“…making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Eph. 4:13, NRSV)
As I write this, the BBC and other outlets are projecting that Scotland will remain, as it has for three centuries, part of the United Kingdom. The St. Andrew’s Cross will stay within the Union Jack. Though long and sometimes bitter, the fight is over and the Scots chose union over division. Can the UMC do the same?
There are parallels. A union of different regions, dialects, and ideologies attempting to hold together despite serious differences; a disconnect between the resources provided by certain regions and their influence in the rest of the body politic; a variety of promises made by those pushing for independence, the veracity of whose claims is spurious at best. On the whole, the question is essentially the same: can a bunch of different kinds of people learn to live well together, or will they choose the easy option: autonomy?
Like the United Kingdom, the United Methodist Church is “better together.” Yes, there are grave challenges that must be faced. Much akin to the situation of the Scots, there exists a variety of groups within the big tent of the UMC whose particular values and languages make independence a tempting case. But the easy thing and the right thing are rarely the same.
The Scots have voted to keep the ‘united’ in United Kingdom. Hopefully the time and effort put in to pursuing independence will lead to conversation and reforms that will aid the Scottish residents in feeling more valued by their countrymen and more respected as a cultural and political body. The hard choice may well pay off.
Back to the church: schism is not hard, it’s easy – whether it is of the “amicable” variety or not. There is nothing particularly interesting or remarkable in entropy, destruction, and tearing down. It’s as easy as gravity.
But unity, despite the odds and genuine differences, despite the barriers in language, history, culture? That’s an adventure. That’s “advanced citizenship,” as Michael Douglas’ President Shepherd once put it. That’s unity-as-gift, gratefully received and hard fought to keep. But the juice is worth the squeeze.
That’s the path the Scottish people have chosen. Will we be so wise as 2016 approaches?