As a part of the United Methodist Church, I know what division looks like. I have seen arguments over everything from pension plans, to whether or not church structure should be changed. One major argument has been going on for about four decades about whether or not LGBT persons should be allowed to fully participate within the UMC. This debate has strong theological arguments on both sides, as well as real people on both sides, so I feel no need to argue it here. What I do want to argue in favor of is unity.
The main problem with the word unity is that people assume that unity means that everyone thinks the same, but that is not the case. My mother and father disagree, a lot, but they are still unified in their decisions. Sometimes my mom has to give up what she wants so my dad can make decisions he feels are best for our family, like when we moved to Texas; other times my dad has to give up what he wants, like a new car, so that we as a family can get what my mom wants, like new furniture. Being unified means being willing to be flexible when difficult situations arise. I think the UMC needs to be a little more flexible.
At the last General Conference when presented with the Hamilton/Slaughter Amendment, the legislative body of my church decided not to “agree to disagree” on homosexuality, when quite frankly it should have and here is why:
- We do disagree, a lot of us disagree on how LGBT people are to be treated.
- Honesty is the best policy and to say we don’t disagree is a lie and breeds resentment on both sides of the argument and makes it difficult for those caught in between.
- It’s OK to not have all the answers.
I know that this debate will continue on in the future for years to come, possibly for decades more. I am all right with that, but what I am not OK with is our lack of honesty in admitting that this disagreement is occurring. Some in our church would rather split, or stay in community and just suppress the non-majority group’s opinions. But I believe in leaving a way open for individual annual conferences, or central conferences, dare I say individuals, to come to their own conclusions about what God is saying through Scripture, tradition, reason and personal experience. I believe that repentance from saying we have all the answers is good for the Church universal and that humbly welcoming people of all opinions will lead to a better understanding of God and neighbor overall. Whether we agree or not is not important, remembering we are still one in the Spirit and one in the Lord. We may not all agree but that just proves that we are family even more.
Servant Church, Austin, Texas