The Rev. Carolyn Moore is the founding pastor of Mosaic Church in Evans, Georgia, an elder in the United Methodist Church and the vice-chairwoman of the Wesleyan Covenant Association. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of BCNN1.
My tribe has been in the news … again. On January 3, nearly every major news outlet reported on the United Methodist Church’s new plan for amicable separation, most choosing headlines that read something like, “United Methodists to split over LGBT inclusion.”
Not much in these headlines was accurate, including “united” and “methodist.” The vote for a UMC separation, for one thing, is still months away, and the issues that threaten our unity are much deeper than human sexuality (though that is undeniably the presenting issue these days).
In our 50-year history as a denomination, anyway, almost nothing about us has been “united.” Not even the term “Methodist” adequately describes us these days, as the rules meant to keep us accountable — our “methods” — are clearly not functioning as they were designed.
It is all of this that led to last week’s news. After several years of painful exploration, brutal conversation, sharp debate and the heart-breaking debacle of our most recent General Conference in St. Louis in February, key leaders across the church have agreed to a mediated protocol that should lead to a vote for separation when our General Conference meets in May.
I am hopeful and certainly in support of this protocol. What distinguishes it from other plans and proposals we have considered as a church in the past months is its wide support among leaders representing all positions along the theological spectrum.
The most notable part of the agreement involves the fate of local church properties. Under our current polity, if a congregation chooses to leave, its church buildings and other assets remain the property of the denomination. Under the protocol, however, buildings and assets could be retained by local churches if they choose to leave the UMC within a specified timeline.
Should this provision stand, it will eliminate the kinds of lawsuits that plagued the Episcopal Church in the wake of its own split.
Even with much grace sown into this protocol, many will still find this latest step toward a split disheartening. Those fighting for the rights of LGBTQ+ persons will grieve a compromise they perceive as less than full affirmation from all sides. Those who stand for theological orthodoxy, meanwhile, will decry the fact that they have won all the votes at General Conference, only to end up exiled from the existing church.
All of us will lose a denomination we loved enough to join, and all of us will have to muster strength at the end of a long season of struggle to reorganize in sensible ways.
In a true compromise, no one wins. Still, our whole history as Christians informs our response to this moment. The God of our fathers has always been in the business of redeeming broken things. He brings beauty from ashes, as the biblical prophet Isaiah said. He means good even when we mean evil, the outcast Joseph tells his brothers. He works all things together toward a redemptive end, Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans.
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Source: Religion News Service