Thesis 28: When the Good News is not Good News

This post is part of a series of meditations on each of Luther's "95 Theses." You can view all posts in the series here.
28. It is certain that when the penny jingles into the money-box, gain and avarice can be increased, but the result of the intercession of the Church is in the power of God alone.
My denomination, the United Methodist Church, has been increasing its frequency of dialogue over the idea of schism. I don't pretend to have anything new to say, or any fresh insight into the matter. Jeremy Smith generally does a thoughtful job of writing on this, as does my friend in Missouri, Andy Bryan.

Today, Good News, a conservative group unofficially affiliated with the UMC, issued a press statement that more than implied that the most influential United Methodist leaders in the United States are on the cusp of outright asking for a schism, without actually calling it that. Without getting into the functional realities of UMC polity that does not allow for any other group besides General Conference to make decisions of this nature, or the shadowy nature of who exactly this group of 80 "leading pastors and theologians" actually is, or a clear claim by this group to the "infallibility" of Scripture, something the UMC does NOT believe (Thanks for pointing it out, Wes Magruder!), what really concerns me is who gets to speak in this conversation.

Three of the four people pictured in Good News' report are white men, though all four are men. One can only assume, given that the platform for all four of Good News purported crises are about homosexuality, that all these men are straight. I am unfortunately not immune to this privileged move, as a straight white man myself. All three of the other bloggers mentioned in this post are straight white men.

At what fucking point did it become ok for us to claim to be Jesus-followers, and yet only listen to those in power? Good News makes sure to mention in this press release as well as in past ones that these leaders and pastors are at some of the largest churches in the denomination. Has it really come to this? That the future of the church gets to be decided by those who draw the largest crowds, and likely make the most money? 

The pennies are jingling into the money-box, and greed and avarice are growing in our churches. Good News does not want to split the church because it is an amicable and wise move to make. It wants to do so because it wants a financially viable church that will continue to raise money for itself and its conservative causes. It is uncomfortable releasing the results to the work of the Spirit, which is always the work of reconciliation, of love, of healing.

We are so awfully and terribly afraid of the death of our church that we are willing to cut it into parts that will continue to breathe, even if only on life support. We forget about the resurrection. We forget about the promise of new life that comes from the Jesus we say we believe in. We do so at the cost of listening to precisely those we claim to be interested in, who live at the margins, who live outside of our pristine, middle-class lives.

How many LGBTQIA voices were allowed on those conference calls? What about women, who are lead pastors at almost none of the largest UMC local churches in the United States? Because of lingering systemic sexism, has Good News by default left them out of the conversation?

In a video over at The Work of the People, Walter Brueggemann warns us that the "Gospel has gotten all tangled up in a sense of Western white entitlement." May we stop confusing the words of Jesus with the false hope of capitalist meritocracy.


Original image by flickr user LEOL30. Used under Creative Commons license.


  1. Something very similar is just only begin to take place in my denomination, The Salvation Army, which interestingly enough also split off from the Methodist Church. I agree with your sentiments expressed in this article, too. I don't see how this group can speak for your entire denomination. They cannot.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Timothy! And yes, we fellow Wesleyans always seem to be splitting and reuniting and then doing it all over again. It'll be interesting to see a generation or two from now how this conflict stacks up with the others over the past 250 years.

  3. Thank you for recognizing the white male privilege here and the overt money-based power play. As a female clergy, I assure you that I was never invited to participate in the conversations.

    1. I suspect that's unfortunately usually the case, Christy. Thanks for reading!


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