Asking New Questions

by Rev. Will Green

This year my Annual Conference featured a panel of five bishops who took questions about The Commission on the Way Forward, the special session of General Conference and the future of our denomination. With no disrespect to the bishops, the whole thing was pointless. For the most part, they just weren’t that well informed about the decades long movement for justice for LGBTQ people, about the process of the last few years leading into the special session, or about what the implications of “unity” will mean going forward. To add to the frustration, because this event was taking place in New England, these were all liberal bishops and the audience applauded every time someone said the word “inclusive”.  It was typical. There was little to distinguish this panel from any of the others just like it that have taken place over the last 25 years.

At about 9:00pm, I got to ask the last question. Instead of just addressing the panel, I said that I had some questions for all of us in the room. I also thought these were good questions to end the evening, because they are the type of questions that we need to think about, to sleep on, to pray about…

Here are the four questions. Now they are for you. I think you’ll see how they build on each other.

How do you know when you have been compromised?

What moral principles, if any, do you value more than church unity?

What personal risks are you afraid to take?

How would you act if you were free?

I’ll admit that the first question about compromise might sting a little. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Honestly, I was trying to shake the bishops on the panel somewhat and shift the tone from questions like “Do you think the One Church model will pass?” to actual self-reflection. Furthermore, if the panel really believed the platitudes about ‘justice’ and ‘inclusion’ they kept repeating, how could they possibly not know that their values and beliefs have been compromised by their commitment to this institution and their role as bishops? This first question presents such a low level threshold of basic self-awareness that I can’t imagine starting anywhere else.

But more important than asking someone else on a panel to answer such questions, is asking myself. What United Methodist hasn’t honestly wondered, “Can I be true to what I believe and be a member of this church?” But when do we ever have time and space to explore our own responses and all that this sort of discernment brings up for us?

The point of this question is not to bash the church or dump on bishops! Neither is the point to get defensive about our commitments nor to jump to anxiety about leaving. (I can’t tell you how many times over the years I’ve tried to ask questions like this and I instantly get smothered with people saying things like “Are you LEAVING? Will you join the UCC?”) We spend so much time trying to be savvy and strong and win votes and defend our existence that we just don’t know how to go deep with one another or ourselves.

It seems to me, and I could of course be wrong, that there is no reason to believe the special session of General Conference will turn out any differently than any of the other General Conferences in my lifetime. This means we need to ask ourselves what we are doing, how we are living, and why.

These questions, and other new questions we ask ourselves, might show us a new way.

I’ll leave you with these questions one more time. Please take them seriously.

How do you know when you have been compromised?

What moral principles, if any, do you value more than church unity?

What personal risks are you afraid to take?

How would you act if you were free?

Advertisements

One thought on “Asking New Questions

  1. Thanks Will! Especially appreciated this observation “… and I instantly get smothered with people saying things like “Are you LEAVING? Will you join the UCC?” or variations of that… or when I try to share about what is happening inthe UMC, with UCC’s they immediately go to “we’re open, you can move here…” as if it is all this simple.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s