From a recent interview I had with our local paper, The News & Observer:
“Disagreement has been a hallmark of Methodism throughout the denomination’s history, before and after the United Methodist Church was formed through the 1968 convergence of the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church.
The United Methodist churches he pastored before he retired were typical in that way, said William Willimon, a member of the Council of Bishops and a professor of the practice of Christian Ministry at the Duke Divinity School.
When it comes to matters of policy and practice — of mission and ministry, Willimon said in a phone interview after the General Conference vote — United Methodists understand that almost no congregation will ever be of one mind.
‘The churches I know just carry on, and recognize that we have people with different opinions who don’t like each other, and who disapprove of each other, in the same room,’ Willimon said.
‘That’s what Jesus does. He brings us together with people we don’t especially care for. And that’s called a church.'”
Just after the end of the Special Session of General Conference, I had a chance to talk with Jim Wallis and reflect on what happened in St. Louis. Jim offered some commentary on that conversation and where we are in The United Methodist Church with Sojourners, which you can read here. I share a few pieces from our conversation here, too:
“‘I think that God’s way is to handle it around the table in every local church where people are trying together to be the body of Christ,’ Willimon said. And as a bishop, he has seen that happening and happening well in many local churches.
The big challenge is always: ‘How to be part of a church with people you don’t like or agree with. How to try to follow Jesus with the other people who are called to him?’
That diverse ecclesiology reflects the alternative proposal — the ‘One Church Plan’ — that was put forward by the majority of Methodist bishops and for which Willimon and nearly half of the other Methodist delegates voted. In that plan, decisions on LGBTQ ordination and same-sex marriages would be the purview of regional bodies and local congregational levels.”