A progressive argument against #UMC Schism

escher-cyborgSchism is often a topic on this blog. One of the most-referenced posts on this topic these days is “10 Reasons why Schism Solves Nothing” and that links to most of the other content about schism in our United Methodist Church.

In October 2012, the United Methodist Reporter ran an article by Rev. Jackson called “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do, but the Right Thing for the UMC.” I recently was pointed back to the article because of a comment that I believe gives a solid argument for why progressives ought not pine away for schism so they can have their own church with full inclusion and leave the traditionalists off in their church.

Here’s the comment from Scott T. Imler, a former UM licensed local pastor about the folly of schism (emphases added by HX.net):


Pastor/Professor Jackson has erected a credible bridge between the lose-lose status quo of the institution and the win-win aspirations of our Wesleyan theology. But that bridge seems to teeter as he points out at the intersection of faith and mission.

  • For those who suggest that two millennia of derision, debasement and death of sexual minorities in the name of Christ Jesus is merely an uncomfortable diversion from our principle task at hand speaks to the utter failure of the Gospel imperatives we profess.
  • Regional autonomy or cordial separation from the evils of Christianist exclusion may be a balm for progressive pensioners who have found their peace in the glass-doored clergy closets of the UMC, but with the connectional funding of the new anti-gay Central Conference plurality, even a “win-win” resolution – whatever that may look like – leaves progressives as un shifting accomplices in the continued oppression of LGBT folks the world over.

At some point progress must take a convicted stand (other than more resolutions and polite dialogue) and demonstrate the will and sacrifice necessary to live what they preach. The moral and physical costs of the UMC’s bipolar core values can’t be counted in attendance and donations, but rather in lives lost and faiths abandoned from “jail the Gays” legislation in Uganda the hall closets and tool sheds all across America as LGBT teenagers take their final hopeless stands against a loveless God in a cruel and uncaring world.



We share responsibility

While the rhetoric is soaring, the basic argument is this: schism leaves one whole part of Schismatic Methodism without the voice of progressives and advocates for the full humanity of LGBT folks. The loss of the dialogue and reasonable conversation in favor of echo chambers of the newly minted super-majority would lead to:

  • Ugandans facing death never knowing that there are Methodists who affirm the full humanity of gay people;
  • Teenagers at Oklahoma megachurches without any Methodist Sunday School teachers to talk to;
  • Methodist banner-holders standing on the same side as the Fundamentalists at courthouse protests of marriage equality;
  • And so on…

Whether the group is progressive or traditionalist, whenever you remove the dissonant voices or the loyal opposition from the conversation, then the expression of those super-majority beliefs becomes more rigid and resolute and radical. And the people who left share responsibility for throwing in the towel and ceding the territory to the other side.

While that can feel good in some contexts, in the broader context it is disastrous to wash our hands of each other. We share responsibility for the “Kill the Gays” bill in Uganda. We share responsibility for every teenager who ends their life because of shame over who they are attracted to. We share responsibility for every pensioner who cannot get married and gain a ton of rights and loses everything when their partner dies. We cannot wash our hands of entire swaths of Christendom and culture just so we can get everything we want in a separate-but-unequal denomination.

Schism empties churches of responsibility

Here’s a startling fact: straight people have gay children. And those gay children are brought up in churches chosen by the parents. Compassionate allies in dominantly antagonistic churches become safe places: islands of inclusive thought and love for whatever a teenage lesbian is going through with her peers. By breaking apart Methodism, those individuals would likely lose those voices and safe havens and would not have a real-life corrective to the church around them during formative years of their life and faith. The United Methodist Church is my church, and I share responsibility for those children both now and in the future.

As my friend Rev. Ben Gosden and I wrote a year ago to remind us that splitting doesn’t solve the underlying issue:

It seems progressives who want to split forget that the church they leave will continue to have gay children. And it seems traditionalists who want separation naively think separation will finally rid the church of the homosexual debate, as though gay persons will no longer inhabit our spaces of worship, formation and service…Clearly, schism will not end the conversation before us.

Story after story of LGBT persons in my churches and in your churches who ended their own lives reinforce my belief: It is better to keep having the conversation–and go through the rough period behind and before us–than stop the conversation and leave LGBT children and youth without resources. That is not to say they are without compassion. Even the most ardent of churches weeps alongside those who end their lives. I would hope that even the most toxic conversation on Facebook begins with a place of love for the person. The love of “Traditionalists” for children and youth is claimed to be present even when the methods don’t show it.

The claim is rather that by affirming homosexuality’s place in the human condition, progressives offer an alternative hermeneutic to sexuality and biblical meaning that many many survivors wish they had known about earlier. Cutting out the undercurrent through schism lessens the possibility of that grace reaching where it needs to go. Removing the minority voices cuts out the constant call for a church to have engaged responsibility for all within its doors and communities. Schism ends the conversation and leaves vulnerable youth and children without the resources to help them through what could be the most dangerous part of their lives…to our shame.

The Mission of Shared Responsibility

So progressives have a missional reason to stay in relationship with an anti-gay global Church: to save lives, be they teenagers in the church or Ugandans who look to their religious leaders for laws and values. And progressives have a missional method: To be that thorn in the side of the global church until it realizes the error of its ways. To stand in the same place that the advocates for women’s ordination privileges, the advocates for black Americans to serve white churches, and, yes, even the advocates who worked for ONE HUNDRED YEARS to get laity the right to vote on Methodist issues…to stand where they stood and use all our sources of authority to call the church to something new.

This mission isn’t for every progressive and it certainly isn’t for every LGBT person in our pews or pulpits. I understand the need to leave on an individual basis. But for those with the privileges and the ability and the call to remain United Methodist and to keep the church from eating itself a decade before it could turn the corner itself…there’s a mission for you.

And your mission of saving lives in this world and offering them eternal salvation in the world to come begins with being a voice of inclusion and love and acceptance to just one person in your ministry context who needs to hear it. Go and proclaim the Gospel in word and deed.


NOTE: I’ve been called out in emails and private messages that the above post basically says to LGBT Methodists “it’s okay if you have to leave, but if you do, why do you hate Ugandans?” I can definitely see that. But just as I’m a person of heterosexual privilege, my primary audience is other persons of privilege within the UMC who feel like they can make a new church of their own without examining the wider repercussions. My privilege blinds me to how individual LGBTs viewed the above, so I’m thankful for good friends who call me out and let me know when I’m not listening.

(Image credit: Shane Willis, 2007)
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  1. Churchola says

    I thought you were going to say that the lost were the conservative folks and that we need to minister to them specifically.

  2. Scott says

    The United Merhodist Church has existed for 45 years.

    There is an assumption that the progressive side in a split would no longer be “Methodis. I believe this to be totally false. Whatever the names of any new groups no group can solely claim methodist in their name.

    Even with a split there will be people of all types in the new denominations. Not all African-Americans left the ME or MES south churches. In the same way not all holiness people left the ME or MES churches for the new churches with a strong conservative holiness theology in the 1800s.

    I am not concerned that gays in Uganda hear a “Methodist” voice but that they hear a Christian voice. This isn’t to say Methodism or a methodist viewpoint isn’t important but there is a more important viewpoint an that is the Christ viewpoint. United Methodists, in our constitution, are committed to ecumenism. We know we are not the only church in town.

    In today’s digital culture, we can be thankful that a gay teenager in the most conservative denomination has access to a digital world that those of is who were teenagers in the 80s never dreamed of! A gay teenager will be fully aware of a More Light congregation across the street. Not an ideal situation to be sure. But worlds ahead of where we were just 20 years ago.

    Just some thoughts.

    • says

      The practice does not meet the abstract idea that you presented. Yes, a teen may see a More Light congregation down the road, but would their parents let them go? And if they were at a conservative Methodist church, wouldn’t they gravitate and trust those progressive voices who attend there? So while denominations are nice, they don’t offer the realistic entry points that families would recognize.

      • Bradford Johnson says

        And yet, that “safe haven” for LGBT youth within that less tolerant church cannot be maintained legitimately. To say that those that would leave share responsibility for the hate they leave behind is ridiculous and unfair. Is the mission to maintain the closet, or to create an open and free worship space? If we are shouting “Jesus Loves” from the rooftops and rafters, we make an impact far greater than if we whisper it in private. To know that there IS a place that does not care who you love, only THAT you love would help more people. Is that place ever going to be a UMC? If we keep our direction, will there ever be an open and safe place to know God’s presence…to hold hands with our loved ones…? By staying connected aren’t we condoning the quiet shame?

        • says

          It doesn’t matter if the safe haven can’t be maintained legitimately. It does matter if we save lives. If we schism, then we remove all the allies from those churches, then they become black holes without affirmative presence. Ask any survivor of suicide who is LGBT what they wish they had in their church growing up and I suspect (and know, from anecdotes) that having someone to talk to would have changed their lives.

          My argument is that the desire to schism to stop the injustice creates an even more oppressive system of injustice for LGBT youth and children. By removing allies from unsafe churches, how are we helping the LGBT youth left behind whose parents won’t allow them to go to the heretical church?

          • John Handy Bosma says

            The incompleteness of your reasoning is simply mind-boggling. Your willingness to hang oppression on the heads of people who are for schism, well, it’s just plain reprehensible. Let’s think through the lines of cause and effect here, shall we? First, why would a schism “remove all the allies from those churches?” It’s a breathtakingly simplistic, overly rhetorical claim for which you offer no supporting rationale. Second, quite the opposite is true. In most of the congregations that haven’t flipped to reconciling, there are already allies who will stay with their church. The ones who have some viable option to attend a reconciling church haven’t availed themselves of it. Most don’t really have an option to go to another church, because you know, look at a map. For most, there is no reconciling congregation available. Third, many allies in those non-reconciling churches would use the fact of schism to argue for change, just as people point to the inevitable decline of the church resulting from trials and defrocking. Fourth, schism doesn’t remove allies from churches that aren’t reconciling – it removes *churches* that are already reconciling, where large majorities are welcoming of LGBT persons. It might motivate allies in existing churches to change churches, but what would be wrong with that? Fourth, if your argument that allies in non-reconciling churches protect LGBT youth is true, it seems to constitute a compelling reason *not to have reconciling congregations in the first place.” Better for allies to fan out from their existing reconciling churches and join unsafe churches, where, if your argument is to be believed, they may make a difference. Fifth, your argument assumes allies in non-reconciling churches are an effective voice, that they let it be known that they are allies, that they know LGBT youth are LGBT, and that they intervene. None of this is in evidence, and I believe that’s most not the case already. Yet the anti-gay churches are under the domination of clergy who preach hate and who already dominate the social consensus. What effective voice do you expect allies to play in these environments? People raise their voices when there is a reasonable chance of flipping to reconciling that people raise their voices. Sixth, how exactly is it that allies are a counter-weight to parents who won’t allow their children “to go to the heretical church.” Are you arguing LGBT youth only see this affirmative presence in their home churches, and that they aren’t aware that there are other churches that are more welcoming? One might just as easily argue that the existence of welcoming Methodist churches provides a future path for LGBT youth, something they can look forward to once they reach the age of majority (if in fact the option of attending a reconciling church exists where they live – for the most part, it doesn’t now). Seventh, schism arguably allows for a pipeline of churches and the kind of mission you say you favor. Realistically, for the foreseeable future, in most conservative areas, there is very little chance of churches flipping to the reconciling column. In those areas, the score has a zero next to reconciling. But your argument is that there *are* allies in those churches. If so, they form the basis of new reconciling churches. Right now, control of the ordination process and of the establishment of new churches is in the hands of oppressors. With schism, there is the option to ordain more supportive clergy, to start new churches in these conservative areas, and to offer a real option to these youth. Clergy are under the thumb of a church hierarchy that controls pay, parsonages, housing allowances, and the like. Schism is arguably a much more viable long-term strategy because it enables growth rather than simply flipping old churches to the reconciling column. (Though I think it needs to be a dual strategy – reconciling and a separate strategy to spin off new, nominally independent churches). Eighth, I think you need to get a better understanding of suicide rates among different population groups. It’s not as if risk of suicide stops when one reaches the age of majority. If your argument that an affirming presence prevents suicides, then the existence of affirming congregations (rather than lone allies who are likely to remain silent) reaches a much larger number of people. Ninth, there is no particular reason to think many parents of LGBT youth wouldn’t switch to a more welcoming church, if a) they knew their children were LGBT, and b) they had a real option. Those are just a few of the many possible arguments why, based on facts, evidence, and simple mathematics, your argument turns on its head. Based on your reasoning, you should be an advocate for schism. But it’s apparent you prefer the no answer to schism over a dispassionate analysis of which options better meet the ends of safety for LGBT youth and an end to oppression.
            In all, you’ve failed to think things through. Instead, you’ve launched a series of unfounded accusations against people you say you share values with. It’s really not a wise thing to do.

    • Lane Bailey says

      On the one hand, the Wesleys remained Anglican clergy, even as they intentionally violated its conventions of their church by “choosing to be more vile.” On the other hand, that was before the age of mass communication and, for whatever reason, the episcopacy tended to ignore what the Wesley’s were up to until they had grown such a following as to make it rather difficult to sanction them; especially since The Church did not have the club of an appointment and the extinction of livelihood with which to threaten them. One can only imagine how the Anglican Church would have responded if Wesley had sent Coke to Canada or Wales, instead of to the triumphant, breakaway colonies. United Methodist clergy in this country are being threatened with prosecution and removal for simply fulfilling their call. We must either be slavishly (some might say idolitrously ) obedient to the letter of the Book of Discipline, while violating our conscience and commitment to the Gospel, OR be defrocked. This in spite of an obvious and almost equal division, within the church on this issue. When you add the possibility that the conservatives in this country may have actually bought General Conference votes from delegates from Africa, the legitimacy of using the letter of the BoD to bludgeon the clergy who feel obliged to ignore its wording on this issue for conscience sake becomes even more reprehensible. Has this charge of intentionally influencing votes with the promise of financial aid been thoroughly investigated? If true, it is, without question, the greatest breach of our covenant ever! It far exceeds any supposed violation regarding the performing of same gender marriages, and should result, not only in removal from the clergy (if clergy were involved) but from the denomination. In the meantime, it appears that the Council of Bishops predominant response to this “Christis” is to double down on prosecutions! An admirable position, if one sees their role as predominantly that of an episcopal police force, whose purpose is to insure disciplinary “purity” over and above prophetic ministry!

  3. Jon Altman says

    One of the most traditionally conservative churches in the Mississippi Conference had two, maybe three, gay kids in its youth group. Those kids are now young adults. Without progressive UMs, what happens to kids like them, who WILL continue to be born into “evangelical” families and be raised in “evangelical” churches?

    • John Handy Bosma says

      What happens to kids whose churches get to claim the mantle of openness, even though they do not deserve it? Are those churches really less evangelical or less discriminatory if a few progressives stick around to somehow “help” kids stay in the closet? As if that somehow protects them? I think not. At some point, anti-schism folks to have respect for other people’s views of the implications of their actions.
      Meanwhile, in the world where we really live, nominally progressive pastors treat people who preach hate with respect, as if they do not in fact adulterate the Bible in the service of bigotry. It’s not at all clear how progressive pastors attacking progressives who leaves somehow protects people or combats prejudice.

  4. says

    A biblical argument for schism:

    I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” (1 Cor. 5:9-13)

    15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. (Matt. 18:15-17)

    • John Handy Bosma says

      Chad Holtz, I’m not aware of an impending schism on the question of incest. Your point? Or are you going to continue to adulterate what the Bible says in the service of your hatred toward LGBT people? What did Jesus have to say on the topic? Red letters, please.

      • John says

        JHB, I’m not sure that snide comments help the conversation move forward. No one except you is speaking of incest here. (Incidentally, you won’t find any red letters on the subject either–yet no one makes the argument that because Jesus didn’t speak on the subject it must be ok.) And it’s obvious what Chad is implying by quoting Paul. So please either speak to it or not.

        But Chad’s appeal to Matthew 18 speaks directly to the subject at hand… and is equally pertinent to both traditionalists and progressives. Traditionalists obviously appeal to it when supporting the exercise of church discipline through the formal UM complaint/trial process. Yet as Jesus’ basis for fostering confession, forgiveness, and reconciliation within the body of Christ, it’s relevant for both camps. In a nutshell, when one party recognizes that there is sin within the church that the offending party will not recognize as sin (and therefore will not confess), then Jesus says it’s then ok to break fellowship with them (although always with the hope they will eventually come around to seeing the errors of their ways). So from the progressive’s perspective, because the “anti-LGBT crowd” won’t repent you simply sever ties with them.

        But because the goal of Matthew 18 is forgiveness and reconciliation, it becomes ineffectual when all the parties want to do is attack each other and never seek to understand the fundamental differences in worldview. Without even the ability to disagree in love, schism becomes a reality–whether it results in two or more denominations or the continuation of a single one hopelessly fractured. (And I speak as one who also has been known to speak too soon and too harshly.)

        • John Handy Bosma says

          Snide comments? I’m reporting the very well-known subject matter referred to in the passage quoted, which is incest. Bigots may assert that the sexual immorality spoken of in that passage is homosexuality, but that, I’m sorry to say, is an adulteration of the text, made in support of bigotry against LGBT persons. Chad’s appeal to Matthew in no way speaks to the subject at hand; the schism has nothing to do with separating from people who violate NT precepts. You presume that Chad has his facts straight about what the NT says; he does not. I find it interesting that you would complain to me about parties attacking each other when the point of Jeremy’s post is that LGBT persons who leave the church are complicit in the murder of other LGBT people. Yet you complain that I am snide? There is no more horrifying attack, rhetorically speaking, than that made by Jeremy in his post above, though with his attempts to cast the NT as saying something it does not, in the service of mere bigotry, Chad comes close.
          I take your point, though. i don’t see a need to keep fellowship with bigots who use the Bible as a cudgel, without understanding what it actually says.

          • John Handy Bosma says

            inadvertent omission in cut and paste – should say complicit inn “oppression and murder”

          • says

            John Handy Bosma wrote:

            when the point of Jeremy’s post is that LGBT persons who leave the church are complicit in the murder of other LGBT people.

            This is untrue as it ignores my plain statement in the blog post:

            This mission isn’t for every progressive and it certainly isn’t for every LGBT person in our pews or pulpits. I understand the need to leave on an individual basis. But for those with the privileges and the ability and the call to remain United Methodist and to keep the church from eating itself a decade before it could turn the corner itself…there’s a mission for you.

          • John Handy Bosma says

            Jeremy I’ll respond here since I can’t reply inline to your latest dissembling notpology. It’s quite clear from your post that you believe people who leave, who could otherwise stay, or those who advocate for schism are complicit, exactly as I say. I corrected the inadvertent omission of the word “oppression,” but it certainly fits your argument. The fact that you said this mission isn’t for everyone in no way denies that you accused others of being complicit in the oppression and murder of LGBT persons. It is a fact that that is your original position in this post. It certainly fair game to argue that schism or non-schism is the better strategy, but to hang words like that on people who see it differently is reprehensible. As it happens, I stay in a reconciling congregation only so I can point out the feeble, self-serving nonsense of clergy who think they’re advancing the cause by making these awful attacks on people of like mind. In doing so, I don’t argue that people who leave, or those who argue for schism somehow are complicit in the oppression they oppose. That does a disservice to everyone.

          • John says

            JHB, in 1 Cor. 5 Paul is reacting to a report of incest, as you point out. But by verse 9, he is clearly speaking in far more general terms as he references an earlier letter he wrote concerning sexual immorality. The word he uses is pornoi, often translated as “fornicators,” “sexually immoral,” or “sexual sinners.” So he is not charging the Corinthians with casting only the offending couple from their midst… or even all who engage in incest… he is saying to cast out ALL who engage in proscribed sexual behaviors.

            Given the catchall nature of Paul’s phrasing, I don’t see where Chad is “adulterizing” scripture, given his interpretive lens. There’s absolutely no doubt that you disagree with his implicit inclusion of LGBTs within that umbrella. I accept that that is a major point of disagreement, and I’m sure he does as well. But to yell “bigot” over every difference of scriptural interpretation serves no purpose other than to shut down all conversation and preclude any hope of reconciliation.

            How on earth does Matthew 18 have nothing to do with schism? It speaks directly to how Kingdom-dwellers are to deal with unconfessed sin within the Christian community. Unconfessed sin results in discord, animosity, and when left unreconciled, lead to the breaking off of fellowship and excommunication from the body. In the disagreement at hand, traditionalists tend to identify the unconfessed sin as sexual in nature, and progressives identify the unconfessed sin as hurtful actions and teachings on the part of the traditionalists. If that isn’t schism (even if not formalized in denominational dissolution), what is?

            I personally know many who don’t share your interpretive lens, who are filled with nothing but love for all of God’s human creation, but are also seeking to better understand why many progressives believe as they do, particularly concerning matters of gender and sexuality. Just because they’re not at a point of affirming your efforts doesn’t mean they’re doing all they can to undermine them. But you’ll never convince them if you do nothing but cast aspersions on their every action and motivation.

          • John Handy Bosma says

            John I’ll reply here because I’m unable to respond inline.
            Thank you for partly conceding the obvious. I don’t thank you for doing the usual and pivoting to some other passage rather than accepting the point I made about the NT generally. So regarding your pivot to those other passages, I think we can agree that no one here (or anywhere, afaik) is arguing for incest or temple prostitution or other similar acts. That doesn’t justify a leap to condemnation of LGTB persons or those who support them. If you’re trying to say there is a NT basis for discrimination or schism toward LGBT folk or those who support them, well, then, just cite the passages and tell me why you’re taking the least generous, most bigoted interpretation you can. If, for example, we agree that temple prostitution is not at issue here, you may want to pivot further to talk about marriage. I’d note there are red-letter exceptions listed b Jesus himself to the usual one-man, one-woman adulterations Chad and his like post here and all over the internet.
            Matthew has nothing to do with the topic at hand – surely it deals with schism, but it doesn’t support Chad’s point – it supports schism from people like Chad who adulterate the words and meaning of the NT in support of bigotry. One can always find other passages on Jeremy’s side of the argument.

            I personally have never met someone who has taken an interpretation of the NT as being anti-LGBT, who hasn’t done so in a way that is intimately connnected to their bigoted views. I have heard many who profess love for all of God’s human creation, but who are unwilling to extend that love so far as to accept people as God made them, instead choosing the least-loving, least-generous interpretation as their starting point. How else to explain why people invoke passages talking about incest or temple prostitution as somehow speaking about LGBT persons? How else to explain their willingness to take the least generous interpretation of the red-letter text, even as it carves out three broad exceptions, one of which literally, by the words on the page supports transgender persons?

          • John says

            JHB, it seems that we just don’t hang with the same people. I guess I’ve been blessed to know those who interpret as best they can with the intellectual tools at hand, but who have the humility to know that even their best interpretation is imperfect and may still be wrong. As a result they don’t make it their usual practice to hurl insults at everyone who doesn’t see eye to eye with them.

            What other passages have I pivoted to? You objected to 1 Cor. 5 and Matthew 18. I’ve spoken of no others. So far I haven’t even expressed my own interpretive position on 1 Cor. 5… all I’ve tried to do is briefly state as best I can my own understanding of how I think traditionalists like Chad have approached the same. And for that, I’m now a hateful bigot? As i said, it would be awfully hard to convince others to change their thinking when all you seem to want to do is berate them. (Especially when you’re claiming the high road on offering love to others.)

            If Matthew 18 provides a basis for folks to go their separate ways, what difference does it make whether you’re the first to say it’s time to split or someone else says so? It seems as though there are irreconcilable differences, so just acknowledge it. Unless of course it’s more important to claim that only the person who’s in the right holds the authority to state that it’s time to split.

      • John Handy Bosma says

        John once again I’ll reply here because there is no inline option.

        1. Who called you a hateful bigot? As you push the line that you’re somehow being open-minded and polite, maybe you should consider reading what I actually wrote.

        2. We disagree on whether people generally interpret the NT in good faith. Some use their preferred answer to drive their selection of interpretations. I think there is ample evidence of this. I have never met a person who takes the opposing view who is as loving toward LGBT persons you suggest. “I love you, even though you are sexually immoral” seems like quite a mental trick. It’s not the way it works. I think it’s more like, “I think you’re immoral, and so I will choose ungenerous interpretations as a way of supporting my claim that you are immoral. I will cover my tracks by asserting that I love you.”

        3. I didn’t see much acknowledgement that you could be wrong in your first post to me. To the contrary, it took you a bit to acknowledge that the passage quoted has to do with incest. The “catchall phrasing” you thinks justifies traditionalists’ interpretations only works if one takes the least generous view toward what those words mean, and only if one ignores other elements including the red-letter text of the NT.

        4. I said you pivoted to one thing – because that’s what you did. Even as you acknowledge the incest point (after making snide comments about it, remember?), you then perform the usual trick of pivoting to other passages. I was simply asking why I should bother also pointing out the more credible interpretations of the passages you pivot to, given the likelihood that you would simply pivot yet again.

        5. I did offer a rejoinder to your claims about how Chad’s post should be perceived. I have no doubt Chad is sincere in his beliefs, but it’s entirely possible to have a sincerely held belief that is rooted in bigotry. I would concede that there could be traditionalists with sincerely held beliefs, who are truly seeking to understand why progressives interpret the NT as they do, and who are filled with love for all of God’s human creation. Fair enough. But I’m not talking about those people. I’m talking about Chad. And I’m discussing the implications of your light view of the motives of people who espouse bigoted interpretations of the NT. I’ve never actually met any of the people you’re talking about, and I doubt they truly love all of God’s human creation while believing that a substantial portion of them are sexually immoral for accepting how God created them.

        6. The thing I’m saying is that a traditionalist interpretation is more than a simple hermeneutic; it’s an active insertion of meaning not present in the text – as seen with the examples I’ve brought up of passages applied generally, even though they refer to acts such as incest and temple prostitution. I’ve not insulted the people you’ve talking about, if in fact they exist. If they aren’t of the group that humbly realizes their interpretation is not the only one, and that they might be wrong, then I haven’t pushed back on them in any way. If they are in the process of reconsidering their traditionalist beliefs, so be it. But who here is doing that, please?

        7. I approach this with humility – I don’t assume I know God sees people as sexually immoral whom the NT doesn’t even mention. Moreover, I simply asked you, if you think I’m wrong, to cite the evidence in red-letter text. This of course you cannot do. I’m not sure we would agree that someone who jumps into a substantive discussion on the meaning of certain passages and chastises only one side for bad manners – while ignoring both their own transgressions and those of others on the thread – is in a position to criticize on the basis of manners. I thank you for the lecture regardless.

        8. I’m not sure the schism argument is terribly important – I stated I agree with Chad’s basic point, but think he misapplies it given his willingness to adulterate the NT. Given that you’ve conceded the point on incest, then either you’ve already conceded that he is adulterating, or you’re contradicting yourself.

        9. I don’t see any great problem with people asserting particular interpretations as more valid than others. If you do, then I’m not sure what to do with that or how anyone could decide anything of consequence on the basis of this text. If in fact you’re right about that, then again, I’m not sure why you’d defend the less generous interpretation of the text as an option equal to a more generous interpretation. That seems oddly out of step — WJDT, I wonder?

        • John says

          1. “That doesn’t justify a leap to condemnation of LGTB persons or those who support them.” Sorry, but I did not condemn LGBT persons or those who stand in solidarity with them. Yet there’s your assertion.

          2. I love my kids. Period. Sometimes they do things I don’t like. They do things I don’t support. They do things for which I occasionally chastise them. But I don’t love them any less even when their actions engender disappointment and require disciplinary action. I’ve done the same with kids I’ve coached over the years. I know nothing of your personal life… yet I can imagine that your feelings toward those you love isn’t all that different from mine. If that’s the case, would it not at least be possible for one person to hold another in love while not affirming all that he or she does? Granted, we’re then talking about someone else’s kids and not our own, so the loving disappointment may not flow forth quite as naturally. But if we love because God loved us first… are we then not talking about supernatural love? It just seems as if your go-to reaction to someone who disagrees with you on matters of human sexuality is that their disagreement MUST be rooted in hate.

          3. I stand by my statement that the language of the quoted 1 Cor. passage does not itself deal with incest. There is no “pivot.” Although Paul’s prefatory concern was all about incest, the quoted passage was itself a reference to another generalized statement about proscribed sexual behavior. It’s fair to say that traditionalists use what you’ve called the least generous view about what specific behaviors are and what are not included while progressives take a more stringent definition. There’s absolutely no question that the NT passages that traditionalists use to justify their view are not red-letter passages but are Pauline in origin. Together with the OT passages, we all know them too well as the “clobber passages.” But whether one is erroneously interpreting those passages to support a less-generous view or not is secondary to recognizing that it’s the very existence of those passages that provide the source of the less-generous view exists. And once recognizing that, the task becomes one of convincing the other party that they’re wrong… without speaking in generalities. And my point about “‘catchall’ phrasing justifying interpretation” wasn’t about whether I found it sufficient myself; it was that that seems to be why traditionalists do so.

          4. Again I ask, what other passages have I pivoted to? There are only two in Chad’s original post, which are the only two I’ve referenced in this thread. Hence I’ve ignored your challenge to parry over the interpretation of other, as-yet-unidentified passages.

          5. I agree that a sincerely held belief might be rooted in bigotry… and it might also be rooted in ignorance. I just perceive that you might be a little too quick to attribute evil motive to one’s belief and not something else. But that’s still just my perception… not necessarily my own sincerely held belief.

          6. I understand what you’re saying about interpretation, and all I’m pointing out is that there are others who have and will continue to interpret differently (even if erroneously)… and will suggest again that in the face of that reality one’s tone goes a long way toward convincing another that they’re wrong. And I’ll be sure to tell some of my fellow disciples they’re not real.

          7. As I indicated in my first post as well as above, Jesus is silent in the scriptures on the sexual matter at hand. We’ve already agreed upon that. And I’m not sure I’d categorize the third entry of a particular discussion a “jump into a substantive discussion.” Chad’s initial post was two scripture passages entirely devoid of commentary and slightly disjointed. You responded to that. I responded to your response. Chad never had another thing to say in the thread. What transgression do you want me to chastise him for? Not saying anything? As I’ve read through this entire blog subject, I’ve seen enough that I don’t agree with, and I see some discussion that may be a little abrasive at times. But I would give you the blue ribbon for abrasiveness in the entire discussion, and that’s why I commented in the manner I did.

          8. As to the incest point, see my comments above. As I said earlier, I think that schism exists already… what remains to be seen is whether that schism will result in a separation of the UMC into two or more smaller denominations. Whether one is adulterating or not doesn’t affect the reality of the existing schism.

          9. I’m not a relativist, so I do see some interpretations as more valid than others. The question is how we deal with the rectitude of our own positions and the errors in the positions of others. One possibility is to try by gentle reasoning to convince them that we have a better understanding than they do. Another is to love them into submission through prayer and action, and thus heap burning coals upon their heads. Another is to berate them as bigots and accuse them of being full of hatred or of being complicit with bigots and haters. I’m just suggesting that someone may have a more difficult path ahead by taking the third possibility.

          And that’s my final word on the subject.

    • Zzyzx says

      A Biblical argument for genocide:

      “Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.”

      Proof-texting is fun! Especially when you can proof-text to further remind yourself that YOU are right and those you disagree with are wrong… But it’s funny how some people continually flop down Bible verses as if that ends the conversation without any acknowledgment that hermeneutics exists…

      • says

        Dear anonymous,
        That’s not accurate. If all we had was that verse, then you might have a point. But I’m sure you can point me to numerous “proof-texts” which tell us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, etc. Yes?

        Please point me to a “proof-text” which says that the *unrepentant* should not be “handed over to Satan” (as Paul puts it — 1 Cor. 5:5) or one that says we should NOT enact church discipline upon those who will not repent (as Jesus says in Matt. 18)?

        The truth is, the biblical argument for separating from those who insist upon saying that what is sin is not sin is strong.

        • says

          speaking of which, I won’t comment here any longer as it’s unfruitful, this site proving only that we are not “united” by any stretch of the imagination.

          And Jeremy, the video game advertisements you allow on your site are soft-porn. It’s not something I want to associate with, nor is it something any Christian, let alone a pastor, should be marketing, don’t you think?

          I’ll continue to pray that our church wakes up. But perhaps the only way for it to do this is for us to do exactly as scripture commands us to do in cases like these.

          • says

            Chad, Google picks the ads. I can only tweak the settings. If you see another offensive ad, send me a screenshot or at least tell me what the game was so I can block it. Already got some weird “Impeach Obama” ad earlier this month.

          • John Handy Bosma says

            Chad … depending on which verses once cites, the command is to separate from people like you who don’t acknowledge what the NT actually says on the topic of homosexuality, because they would rather push bigoted interpretations not grounded in the text. Or the command is simply to remind people like you that you are adulterating the words and meaning of the NT in the service of bigotry.

        • Zzyzx says

          You don’t have to start calling me names just because I’ll called out the fact that your listing Bible verses with no commentary and no acknowledgment of interpretive hermeneutics serves no useful end here. You can call me “Zzyzx,” the name that I have chosen. But it’s more interesting that you seek to even erase my existence by denying me even that…

  5. John Handy Bosma says

    My first instinct was to respond with a big F U in response to your overly rhetorical, weak-minded, patently offensive attack on people who share your values. I realize that’s not a productive thing to do. Also, it’s not apparent to me, given your rhetoric, that you share values with those who choose to leave. The fact that others come to a different conclusion about the best way to promote equality and protect lives does not mean anyone is abandoning their responsibility or is complicit in atrocities against gay people, and it is outrageous of you to suggest it does mean such things.
    Rather than engaging in a balanced discussion and recognizing the valid perspectives of those who leave, you hurl insults at those who leave while extending too easy a line of credit to those who stay. We do not actually know that those who stay do so in order to live the values you identify. Meanwhile, we know that those who leave because of this issue do so both out of principle and out of a belief that they are doing what is best for others. I feel those who stay and those who leave both examine the wider implications; they come to different conclusions about utility of their decision not only for themselves, but for the wider communities and societies with whom they connect. Every argument you make can be countered with plausible reasons why leaving better meets the need you describe. Why does schism somehow sacrifice lives, while staying somehow protects them? Exactly what connectionism has done to stop anti-gay legislation in Uganda or elsewhere escapes me. I’m sorry, but in so many reconciling churches, vast sums go to fund a church that hates and advocates for discimination against and murder of gays. If the reconciling church has adequate mechanisms to ensure no funds went to subsidize those whose views and actions we protest, then you might have the beginning of a point. But so far as I know, no such mechanism exists or is used in significant numbers by those who belong to reconciling congregations.
    The rhetorical broadsides you launch at those who leave – particularly but not only LGBT folk – are just patently unfair and beneath the kind of role you or anyone else advocating for inclusion should play. Through your rhetoric, you are actually cutting ties with those who leave, even if as they leave in protest, they welcome additional ties.
    Yours is not a post to “update” with some bland clarification – yours is a post that shows the need for self-examination, a rethinking of views, and something more than a weak notpology.

    • says

      My conversation–as the update clarifies–was to persons of privilege (like myself) who have the ability to stay in a denomination that sins…and don’t. While there’s a myriad of personal reasons why (which could all be valid), there’s a missional reason to stay in that might or might not trump the personal reasons…for persons of privilege like myself.

      When you say “We do not actually know that those who stay do so in order to live the values you identify” you are incorrect: I know I share them and want to live by the value that my continued presence has led to and will lead to lives being saved.

      There are financial ways to do exactly what you say, John, and those are the subject of a future post…that actually cautions against those actions.

      • John Handy Bosma says

        Thank you for the additional notpology. As with your first notpology, this latest does not suffice to undo your earlier attacks on people who most assuredly are not complicit in hatred or violence against LGBT persons. As a straight ally of LGBT persons, as one who has conducted LGBT weddings, and as someone who has stayed in a reconciling congregation even as I’ve respect the decision of others to leave, as one who has maintained contact regardless of denominational boundaries, I find your post to be wanting. It’s especially striking to me that even as you confess to a certain blindess, you seem to think LGBT persons might have reason to feel aggrieved at your post, but that straight allies would not.

        My commentary about “those who stay” wasn’t directed specifically at you; it is to point out that some stay merely because they are longtime members of churches that have moved into the reconciling column, and not out of any particular interest in this topic. This stands in stark contrast to others who have left specifically because they believe it advances the agenda the values they share with you and others. My statement is very much true.

        More to the point, it would be just as easy to describe you and the reconciling pastors as complicit in hatred and violence toward LGBT persons. I don’t actually see anyone who’s left saying that kind of thing about people who stay. They might say the larger church is bigoted. They might point to the role of the larger church in promoting or tolerating violence against LGBT persons in the United States and around they globe. But by and large, they don’t make the kind of scurrilous attacks you made on people who believe in a different approach.

        You and others raise concerns about LGBT youth “left without resources.” Consider that for a moment. In the context of a place like Mississippi or Texas or any Red state in the US, the reconciling strategy arguably is a very poor choice; it leaves many more LGBT youth without resources than would be the case either with an outright schism, or with a mixed strategy of starting new, non-Affiliated methodist churches, no matter how tiny, in those places where no or few reconciling congregations can be formed. Where the majority is opposed to LGBT rights, a strategy of leaving and forming new churches provides an option for LGBT persons and their families. As of now, even families who support their LGBT children have few if any options to stay within Methodist worship in an LGBT-affirming context. The reconciling strategy in the Red states is a guarantee that most youth will be locked out, unable to find a congregation who supports them. A split, or creation of new churches, however tiny, would provide that option. You haven’t shown that the ‘minority voice’ you mention has any practical or spiritual effect. But the reconciling strategy, unfortunately, is for some people about actual reconciliation, and for other people, simply a bland rationale to persuade people to stay regardless of the negative consequences. A truly missional statement would be one that actually, you know, went out and grew the church. This goes to something commonly heard here and in the reconciling networks – the idea of “new” reconciling churches. Sorry, I have yet to see an example. All of the reconciling churches are old churches that have simply become reconciling. It isn’t about actually creating a mission in places where there is little to no prospect of creating a reconciling congregation; it’s about flipping the obvious targets while relegating half the population to a permanent minority status.

        As for the financial steps you describe, I look forward to reading that. I’m willing to be persuaded if your arguments warrant it. That’s not the case here. So far as I can tell, you haven’t actually looked at the arguments for and against schism on the criteria you seem to believe are most important – implications for LGBT youth, implications for politics in other countries, and so on. Nor have you responded to my many substantive points about how that strategy has not been shown to be effective.

        • says

          John, I find it odd that you would continue to press the issue of an apology. As I wrote above before the update, I acknowledged that LGBT Methodists and Methodists without privilege on this topic had no judgment from me for choosing to leave on an individual basis. In the update, I clarified that the intended audience was other Methodists of privilege who want to schism. I’m still waiting for a notsplanation as to your notsire for a notpology. 😉

          Your longer paragraph goes into detail as to your claim as to what is best for LGBT youth: to have an alternative church. For the families that affirm their LGBT children, I would agree with your claim. However, for the families who do not affirm their LGBT children and thus are of higher risk to self-harm, your claim falls short. Parents choose where their children go to church and if they are evangelical Methodists then they attend the evangelical style of Methodist churches. In those churches, currently, are allies and helpful voices who worship alongside and tolerate the anti-gay message or lack of message at all for a variety of reasons. It is those allies that would likely leave and join a schismatic church that not only affirms LGBT persons but allows the allies to be themselves and feel like they have won the fight.

          My claim is that they haven’t, and that by creating a schismatic denomination, they are removing the minority voices from local churches, they are removing the most-likely avenues of interaction between children of homophobic parents and allies, and schism would make things worse, not better, for those individuals. As an overall witness against injustice, schism is probably more tenable. But when it gets down to “what does a LGBT youth in a homophobic family really need to survive in the short term?” I believe my claim is more valid than yours.

          May we find a reasonable solution between mercy and justice, one that speaks truth to power and changes the structures of church and society, while also offering at-risk youth the presence and grace they need in avenues they can receive in the meantime.

        • says

          John Handy, Bosma, I belong to a Reconciling Congregation in Texas — St. Stephen UMC in Mesquite, a Dallas suburb. Currently there are four RCs in the North Texas Conference, namely Northaven, Grace, Greenland Hills and St. Stephen, which is in the suburb of Mesquite abutting Dallas to the east. I realize that this isn’t many in comparison to some areas, but we advertise frequently in the gay community and are known as a safe sanctuary for LGBT youth. Few as we are, we have both visible witness and considerable influence in the greater Dallas area. So I think it’s an over-generalization to say that LGBT youth in this conservative bastion are totally without resources. It may FEEL that way, but there is more going on than one might suspect on the surface.

          • John Handy Bosma says

            Cynthia, I’m from Texas, too. Your arguments provide a good basis for a schism strategy. As of now, the best that a reconciling strategy can do is to flip existing congregations. In many areas, this is a practical impossibility. A schism strategy would allow churches to flip and would also enable the creation of new, welcoming congregations. Moreover, if Jeremy is right that the “mission” is for allies to embed themselves in places where LGBT youth are at risk, this would argue against reconciling congregations and for a strategy of fanning out to the less welcoming congregations.

            If the goal is to provide options for people to attend reconciling congregations, and to actually grow the overall membership in churches that are welcoming, then schism wins. If you actually look at maps, where people live, and what it takes to get to a welcoming church, then it becomes clear that a schism strategy is more viable. If on the other hand, the goal is to provide some form of protection through “affirming presence,” whatever that is, then it argues that people who are reconciling should embed in churches that are less welcoming. There is a goal conflict here. Jeremy has featured all of the lines of reasoning against schism on a narrow set of criteria, while feature none of the arguments for schism on those same criteria.

          • Carolyn says

            JBH, I can’t reply inline so I’ll ask here. You said,

            “As of now, the best that a reconciling strategy can do is to flip existing congregations. In many areas, this is a practical impossibility. A schism strategy would allow churches to flip and would also enable the creation of new, welcoming congregations.”

            What do you see as preventing the formation of new, welcoming congregations in the UMC now? Why do you think that schism will make this more possible? I’m specifically wondering about the financial aspect of church planting. A church that has split has fewer financial resources… how would it be more able to plant churches?

          • Andy M says

            I won’t attempt to speak to the specific complexities of this discussion. What I will add is that if people separate themselves into distinct groups in which they only interact with others who agree with themselves, then this severely limits any potential growth. In my experience, I learn the most when I am (respectfully) challenged in my beliefs. I have learned more about my faith when I was surrounded by people of other faiths than I ever learned while surrounded by those that I was in agreement with. If the UMC splits, then it will only be damaging itself by limiting the diversity of voices. And ultimately those split groups, will likely just split again, and again, as they find more specific things to disagree about. If we truly want to show the world the love of Christ, we will learn to love and cooperate with not only those people we agree with, but also with those that we disagree.

        • John Handy Bosma says

          Actually, no, your notpology fails to come to grips with why you were wrong, and who you need to apologize to. You can seize on your clarification if you like, but it doesn’t deny your initial statements. What you clarified was that your insult about complicity in oppression was only directed to certain people. A more targeted insult does not constitute an apology – which is why I used the word notpology. Clearly you are too invested in bashing people who disagree on strategy to acknowledge the terrible thing you said about them.
          Regarding your rather weak claims about the role of allies when parents are non-affirming, I destroy that argument in a reply up above. You haven’t thought things through. More to the point, people will see the lines of influence and causality differently. The fact that they see things differently doesn’t justify or excuse a false charge of complicity in oppression. You seem to be conceding that overall, schism is the better strategy. So explain, please, why the children of non-affirming parents in non-reconciling congregations are more important than other LGBT youth, or LGBT persons who have reached adulthood? I realize you’re saying that they are removing allies from churches, but there is no basis for that claim, and plenty of reasons to think the opposite. Can I take it that if I win the debate with you on the question of which strategy is better for LGBT youth in homophobic families, you will then switch to the pro-schism position?
          May we find a reasonable way of arguing the points, without accusing people who are not complicit in oppression of being complicit in oppression.

  6. Karen Oliveto says

    Jeremy, thank you, once again, for your challenging thoughts. I do not believe, however, that a schism would have progressives abandoning lgbtq youth in conservative places in the US as well as abroad. In fact, a schism might assist progressives in truly providing a bold, evangelistic witness about God’s wide embrace. In Methodist history, whenever there was a schism, both sides grew as they were no longer fighting with each other but instead focused on their mission. Why wouldn’t welcoming churches be planted in the bible belt? Or new relationships be forged with those in other parts of the world? You imply that we should keep the discussion going internally, yet that once again diminishes not only the possibility for lgbtq people to be more than an “issue”, but also limits the ability of the Church to be the Church–a place where all God’s children are welcomed and affirmed, and the good news of God’s grace is manifest in the world through acts of compassion and justice.

    • says

      Karen, thanks for your thoughtful words and critique. I come at this from a praxis angle. A gay teenager in the Bible Belt has to go to church with the family. In Oklahoma, I had many youth who would come to youth group in the evenings but never to Sunday worship or Sunday School because their parents attended elsewhere. Outside of very little contact, I had no ability to further work with them. So if we are wanting to be real-life instructors and sunday school teachers and people of support in the pew, we have to be in the same church with them. Otherwise, we are just “those people” down the road that would be disallowed contact. For practical considerations, being a presence of openness and support has more avenues within a congregation rather than at a separate one, no matter how awesome.

  7. steve says

    Let’s correct something in that article right away. God is not loveless. We as a church hide God’s unlimited love when we cling to our rules and our traditions instead of living the Gospel we profess. That is shameful, and polite words do not allow me to describe the current status any better than that.

  8. Mike Frosolono says

    The present controversy reminds me of the Civil Rights struggle, especially some of friends who advocated patience for our black brothers and sisters, that the situation ultimately would resolve toward equality. The pain and disenfranchisement of those asked “to be patient” had no great meaning to the ones asked to endure second class citizenship.

    • says

      I agree with your disdain to be said to those who should “have patience” is fundamentally flawed. However, the above article is written to persons of privilege who can stay in the UMC without fundamental loss or significant pain, but choose to advocate for schism. Instead, they have a missional reason to stay in. These are first-class citizens, using your metaphor, being encouraged to stay in the struggle, not second-class citizens, using your metaphor, being asked to suck it up.

      • John Handy Bosma says

        I’ve read something of your background, but I’m sorry, I don’t think you have a clear handle on the implications for the Bible Belt. By and large, there are NO reconciling congregations available for the large majority of Methodist families in the Bible Belt. Because reconciling strategy stays within existing church bounds, because of the recent efforts to weed out LGBT-supportive clergy prior to being ordained, and because the reconciling strategy provides no new pipeline for LGBT-supportive clergy, the reconciling strategy is a guarantee that almost every family with LGBT children will have NO opportunity to join a church that welcomes their children as they are. The idea that parents won’t switch churches, change their minds, or allow their kids to worship in a place that is welcoming is by and large an ugly caricature rather than a reflection of reality. In any event, the reconciling strategy flips very few churches in the Bible Belt, and so these youth by default have to remain in the closet, keeping their secret both from parents and their churches. When you’re starting from a baseline of reconciling membership in the low single digits at best, you’re basically guaranteeing these youth that they have no prospect of joining a congregation that would welcome them. Do the math.

        • says

          John, thanks for your comments. Some replies:

          1. If you have an issue with the reconciling strategy, you can take it up with RMN not with this local church pastor.

          2. The “ugly caricature” is the reality. I grew up in the Bible Belt and I served the rural parish in Oklahoma. That’s far more “bible belt” experience than a layperson in Austin, Texas.

          3. The math in Oklahoma is that there are three reconciling churches, but numerous (numerous!) individuals who worship in evangelical congregations who are safe people to talk to. I know I was one when I worked as a layperson at a local church. I know of them because I met them when I was serving as a pastor in other churches. Progressives find each other just as LGBT persons find each other. The question is whether schism would remove those contacts and would lead to more isolation. My argument is that it would.

          • John Handy Bosma says

            I’ll do that. I take up with you the issues that inhere in your post and in your partial notpology to one group you offended, while omitting other groups you offending. Basically, you’ve taken take every argument against schism as true, and ignored any reasons why schism might better serve the purpose. I’m sorry, I’m not willing to accept appeals to authority from a True Believer who is unwilling to do the hard work of actually working out which strategy better meets the need. Moreover, you assume that your experience somehow trumps mine, even though personal experience isn’t enough to derive an answer that is dispositive. If you were willing to engage in an analysis of which strategy actually was more sound, as Rev. Jackson did, then your appeals to authority might have some credibility. Rev. Jackson actually did the hard work of specifying and evaluating different options prior to coming to a position. I also have issues with his approach, since he doesn’t examine the pros and cons of each approach, and he leaves out numerous other possibilities. Still, your argument isn’t a rejoinder to what he said; it’s an assault on those who are persuaded by what he had to say. As it is, you’ve only shown that you’re willing, due to your personal experiences and subjective opposition to schism, to come to a conclusion despite not having fully examined the issue.

            Your arguments suggest that many reconciling ministries should challenge their congregations to leave the comfort of an environment filled with like-minded people and join places where they can serve as a safe haven. As it happens, I’ve actually done some of that, so if the question is who has more relevant experience, I think that’s a point in my favor. I’d note it’s not a credibility contest as you would have it – it’s a question of what approach will best meet the need, and your straw man arguments are yet another misplaced attempt to assault people who agree on the goal of inclusion, but who have different ideas on the methods.

            You aren’t actually making an argument that schism would remove those contacts – you’re declaring it so without assembling any facts, evidence, or analysis in support of that conclusion, while ignoring the facts, evidence, or analysis that weight against that conclusion.

            If we have a debate on what strategy better meets the goal of providing safety, are you willing to change to a pro-schism view? Or is your mind made up and no facts, evidence, or analysis can sway you?

          • says

            John, here’s all the posts tagged “schism” on my blog. The only tag more prolific than it is the CallToAction. So you can hardly say that I’ve not done the work and reflection and analysis necessary to have an intelligent conversation on this topic, though more learning is always required. Longform reflection is the medium of this blog, not tiny 300 word soundbytes.

            My argument is one of praxis: that creating a schismatic denomination would remove the most-likely avenues of interaction between children of homophobic parents and helpful allies. These avenues already exist now, perhaps not part of a grand Reconciling strategy but as a reflection of how people live. Would those contacts go away? My claim is that they would because then the dominant culture would be more likely to encourage them to leave. My argument is based on both theory and practice and my experience growing up in and serving in the Bible Belt (and not the liberal meccas in the Bible Belt like Austin who have their own unacknowledged privileges).

            The goal of the argument is not to assault allies: it is to remind folks that even as we seek justice we cannot forget the merciful work of retaining avenues of impact towards LGBT youth. If a better option that accomplishes both is presented, I’m happy to engage it.

          • John Handy Bosma says

            Jeremy, I’ll reply here because of the limitations on inline responses. Yes, I’ve read your “schism” articles. I can very well say you haven’t done your homework – I’d say I’ve proven you haven’t with my nine point reply above explaining why. I’d add a tenth reason from Rev. Jackson you didn’t deal with in your article… his claim that if the reconciling side wins, then the traditionalists will leave – which would, he seems to imply, result in the same inhospitable monoculture you believe exists now. Having read your body of work, I think it’s fair to say this doesn’t appear to be something you wrestled with. If you do your homework, (including the math) in good faith and with an open mind, then based on the criteria you lay out in this post, then it’s pretty likely you’ll come to the opposite conclusion.

            As gently as I can say it, your argument is a one-sided account of praxis. I notice you have yet to substantiate why people who a) have not already joined a reconciling congregation available to them, or b) have no reconciling congregation available to them would suddenly join a schismatic methodist church. Up until this latest post, you hadn’t explained whatever logic, if any, lies behind that claim. Moreover, I’ve given you at least five reasons why that claim works in the opposite direction – none of your blog posts or replies here show any evidence you’ve even considered those other directions of influence.

            I gather that your “the dominant culture would be more likely to encourage them to leave” is your attempt to answer why allies would leave – they would be purged, I guess. But they haven’t been, despite the decades of controversy on this topic. Or have they? In which case, it’s not necessarily the schism casing it. Moreover, in many places, there is no reconciling alternative. If allies are willing to stay in an inhospitable environment now, why should they leave later?

            I believe you that the goal of the argument wasn’t to assault allies. It was the byproduct of the way you formed the argument. The fact that you notpologized to LGBT persons simply by redirecting the criticism to allies doesn’t really help your argument.

            While I don’t think it’s my obligation to present a better option, I’ve given you a number of arguments I don’t think you’ve considered. Again, you haven’t done your homework. If you want to engage, I think you should start with an open-minded, dispassionate look at the potential benefits and tradeoffs of various schism versus non-schism options, with an eye toward the possibility that some other option might yield a better result. I’ve presented several. You have yet to engage with those. I’m not suggesting advocacy yet – as gently as I am able (I admit, not gently enough), that you haven’t yet looked at this with a mind open to all implications of all important alternatives. You’re way on one side of the anti-schism discussion. Not the place to be yet, when you haven’t examined why you might be wrong on the math.

    • John Handy Bosma says

      I agree.

      In other news, 1963 called. Bishop Nolan Harmon of the UMC wants Jeremy to sign the “A Call for Unity” letter, AKA the “statement by Alabama clergymen.” I much prefer Dr. King’s Letter from the Birmingham jail. A quick read does wonders to put this debate in perspective.

  9. Zzyzx says

    Hm… after reading the comments, a couple of thoughts:

    I’m glad that you spoke of those staying behind needing to “up the ante” as it were. Beyond resolutions, etc. I think that is, indeed, a challenge that really needs to be made. Too many people have been completely shy and unwilling to speak up and act out. I think a judicial decision of acting out can be quite useful and fruitful.

    I’m also glad to see that in the comments you qualify and say a bit stronger that your post is largely for the “privileged allies” as it were. I could not fault any other GSM (Gender and Sexual Minority, which many people prefer because it includes intersexed individuals and others that are implicitly left out of the “LGBT” acronym) Anyway, I could not faul any other GSM person for feeling the need to jump ship to another denomination. For GSM folks, it comes down quite often to basically asking “Do I want to stay in what can best be described as an abusive relationship?” Especially when the abuse is not contained to just the church, but comes from almost everywhere else in society too. At that point, it becomes clear that far too many GSM folks experience what Dorothee Soelle (more Lutheran theology worth reading!) spoke of as the fullness of “suffering.” That is, a suffering that affects every aspect of one’s life. A suffering that effectively closes any and all doors. A spiritual, psychological, social and even physical suffering.

    • John Handy Bosma says

      I’m not glad to see that, as it’s a notpology that concedes there is good reason to take offense (“I can see that”), but basically says yes, I meant the insult, but my error was only in directing it in an imprecise way. I dispute the notion that so-called privileged allies should be faulted for coming to a different conclusion on the implications of their actions, when the author has to examine fully the case for and against schism and its many variants. If we’re going to have a conversation on what the best approach is to save lives or free people from oppression, it can’t start by ruling certain options like schism out of bounds, faulting certain people for favoring those options, or faulting some who believe in those options (“privileged allies”), while excusing others who believe the very same things (LGBT persons who took offense), where the difference is only in their sexual orientation.

  10. says

    The only reason I long for schism is that I’m bone tired over this fight which has been raging my whole ministry. I serve a church where the congregation is 90% LGBT. I look out at them every Sunday and long to be able to serve them fully as I believe God calls me to without risking the ministerial credential I left the Roman Catholic Church to receive. I love my people. I want my church to love them. We are tired. We are mind numbingly, soul crushingly tired. Exhaustion is not a good place from which to do ministry. Being battered by the general church on a daily basis is not a good place from which to do ministry. After thirty years in the pulpit I’d like some relief from this chinese water torture approach to change.

    • Zzyzx says

      I can only say “amen” to your sense of tiredness. I hope that, one way or another, Isaiah 40:31 can become a reality for you, me and all those who need it…

      • Carolyn says

        And I say Amen to both of you, Beth, Zzyzx. “Mind numbingly, soul crushingly tired” is exactly how I feel and I teeter on the brink of leaving the UMC daily. It feels like there’s an elephant sitting on my chest.

  11. chadwyck says

    Thanks for your thoughtful post. I enjoyed reading it and the long, long string of comments so far. I’m coming at this from the perspective of a gay young adult, a lifelong UM in the Northwest Texas AC. I jumped headfirst into the Reconciling movement when I first came out a few years ago, and getting to know some of the players in the movement is what kept me interested in the church–and God–after some painful experiences. I had the opportunity to be at the last General Conference, and I was among the spectators during most official business regarding LGBTQ concerns.

    Even as a gay man, deeply hurt by experiences with the conservative (American) wing of the church, schism never crossed my mind as a possibility, not through all of my time reading up on the issues, dabbling with activism, and preparing for seminary–that is, not until one night where I found myself huddled up with a new, older friend reflecting on the loss and hurt that came after the last major vote on the issue of inclusion. I am single, young, and without children–and I read those facts mostly as having a lot to look forward to. He is partnered, with young children, and deeply invested in the church, both spiritually and professionally. In the course of our conversation I first encountered schism as a real possibility, and I understood how through his eyes it would be so positive, in so many ways. His relationship could be affirmed by his church, his professional life would be more secure, and all the time and talent and energy he had spent on bending the UMC toward inclusion for years and years could be put toward a new project, less taxing emotionally and spiritually.

    I can’t say that I like calling it privilege to be in a conservative, rural setting. But I want to acknowledge the distance between where my my thoughts on schism originate from (and consequently differ from) where his thoughts as he expressed them to me that night. I appreciate you acknowledging your own similar privilege. However, acknowledging my inability to see from all the angles the way I see from my own, I have to say, schism is terrifying, and ultimately, I think, the wrong move.

    I don’t think this for the same reasons you’ve stated here however. The closeted young people I know, have relatively easy access to support through means other than the church. Pop culture, secular role-models like teachers, and less conservative friends tend to be at least a little available even in the most rural areas–and they’re certainly more available than those sparse and often equally closeted allies in the church.

    I’m also not sure the conversations taking place in reconciling congregations, and at annual and general conferences are all that significant to the goings-on in the congregations that would most benefit from listening in. That’s not to say I don’t believe we should seek to build “echo chambers;” I completely agree with the idea that we (generally) have a missional obligation to do so and to turn up the volume. But I haven’t seen much effect from the chambers we have now, at the volume we currently use to think much of a loss would be experienced for the congregation I’m familiar with. I’m not sure you’d be able to tell much difference.

    My worry stems from the fact that the same people who were strong voices and strong organizers for inclusion, were also strong voices and strong organizers for reproductive choice, and for education, and for ethical pension practices in the church, and so on. If we all leave, the UMC will lose a lot more than just its balancing voice on justice for sexual minorities. The considerable resources–financial, social, political, and otherwise–would fall into the hands of a newly released, untempered super-majority. I fear any branched off church will for a considerable time be hampered by it’s reputation as merely the gay-friendly alternative, at least in terms of public rhetoric. And I fear the the gains to the LGBTQ people lucky enough to be served by such a church won’t quite measure up to the losses of the rest of us. Whether we’re LGBTQ and living in a region that can’t possibly produce the same kind of affirming (and highly resourced) faith community possible in a setting like New England, or the CalPac conference–or perhaps we’re a pregnant teen looking to her faith community for responsible and informed guidance on a full range of choices at her disposal–or a clergy person relying to the protection of the BoD and Social Principles to perform a vital functions of her ministry despite a highly antagonistic local culture, protection that certainly won’t continue to exist without the continued efforts of those same people now considering leaving next time general conference rolls around and the brunt of our allies are gone.

    I can’t fully acknowledge the deep pain that comes from having fought and lost for so very long, but I can empathize because I fought and lost alongside you as a newcomer to the movement and it was deeply painful or me. And I may not know what it’s like to get to check off all those boxes:having a loving partner, having a loving family, living in an affirming community–except for that last box: being affirmed by my home church. But I do know what it means to seek affirmation, and to need it desperately, and to not have it.

    My fear is what the wounded beast that is the UMC may become when the folks that most faithfully and most courageously have been bending it towards justice and love leave. I have no doubt that what they are able to create on their own will be beautiful, but the monster they leave behind will be much bigger, and will have the power to do much more damage than it has so far. And those of us left behind, well, what are we to do?

    I have one other thought, and it is this. Perhaps schism may ultimately be necessary, but to break up now seems so premature. This is easy for me to say. I’m twenty-five and first joined the cause only three or four years ago. At general conference I met another person, a woman, I’d guess in her late sixties, who’d been involved in the fight for decades. A disappointing vote had just been taken in the sub-committee discussing inclusion, and the two of us were reflecting during the break. I was exhausted, and feeling hurt, and she was too. It suddenly dawned on me that though I was experiencing this exhaustion and pain for the first time, she was not. She’d been at general conference, in these similar discussions, watching similar votes every four years for decades. It occurred to me, that I owed her a lot. Here she was, invested in making my church a safe place for me, and for people like me, for a time period greater than my own age.

    I said, “Thank you.”

    I said, “I’m in awe of you. I don’t know how you’ve been at this so long.”

    Waiting ten more years, (twenty more years… however long it takes) means she probably won’t see the day when her work finally pays off. That breaks my heart in ways no one can quite understand because of where I was emotionally at the time and because of where I was spiritually at the time. This was a formative moment for me. She probably won’t see the day when her work finally pays off, and so many others also won’t/haven’t. By this point we had acknowledged this possibility in the conversation.

    But when I said thank you, that I am in awe of her leadership and that of so many others for whom this fight was nothing new, she said, “You’re welcome. I’m in awe of you young people here. Please don’t give up. You all will make it happen.”

    Yeah, I think schism will will have unintended negative consequences. And sure, I’m worried about how resources will get divided up, and how they’ll be used by people who treat me and others with my values as an enemy. But ultimately, walking out feels like walking out on this woman. It feels like letting myself and my allies turn take an easier (though obviously not easy) path. It feels like impatience, and petulance, and throwing in the towel, and just a little bit selfish. And it feels like giving up. And it makes me wonder when we stopped believing we could make this happen.

    Then again, that’s easy to say here, relatively anonymously, on a comment board. I fear I didn’t have the courage to voice this in my conversation with my new friend who voiced his increasing acceptance of thoughts of schism. And knowing even just a little bit about him and his role in the reconciling movement, words like “impatient,” “petulant,” throwing in the towel”, and “selfish” don’t even stick. And I just don’t know what to do with all that.

  12. Pastor Pedro says

    I admittedly could not continue reading the last part of the comments. As n Elder in the UMC for 28 years and fighting this fight just as long, I have what I think are insights. Unfortunately my insights have lead me closer to 1)giving up the fight, and 2) giving up on having a healthy United Methodist Church. I pretty much agree with the Commander speaking to Rome’s Maximus , as they looked over at the obviously weaker adversaries: “People ought to know when they are conquered.” I am raising the white flag to Progressives. You win , not only in the umc, BUT ALSO IN AMERICA. Enjoy your victory.
    But change the name of the so called group you champion: LBTG to LBBTGDIOP and more. (This includes polygamy, Open Marriages, Bestialtiy, Incest and Man-Boy Love. ) The arguments will fall one by one because Traditionalists cannot prove they all were not made that way by God. Deny it if you will. Yours is a hollow victory.

  13. says

    This is a very thoughtful piece. Not just Imler’s very incisive comment, but the rest of your analysis as well. It’s not a perfect parallel, of course, but look at the Southern Baptist Convention. There, the progressives (and moderates) were more or less kicked out. There is a small liberal faction (Alliance of Baptists) and a bigger moderate faction (Cooperative Baptist Fellowship). The ascendant fundamentalists turned the huge SBC into an insular echo chamber. I shudder to think what the traditional-ish Methodist denomination would be capable of without a significant liberal minority. For one thing, I bet they’d eventually want to get rid of women’s ordination. The IRD never tires of praising denominations and traditions that do not ordain women.

    Anyway, it’s best not to turn this into an all-or-nothing zero-sum game.

    This was really interesting to read and think about.


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