“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The word ‘unity’ is a word waved like a banner of truth by the progressives throughout our denomination. I have heard the bishops use the word as a rally call to action. I sense it is meant to act as a magnet, drawing us to a set place. “Unity is the reason we must stay together as a denomination. Unity defines true commitment and the meaning of being a faithful member of the United Methodist Church.” On the surface each of these sentences appear reasonable, yet there is a fatal flaw in the logic. Unity is an outcome. People are unified under a common cause, purpose, and belief. On Easter morning you probably stated as a congregation, ‘He is risen.’ Hearing a room filled with people repeating the resurrection language is thrilling and inspiring. But, just saying the words does not mean all in the room define the resurrection that Jesus was literally dead and resurrected from the dead. Many on Sunday morning believe resurrection is understood as being spiritual, not literal. Accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and acknowledging there is no other way to God is not widely accepted by progressives. The list of double meanings is extensive. Simple fact evangelicals and progressives are not on the same page regarding biblical interpretation and the meaning of Wesleyan theology. Saying we are unified does not make us unified. We have lived in a denomination of double and triple meaning. We have often extolled this co-existence as a virtue of our diversity.
What unifies us? Following Jesus is the simple truth. Following the God of the Bible is the simple truth. Following the record of the movement of God we call the Bible is the simple truth. Progressive theology is molded by the culture. The culture’s definition of ethics and morality becomes their honored way of life. As an evangelical we believe it is our biblical calling to impact, influence, and transform the culture through the anointed Word of God as our authority and counsel. Evangelicals have been stereotyped by many progressives as hating the LGBTQI community. This is a false statement. Yes, we believe their lifestyle is not what God desires for them. Yes, we believe homosexuality is a sin. The important truth within this recognition is our willingness to receive them in the church. As a minister of 43 years I have welcomed LGBTQI people into the church. I have counseled them through times of emotional trauma due to relational problems. I have walked with one young person recovering from being physically brutalized by hate filled sinful people. I have stayed at the bedside of a man as Aids ravaged his body until his final moment. Preached numerous funerals for folks from the gay community. Embraced and prayed with transgendered friends of a young person who died due to a drug overdose. In every one of these examples, the people referenced knew my biblical belief. We did not deny each other’s beliefs and shut each other out of our lives, rather we made a choice to respect and listen. We shared our life stories, beliefs, sometimes laughed, other times wept, and always loved each other. There was more a reality of unity with these folks, than I am currently experiencing with the progressive community. Do not think I merely related on the human level with the people I referenced. I shared the message of God’s redeeming love, the power of forgiveness, and the liberation received through repentance and the peace that passes all understanding. If I say yes to the unity of the progressives all I shared from the heart of God would be forfeited. There would be no reason to share the eternal Truth of a relationship with Jesus and the full counsel of God’s Word. This I will not do. Unity comes from following Christ Jesus, ‘so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.’
All for the Kingdom,