The editorial is titled, "Who Will Prevail in Minneapolis?" Then the entire editorial pretends that traditionalist leadership has always wanted a peaceful, respectful solution where everyone wins. As the title itself suggests, that simply is not fair or true. Here's why:
1. The entire editorial puts the word "centrist" in quotes. You know that putting something in quotes is a literary way to discount it. It means; "They call themselves centrists but we know they really aren't." Let me make this personal. In one of my last two appointments, the knock on me before I arrived was that I was too conservative. In another appointment the knock was that I was too liberal. I think that qualifies as centrist. Rev. Renfroe has boiled all theology down to one question. Do you approve of same-sex marriage and ordination? My answer is yes. And I also can say the creeds of the church without crossing my fingers behind my back. And I know many pastors and laity who can say that exact same thing. Renfroe must make this about progressives and traditionalists. In the real world there are many variations in-between.
2. Renfroe claims he and other traditionalist leaders want "a solution that has no winners or losers." I don't believe him. In fact, as I and others have previously shared, in 2004 Good News published a document that explicitly says a disadvantage to traditionalists leaving the denomination intact is that " It also leaves the United Methodist denomination somewhat intact". I want to state that again.
Good News, which Renfroe claims wants no losers, published a strategy document that explicitly says progressives must lose. And, in fact, when you listen to traditionalist rhetoric it is easy to understand why. If those who favor full inclusion (progressives and many, many centrists) are truly distorting God's word and will then one can understand why they would want us to lose. We have previously been called false teachers by traditionalist leaders. Forgive me for finding it difficult to trust an organization that has called me and those who I agree with false teachers and our continuing existence as a denomination a disadvantage.
3. Renfroe asserts that centrists and progressives want "an abrasive and harmful fight they believe they can win." I can assure you that this is not the case. Most of us believed there were already appropriate ways for churches to withdraw from the denomination. Now it is clear that there must be a way for larger blocks of churches to form something new. No serious observer of our denomination will argue that there is a way forward where the entire denomination stays intact. It is not possible. The issue that remains is how we can best facilitate separation of those who must separate. The reason centrists and progressives believe that traditionalists are the ones who should separate is that they are the only group that has said they are willing to leave. This is why the centrist and progressive group UMC Next has a proposal that "provides a method for groups of churches to form new expression of Methodism." The door is open. We are willing to open it wider. And we will not call you false teacher or put your descriptors in quotes on the way out.
The Bottom Line
At the end of General Conference 2020 we will set the terms for the divorce. The traditionalist caucuses have consistently vilified centrists and progressives. We have consistently said that we really truly want to work together. They have refused. Because traditionalists have refused, the divorce must happen. A marriage cannot last if one party wants out. The remaining questions are 1) How many churches will choose to be United Methodist and how many will choose otherwise and 2) How will we divide the assets. UMC Next, the Indianapolis Plan, and other proposals all have different models to answer these questions. Don't let Renfroe or anyone else distract you from the reality.