The opinions expressed on this blog are the personal views of Andreas Kjernald and do not reflect the positions of either the UMC congregations in Skien or Hvittingfoss or the UMC Norway.

tisdag 7 juni 2016

Why United?

Limbo - a place of neither Heaven nor Hell. A place of waiting. Grey.

As a lifelong UMC and a clergy for the last 8 years I join the chorus of voices that opine wisely and not so wisely concerning our denomination. Is it broken beyond repair? Can we be "United" without being "Uniform" or "Of one mind"? Can trust be rebuilt?

It feels liks limbo...waiting for this Commission from the Coucil of Bishops to bring something to the next General Conference that can heal us. It feels like a Hail Mary. What can a commission possible find during a few meetings and emails that the entire Church hasn't found or thought about and tried for the last 40 years? How can this possibly not be a "kick the can down the road" thing?
Or is it, like I predict, a plan to introduce (side-load?) legislation that shifts authority from the General Conference (the Church) to Annual conferences (a bunch of congregations) or Central Conferences away from the combative General Conference? How can it not be some "third way option"?

I realize that I am very skeptical and I try to hold my cynicism at bay. Unfortunately the Council of Bishops haven't impressed me in the past (quite the contrary, to be honest). But hope is not dead. There is still a chance for a miracle...a true movement by the Holy Spirit that surprises us all. I pray so.

Two things, however, have been on my mind lately and I wonder if I am alone.

First of all, what is this deal with staying united, as the UMC, at seemingly all costs? What is the deal? I think I read it for the first time on the website for the "Jurisdictional Option". It claimed as a "pro" that "We still get to call us United Methodists!". Since when did that become a goal in and of itself? As far as I can tell we are at least 3 schism into the fray. Are we so naive to think that the prayer of Jesus in John 17 applies to us staying in the denomination currently called "UMC"? Surely not! If we want denominational unity we need to go to Rome. However, we are Protestants. We value Truth over Unity or at least we used to. Once we give up our desire for Truth we lose our purpose. Surely the only reason there are Methodists is that people believe that it is the true church that speaks for God the best? Where people find God's truth and not a bunch of nonsense?

Two, what is this "United but not unity" stuff? Disregarding the obvious fact that a church can disagree about small issues such as dress or worship style I wonder when we started saying that we can stay united with people/churches/conferences who disagree with us about matter with eternal implications. How, exactly, can any covenant last when the partners disagree vehemently about its very foundations? Can a marriage last if one partner believes in multiple partners and the other one doesn't?
The logic is clear to me. If a church says that "according to us we believe that God is saying in His holy and loving Word and Wisdom that X is both sin and not a sin" it is time to take some serious action. If the Church is unable to take such action so that the matter is resolved it needs to realize that it has ceased to either hear God or have the strength to lead people into all truth. At that time, it needs to allow for some sort of split where those who are seeking God's truth are able to do so according to their own conscience.

I have spent considerable capital, of various currencies, to stay UMC. It is the only major/historical denomination in the area of the world where I live that has a well thought-out understanding and desire for holiness/entire sanctification/Second blessing/perfect love...the very reason God raised up Methodists in the first place.
I would hate to see it go but I would rather see it split than to compromise on its principles of being One church where people don't speak out of their own understanding of God but speaks proudly and boldly about "We are the Church of God and we believe x, y and z". Much will be lost if we replace our current "we believe" to the oh-so-prevelant "I believe".