This morning I am anxiously awaiting news from my church. Last week and this leaders from around the world in my denomination have been meeting in Portland, Oregon in our quadrennial summit, General Conference. Every four years elected representatives gather to determine our denominational budget, polity, goals, and discipline. There are always ‘hot button’ topics usually revolving around who should and who shouldn’t be included in the body. This is not a recent development. American Methodism had its first major schism in 1844 when the church divided over slavery and whether slave ownership was fully in line with the teachings of Christ. It has divided over language. It has divided over race. And it looks like there is a resolution coming forward for us to divide again, this time over homosexuality.
As of right now, this is just a rumor. A reconciling group posted information about a possible split last night. Representatives from our Council of Bishops are simultaneously denying the information and accusing the publishing group of breaking confidentiality. Representatives for the opposing view are using terms like ‘irreconcilable differences’. It is all very confusing and I am honestly scared for my denomination and myself.
I don’t want to have to choose between the church I grew up in and one that more accurately reflects my beliefs for inclusion. I don’t want to have to possibly break ties with churches I have known and loved because their leaders make a different choice than my leaders do. I have to believe that there is a way for all of us to be together in respect and love. We have historically been the denomination of the middle way, of both/and, of finding a way for opposing views to find a safe space. It is one of the things I most love about my denomination and one of the things I list as a strength when people ask me, “Why are you a United Methodist?” The fact that this one issue could once again divide us makes my heart break. It feels like instead of continuing to try to work together, we have given up. The historian in me wonders if in 100 year we will look back on this as the height of foolishness, a harbinger of things to come, or some combination of both.
In minutes, I will live stream the presentation and learn with the rest of my denomination what our choice will be. But I am afraid that no matter what happens, my church will be broken beyond repair and I will have no idea what to do with the pieces.