When Asking People to Pray Pisses Them Off…

Today, the Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church were in a tough position. They were asked to propose a plan for “moving forward” as a denomination in regards to the deep divide on human sexuality.

After watching the live stream, I decided I needed to go home, eat lunch, and have a beer. Yes, General Conference drove me to do some day-drinking. Because it was lunch, I decided to pour a Founders All Day IPA. The Founders website has this to say about this beer, “The beer you’ve been waiting for. Keeps your taste satisfied while keeping your senses sharp. An all-day IPA naturally brewed with a complex array of malts, grains and hops. Balanced for optimal aromatics and a clean finish. The perfect reward for an honest day’s work and the ultimate companion to celebrate life’s simple pleasures.” For a session IPA, it’s pretty solid. Tasty, hoppy, low ABV (4.7), an all-around smooth beer to accompany my cheeseburger!

Bishop Ough brought to light that the Council of Bishops are not of one mind when it comes to human sexuality. However, one senses a desire for a united move forward coming from the Council of Bishops.

They presented the following proposal:

NEXT STEPS: We recommend that the General Conference defer all votes on human sexuality and refer this entire subject to a special Commission, named by the Council of Bishops, to develop a complete examination and possible revision of every paragraph in our Book of Discipline regarding human sexuality. We continue to hear from many people on the debate over sexuality that our current Discipline contains language which is contradictory, unnecessarily hurtful, an inadequate for the variety of local, regional and global contexts.

We will name such a Commission to include persons from every region of our UMC, and that will include representation from differing perspectives on the debate. We commit to maintain an on-gong dialogue with this Commission as they do their work, including clear objectives and outcomes. Should they complete their work in time for a called General Conference, then we will call a two to three day gathering before the 2020 General Conference. (We will consult with GCFA regarding cost-effective ways to hold that gathering)

CONTINUING DISCUSSIONS: We will continue to explore options to help the church to live in grace with one another – including ways to avoid further complaints, trials, and harm while we uphold the Discipline. We will continue our conversation on this matter and report our progress to you and to the whole church.

Today, as a way of beginning to find our way forward, we suggest that in place of the allotted legislative time we spend 1-2 hours of plenary time in prayer, confession and then exploration of a creative way forward. The bishops are prepared to provide questions to guide your conversations. Your conversations will be the first step to a way forward.

Watching the Twitter feed (#umcgc) is not exactly a fruitful activity. There seems to be a great deal of hurt on both sides of the issue. Folks on both the conservative/traditional side and liberal/progressive side feel the CoB has failed to lead. The proposal, for some, seems to be another kick of the can.

Many say, “We have prayed. We have discerned. We have confessed. We have developed creative plans for a way forward. We need more.”

My brothers and sisters with ties to the Confessing Movement and Good News feel the Bishops should have come out strong and made a statement calling for more conservative views in regards to human sexuality, ordination, and marriage. To put it bluntly, they are pissed off.

My brothers and sisters with ties to the Reconciling Movement feel the Bishops should have called for more liberal views in regards to inclusion, human sexuality, ordination, and marriage. To put it bluntly, they are pissed off.

My brothers and sisters who are somewhere in the middle, well, they are probably content with the statement from the CoB.

I’m not surprised by the proposal made by the CoB. What did we really expect? Given the short amount of time they had to prepare a proposal and given the addressed divide among the bishops, should we be surprised? This was probably the most faithful and united statement the CoB could have designed given the restraints.

It is my considered opinion that there needs to be a call for humility. The growing divide between the conservative and liberal movements within our denomination is doing more damage than good.

We are no longer listening to one another. We are simply looking for the opportunity to respond. We have written off those on the other side of the issue. We fail to have mutual love and respect. We have become so passionate about this issue that we fail to do what Jesus commands us to do…”love God, love one another, love even your enemies.”

Can we gather around the table with love, respect, grace, mercy, compassion and humility? Can we truly listen with open hearts and minds? Can we find a creative way to move forward and remain united on that One Thing (Christ as Lord) that draws us together?  Well, I guess we have some time to pray about it!


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