By Chuck Griffin
Holston WCA Chair
As I continue to reflect on the Wesleyan Covenant Association’s Global Legislative Assembly, I feel the need to address the issue of anger.
We don’t usually like to admit we’re angry, but it’s a common-enough emotion where there is ongoing conflict. We as orthodox United Methodists particularly don’t like to admit to our anger, knowing progressives have used any flashes of anger they observe to label us as irrational and homophobic, as “haters.”
Please let me emphasize that the WCA’s Legislative Assembly was a calm, thoughtful event. At my table, however, a few of us did note how from time to time a speaker on the floor would vent, voice rising a little. The moment always passed quickly—after all, it was a friendly, supportive environment where the love and peace of Christ reigned—but you could see someone was hurting.
So, why do we sometimes feel angry? Obviously, answers are going to vary, but I’m going to draw on my own experience to explore that question.
In our current UMC dilemma, my own emotional response has nothing to do with homosexuals per se. I never remember a time in my life where I felt angry at or fearful of people with same-sex attraction. I certainly had to grow in spiritual wisdom and maturity to understand the difficulties they face. But anger about them—well, it just wasn’t there.
I have come to realize that any negative emotions I feel are rooted in a sense that I was either naive or misled when I entered this denomination as a young adult. United Methodists, some in key leadership roles, have been using important words in very different ways from the historic Methodist norm. In particular, it’s astonishing to me that people can define “Scripture” so differently.
Some of us find it critically important that Scripture be treated as authoritative. We are not strange people for thinking this way. In fact, we are very much like the vast majority of Christians through the centuries, and we certainly think as our Methodist forebears thought.
We see the Bible as a powerful revelation of God’s will. Certainly, this collection of books and letters has been transmitted through people, but these people were inspired by the Holy Spirit, as were the people who came along later and established the Christian canon. When we see the Bible revealing clear universal principles—for example, when Paul in Romans 1 links a long list of sinful behaviors to the onset of idolatry—we have a hard time denying these words are true.
What shocks us is that others within the UMC find the Bible to be far less important. These people are often easy to identify; read them something from Romans or another of Paul’s epistles, and you’ll get the reply, “Yeah, but that’s just Paul.” As if the Holy Spirit were not involved in what Paul wrote—as if we each have been invited to construct individual canons.
Perhaps anger is the wrong word for what we feel rising in our orthodox hearts from time to time. Or perhaps anger is not the initial emotion. Anger has a close relative called frustration. Frustration arises when we are not heard or understood. It is inflamed when we feel something ancient and holy is being ripped from us.
Thanks to the WCA, those of us who see the Holy Bible as an authoritative, God-inspired revelation now have leaders listening to us and speaking from a traditional Methodist viewpoint. This also means we can move on to better emotions.
Next: The Antidote to Anger