Theatre of UMC ecclesiology
"The #UMC is united by the Book of Discipline. There's no need to pretend otherwise. Disregarding it is disregarding our unity. #cob2013"Context:
The United Methodist Church's Council of Bishops meets twice a year. Today is the last day of its second 2013 meeting. There has been a good deal of hubbub surrounding this particular Council of Bishops meeting, as retired Bishop Melvin Talbert , who had issued a call to Biblical obedience above Book of Discipline obedience, performed the same-sex wedding of United Methodists Bobby Prince and Joe Openshaw
* even when executive committee of the Council of Bishops asked him not to. This is a chargeable offense, and the Council of Bishops is the body to whom Bishops, retired and otherwise, are accountable. (I consider it Noticeable that lofty ones are in the UM system accountable only to lofty ones, so I Note it.)
There's been a good deal of conversation on Twitter about the situation, with those who like the ban on same-sex marriage rites in The UMC generally talking about Law and Accountability and Obedience, and rather less (and vaguely) about Scripture, and those who dislike it typically talking about Being Prophetic. There have been calls for more rebuking, I think pretty much just by opponents of UMC involvement in same-sex marriage, but I didn't check everyone out.Me:
I am shocked by the notion that The UMC is united by The Book of Discipline, period. Which by the way is revised quadrennially. Which used to define a special non-geographic jurisdiction of the church, unlike all others, for churches reckoned as African-American-- at that point who their clergy were made that definition simple, I think, since while African-Americans could attend White-pastored churches and vice versa, you wouldn't find a predominantly White church pastored by an African-American man. That jurisdiction-similar-to-an-annual-confer
ence, called the Central Jurisdiction
, was formed in 1939 as a condition for the reuniting of The Methodist Episcopal Church and The Methodist Episcopal Church, South, which had split in 1844 over the issue of enslaving and claiming ownership of human beings. The Central Jurisdiction was a compromise to effect that reunion. The Methodist Protestant Church reunited with the others at the same time, without having had a dog in that particular fight to the best of my knowledge. They had to give up ordaining women as elders**, though, and I guess they were okay with that. Women from The Methodist Episcopal Church, South, gained the right to be ordained as deacons** with the union. The Methodist Episcopal Church had begun to grant that right in 1924. The newly re-formed Methodist Church granted full ordination rights to women in 1956.
Things change in polity and in the Discipline. But even if they didn't-- and I'm so glad that they can, and often glad when they do--, I find it pretty much supremely weird to say that it i the Discipline that unites us.Here are some of the things I think:
“Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth,
for I am God and there is none besides me." - Isaiah 45: 22
(You may not like the uniqueness claim, but the inclusivity and gathering on the human side are pretty clear.)
"And many nations will come and say,
`Come! Let us go up to the mountain of Yahweh,
and to the temple[a] of the God of Jacob,
that he may teach us his ways,
and that we may walk in his paths,'
for the law will go out from Zion,
and the word of Yahweh from Jerusalem." - Micah 4:2
"Thus says Yahweh of hosts: ‘It will happen again that nations and the inhabitants of many cities will come. And the inhabitants of one city will go to another city, saying, “Let us go immediately to entreat the favor of Yahweh, to seek Yahweh of hosts—I also will go!” And many peoples and powerful nations will come to seek Yahweh of hosts in Jerusalem, and to entreat the favor of Yahweh.’ Thus says Yahweh of hosts: ‘In those days ten men from all the nations of every language will take hold of the hem of a Judean man, saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you!”’” - Zechariah 8: 20-23
(Now there's plenty in the Hebrew Bible that's about Israel as uniquely the people of HaShem. In which case if you're a Christian and haven't dissed the whole Hebrew Bible as superceded-- which some do--, you might be floundering a bit without passages like these. But there they are, and similarly HaShem's creation of those who became all human kind, and the universality of the Adamic and Noahic covenants.)
"Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you, and behold, I am with you all the days until" the end of the age.” - Matthew 28: 19-20
"And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all the nations." - Mark 13:10
"For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself confirms to our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, also heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer together with him so that we may also be glorified together with him." - Romans 8: 15-17
"For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." - Romans 8: 38-39
"For just as in one body we have many members, but all the members do not have the same function, in the same way we who are many are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another, but having different gifts according to the grace given to us...." - Romans 12: 4-6a
"For just as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of the body, although they are many, are one body, thus also Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free persons, and all were made to drink one Spirit." - 1 Corinthians 12: 12-13
But what is to unites us is The Book of Discipline. Not being HaShem's beloved children. Not-- qua Christians-- being part of the body of Christ, united in the word and (again) as God's children. Someone else can't understand the difference between Biblical obedience and [United Methodist clergy covenant] obedience. Uh, duh, unless the Discipline is your Bible or you're predicating infallibility-similar-to-the-Bible's for at least the 2012 General Conference, the possibility of a difference should be obvious.
The Book of Discipline.
I know that The United Methodist Church has no ecclesiology, but this seems to me ridiculous.
* I don't know why the Council of Bishops uses the term "same gender"-- perhaps they think it more delicate? Would they be okay with the marriage of cis-woman and a transman? I'm thinking probably not....
** Elders are the people ordained primarily to pastor, and subject to appointment by the Bishop (and Cabinet of District Superintendents), and supposedly entitled to such appointment. Deacons are ordained but expected to find their own ministries/jobs-- but are sometimes appointed to serve churches.