I wrote this in a couple of circles in response to opinions voiced by both conservative and progressive voices in the United Methodist Church regarding schism. It is heartfelt and from my conviction. I pray it helps unite rather than divide.
On the issue of same-gender marriage... one side is not going to "convince" the other one - and shaming each other by using terms such as "homophobic" and "unscriptural", "discriminatory" and "permissive" is far from covenant behavior. Saying that "The Inquisition Cometh" is not helpful. Conservatives and Progressives alike in the UMC are using all kinds of language that is not acceptable in a covenant community. Both sides are threatening to withhold funds. To some, it seems like we'd rather cut the baby in half.
John Wesley and George Whitefield disagreed. And debated. Vehemently. They argued over grace. Predestination. Universal redemption. Wesley leaned toward the Arminian. Whitefield leaned toward Calvinism. And yet while they argued, and disagreed, and wrote back and forth - there was never a claim of discrimination, or being morally bankrupt, or the taking of cheap shots and denigration. They both labored to teach and preach, to take mission and discipleship to a world that was hungry and desperate for it (and still is). And when Whitefield died, Wesley - of all people - was asked to preach his funeral. And if you read that sermon, it is clear: Wesley loved Whitefield.
It disgusts me that the secular world reads little about the Methodists anymore except for this controversy (and I'm convinced, evil temptation) to schism, divest, disrupt, demonize, divide... instead of going to make disciples of Jesus Christ for a hurting world in need of healing. Not only is it sinful - it is a blood feud, as insular and dysfunctional as most blood feuds. It may be the greatest blow to our pride that if the UMC splits, falls apart, or disintegrates, that it will be with a whimper and not a bang. We won't be news long.
E.H. Sugden wrote this in his introduction about Wesley's funeral sermon for Whitefield and how the two men loved and respected each other: "Two opposing views represent the two sides of one truth, which our finite understanding is not able to synthesize; but which we may nevertheless accept, just as we accept the Unity in Trinity in the Godhead, or the divine-human person of our Lord." Or, to quote the more recent words of Reinhold Niebuhr, Christians must learn to live in the tension of having AND not having the truth.
These would be good things for all of us to remember before we go off thinking "we" are right and "they" are wrong. On this matter, I suspect we all share in ignorance and arrogance.