The Release of Methodism 2.0

Upgrade Available?

My spouse and I both have iPhones. When the software iOS 7.0 came out, I upgraded my phone but my spouse did not: she liked the old version the way it was, and according to online reports, 6.0 ran faster than 7.0 did. But we can share apps, everything is compatible, and we are both happy with our phones. Our hardware is the same, but the software is different. I can do different things with my newer upgrade than she can, but we are both happy.

When these types of system updates come out, the odd thing is that people will be running two different versions of the same software and yet they are usually wholly compatible: Windows XP users can share with Windows 7 users; Mac Snow Leopard can share with Mavericks; iOS 5 is on the same iPhones as iOS 7. So while the hardware is the same, the software can be different depending on what works best.

I share that reflection because I think it is a good parallel to what is facing the United Methodist Church beginning in 2013: we are in the midst of two different operating systems within the same church hardware. Most of United Methodism is on version 1.0 but growing numbers of United Methodists are using Methodism 2.0: it’s the exact same as 1.0, but it just removes the prohibitions against full inclusion of LGBT people.

It is my contention that we are in the midst not of a schism between two different churches but we are rather in the midst of an update from Methodism 1.0 to Methodism 2.0. 

How is this happening? It’s the difference between spiders and starfish.

Theory: Starfish and Spider Systems

In Brafman/Beckstrom’s The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations, they trace the pattern of the interactions between centralized (spider) organizations and decentralized (starfish) organizations. Why are they named like that?

  • Spiders have a head that makes all the decisions. If you chop off the head of a spider, and it will die.
  • Starfish have no head: the central nervous system is spread throughout the body and it responds appropriately. Indeed, if you cut off a limb, it will regrow. If you chop it in half…both will regrow, and then you’ll have two of them!

To Brafman/Beckstrom, they saw value in both types of organizations but ultimately said that starfish organizations are more adaptable to the world around them because the change comes from the bottom-up rather than from the top-down.

In the United Methodist Church in 2012, we saw the failure of top-down change. General Conference did not succeed where we had hoped. The Reformers failed to reform through the PlanUMC and the Super Bishop and the Guaranteed Appointment and other ways. The progressives failed to change the UMC’s stances on LGBT inclusion and other social issues. Even the conservative caucus groups kept up the drumbeat of acrimony because they only got 90% of their goals. 2012 was a frustrating year as we dealt with a spider operating system in the UMC.

It is my contention that in 2013, we saw the beginnings (or to some, the culminations) of the successes of bottom-up change. A radical shift from a spiderlike UMC to a starfishlike UMC is taking place. While I have other examples, no other topic exemplifies this shift better than LGBT inclusion.

Reality: Methodism 2.0 = 1.0 + LGBT Inclusion

Consider all the regional changes that have taken place after the global UMC did not change the global stance on LGBT inclusion in the UMC:

  1. Marriages and Holy Unions are taking place almost monthly in conferences where the sense of accountability on this issue have become more shared (and still 100% Methodist).
  2. The entire Western Jurisdiction has declared that the paragraphs prohibiting the full inclusion of LGBT persons are “to be treated as if they no longer exist.”
  3. UMC Bishops have offered a ministry setting for a clergyperson whose credentials were forcibly removed in another region, have called the LGBT laws in the UMC discriminatory, and have called for a cessation of clergy trials.

These are starfish changes as they do not affect ministry in other regions of the country. If a UMC ordains a gay clergyperson in New England, with the support of their peers, it does not affect ministry in Alabama. In a populist UMC where decisions are made by your peers and not by a paper trigger, such variety of regional expressions will continue. In the face of the spider global UMC continuing the 40-year restriction against LGBT inclusion, the starfish UMC has shifted from changing the spiders’ mind to just doing ministry in starfish ways.

And yet the goal of a starfish church is not to supplant or take over or “break away” from the spider church. This blog continues to oppose the easy way of schism: separation of the spider church from the starfish church. Rather, the goal is for the spider UMC to integrate the successes of the starfish church.

Becoming Upgrade Evangelists

In 2012, the Western Jurisdiction held their first “Transforming Ministry” Conference in California. One of the presenters was Brian McLaren who talked about the difference between a movement and an institution. One of the attendees there sent me his notes which made this distinction (keep in mind these are notes not a direct quote from Brian McLaren):

Effective institutions consolidate the gains of a movement.

Brilliant ones keep the movement alive.

Anyone remember President LBJ calling MLK Jr to “turn up the heat” so that he could pass civil rights legislation?

2014 and onward is our Methodist call to “turn up the heat” through acts supporting full inclusion of LGBT folks. There are groups already doing this and you can find and support them if you wish.

But it is more than that for many of us.

This is the opportunity for the UMC to save the institution from itself. This is the chance for those in Methodism 2.0 to become software evangelists and share the successes and the joys of ministry without LGBT restrictions. Of LGBT clergypersons being lifted up and their successes recognized. Of couples being celebrated. Of the Western Jurisdiction being proud of their United Methodism not quiet about it. Of weekly “We Did” stories that share this 2.0 mindset.

If you are in a fully inclusive region of the country: share your successes, share your joys, share the good acts of mission, show how LGBT inclusion is not an alleged “poison pill” on ministry but is a viable alternative to Methodism 1.0–BE THE CHURCH. If you are not in a fully inclusive region, find ways to model what full inclusivity looks like either at your local church, your sunday school class, or mission field–BE THE CHURCH.

A Better Way than Schism

2014 is the year when the different operating systems in church hardware became more clear. Like two iPhones that use different software, the UMC at present can operate side by side, town by town, region by region. They are not two different churches but one. Their future is not in schism but in integration and consolidation perhaps into a new operating system altogether where our current ones are tossed aside like Windows Vista.

Because the more people that see how Methodism 2.0 (with its upgrade of full inclusion) is just as amazing and spirit-filled as 1.0, the more people will be ready for an upgrade come General Conference 2016. And in the meantime, 1.0 and 2.0 can continue to worship, serve, learn, and preach Christ resurrected side-by-side, making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

Thoughts?

(Disclaimer: written with the full awareness of my privilege of serving in a Methodism 2.0 annual conference in the hopes that privilege spreads)
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Comments

  1. Thomas Coates says

    Ah, but alas, there’s Windows XP folks that inist that Windows 7/8 folks are in extreme error and must immediately downgrade back to Windows XP (even when long-term support ends in July). Similarly, those Windows XP folks partner to spread XP to other parts of the globe, squishing the more secure and future-ready Windows 7/8 and LINUX along the way. The security group for XP says they can’t do anything, even though they can patch and release a service pack to help with security and compatibility with Windows 7/8, but they refuse.

      • Thomas Coates says

        More an analogy of conservatives in the UMC which hold all the power and those who believe in full equality and inclusion for LGBTQ people in the church who hold none. It’s not an equal conversation, but one of privileged against marginalized: Conservatives have the upper hand in the interpretation of the BoD (the prevailing interpretation doesn’t see a conflict with the hateful language of “self-avowed practicing homosexual”, for example, and the sections that say all people are of “sacred worth”, and that we are to be in ministry to all people). Similarly, conservatives can vote to strengthen their bloc by bringing non-UMC churches into the UMC worldwide if conservative numbers start to decline, not to mention people for full inclusion are immediately suspect of being LGBTQ and under threat of complaints being filed, live in fear of being found out, and LGBTQ people can be denied membership, then there’s the mass exodus of left-of-center UMC members, candidates and clergy over the past 40 years, a defacto schism that no one seemed/seems to notice.
        The last reference is to our bishops, who have far more power than they admit on whether these cases get to trial, who presides, the role of the district superintendent, who represents the church, and the makeup of the clergy jury at trial, but they refuse to do anything.

    • Becky Cramer says

      I have read the statements recorded here and have only one question that remains aloof:
      Is your focus ‘get as many members as you can, or Matthew 28:16-18 make disciples (followers of Christ)?

  2. Jon Altman says

    I continuously ask my conservative “brothers” what difference it makes to them or their ministry if someone in the Pacific Northwest or California does something that THEY could not, in good conscience, do. I still haven’t gotten a good answer.

    • says

      Jon, I have lost prospective members, people who did not know the UMC but were visiting my church, who have looked on our UMC website or other news sources and discovered what our denomination is doing in the NW, and have stopped coming. What you do in Portland affects us in Dayton, TN.

      • Thomas Coates says

        I’ve had the opposite. For young adults, the policy of the UMC against LGBTQ people (who are their friends) it’s a major turn-off, we will continue to lose nearly the entire demographic of LGBTQ people and allies (particularly young adults and upcoming generations) as long as the policy remains.
        It’s like writing off 10% of the population from the ministry of the UMC and sending them elsewhere, or away from any church.

        • says

          Thomas, that doesn’t match the reality. Worldwide, it’s just not true. And young adults are not exactly flooding the pews of the ELCA, PCUSA and Episcopal Church.

          Does your concern over losing people due to the conservative position mean we are in agreement that what the church in the NW does affects the churches in the SE, and vice versa?

          • says

            Chad:
            This is why I part company with Jeremy about schism. You can’t look at “worldwide.” America is, like it or not, changing, and Thomas is correct that young people are being turned off, not just to Methodism, but organized religion. This is fueled to a great extent by the past of current positions of mainline denominations towards LGBT people. It does match reality, as study after study indicates. Now you can try to deny the American reality, but lumping the data set from Africa and other less developed parts of world, but if that’s how you’re going to organize and run the United Methodist denomination, you sir, better learn some African dialects. There may be an appointment to an African church in your future.

            You can try to deny all you want, but the reality is, people in this country, and other developed parts of the world, are leaving Methodism and organized religion because of this intransigence. Just because they don’t go running to ELCA or PCUSA doesn’t change anything. I’ve been Methodist for the entire 54 years of my life. Due a particularly discriminatory Pastor recently moved to my church, I am just about done with Methodism…but I have not decided that I’ll be switching denominations. I thinking just walking away from “church” altogether might be the best choice for me right now.

            Please don’t accuse Thomas of being dishonest about the reality he’s experiencing. It apparently is HIS reality, and he doesn’t sound all that interested in having the Methodist Church exist only in under-developed countries of the world.

        • Zzyzx says

          I’ve seen the same, Thomas.

          My parents both grew up UMC (technically one was EUB and the other was Methodist, but you get the point). Between them they have over 120 years of UMC life. But because of a hard rightward shift in their home congregation and the consequent ignoring and dismissal of anyone’s concerns about such new and very conservative shifts, my parents gradually ceased attending their UMC. They’d been highly active for decades and both their voices and their concerns were merely being “humored” at best. Now, like John Masters says below, they’ve largely fallen out of church altogether because of this. And, along with what they experienced, they’ve continued to remain alienated by such things as the trial of Frank Schaeffer (which they followed and corresponded with me over.)

          • says

            Jesus didn’t go chasing after the rich young ruler, worried about numbers. Faithfulness matters.

            Not everyone will hear or accept the narrow way. I’m not willing to approve of what God calls sin just because some people don’t like it. This morning in the church I serve we baptized 4 new people and brought in 7 new members, my age and younger. God is still calling people to himself. Praise God!

          • Zzyzx says

            That’s not even a response to such a story, Chad. That’s a dismissal. And it’s entirely hypocritical of you to say here that numbers don’t matter, but to say elsewhere that the numbers back you up and you have numbers on your side. Pick one and be consistent for once.

    • Rev. Mike Hoppe says

      As a conservative, evangelical United Methodist pastor, I can tell you what I would do. If my denomination espouses something that I believe contradicted the fundamental core of scripture, I would leave that institution and join a movement of Jesus followers who are doing the Lord’s work. This is exactly what millions of people have done, and are doing, on both sides of this debate. We should all be tolerant of small disagreements on a variety of minor issues, but when it comes down to holding firm to what we believe is core doctrine, both sides are quickly coming to a place where there appears to be little room for compromise.

      • Carolyn says

        Tell me how a teaching based on 6-7 clobber verses constitutes “core doctrine”? Shouldn’t the much more numerous verses on neighbor love, care for the poor, and God’s grace be considered core doctrine before a teaching on something Christ taught nothing about?

        • says

          Thank you Carolyn. There’s as much, if not more on other Levitical laws in the Bible (Old and New Testaments) as there is about homosexuality, and most educated Biblical scholars admit the passages often used don’t really speak about a modern understanding of homosexuality anyway.

          I’m betting that Rev. Hoppe there couldn’t go through the same year as a recent author, and live an entire year truly biblically. As I’ve heard before, “You know you’ve created God in your own image w hen he hates the same people you do.”

        • Karen Booth says

          Carolyn, the conservative (I prefer traditional) understanding of human sexuality and marriage isn’t based on 6-7 “clobber passages.” It’s based on core doctrinal teaching in Genesis 1 and 2 — the sacred “one flesh” male/female union that is God’s design for sexual expression. That understanding is explicitly affirmed by both Jesus (Matthew 10 and Mark 10) and Paul (Ephesians 5) and is implicitly upheld throughout the rest of Scripture.

    • Rev. Kaye Harvey says

      Citing conversation with clergy. “Brothers” tells me we have an even deeper problem with equality in the UMC.

      • says

        Jon’s use of the air quotes likely refers to that it is only men that seem to be the loudest complainers, not that they are not brothers to him.

        I could be wrong but that’s how I read it.

    • J.T. Smith says

      OK. Most of what I am hearing here is pure unadulterated BULL. A homely parable would be the story about the problem God had that He wanted to solve that had to do with overpopulation of the earth. He called in two men and said. Why don’t you two get married, in the genuine definitive state, and replenish the earth. I am trippling the death rate and cutting the birth rate by allowing more guilt free abortions. In time we will achieve my goal. By the time it gets down to just these two, the shocking reality dawns and they see there is no one else to approve of their “marital union”. and no hope for a future. But, they had their way.
      Now, NO Conference, Jurisdiction, District, Cluster or Charge in The United Methodist Church, has any mandate, amendment, or executive order that supersedes the Book Of Discipline and its laws. It, and the vow to uphold it is our constitution. WE DO NOT HAVE TO HAVE TRIALS. Since we come to that point of refusal to keep the vows inviolate, and break them. Guilt is decided then and there. We only accept the court technique to learn if there is some mitigating circumstance like insanity that led to the fracture. The transgressor may be separated from his credentials, which most have framed on his study wall. Mine are, both Deacon and Elder’s orders. If I do the crime, I have no right to retain these sacred papers. I have no secular appeal, even the Supremes, because they have no judicial powers in church law. Unless secular crimes are being committed behind the robes of the church. All of this rhetoric about our church law can have no power outside the General Conference, where democratic legislation is the order of the day. So I pray that you sniveling, naye saying, idiots (my opinionic word) would cease and desist, and at the appropriate time, and by the appropriate people your complaint will be heard. There is no relief, in the middle of the stream. If the Church so decides, an official division will be recommended and an orderly process of divorce will happen between the rights and the wrongs. No political correctness will be allowed.
      If the world lasts that long, it will be done. If not, God will sort it out according to existing legislation. .

  3. says

    So is the plan you draw out in the final paragraph that we 1.0ers serve alongside 2.0ers until 2016 when the GC vote changes and then we ALL get upgraded together?

  4. says

    If all we were talking about was worship style or the color of carpet this would work. But as it stands, we are talking about sin, and a minority within the church wishing to bless it.
    With any luck schism won’t happen, but church discipline (as it should), and those who continue to approve of sin will be shown the door via 1 Cor. 5 and Matthew 18.

    • Thomas Coates says

      There are some sins we agree are sins, this is not one. You interpret based on your social location, study, experience, heterosexual/heteronormative privilege and translation that the Bible condemns LGBTQ people, we interpret differently based on a different understanding of the same. I object to the premise of your statement and believe God is revealing a different understanding of Scripture to us even now regarding LGBTQ persons– this doesn’t contradict the Word, just the “conservative” understanding of it. Of course, we can get into other issues that the UMC let slip through ordination, while LGBTQ people are singled out (gluttony anyone?) Indeed, I’ve found the church in my region is so fixed on pushing LGBTQ people out of the process, they let so many heterosexual, unqualified people in.

      • Rick Russell says

        Thomas, the church universal until only a small sliver of it recently has always proclaimed this to be sin. You have a tremendous burden of proof!

          • J.T. Smith says

            NO. Slavery was a Biblical NORM. Abuse of slaves was definitely a SIN, just as abuse of non-slaves so remains. Don’t try to mix apples with oranges and try to call it inclusion. You are grasping for straws. Probably slavery is against the law in America today, but there were times when it was not so. Depart from the Biblical mandate and this is a biological perversion. No social or physical science embraces same sexism as normal. This is not judgment call on my part; it is a naturalist observation. LOOK at the universal evidence and only ignorance will permit continual embrace of this as any kind of RIGHT.

    • says

      Chad, just as soon as you cease eating shell fish, wearing that cotton-poly blend shirt you have on, and seriously take to heart all the biblical laws, then you can call the love I share with my partner of 15 years a sin. Until that time, you seriously don’t have any moral authority. You do not get to pick and choose based on a few clobber versus, but you know that, don’t you? You just have an issue with the gay thing.

    • says

      If the truth in your story of deliverance depends upon the invalidation of other peoples’ stories, you have not been delivered. Stop working out your penance on the backs of others who are innocent.

      • says

        Morgan, please. If I were pointing out the sins of patriarchy or Mark Driscoll you’d never say such a thing. Those who are innocent? No one is innocent.

  5. says

    Jeremy,
    While the premise seems to be that 2.0 and 1.0 are both equally valid versions of software and it is a matter of preference (style? aesthetics?) as to which one a user “chooses,” this is still a cleverly masked jab at conservatives. In other words, you are clearly suggesting that the church is moving on and the 1.0′s should just let the 2.0′s do their thing (even though you are simultaneously suggesting they are hopelessly backwards).
    Schism by mutual apathy rather than formal break is still schism, and the only way for what you suggest to be tolerable would be to alter our polity in a fundamental way – something that has been attempted, but probably still doesn’t have the votes to be accomplished.
    Of course, the newest is not always the best, which is one of the problems with the Enlightenment lie that we as individuals and systems must be evolving morally. Like Wesley knew about growth in grace, it is possible to move backwards. The next model, the new update, is not always better. Look at, for instance, the difference between a 1973 Mustang and a 1974 Mustang.
    We need to find a way to live together in covenant and unity as who we are: a worldwide denomination representing Methodists of many different cultures and worldviews. Most of all, we need to find a way to reason Christianly about these things, and continuing to bounce conservatives and liberals off of one another just like the cable news does – no matter how relevant the analogy is used to do so – will not get us there. It may be that the most powerful witness we could offer to the world is the ability to keep covenant with those whom we have deep disagreements.
    I would also commend Gil Rendle’s Back to Zero which has a good breakdown of the strengths and weaknesses of both movements and institutions. It is not so simple as “institution bad” and “movement good.”

    • says

      Drew, I don’t claim institution=bad movement=good above. The opposite: the best institutions embrace the fire of the movement and keep it alive. Thus, using the above analogy, 1.0 may work for people as long as they want…but when they see how LGBT inclusion doesn’t destroy churches, then they might want to run that OS. It’s not a perfect analogy but it’s a fun one for conversation.

  6. Patrick Scriven says

    It is with no small amount of humility that I confess I’m using the operating system analogy in a series I should put out next week. Now I have another item to assimilate. :)

    Sadly, my accompanying imagery is Windows based… :( I suspect you know me well enough to understand how painful this is for me.

  7. Karl Kroger says

    Well said. I think you’re right. I’m not so sure we’ll get things figured out in 2016 or not, but I agree with metaphors.

    I write as someone very privileged as well. I understand that for many people, 2013 was filled with so much pain, persons felt they had to leave the UMC. But things are changing, and now is indeed the time to turn up the heat (while still acting in love).

  8. Hank Perry says

    Here is the bigger issues:
    1) the book of discipline, which as pastors we are called to follow and as church members called to be guide by. Disagreement is one thing, but picking and choosing is far more problematic.
    2) the Bible and tradition. Two of the more important parts of the quadrilateral stand in opposition to the issue – it takes experience and attempts to find ways around the passages (ie reason) to get around this but Wesley warned about using these two to get around Scripture. So this is a major issue and not one to be taken lightly.
    3) Lastly, numbers and money. While not discussed much, these two things are controlled in vast majority currently with those who are of Methodism 1.0. The more churches separate themselves from those with money and in a large majority, the easier it is for them to walk away. And maybe that’s not a bad thing,

    But the biggest issue that is going to lead to schism is simple: the air of superiority each side feels they have. This is why the sides cannot find a middle ground which may or may not exist. Both sides don’t simply feel their right – they feel they are more righteous, ultimately more loving, and more full of grace. And unless you can walk in their shoes, you don’t see that. The issue polarizes us so much that it is hard to be a moderate. And it is seen as a critcal issue as it is seen on one side a unrepented sin and the other side an impediment to church growth.

    This is why there is no real solution in the short term – until both sides become quite a bit more humble, which I don’t see, the easier solution is to go different ways and pat ourselves on the back for standing up to the others the whole time.

    • Thomas Coates says

      It’s difficult to be humble when, as LGBTQ people and allies, we see the issue as personal — literally “people” not an “issue” at all. We see the UMC’s position as costing people’s calls, inciting bullying and violence in society (both here and in Africa) and it even costs lives. But I do see the other side believing that LGBTQ people should repent or their souls are in danger– the issue here is there’s not a single case of an ex-LGBTQ person “seeing the light” as conservatives say, it’s a completely false premise to assume it’s a choice, or that love can be a sin.

      • Hank Perry says

        So there is no room for discussion? Then you are back to schism.

        See, I can agree with that LGBT are people of worth, deserving of rights, and even support their right to marriage, but still believe that they are sinners and pray that they change or at least suppress their desires. I can believe they are deserving of civil marriage and spousal benefits but not ordination. There are a number of things that would disqualify you from ordination but don’t reduce your value as a person.

        And to be fair, a number of high profile people have left homosexuality – they just get labeled “bi-sexual” even though they are married and happy. Anne Heche? I’m not supporting “de-programming” , just that it isn’t always as simple as you say.

        • says

          Hank, seriously…even the “ex-gay” ministries are now claiming no one has ever really “changed.” They might have gotten married and lived life as a straight person, but they don’t change who they inheriently are. People who claim to be “ex-gay” (the literally two or three you could name…and note, you only named one), claim to be “ex-gay”…never “straight.” Why do you think that is Hank?

          That cannard has no place in the discussion. Science is pretty clear on the fact that gay people are gay. If you think it’s maleable, please tell us all when you decided to “be” straight? What day was that on, Hank? Remember too, if you think this is something people can change, it also means you could wake u tomorrow morning and just decide you wanted to be gay…could you do that?

          If not, then you’re just being arrogant in your misguided belief that your straightness is right, and my gayness is wrong and less worthy.

        • says

          Oh, and NO, there is no room for discussion. I am no longer, after 54 years of waiting, in the mood to accept second class status from either my government or my church, and don’t believe that God thinks any less of me because of who I love. All just to provide you some sense of self-righteous smuggness at being better than me. No, no room for discussion, and yes, Let’s hold one GC for Conferences in the developed world, and one for Africa, and let’s see then how the votes come out.

          • Hank Perry says

            How ironic that you look down on Africa in comparison to the developed world? Is that not smug or treating them as second class?

            Now if you want a fair vote, have a vote based on membership – let the church have representation based on numbers and not region. Or by giving. You can skew this is in so many ways.

            I never said a person was converted by a ministry; I did say people can change and discover a new lifestyle. The UMC doesn’t say a LGBT pastor has to be straight; it says that they have to be celibate. It isn’t the person being rejected, but the behavior. People change their behaviors all the time to honor God. Why is that wrong?

  9. says

    Thinking that ministry in one area does not affect ministry in another is not only woefully naive…it also completely undermines the spiritual reality of the Body of Christ.

    Perhaps instead of continuing to siphon off time and resources over the issue they’ve chosen as a hill to die on, Bishops and leaders who openly call for rebellion and disobedience to the Church they swore an oath to uphold should stop being disingenuous and step out in faith to form whatever type of organization they think best…and leave the UMC that they feel is so outdated and disobedient to its spidery demise.

    • says

      Good point, JM. A house cannot be divided against itself and expect to stand. Furthermore, to be wrong on this is to be in sin, based on both side’s arguments (the right is in sin for not “loving” those whom God has created as gay, the left is in sin because they declare something right which God condemns), and as such we cannot expect God’s blessing. The Holy Spirit will not stay where sin is not only tolerated but willfully approved.

      And it does affect the ministry of others. I have visitors to my church who have stopped coming because they see in the news how “liberal” the UMC is becoming and don’t want to be part of a church that endorses sin. What the heel does affects the hand, and vice versa.

      • Thomas Coates says

        I have people stop attending my church DUE TO the homophobic policies of the UMC, and I believe this number will grow. The UMC has lost countless left-of-center members, candidates, and clergy over the past 40 years, would you wish them all gone?

        • says

          Yes, this is exactly why separation is the only viable option. Otherwise, neither side can experience unhindered growth because both are having to compromise their core convictions.

          It’s time for those who cannot abide by the teachings of the denomination to step out in faith and follow whatever spirit they feel is leading them to reject the orthodox New Testament sexual ethic –
          http://jmsmith.org/blog/talbert

          • says

            I don’t see LGBT inclusion as a core conviction. And biblical literalists have already had to be not literal when we allowed women to be clergy. You had to deal once with full inclusion of women and look what happened since?

      • Cori Wells says

        What happens if your hardware doesn’t support the upgrade? It doesn’t work. Same concept here, I think. At least, that’s what General Conference 2012 leads me to believe.

  10. Rick Russell says

    Chad Holtz, this is my problem with progressives. The only sins are basically political sins. We have to change structures. Changed structures without changed hearts are completely pointless. Personal holiness has to exist if we are going to have social justice.

  11. Randy Tolleson says

    May an observer of our discussion here marvel at how much we love one another. The UMC is, at it’s core, a worldwide church. The growth of the UMC in Africa and in the former soviet-occupied countries is, in large part, due to the Discipline’s biblical interpretation of these matters. It the world-wide UMC the LGBT community is isolated and shrinking as evidenced by the trend in General Conference interest in changing the Discipline on this matter. The LGBT strategy to decentralize the decision is the only hope of passage. The problem, based on recent observation of LGBT tactics, is that the requirement will be for the world-wide UMC to celebrate this decentralized decision. The discussion is about redefinition of sin. Is it biblical that marriage is between a man and a woman? Is adultery a sin? Those are the two sins under failed discussion for redefinition so lets stop pretending otherwise.

    • Thomas Coates says

      That LGBTQ people are leaving the UMC is nothing to be proud of, that LGBTQ youth are growing up in an increasingly conservative church, where they have little or no future isn’t either.

    • Matt Algren says

      Redefinition? Seems closer to reunderstanding than that. The Methodist Church has reunderstood before, and often. Racial integration, alcohol consumption, gender roles both in general life and in ministry, Sabbath/Lord’s Day observance, and a host of other issues come to mind. We survived and even thrived because of (or in spite of, depending on your point of view, I suppose) those once-shocking changes in doctrine. And we will continue to thrive, even if/when previously unimaginable understandings emerge.

  12. steve says

    You clearly start by presuming your 2.0 outlook is the morally and theologically proper attitude, you almost make it sound historically inevitable and not only that… but wait! there’s more – that the 2.0 ‘upgrade’ will renew the church as well. Pardon me, but I would enjoy seeing such smiley-face enthusiasm trying to justify its Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Gender, and Transsexual self to John Wesley.
    All I can really see on the ground is prideful activists who insist on their sexual choices and confident they are right, just splitting and wrecking the UMC.
    LGBT is nothing new, it’s just conforming to desire and the world.

  13. Stephen says

    So your saying anyone against these things is stuck in a previous operating system and doesn’t want the upgrade?

    I will give you some feedback from the “Windows World”. Windows had a great operating system called windows xp. It was stable, provided a good environment for programing, gaming, work environments, and home environments. People loved it!

    Then Windows Vista rolled in and Microsoft wanted so badly for people to adopt the latest and greatest OS so everyone would be Vista. The problem was just because it was the latest greatest didn’t make it the best. It was buggy from the get go. It wasn’t backward compatible. It had driver issues. It had crash issues. It wasn’t stable and it changed way too much of what Windows was great at just to be more like the Mac. People revolted. They either didn’t upgrade or actually downgraded back to Windows XP. Vista just wasn’t worth the headache that it caused. Finally Microsoft stopped trying to push Vista and redeveloped Windows 7 which was much more like the XP that people knew and loved. Stable, streamlined, and fast.

    Sometimes it pays not to be an early adopter. ;)

  14. Txcon says

    That works great until someone comes along with Methodism 3.0 which includes some features you weren’t really looking for, like say, polygamy or pederasty, and considers you retrograde when you don’t like the new features (hey – Abraham had concubines, so it’s in the Bible!). It’s happening in Utah (http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/14/justice/utah-polygamy-law/), and since you’ve unmoored yourself from requiring affirmative scriptural support, how do you say no?

    • says

      The slippery slope argument just doesn’t hold up. Just try it out with other biblical sexual prohibitions: “Once you let men start sleeping with menstruating women, polygamy and pederasty is next!” Doesn’t work, does it? Things like polygamy, pederasty, slavery, child marriage, etc. are bad not because the Bible calls them icky, but because the go against the ethical grain of Christianity.

      Our ethics is based not on ritual purity laws, but on the saving and redemptive work of Jesus Christ. The movement for inclusion of LGBTQ persons is not “abandoning scripture.” It’s following scripture—not tying up burdens for others (like celibacy) that we straight people do not have to bear, not locking people out of the kingdom, etc.

      • says

        “Things like polygamy, pederasty, slavery, child marriage, etc. are bad not because the Bible calls them icky, but because the go against the ethical grain of Christianity.”

        You left one off the list: homosexuality

        • John Pinkston says

          Except that it could be argued that homosexulaity was never on the list. It appears there because modern translations have made that decision. But as a word, it doesn’t appear in the English language until the 1800s. I’d argue that the modern concept of homosexulaity is very different from the sexual relations that were being described as wrong. But then we come to another problem, which is that we only have one place in the Bible where sexual relations between two women are described as wrong. What do we do with that, and how do we treat that verse?

          • Hank Perry says

            I have heard that argument for years. And if you look at merely the words, you MIGHT have an argument. But you also have to look at the context and who said them. Paul isn’t just condemning things he had heard about in Corinth or anywhere else based on the list. It is a summary of things that the Jewish culture had deemed unacceptable and seems to stem from Jewish law – ie Leviticus. Paul doesn’t deal with cultural or ceremonial laws, just moral laws. And Leviticus is VERY specific, as was Jewish law at this time.

            Second, as a Methodist, we understand Scripture through Tradition. To throw out 2000 years of understanding because a few scholars – who are tenured for articles and acclaim which need new discoveries and not affirmations of the past – have decided the meaning is something different because they did a word study goes against the Quadrilateral. This is very different stuff than slavery – where Paul made it clear in Philemon about the relationships Christians should have to slaves – or women, where Paul again makes it clear that women should have their heads covered when they prophesy (ie spoke in church). Less is made of when Jesus said about sexual immorality, which was a often a catch all term for all sex outside the marriage.

            The bigger problem with the “today’s culture or understanding” argument is that people under 40 also have no problem with pre-marital sex, getting drunk, divorce, frivolous lawsuits, lying, pornography, gossip, etc, which the Bible also says is wrong. While previous generations have done all those things, none has said they were acceptable. The argument to move the goal posts because it is acceptable today is like lowering the requirements for a medical license because you need more doctors – who wants that physician working on them?!

            Jesus said the door is narrow. He also said that it is impossible with man but not with God. I don’t think God made the door wider; I think he makes us fit. Changing the understanding of Christendom for 2000 years so that more might enter is to make the door wider, but that is the work of God; our work is to have Christ enter into their lives so that they might fit. God didn’t change the law; he changes us.

          • Txcon says

            That doesn’t mean that homosexuality did not appear until the 1800s; it was well known in ancient times.

    • says

      The UMC already unmoored from biblical literalism when they ordained women. I challenge you to find respected people in the UMC who would claim it was terrible for the UMC.

      You believe you can be a biblical literalist and affirm women’s ordination? Your hermeneutic allows it? Excellent! Mine does too. And the same heuristics for women’s leadership apply to the LGBT discussion.

        • Zzyzx says

          I, too, have seen this sad and disturbing trend. It’s the sad end result of trying to consistently apply a certain hermeneutic. Of course it’s tantamount to attempting to cram the entire denomination into a time machine and take it back to a utopic period when everything was exactly how it should be. Forget the fact that such a period never existed except in our rosy memories…

    • says

      Whod didn’t see that coming. I’m just suprised he didn’t also throw in the beastiality card as well. Did you just forget it? Maybe Jeremy can let you edit the comment.

      • Txcon says

        I didn’t mention it because I haven’t seen anyone advocate it, unlike the court in Utah which struck down anti-polygamy statutes. Just because the slippery slope is often a silly argument doesn’t mean its ALWAYS a silly argument.

  15. says

    I am struggling with the assertion that such a thing as Methodism 1.0 exists. What are the features of Methodism 1.0?

    My observation is, first, that United Methodism (circa 1968) is already vastly different than Methodism circa 1745 or 1844 or 1905. But setting that aside, from what I’ve read, seen, and heard, I struggle to identity what the common characteristics are of the Methodism that you say is being upgraded.

    • says

      I don’t understand your question, John. What do 1.0 and 2.0 have in common?

      Answer: Everything! 2.0 just adds the same biblical hermeneutic that allows women to be pastors and applies it to the full inclusion of LGBT.

      I don’t see why it is hard to see commonality between the versions. All it takes is an hour coffee with the other version, I believe.

      • says

        Jeremy, plenty of respected biblical scholars disagree with you, and believe women and homosexuality are apples and oranges. Richard Hayes being one of them. The trajectory for women playing vital roles in ministry is well established in scripture. The condemnation of homosexuality is never lifted, but only reinforced throughout all of Scripture.

        • says

          Chad, plenty of respected scholars agree with me that the Bible addresses heterosexual people who engage in homosexual acts. Plenty of respected scholars say the bible has no comment on people who are homosexual as an orientation.

          Thus you are correct they are apples and oranges as the Bible is silent on homosexuality as an orientation whereas its statements on women require a less-than-literal interpretation.

          • says

            Jeremy, the bible has plenty to say about homosexuality. None of us are talking about orientation. We are all oriented towards sin.
            As I said, there is a clear trajectory towards the liberation of women. We see women in leadership positions throughout Scripture. There is no such case for those who engage in homosexual relations or in any other sexual sins. Apples and oranges.

          • says

            Ah, the trending hermeneutic! A popular one since Maxie Dunnam used it about a year ago. I’ve written in private messages my response to this hermeneutic…I’ll try to gather it into something publishable in a few days. Thanks for the reminder and the content.

  16. says

    Excellent essay.
    I will not skim through the comments, because I am sure you’re getting all sorts of snarky, geeky computer software jokes.

    I’ll just add one of my own…and it’s the major point the macro-point behind the entire essay:
    One way or another, you cannot avoid upgrading your software systems. You can put it off for a while. But you cannot, wholesale, simply say, “I’m never going to upgrade.”

    Because if you adopt that attitude, you find that eventually your computer is, ahem, “incompatible” with everyone else’s. Nobody alive today using a Mac uses System 8. Although I remember it well. No Windoze user uses the first versions of Windows.

    Eventually, everybody upgrades or else they get left behind and the technology world has moves ahead.

    Yes, we are in a situation where, right now, 1.0 and 2.0 coexist together. But, make no mistake, the future is with 2.0, because almost everyone under 40-years-old has already upgraded. And if we don’t, they’ll simply find another place to go (Android?)

    This is why the present debate over LGBT issues is so pressing. The world(and technology) is changing faster and faster.

    Meanwhile, our polity is still decided in a way that would make IBM of the 1960s proud. (Read: It shouldn’t make *us* proud…)

    Thank you.

  17. John Pinkston says

    So there’s another part of this that gets lost a lot. For me that’s the folks who are using Windows 8/iOS7/Linux etc. that criticize, condemn, and mock the other folks who are still hanging on to Windows XP, or even all those crazy people who still have backend systems that are running applets that connect to DOS databses.

    I think one of the first things we have to do is ask why they’re still using those things? Why would someone continue to use XP when Windows 7 (and I’ll use Windows as that’s my preferred os) is so much better? I don’t think we’ve really asked that question of folks.

    For some, they have computers, that meet all their needs, and run just fine on XP. Or, they one time purchased a computer running ME, or upgraded for a short time to Vista, and had a disastrous experience. There are also those folks who really don’t like change and are going to be resistant no matter what. If we’re truly on the “progressive” side of things, then we need to do a better job of bringing folks along. That doesn’t mean that everyone will come, but we may actually be able to have the conversation.

    Btw, I like having this conversation in terms of operating systems. It takes a lot of the emotion out of it. I know some will say that you can’t take the emotion out, but I think that is part of our problem. Both sides are very emotionally entrenched which has meant that we don’t really talk to one another, but we talk at an opposing side. Besides, this let’s us frame the conversation very differently.

    At one point in time it was anathema to have programs that were hetero-operating. The accepted norm was homo-operating (if you were apple/windows/dos/ibm/etc then those were the programs you used, and that was the hardware that you used. Now we live in an age where hetero-operating is the standard. At one point in time I was running Windows 7 on a laptop, Android on a tablet, and iOS on an iphone. After my trip through nerddom, my point is that we need to actually talk to each other, and use language/metaphors/analogies/scripture/etc that is cross platform.

  18. Winnie says

    Are United Methodist ministers allowed to be ordained even if divorced?

    Matthew 19:8 – Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

    Mark 10:11 – So he told them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her.

    Matthew 5:32 – But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

    • Hank Perry says

      It is harder than you might think. Even with cases of infidelity by the spouse, divorce is not taken lightly by most BOMs. All divorcing pastors are required to go through counseling by the conference and their fitness for ministry is determined afterwards. It isn’t taken lightly. Nor should it be.

      • says

        But it is allowed…for ministers as well as members (and the passage above doesn’t seem to distinguish), yet…we allow it, and that verse seems to be pretty definitive. Imagine that…the literalists, as usual, are only literal about the gay parts. Funny how that works.

        • Hank Perry says

          It is NOT allowed – but it is understood. Allowed is more like you can eat Rd Lobster tonight. The church understands divorce through grace. But that doesn’t make any less a sin.

  19. Gene Ramsey says

    Chad Hotz, you write: “You interpret based on your … heterosexual/heteronormative privilege and translation that the Bible condemns LGBTQ people.”

    This simply isn’t so. Find a conservative who claims that the Bible condemns any PERSON, it can’t be done. Conservatives know that “God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world.” Nor do we. “Who is to condemn? Is it Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us?” The implication is clear, it is not our place to condem anyone. And for you to say that we translate the Bible as condemning LGBTQ people shows that you neither know us nor understand what it is the Bible itself says on the matter.

    What we would say is that the Bible calls the practice of certain behaviors to be sin (I’ll not attempt to cite them all here), and while we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God, still Jesus loves us even when we are sinners. But he also tells those who seek to follow him to go and sin no more. Now when people say that they have no intention of changing their behaviors because they claim that they are not involved in sin, I don’t call that an upgrade to 2.0, but a failure of the operating system.

  20. says

    What’s needed Jeremy is a systematic way of distinguishing the assumptions that are governing these two operating systems. It’s not just the LGBT issue. I suspect the anti-gay crowd is also big on penal substitutionary atonement, wives submitting to their husbands, reverence for military culture and American exceptionalism, Young Earth creationism, and other borrowings from contemporary popular evangelicalism. There’s a very different understanding about how to interpret the Bible or rather we’re even allowed to use the word “interpretation” when talking about the Bible. The problem with your metaphor is that Methodism hasn’t really taken a progressive evolution. I suspect Methodism circa 1960 would have been much more likely to support LGBT ordination than Methodism today. Methodism has taken a rightward swing in recent years, partly because conservative evangelical churches have been so successful at channeling the values of white suburbia (c.f. http://morganguyton.us/2013/04/18/how-did-jesus-come-to-love-guns-and-hate-sex/) which makes Methodist pastors in struggling churches think they must be right since they’re the ones who draw crowds. Before long, Methodist churches will be organizing pilgrimages to the Creation Museum. They probably already are. I won’t be surprised if there’s an attempt to repeal female ordination at General Conference in 2016.

    • Gene Ramsey says

      “I suspect the anti-gay crowd is….”

      I suspect you’re wrong. You link much too much together. The idea that you can speak of an “anti-gay crowd” shows you aren’t listening, but projecting onto many different individuals who have many different reasons for the views they have, one single way of perceiving them. That’s called stereotyping, and it’s ugly no matter who does it and no matter for what reason.

    • Stephen says

      New Years resolution not going so well?

      Morgan, please don’t generalize. It’s like traditionalists saying progressives don’t believe in the resurrection or that Jesus was real or in God at all. You know that is not true, so don’t say traditionalists hate women preachers, or are biblical literalists, or are young earth creationists.

      We have got to elevate this conversation if there is any hope for a more robust UMC.

    • says

      “I suspect the anti-gay crowd” ….but I don’t have any proof of this. Come on, Morgan, all of these generalizations are beneath you. Would you say this to Richard Hayes? There are some thoughtful people who have considered this for a very long time who do not fit into the southern baptist mold you seem inclined to pigeon hole anyone who disagrees with you on this.

    • Txcon says

      Agree with the other posters that you would suspect wrongly. I’m not sure I know another Methodist that believes in those things but most I know do object to the overt political activity in which the leadership of our church has engaged over the last decade+.

  21. Levine Marko says

    Will there be a release 2.1 (or can we lay speakers make one) that allows lay speakers to do communion and baptism… I do not see clear scripture that prohibits lay people from doing either and I do not see any scripture that specifically reserves it for clergy, and while we are at it, can we do weddings? I know that many in the church will not support this, but if current movments can release software, I will help pull a group of lay people together to do this… while we are at it, we may want to be able to plant new churches too, don’t see anything in scripture that prohibits this or reserves it for the D.S. … Yea, I know the discipline says it, but since we are ignoring the discipline based on our personal wants, I feel that the clergy discrimination to lay people should be dealt with now also… we could make it 2.1 for communion, 2.2 for baptism and release 2.3 for planting churches… I am excited about the new opportunities we have unleashed… we can release 2.4 for partial apportionment funding for this new lay movement also… I am sure we can find lay people in the churches who will fund up to 2.4 without much problem… by the way, if you read “the starfish and the spider” you will also remember that the starfish does not tend to provide much financial resources and runs mainly on volunteers who believe in the movement… one of the disadvantages to removing from the spider model…

    • Zzyzx says

      “you will also remember that the starfish does not tend to provide much financial resources and runs mainly on volunteers who believe in the movement… one of the disadvantages to removing from the spider model…”

      Frankly, I see this as an advantage. Or was Peter a salaried pope? I tend to forget important stuff like that…

      • Zzyzx says

        And before anyone puts words into my mouth, I am NOT speaking against salaried clergy. I am speaking more that it would be an advantage to have more volunteer participation in our churches, especially given the very common (and often unspoken) belief that church is simply somewhere you go to passively absorb “something.” I’m all for lay empowerment. Ultimately, given our placement system, it’s far more THEIR congregation than it will ever be mine. So I prefer to empower and have as many volunteers doing stuff as possible. I fail to see how having a strong (or stronger) laity who believe in the Methodist movement can be a disadvantage.

        Starfish methods seem to me eminently compatible with a salaried clergy (Although it could be that our system needs tweaking. I don’t know. Bureaucracy is not my thing.) Furthermore, making a point that starfish methods will not be as financially advantageous seems to me to be entirely missing the point of Church and Christianity. We have to deal with money and fund things. But if we’re refusing to do what is necessary, if we’re refusing the Mission, purely or largely out of financial concerns then we’ve totally missed the point. It’s because of this bureaucrat mentality that I dread filling out my GBGM missions form every year. It reads and asks questions like something Bank of America would send to their loan officers. Perhaps we need to remember that John Wesley died with mere pocket change to his name.

  22. james myers says

    Mrthodist OSi is waaay past version 2. Using an Apple logo is pretty insulting. There is no Rome of Cupurtino, for one. Steve & Woz are SO not John & Charles. As a kid, on a choir trip our bus broke down in Marshal Texas, in a church built by slaves. I spent a long while thinking on that . Some who called themselves Methodists had little concern with non-white souls, even if they had them. What isn’t right and moral can’t be Godly. We didn’t know X or Y was wrong at such and such a point in time, but once they know a thing, they can’t honestly ignore that thing. The genocide of Native Americans was a project Methodists threw themselves into at one time. We learned to make a distinction and stopped *some* of the more horrible practices. You can’t have this discussion without constantly telling the older folks what we’ve learned that makes their position abhorrent. Gay isn’t a choice, it’s how you’re born, thus the judgement against them is rendered void. Bigotry is about hating someone for who they are rather than what they’ve chosen to do. What is Bigoted cannot therefore be Holy. A Church is a Holy thing.
    The OS metaphor…improve it by instead making it about intellectual property. That’s more accurate. Who is stunting moral growth and innovation by controlling the licencing. Going after a the credentials of a pastor….well….the folks in Pennsylvania look a lot like patent trolls to me.

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