Photo by Sarah Noltner on Unsplash

Good News UMC Challenged by UM Next

Or how the hens come home to roost!

Thomas Lambrecht, vice president of Good News, issued the following response to UMC Next Conference this week in Kansas:

“The 2019 General Conference was proof that there is an impasse within The United Methodist Church with two irreconcilable viewpoints. Good News is disappointed that it appears from their press release that the institution-minded leadership of ‘UMC Next’ is determined to double down on the conflict in our church and refuse to acknowledge the decision made by the St. Louis General Conference reaffirming over 45 years of consistent United Methodist teaching.”

The Traditionalists have fallen back on the 45 years of teaching for over 45 years. Now, there has been an inconsistency in their application of “teaching” over the years. Divorce, sexual immorality involving cheating on spouses, chemical dependency, excessive student debt, general mismanagement, and in some cases offshore polygamy. Although the “teaching” is very very clear on these issues, they have chosen the LGTBQ community for its ire. Why? Because they thought the average pew sitter was with them. They thought that by winning the church and enforcing “THEIR” version of the Discipline it would cleanse the Church.

But that is not how the Church has succeeded over the years. You don’t read about how God glorifies discrimination and social violence. It is something that died in the Hebrew Scriptures. The Church is supposed to be a grand experiment in how deep and wide God’s love can be. It is man’s challenge to find how deep and awesome God’s creation is. Instead, we have embraced the world and chosen to not love people with our whole hearts.

“It does not seem that resistance and defiance against one’s own denomination and against brothers and sisters in Christ are fruitful paths toward maintaining either the unity or integrity of the church. Such a strategy only increases the likelihood of more damaging clashes at the 2020 General Conference in Minneapolis.”

This is absolutely rich coming from the Rev. Lambrecht given that this is exactly how GOOD NEWS approached its 2016 and 2019 strategy. And it is continuing right now in annual conferences nationwide. Good News is sponsoring “Breakfast” networking events where they are trying to game the nomination process to ensure that even more divisive voices represent people at General Conference 2020.

“At this point, it seems that traditionalists and conservatives in The United Methodist Church have more in common with the progressive UM Forward group that met May 17–18 in seeking a new way forward toward fresh expressions of Methodism, than we do with the two bishops, an agency head, and tall-steeple pastors leading the moderate ‘UMC Next’ group.”

The truth is from a strategy perspective the UM Next group is using Good New’s own strategy against it. And it scares them. You see the key to any organization succeeding is an expanding community and the funds to nurture said community. Good News and their allies have withheld their tithes and offerings until they got their way. They have purposely avoided in some cases the itineracy system and direct hired their pastors contrary to “teaching” neutering the power of the Bishop and the Superintendent. Righteousness is fair play and the greatest compliment to a strategy is when another group copies it. That is what is happening now through UMC Next.

“We are, and always have been, willing to talk with any conversation partners interested in finding a different way to diffuse the conflict in our church and move forward in a positive and mutually respectful way. We feel certain that not all those present at the ‘UMC Next’ meeting believe that the best course forward is to continue the battle that was fought and that did so much harm in St. Louis.”

When the Traditional Movement formed the Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA) they made real a perceived threat. Give us what we want or will leave. They amassed the votes through this movement to take control of the General Church. What they didn’t expect was that people would resist. This isn’t part of the plan. The Progressives, Liberals, and Moderates were supposed to know their place ask for crumbs or leave. The protest, resistance, and creation of a WCA counter-movement was not part of the plan. It certainly wasn’t part of the plan that this battle would break by Rural versus Urban US congregations. But this is where we are now.

“There is a better way and we will gladly work to end the fighting with all who desire to do so. Refighting the same battles will only generate more harm on all sides and further damage the witness of The United Methodist Church. However, we remain committed to upholding the clear teaching of Scripture and will oppose all attempts to lead our church away from faithful obedience to the Word of God, who is our ultimate Judge and the One we seek to please.”

There is a coming realization within the Traditionalist movement and Good News specifically that their competition has decided to divide the baby. In doing so it destroys the Global Church but resolves the conflict. But the question is this, is UM Next speaking of a new movement or simply a bandaid to the current crisis. If its sole goal is to simply win the LGBTQ battle in legislation then it like their Traditionalist counterpart will find itself alone in the wilderness while the rest of Church ignores, resists, and defunds its efforts. If however, we are seeing in UM Next a true counter-movement, (Which its secrecy doesn’t give much confidence to.) then we could see a new countermovement that could expand the Methodist movement and reinvigorate the US context specifically.

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