Breaking up is hard to do (Let’s admit it is time)

divorce-articleby Scott Fritzsche

Neil Sedaka was right. Breaking up is hard to do. It is messy, especially when there is money, property, children, and all the rest involved. We are talking a lot about that in the United Methodist Church. We are talking about it in the language of marriage really. We talk about divorce being messy. We talk about the money, the property, the “children” (congregations). It is difficult. I am going to continue that language in most of this post as I find it appropriate.

While I maintain that we have issues that run deeper than sexual ethics and morality, I will start by addressing those since those are the only things we seem willing to talk about most days. Can a marriage really survive with two diametrically opposed views on sexual morality? Let’s just be honest here and admit, without arguing who is right or wrong, that we have a group of people who view sex between two of the same gender as sexually immoral, and a group of people who do not. That is a diametrically opposed viewpoint. In order to help us understand better, let’s look at some other issues of sexual immorality that have caused problems in marriage.

“At a 2003 meeting of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, two-thirds of the 350 divorce lawyers noted that the Internet was playing an increasing role in marital splits, with excessive online porn watching contributing to more than half of the divorces.” (Huffington Post 05/29/2011 Vicki Larson Co-author of “The New I Do,” journalist, mom)

This is older information of course and it is noted that the trend is increasing. This is a result of two differing views on sexual immorality. One view says that porn is acceptable and the other says that it is not. The result? An increasing number of divorces. The best divorce statistics we have right now say that approximately 17% of all divorces are due exclusively to marital infidelity, and that over 80% of marriages involving infidelity end in divorce. Adultery is another act of sexual immorality. Another result of two differing views on sexual immorality. There are more things that we could list, but this should be sufficient to demonstrate the point. Remember, we are not even talking about the morality of anything, just the reality that we have drastically different views on what is and what is not sexually immoral. That does not bode well for a marriage.

Why do we have such a differing views on sexual immorality? For the most part, it is because we approach scripture from completely different understandings and starting points. To add this to our context of marriage, can a marriage survive when the couple has two different ideas of what the truth is and two (or more) ideas about where the search for truth starts and ends? Sooner or later those ideas are going to come into conflict. The longer you are together, the more likely and severe the conflict will get. Eventually (and I would say this is where we are now), you end up with drastically different world views to the point that any meaningful communication is nigh impossible. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that person A has a few statements (say 25 or so) that they believe are true and form the basis of how they are going to live life and move forward. Person B not only says that those statements do not matter, but believes things to be true and advocates an approach to life that contradicts those. Is that really going to work as a marriage for very long? If it does, I hardly think it would be healthy. Marriages that do not share understandings of truth, have shared goals, shared dreams, and shared beliefs often end in divorce, or are at the very least unhealthy. Two people can not go in two different directions and then claim that they are going to the same place.

I think that I have beat the dead horse of the marriage analogy enough for now. Let’s talk our history. The split over slavery comes up a lot in the United Methodist Church when we talk about sexual ethics. In a nutshell the position of the church was against slavery. Some Bishops wanted to have slaves. The church sanctioned those Bishops (one resigned beforehand) and those who disagreed with said sanction left to form the Methodist Episcopal Church South. Again, let’s look at this not from a moral point of view, but from a purely practical one. A group could not, in good conscience (I am being generous here) live with the church’s beliefs on an issue and they separated. What do we have today? The same basic scenario, save for now we have those who can not live with the church’s beliefs being disruptive and unwilling to leave. While I find the reasons for the Methodist Episcopal church leaving repugnant, I can at least respect their willingness to not cause continued conflict and instead leave to live out the vision of Christianity they had that was incompatible with their parent denomination.

We are at that point. It is time for the break up. We simply are not able and/or willing to live with each other any more. It will be messy, it will be nasty and it will be ugly. Unlike other divorces though, in this case we are breaking up because we still maintain some love for each other and understand that it may be a divorce from each other, but it is not a divorce from Christ. The church is and always will be His bride. We are breaking up because that is what is in our power to live peaceably with each other. We are breaking up because the promises that we made and the covenant that we share has been broken with no attempt or desire for reconciliation. We are breaking up because we recognize that the denomination that we serve is not in agreement at all over several core issue. things like the Articles of Religion, basic approaches to scripture and it’s interpretation. Things that form the foundation of our faith. Mostly we are breaking up because we, like a lot of couples, are using sex to mask what the problems really are instead of addressing the deeper issues. Look for more in the future on this including some explanation on why third way proposals and compromises end up not working, why the Bishops council really is dead on arrival, and what the future might hold for all of us.

This was originally published at Unsettled Christianity.

Read Part 2: Breaking up is hard to do (the Annual Conference edition)

Read Scott’s commentary on UMR from May 2016: A Response to Same-sex Marriages

BioPic

 

Scott A Fritzsche is an active lay member in the United Methodist Church. He is a family man, loves Jesus and the church He established, serves when and where he is able, and regularly contributes to unsettledchristianity.com.

Special Contributor to UMR

Special Contributor

This story was written by a special contributor to The United Methodist Reporter. You may send your article submissions to
editor@circuitwritermedia.com
.

18
Leave a Reply

applications-education-miscellaneous.png
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)
 
avatar
9 Comment threads
9 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
13 Comment authors
JayDaniel WagleScottWes AndrewsBruce Davis Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Paul W.
Guest
Paul W.

Excellent commentary. Where the analogy breaks down though is that one group has no intention of allowing an amicable separation since one of their core tenets is that they are in this relationship specifically to force the UMC to accept and affirm their position. Allowing a split defeats their core goal since it allows part of the church to walk away without accepting their “unconditional terms of surrender”, i.e., they would have failed in their “righteous” battle for “civil rights”. To use the slavery analogy, imagine if the pro-slavery faction had controlled the Methodist bureaucracy and been determined to use… Read more »

Ron Doub
Guest
Ron Doub

Yep. However, the unfaithful spouse generally leaves the house if they have any honor at all.

Joe
Guest
Joe

What a hateful reply.

eric pone
Guest
eric pone

I agree to the degree that you put this type of scorched Earth combat on both sides. Both extremes are vowing a righteous fight to the end over this issue. I don’t care either way. The Church shouldn’t be in the exclusion business and clearly neither side seem interested in using solid biblical exegesis anymore. Maybe the best solution is to do nothing at all. Just do nothing and let the situation resolve itself at the local level. Its going to happen this way no matter what GC or the BOD says.

Paul W.
Guest
Paul W.

Eric, I’m curious where you see scorched earth tactics on the theologically conservative side? The conservatives have been extremely vocal about allowing those who disagree with the UMC stance to leave for conscience sake with both their property and pensions. That seems to be far from a scorched earth position.

Ron Doub
Guest
Ron Doub

Well written article. However, I have one correction. The Methodist split in 1844 was over one Bishop, James O. Andrew, marring a woman who already owned slaves and refusing to make her divest herself of them. The northern church wanted the bishop removed, and the southern church refused. Maybe that’s nitpicking, but accurate history is important.

Scott Fritzsche
Guest

Yes. I did not intend to mislead on that. Thank you for adding it in. There was a second bishop whose name escapes me who resigned rather than facing sanction by the GC as well if memory serves. Bishop Andrew was suspended until such time as the slaves were released. I could not agree more, accurate history is important, so thank you for adding that here.

jimmie shelby
Guest
jimmie shelby

It is strange that you should state: “…but accurate history is important.” It seems to me the LACK of accurate history being taught in all of the hallowed institutions in the land is exactly why this country and this denomination are where they are–and that is a very sad commentary.

Wes Andrews
Guest
Wes Andrews

I agree. For any who cannot embrace our current BOD, they should be encouraged to leave with their property and their clergy. Really, everyone should be free to believe or not, to embrace the authority of Scripture or not. But if not, then it is honest and honorable to recognize that you are not United Methodist as defined by our Book of Discipline.

Wes Andrews

Bruce Davis
Guest
Bruce Davis

Interesting how the bar keeps getting moved. We’re now supposed to affirm Queers. I was raised to believe that the Q word was hateful. Now, ‘Queer’ is a point of pride, including Queer clergy. I like to think that I am of Wesley’s “catholic spirit,” but the progressives have progressed far past anything I recognize as Methodism.

Scott
Guest
Scott

I’m beginning to think that Wesley’s “catholic spirit” might just lead me to the RCC. At least it isn’t willing to throw away two millennia of teaching just to conform to the current culture.

Jay
Guest
Jay

Brother Bruce, please tell me you have been able to “move the bar” and no longer use words that were once acceptable and now are considered racist in describing persons of a different race other than your own.

eric pone
Guest
eric pone

Would not the simplest solution be to allow both the warring sides to leave? Most of us don’t have a dog in the fight and it seems to allow one group or the other to succeed would be wrong and would set a poor precedent of allowing extremist to hold to organization hostage.

Phil
Guest
Phil

Good read!

Daniel Wagle
Guest
Daniel Wagle

I am gay and I am not leaving the UMC. I am not for *requiring* any Church to accept gay Ministers or to conduct gay weddings. All I ask is that Churches be able to accept gay Ministers and to conduct Gay weddings without punishment. However, conservatives will often refuse to allow anyone to disagree with their point of view and desire to severely punish anyone who disagrees with them. Even though Jesus clearly taught us to Love our Enemies, few Conservatives would want to make it a chargeable offense to advocate the use of violence or the use of… Read more »

Richard F Hicks
Guest
Richard F Hicks

Bro – Dude the breakup began in 1960. By 1969, college kids weren’t joining the UM church nearest the campus in the droves they did in the 1950s. The UMC and its leaders mirror Detroit and its leaders. In 1960, both were at the top of their game now both are on the verge of bankruptcy or are bankrupt. BUT THERE IS HOPE! While today’s leaders of both the UMC and Detroit fight over who gets to be the captain of the sinking ship, some local UMCs are thriving, 100s of thousands of UMs are bustin’ butt for Jesus serving… Read more »

eric pone
Guest
eric pone

The solution seems to be working itself out now. There are congregations, conferences and Jurisdictions that are choosing policies( on both sides of the aisle) that meets their needs yet remaining in communion. If you really really don’t want to be part of a congregation that supports LGTBQ issues just join a UMC congregation that doesn’t support it!! Both types exist sometimes in the same community. I don’t see how breaking up is going to resolve the situation as neither side have the members, finances, or frankly influence to survive on their own.

Wes Andrews
Guest
Wes Andrews

Those who trust in the authority of Scripture have been following the BOD, while the progressives have rejected the BOD, and broken our covenant as UMs. So there is a false equivalence here.

Wes Andrews

Google+
%d bloggers like this: