One Church Plan Critique – Petition #1

From Wesley White’s Critique of the One Church Plan

Our Theological Task – Par. 105

The location of ¶105 is not an appropriate location for this petition. It interrupts the flow of the paragraph anywhere it might finally be lodged. ¶105 says, “…theological reflection is energized by our incarnational involvement in the daily life of the church and the world…” This petition seeks permission to allow some to be exempt from Jesus’ direction to “love one another” by their “not condoning” LGBTQ+ persons.

Amend ¶ 105 by adding new sub-paragraph as follows:

We agree that we are not of one mind regarding human sexuality.

  • United Methodists do claim to be of one mind about human sexuality, “We affirm that sexuality is God’s good gift” (¶161.f).
  • That affirmation is now being constrained to privilege heterosexuality over all other expressions of God’s good gift.
  • What we are not of one mind about is how to engage our spiritual lives with our sexual lives. Like the Sabbath, a gift of healthy sexuality is made for humans and, like spirituality, needs to be grown into.
  • At this point, an emphasis on unity keeps us from disarming the harm caused to LGBTQ+ persons by an intentional dismissal of their good gift.

As we continue to faithfully explore issues of sexuality, we will honor the theological guidelines of Scripture, reason, tradition, and experience, acknowledging that God’s revelation of truth and God’s extension of grace as expressed in Jesus Christ (John 1:14) may cause persons of good conscience to interpret and decide issues of sexuality differently.

  • ¶105 is about the “critical and constructive” and “contextual and incarnational” natures of Our Theological Task and this petition puts all that under a new and problematic category of a stand-alone “revelation”.
  • It is not different interpretations that cause our current impasse. It is the claiming that one interpretation is “revealed” as true and right, now and forever, world without end. Amen.
  • The first part of this sentence is a restatement of ¶105 that doesn’t need to be repeated.
  • At issue is acknowledging an undefined “revelation” that uses scripture, reason, tradition, and experience to justify that “revelation”, not clarify it or repent it if we got it wrong.
  • We are asked to believe that revelation is a source of critical difference that creates the very differences it is called on to resolve. This sort of revelation eats at the very core of United Methodist heritage and sets a predetermined truth above the freedom of grace.
  • The proof-texting of John 1:14 fits none of the categories of the use of Scripture, reason, tradition, or experience. Its only purpose as a reference seems to be to make a bare assertion sound authoritative and does not justify the bad ecclesiology that “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.”
  • It is not “good conscience” that is at stake here but the values of engagement and partnership with a Living G*D. A conscience that denies any truth or evidence but its own must live in constant fear of change (or a new revelation).
  • Note: There was a General Conference mandated study about human sexuality (1988–1992) and General Conference refused to act on it because it raised questions about the accepted “revelation” of the time.

We also acknowledge that the Church is called through Christ to unity even amidst complexity.

  • Everything on either side of this statement leans toward an excuse for shunning or an exemption from welcoming a portion of church members.
  • This statement does fit ¶105, but is a redundancy and is better stated by the current section on “The Nature of Our Theological Task.”

We affirm those who continue to maintain that the scriptural witness does not condone the practice of homosexuality.

  • This overly bold statement cannot stand examination. We can also say a “scriptural witness does not condone divorce” or any number of other items. This is merely a sneaky way to attempt to appease those most opposed to the reality that LGBTQ+ persons are as gifted by G*D as they are and insist on everyone believing what they believe or they will leave. It has no place in this important paragraph of the Discipline (¶105).
  • There has been no groundwork laid for this naked “affirmation.”
  • This affirmation can be extended to those who insist that handling poisonous snakes is part of good liturgy. Affirming the stage a person is at does not mean they can avoid being challenged. Support and correction are needed in every life.
  • This presumes scripture only has one voice, has no historical basis, and is oriented toward purity codes that have always been used as wedge issues.
  • There is no room here for growth of understanding through the movement of a Spirit of a Living G*D and the Blessing of Neighb*rs different from one’s self.
  • This is the beginning of a false equivalency that builds in a false choice that can only be met by segregating members from each other by a majority vote based present understandings.

We believe that their conscience should be protected in the Church and throughout society under basic principles of religious liberty.

  • This petition goes far beyond ¶105. It subverts and refutes the paragraph by claiming a right to close one’s eyes and ears and heart to the lives of others. It implies that those who claim this protection are too weak to engage with differences honestly and must either be left alone or given-in to.
  • A basic principle of “religious liberty” is that it cannot be given to another. “Religious liberty” can only be lived and face the consequences of its actions.
  • Here, those who desire “not to condone” LGBTQ+ persons in the specifics of marriage and ordination are given permission to do so with no consequence. This is coddling.
  • “Religious liberty” is a code phrase that says, “I am an island and rule all I see—I am not connected with others in the community, extreme individualism rules.” It is an excuse to be exempt from common human decency and love of neighbors who are different in one way or another.
  • “Religious liberty,” asks to be affirmed but always in the context of specifically and intentionally not affirming others. To claim a religious liberty is an act of privilege.
  • There is no “religious liberty” exemption available when wrestling with the Theological Tasks of ¶105. We are to do our work with assurance while in the midst of complexity.

We also affirm those who believe the witness of Scripture calls us to reconsider the teaching of the Church with respect to monogamous homosexual relationships.

  • This is the false equivalency meant to justify the above claims of both “revelation” and “religious liberty.” It does not accurately describe the motivation of those opposed to the “incompatibility” clause and its descendants in the Book of Discipline.
  • This is a terrible attribution of intention to those desiring to remove the heresy of “incompatibility” from the Discipline. Simply put, “incompatibility” is harmful and hurtful to those who employ it and those against whom it is used. It is a portable harm that can be applied to any current out-group that can be blamed for whatever is imagined. As John Wesley didn’t rely on the witness of scripture in his opposition to slavery, it is not needed to consider how “incompatible” language is actual, factual, harm being done to real, live, persons.
  • Whoever wrote these phrases thinking they were comparing apples to apples profoundly misunderstands fair play. These descriptions of a false equivalency are loaded and lean toward the language patterns of Good News and Wesley Covenant Association.
  • “Teaching of the Church” is an unfortunate phrase. “Incompatibility” legislation was falsely presented as settled teaching in 1972 and is now in the current Discipline. Opponents of this legislation do not ask for a “reconsideration” of “church teaching.” The obviousness of harm having been done needs no “witness of Scripture” or other reconsideration before it is recognized as real and changed.
  • Note in passing the introduction of the descriptor “monogamous.” It has the feel of a code word attempting to replace the current “one man, one woman” language now employed to be a barrier against LGBTQ+ persons.
  • Note, also, there is no subsequent rationale why “reconsideration” of church law that is harmful, hurtful, and killing should take place. This absence points to the bias of all 17 petitions.
  • The previous sentence of this petition ends with the justification of “religious liberty,” but there is no such language here to indicate why changing a hurtful law would be worthwhile, only a mention that some people would like to make this change.  The religious freedom to welcome all, and the right of all to be welcomed into a religious community, is not mentioned.

One further note is a quote from ¶105 in the section “The Present Challenge to Theology in the Church.”

United Methodists as a diverse people continue to strive for consensus in understanding the gospel. In our diversity, we are held together by a shared inheritance and a common desire to participate in the creative and redemptive activity of God.

This petition says that, in practice, we prefer choosing single-issue advocacy as our defining focus, painfully splitting over human identity issues. This contrasts poorly to our professed “common desire” for the “redemptive activity of G*D,”.

If a petition of an additional affirmation of individual differences within a larger context of United Methodist unity is felt as needed, I propose the following:

Amend ¶126 by adding a new sub-paragraph as follows:

After years of discord over the varieties of human sexuality, we affirm that sexuality is God’s good gift and our differences with one another will not keep The United Methodist Church or its members from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

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