Like many other clergy and laity in the United Methodist Church, I’ve been reading the proposals and responses again and again related to the idea of schism, the talk of dividing the church. For some time now, I have been listening to discussion and the varying points of view. I’ve tried to remove myself from my own beliefs and convictions to try and hear all sides with fresh ears (it has been difficult). I’m still not done. I still have people I want to talk with about it, clergy and laity both, as well as United Methodists and those outside.
This week however I put my finger on something that had just been gnawing at me. I
Quite honestly, it hit me hard.
Like others I'm sure, I was impressed by Dr. James Howell's appeal for the UMC to stay together. Among other articles I read, I read Dr. William Abraham’s post from a few years back, “United Methodists at the End of the Mainline.” In his comments he references a sermon from a clergy in the Reconciling Movement who spoke about his position and the Reconciling Movement. The message of that preacher went…
“Now it is our turn to get honest…We have moved far beyond the idea that the Bible is exclusively normative and literally authoritative for our faith. To my thinking, that is good! What is bad is that we have tried to con ourselves and others by saying ‘we haven’t changed our position.’”
Then yesterday there appeared an article in The Daily Beast, a very thought provoking article I might add, entitled “Were Christians Right About Gay Marriage Along?” In it, author Jay Michaelson, speculates that to some, gay marriage isn’t the end nor was it ever the goal. In truth, their goal is to do away completely with marriage. Michaelson writes,
“If your agenda is liberation, then the vision of same-sex marriage, in which gays become domesticated and live happily ever after, is a kind of nightmare. It is, at best, the squandering of a revolutionary potential, but at worst the growth of exactly what we were supposed to have shrunk: repression, patriarchy, convention, religion.”
Is this really the end game for some in this movement? And if the one is true, how far away is the other? Can I even take your word if you told me you are against the second statement if you agree with the first. I pray this is not shared within the UMC as a desired outcome.
I can’t help hearing those words, “A scout is trustworthy…” I guess some could care less what comes to my mind. You may think Scouting is a waste. Fine. But I think it is a critical, and clearly understated or entirely ignored part of the conversation. Like scouts who stand and proclaim at their meetings regarding what they value (even though they are just starting to learn it), we clergy do the same thing in essence during our ordination processes. We give our word, confirming our commitment to the polity and discipline of the church. Our approach, I think, is very much in keeping with Jesus' words on giving our word too (see Matthew 5:36-37).
In the book, “The Speed of Trust,” Stephen M.R. Covey describes giving our word or keeping commitments as the “Big Kahuna” of all trust behaviors. He goes on to write, “…when you make a commitment, you build hope; when you keep it, you build trust (214).” Throughout the book which reflects an extensive study on trust in organizations, Covey also notes the impact of betraying trust and the impact on relationships. He often notes Warren Buffet’s famous quote, “It takes twenty years develop a reputation and just 5 minutes to destroy it.”
I am not ignoring the conviction and belief of those of you who see this as a justice issue. I can respect you see it as worth the sacrifice to break covenant to bring the argument into the open, to try to change the perception and beliefs others hold regarding sexuality. I want us all at the table but I find myself with a trust betrayed. I don’t think this is a “straw-man argument.” I am also not for the break-up of our denomination, I want us to be in connection but a trust betrayed is far from being quick to heal. If you feel the sacrifice of betraying trust is worth the price, realize you still have sacrificed.