We’ve been friends for a while, and I have learned over time to pretty much ignore your rants on denominationalism, recognizing a disconnect with those expressions of faith. But given the latest ramping up of attack with your new Ecclesialeak feature, especially given that you’ve attacked my tribe first, I feel I have to make some comments along the way.
First of all, I have to say that I find (as you did) the document regarding hosting of Bishop’s fairly ludicrous and outside the way I would operate if I were in that role (which is probably which I will never be a Bishop). There is no doubt that some of this document flies in the face of notions of servant leadership, humility, that the first shall be last, yada, yada, yada. I am sure that the person who wrote the document was trying to be helpful in facilitating the logistical concerns of Episcopal visits, but failed to recognize how this document sounds as a whole. At least this Bishop actually seems to be intentional about being in local congregations on a regular basis, something that isn’t always the case throughout the UM world.
Of course, one has to be careful in reading any document with little understanding of the underlying context (something I think we learn in our exegesis classes in seminary). Given what I am reading, I would not at all be surprised to learn that this comes from one of our ethnic bishops, men and women whose context for ministry is significantly different than yours and mine, and for whom issues of hierarchy and authority are more pronounced. I have experienced this especially in regards to our bishops from the Korean community, a context in which the Bishop’s spouses often speak of their spouses by title rather than by name. Do these expressions of authority and hierarchy make me cringe? Of course they do, but I am a white guy who grew up in the middle of a college campus in the 1960’s, a time when authority of any kind was being challenged . . . and I carry that baggage with me wherever I go, and that spills over into my interpretation of scripture as well.
Look, denominations like any institution, have their problems. Just as we will always have the poor with us, so too will we likewise have the push and pull that comes when any group of people forms an organization and tries to carry out some task in the world. Are we flawed and broken, influenced by culture in ways that seem antithetical to the scriptures? For sure. But find me ANY organization of people, even Solomon’s Porch, where issues of culture, human experience, and desire don’t find their way into the communal life. Check back with me in a couple of hundred years after Solomon’s Porch has been through several cycles of life and I would be shocked if issues of culture are running rampant through that place as well.
It’s easy to stand on the outside and point a finger from afar (which is, in fact, what your Ecclesialeak feature will do), and there are times when we need prophets from the outside to point out the flaws that we can’t see. All I ask is that you take care to recognize that there is no uniform United Methodist context, that there are cultural issues WITHIN large groups like denominations, and that you are willing to humbly admit to the places where will all fall short of living up to the ideals of Christ. As important, there must be a recognition of your contextual baggage – the discomfort with authority and hierarchy, your white, middle class Minnesotan upbringing, etc. – that informs how you respond to these concerns.
Are you right? Do denominations reflect modernism more than the gospel?
I suppose it depends on your context.