They Would Destroy the Rest of the Institution...
Editor’s note: On February 6, UMC blogger and Simple Plan supporter Jeremy Smith published a blog post detailing a 2004 document published by the Good News Board of Directors, detailing their plans at the time to transform the United Methodist Church. Here Dr. Dorothee Benz offers some reflections on the document and what it means to her as a 2019 delegate and supporter of the Simple Plan.
The premise of the document is that the church is too divided theologically to be viable; we have two wholly different views on everything from the authority of Scripture to the understanding of social holiness. It can’t be held together.
Given that analysis, what this memo really reveals, beyond its specifics, is 15 years of bad faith from the right. Think of every time Rob Renfroe or Tom Lambrecht got up at General Conference to say something about church unity or how much they care about us, etc. That was all B.S. because their real belief all along was that we were already beyond reconciliation.
I don’t actually disagree with the premise. That moment at the 2016 General Conference in Portland when one delegate stood up to oppose a petition because “it might lead to the teaching of evolution in our schools,” I will never forget that. Our theological differences are so vast; why are we in one denomination?
But for the right, this chasm is particularly a problem given that their theology is explicitly intolerant. The memo notes that it’s not enough to get to do things their way in their part of the world; they would destroy the rest of the institution because it is doing things the wrong way in their view (it *literally* says leaving the UMC “intact” is a “disadvantage”).
This has been apparent in their relentless persecution of LGBTQI people through charges and trials. Doing things his way in Texas was never enough for Tom Lambrecht; he had to try to destroy Amy DeLong’s life and career in Wisconsin, too.
This intolerance is (I hope) deeply distasteful to many United Methodists. As we have seen, it inevitably leads to repression and persecution. It is incompatible with secular society or democratic institutions, and it is a recipe for barbarity and cruelty.
Consider this tidbit from the memo: on expelling the minority party from the church, “indirectly through making the environment of the church so hostile to the minority party that they choose to leave or to agree to amicable separation.”
Here we have people who call themselves Christians who are talking about deliberately creating a hostile environment *in church* in order to drive their opponents out.
Think about the suicide, depression, substance abuse, and homelessness rates among LGBTQI youth; and tell me this isn’t a murderous directive.
Which brings me to this. I know most of y’all think this is about conservatives and progressives, and it is. But it is also about *life and death* for queer people in the UMC. There is untold and unfathomable harm done to queer people, deliberately, and if this does not make your blood boil, check your pulse.
Lastly, I don’t share Jeremy’s valuation of unity. I don’t particularly cherish the idea of working really hard and compromising my rights in order to keep people in the church who believe they are called by God to persecute me. If you want to leave, don’t let the door hit you…
But whatever your views on church unity, an overemphasis on that question runs the risk of obscuring the underlying reality that the right has for the last decade and a half not even been trying for unity. But they hid that fact, lied to us all, manipulated church bodies and processes, and used every means except honest dialogue to achieve their goals.
Dr. Dorothee Benz
Delegate to General Conference from the New York Conference