Can’t we agree that we disagree?

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:

  1. We do disagree, a lot of us disagree on how LGBT people are to be treated.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Jarell Wilson
Servant Church, Austin, Texas

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  1. John Battern says:

    There's a flaw in your reasoning. When your dad & mom disagreed, one of them didn't stomp off and say, "I don't care what you think, I'm right and your wrong, and I'm doing it my way." Which is exactly what the liberal jurisdications, conferences, and pastors are doing when they put out statements saying that they don't agree with what the General Conference does, that they know better what is in the mind of God than what has been decided through holy conversation and they're going to do it their way. If that's how your parents would have reacted, their marriage would not have lasted. How can the UMC possibly stay together when some among us are willing disavow their covenant and not to abide by the the decisions which the GC has made?

  2. The culture needs clarity, not "multiple choice" confusion, on this issue.

  3. creed pogue says:

    This post is really another argument for removing the Social Priniciples from the Book of Discipline. They are not church law. People can disagree. But, it is naive to believe that this is the real issue at stake. It isn't even whether we "accept" sinners of various types. The real issue is that there are a number of non-celibate gay ordained clergy who want to both serve openly and not give up the multitude of benefits that come with being ordained in The United Methodist Church. The Judicial Council has enshrined job security protections greater than any other Protestant denomination and much stronger than any of the laity enjoy. However, these clergy lied during their ordination vows and have been in violation of the Discipline every day since.

    You cannot have both a "connectional polity" that expects a large chunk of the discretionary funds available to the local church to go to general agencies with low accountability and have every annual conference deciding its own path on issues like ordination standards.

    I also agree with Mr. Battern. You aren't going to get to an "agree to disagree" point if one side is going to continue to say "I don't care what you do because I will do what I want." Those two statements are incompatible.

  4. 1) I will NEVER agree to disagree about any unspecified issue.
    2) To agree to take no position on undefined issue(s) is to agree to suspend one’s intellect.
    3) The Hamilton/Slaughter Amendment does not identify specific issue(s) over which one is to not apply mind, or refrain from conclusion, or keep thoughts to self.
    4) Were it passed, those who use their minds to conclude that same-sex intimacy is contrary to God’s Word would risk censure for violating UMC policy to speak only with ‘love’ or acceptance regarding homosexual practices.
    5) Open Hearts and Open Minds is a good slogan, but no mind should be so open that brains fall out.
    6) Jesus accepted and loved everyone, even rich young ruler who He told to sell all he had and follow him. That order, that condemned the ruler’s lifestyle, that ruler declined to obey, that if followed would have resulted in eternal life, was not unloving. Neither is it unloving to tell homosexuals that they must mortify/abstain from homosexual practices.
    7) All persons associated with UMC, no matter how shy or lacking in eloquence, must stand fast and say what God’s Word says about homosexual practices, to homosexuals who come dressed in sheep's clothing, and not be tossed about by accusations that their position is hateful, bigoted, etc., or agree to disagree over Scripture's plain meaning.

    Penny

  5. gingerlouise says:

    Creed – you are partially correct in that the Social Principles are not church law. Unfortunately, in regards to homosexuality, and same sex unions, our Judicial process has proclaimed the Social Principal to be church law and therefore they are chargeable offenses in regard to same sex unions. The rest of the Principals are not law.

  6. lindarugg says:

    Nobody is "stomping off"… we are precisely standing fast, in love with God and each other. Jarell writes wisely and kindly on this issue, and in that regard he is unfortunately the exception to the rule.

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
 

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