I was going to put a link to "A Way Forward" in case you haven't read it, but actually, if you haven't read it, I'm not sure you care too much about this post. Which I'll sort of circle back to at the end. So, skip to the end...or, instead, go outside, take a walk, and get lost in wonder, love, and praise.
For the authors of the document and those signing, my question is:
Who is the intended audience? What is the purpose of the signatures? To show support, of course--but to whom? What is the goal of the effort put into this?
For those who want to split, my question is:
What will we do differently so that we're not just a smaller version of an irrelevant social club? Do we really believe that by leaving either the conservatives or the liberals behind, we will suddenly be able to fulfill our mission more effectively, or are we just saying that because it sounds better than "we don't like each other"? Would the labyrinth of logistical considerations related to a split be worth the "mission payoff"?
For those who want to stay in communion, my question is:
Is there a better way to do that than a $10 million logistical nightmare, requiring significant effort, time, and travel for thousands of people who palpably dislike each other, and organized around 19th century parliamentary rules that were never meant to be simultaneously translated, resulting largely in decisions that are ignored by most of our congregations, much less people in our mission field? Is anyone, at all, looking at General Conference and saying, "Look at those Christians! See how they love each other!"
For those who want to keep the language in the discipline, my question is:
If doctrinal obedience is so important, why were you not absolutely up in arms about the 302 delegates (around a third of the total) who voted against a statement that "God’s grace is available to all, that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus," a statement so clearly in line with biblical principles and Wesleyan teaching? Is what the Bible says about same-gender sex really more important than what it says about grace? Isn't grace upon grace upon grace, not sex, the Wesleyan emphasis? Where the doctrinal denunciations of Neo-Calvinism, or Christian Zionism? Or the trials of pastors who refuse to baptize infants or, for that matter, pursue socially responsible investment (a Disciplinary requirement)?
For those who want to change the Discipline, my question is:
What is going to change, in 2016 or 2020 or 2024, to make the hurtful experience of 2012 worth going through again? For those that our awful language most directly impacts, those who have most grievously injured by this whole mess, doesn't it become re-traumatizing at some point? And for those working on legislation, do we see this as (sorry to rip off the phrase) a way forward or is it just habit at this point?
There may be answers to all those questions. Feel free to comment if you have them; I'd certainly appreciate it. But here is my last set, and it's addressed to me most of all:
Is any of what I say, about this particular controversy or about the UMC, actually doing anything to advance the mission of the church; or, more accurately, to respond to and participate in God's gracious mission of healing and transforming and redeeming and reconciling the world?
In other words: is any of this hectic activity relevant to anyone except those of us who are already talking about it?
And if not--what do I need to do differently?