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What I Saw at the Revolution

by David Persons

I know that most of my recent posts have been made in my role as a writer and editor for the Daily Christian Advocate at General Conference. I have been intentionally neutral so that people could be informed and decide for themselves about the General Conference's actions However, I feel I must speak now that General Conference is over.

At this session there was very courteous approach taken by most everyone but it was a courtesy tinged with a profound sadness. That sadness was a part of the universal frustration over the impasse on the issue of homosexuality. The General Conference has repeatedly spoken on this issue, and yet we continue to spend countless hours, dollars and time creating untold pain and hard feelings as we continue to bring the issue back to the forefront of our collective consciousness. I was tremendously and positively impressed with so much of this General Conference, only to be disillusioned by the constant battle over what is, at least for the polity and doctrine of our Church, a resolved and decided issue.

The delegates of General Conference have, once again, prayed and discussed, listened and debated, and then decided to affirm that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching by an extremely wide margin. Every General Conference since the Uniting Conference in 1968 has said the same thing with the same authority. And yet again some protested, and did so this time in a most subtle and insidious way. The protest in Pittsburgh was held after the debate was over for one simple reason. That reason was to put the Church on notice that they are planning to hold the peace and prosperity of our denomination's ministry hostage for yet another four years, or until they get their way. That is an arrogance of the highest order. Those whose position was not upheld continue to feel only they possess truth and moral enlightenment, and that presumptively arrogant attitude left unchecked is simply going to destroy our church.

Homosexuality is really no longer the central issue. The issue now is the very integrity and authority of the system that the Discipline establishes and governs. The church most of us love is being held in cheap regard by those whose desire to win and have their position affirmed at any cost supersedes everything faith, order, fairness, and the very future of the church. Let's be very clear here the supporters of changing our Church's position on homosexuality lost the argument because their argument was, and is, fundamentally flawed. The General Conference, through its actions and legislation, said so in a very clear collective voice. The case for change was not made, and the system worked as it is designed to do, fairly, honestly and openly.

In my view the most faithful thing that those who oppose our current position on ordination of homosexuals and performance of same sex unions can do now is accept the clear verdict of the last ten General Conferences and move on to helping the Church proclaim Christ's love, grace, transformation and forgiveness in new ways as we face the overwhelming challenges of the 21st century, following and being faithful to the prayerful decisions of the General Conference.

If those who oppose the General Conference's actions, conversely, cannot in good conscience follow the mandates of the General Conference and the Discipline, then they need to find a denomination where their views are the common covenant and understanding and part company with the United Methodist Church in the spirit of God's grace.

I feel that Bill Hinson is correct in asking the profoundly important question he asks. However, I feel he is asking the wrong group to leave it is the traditional and orthodox understanding of who we are as God's people that General Conference affirms time and time again. It is that understanding that is shared by the vast majority of our laity and a significant majority of our clergy. I understand and share Bill's frustration, but I would argue that those who do not agree with the Church are the ones who should be challenged to find a church home where they are at peace. Their continued agitation and aggravation of our Church with this issue is not prophetic proclamation nor a speaking of truth to power. It is, instead, an intentional attempt to destroy United Methodist Connection.

I heard Isaiah echoing through the hall at Pittsburgh; "Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. For behold, I am doing a new thing. Now it springs forth, can you not perceive it?" (43:18ff) It is time to see the new thing that God is doing, even if that new thing is embracing the truth that has never changed at all. It is time to not only hear the General Conference's position, it is time to live that position and make it the vision of the future for us in a way that opens a hopeful future for our Church.

What I saw at the revolution that occurred over the last two weeks is a Church that is ready to move on to new challenges and a church that stood firmly on the ground God called them to stand on. It is time for those who cannot stand there with us to leave and find a church that they are in agreement and communion with, instead of continuing a debate they will never win and which will destroy our connection through their continued effort.

The radical left's arrogance remains, despite the clear voice of the vast majority of our laity, despite the clear actions of every General Conference that the United Methodist Church has ever held, despite the clear guidance of God's word, despite the clearly stated collective conviction of the delegates in Pittsburgh, that radical left continues in the arrogant delusion that they, and only they, know the truth and what is best for the Church. Their arrogance, left unchallenged, will destroy our entire Connection. It is time for this divisive and eternal debate to finally end, and for those who protest to perhaps perceive the new thing God is doing, and at least consider that they, rather than the majority, might be the ones in error.

David Persons
United Methodist Campus Minister and Associate Professor of Religion
The Tidewater Wesley Foundation
Old Dominion University
Tidewater Community College and The Eastern Virginia Medical Schools  

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