Another voice...the Rev. Deborah Cronin. She served in the UMC in churches in Spencerport, Oakfield, and Jamestown (NY) areas and as a District Superintendent: "Let’s keep it simple. Let’s get it done. And then, let us do good things."
Response to the Brad-Jones Plan and a Way Forward (Again) by Rev. Dr. Deborah K. Cronin
An Argument for Simplicity:
As a 3-time clergy delegate to General Conference (elected from 2 different annualized conferences) I have always believed that the simplest solution is probably the best solution. This understanding, no doubt, was instilled in me from childhood.
I grew up in a neighborhood of mostly boys. After school each day we played baseball. The rules were simple: three strikes and you’re out. No referee/no balls. One foul ball per up.” Simple.
Boundaries, however, were always an issue, the foul-lines varying depending on whose yard we used. When we played in a yard with particularly challenging boundary lines (woods, gardens, etc.), then the rules changed to one foul ball plus one “do-over” per up.
Any flagrant abuse of the rules resulted in the perpetrator being dis-invited from our backyard league. The only way to re-join the league was to promise full allegiance to the rules.
The LGBTQetc caucus (affirmed by their compatriots, the Progressives Caucus) in The United Methodist Church has had 47 years of out-of-bounds do-overs, including 13 General Conferences. Each time the General Conference, including GC’19, has, in one form or another, said the same thing (“You’re out!”) to practicing LGBTQetc clergy desiring to change the rules to fit their sexual self-understanding, lifestyle and personal choices.
There’s no reason to think GC’20, with its orthodox Methodist global partners, will have a different response. It’s time to tell the LGBTQetc caucus clergy, “You’re out and you are no longer welcomed in this league!” Which, of course, is what Gc’19 pointedly said.
Let’s Talk Schism
And now this quadrennially repeated self-flagellation has brought The United Methodist Church to the point of considering options for schism. There is no doubt in my mind and heart that this schism must be attained by a gracious, generous exit plan that must be completed as rapidly as possible once GC’20 can set it in motion.
It is, indeed, unfortunate that in recent weeks a dialogue has evolved, or, rather, has devolved, into elaborate schism schemes addressing, primarily, how The UMC can be most kind to Progressive bishops, clergy, congregations, and lay persons. Consideration of these schemes of wfiff’s, called foul balls, and suggested do-overs means expending large amounts of physical, financial, psychological, and spiritual energy. Any goal of devising an ultra-soft-landing for departing Progressives will result in a tedious over-blown process. That process will devour not a quadrennium, but quadrennials, and possibly even decades to finalize.
A Voice Crying in the Wilderness
By contrast, no one appears to be listening to the voice crying in the wilderness on behalf of Traditional Christians called United Methodists. Today, Traditional UM congregations, of all sizes and geographical/socio-economic settings, are in danger of being consumed by an oppressive, permissive secular culture. Meanwhile, the Progressive Caucus within the denomination continues to reject historic Christian beliefs, tossing those teachings and values aside like empty plastic bottles strewn around the denomination’s many parking lots.
Hence, Traditional church members, congregations, pastors and bishops are crying out,
“Look over here! We are faithful to our Christian vows! We are deeply committed to the belief that Christian Marriage is for 1 man + 1 woman! Those of us who are Traditional single and celibate clergy willingly and daily hold fast to our ordination vows because we believe the witness of The Gospel is worth more than our sacrifice. Therefore, please, we beg you, help us! Help us renew and maintain the Traditional Way Forward!”
I ask - no, I implore you - to think about this: GC’19 said NO to the ordination of practicing LGBTQetc persons, NO to UMC clergy officiating at LGBTQetc weddings, and NO to bishops who wish to ignore these provisions. In light of the on-going conversations and proposals about trying to duct-tape the denomination together, I must ask: When will NO finally mean NO?
Roadmap to Re-stabilizing
IF GC’20 affirms any schism process that becomes a long painful odyssey of divvying up resources while coddling the Progressives with psycho-religious comfort blankets, THEN, understandably, frustrated but currently faithful Traditional United Methodists will see that prolonged schism as a profound NO! How could it possibly be interpreted otherwise?
What, then, should a just and expedient schism process entail?
Consider these steps:
Allow all Progressive-dominant congregations and annual conferences to leave the denomination with their properties and financial assets, requiring, of course, the prior payment of any unfunded pension liabilities.
Set a not-too-distant future date when such departures shall be completed, no later than December 31, 2025.
Inform all remaining clergy that the standards set by GC’19 shall be applied to every clergy person, including administrative steps to be taken in the event of non-Disciplinary performance of their duties and/or moral sexual misconduct.
Make absolutely no changes to The United Methodist Church subject only to future General Conference sessions and/or current board and agency rules, regulations, and policies.
Maintain exclusive use of the denomination’s name (THE United Methodist Church), or an alternative name approved by GC,20, and reserve the use of the Cross and Flame Logo for use by the denomination and its approved organizations. In addition, enact legislation stipulating that the Cross and Flame may not be used by any future emerging caucus within the denomination.
I am not naive. I understand that what I have outlined above may not work. But, I also believe in giving people the right resources and then setting them free to create what they most desire. This plan would give Progressives, that opportunity.
Furthermore, this plan acknowledges that Traditionals in The UMC cannot make Progressives happy, no matter how hard we try. We have tried that already and have not had success. And, admittedly, our nonsuccess has died a sputtering death each time we thought we could out-pastoral care each other.
Throughout the past 8 months I have been a strong proponent of a gracious, generous, and swift exit plan for clergy, and congregations who do not want to be faithful to their vows of upholding The UMC Book of Discipline, including its Biblical principles. Such an expedient way forward as described above is the only viable option. This is particularly true given the other national and international threats we are facing today, including racism, consideration of pro-life and abortion issues, viral epidemics, nuclear proliferation, biological weapons, secularism, safe and adequate food and water resources, the sale and use of illegal drugs, the growth of authoritarian governments and fascist leaders, etc. We will not be able to adequately respond to these dire realities if we are suffocated by a sustained, long-lasting schism process.
A Clear and Present Danger
A further word of extreme caution: astonishingly, we now have Progressive clergy and laity protesting that they cannot endure a schism because they, unlike Traditional Evangelicals, lack the entrepreneurial skills necessary to accomplish that task.
To this preposterous notion I say, “Balderdash, poppy-cock, and malarkey!!” plus whatever 21st Century exclamations connote the same meaning!
The Progressives have managed a well-funded and ever-morphing caucus initiative for 47 years and through 13 General Conference sessions, including hundreds of annual conference sessions and legislative petition creations. If they can do that, they can figure out what to do with a gracious and generous exit strategy.
Rather than investing any more time and effort into a caucus that, I believe, would happily destroy The UMC and all Traditionals within it, we Traditionals must now invest our time, our money, our hearts, our minds, and our souls into doing what we have promised: Make Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World.
The Traditional witnesses are willing, “... to throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles...” (Hebrews 12:1) We are crying out, We will follow our historic Christian banners and flags, but we beg the denomination to please help us — for is that not the meaning of connectionalism? — to affirm our ministry through prayer, encouragement, recognition, and supervision?
Traditionals Eager for a Positive Future
To GC’20 and The Council of Bishops, we say, “Help us be the people who, as the earliest Methodist Christian circuit-riders did, spread Scriptural holiness across the land and reform the continent[s]!”
It is time to play Traditional ball once again in the big league, The United Methodist Church. It is time to re-claim and keep our franchise trademark, The Cross and Flame. It is time to play for keeps in this season and then strategize for denominational effectiveness in the next season.
We can no longer play ball with those who are only interested in manipulating the rules to their own Progressive agenda. It is time for this game to end and a new, Traditionally re-vitalized game to begin a new era of faithfully tending God’s sheep and proclaiming The Gospel to our parish, the world of our Creator.
Have I convinced you? Yes? No? Still thinking? Well, consider THIS:
My next-door-neighbor is a Reformed Jewish rabbi. I know, I know. How does a Reformed Jewish rabbi wind up living next door to an evangelical conservative United Methodist clergywoman?
Could it be God-incidence? Maybe.
A couple months ago I asked Rabbi Leon, “Given the Orthodox/Reformed division within the Jewish faith, plus the various Jewish sects, what advice could you give United Methodists in a time of schism?”
I expected a rather long reply, including various Old Testament references.
But Rabbi Leon’s reply stunned me with its simplicity: “Separate and then do good things.”
Let’s keep it simple.
Let’s get it done.
And then, let us do good things.