I once said that the old mainline protestant denominations were going to fall like dominoes. I called the game, "Denominoes", and it looks like another one is falling.
My brother in law is a Methodist, and the other day he asked me about how issues around human sexuality were handled by Episcopalians. In particular he was thinking locally, on the parish level. All of this because the United Methodist Church (UMC) has been grappling with the problem of openly homosexual ministers who continue to defy their book of discipline. The UMC recently published "A Way Forward" which sought to maximize,
"the presence of a United Methodist witness in as many places in the world as possible, that allows for as much contextual differentiation as possible, and that balances an approach to different theological understandings of human sexuality with a desire for as much unity as possible. This unity will not be grounded in our conceptions of human sexuality, but in our affirmation of the Triune God who calls us to be a grace-filled and holy people in the Wesleyan tradition."Methodibabble.
I explained that Episcopalians, while mostly well educated, are for the most part functionally illiterate when it comes to theology and scripture due to their reliance on once a week (at best) worship, a the three year lectionary which binds them to hearing the same small bits of scripture year after year, and priests and bishops who want to keep their sheep illiterate. Therefore congregants help elect revisionist priests and bishops in large part because, except for the progressive pewsitters, they have no idea what they are doing. On the local level this results in most Episcopalians not caring about what goes on at the national level because they are happy with their church friends, most of whom are "nice people". Ignorance of the the consequences of hanging out with "nice people" on Sunday mornings who are functionally illiterate of theology and scripture results in one hearing the oft repeated, "I am not worried about", "It will never happen here", or "It doesn't matter to me".
Conservative Episcopalians fought the progressive agenda for a while but eventually had to depart, or if they stayed, they stopped giving money to their parish church because part of that money went to fund the madness that was happening on the national level. Oh, there was talk of a "Third way" or of Sarah's "Little Stone Bridge" approach, but in the absence of a viable alternative and a paucity of little stone bridges, Episcopalians drifted away by the millions, and a once great denomination fell.
Those of us who witnessed the Episcopal organization's step by step march from easy divorce to homosexual bishops, same-sex marriage, transsexual priests, and gender neutral restrooms and prayers learned a number of lessons. Two of those lessons were to beware of the "listening process", and to read between the lines of any "Commission" formed to find a "way forward". This is because only one side is supposed to listen, and there is only one way forward as far as progressives are concerned. In fact, the very notion of "listening" implies that conservatives don't listen, and calling something "a way forward" implies that anything else is "backward". Another lesson we learned was that words are important, and the first one out of the gate with a catch phrase or new label for something usually wins modern day "debates".
Another lesson we learned was that we were going to be called names. I have been called a homophobe, a hater, a misogynist, an idiot, and a neanderthal. I have been told to leave by a number of parishioners, priests, and one bishop. You have to learn to put up with abuse.
The Methodists "listened", and "studied" and came up with three options for a way forward.
- The One Church Plan (one big happy LGBT church)
- The Connectional Conference Plan (separate but equal)
- The Traditionalist Plan (one big traditional church)
Guess which group will be called names.
Guess which group will leave.
The denominoes are falling.