While I am concerned, alarmed, and even hopeful about the compromise proposal to determine the future of the United Methodist Church, I am also exhausted. This process has taken more time than we’ve realized. It has also resulted in the pain and suffering of countless United Methodists (lay and clergy). After the journey we’ve shared, I find little joy in reading press-releases and being told to stay calm and look for the presence of the Holy Spirit. (I am suspicious of people using religious clichés, especially those involved in this process.) I think that the Spirit caught wind of our shenanigans and went home some time ago.
It seems we’ve lost the ability to talk about the church and God’s illuminating presence. We’re either tearing each other apart (or politely sniping on Twitter) or telling ourselves how great we are for reaching our collaborative insights. In the end, it seems the United Methodist Church is exemplified by our linguistic attempts to preserve our preferable form of theocratic bureaucracy. Despite the outcome, the people in power will remain in charge of their respective tribes. The only difference will be the differences we’ve already come to see. The systems will remain the same.
Here’s my observation: Much like Harry and Meghan, we see ourselves as the best versions of the institution that made us. Now, however, we want to break free. We believe we are not what made us. We are something better, a little compromised, different, and separated from all we know. Everyone wants out and no one is telling grandma. (After all, she’s been going to church forever.)
As Rome burns, we still believe (regardless of your stance on human sexuality), we are transforming the world. No, we are not. Forest fires in Australia, earthquakes in the Caribbean, floods in southern Asia, and the threat of nuclear war in Iran and Korea are transforming the world more than any committee we’ve ever formed. Our schism is the smallest of the earth’s concerns. Why? The world, too, is tired and afraid. People are worn out. The hurting don’t need another press release or simulcast. The world needs churches that offer hope. Too bad we’re breaking camp and can’t seem to live together.
Richard Lowell Bryant