In many African countries, Nestle Corporation gave women free formula in the hospitals. They even dressed their salesman like nurses in some hospitals to promote the use of formula and discourage the breastfeeding of infants.
As a result, the new mothers left the hospital with diminished ability to produce breastmilk. To feed their babies, African families had to buy formula at prices they could not afford. The crisis of health and money came about because Nestle worked against women’s free source of nutrition and then sold them the only alternative: a Nestle product.
Nestle is rightly criticized as creating a crisis by their action and miseducation, and then selling a way out of it.
Sadly, the same thing happens in many industries.
- Soft drink manufacturers sponsor health groups that issue recommendations about diabetes.
- Cosmetics cause side effects to your skin, which requires more cosmetics to fix.
- Breast cancer research organizations pocket more money than they spend on research while investing in industries that cause cancer.
- The company that turned Grenfell Tower into a flaming deathtrap now profits from removing their flammable material from other properties
- The petroleum industry cleans up oil spills like Deepwater Horizon and Exxon Valdez with a petroleum-based cleaner: Dawn detergent.
In every industry, there are manufactured crisis agents who create the conditions for a critical need, and then sell the victims the solution.
And the same is true in the Church.
Confidence for the Future?
The United Methodist Church is in crisis, closest to schism or breaking up than any time in the past 50 years. And yet the same group of people who have brought us to this brink is now advertising they alone can fix it.
The new tagline for the Wesleyan Covenant Association’s latest marketing campaign to United Methodist churches is “Confidence for the Future.” The tagline is on their website, “About Us” video, and glossy pamphlets (picture above).
Their messaging focuses on being able to weather the storm for United Methodism. Through slick videos featuring megachurch pastors who glitter, they promote their success to attract churches to join their group.
But like Nestle’s miseducation causing a demand for their product, the precursors to the WCA bear responsibility for the problems the WCA is selling themselves a way out of today.
The crisis in United Methodism today
The crisis in United Methodism is threefold:
- Failure to develop a robust sexual ethic that connects the 1st with the 21st century.
- Failure to encourage minority perspectives to maintain a “unity in diversity” structure to fulfill the mission of Jesus Christ.
- Failure to play fair with the General Conference-created process to navigate Crisis 1 & 2.
In our past and present, we see the same actors create the crisis to which we are now mired.
Sabotaging Sex Education
From the beginning of its contemporary structure, The United Methodist Church was influenced by a key group to removing resources from the theological study of human sexuality.
The Good News Magazine (and other affiliated caucus groups) advocated against a study of human sexuality (voted down at GC 1976), supported removal of funding from any ministry associated with homosexuality, including AIDS ministries (GC1976), and advocated to stop the General Board of Discipleship from holding forums on sexuality (1978) which ultimately was ended at GC 1980.
By these actions, Good News and its affiliates advocated for the United Methodist Church to be kept in the dark about human sexuality and the deadly effects of the AIDS epidemic until it was too late. Like Nestle in Africa, they created a crisis through miseducation and misplaced advocacy.
While they were silencing the United Methodist structure, Good News was flooding United Methodist mailboxes with narratives against LGBTQ people. A friend of the blog– an Asbury Theological Seminary graduate, which has a vast collection of Good News Magazine archives–reported that every other issue had an article about homosexuality or “sexual deviance” (i.e. homosexuality) or lack of following the Discipline (i.e. prosecuting homosexuals).
In short, our lack of a sexual ethic connecting the 1st and 21st centuries is in part due to the decades that The UMC was not allowed to educate or develop comprehensive sexual ethics. And behind every action to accomplish this result was the Good News Movement and their affiliates.
Sabotaging minority voices
It is relevant to talk about the Good News Magazine because their membership and their narratives now prop up the WCA. The WCA’s originating documents reveal a Good News staff member started the WCA, and their governing board contains Good News, Confessing, and other caucus group supporters, staff, and board members.
Since Good News’ inception, it has opposed the voice and existence of minority group voices. Rev. Charles Keysor was the originator of the Good News Magazine (1966) and subsequent caucus groups for conservative advocacy in The United Methodist Church. In Keysor’s response to the 1972 General Conference, he denigrated the theologies created by ethnic identities and women unlike straight white American men like himself:
“women’s theology, liberation theology, black theology, Third World theology, theologies of human rights…the primary accent is upon man’s ideas and problems instead of God’s truth.”
Keysor’s opposition to such contextual theology developed into his catchphrase: minority mania. In a 1974 editorial, Keysor lays out his opposition to minority groups doing theology informed by their identity:
“One of the most common forms of humanism is minority mania–the preoccupation by the church with minorities which represent only a small fraction of the whole membership…this variety of humanism replaces God as the primary object of love and concern with “sexist” obsession and “racist” obsession over being white, black, yellow, red, or brown-skinned.
The opposition to “minority mania” continues from 1974 to today as the IRD and other supporting organizations of the Wesleyan Covenant Association regularly criticize feminist, Latino and black liberation, queer, and other theologies that speak about God out of their ethnicity, gender, and identity. While some ethnic minorities and women are part of the WCA today, the WCA’s existence is built on suspicion of those who do theology from those identities.
If you’ve wondered why conservative evangelicals are so against the local option or unity in diversity approaches, they have been fed a constant diet of hostility and suspicion of minority experiences of Christ. Charitably, they have little awareness this hostility originated from Keysor’s opposition to theologizing outside of the white male experience.
Sabotaging A Way Forward
Finally, as described earlier, efforts by precursors and supporters of the Wesleyan Covenant Association have stacked the deck against the bishops’ “A Way Forward” process receiving a fair hearing.
Years of manufacturing distrust and trafficking in outrage have planted seeds of distrust in the Episcopacy. Conservative Evangelicals, despite clergy trials of progressives for decades, believe the narrative that the bishops do not have their best interests at heart.
If “A Way Forward” fails, it is not because of the merits of the proposal, but because these powerful groups have seduced the Methodist Middle to oppose the best things for the UMC at every turn.
Confidence Men At Work
While the rest of United Methodism seeks A Way Forward, the Wesleyan Covenant Association is peddling A Way Out.
To brazenly assert “confidence in the future” is to pivot from any responsibility of the amount of dysfunction, disruption, defunding, and denigration of the episcopacy that the WCA and its precursors have been causing for decades.
But worst of all is, like any manufactured crisis, they will be able to create it again.
LGBTQ children will continue to be born to those WCA megachurch congregants. WCA’s loyal pastors will have changed hearts after personal experience with LGBTQ friends and congregants. You cannot insulate against the Holy Spirit, and you cannot keep LGBTQ persons standing outside the catechetical door.
The same cycle will start again for the WCA in the coming years. And those churches and clergy that thought they were escaping the crisis will instead realize too late they sold their buildings to the very creators of that crisis.
Confidence in the Future, indeed.
The best way out of this crisis is to remove the obstacles to full inclusion of LGBTQ persons in the life of the church by allowing marriage and ordination opportunities. That’s the only way to break this chain of beliefs and actions that have led us to this point. Any other direction keeps the crisis in our future, and places entire generations of money and property in the pockets of those peddling “Confidence.”
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