Agreeing to Disgree?

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I believe I said previously in my blog it was my intention to avoid denominational politics.  I really want my blog to be about my journey of faith in the UMC and ministry of the UMC churches I serve.  But today I felt prompted to write out of concern for the loving people I have come to know in my new UMC family.

Today in the General Conference session I knew the contentious and difficult issues of homosexuality would be brought for some kind of vote.  This issue has come up every four years for many years.  United Methodists have sharp disagreements on this issue each believing that their view is right, moral, and Biblical.  Each side believing that what they believe and want is for the good of kingdom of God and the church.

So, in what appeared to me to be a brilliant, loving, and caring move for unity Rev. Adam Hamilton and Rev. Mike Slaughter, pastors of two of our largest UMC churches, were involved in sponsoring an amendment to the Book of Discipline which said in part, 

“We commit to disagree with respect and love, we commit to love all persons and, above all, we pledge to seek God’s will. With regard to homosexuality, as with so many other issues, United Methodists adopt the attitude of John Wesley who once said, “Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may.”

It was simply an amendment in which they sought to get acknowledgement that United Methodists honestly disagree on this issue but that we pledge ourselves to love each other and work together in the name of Christ.  The amendent did not seek to change anyone’s mind or push one view or another.  It simply called for the UMC to record the obvious, that we struggle with the issue of homosexuality and that many of us are in disgreement about this issue.

Yet, the delegates chose in about a 60/40 vote to vote down this statement.  I honestly found that hard to believe!  Surely none of the delegates could fail to note that we disagree.  Immediately following the vote there was a lengthy protest at the altar in disagreement with the failure of the resolution to pass.  

So what did the delegates disagree with in the resolution?  Honestly I’m at a loss.  I’m at a loss beause agreeing to disagree is how the church operates every day and at every level.  In any church I have served in, Christians of good will and theological depth disagree with each other on decisions in the church from the weighty to the trivial.  

When we disagree we discuss, we negotiate, and finally we vote and then those who did not get their way go along with the majority for the sake of the church and the sake of the kingdom until the issue can either be resolved or discussed at a future date.  That is how people work together.  That is how the church works and moves forward.  That is how we seek to perfect our work for the sake of Christ.

But in the end the most important thing isn’t if I get my way or not or if the vote goes the way I wanted it to.  In the end the most important thing is that the world needs to see that Christians truly love each other that if we cannot think alike at least we can love alike with the same grace of Jesus Christ.  If we can’t do that then right doctrine, clear polity, a or even snazzy new reorganization plan will not save us.  Because if we cannot love each other than no one is going to buy the idea that the Jesus we talk so much about loves them either.

At the heart of the message of John Wesley and his Wesleyan disciples that I have grown to love dearly and become a part of is the promise of grace, free grace, prevenient grace which runs before us and overflows from the love of God for all of us, each and everyone one of us!

I believe it is time to agree that we agree to disagree.  

2 comments

  1. It is unfortunate that a simple statement of faith that coincides with the sage advice of the scriptures that “they will know us by our love for one another” has been voted down. If the research was done, I would suspect that those who voted the amendment down saw the amendment as a slight step in the direction of those they disagree with. Perhaps the agenda of those who overruled is not in line with God’s wishes for the church. Francis Asbury faced such a challenge with the threat of a church schism. Like this situation, the intended vote on the issue failed, As Asbury dropped to his knees in tears, fearing that he had blown it, the preachers who voted against the issue were the first to reconcile the entire group allowing for a twelve month period of prayer and waiting for word from John Wesley. Although that word never came and Asbury had to act on the leading of the Holy Spirit, I believe his decision was guided by the heart-felt prayers of those he was leading. Perhaps what is needed most is a long period of prayer about this issue.

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