCA has insisted:
· It is unwilling to change the UMC doctrine on human sexuality.
· It is unwilling to accept any structural changes allowing for more local autonomy.
This leaves only one real way forward: schism.
This saddens me greatly. The WCA statement explicitly condemns two long-time Methodist values:
· Theological diversity.
According to the WCA, the problem with the UMC is that it is a “big tent.” I joined the UMC precisely because I believed that was one of its key strengths.
A great evangelical leader once said, “People who aren’t willing to compromise are either stubborn or perfect already.” I believe that the unwillingness to compromise, find consensus, and work together is the single greatest moral failing in the United States today. And now that unwillingness is being lifted up as righteousness by our religious leaders.
The UMC is the only major protestant denomination in the U.S. to survive the 20th Century intact. While the UMC was consolidating Wesleyan churches under one big tent, every other movement was suffering schisms between liberals and conservatives. The results of these schisms are now painfully clear: Each of the resulting institutions, in the absence of internal prophetic dissent, became theologically inbred and gravitated toward extremist positions. Generally speaking, the most successful congregations in those traditions are the ones that bucked the prevailing extremist trends and carved out more moderate positions.
If the UMC divides into two denominations, both denominations will sooner or later drift into obscurity… catering to people who want to hear what they already believe echoed back to them. Perhaps more importantly, the message our denomination sends to the rest of the nation will be: “Give it up. We don’t need to listen to each other. We don’t need to compromise. We don’t need to live together.” That is the last thing our nation needs to be told right now.
We don't need another fundamentalist denomination. We don't need another uber-progressive denomination. We have too many of both already. What we need is a church that can transcend fallen human political machinations.
If, on the other hand, there is a third option, a centrist option, I predict that the huge majority of our congregations will choose it. And we will thrive.