Toward Mutual Care, Pt. 1

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.

  • Where there is mutual care, the separating parties figure out how to divide what they have shared equitably, so each has a fair chance at a new start.
  • Where there is mutual care, the parties try to avoid provoking each other during the difficult time of separation.
  • Where there is mutual care, the people with power show special concern for the powerless, the ones who may be most seriously impacted by the divide.

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

3 Comments on “Toward Mutual Care, Pt. 1

  1. Mutual care is a challenging idea for me. I must care for those I will be leaving behind. God wants me to love in this way. Can I do it? With God all things are possible.

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  2. Excellent, Chuck. I hope and pray that mutual concern for all will be the rule at GC2020. Division will be painful and scary, but I really don’t see any other realistic option. I am very concerned that there will be a large number of people who will be disillusioned and leave church altogether.

    On the other hand, being a part of a group That shares a passion for living the Gospel and winning the lost to Jesus is tremendously exciting! Surely such a group can win back many of the drop outs. I am praying hard that we become another Weslyan revival!

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  3. Thank you for sharing another way we can frame this in a constructive manner.

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