There has been a lot of talk about the possible schism from both sides of the debate. There are those who have declared that the schism is a done deal because of the refusal of a portion of our churches and clergy to abide by the rulings of General Conference. These pastors and churches are performing gay weddings, ordaining and appointing practicing gay pastors, and refusing to hold anyone accountable for those violations. As a result there are many who have tired of the drama and are simply recognizing that the most loving thing to do is allow that group to pursue their vision for the church while those who wish to retain the traditional definition of marriage does the same.
The result of the recognition of this divide and saying it out loud, has been a fire storm. Many have been called unloving, disloyal, bigots, and every other name in the book. The call to avoid schism has cropped up everywhere online. Bishops, pastors, and others have joined in the loud lament that a group of United Methodists would propose to do something so “unchristian”. Petitions are circulating and the case is being made. They are doing their best to shame their enemies into compliance and intimidate them into silence.
There is one thing missing in their proposals, however. You will not find in a single one of them any willingness to budge on their rebellion. They simple say they are following a “higher covenant” than the one they took when they were ordained and that those who are upset should just recognize that and allow them to have their way and do as they please. The are demanding a peaceful coexistence. They want to stay together while continuing to perform gay marriages and ordaining practicing gay pastors in violation of the Book of Discipline and simply agree to disagree.
How does that solve anything, really? How would bishops appoint pastors? They would need two lists and both pastors and churches would need to carefully vet both the appointed and the destination. What if the congregation is split? Which of the two classes of ordained pastors would they receive? How would it be determined? How would apportionments be handled? If a church does not want a dime of their monies going to support or encourage the gay agenda, how do they keep it from going there? If a church sees support of the gay agenda as central, how do they make sure it is supported? Would we simply do away with the Book of Discipline and stop the four year waste of time and resources? Would we publish two Books of Discipline?
Seems to me the only viable options are:
1. Those who have rebelled against church law repent and return to the covenant they made at ordination. From that position of submission to church law, they can begin to work for the change they seek through the Disciplinary mandated process. If they will do that, the trials for their present rebellion could be set aside. If they refuse to do so, the Bishops and Annual Conferences will need to begin the process of bringing charges and bringing them to trial. When someone is found guilty, there will need to be real consequences. Not a 24 hour suspension, writing a paper, or sweeping it under the rug of ecclesial secrecy.
2. Have a called General Conference where the agenda is to recognize the brokenness of our denomination and put into motion the process of creating new realities where those who are committed to traditional marriage and the present prohibitions against ordaining and appointing practicing GLBTQI pastors and those who are committed to the opposite, can both pursue their very different visions for the Church. That will be a Gamaliel moment. Let God sort it out. Whatever is of God will thrive. Whatever is not of God will die.
Below is a poll that seeks to find what price you are willing to pay in order to avoid schism.