The Way Backward

My interaction with traditionalists in what has been known until now as the United Methodist Church is that they will not stop at enforcing a ban on same gender weddings and on the ordination of persons who are what they refer to as “self-avowed homosexuals.” This has always been about gaining a foothold to reverse what is perceived by traditionalists as the progressive agenda of the United Methodist Church.

Most traditionalists do not want any persons who are LGBTQIA+ working in any capacity in their churches, so don’t be surprised to see that coming down the pike in the future.

At some point, whether unrepentant “self-avowed homosexuals” can be baptized or become members of Traditionalist Methodist churches will be a topic of debate.

Eventually, whether unrepentant “self-avowed homosexuals” should even be allowed in the church buildings will be discussed in earnest.

The Traditionalist Methodist Church probably won’t go after women’s ordination, but a Traditionalist Methodist Church will be much more patriarchal in language and practice, and don’t be surprised by much more emphasis on “complementarian” views of women being advanced in the Traditionalist Methodist Church, with women taking on less equal but “complementary” roles in the church and in Traditionalist Methodist families.

It won’t be long before the Traditionalist Methodist Church begins to enforce other “orthodox” dogma and practices based on their narrow interpretation of scriptures.

Traditionalist Methodist seminary professors will have to sign statements pledging adherence to “orthodox” theology and find themselves censured, silenced, and without employment if they stray too far from the prescribed doctrinal teachings.

Traditionalist Methodist ministers will sign loyalty oaths to the Traditionalist Methodist Book of Discipline and face harsh penalties for breaking any of the rules.

“Right” belief, “right” practice, and “right” behavior will all be enforced by the Traditionalist Methodist Church for the “people’s own good” and the “good of the Church.” It will all be done “in love.”

The circle of harm will be widened by all of this as the circle of care is increasingly diminished. This is not just wild speculation. One only need look at traditionalist takeovers of other denominations and religious traditions in and outside of Christianity to see where this is heading – backward – and it will not be great.

And what will happen to what the traditionalists call the “progressive agenda” of what has been known until now as the United Methodist Church? Well, radical inclusion, participation of all persons as equal beings of sacred worth, freedom of thought and conscience, social justice for all people, and responsible care for the community of all creation will have to find new and different incarnations in the world because that will no longer be the agenda of the Traditionalist Methodist Church.

The good news is that the Traditionalist Methodist Church will likely not last that long as is most often the case when the circle is drawn to be more narrow rather than more wide. There is a way forward for the community of all creation, but that way is not in the Traditionalist Methodist Church.

Perhaps there may come a day when some who favored or even voted for the Traditionalist Plan will look back on this past week and ask the question “What have we done?” They will be welcome to join the new way forward towards Beloved Community, and they won’t even have to sign anything.

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About Mark Y. A. Davies

Mark Davies is the Wimberly Professor of Social and Ecological Ethics and Director of the World House Institute for Social and Ecological Responsibility at Oklahoma City University. He is the Executive Director of the Leadership, Education, and Development (LEaD) Hub North America of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church and an Oklahoma Humanities State Scholar. Mark has published in the areas of Boston personalism, process philosophy and ethics, and ecological ethics. Dr. Davies serves on the United Methodist University Senate, which is “an elected body of professionals in higher education created by the General Conference to determine which schools, colleges, universities, and theological schools meet the criteria for listing as institutions affiliated with The United Methodist Church.” He and his wife Kristin live in Edmond, OK in the United States, and they have two daughters. The views expressed by the author in this blog do not necessarily represent the views of Oklahoma City University or the United Methodist Church.
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3 Responses to The Way Backward

  1. Pingback: The Way Backward – EcoEcclesia

  2. A new motto for the Traditionalist Methodist Church : ‘Hardened Hearts. Closed Minds. Shut Doors.’

  3. I saw an article about the situation that made me shake my head. It talked about the Grace that was shown by conservative Methodists in how they aren’t gloating about the victory and making and easy exit for progressives. Yea, grace. Apparently grace has to do with dehumanizing a group of people. Very grace-filled isn’t it?

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