A prayer for those considering schism

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Anger is easy.  Prayer is hard, especially for one’s enemies.  And yet, that is the work we are called to do as Christ’s body.

News today broke that is not totally surprising and yet nonetheless sad – pathetic, really.  “Conservative” UMC leaders are openly having discussions about actions ranging from withholding apportionments to outright schism.  While division over matters of sexuality and covenant has been ramping over the years, the group stated, “the present reality, where a growing number of United Methodist bishops are unwilling to enforce the Book of Discipline, is unacceptable and untenable.

Apparently the childhood lesson we all learned has not sunk in to this group: two wrongs don’t make a right.  I am also concerned about the response of some bishops to breaches of the Discipline, and yet I don’t see that as a reason to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

And so I offer this prayer from the United Methodist Hymnal, #564.  Oddly enough, it is a Chinese prayer, no doubt from the pen of a Christian who appreciates the true nature of oppression, and the need for a unified church to witness against all that is dark and evil. I offer this prayer for myself and for others, on all sides and on no side.  May the Spirit of the Christ who prayed that we “might be one” prevail against all self-righteousness and individualism.  May the Holy Spirit drive out the spirit of this age in all its forms.

Help each of us, gracious God,

   to live in such magnanimity and restraint

that the Head of the church may never have cause to say to any one of us,

   “This is my body, broken by you.” Amen.

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20 thoughts on “A prayer for those considering schism”

  1. This is nothing more than the “politics of division.” It’s the product of an ego-driven approach to religion that has replaced religion in its rightful place as laying out for us a path to enlightenment. I don’t use the word in some theoretical new age manner – it simply relates to the split in our relationships with ourselves, each other and God, going back to the Garden of Eden. It’s right before us, but we have gotten it wrong most of the time, and when you bring institutionalism to it – you just put the ego/small self/human condition/sinful nature on acid.

  2. For us to think that we are able, in ourselves, to live in such a way as not to need Christ saying, ‘my body broken for you,’ is the height of arrogance — unless, of course, one believes one has “arrived.” That was the sin of the Corinthians, among others. Instead, I would direct you to a truly great call to worship written by Brian Kent, pastor at Hope United Methodist Church of San Diego, CA.

    Our unity is not in our place of birth or in our social background.
    Our unity is in God our Creator.

    Our unity is not in having identical views.
    Our unity is in Jesus Christ.

    Our unity does not come from listening to the same news stations.
    Our unity is in listening to the Holy Spirit.

    Our unity is not in being told what to think.
    Our unity is in the living, dynamic Church, the Body of Christ, as we love the Lord our God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength.

    The 12 disciples were fishermen, political zealots, a tax collector, not chosen because of their similar views on any social issue.
    They were called and chosen by Jesus Christ, placed together in one band of followers, learning to follow Jesus, who often may have been their only unity.

    So let us practice our unity, not by name-calling, but by respect, not by shouting but by listening, not by giving in, but by loving ourselves and our neighbors.
    We are a family whose unity is in the one who called us. We are convinced that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ, and so we can afford to risk living together in his love.:

  3. Here is what is pathetic. Our bishops issued a letter that said “As bishops chosen, consecrated and assigned by the Church, we declare once again our commitment to be faithful to this covenant we have made. As the Council of Bishops we will uphold the Book of Discipline as established by General Conference.”
    They cannot keep their word. The leadership paralysis of our bishops has taken us to this point. The leadership vacuum will be filled somehow but at a more grassroots level and The UMC will be in for a rough ride.

    1. Kevin,

      The same conservatives who are outraged right now have been at the center of disempowering the Bishops for a long time. In fact, one of the few things that brought both sides together at GC2012 was the rejection of the request for a set-aside President of the Council of Bishops. I also wish the Bishops had more authority to police each other and would like to see more unity among them. But you can’t pick and choose when you want the bishops to have authority. Peace to you.

  4. My comment was directed toward their integrity not their authority. I fail to see how a bishop President would have helped.

  5. It is not a bishops job to maintain status quo. It is the bishops job to be the pastors of the pastors and to discern If God is doing a new thing. The book of discipline is not the bible. It is being used like a bible. It is wrong and they know it which is many give the love versers. It is their job to discern new trends and movements in the church and clear the obstacles, support the pastors in doing that. I hate it when you so narrowly define what bishops do. They are not managers of the Methodist documents. They are a group steeped in all areas of Christianity from a Methodist framework discerning that as a whole, as an entity when this flock by the millions is ready to join God in new workds of creation. Not maintain dead traditions or lines of thought that are no longer useful to Christ. The questions is what have the bishops discerned as a group what direction God needs our denomination to head in and how is that going to manifest in the church and how to support pastors as they make the transformations. Bishops are for the transformation times.

  6. I pray that those who continue to break the covenant and continue to bless what God calls sin will repent so that schism isn’t necessary. Without repentance there can be no reconciliation. In spite of these emotional appeals.

  7. One more thing: Were you practicing what you preach when you de-friended and blocked me on Facebook because I asked you a few simple questions about what the bible says about repentance in a conversation on my page which you, on your own accord, entered into?
    Explain how that is not hypocritical? How are you displaying unity when you act that way?

    You said it was for your own “sanity.” Well, perhaps the “pathetic” Conservatives, as your “unifying” voice calls us conservatives, find it necessary to separate from such hypocrisy and immorality for our own sanctity. Matt. 18 and 1 Cor. 5 is quite clear what to do when people will not repent. It doesn’t include making an idol out of a denomination.

    1. Chad, you don’t know this because we have never met in person, but I have a large number of conservative friends. I’m serving in a conservative area and I was a fundamentalist baptist once. I get along very well with my conservative friends even when (and it is frequent) we disagree. So my decision to no longer engage you is not because you are conservative.

      Frankly, I didn’t like reading your stuff when you were a self-righteous left-wing Christian, and I don’t like reading your stuff now that you are a self-righteous right-wing Christian. I defriended and blocked for this reason, and because you refused to dialogue in a respectful way when I respectfully asked. Thank you for making it so obvious – once again, in a public way – why you are not worth engaging.

      Also, I think you might be for real clinically insane.

      1. “In Internet slang, a troll (/ˈtroʊl/, /ˈtrɒl/) is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a forum, chat room, or blog), either accidentallyor with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.”

        Chad, in the words of the Ancient Greek aphorism, “know thyself.”

      2. Thank you for the laugh your quip about my sanity brought me this morning. With such humble, so-called moderates like yourself praying for our unity, what could possibly go wrong? Do you not see that your blog posts and comments and actions completely defeat that which you are asking people to pray for?

      3. I’m afraid to comment anymore because you like to troll the internet by copying and pasting, so I should probably stop here after I say:

        part of offering a middle way is that both extremes will fire shots at you (this is actually in the “about” section of Via Media Methodists explicitly). So it seems to me I’m doing exactly what I set out to.

      4. Please show me where I was disrespectful in this conversation, which occurred on my FB page, which you first entered into by calling me a Pharisee for suggesting that reconciliation without repentance is like religion without relationship. For the sake of unity, which you seem to care so much about, I really would like to know how I offended you in the following:

        Chad Holtz And if you can, I’m still curious how you answer the marriage question. Should the unfaithful spouse repent before being taken back in? How would you counsel such a couple? I find it hard to believe you would not require repentance.
        April 5 at 1:06pm · Like

        Chad Holtz In Rom 2:4 what is Gods kindness meant to bring about in us?
        April 5 at 1:10pm · Edited · Like

        Chad Holtz One more thing, Drew, repentance is a key component of the ordo salutis, coming just before justification. It matters a great deal.
        April 5 at 1:51pm · Like

        Drew McIntyre Prevenient is before. And Wesleyans affirm a via, not an ordo, because of the possibility of backsliding and the need for repentance – which is,of course, important on the journey towards Christian perfection.
        April 5 at 1:58pm · Like · 1

        Chad Holtz Drew, you’ve not answered a single question of mine above. If you are one of the voices for a supposed “middle” way, you will need to do much better at talking about one of the core doctrines of faith – repentance – so as to not make every conservative feel as though progressives have watered down yet one more important scriptural warrant and thus find more reason to believe your middle is just mush. Jesus, John the Baptist and Peter all began their preaching ministry by first calling people to repent (were they Pharisees, too?) You would suggest that you have a better way?
        April 5 at 2:11pm · Edited · Like

        Drew McIntyre Chad, I doubt I will speak to your satisfaction about anything, nor do I have time to try. I do not care for your tone, nor your attempt to bait me by insult. Have a nice day.
        April 5 at 2:19pm · Like

        Chad Holtz Drew, I’ve not baited nor insulted you. No one forced you to comment on an observation I was making about reconciliation, yet you chose as your first comment to insinuate that demanding repentance is Pharisaic.. I’m asking you a few questions by means of trying to help you see why this is not the case, yet you refuse to answer any of them. I believe you are avoiding them because the answers don’t fit your agenda. That’s unfortunate that your “middle way” takes precedence over looking at what the scriptures actually say about these matters. I hope you’ll reconsider your position.
        April 5 at 2:22pm · Edited · Like · 1

        Drew McIntyre Chad, you don’t have a clue what my position is, you just suspect me of being a heathen liberal because my answers can’t fit into a tract. This is me leaving the conversation; I’ll be happy to engage you further in a message or email, but if you continue to tag me in every comment I will need to block you for my own sanity.
        April 5 at 2:31pm · Like

        Chad Holtz Feel free, Drew. Again, you haven’t answered any questions I’ve asked, so how can I have a clue? It’s not that your answers don’t fit into a tract, but that you give none. You want to call people to a “middle way” and yet you can’t answer simple questions and have a conversation without getting upset and walking out? As I said, I think I know why, and I hope you’ll reconsider.

      5. I said above that repentance is an important part of the via salutis. I would of course affirm that an unfaithful spouse should repent, but that analogy is not indicative of how God handles us. He loves us while we are yet sinful, and the covenant is not contingent upon our repentance (our repentance is our proper response to covenant love shown). So we were probably talking past each other.

        Now, I have answered this question you were so desperate for. I would appreciate it if you would stop posting our conversations in public, because what you have done is borderline harassment. I will be happy to engage you further over email, but this is the last I will respond to you or allow anyone to comment on this post.

  8. I am afraid I see none of the traits you seek in others within your blog posts. Comments like, “sad – l pathetic really” combined with assertions that they never learned two wrongs don’t make a right seem to illustrate your heart toward them clearly. Can you point me to your blog posts chiding the left on this argument for their tactics?

  9. Why not simply accept that some folks weren’t born heterosexual but deserve to be loved and embraced anyway?

    This kind of Petty bickering is one of the reasons my wife and I left the UMC for The Episcopal Church nearly four years ago.

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