In Which A UM Bishop Channels Frank Nitti
The United Methodist Church’s intensifying debate around human sexuality has substantial financial implications in the global church, a bishop warned the denomination’s finance agency. Those costs could include a drop in church giving and the division of property.
“The question is: Is there a middle ground that will allow most of the traditionalists to stay and yet satisfy most of the progressives?” said Great Plains Area Bishop Scott Jones.
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“As these proposals come through, GCFA has data and …a legal department,” Jones said. “There are things you can do to serve to raise the conversation, not to choose among the proposals (that’s where neutrality comes in), but to serve so conversations don’t take place in a vacuum.”
Delmar Robinson, a GCFA board member from Mississippi, said he found Jones’ overview “enlightening.”
“I was not aware that the issue existed to the extent that it did,” he said. “What he laid out, I think we should continue to discern. I don’t think we should do anything rash.” – UMC.org, August 25, 2014
“I don’t think we should do anything rash.” So says a board member of the United Methodist General Board of Finance and Administration. Who, it seems, is completely unaware that the United Methodist Church has been discussing and debating the inclusion of sexual minorities for over 40 years. Who, it seems, would be one of those clergy MLK attacked in his Letter from Birmingham Jail. Because, by all means, let us make sure we don’t upset the magic money tree that keeps the United Methodist Church afloat.
Bishop Jones’s approach here – “We can talk about changing the Discipline but don’t do anything because money” – is perhaps the most despicable, pernicious, and insulalry institutional argument imaginable. I’m not surprised a Bishop would make such an argument. I’m just surprised he would be so bald about it. To claim that our “conversations” need to be held with the understanding they don’t occur in a vacuum assumes, of course, that a generation and more of threats of division are unknown to United Methodists; that everything from bad proof-texting of the Bible to fear mongering about gay marriage will continue regardless of what the United Methodist Church decided; that other large Protestant denominations have managed to make the change in their polity without major disruptions.
Of course some congregations will leave. No one is claiming they won’t. The nightmare of a mass exodus, however, just isn’t going to materialize for the simple reason that, for all the noise about the topic, it just isn’t that salient in most people’s lives. The reality of gay marriage is with us; that the UMC is acting badly about it shouldn’t surprise most people. Once the change is made, however, there will be howls and rending of clothing and then a hush as most people realize it isn’t a big deal.
Fear mongering over money when confronted by a matter of social justice is a bit low. I think all of us in the denomination should expect more from a sitting Bishop.