A LETTER FROM MONTGOMERY FUMC NEWCOMER
THE THREE THESES
Martin Luther’s 95 Theses were propositions for an academic “disputation”–a formalized method of debate designed to uncover and establish truths. Never in the history of our church has it been more critical to debate the following propositions:
Houston, we have a problem. Many in our church are unhappy and want their voices heard. They want to invoke the very mechanism prescribed by our UMC to still the waters in these exact times. Not a sterile excuse for Discernment, word-smithed by our church as “discernment”–where you hear only the UMC’s side of the story–but the real thing, Discernment as described in our Discipline: “[A] gift of deep intuition and insight. Discerning people can separate truth from fiction and know at a visceral level when people are being honest. Deeply sensitive and ‘tuned in,’ those with the gift of discernment are open to feelings, new ideas, and intuition as valid and credible information.” UMC Book of Discipline, ¶ 2553 (emphasis added).
By denying your unhappy brethren this tried and proven mechanism,
A. You are admitting that you don’t want to “separate truth from fiction;” that your mind is not open to “credible information;” that you don’t care what they think.
B. You are admitting that you’re blind to the fact that if you deny them Discernment and a vote, they’ll vote with their feet anyway and bestow their good will on sister churches eager to take them in. You’re telling them you don’t care if they leave.
C. You are threatening the financial security of our church. Historical evidence shows that when churches like ours decide not to disaffiliate (and thus remain in the UMC), they invariably lose a percentage of laity, but a disproportionate amount of revenues. If, as projected, 40% of our congregation leaves over the issue, our church’s revenues may drop (disproportionately) by 60%, meaning our budget may shrink to $1.6 million. By denying your unhappy brethren Discernment, you are denying yourself the benefit of case studies demonstrating what happens to UMC churches whose pastors lead successful campaigns to defeat disaffiliation. You are closing your eyes to the fact that this church’s actions have already caused its 2023 pledges to plummet.
Discernment is like mediation. The touchstone of both is rational debate, rather than decisions made on rumors and hearsay. Thus our Discipline (even though not our UMC strategists) and indirectly, our Legislature (by making mediation mandatory in litigation), want us to work things out. By engaging in Discernment,
A. You are declaring that your primary fiduciary duty is to our congregation and its concerns, not to the UMC, which wants to stonewall those concerns with cutesy sideway’s maneuvering like “small d discernment,” which is only making matters worse. You are agreeing that such maneuvering is unbecoming to as high-profile a church as ours, whose congregation includes leaders from all walks of life from government and finance to military and education. It’s simply wrong.
B. You are giving yourself an opportunity to learn: that the ranks of your unhappy brethren include gay people; that the human sexuality issue is a speck compared to the far more serious problems your unhappy brethren have with the UMC. You are giving yourself the chance to learn that this contest is not between progressives and traditionalists, but between all of us and the UMC, which has made it clear that it does not want you to know the truth.
C. You are proving to the world that this church is what it claims to be, a large tent, open to diverse thinkers, devoted to the principle that diversity strengthens us all. That you are dedicated to the principle that “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” Matthew 5:9.