how big is our umbrella?

I wrote a comment in a conversation on Shane Raynor’s WesleyBlog that relates a question I’ve been mulling over for a good while. It has to do with the United Methodist Church’s wrestling with the issue of homosexuality and the various attitudes and approaches to dealing with it. Of course, one of the controversial possibilities that is tossed around is that of a potential split. But I think it’s more complicated that simply aligning pro- and anti-split folks along pro- and anti-homosexual issue folks. Below are some of my comments. I’ll want to explore the issue of ecclesiology (our theological understanding of the Church) in future posts as I am able to do more thinking and study. The UMC fancies itself as a “big umbrella” church that is ok with diversity on things that are not essential. But we struggle to agree on just what is essential and what is not, that is, “how big is our umbrella?”

My comments, in response to fellow commenter Jonathon Norman, lamenting the influence of single-issue Christians out there:

“I agree 100% that we are uneven in the way that we rank ethical application of Christian scripture and doctrine in importance on various issues. There are some items that are ok to disagree with and others that are not. The respective lists are different depending on who you talk to.

The challenge is figuring out which ethical stances are worth splitting over, if any—Just as it is important to know which doctrines are worth splitting over. I think one of our biggest issues as UM’s is our ecclesiology. Currently we’ve got folks who disagree on the homosexuality issue, to cite the most obvious and hot issue. But we also have folks who disagree over whether or not we ought to split over the issue. But the second issue, the ecclesiological one, has folks from both sides of the first issue, the moral/ethical one. Thus, we are not evenly divided. One could argue that the ecclesiological divide is more challenging to resolve than the moral/ethical one.

The difference of opiniion on moral/ethical issues like war, approaches to povety, alcohol and others raises the question of what criteria we use in determing which moral/ethical (not doctrinal) issues we must agree on and which we may disagree on.”

Published by Guy M Williams

Christian | Husband, Father | Pastor | 8th-Gen Texan | Texas A&M ‘96 | Asbury Seminary ‘01 | Enjoy family, reading, running, golf, college football

4 thoughts on “how big is our umbrella?

  1. i want to engage this but i simply cannot put a formal idea together today. i think i’m in a haze after reading the slander within the comments at wesley blog. sorry.


  2. I’ll look forward to some dialog on this aspect. I need to work on my own formal thoughts…right now I only recognize the gap.

  3. Great thoughts. I am with you that ecclesiology is at the heart of the matter for the UMC.

    An open and honest discussion of criteria and the issues at stake would be life-giving for the church but life–threatening for the powers-that-be in the church

  4. I have limited my involvement in these never-ending discussions because I am also having trouble collecting my thoughts. As I was reading your posts, however, a thought occurred to me: what is really at stake in this discussion?

    I ask because the Scripture seems clear to me on the matter. And using “reason” as a criteria, it is “reasonable” that man was not designed, and hence, not intended to “be with” another man – at least, not in “that” way.

    To be perfectly honest, I get a little tired of it all especially because I just cannot pick up on the perspective of the so-called “progressive” view point.

    What is truly at stake? And what am I missing?

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