Clarifying that Christian Century article


Christian Century has a new article out today by reporter Amy Frykholm (whose work on the None Zone we have quoted before) about Schism in the United Methodist Church.

There’s a whole bunch of activist staff and seminary professors quoted…and one little ol’ local pastor who has a blog named Hacking Christianity.

Huzzah for the big leagues!

But given I don’t have the trained media savvy like the activist staffers, I think my quote in there merits some clarification. While I’m 100% certain it was exactly what I said to Ms. Frykholm in my interview, it wasn’t precisely what I was thinking.

Here’s the full section with my closing quote:

Many in United Methodism worry that those who perform same-sex ceremonies are acting as individuals, not as part of the connectionalism vital to United Methodism. One person I interviewed said, off the record, “I don’t get it. How can you claim to be part of the church and then say, ‘I am going my own way, with or without you’?”

But Robin Hynicka challenges the idea that performing a same-sex wedding—which he did in November 2013 at Arch Street United Methodist Church in Philadelphia along with more than 36 other UMC clergy—was an act of individualism. His decision, he says, was based on a process of discernment undertaken with both his congregation and his colleagues. His decision to perform a same-sex wedding was not, in his view, an act of disobedience but an act through the Holy Spirit working through a deep affiliation with his congregation and its needs.

Jeremy Smith, a pastor who blogs at, agrees that accusations of individualism are misplaced when directed at activist clergy. He believes that these clergy are not acting as outliers and individuals but as a “sustained community that consistently comes to the conclusion that this is discriminatory. And they come to this conclusion across differences of age, gender, and region. It doesn’t even matter that they agree on theology. I think you have more authority to speak up because you are not an isolated individual—you are part of a community.”

The bolded section, in my mind, should be a continuation of the previous line of thinking. So in my head, it would have read:

 And they come to this conclusion across differences of age, gender, region and across the theological spectrum.

I think that’s an important distinction because the LGBT question reaches across so many boundaries. When I was volunteering with a mission congregation to the LGBT population in Boston, Massachusetts, we would get a steady stream of LGBT persons that came across our presence. But because our congregation was progressive and liturgical, though the LGBT persons welcomed the acceptance and support, if they came from a more evangelical or Catholic background, they experienced a disconnect with the worship experience.

The LGBT question crosses boundaries of age, gender, region, and across the theological spectrum. There are LGBT persons who are strongly evangelical and believe the Bible is 100% inerrant (except 6-7 verses). There are strongly progressive, strongly Traditional, and strongly mainline folks who are supporters of the full inclusion of LGBT people in the United Methodist Church. We are formed so strongly by all these factors and yes, theology is one of them.

In short, schism is not the answer to our UMC problems, in one sense, because it is not a clear North/South split like over slavery. Being from the Bible Belt, there’s a ton of Methodists in both sides and in the middle. A split would not be geographic. It would not be by worship style. It would not be by gender or age. It would not be by this theological position or another.

And yet there are groups of advocacy around the LGBT question that have sustained dialogue and discussion and accountability to each other to bear witness to something new in the United Methodist Church. These are not isolated individuals, and these are not people who are throwing out the Covenant with the bathwater. The Individual v. Covenant polemic doesn’t hold up. These are dedicated and diverse communities who take serious our Wesleyan accountability and yet speak up when their church has gone astray…together.

There. That’s what I wanted to say. Thanks for reading.

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  1. says

    Thanks for the clarification. I am in agreement with you that schism will not solve anything for the UMC. We probably don’t agree on much, but we do agree on that.

  2. Mark Lee says

    Just a clarification on evangelical LGBT people and inerrancy… It’s not that “the Bible is inerrant except for 6-7 verses.” That really isn’t an hermeneutical option for most evangelicals. It’s that the 6-7 verses don’t address (much less condemn) modern gay and lesbian relationships. You can’t use verses about rape, prostitution, pederasty or idolatry if what we are talking about is relationships of love, commitment, consent, and mutuality. It’s apples and oranges — and inerrant Bible texts on apples aren’t applicable to a discussion of modern diets of oranges.

  3. says

    Let’s say even more strict rules are put into place in 2016, with mandatory sentencing/punishment for performing same-sex ceremonies. What do we do then? I’d like us to get specific in what visions we have for the future.

  4. Paul Reimann says

    Jesus teaches us to love our neighbors as ourselves. If we step back and examine the Big Picture, that means we are to get along with and help everybody, no matter their color, sexual preference, handicap, financial income, etc. If people are not hurting one another or doing anything illegal, then who are we to judge? If homosexuality is a sin, they will answer to God.

    So I do not think performing a same-sex marriage is an act of individualism. It is simply following the instructions of God’s Son, and supporting the loving relationship of two “neighbors”.

  5. says

    It dawns on me that following the 2012 GC in Tampa that the conservatives in the UMC gained the upper hand, with the failure of passing language that “we agree to disagree” so that any discussion about dividing the church could only really come from progressives. Then, the marriage equality side of Methodism, gained momentum, both with multiple states gaining same sex laws (by vote or by court decision) and with UMC conferences refusing to do more trials–so staying together is now the preference for progressives and schism is the preference for conservatives (I know labels are wrong–but it allows for shortcuts…) So, a strategy for the GN folks seems to be, lets create even stricter penalties and punish those Bishops and Conferences that don’t “enforce” the Discipline right–force them to “defrock” everyone. Kansas Bishop says “one hundred trials.” Such stricter punishment pushes the progressives back to “schism.” While, I think that schism is the only current resolution, it destroys the UMC, so what’s next? What strategy keeps the UMC together and protecting those folks who need having a church with truly open doors (rather than abandoning so many folks that schism brings)?

  6. Robert Eldred says

    So? Don’t write to us about what you didn’t say – write to the reporter you
    were talking to, and apologize for your “misinterpretation.”…..

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