I know this isn’t the only way to think about or approach our current methodist miasma or mitosis opportunity (again, depending on one’s point of view). I simply submit it as something to consider. Its how I am thinking these days.
What if a faithful way to carry out Wesley’s catholic-spirit dictum of “if we can’t think alike let us love alike” actually were graciously to separate organizationally: while remaining engaged in cooperative ministry where possible; while providing non-confusing space for God-honoring people-affirming safety as necessary for all kinds of strange and wonderful fellow-sinners wherever we are in our journeys; while remaining rooted in Jesus as best we can with all our hearts?
What if God’s intention in this season is not that we splinter or split, schismatize or break away or define the other that way; but that we cooperatively let a new branch grow on the ONE same tree bigger than us all, which tree existed WAY before any methodist discipline was ever penned? Which one would be the new branch: GMC or UMC? How about both?
What if taken together this is the newest expression of paradoxical, Holy Spirit-crazy, whodathunkit, John 17-Ephesians 4 unity God is wanting to unleash and offer the world through our little diminishing (at least in the USA) methodist subsection of the multifaceted, hilariously beautiful, Jesus-rooted, Jesus-redeemed ecclesia tree — which tree so transcends the paltry legal organization bound by the current UM Book of Discipline it isn’t even funny?
What if Jesus’ great commission isn’t best served or bound or defined within our main-line denominational continuity – but is shared with all Jesus-followers of every time and place, and is calling us beyond ourselves and outdated structures into something new? What if increasing the witness of a particular denomination in any given community for the sake of increasing the witness of that particular denomination — what if that is not the compelling mission for which Jesus died and rose again, and is only tangentially related, if at all, to the great commission?
What if Wesley never intended his catholic spirit and general rules to be verbal weapons with which we unfairly caricature, denigrate, and demean one another in the methodist family (while sounding quite piously loyal)?
Let those cast the first stone who have never stewarded their power (intentionally or unintentionally) in ways that harm others. Meanwhile, let all (UMCers, GMCers, or not MC at all) the rest of us women caught in adultery go and sin no more. Perhaps we may yet discover ourselves joining the Jesus who is already and still out there, finding and welcoming lost people to nest eternally in the safety of his color-vibrant, justice-rich, many-branched tree (Mark 4:30-32).
Rev. Dr. David B. Humphrey
Retired Elder, Peninsula-Delaware Conference, United Methodist Church