Historic United Methodist Building Now Become Meeting Place Of Perverts, Terrorists And Protesters
Report to UMAction Steering Committee
October 15, 2007
Dear Fellow United Methodist:
Here is my report to the latest UMAction Steering Committee. Many serious challenges lie ahead, but we can remain hopeful about our United Methodist Church. God is hearing your prayers, and He is reforming our great church!
An appallingly colorful episode recently encapsulated all that has plagued our United Methodist Church and other mainline denominations over the last 50 plus years.
Church officials joined in a press conference on the lawn of the Methodist Building to announce their umpteenth protest against the Iraq War. This time, it was an interfaith "fast" to coincide with Islam's Ramadan season.
Our own Jim Winkler of the Board of Church & Society was there. So too was an official representing the National Council of Churches. There were Buddhists and other religionists. Among them was an official from the Islamic Society of North America. This ostensibly "moderate" Muslim group was named as an un-indicted co-conspirator in the ongoing terrorism trial involving the Holy Land Foundation.
In keeping with the intended interfaith theme of the anti-war press conference, a Jewish rabbi sounded a shofar, or ram's horn, that Jews have used for 3 millennia as an instrument of worship. Introducing the blower of the shofar was Rabbi Debra Kolodny, self-professed sexual liberationist and editor of "Blessed Bi-Spirit: Bisexual People of Faith. Rabbi Kolodny is a noted advocate of "polyamory" and the ostensible holiness of multiple sexual partners. She is not your typical rabbi.
But how superbly perfect that Rabbi Kolodny should be present on the lawn of the Methodist Building, taking a break from her crusade for polamory, to introduce the blowing of a shofar against the Iraq War, with her Muslim and Methodist co-belligerents. And how often is an official from the Islamic Society of North America likely to spend a late Summer morning in public solidarity with a bisexual Jewish rabbi? Only the United Methodist Board of Church and Society could facilitate such a cosmic event!
No doubt, 85 years ago, Methodism's Old Board of Temperance had exactly this kind of event in mind when it dedicated the Methodist Building as a shrine to chaste and temperate living. Worried primarily about the destructive wages of intoxication, but also about "salacious" literature," racy Hollywood films and the vices of the race track, the Old Temperance Board raised dimes and quarters from Sunday school classes and Methodist women's groups across the nation. The old temperance crusaders likely never foresaw that the fruits of their labors would include the author of "Blessed Bi-Spirit," or the Islamic Society of North America. How far we have come!
By faith, we know that the Methodist Building will not forever be the host of such dubious happenings. Some day, maybe not far off, it could be reclaimed for the Gospel. When and if that happens, the venerable building will have been the eye witness not only to a century of presidential inaugurations, but also to the full circle of Methodist preeminence, decline and renewal.
The builders of the Methodist Building represented America's largest Protestant church. They had prospered from nearly 120 years of nearly continuous growth and triumph. Methodists in the early 20th century were among the pillars of American civilization. Having already converted America to Jesus Christ, they were confident of purging the chosen nation of its worst iniquities, through spiritual and political warfare. It was perfectly appropriate that the Methodist Building would sit across from the U.S. Capitol and what would soon become the U.S. Supreme Court. As the Congress legislated America's laws, and the justices interpreted those laws, so the Methodists and their fellow mainline Protestants would govern the souls and consciences of Americans.
Their intentions were magnificent, but their optimism was misguided. Prohibition, of course, did not last. And it would not be too many years before the Methodist Building began to fall prey to the fruits of the heterodox theology that was already afoot in most of Methodism's seminaries.
In the decades to come, the Methodist Building would no longer represent social holiness or even mainstream Methodism, but instead would host an endless array of utopian, radical and even freakish causes. During the Cold War, the apologists for communism's worst tyrannies would find a welcome home there. The zealots of population control, convinced that the earth was soon to be overrun by a surplus of people, were also housed in the Methodist Building, helping to hatch the eventual regime of unrestricted abortion, which dehumanized all of human life. Reportedly, the justice who penned the "Roe versus Wade" decision, himself a Methodist, used the Methodist Building as a refuge in which he wrote the landmark ruling.
The interest groups who came to dominate the Methodist Building were not interested in the old Methodist vision of social holiness. Their aim was social, political and sexual revolution. The patriarchs of the Old Temperance Board had seen a nation that was bound for Zion. But their ecclesial successors saw only a corrupt and oppressive America, whose innate racism, greed, and imperialism could be overthrown only through the most radical action.
Nearly a century ago, the Old Temperance Board had cheerfully collected support from tens of thousands of Methodists. Its cause was popular and wide-based. But the eventual occupants of the Methodist Building would be elitists and not populists. Their support, such as it was, sprang not from 20,000 Sunday school classes, but the faculty and alumni of radicalized seminaries, who believed themselves unaccountable to the wider church. Unable to garner their own support, these new church lobbyists instead had to disguise their purposes and finagle funds that were originally devoted to temperance.
The Old Temperance Board was born out of revival and hopefulness, however misplaced its optimism. The eventual rulers of the Methodist Building were, in contrast, distrustful and resentful over the movement and nation that had endowed them.
But for everything there is a season, we are assured, and the era of liberal Protestantism, after decades of implosion, is fast drawing to a close. The constituency and the money for its aberrant theologies and corrosive politics are drying up. A bisexual rabbi who headlines a press conference on the Methodist Building's lawn is a near perfect book-end for the radical era that is soon to conclude. That an Islamic official from a dubious group should quote the Koran at the same event is also highly appropriate. Unlike the current residents of the Methodist Building, the Muslim actually believes in the authority of his scripture, and in the transcendent power of his doctrines.
What will replace the closing era of the Methodist Building and our denomination? Maybe eventual collapse? Possibly denominationalism, at least in America, has concluded its usefulness in the calendar of God. Most of growing Christianity around the world is charismatic, and much of it is indifferent to denominational distinctives.
Naturally, we will celebrate whatever course the Holy Spirit chooses. But perhaps that Spirit, for the sake of divine irony, will take back at least some of those denominations that He originally created, including, we pray, our own.
Possibly the Methodist Building will some day be sold off to a lobbying firm or trade association or government agency. At least then it will no longer embarrass the Body of Christ.
But perhaps equally possibly, the Methodist Building will again heed the call of social holiness. Maybe this time with greater realism, its future occupants will apply the Gospel to the issues of our culture in ways that are Christ-centered and redemptive.
What if, some day, the Methodist Building's occupants defended the sanctity of all human life, advocated on behalf of oppressed Christians around the world, vigorously but un-prudishly opposed vice, affirmed the family in God's order of creation, empowered private philanthropy rather than only government as the helper of the needy, and actually recognized the state's vocational role in legitimate law enforcement and national defense?
Even more incredibly, what if a future regime of the Methodist Building, recognizing the sacrifices and generosity of its predecessors, actually employed the tools of faith to combat alcohol abuse?
Some day, the Methodist Building's owners and tenants may actually look upon people as not just victimized accidents of biology, but as eternal souls, sinful but also potentially noble, and active participants in a vast cosmological struggle at whose conclusion Jesus Christ will be the Victor.
Keeping in mind that Victor, we pray and hope for a Methodist Building and a United Methodist Church that are fully restored to Him.
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