(United Methodist Theologian) William Abraham–Mountains are there to be Climbed: The Next United Methodism

Our critics have effectively framed the debate in terms of inclusion and exclusion.[4]This is a godsend because it allows them to run a narrative about slavery and women in ministry that puts us on the defensive. It allows them to exploit the natural opposition to any idea of exclusion, for the default position will always initially be in favor of inclusion. It also allows a virtuous narrative about the moral arc of history which requires that we be identified as obsolete and out of step with the times. Add to these considerations that the default position in explaining the Traditional Plan will be to latch on to the ‘punitive’ provisions and the picture of the traditionalist makes everyone cringe. Add a further element, namely, the idea that the very discourse of exclusion is a source of pain, hurt, and even trauma, and we are dragged deeper into a black hole from which there appears to be no escape….

This whole way of thinking needs initially to be seen for what it is, namely, a toxic combination of persuasive definition, virtue-signaling story-telling, and fallacious reasoning. The ultimate issue for the conservative is none of these moves, much less a combination of them. The crucial issue at the end of the day is one of faithfulness to our Lord and to the tested tradition of the church. The failure to recognize this is an egregious error. It is the old game of Sein and Schein, much practiced by the mode of thought beloved of the Frankfurt School of philosophy, so that what seems to be true is not true. Of course, what counts as faithfulness is contested. And, of course, it would be wonderful if we could find a neutral ground on which this contested issue could be publicly resolved. However, the disagreement goes all the way to the bottom so that appeals to the Gospel, notions of justice and equality, scripture, tradition, experience, reason, inclusion, and the like, have been exhausted. To speak technically, ‘faithfulness’ is an essentially contested concept. However, to ignore that faithfulness is the real issue for conservatives is to poison the wells at the outset. Moreover, to frame the Traditional Plan as being essentially punitive is to miss the point at issue. The real issue is accountability to church teaching and practice. Failure to frame this issue initially in this way constitutes an elementary blunder in the interpretation of what is at stake. To put it simply, conservatives are not for sale precisely because they believe for better or worse that they cannot among other things walk away from our Lord’s teaching on marriage. So generally, we need to repudiate aggressively the persistent practice of describing our position in ways that we find utterly fallacious and unconvincing.

A couple of further points stand in the neighborhood. The whole effort to present our position as one of causing harm is also a toxic way to proceed. Thus we are constantly scolded and reprimanded because our discourse and speech is intrinsically harmful; merely to take the stance that we do and to speak as we do is the cause of pain and trauma. It is small wonder that in these circumstances we simply stay quiet and say nothing. Here we face an unavoidable dilemma. We speak, and we are accused of causing harm; we stay silent, and we are accused of collusion with oppression. At one level, the best policy is simply to stay silent, for this way we avoid causing pain; we simply take a hit on being accused of collusion. What is happening here is there we are forced to fight a blindfold battle because the terms of the dispute are never clarified.[5]

Perhaps we can make progress on this front by means of several distinctions. In this respect I intend to operate at a more neutral level.

What is at issue here is the complex nature of identity. At one level, it is perfectly obvious that gender identity cuts deeply into the experience and conception of ourselves as persons….[6]

Read it all (my emphasis).

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Posted in Methodist, Theology

One comment on “(United Methodist Theologian) William Abraham–Mountains are there to be Climbed: The Next United Methodism

  1. Steve Perisho says:

    Wow! Thank you, Kendall!

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