By Chuck Griffin
Chair, Holston WCA
First of Three Parts.
A split in our denomination is a near certainty. I know, I know, it’s hard to get our heads around this idea—so many have so much invested in the existence of the United Methodist Church.
But until all in the Holston Conference accept where we are likely headed, we are stuck in a painful place. When I say “all,” I mean all the types of disunited Methodists in our conference—progressive, centrist, traditional, or whatever other types there might be.
The crux of our denomination’s argument is how to understand God’s will via Scripture, and this disagreement is the typical dividing line between denominations. In the grand history of the universal church, the United Methodist Church’s half-century experiment in theological pluralism has been a strange one, and it has failed. If you disagree with me, please, try to imagine for a few minutes where the middle ground lies.
Once we accept the likely truth of the coming split in the UMC, we can move beyond the painful place toward something new. Paul needs to go one way, Barnabas needs to go another, and in time we’ll see whose work is effective for the kingdom.
If you haven’t read Dr. Spencer Johnson’s “Who Moved My Cheese,” go find a copy now. Change happens, and it is wise to adapt. Change is like a large wave coming at you while you stand waist-deep in the surf. You can ride the wave, you can dive into the wave, or you can turn your back on the wave and let it smack you in the head. Please, let’s not allow the wave to smack us in our heads.
I’m going to offer a new concept to guide us. Leading up to General Conference 2019, we heard a lot about “unity.” This vaporous talking point begged the question, “Unity around what?” And of course, unity dissipated rapidly once General Conference 2019 began.
A better concept is “mutual care,” which is much easier to understand and live out in our present circumstances. This is the kind of care loving people show one another when they realize with great sadness they can no longer be together. Divorce is never a good thing, but we’ve all seen how some divorces go better than others.
The concept of mutual care should guide us as we take practical action within our conference. If we adjust our way of thinking now, we will be much better prepared for what is to come, be it a well-negotiated separation at General Conference 2020 or a walkout by one group or another.
Next: Using Mutual Care to Prepare