A Few Thoughts

I just deleted a 6500 word post about the impending divorce of the UMC. (EDITOR’S NOTE: it still turned out long. Geez)
It turned out to be super petty (but fairly funny) of a post. But. At the end of the day, only I will see the light of most of the pettiness.
I made a TikTok video offering my unsolicited thoughts and decided to follow that up with a blog post rather than another TikTok video.

The GMC have these talking points that are shared all throughout the country.
And they have resorted to half-truths and gaslighting.
I thought these talking points were just in Texas — but turns out, it’s all over the country. Talking to colleagues from all over the country (and the comments and DMs from that TikTok video), proponents of the GMC are all saying the same thing. It’s almost cultish.
So much so that Council of Bishop have denounced tactics used by the GMC.
So much so that the Council African Bishops have come out strong against the GMC.
I don’t know if you understand how wild this is. Especially the statement from Africa.

One of their tactics/talking points are that this is not about the “issue” of human sexuality. It’s more of a theological issue.
bishop Jones betrays that talking point. You can watch the longer clip here (a clip was in that TikTok video). He says that the split is occurring due to the increasing disobedience to the Book of Discipline (BoD). Nothing about theological differences there.
And the theological differences they name are untruths, conspiracies, and scare tactics.
They argue that the UMC is moving away from the belief of the divinity of Christ and questioning tenets like the resurrection.

Look. I know names of actual UMC ministers who were loud subscribers of QAnon conspiracies — one of them was actually within a 30 mile radius of my last church and I don’t know a single ordained clergy who denies the divinity of Christ. Of course, there are a handful who asks questions and decides that it’s better to leave some questions unanswered. But in the 12 years of being an ordained UMC clergy, across three states and 2 conferences, there was never anyone who denied the divinity of Christ (that remained in the church).
Also, in that case, the GMC should no longer refer to our founding fathers as Christians because Thomas Jefferson, who played a vital founding father role, denies the divinity of Christ and also didn’t believe in the resurrection.

The thing is, they’re harping on the “could this be true” element and going all-in on it getting people to think it, indeed, is true because it feels like it can be true.

It’ll be similar to this, if I can bring my personal life into this.
In 2019, I asked my DS to move me to another church. I asked if we could stay where my son doesn’t have to transfer schools because we found a SpEd teacher that was a diamond in the rough.
While the bishop doesn’t have to give in to our wishes/requests — a lot of times they do. And I know that this bishop had granted geographical request clergy have made.
But for whatever reason, that was not afforded to me.
In fact, he tore me a new one when we talked about a possible appointment in Sugarland that didn’t work out. I told him that if that appointment had gone through, I would’ve commuted from Pearland which would’ve been a 30 minute drive.
“You wouldn’t live in the mission field of your church? Is this how lightly you take your ordination vows?”
But the thing that bothered me about that new hole being torn was that he knew that my senior pastor was commuting in from outside of Pearland.
He knew that a colleague of mine has a 30 minute commute to his church. Like, of all the things he could’ve gone hard in on — the fact that this was one of them never made sense. I felt like he was just looking for more things to beat me down with.
That’s when I knew that he would be hardline enforcer of the rules towards people that were not… I don’t know… on his side… or better, he’d flex his BoD muscles to people that were on his blacklist.
The lack of resources for SpEd was the reason why I turned down a move to a city in East Texas. East Texas (4 hrs away from Pearland) was where he wanted me — in spite of my requests to stay in the Pearland ISD. Again. His prerogative. The mind understood but the heart — using a phrase he has said many times — but the heart was broken.
When lines of communications reopened and I was given a chance to revisit my appointment situation, my DS asked me, “What do you really want?”
And I told him. I told him a specific church. It was a small church on the skirts of Pearland. It was in a different district and I joked, “I won’t be your problem anymore.” He said, “Seems like you put a lot of thought into this. I’ll get back to you.” Now, I knew this was a long shot but I was still hopeful — maybe not for that church but for some place closer, some place in Houston.
About a week later, I got a call. East Texas once more.
And I’ve always wondered “why so far?” Why East Texas?

I can irresponsibly theorize that my former church’s pastors asked that I would be placed as far from Pearland as possible to help with the transition between pastors as smooth as possible.
There were a handful of meetings between the retiring senior pastor, the person chosen to succeed, and the bishop to plan what the transition would look like (only luxuries that big churches have — in picking successors, because that’s not very UMC thing). As they were discussing what the transition would look like, the difficulties they would face, the plans of succession, the caveats of said transition — they could’ve added me into the transition conversation. After all, my last year there wasn’t the smoothest and I was vocal about many things (perhaps to my detriment). So it does feel like it’s in the realm of possibility that they wanted me to be as far away from Brazoria County as possible. Which would fill in that missing piece of why the cabinet was so adamant in sending me so far away.
This does have a “could this be true?” aspect because it feels like it can be true.

Peoples, just because if feels like it can be true, doesn’t mean that it is.

And the GMC proponents have taken everything that feels like it can be true and has repeated as if it’s true over and over and over so people start believing it’s true.
On someone’s FB post, they eloquently and beautifully wrote about why they would vote to stay UMC. Someone commented, “Not only does the UMC not follow the BoD, it also doesn’t follow the Bible.”
Which is frustratingly laughable.

Another talking point I heard was that a pastor’s friend was not allowed to join the Cal-Pac Annual Conference because Cal-Pac is a far left progressive conference and his friend was a strong proponent of biblical teachings and values.
That feels like it could be true. And it could be.
But here’s the thing.
UMC has this thing called “guaranteed appointments.” It’s like tenure. If you’re ordained, the Annual Conference has to find you an appointment.
The UMC is a declining denomination — as all denominations are. Cal-Pac is a declining conference. When I was taking the ordination exams (2009-2012) one of the questions they ask is “You are seeking full membership in an Annual Conference that has been on a decline for 30 years.” That was a decade ago! They’re now in decline for 40 years!
So you can’t just let anyone/everyone in because there are not enough appointments to go around.
Chances are — that pastor’s friend might’ve not have been the best candidate for churches available. Could it be because he was theologically conservative? Yes. Perhaps.
Could it be that he wasn’t that qualified of a clergy to bring him in to the conference? Yes. Perhaps.

When I was moving to Texas (and TXAC has a lot more resources and churches than Cal-Pac– which was one of the reasons why I opted to relocate) after I had a falling out with the bishop of Cal-Pac (… yes… I recognize there’s a pattern and that the common denominator is me. Like the saying goes, “wherever you are there you are.”)
I interviewed with 4 churches. Then I was to rank them 1 to 4 on where I would like to go, 1 being most desired.
#1 was a church in downtown Houston. I liked everything about it. And I always wanted to serve in an urban setting. I thought I’d be a good fit.
The Cabinet came back to me and said, “Nope. That church is conservative. You can’t go there. Would not be a good fit.”
And that is how I was sent to FUMC Pearland.

When I was looking to transfer to the PNW Annual Conference after getting the proverbial shit kicked out of me by the bishop, they ultimately said “no.”
Then when I was trying to go back to Cal-Pac Annual Conference, it felt like a teeth-pulling process to make something happened. Eventually, they did find me a church but nothing about it felt right and the DS who was my liaison (shout out to DS Melissa Mackinnon) wisely pointed out that perhaps this may not be the path that God has for either of us. She told me to take a day to really pray and discern before giving any type of answer.
OH. Even before that– when we lived in Santa Barbara, I reached out to the DS in Austin asking if I could apply to be appointed there. The response? “You can try, but nothing is guaranteed.”

Just because you apply to transfer into a new conference does not mean you’ll get in.
And if it makes you feel better about yourself, sure blame that you’re too conservative for that conference.

There is, however, a talking point that’s more true than the others.
And that’s that the vote to disaffiliate in the TXAC has to happen before the end of the year.
Because the Bishop is retiring and it might be more “difficult” to leave the UMC after he retires.

That’s actually true.
But not for the reasons GMC says. They say it’s because a more progressive Bishop will come.
First off, the next bishop will be chosen by the South East Jurisdiction which is still conservative. You will not get a bishop that is wildly progressive because this jurisdiction is still conservative.
The fact that they’re saying that the next bishop will be progressive is just fear tactics, turning the shoe under one’s bed into a monster. It’s not a monster. It’s just a shoe. Or as the philosopher who goes by the alias of Taylor Swift says the monsters turned out to be trees.

It will be harder for churches to disaffiliate when the new bishop comes because that bishop is going to hold churches accountable for disaffiliating — actually following BoD in how churches gracefully disaffiliate.
Right now, the current bishop is actively recruiting churches to disaffiliate. And so, he’s bending the rules to allow churches to leave as easily as possible.
Each time they tried to bend the rules to make it easier, the Jurisdictional body had to come back and said, “nope.”
Any major vote of the church generally requires 2/3 votes. They tried to make the disaffiliate vote 50%+1 — knowing that’s not how such a massive, impactful issue of a church is resolved. He is turning a blind eye so that churches have the easiest way out under his final months of episcopacy.

It’s just funny to see someone who said that there hasn’t been any disobedience in the TXAC during his tenure because he’s the bishop and he’s a rule follower, bending the rules in his favor; to his liking; to his advantage.
Everyone knows how stickler for the BoD he has been. How there was never an inch of interpretation. You step out of line, bam. So much so, a clergy from his former conference made this meme a few years back:

But now it seems like the MO is Rules for thee but not for me.
And we all see it. GMC just sees it as an inexpensive one-way ticket out of dodge.
Even those of us outside of the UMC sees this.
It prompted my bishop to call it out:

Extremely Self-Centered or at least, self-serving seems to be the path that we are on.
Believe me. If I had tried to bend the rules the way he is doing, I would’ve been stripped of my credentials to be reminded of his love without even a second’s worth of hesitation.
It must be nice
It must be nice
to have Washington on your side.

When LeBron James was 18, he was approached by Reebok and was given a $10 million deal on the spot under the condition he wouldn’t speak to Adidas or Nike. Side note: LeBron was clever in that he wore Reeboks to certain events, Adidas to other events, and it was no secret he idolized Michael Jordan and therefore Nike. It created a 3 way bidding war for the rights to James. Reebok’s deal was hyped to be 10 year, $100 mil, but the actual, numbers on the contract ended up being under $60 million. LeBron didn’t bite and waited to see what other suitors would say. Nike came in with a 7 year $77 million and added a $10 mil singing bonus on top. And with all the incentives that his shoes and apparel ended up hitting, it netted him over $100 million and led to a “lifetime” contract that could potentially be worth 1 billion.

The moral of this story is if a deal ever says “act NOW!” or goes out of their to make the other option seem unviable and undesirable, you can do better and often a lot better.

The GMC is telling churches to act now all the while spreading lies and gaslighting current UMC.
That We May Be One (TWMBO) wrote an open letter to TXAC reiterating what United Methodists believe in. You can read that here. TWMBO put in a lot of work to figure out how to navigate this together. GMC is seemingly choosing to burn down everything they possibly can before skipping town.

There are some churches who — as a majority — are ready and willing to disaffiliate. Good on them.
Then there are churches who are agonizingly split. And this is when GMC’s rhetoric inflicts the most damage.

Here’s what our Bishop tweeted:

*What he means is, don’t vote to disaffiliate.

I echo that sentiment.
Keep asking questions and asking “why”. Keep on the good fight
And if your pastor is so adamant on leaving the denomination, let them leave. Let them put their trust in God that God will provide for them a new building and resources while they wander to their promised land.

Now, I know some will say, “why’s he even adding his pointless thoughts into this situation?”
Because. It’s my blog. I finished the rough draft of my book and now have extra space in my small capacity brain. And you could’ve simply closed the browser at any given second. If you find yourself getting angry and/or annoyed at me, I would assume it’s mostly because my opinions don’t line up with yours. That’s okay. If you feel that strongly about it, write your own blog post and send it to me. But also it’s like that one church member (that’s a lie, it’s been like a lot of church members throughout my career) who was upset because I was so “political” because I talked about social justice and care for the poor from the pulpit but yet cheers for the church in AZ that held a presidential rally for Trump at their church and cheered the church in Dallas for hosting Pence during election season and lamented that more churches won’t do the same. 9/10 times, when a parishioner comes up to you and says you were being too “political”, it’s their code for “I don’t agree with you and I wish you would stop saying things I don’t agree with.”

I’ll always be Wesleyan at heart.
You know, it’s like you can take me out of Korea but you can’t take the Korean out of me.
Likewise, you can take me out of the UMC but you can’t take the Wesleyan out of me.

My prayer is that for the churches where both the church and pastor wants to disaffiliate, I hope they transform lives through their ministries.
As for those churches where the pastor wants to leave and the church is split, my prayer is that the pastor and those wanting to leave, leave — shaking the dusts off their sandals and looking to create a new community elsewhere. Let the new denomination care for you instead of crippling the one that birthed you.

It’s going to get messier but, UMC friends, for what it’s worth, I’m praying for you.
In the words of St. Teresa of Avila:
Let nothing disturb you.
Let nothing frighten you.
Everything changes.
God alone is unchanging.
With patience, all things are possible.
Whoever has God lacks nothing.
God alone is enough.

Understand by you leaving a comment re: this blog on this page or on FB or via email, you’re giving me permission to use your comment — and the name the comment was made under, meaning I’m not going to make it anonymous, when I make a TikTok video or a follow up post re: your comment to this post.

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