ON RELIGION: Are Liberal United Methodists Still Afraid to Act? | Faith
As one of the founders of the United Methodist Centrist Movement, Reverend Doug Damron has spent years hiding his rejection of his church’s rule that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.”
The centrists used a “perfectly delicious” theological platform defined by words such as “unity,” “peace” and “moderate,” he said, during a recent guest sermon at the historic church Broad Street United Methodist Church in Columbus, Ohio. After decades of fighting over sex, many hoped that “traditionalists” and “progressives” could keep “United” attached to “Methodist.”
The goal was “a compromise,” said Damron, a “soft word” that hid an “oppressive status quo.” But there was “an institution to protect,” and many members of the clergy feared being honest. So they didn’t openly attack the denominational Book of Discipline.
“By nature, I am a rules follower,” he said. “I knew that perhaps such a challenge had cost me my credentials to the clergy.”
Now it’s time for frankness and courage, said Damron. When the United Methodists finally parted ways, the Conservatives will build a church defined “by whom they will exclude today and whom they will exclude tomorrow.” The question is whether progressives will act on their convictions.
“It is time to bring about, following the direction of the Spirit, a church that fully welcomes, includes, affirms not only the gays and lesbians beloved of God, but a host of others who have found the door to the church closed, ”he said. noted. This would include embracing and ordering “trans people, bi people, kink people, poly people, gender fluent people and the like.”
The United Methodist Church clock continued to run this summer, even as the realities of COVID-19 delayed – yet again – votes on the “Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation” negotiated by the left and right activists. The General Conference will not meet until August 2022, as the establishment of the CMU has refused to take action in the virtual forums.
Once the protocol is approved, the Tories plan to create the World Methodist Church, merging their vast minority among UMC’s 31,000 American congregations into a structure built around the burgeoning churches in Africa and Asia. This new denomination will retain the teachings of the Book of Discipline on marriage and sex.
The preamble to the Protocol noted that the “centrists” still hope to preach compromise after this divorce, while asserting that doctrines can be modernized. Thus, “the post-separation United Methodist Church will endeavor to create a structure of regional conferences… adaptable to regional contexts” while removing any “restrictive language associated with LGBTQ people”.
Meanwhile, in social media, podcasts and Zoom lectures, voices from the doctrinal left have said it is time to move beyond debates about engaged same-sex relationships. Some say it’s time to affirm them, including sexually active clergy candidates, cohabiting in heterosexual or same-sex relationships, or living in “poly” unions – short for “polyamorous” – of three or more.
One denomination – the Liberation Methodist Connexion, or LMX – has already formed, rejecting what it believes to be the “powers, principalities and privileges” that plague Methodism, such as “colonialism, white supremacy, economic injustice. , patriarchy, sexism, clericalism, ableism, ageism, transphobia and heteronormativity. ”LMX is committed to all people“ living their God-given identity ”, including“ gender expressions and gender identity ”as well as“ monogamous and non-monogamous ”relationships.
Earlier this summer, the heads of Love Prevails – another liberal network – announced their exit from UMC in a letter stating: UMC would welcome queer people, if only for institutional preservation. We didn’t realize that the church would rather destroy itself than become fully inclusive. “
The truth is, many members of the clergy are still afraid to be honest, said Reverend Austin Adkinson of the Pacific Northwest Conference, a leader of the UMC Queer Clergy Caucus. In a still-quoted 2018 ‘Multiamory’ podcast, Adkinson said, “I’m trying to find ways that I can say, without pulling the rug under some people, that it doesn’t matter who you sleep with, but how you care. of these people. …
“I think a lot of the more progressive clergy would have similar thoughts, but don’t really have the courage to go out there and put themselves in danger to stand up for something that’s going to rock the boat,” Adkinson said. “Change is slow, and change in the church is slower.”
Terry Mattingly is Editor-in-Chief of GetReligion.org and Principal Investigator at the Overby Center at the University of Mississippi.