A United Methodist pastor in suburban Philadelphia receives a 30-day suspension for performing a same-gender wedding involving his son and now that the penalty has concluded is challenging the denomination to restore his credentials so he can continue advocacy against its policies.
A retired United Methodist bishop from California performs a same-gender wedding in Alabama, defying the request from the resident bishop to refrain from doing so.
A same-gender clergy couple marries in Seattle, and their District Superintendent officiates at the ceremony.
And people in the pews of the typical Methodist churches, in areas where Methodism has historically been the strongest (the South-Central and Southeastern Jurisdictions) are shaking their heads in bewilderment.
How in the world did so many among us travel so far left so quickly & so publicly?
From where does the resolve come not only to mutiny against the larger connection but to do so while claiming the mantle of victimhood?
Actually, the answer to that question, in Methodist terms, is relatively easy.
We’ve been funding our own subversion for years.
You read that correctly. We, the United Methodist Church, have been underwriting our own insurrection ever since 20th Century Protestant Liberalism became the theological norm 100 years ago.
We didn’t do it deliberately. We did it because we are “nice,” because we believe in academic freedom, because we typically choose grace over discipline. We did it because we’ve rarely been as protective of our doctrine as Jude is of his.
That’s why we have had professors at United Methodist seminaries who did not believe in Jesus’ bodily resurrection.
Don’t believe that Jesus rose from the dead? Come teach our pastors and we’ll pay your salary with the tithes and offerings of church people!
That’s why we’ve had agency staffers who’ve made public pronouncements at odds with the denomination’s official stand on abortion and same-sex intercourse.
Don’t believe what the collective wisdom of Methodist people says about when life begins? Come lead our agency and we’ll pay your salary with the tithes and offerings of church people!
That’s why pastors being examined for ordination can waffle on the Virgin Birth but can’t call God “Father.”
Don’t believe all of God was in Jesus? Come on and pastor our church and we’ll pay your salary with the tithes and offerings of church people as long as your benediction says ‘in the name of the Creator, Savior, and Spirit!’
So the Methodist news that to many of us has come with a shocking swiftness is really almost 100 years in the making.
Because what you tolerate today will dominate you tomorrow.
We’ve been pouring money into our own demise for a century now.
It’s time to stop.