(By Walter Fenton, Good News). A resolution recently presented to the clergy session of the West Ohio Annual Conference speaks volumes about the self-declared “United Methodist Centrist Movement.”
The resolution made four requests of conference pastors and the two at the top of the list are telling: “Refrain from making complaints against colleagues in matters of sexual orientation,” and “Delay decisions regarding congregational departure from the United Methodist Church until after General Conference 2019.” (The final two requests were innocuous – we trust: “choose faithfulness and discretion,” and support the UM Church’s mission statement.)
If the resolution was authentically centrist it would have included an item calling on clergy to, “Refrain from presiding at or being a party to same-sex weddings.” After all, there would be no need to ask clergy to refrain from filing complaints if others refrained from violating the Book of Discipline in the first place. And local churches would not contemplate leaving if bishops maintained good order and accountability. But lacking such a request, the resolution puts the onus on pastors who actually support and defend the Discipline. One would think a movement that claims to represent the so-called “center,” and therefore the majority of the church, would want to see its polity protected.
But that’s not actually the case. While the UM Centrist Movement styles itself as centrist, it appears to lean progressive. And these centrists live in a theoretical world where hopefully the truly hard questions can be finessed: Is the practice of homosexuality incompatible with Christian teaching or not? Is marriage, as the church defines it, between one man and one woman? And finally, is the church correct in its decision not to ordain self-avowed, practicing homosexuals?