Answers to Questions

Over the past few years, I have discovered something about myself that I never knew. I grew up hearing from others that I was smart/intelligent however you wish to say it. What I have discovered in the past few years is that I am neither of those but instead a clever wordsmith with the ability to turn a good phrase from time to time. I do, however, have several friends who are intelligent and have managed to bail me out of living in my own version of Idiocracy.

My previous post, Methodist War Games, generated some interesting conversation as people responded to the article. I feel like the conversation was worth continuing and wanted to consider some well thought out answers to my article. I will be doing this by posing their questions and trying to offer a reasonable answer.

The questions:

“Not to play, in this case, means continuing as we are, which, in turn, means continuing to marginalize. The greater question: what does it mean to be “United?” For that matter, were we ever really united?”

Of course, the issue of marginalization is at the forefront for those who see the language of our current polity as a means of keeping out those who are both called to service in the UMC and are part of the LGBTQ community. The question of “What does it mean to be United?” is indeed a greater question and I fear the answer to that will not be uniting. For some, it means everyone thinks the same thing, feels the same way, and acts the same way. For others, it means we may disagree in some respects but the on the greater issues, the ‘meat’ of our faith, we can agree. To answer the last question, I think anyone who does even a cursory study of Methodism in the United States will find we have rarely been completely united on much of anything. Except pot lucks, everyone likes pot lucks.

“Couple of thoughts – you indicated no side can win. Not sure about that but I am sure the current UMC can not win. I can see one side of the debate running off all others leaving our church void of it’s richness and Wesleyan way yet claiming “victory “. I was afraid where you were headed with the idea that the best move was not to play. I was worried you were going to say we needed to do nothing or change nothing. I know that is not what you said but perhaps you could set your readers mind at ease a little earlier or maybe use that tension a bit more.

I believe you are correct. One side of the debate will most likely win out and most likely, the UMC will lose its ‘U’ once again. While I may not have been specific in the matter, I agree that ‘not playing the game’ is not an option. What I meant to say and did not convey as well as I intended was that the current set of circumstances will create a game that has no true winners in much the same way that the computer Joshua realized in the film, WarGames. One side will get its way but as you said, we will be left void of a certain Wesleyan richness in the process. I believe there must be change of one kind or another because the current situation limits the effectiveness of the local congregation where our focus and emphasis was historically should be again.

“I think where I felt challenged was your statement on the way the “right” (my emphasis) wants to maintain the traditional views of the church. I am currently ready through “Band Meeting” by Watson and Kisker, and am going through the book with a small group. One thing they bring up in there in the chapter this week is the idea that one argument we are making (on the whole) is that we are looking back on historical faith/theology themes and suggesting that those in the past, their minds were clouded by their limitations of knowledge. But Watson and Kisker suggest that maybe our minds are clouded by our current understanding and world view. That we are SO advanced in our thinking, we fail to see the simplicity of the Gospel.”

I really wish there was another way to express things other than right and left or traditional and modern or whatever. The labels are such hot buttons that it seems to automatically limit the conversation (not a criticism of your response just a personal side note on my own frustration with language). I love the last line of this, “We are so advanced in our thinking, we fail to see the simplicity of the gospel.” Having just finished rereading Kisker’s Mainline or Methodist, I hear this as an echo of what he wrote previously. Also having just had a Sunday school class where I taught about the Book of Discipline (their choice not mine), our class noted the complexity of language and organizational weight of our polity. And perhaps that is the real issue here, that our polity has come to outweigh our gospel for the sake of protecting and nourishing the organization. I suppose time will tell one way or the other but I am hopeful that we can find a way to simplify our organization and better equipping and encouraging the local parish to the ministry we all are called to as Methodists “to spread scriptural holiness across this land.”

Thanks for the comments. I hope I have answered your questions and commentary well and that we can all continue to have conversations like this as fellow believers and followers of Jesus.

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