One of our Sunday school classes recently studied parts of the United Methodist Book of Resolutions, which articulates the UMC’s position on various political and social issues pertaining to our faith. In class, there was often disagreement expressed about some of the UMC’s positions. And that’s okay. Many decisions are made in the general conference with a thin margin on the majority’s side. Afterward, people are welcome to continue to voice their dissent and hopefully the discussion continues with civility. Some decisions are revisited every four years.
When there is a heated disagreement where sizable portion of the membership differ with the majority, it is tempting for the “winning side” to say, “This is what we voted on. Now be a good Methodist and go along with it.”
This is a mistake. We don’t tell people what to think. We don’t tell them to be quiet. We can’t force them to cooperate. And we won’t say, “If you don’t like it, there’s the road.”
Making resolutions gives us direction and enables us to act. But the discussion is ongoing, especially in the areas of controversy, such as ecology, poverty, human sexuality, involvement in government, etc.
When I first considered joining the UMC, one of the things that made me want to join is how they are willing to grapple with the hard topics, often before anyone else will. Methodists were some of the first ones to call for slavery to be abolished. Methodists recognized how alcoholism was causing so much havoc in families, and they called for action.
So of course there is going to be sharp disagreement at times.
I like it. In many churches, people are required to have only one set of thoughts where no diversity is allowed. But in Methodism, there’s true unity, where you get to have your thoughts and you get to express them and be heard, even if you’re in the minority.