Wednesday, April 9, 2014

What the UM debate is NOT about

The latest news on the United Methodist Church's future is that 'conservatives" are threatening "withholding funding from the church, advocacy with the Council of Bishops for greater enforcement of the Book of Discipline,  and the possibility of creating a proposal for the division of the United Methodist Church into two denominations." Given the number of pastors who are now violating or threatening to violate the Book of Discipline I can't entirely blame them. But the reasoning is completely disingenuous.

The same article that reports the conversation among conservatives also quotes one, Charles Kyker, as saying, "We believe that the Bible is God’s word – inspired by the Holy Spirit in its entirety and authoritative for determining what is spiritually and morally true.  Many progressives see the Scriptures very differently, so much so that they accept some parts as coming from God and dismiss other parts as being uninspired – even flat out wrong," Yet this is not what the argument is about at all..

If the Bible is not authoritative to progressives then why do we continue to quote it in support of a pro LGBT position?
If the Bible is not authoritative to progressives then why do we quote theologians who reflect on it?
If the Bible is not authoritative then why do progressive pastors still use Scripture in every worship service before preaching?

Of course the Bible is authoritative! And it is authoritative only because it is inspired by the Holy Spirit! If the issue was the authority of Scripture then the argument would be over holding to our Doctrinal Standards, specifically Article IV of The Confession of Faith of the Evangelical United Brethren Church.

If the problem is really about the authority of Scripture then conservatives would be proposing resolutions that speak to the authority of Scripture. But that's not the problem.

The problem is that we disagree about what Scripture really intends to say. It's really that simple. But it is so much easier to simply dismiss progressives as saying that they don't believe in the Bible and conservatives as fundamentalists who don't use your brain.

We are engaging in a futile case of talking right past each other.

Article IV says, "We believe the Holy Bible, Old and New Testaments, reveals the Word of God so far as it is necessary for our salvation. It is to be received through the Holy Spirit as the true rule and guide for faith and practice. Whatever is not revealed in or established by the Holy Scriptures is not to be made an article of faith nor is it to be taught as essential to salvation." If the conservative wing wants to hold all pastors to accountability for this passage I'm on board. Then we can talk about what God intends to reveal and establish about sexuality and, hopefully, agree that even if we disagree on what God is revealing we can agree that our opinion on sexuality is not essential to salvation.