One United Methodist pastor friend of mine notes that “wounded people wound people.”
This sad truth was profoundly on display at the “Winter Warming” retreat of the Chicago-area chapter of the Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN), a wealthy unofficial group devoted to promoting the LGBTQ liberationist agenda in the United Methodist Church.
Even when we suspect, or know, that some of the personal stories told by LGBTQ activists have been carefully edited as part of a deliberate strategy of tugging at our heartstrings, and even though our overall view of people’s situations must differ, the fact remains that many people at such events bring histories of deep pain that should break our hearts.
And tragically, even aside from the terrible ultimate effects events like “Winter Warming” have on those they mislead while claiming to support them, this event showed hints of a nasty side to this movement claiming to be all about “love.”
The “reconciling” movement often demonstrates how very tempting it is for people who are in deep pain, regardless of the precise source of that pain, or who are simply opportunistic, to justify harshly unloving treatment of others if done under a banner of “Love Your Neighbor” or “Love Prevails,” to rationalize harming others as somehow “stopping harm,” to deny basic, just, golden-rule courtesy to others in the name of a greater good of “justice,” and/or to imagine that they have a free pass to hate others who they projectively label “haters.”
Again and again, we see activists in the liberal caucus world, and like-minded UMC general agency staffers, use such slogans to excuse any extremes of their own harsh, spiteful, or nasty treatment of others, telling themselves, “WE are not the ones who are hateful!”
As long as their direct victims are outside of their tribal camp or otherwise deemed unworthy.
At this event’s Forum on General Conference, Chett Pritchett, national leader of the Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA), shared about the expansion of the Orwellian-named “Love Your Neighbor” Coalition started by the liberal UMC caucuses, through which about a dozen groups are pooling their resources to influence the next General Conference. With the inclusion of Amy DeLong’s notorious “Love Prevails” group, MFSA and RMN are standing behind that group’s loveless extremes of blatant bullying, disrupting, and openly recruiting people to withdraw their presence, support, and even prayers from any part of the UMC that won’t support their agenda. Love Prevails has been very explicit in asserting that the pain of United Methodists on the orthodox side of our denomination’s internal debates, and people they have deeply hurt, does not matter and should not be mentioned.
Furthermore, the MFSA-led coalition has basically hijacked other caucuses formally devoted to promoting the needs and concerns of African-American, Hispanic, Asian-American, Pacific Islander, and Native American United Methodists to redirect their resources to promote an agenda that is hardly representative of the values of these (non-monolithic) demographics, with its strong advocacy of LGBTQ liberation, unrestricted abortion, euthanasia, and, in the name of opposing “colonialism and racism,” segregating the U.S. portion of our denomination in order to limit the influence of African United Methodists. The coalition apparently has a lot of money, as it did four years ago, and will be bringing supporters to General Conference on scholarship to learn the ropes of General Conference activism.
And speaking of abortion, Bishop Dyck, who spoke at this event, has been a strong supporter of letting the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) use our church’s name in its stridently opposing legal regulation or even moral disapproval of abortion, promoting rituals to bless the “holy work” of abortion clinics, and denouncing pro-lifers with the harshest rhetoric. As a delegate at the 2000 General Conference, she even led the way in (unsuccessfully) defending the grisly practice of partial-birth abortions, in which late-term, normally healthy babies were delivered mostly through the birthing process, and then stabbed and tortuously killed. Apparently, those young victims are beyond the very limited boundaries of the “love” promoted at events like “Winter Warming.”
Both of the bishops who spoke at this event have been notorious for their loveless, harshly exclusive treatment of non-liberal United Methodists, from Dyck’s blatant false-witness-bearing in stridently claiming that evangelical United Methodists wanted a “gay-free” church to keynote preacher Minerva Carcaño (the keynote preacher for “Winter Warming) writing on the RMN website about “wondering when our African delegates will grow up” and accept enlightened Western views on sexual liberation. Neither bishop (nor RMN) seems capable of modeling apology and repentance for such attacks on fellow United Methodists.
There was a lot of talk of lamenting “colonialism” in the UMC, coupled with bizarre proposed solutions. Pritchett touted MFSA’s opposition to the 2012 and 2016 versions of Plan UMC – which, among other things, would correct some of the under-representation of African and over-representation of more liberal U.S. regions in denominational leadership – “because of where it shifts power.” Alternatively, he plugged the liberal Northeastern Jurisdiction’s attempt to bring a new version of the so-called “Global Segregation Plan,” that would drastically curtail the input of non-Americans (especially Africans) in denominational life, which was already defeated several years ago with near-unanimous opposition in Africa. Liberal caucus leaders seem to believe that if the say “anti-colonial” enough times, this will magically lend credibility to an agenda of openly describing Africans as child-like and working to dramatically curb their influence.
RMN used this event as another opportunity to join its nationally coordinated movement of UMC clergy publicly vowing to perform pastorally harmful same-sex “sin blessing” services, in open defiance of their own voluntary ordination vows to God and the church. Here as elsewhere, RMN showed no sign of caring the least about how this is destroying any basis for trust within our denomination.
In the General Conference forum, Bridget Cabrera, one of several staffers of the Chicago-based RMN present, misrepresented the truth about the Covenantal Unity Plan (CUP), around which orthodox United Methodists have been rallying in response to the disobedience movement, by claiming it was a “purge” plan. Neither she nor Pritchett appeared to have read the CUP website very carefully. The RMN’s spokeswoman’s use of the word “purge” may be yet another case of progressive United Methodists imaginatively projecting their bad behavior (such as their more truly purge-like intolerance in some radicalized annual conferences) onto others.
Cabrera shared that another big part of RMN’s General Conference agenda was trying to get the UMC to have an official resolution denouncing attempts to offer legal protection for those traditionalist Christians owning wedding-related small businesses who have happily served individual gay customers but faced punitive fines, forced loss of livelihood, and even threatened jail time for, as a matter of conscience, refusing to supportively service a gay “wedding” ceremonies – as you can read about here, here, and here. Cabrera also rather deceptively suggested that their anti-religious-freedom resolution was partially about the threat of hospitals somehow denying medical services to gay patients. Since no one with a traditionalist stance on marriage is advocating that, this straw-man argument serves to distort the real issues while making RMN’s stance look less radical and intolerant than it is.
Pritchett and Cabrera expressed their groups’ commitment to “block legislation” they didn’t like. At the last General Conference, we saw “reconciling” movement activists adopt an any-means-necessary ethos encompassing everything from parliamentary dirty tricks to raw physical force to “block” petitions they disliked by preventing the majority from even voting, with lots of help from a small number of sympathetic General Conference officials. Many suspect that this liberal-led Commission on the General Conference’s clunky new proposed “Rule 44” process for discussing homosexuality-related petitions, which Pritchett talked about, is similarly intended to help the liberal side. Pritchett reported that from his perspective, he had seen such a process “work well” at the annual conference level. He drew lots of laughter by quipping that the tiny “facilitation group” members to be charged with steering the direction of relevant petitions “are supposed to be impartial—whatever ‘impartial’ means!”
Pritchett also shared that the key plenary votes on homosexuality-related petitions could be scheduled as late as Wednesday of the second week of General Conference, but that the liberal-led General Conference Commission would “like it as early in the week as possible,” which is what he and other LGBTQ activists have asked of them. At the 2012 General Conference, we saw Pritchett’s MFSA and other liberal caucus get a similar privilege of having their top-priority issues (affirming homosexual practice and divesting from Israel) be given all the time in the world earlier in the week, even though they were defeated in committee, and then after those efforts failed (as expected), both MFSA and RMN leaders openly admitted to working to “slow the system” to hold the whole denomination hostage by preventing much of anything else getting done in the rest of the week.
“Love” certainly sounds like a good thing. But if that word is redefined to mean mistreating others in ways we would never want to be treated ourselves, breaking our own promises to God and others, obnoxiously disrupting church meetings, bearing false witness, mercilessly cutting precious babies to pieces, callously ignoring the pain of others, refusing to even pray for people outside of one faction, and marginalizing and directing condescendingly racist rhetoric against African United Methodists, then that is the sort of “love” to which I say, “No, thank you.”