I’ve been only peripherally observing the United Methodist meltdown of this past week where, unlike any other U.S. denomination that’s debated doctrinal issues related to homosexuality over the past two decades, the conservatives won this round. The key: Church growth in the Global South and declining numbers of key parts of the United States.
So what’s the story? The impact on the winners after this historic St. Louis conference, the views of the losers or both? Under normal circumstances, journalists would say “both.”
Since St. Louis, a flood of articles have, voilà, been published bemoaning the crucial votes and concentrating on the angry, grieving liberals who must decide whether to stick with the denomination or leave to form their own. And it is a tough decision to make.
I know, because I covered a lot of conservative Episcopalians –- and some Lutherans -– who had to exit their denominations, starting with my column about the tornado that hit the Minneapolis Convention Center on the day in August 2009 of a crucial vote by members of Evangelical Lutheran Church of America and how some folks wondered if God was sending a message.
But where were these same articles oozing sympathy when theological conservatives were forced to leave? For instance, look at a recent piece in the New York Times:
WASHINGTON — Chet Jechura was 12 years old when he first felt called to preach, but for years he put off ordination. He knew himself, and he knew the official rules of the United Methodist Church: Homosexuality was “incompatible with Christian teaching.” And so he left the denomination.
Then four years ago, he discovered Foundry United Methodist, a church that has carved a different path. He could sing the hymns of his childhood, be fully supported as a gay man, and finally become a candidate for ordination.
This week, a decision at a global conference for Methodists threatened to upend a lifetime of dreams, with the church voting to strengthen its ban on same-sex marriage and gay and lesbian clergy.
At an impromptu prayer service on Wednesday, as Mr. Jechura helped serve communion, he broke out in sobs, his body convulsing, barely able to stand. The emptiness grew louder with every wail. Friends held him up, wrapping him in their arms…