Fellow United Methodist and blogging friend Joshua Claybourn of In the Agora responded to a comment in this post by lifting up a counter-revolution in the UMC to keep it from being taken over by what he labels the “progressive left.” Never mind for a moment our disagreement about my claim that employment of the term “progressive left” is a lazy way to address a complex issue with respect to the numerical decline of the UMC (membership has fallen dramatically; attendance has been more stable.). Also disregard the fact that conservatives have won many battles at the legislative and judicial levels and that 24% of UMC seminary students attend the non-United Methodist, Wesleyan tradition seminary Asbury.
What really perplexes me is my inability to spur Josh to answer my claim that two goals he says he supports are in fact incompatible. Josh says he wants a diverse church and seems to support the “open doors, open minds, open hearts” theme. Yet, he places himself strongly on the side of the counter-revolutionaries, which are led by groups such as the Institute on Reilgion and Democracy, the Confessing Movement and Good News Magazine. Out of these groups have come strong movements to purge the UMC of liberal clergy by the establishment of one or more loyalty oaths, narrowed doctrinal standards, altered statements of faith (such as going from “Jesus Christ as Savior of the World and the Lord of All Creation” to requiring clergy to sign belief statements that there is no salvation apart from confessing Christ.) Further, many of these movements have advocated suing church officials for property on the basis that they aren’t Bible believing and thus aren’t Christians, which frees those suing from the restriction of Christian taking on Christian in court. A good part of the counter-revolutionary movement has given advice to dissatisfied United Methodists as to how they may withdraw from the church and take church property with them. Still another cause advanced by the counter-revolutionaries is the idea of amiacable separation (how can it be amiacable when most don’t want to separate?).
In the comments, Josh objects to all manner of my opinions, but doesn’t address the central question of the compatibility of supporting both a diverse church and the counter-revolutionaries (the latter particularly concerning their methods). I even pointed out by e-mail to Josh that if the counter-revolutionaries succeed, I would be removed from the ministry. Not even that rather bold development drew any response from him. So, I will give readers here the opportunity to address how within the United Methodist Church denominational diversity and the counter-revolutionary movement can each succeed.