REFLECTIONS ON SPECIAL GENERAL CONFERENCE 2019
WHAT KILLED THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH?
The United Methodist Church as it has been known for these last 200 plus years is coming to an end. Nothing can stop it. No one can prevent it. No group can strategize and save it in its present form. There is no way forward. There is no way backwards. There is no way over it or any way under it. All who tell you anything contrary are probably stakeholders in the status quo they hope to maintain. All efforts opposing its coming division will fail. The sooner you understand that, the better prepared you will be for the near future and the less time you will waste in pointless futility. It is time to begin thinking about those preparations without further delay.
Anyone who has given even the slightest objective consideration to our situation has known that this has been coming for a very long time. It should have taken place a minimum of 15 to 20 years ago. We are way behind the 8-ball. Orthodox folks, with their misplaced “Christian” gullibility and naiveté are usually slow to grasp the severity of the reality that surrounds them. The reason is that they think everybody is like them. They don’t know how to process those who are very much unlike them or nothing like them. A significant percentage still have no accurate perception of their situation to this day, revealing that they are no Sons of Issachar (I Chronicles 12:32). Not perceiving your situation always ends up being costly. Now we are, “at the end of all things”, after millions of United Methodists gave up hope and left, waiting for some leadership to appear who had the capacity to pull the trigger after their home had been invaded 50 times.
For many decades the United Methodist Church has served as an umbrella organization for two separate religions; and not only separate religions but opposing religions. They have two separate goals. They have two separate authorities. They share very few priorities. The bureaucracy has always sought to paper these core differences over with slogans like, “Better Together” or “Stronger in Unity.” The closer we get to this long overdue divide the more frequently we hear the slogans. Now that the separation is upon us, the bureaucracy should stop fearing it and let go of the great burden of pretending and just embrace the reality that surrounds it. The end is near and it is going to be beautiful!
So, let’s take a look at what killed the United Methodist Church in its historic form. I do believe the United Methodist Church could very well have a new birth experience into something beautiful though still vastly different from what it looks like today. We should understand that if a denomination this broken, this far gone, this deeply infected should come back to life and health and renewal even in a new form, it could only be understood as a miraculous gift from the hand of God. Something heretofore unseen in modern history.
In so many of today’s discussions, there is an inane, obligatory “Moral Equivalency Rule”, which is a convenient way to hide from the truth and create false assessments on where we are and how we got here. I choose not to be distracted by this faux attempt to appear “reasonable” and sacrifice facticity. I want to address some fundamental reasons as to why the United Methodist Church, as we have known her, is now on her death bed.
WHAT KILLED THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH?
Here I will list three key reasons (though not exhaustive) as to why the denomination is melting away and will soon split. I will also give some reflections on modern-day liberalism as a movement, philosophy, and more importantly as a malady. (This would scoop up some liberals who identify as “Centrists” not because they are centrists but because they wanted to avoid the negative connotations of liberalism. Perhaps they also thought it would help accomplish their goals by appearing as something they may not actually be. It would not scoop up all “Centrists.”)
1.Liberals lack honor:
Many liberals lack honor for this reason: They do not honor their vows. In this specific circumstance, on this particular issue, that falls into two categories. First, they either lied when they took their vows as several seemed to confess on the floor of General Conference naming their disqualifications for ordained ministry and then interestingly portraying themselves as victims in the matter. (Huh?). Or two, they changed their positions but did not openly present and address the fact that they would no longer abide by The Discipline or decisions of the United Methodist Church. Rather they simply break their vows intentionally and/or violate our rule book which they vowed to uphold. An example of this is the performing of same-sex weddings in violation of their vows. This of course is not true of all liberals.
I do not refer to people with same-sex attraction, opposite sex attraction or other related issues who fall and fail and get up and fall and fail and get up. I do not refer to those who wrestle with the brokenness of humanity and the brokenness within themselves but ever strive to become more like Jesus even though they may follow Him on crutches. I do not refer to those who, having wrestled with their sins, rise again with a determination to go forward with a renewed desire to fulfill their vows and commitments. I do not even refer to those who lost their way for a period of time and returned home. I am referring to those who intentionally violate their promise to keep their vows time and time again without regret, without remorse or any intention of being faithful to their vows in the future. Instead, they require the Church to turn and bless the violation. Some even rejoice in their unfaithfulness and flaunt their violations.
2. Liberals Lack Courage:
Liberals lack courage because rather than openly acknowledge the fact they have a complete, core disagreement with what our Church has always affirmed and reconfirmed consistently they don’t address the matter head-on. Rather liberals have a history of working to damage the organization with guerrilla warfare and subterfuge. They almost never clearly and plainly state their positions. They almost never clearly and plainly state their goals. They bend vocabulary to make words mean what they want them to mean at any particular moment and then use the same words to mean something else when their audience has changed. Now this can vary based upon geography and if their own bishop is in open violation of The Discipline or sends unmistakable signals that he or she is OK with violations.
I also realize that one does not go to bed thinking one way and simply wakes up with a contrary viewpoint. Views on key positions tend to evolve over time. These positions though are now very mature for most liberals.
As has been pointed out to them numerous times through the decades, if they are in utter and intractable disagreement with the United Methodist Church and its historic positions then they have always had available at least two more courageous and honest options.
One: They could go out and form their own denomination rather than continuing to drive out hundreds of thousands yea, millions of faithful church members by their actions and disobedience. However, that would take courage, effort and honesty. Do they believe that is a competency they do not possess or an effort they do not wish to exert?
Two: They could join several other denominations that have already gone through this tragic rending. In these denominations they would fit perhaps not perfectly but very comfortably and certainly be welcomed. There might possibly be some nominal issues around baptism, communion or Armenian/Calvinist traditions, but I don’t sense, with their obvious latitude, those would be make or break issues. Joining with these other denominations would have been the rational thing to do. That would be the honorable thing to do. That would be the honest thing to do. That is the thing they have consciously chosen not to do. It seems their thinking is, it is better for the United Methodist Church to suffer, hemorrhage and have a four-decade war than follow that decent, honorable and courageous path.
3. Liberals lack integrity:
This was perhaps their greatest missing yet visible characteristic at General Conference. It was so transparent, so blatant and even publicly acknowledged beforehand. A clergyman who was one of their key leaders, and paid to travel around the country to promote the One Church Plan, stated it publicly. It was stunning. It was no doubt damaging to their cause for those who were present and those who were watching. If liberals inadvertently due to anger, tell you plainly what they intend to do, it is usually injurious to their goal. They clearly proved themselves unworthy of trust. They clearly proved themselves unworthy of partnership.
In the beginning it seemed that the liberal minority was playing by the rules. Both teams were working diligently to persuade the body toward their goals. However, when it became clear that a significant and increasing majority once again rejected their multiple efforts to pass the One Church Plan and change our historic positions, the mask of playing fairly and honestly was quickly ripped off. We began to see who they really were and what they were willing to do to thwart the will of the majority and the ability of the General Conference to function.
After their last effort imploded on business day 3 a series of open, dirty tricks began. The aforementioned One Church Plan leader stood at the microphone waving a handful of blank amendment forms stating that they would introduce endless amendments until the General Conference had to vacate the building for a monster truck event coming to the arena so as to prevent any further voting. There were only 2 hours left for the Conference. It was simply astounding. At that moment, they began throwing parliamentary iron rods into the gears of General Conference to bring it to a halt. Without the dirty tricks, the body could have taken their votes and finished most, if not all, of what the people in our church pews paid to allow them to come and resolve. What they did was mostly legal in terms of parliamentary procedure, but certainly contrary to the spirit of Robert’s Rules of Order. It was a series of disgraceful maneuvers to prevent the body from doing its work. One of those dirty tricks even included having someone who opposed an item stand up to speak in favor of it, in order to deny the opportunity for another delegate to speak who honestly was in favor of it. Stealing one of the three “in favor” speeches to make it four “opposed” and only two “in favor” fits comfortably into their understanding of covenant. This was an obviously deceitful maneuver yet apparently done without shame.
The Liberals broke faith and they broke covenant with their brothers and sisters who came from around the world at great personal sacrifice to dutifully handle the task we charged them to perform. They broke covenant and faith with all United Methodists who paid the money to rent the convention center, fly delegates in from around the world at great expense, pay for numerous translators, pay for costly rooms and meals and who paid for 9 preconference global gatherings for the Commission on the Way Forward, to give the delegates that opportunity. Aside from the moral abuse, it was financial abuse of the $6,700,000 given so generously by the people in the pews. They seemed to take pride in killing the productive conclusion of the General Conference.
A small number of people prevented the General Conference from handling the business the folks in the pews paid these millions of dollars to put on hoping to finally resolve this conflict. And the conflict was being resolved in the only manner and with the only tool the General Conference can resolve it with as a voting body—votes. When that one tool is purloined, nothing can replace it. The glue which holds us together is gone. It was a fitting addendum to all the previous disobedience they have committed in killing off the United Methodist Church.
Why did we go to St. Louis to vote to resolve our problems if a minority shamelessly won’t allow our system to function and votes to be taken? Why did the liberals not tell us before the millions were spent and the nine global pre-meetings were held that they would road-block the whole thing if their minority viewpoint did not win? Why didn’t they tell us, “if we lose again we will sabotage the General Conference and prevent it from finishing the task”? The poor, orthodox majority did not understand that, once again, they should have brought a knife to a vote fight. The poor, naive orthodox folks still think, even after 45 years of experience to the contrary, the liberals will be honorable in their proceedings. Why they still think that after all these decades is hard to understand. Perhaps a quick review of the definition of insanity would be worthwhile.
There was however some insurmountable humor in the childishness of the behavior. It reminded one of a kid who lost the championship match and then tried to grab the trophy and run out the door just as it was being handed to the other person. (See here Shooter McGavin sprinting off with Happy Gilmore’s trophy.)
There was a curious moment when the liberals were losing some votes. Adam Hamilton stated that pastors who wanted to uphold the Church’s biblical position on homosexuality and bisexuality and transgenderism, etc. etc. etc. should therefore give up their pensions. (?) The explanation came from Jesus’ admonition to not store up for yourselves treasures on earth. Can you imagine Jesus telling people if they wanted to uphold clear Scriptural teaching they must first go in early December to their root cellars and throw out all of their can goods they had labored all summer and fall to create? Then go next to their smokehouses to throw out the meat that would feed them through winter? If Rev. Hamilton was not serious, he certainly stated it seriously in a very serious moment.
Sound, faithful Scriptural teaching has never been closely connected to this advocacy to change our consistent, globally-shared, ancient doctrines. It is mostly based on an appeal to emotions using allusions, illusions, interesting stories, sad stories and ecclesiastically baptized arguments of the Secular Left but not serious exposition of the Scriptures. That is our true divide—not homosexuality, not bisexuality, not transgender practices, not queer practices, not intersexuality, not asexuality. Sometimes I wonder if these folks could exegete the movie, “The Lion King” and it would have as much authority as the Holy Scriptures.
Sadly, many liberals do not seek the truth, rather they seek domination. They seek to dominate those who want to live out the Christian faith as it has been understood for two thousand years. They twist Scripture, Hebrew, Greek, John Wesley and Church history. They point to other ways where the church fails and sins and where we have not done a good enough job in applying the Scriptures to our own discipleship. That is something we should actually be grateful for and when the present crisis is resolved prayerfully and graciously reexamine. Their reasoning is because the Church or Christians at times fail in this area or that area we should start another entirely huge category that we will not only fail in but that we will insist you bless, that you call good and that you celebrate and make a regular practice in the House of God.
The Liberals subjected the body to yelling, screaming and even a little profanity as the cherry on top. All of this was done in a melodramatic fashion to prove how badly they are just “losing it” under this “great injustice” and how the Church has wounded them terribly—you know, the same old, same old victimology 101 curriculum. Forget the fact that they walked into this United Methodist Church knowing what the standards were a hundred years before they were ever conceived. They are still going to try to make you think you are persecuting them by remaining faithful. The implication is if they can get emotional enough or loud enough or cry enough, you will believe that you are persecuting them when you continue to uphold these global and consistent beliefs. Many times an appeal to your Christian compassion is really an attempt to get you to betray Christian teachings. And if you do not submit, they will break your Church and break your General Conferences and flush nearly 7 million bucks. Then pitifully they will declare a General Conference where the majority prevailed, “harmful.” When all else fails, they will call for a “special prosecutor” even if they momentarily lack a dirty dossier. Of course, if the 31 United Methodist delegates from overseas had been able to get their visas, the majorities would have been that much greater.
This is a huge part of what separates the internal workings between liberals and conservatives. Liberals will participate in outrageous, pitiful or threatening outbursts and behavior. You just don’t see that for the most part among regular folks. It is not surprising, however, because we have watched it for many years in a slightly different venue. It is a trained behavior. It is a taught behavior. You can see it any night on the news or at your local college campus. It comes from their “teachers” where this whole ball of wax originated from, the Secular Left. The Secular Left even funds, with hundreds of thousands of dollars perhaps significantly more, the efforts of these liberal groups which afflict The United Methodist Church. When you are coming under fire, it a good to understand where the mortars are really located.
The crime of the “Traditionalists” or “Conservatives” or “Orthodox” is this: they will not surrender the consistent, historic teachings of the Universal Church to the onslaught of the radical, Secular Left. For this they are called, “hateful”, “unwelcoming”, “mean-spirited”, “intolerant”, “harmful”, “discriminatory”, “unloving” and “evil.” The radical, Secular Left is wise enough to understand that the real obstacle that stands in its way of completely transforming the culture into its own image is not the government, not academia and certainly not the media, but The Church. Therefore, it looks for those within the church who can serve as (let’s not use Vladimir Lenin’s term) “Handy Helpers” and it funds them.
For a certain percentage of the population if you put any of today’s magical-fairy-dust words like “equality”, “welcoming”, “tolerant”, “civil right” in front of any other word the analytical part of their brain immediately dies. They reflexively decide they are working for “the little guy.” Give them a term like “marriage equality” and it instantly opens their cash register. They see themselves crossing the Pettus Bridge, sitting at a Woolworth lunch counter, or standing at the Lincoln Memorial listening to the great “I Have a Dream” speech. It is difficult for them to grasp the stark differences between those causes when the same kind of adjectives are used, which of course, is why those same adjectives are ALWAYS used. They are “magical words” anointed with fairy dust that can make any noun fly. Hence, many liberals become “Handy Helpers” for the Secular Left. Accordingly, they tend to see those who wish to maintain the historic, biblical standards as ecclesiastical “Bull Connors.” When you become Bull Connor in their eyes, there is no path to redemption. That is the point where they begin to mow down the traditionalists not with arguments but with all the usual naughty labels that you hear ad nauseam.
Just for a moment of humor…could you imagine John Wesley or Francis Asbury in one of the early General Conferences calling for the report of, “The Queer Clergy Caucus?” The UMC is quickly moving from a tragedy to a comedy. At first you cried, and when you were all cried out, you saw that it was going so far out past left field, out of the stadium, out of the parking lot then off Google Earth that you had a hard time trying to stop laughing.
It used to be attending General Conference as a delegate was a great honor. However, with the Left threatening to “bring gallons of piss to throw around”, interrupting the functioning of General Conference with invasions costing the lay people many thousands of dollars per minute, with shouting, drumming and with Neville Chamberlin-type bishops in the chair, you may feel more like you are attending a Gallagher performance than a General Conference. You may want to wear a big black trash bag and goggles. You may not see a watermelon smashed with a sledge hammer, but you can bet you will see some obtuse fool smash the communion Chalice…again! You might even see aerial acts with people threatening to fly over the balconies if the Church won’t submit. Perhaps the 2020 General Conference’s opening hymn should be “Send in the Clowns”? “Isn’t it rich? Isn’t it queer? Losing my timing this late in my career. But where are the clowns? There ought to be clowns. Well maybe next year.” (2020?).
The question should be asked, if we jettisoned biblical standards would our churches suddenly be filled with worshipping, singing gays and lesbians, bisexuals, transgender, queer, intersexed and asexual people and their supporters? No. What would happen is an even faster decline from what is already happening in this 45-year war that should have been settled 25 years ago. We would lose a huge percentage of our largest and most vibrant churches. We would never gain those large and vibrant churches that we would have gained had we not collapsed under the pressure that ultimately comes from the Secular Left. We would lose those young energetic, godly entrepreneurs who would have chosen to serve the Kingdom of God through the United Methodist Church.
If after they have broken the rules, stolen the trophy, sabotaged General Conferences and driven the majority traditionalist, orthodox folks that built the UMC out the door what would they have? Would the Liberals then have a growing, vibrant Church that has finally reached the Promised Land? No. They would have a rapidly declining, financially broken Church that fails and rots away into oblivion. Their trophy will be another smoldering heap of ruins, another dead denomination, another notch on their gun handle. Then they will move on to something else that is healthy, go for the reins of leadership, and do the same song and dance until that Church, organization, university, system, denomination or nation is destroyed.
One of the core and curious features of radical liberalism is its suicidal nature. I do not understand, but in some inherent way that is woven throughout every fiber of its nature, it is terminally destructive. It is almost as though it subconsciously understands it should not exist in this state of being forever in rebellion against reality. Perhaps it seeks to destroy itself? Though, it only succeeds in destroying healthy things or good things, never itself. That is why liberalism, in its present day more radical form, is ultimately a spiritual and psychological disorder. (See, The Liberal Mind “The Psychological Causes of Political Madness” by Psychiatrist Lyle H. Rossiter, JR. M.D.)
Liberalism has constructed a pseudo reality just like a stage made out of styrofoam and tinfoil. It has told believers this is reality and the play must take place here. They say, we will play the victims and you will be the persecutors. Sadly, many faithful go up on that stage and say they are “Sorry for all the pain that we have caused for our hurting brothers and sisters.” “We love you and we want to work out some compromise.” But the compromise can never be achieved except temporarily and then the problem is back. (Remember the recent refrain, “All we want are Civil Unions. We would never ask for marriage.”) The “victims” scream and yell with indignation, “you are hurting me even more and your positions do terrible harm and you are killing people and scarring people who will never be able to recover.” They are even willing to weaponize the tragedy of suicide if it will move their chess piece forward. Any appeal to emotion is fair game.
The real answer and the one that liberals fear the most (because they know it’s true) is to say to them, “You have constructed a world of unreality.” Your stage is only made of styrofoam and tinfoil. It is not real. We will not be a part of this unreality any longer. It’s time for you folks to grow up and deal with true reality. We will not perform on your stage any longer. We will not pretend we are the persecutors and you are the victims. Now it is time for you to go out into the world and make of yourselves whatever you can and whatever you choose to be. We, however, will no longer be your enablers, for your issues are yours and yours alone.”
You want us to call homosexuality normal and healthy and celebrate it in the House of God at the altar. We cannot. Though we know gays and lesbians, have them in our families, work with them, worship with them and love them, we still cannot.
You want us to call bisexuality normal and healthy and celebrate it and bring it into the House of God. (I am having a hard time imagining those weddings, but they will appear no doubt if they haven’t already.) We cannot.
You want us to call transgenderism normal and healthy. (Ditto on the weddings.) We cannot. We will not drink your Kool-Aid.
On and on it goes because it never stops. Just like a germaphobe, you keep seeing new germs, new “inequality”, new “intolerance” until the inmates have the administration straight-jacketed in the rubber room.
Polygamy and other “Polys” are at the door ready to do even more damage to girls and women. There is a long line behind Poly. Over time, you will slowly digest your objections to those as well. Your list of initial-isms will grow as long as your list of infinite gender identities. You foolishly thought that if you could redefine marriage from being one thing that you could then turn and limit it to only two things. However, if marriage can’t be only one thing then it absolutely can’t be only two things. You are playing your part in making it everything and therefore you make marriage nothing. The Secular Left is grateful for your unwitting assistance. You see there are always a 1000 steps below the one you just moved to until you have to look up to see the belly of the serpent. That is where it finally ends.
I would say to my liberal colleagues, if you have developed this new understanding in contradiction to thousands of years of Judeo-Christian history and for you it is an Article of Religion, a Confession of Faith and something that is utterly fundamental to your ability to be a church, then why do you insist that we leave our historic faith? Why do you persecute us? Why do you oppress those who don’t agree with this new thing you say you have discovered? Why do you drain away our diminishing finances? (6.7 million dollars this time.) Why do you not care that you drive away hundreds of thousands perhaps millions of our members? Why do you bludgeon this United Methodist Church? Why do you stop our General Conferences from functioning? Is this the way you treat those you call brothers and sisters? Do you see this behavior as Christian?
If you have found this new thing that all who came before you missed and most still do not find, why have you inflicted this war upon us? Why did you not part with us gently and in peace? Why did you not say to us that you have found light and now you must go and follow that new light? Why have you tyrannized us? If you perceived we sat in darkness and we refused to follow after you, why did you tear us down? Why have you damaged us endlessly? Why did you seek to intimidate us? Why did you not just go and follow this new light? Why use dirty tricks? Why sabotage General Conferences? Why repeatedly violate that which you vowed to follow?
No organization can be sustained where the leaders charged with enforcing the rules don’t abide by them and break them openly. It is impossible to govern a Church when a loud minority refuses to abide by the rules that have governed us these past 235 years. When bishops with great publicity and notoriety break the covenant (the infamous Bishop Talbert) and basically nothing is done to discipline him by those charged with that responsibility, (his college of bishops), the system collapses.
When a “bishop” who is not even qualified to be a clergy-person as ruled by our own supreme court (Judicial Council) still pretends to be a bishop in Colorado and her college of bishops still does nothing…then Chaos is our Discipline and the rules we agreed to abide by are finished. This opens the door for any and all lawlessness. That door is now wide open. Right after General Conference ended groups and bishops popped their heads up saying, “we will not obey.” Other bishops communicate in subliminal ways or not so subliminal ways. “I’m going to pretend that what happened at General Conference did not really happen even though I am totally bound by it.”
It would seem nothing can be done to make the system function and that is what is so frustrating to our faithful folks in the pews. So these dear brothers and sisters wring their hands thinking nothing can be done while the denomination spirals off into the abyss. However, that would be an incorrect assessment. There is a power that far exceeds the Book of Discipline. There is a power that far exceeds the decisions of General Conference. There is a power that far exceeds the dirty tricks of those who say they will abide by the votes of a 6.7 million dollar special General Conference but then betray that commitment. What exactly is the greatest power in The United Methodist Church no questions asked?
It is not found in The Book of Discipline. It is not found in the Social Principles. It is not found in the appointive system. It is the one and only 800-pound gorilla. When the 800-pound gorilla speaks, nobody moves, nobody breathes. Loquacious bishops are stone cold statues before it. All the Boards and Agencies are dumbstruck. Not a fork gets rattled on the Connectional Table. E.F. Hutton is vaporized.
The 800-pound gorilla is the laity who are the source of every penny that gives the organization life. The organization, the bureaucracy, doesn’t move until the lay people tell it to move. The people in the pews are the boss. They fund every mile a bishop drives or flies, every seminar that gets put on, every continuing education event, every employee no matter how high or low. They turn on the heat at the District and Conference offices. They turn on the air conditioning at The United Methodist Church Building in Washington D.C. They pay for renting the American Center Convention Complex in St. Louis. Every person at the District level, the Conference level and the General Church level, live and move and have their being because the lay people say they do or… say they don’t. When the 800-pound gorilla, the laity, speak in mass through their wallets and their purses then you will see a change in behavior faster than Jerry Reed can sing the words, “Attitude Adjustment.” Wayward District Superintends suddenly come back into the fold with their shoes brightly polished. Rouge Bishops start singing magnificently what the lay people say they would like to hear for ambiance while preparing to dine on their sliced bananas which have been served to them with a smile. The radical, left-wing pronouncements of General Boards and Agencies disappear faster than a toupee in a hurricane for this largely center-right denomination.
That is the real power that supersedes all these systems that once worked but have now failed in the UMC. When the Discipline is ignored, when General Conference gets turned into a meaningless kabuki dance, when folks operate as bishops when they ceased to be even clergy, there is a far more effective and immediate corrective tool. There is only one source in the United Methodist Church that funds every single thing that ever happens and that is the offering plate the lay folks fill. The people in the pews are the boss. They dwarf the Council of Bishops into insignificance. They watch the circus antics at General Conference unmoved from Mt. Olympus. They can make decisions and see that they stick. They can say, “Cut that crap out now” and instantaneously the air is inundated with the scent of roses.
They don’t have to battle their way through brutal Annual Conference delegate elections. They don’t have to read the equivalent of “War and Peace” twice in legislative proposals. They don’t have to board a plane and fly anywhere and stay in a hotel. They don’t have to play the every four year, “Whack-A-Mole” game of trying to amend The Discipline to fix the new ways liberals have found to violate it this quadrennium. They can simply sit in their pew and push a button that is right on their wallet and their vote is instantaneously tallied.
I myself would never withhold money, unless in utter desperation, that is spent right in my local church where members have so much control and transparency if they seek it. I would try to never let support drop one penny for the missions and expenses that truly represent one’s values (regular up close and personal audits are not just good but vital) beyond your local church. I would support the ministry of our wildly effective United Methodist African brothers and sisters and others who are growing the church overseas faster than liberalism can kill it off in the U.S. But if you sense you have an out of control, unaccountable, possibly corrupt bureaucracy, if you think you can only make out a few cloudy, opaque silhouettes behind the curtain, well…as the good witch Glinda said to Dorothy, “You don’t need to be helped my dear. You have always had the power to go back to Kansas.”
The thing is laity can’t depend on the pastor(s) to lead that charge even if the pastor felt it should be done. If the laity believed this power, which they alone possess, was the only avenue left open to recover some semblance of order and discipline, they would need to take the reins into their own hands. In about 95% of the situations your pastor is hogtied and powerless. He or she knows the powers that be, feeling threatened, would seek to immediately reduce their salary and appoint them to Dismal Seepage UMC or worse. Those kinds of actions must be totally lay led first and last.
My perspective is the laity must get off their duffs and take charge as they should if order is to be restored. They need to understand exactly where their money is going and if it effectively supports the causes for which they give it and what recipients might oppose the purposes for which they give it. When the system has failed and pastors and bishops and district superintendents and boards and agencies and General Conference delegates are in an unrepentant state and spirit of violation against our Discipline…ONLY the lay people can save it with the overriding power God has placed in their hands, that of being good stewards of His resources.
I will close these lengthy comments by noting the most unexpected moment of the entire 2019 General Conference. It was a stunning, completely unanticipated moment that no one could have seen coming. Just before the closing curtains touched and the room went dark, a lady from the Oregon-Idaho Conference who stated she was Chair of the Western Jurisdictional Leadership Team came out to the microphone. She read a brief document. It was an astounding statement of heretofore unseen honesty. Many may have missed it as computers were being closed and papers tossed into briefcases. The document stated the truth we all knew but no one ever dared to utter before. The document said and I paraphrase but I paraphrase with accuracy. They said to the General Conference, we have not paid any attention to what The General Conference decides or what the laws of The Book of Discipline instruct for years. We in the Western Jurisdiction have been in open violation of the laws of the United Methodist Church a long time. We now piss on the votes and decisions of the majority of the 2019 General Conference (but with sad and somber faces of course). They are not only non-binding to us but they are offensive to us. And now I quote. “We see something new being birthed on the horizon. If others wish to join us we invite you to be in dialogue with us as we move forward to discuss what new thing God may be wanting to birth. Go to our website westernjurisdictionumc.org and register to be part of the discussion.”
That moment gave me the greatest hope that this group of liberals might finally be moving towards health and honesty. It is far, far too late. So much damage has been inflicted. But at least it is not, never.
If you have read thus far I encourage you to ponder the words and ideas, strong though they may be contained herein. That will not be an easy task when the mind-poisoning attempts begin towards the author for composing the article.
“Best of All, God is with us.”
Rev. Wade Compton