Friday, April 15, 2016

Pax Methodos

Pax Methodos. It means something like "Methodical Peace" but it's the closest I could come to a Latin phrase for "Methodist Peace." It's supposed to remind you of Pax Romana, the roughly 200 year period of relative peace in the Roman Empire from roughly 27 BC to 180 AD. The peace came with a catch. The Roman Peace only existed because in the rare case when there was an uprising, all offending parties were wiped out. Like Jesus, for example. 

This is the kind of peace in the United Methodist Church that Good News and their allies are advocating for. In the latest issue of the magazine Thomas Lambrecht writes, "Our only hope to stay united as a church is to restore the integrity and accountability of our covenant. That is why our coalition will be advocating for proposals like the following:..." Nine proposals follow that make Good News' plan very clear. There will be peace. There will be unity. Because if you won't fall in line you will be removed.

Good News is advocating for such a centralization of power that for the first time ever, and only in the case of performing same sex weddings, there would be a Church-wide mandatory sentencing policy including defrocking after a second offense. We don't even have language like that for child abuse.

Good News is advocating for a litmus test for any counsel for the church in a trial. 

They are advocating for even stricter language on what it means to be a "self-avowed practicing homosexual" (because 40 years of tightening their grip isn't enough?)

They are encouraging pastors who disagree to leave the church by proposing language that simply reiterates what is already true - that a pastor can leave the denomination with their pension intact.

Just listen to the litany of the first word used to describe each of the nine proposals "Requiring...Requiring...Revise...Impose...Requiring...Allowing...Broadening...Adding...Requiring..." Don't we have enough requirements and impositions in our Book of Discipline already?

A Movement, as Good News often reminds us that our church is supposed to be, does not require enforcement of precise rules from a centralized authority who know better than us. Isn't that the same thing that in the secular world we have discovered about Washington D.C.? Good News is attempting to replace the institutionalism of our General Boards and Agencies with a theological institutionalism that dictates to Annual Conferences and pastors rights that have always belonged to them.

As General Conference approaches I encourage my fellow delegates to reject this new institutionalism. Reject the idea that a 60-40 vote of 846 people can speak God's definitive word for the entire connection. Instead, accept the long-standing principle that the annual conference is the best place to make decisions on matters of ordination and property and that pastors have the authority to choose who to marry and not marry.

The first Christians rejected Pax Romana because the cost of that kind of peace was too high. So it is today for Pax Methodo. There cannot be true peace or true unity when it is forced from one group onto another.