GC2016 was not a “takeover” but rather exposed the continued governing disfunction of decades of conservative control.
Anger? Or Pity?
It happened first in the receiving line at my local church.
It was the first Sunday after General Conference of The United Methodist Church had ended in my host city of Portland, Oregon. I preached the sermon (adapted for popular reading here). In the receiving line, there were the usual conversations. I welcomed visitors–30 missionaries visited that day–and took a selfie with someone I knew on social media and finally met in real life.
But then there was the gentleman in the hat.
He walked up to me, looked me in the eye and said “You’re angry.” Discerning a stock answer would not satisfy, I said “It’s more pity than anger.” The wrinkles in his face reconstituted into a smirk. “Yes, it is, isn’t it? Who would want this racehorse now that’s he’s been wounded?”
He walked on, and I did the rest of the conversations on auto-pilot, my mind swirling over what he had said. And me: why did I say I pitied the Church?
Turning the Tide or More of the Same?
I do pity the people who believe the story they’ve been told.
After General Conference, blog after blog after tweet after tweet declared the winners and losers in post-GC United Methodism. They all had a common theme: the conservatives had won. We had been forced out of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. We did not divest from Palestine or Fossil Fuels. We did not loosen LGBTQ restrictions. All the caucus group fundraising appeals pointed to these victories and celebrated like Red Sox fans after they beat the dang Yankees.
I’m not good with sports metaphors. But the reason why the Red Sox celebrate is because the Yankees are the better-funded baseball team, and beating them is an underdog David v. Goliath victory.
However, that’s just not the case in The United Methodist Church. Since the 1980s, The UMC has consistently become more conservative in polity and practice:
In 1988, the General Conference successfully removed pluralism as an official tenant of our faith, declared scripture to be primary, and re-wrote the theological task section of the BoD (which made it more in line with evangelical thought)…In the past 40 years, we have seen the emergence of Good News, the Confessing Movement, the Mission Society, Bristol House Books, Renew, the IRD and UMAction, Transforming congregations AND Lifewatch.
Simply put, counter to the narrative of evangelical oppression in the UMC over the last 40 years that has finally found victory, what we actually see is continual ownership. The church has not overthrown its progressive overlords at last–no, this is more of the same.
I’m not sure what they were expecting when progressives have been and continue to be a minority perspective within United Methodism. Progressives knew the likely outcome–how is this a surprise to the majority culture?
Spoils of War
The reality is that what those more conservative in United Methodism achieved was making The United Methodist Church even more ungovernable than it already was.
- The Bishop’s Commision exposed that General Conference, which handled hot topics of abortion, segregation, and female clergy in our past, is unable to handle the homosexuality discussion. General Conference is now a shallow version of its old self that cannot handle hot topics anymore.
- The passage of a petition requiring all approved General Conference petitions to receive a vote means that General Conference must determine how to give floor time to more than the 1400 petitions in 2016…at 5 minutes per petition, that’s 112 hours or three times the 2012/2016 floor vote allocations (minute 35 in this video). That’s absolutely unworkable–and will be either hugely expensive for overtime, or result in bulk approval/disapproval of petitions not on their merits at the last minute.
- The Episcopal Fund runs at a massive deficit and will run out on their watch (especially after 2020 with 5 new Central Conference bishops), rendering our ability to pay for Bishops to be very difficult. The necessary rule changes to the Constitution will be a hard sell to cash-strapped local churches.
- The General Agencies have cut their budgets (and effectiveness) time and time again–and GC narrowly avoided re-allocating another $20m away from them to a slush fund. This is a tactic of Republicans in American politics: defund a government agency, render it ineffective, and then sell it off–and it almost worked this time.
As you can see, both the legislative and executive branches of United Methodism have become more ineffective and toothless under decades of conservative control. Like in American politics over the same time frame, conservatives are able to protest but not to govern–even when they are in the majority.
The question remains whether the majority is ready to claim responsibility. Conservative Evangelicals are quick to point to the errors of The UMC, and have done well the past 30 years of pointing fingers and railing against the institution. But this General Conference confirms that narrative is not true: Methodism has been a majority Conservative church, and Progressives are in the minority at every level of the Church.
There’s no one left to point fingers at.
A Pyrrhic Victory
When I meet conservative Methodists who honestly believe they have saved the Church, I admit I do look at them with pity–pity at the way how they’ve been had:
- Due to their support of the anti-LGBTQ culture war, their prized denomination has been drained of both progressive and staunch conservative voices who have left The UMC, rendering it less effective and less adaptable than the generations that gave it to them. Is that really the church they want to hand to the next generation?
- They have placed is a huge systemic problem that 42% of our delegates to General Conference vote on language that is binding to USA Methodism but is mostly optional for everyone else. United Methodism outside the USA can simply rewrite, nullify, or add to their own Books of Discipline, of which about 81% (by my estimate) can be edited by Central Conferences without American approval. For example, if General Conference removed LGBTQ-related items from the chargeable offenses, the central conferences could simply put them back in–but Americans would not vote on that action. Is that really how they want the church to operate?
- Due to their decades of lack of support for UMC-related institutions of higher learning, they have a Church where 47% of delegates don’t believe in grace for all, 28% oppose evolutionary teachings, and 25% favor removing “transforming the world” from the mission statement. Is this the Wesleyan theologically educated church they want?
- This church couldn’t raise $75m for Imagine No Malaria in four years, which is $11 per USA Methodist member or $2,300 per USA Methodist church. The fundraising failure for a global humanitarian, well-advertised effort indicates the well of generosity (not to mention care for “overseas” concerns) is dried up. Is this the generous church they want?
I believe Conservatives thought they would be saving the church by voting in lockstep with those caucus groups dedicated to keeping LGBTQ Inclusion from the UMC.
They’ve been had, because what these caucus groups have wanted all along was to dismantle The UMC as they know it and reform it in their image. Even at this General Conference where they were in the majority in every aspect, the same caucus groups still want to be able to split away and take as many churches with them, recognizing their prize racehorse is not worth it to them anymore.
A Turning Point?
“The Christians that Wesley envisioned can still be found here, but the denomination itself is more reflective of the violently exclusive church Wesley tried to fix in his day.”
Jarell Wilson, recent Seminary graduate
I am a member of the progressive minority in The United Methodist Church. And I still want this Church. This broken, battered, dinosaur of a Church that denies full participation by its members, disempowers women, and has legislated itself into an ungovernable corner…I still want this Church to be the best example of God’s kingdom here on Earth.
- My hope is the people crowing over the “conservative takeover” claim responsibility and govern in ways that lead to growth and justice.
- My fear is that they will continue to siphon funds and scapegoat minorities until there is no one left in the Church except pictures on the walls of the previous successful generations who governed with grace and mercy.
And either way, progressives will still be here, working for, tithing to, and still living out Wesleyan Methodism. I just hope it isn’t too late when the conservative majority realizes they need a left and right wing to fly.
It is the intransigence of progressive Methodist’s that has brought us to this point. I’m sorry that you want to lay everything on conservatism but you are wrong theological and you are wrong according to the book of discipline. My suggestion is that we Embrace Schism for a Time because we can’t work this out. The conservatives have the Bible as primary and by your own admission and your blog here you don’t hold it as primary. This is a fundamental division theologically. And quite frankly I do not see how we can remain together when both sides are saying my way is right. I hear the anger in your blog toward those who disagree with you. What are you going to do when you find out they have some points there right on? Do you compromise then or do you tell God that God is wrong? You speak with a smug absurdity that has caused the problems in this country from the left and it needs to end. You lost this round and it’s time you accept that. I was a Methodist Pastor in a conference where progressivism was the only way to be ordained hand you do not know the pain of being repressed because you cannot take a stand on some issues just for human convenience.
But what if the Discipline is wrong?
The old ways are taught by Jesus, spoken by God and thousands of years old. Why change them? Just because they are not liked? If these things are not liked that person should spend some time praying and studying scripture.
Scott (whoever Scott is, without a sir name), you were too busy blaming someone, who does not meet you acceptance, while, I think, ignoring what Mr. Smith has observed and described. Your dismissal of anyone, or their experiences, not meeting your opinion, is a prime example of what he is addressing. Your unwillingness to consider any possibility that you could be “wrong”, or more importantly, that any different valid experience or understanding can be possible.
The Bible us not God. Your response indicates the a difference in reading and understanding the Bible is a theological problem. You are flatly wrong in this regard.
In no way can you say that Charles or John Wesley would have had the understanding that you post here.
This proves that our blogger has actually pegged the problems, and that you are oblivious to them.
Wow! The pot is calling the kettle black regarding anger. Quite often people become angry when they are called out. The Conservative faction HAS taken over and has distorted Methodist teachings. Sorry, but this is not the church I thought I was joining. I left the Baptist denomination long ago, but the UMC has become a carbon copy. I will find a Reconciling church and leave the SBC clone church to you. Pity indeed!
Amen. The Bible isn’t wrong, just the progressives.
Let’s divide the UMC into Central Conferences and offer more leadership and resources to the World Methodist Council. The WMC should be the international denomination the UMC has pretended to be.
Keith A. Jenkins
JOQ, thank you. I’ve been saying that for years, but have not been able to get anyone to listen. Except I take it even farther. I would prefer autonomous national and/or regional denominations, entire unto themselves, working separately in their own mission contexts and working together through the World Methodist Council for shared mission interests around the world. We should have learned by watching what our Episcopal brothers and sisters went through.
I posted a link to this piece on my blog.
Dr. Tony Mitchell
The General Conference has been entirely able to deal with issues related to sexual behavior and was on pace to do so again this year. Just because the result isn’t something you personally like doesn’t mean it hasn’t been dealt with.
Keith A. Jenkins
I wish people would be brave and candid enough to identify themselves fully in these comments. I wouldn’t want anyone thinking this “Keith” is me.
*shrug* Keith (the other Keith) is many things, but he is candid and could be considered brave, even as we argue incessantly. I don’t fault people for how they want to identify themselves, including pseudonyms.
The best answer for mistaken identity is to use a consistent name and website. then folks know it is you!
From my perch in the bleachers at GC I observed the following:
+Some delegates were more concerned with winning votes than in winning souls.
+There is a fundamental lack of understanding in just what the Character of a Methodist is – maybe someone should preach a sermon about this.
+The contempt with which delegates heaped on those not agreeing with them was present in each and every action/activity of GC.
+Too many delegates did not pay attention, that is, use the translation devices available.
+The failure to have a GC worship service on the Day of Pentecost was, in my humble opinion, a serious failure on the part of the GC planning folk.
+The Holy Spirit was painfully absent from the work of GC.
+Why is the Quadralateral not used in the work of GC?
+The social gospel preached by liberals is weakened by a naive understanding of the institution.
+The conservatives will not accept any responsibility for the state of the denomination but continue to look for straw men/scapegoats to blame for anything they can think of.
+Robert’s Rules of Order, oh, my!
Jeremy, I appreciate your perspective, but you are wrong on a whole bunch of things! In terms of the overall narrative, it is wrong to say that conservatives control the denomination. The better analogy would be divided government. Conservatives have controlled the legislative branch of General Conference. At times, we have also had a majority of the Judicial Council. But at least since 1996, the progressives have controlled the Council of Bishops. Today, I can say with confidence that there are only about 8-10 annual conferences that are presided over by a conservative bishop. Whole swaths of the church in the Northeast, North Central, and West have not seen a conservative bishop in 30 years or more. In the annual conferences is where the rubber meets the road, and there in many places progressives or left-leaning centrists have been in control for many years.
The Bishops’ Commission was not a conservative idea. It was a centrist idea. Conservatives actually spoke out against delaying votes on human sexuality. But centrists didn’t want to vote because they were afraid the outcome would be too divisive either way. Progressives didn’t want to vote because they believed they would lose. The idea of the Commission and the deferral of votes actually lost the first time it was voted on (Hamilton motion), but was approved on the Howard motion, which some have told us they were confused about what they were supporting. We did not want the delay in voting (although we like the idea of a commission).
You paint a doomsday scenario in terms of dealing with petitions. Before 2008, we did deal with all the petitions. First of all, there were less than 1,100 petitions this time, not 1,400. The new rule mandates that all of them receive a vote in legislative committee, not in the plenary session. Many similar petitions are grouped together in committee and rejected in favor of the one petition that the committee chooses to work on, so I believe this requirement is doable. The new rule only requires that every petition approved in committee shall receive a vote in the plenary session. Most petitions are passed on the consent calendar. This leaves only the more controversial ones to be dealt with in plenary. Besides the sexuality petitions that were deferred, I think there may have been about 50 petitions that were not acted on in this General Conference. Some of them did not receive a positive vote in committee and could therefore be left until last. Given that much of our time was taken up by parliamentary confusion and fighting over the rules, if we can get that cleared up it is not unreasonable to think that we can deal with the 50 extra petitions.
Regarding the Episcopal Fund, the General Conference adopted the budget amount that GCFA proposed. Conservatives did not try to cut that amount. I don’t see how this situation is the fault of conservatives.
Similarly, the channeling of $20 million into a church revitalization strategy was not a conservative initiative. We did not take a position on that proposal, nor did we promote it. It was basically a Don House proposal. The general agencies (another area of progressive control) have become so resistant to reform that many conservatives do believe the only way to bring about change is to reduce the budgets of those agencies. However, it is also true that funding reductions are also justified by the reduction of the funding base (namely, U.S. membership). We are reaching a point where the funding of our structure is becoming unsustainable with the membership we currently have. (This is one place where we agree with Don House’s analysis.)
The short summary is that conservatives have never been in a position to govern the church since 1968. The goal of the Renewal and Reform Coalition has always been to promote an evangelical, orthodox, Wesleyan perspective and to restore accountability to what our church says we believe. When the whole Western Jurisdiction votes nearly unanimously to ignore the Discipline, followed by a similar approach by the Northeastern Jurisdiction, I don’t think you can fairly claim that conservatives control those areas.
The real question our church faces is, given our irreconcilable differences, how can we continue to live together in one body?
Tom, there’s a lot to hit on here, and Mon/Tues are my heavy ministry days, so I’ll reply tomorrow. Thanks for your comment.
I think, Tom Lambrecht, you need to qualify who the “we” is you keep referring to, as in, “We did not take a position on that proposal.” Do you claim to speak for all conservatives and their organizations?
I’m not Methodist clergy, but for my own reasons have had occasion to have to study the BoD in some depth. I don’t claim to be any sort of expert, but Bishops do not have that much authority. They may can influence to some extent, but from a “legal” perspective, their power is limited. On top of that, I find that most do all they can to provide the least amount of leadership they can get by with, whether they be conservative or progressive.
And, you admit conservatives would prefer to defund church agencies if they don’t conform precisely to your beliefs, and like it or not, you’ve been able to do so.
I don’t know many conservatives who are celebrating, and I know a lot of conservatives. Doesn’t much matter who is making the rules if nobody will enforce them.
Jeremy, there is one rather glaring error in your post. Every single one of the examples you give of conservatives being in “control” in the past 40 years are organizations created to get *around* dysfunction in the official organs of the UMC. You’ve bemoaned each of them in turn on your blog for not playing fair. They are certainly influential in many ways, but these alternative organizations are not in “control” in any way.
I repeat, these alternative organizations you cite are not in control in any way. Who is in control? Bishops. Conference officials. General agency staff. News agencies. The people who make the actual decisions and the people who control the narrative in the general church.
Your assertion of conservative *control* simply does not compute. It makes no sense, at least not as a description of the past and present. Each of those groups was formed precisely because those of evangelical theology and traditional convictions have *not* been in control of our official denominational organs for generations.
Now, on the other hand, you are mostly correct when you say the following: “Since the 1980s, The UMC has consistently become more conservative in polity and practice.” You’re right about the polity and doctrine. Not sure about the practice, it’s a mixed bag, but I think basically you’re right.
There has been a discernable shift to the right over several GCs, but only at *this* General Conference did conservatives even *begin* to get anything like “control.” And that’s what makes some liberals so hopping mad. This real but partial control includes (from my limited understanding and information on what took place) majority influence on the Judicial Council, the Commission on General Conference, and the church portion of the University Senate. And it apparently included most chairships of most important committees at GC 2016. But this was new. This was unprecedented. Which is why some liberals were so mad and some conservatives were starting to celebrate.
But then when the body voted to defer all legislation on sexuality for the bishops to appoint a special committee and bring it back later it put us all back in stasis. Very few on either side are actually celebrating right now. Everyone is anxious. No one knows what will really happen. The General Conference may indeed continue to become more and more conservative, but what will that really do? I don’t think you have to worry about the US colleges of bishops becoming more conservative.
So all in all, we have the body who theoretically make the rules becoming more conservative; we have the group of leaders who theoretically uphold the rules who are just as liberal as ever (with a few exceptions), and yet not nearly liberal enough for those who want the rules to be optional or completely different.
I would agree with you in calling that mess “ungovernable,” but I wouldn’t lay blame on one particular side for that ungovernable-ness. It just is what it is, each acting according to their own convictions. Some operate with integrity and love; some don’t; some have different definitions of integrity and love and covenant and higher authority. We can lob accusations across the aisles all we want. But even if everyone were completely loving, upright, and honest, we would still have major problems, because different parts of the ship are sailing in different directions – the “life continuing in a patchwork fashion” you mentioned in your sermon.
James, there’s a lot to hit on here, and Mon/Tues are my heavy ministry days, so I’ll reply tomorrow. Thanks for your comment.
So I left a reply but evidently you only post those that agree with you.
Hi JM, I don’t censor comments except in extreme circumstances. I checked the spam filter and I don’t see anything from you. Sorry, but looks like you’ll have to add it again–and if you included a ton of links, that may be what caused it to be rejected.
I don’t think there is censorship on this site, and particularly not just for disagreeing with the author.
The enemy hates clarity
Thanks TEHC. Blessings.
All one has to do is attend a United Methodist Church and tabulate the average age of those present. Our future is obvious. It doesn’t matter conservative and judgmental or compassionate and spiritually mature leadership–there is little reason for laity loyalty except to those with whom one worships and serves. Change is life. Christful humans don’t need institutions to live through their lives. Love is what works. Less than that from leadership seals their doom. I have told my LGBT friends it will fall of its own weight.
Conservatives like to point to more conservative churches and denominations as the ones growing, and they are correct, although that growth is leveling out. The problem is, that is being driven by demographics, and the demographics do not bode well for the conservatives.
As the church continues to grapple with cultural issues, young people are leaving. This we know from study after study. Older people tend to be more conservative (that is just a statistical trend, and I know it does not apply to every individual), and they become disillusioned with the struggle and the attempts to move the church in a progressive direction. So they leave and find a home in a more conservative church, whether Methodist or another denomination.
When you realize that, you realize the conservative growth spurt has an expiration date, since it is comprised of typically older adults. Whether the UMC will be able to change (which I personally doubt) in time to bring young people back remains to be seen. They may just stay away from religion, or find another more progressive religion later in life, but the future is there.
You make me feel less ad about my church’s severe underpayment of our apportionments.
Pharisees and Sadducees. Like Helen, I fled the Baptist church, as It stood on cold dead words casting stones and devoid of a spirit-filled heart. The only joy left for them is the fleeting glee of feeling superior and right. Love has left the building!
Dr. Jeffrey Staley (PhD New Testament)
I love the fact that you have a photo of Dennis Oppenheim’s controversial “churchy” sculpture–which has finally found a home in Calgary, AB. I visited the sculpture there in 2009, and lay underneath it, making it look like I had been impaled by the steeple (I have a photo of me in that position). After visiting the sculpture, I wrote the following poem (a haiga–an extended haiku-structure), that goes rather nicely with your blog post, I think.
ON THE POWER OF NAMING THINGS
Oppenheim calls it
“Device to Root Out Evil.”
And though his first thought
was to name it “Church,”
a controversy broke out,
leaving him to find
it a new name and
a new home—in Canada.
An unfinished, broke-
back, blown-out, stuck-in-
the-dirt inverted hier-
archy where people
either have to hang
on to stay in, or let go
and fall to the ground,
is the point, I think.
It is not about evil.
if meant in iron
y—that first, gust-holey name
fits just perfectly.
I am filled with pity as well. Pity for those who cling to the notion that they must belong to an institution only interested in their financial support while rejecting their sacred worth. Pity for those who have devoted their lives to an organization bent on judgement and condemnation. Reading the responses above, I am reminded of the words of a retired UMC elder, who painted a very clear picture of the church, and specifically the UMC, as an illustration of institutionalized narcissistic personality disorder. After that discussion, my wife and I chose to take our $20K per year financial gifts, our service, and our presence out into the world to directly impact those in need. The institution that formed our souls and our compassion is dead. All that is left is a toxic pool of politics and personality cults.
Jeremy, I know there are many who believe as you do, and I thank you for your faithful courage. I wish you peace.
Jeremy, you have invested a lot of thought in this analysis. I believe the foundational premise is incorrect, so it calls the rest of your findings into question.
The basic belief that the ungovernable mess called the UMC is caused by a conservative majority is certifiably false. While the majority of those in the pews are still leaning to the right, those who have been in control of the denomination have been left of center my entire career as a UM elder. The truth is that of the votes of GC had been taken by clergy alone, we would have slid in the progressive direction decades ago.
Since our founding in 1968 the left has held firm control of the seminaries, the Council of Bishops, the general boards and agencies, the UMW, the publishing arms of the church, and the committees that set the agenda for General Conference. (I’ve attended since ’96 and have watched the left play the system like a well tuned violin. Bog the proceedings down with inconsequential motions and amendments until the clock runs out, keep legislation they don’t want to deal with off the floor and push through massive amounts of legislations on a consent calendar.) Having the conservative majority riding in the back of a bus driven by left leaning agenda-driven chauffeurs is hardly reason to blame the passengers for the direction of the vehicle. I’m not sure how you came up with the thesis that the conservatives were in the drivers seat. Because this thesis is incorrect, it calls the rest of your analysis into serious question.
I was a pastoral candidate in the PNW conference and made it all the way up to sitting before the DCOM. There, I was asked my stance on the scriptures, and when I answered that I believe the bible to be the inspired, inerrant, infallible word of God my candidacy was put on hold and I was told to “Think that through for a time”. So I did, met back with the committee, they held their ground and told me I was wrong, so I withdrew my candidacy.
The battle is for the Bible. Period. One side holds God’s word to be true, the other says there are errors or flexibility. The whole conservative versus progressive labels are garbage. Its people that take God at His word and believe it to be true and people that don’t and put self before submission to God’s Word. Say I’m wrong in whatever way you want, say that I’m narrow minded, but that is flat out the case. So all need to make that choice. Do you submit to God’s Word as authoritative or not? I do, which is why I have not only withdrew my candidacy, but in the years to come I will be withdrawing my membership from the UMC. I have been called to preach the Word to God’s people here in the Pacific Northwest, and though I could do that within the denomination in another part of the country, up here I wouldn’t be allowed to hold to 2000 years of traditional biblical Christian teaching. That is why I will eventually make my way out of the denomination I’ve been a part of for my whole life of 34 years. Identifying myself as a Methodist is stupid, we are called Christians because we follow Christ, we are in Christ, and by the power of the Holy Spirit through His word are being conformed to Christ. All for His glory and all for our joy in Him alone.
Jeremy you are such a thoughtful, compassionate person. I enjoyed reading your analysis of the current UMC stance. I do however, hope you begin to see your ministry’s future beyond the boundaries of the institution. I left the church 15 years ago and it was the right choice for me. The Church is preparing for its burial, as it is already dead. Your gifts are plentiful. Share them with the world. Peace does exist.
The reality is the United Methodist Church has become what John Wesley feared Methodism would become: the form of religion without the power! And if you think Wesley intended for Methodism to be about theological plurality, then you have not made a careful reading of his sermons, especially “The Catholic Spirit”. What I have realized is the UMC has lost an understanding of the second half of his sermon on the catholic spirit which is where he describes the person of the truly catholic spirit. I have been a life-long Methodist/United Methodist, supporting the church to the best of my abilities. I reached a point in my life that I became so lost and confused I had to distance myself from it; that is when I learned what all the Methodist/United Methodist Church had not taught me about basic orthodox Christianity. Here’s the news flash: a robust understanding of basic orthodox Christianity has not been present in The UMC for a very long time; it has absolutely nothing in common with modern fundamentalism that every body is so desperate to distance themselves from. In its absence all sorts of understandings have taken root. Face up to the reality that as a denomination, The United Methodist Church is a lost and confused church that no longer has any unique contribution to make to the Christian landscape beyond some insane desire for unity for unity’s sake! To be unified there has to be some common ground of belief/understanding. By my own assessment after a significant amount of time monitoring a myriad of voices from around the church, there is absolutely no belief in common about anything; not about who God is, not about who we are in relation, not about the role of the Bible in our lives, and most certainly not about the role General Conference plays in the life of the church! There is absolutely no common ground for unity and therefore no common ground for survival! It’s all grand and good to talk about we all believe in God and Jesus, but when there is absolutely no consensus as to what that means for our lives individually and collectively, there is absolutely no basis for unity! We are no longer United. We are most definitely no longer truly Methodist in practice except for our supposed “connectionalism”. So that leaves us with the word Church–and that pretty well describes us: a generic church that believes nothing in particular beyond a general and vague understanding about God and somehow Jesus saved us from something! Wake up to the reality of what is really going on here! Where the UMC is coming truly unwound is in the pew because individuals are walking out the door. My long time relationship with the Methodist/United Church is currently strained because I found that its theological plurality that enables it to teach nothing in particular created a very toxic atmosphere that left me broken and lost!