clergy disruptions

October 30, 2018

Clergy Disruptions

Yesterday two Mainline Protestant clergy made news by interrupting a speech in Boston by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was speaking about religious liberty. One was United Methodist and the other serves an American Baptist congregation.

The Methodist initiated the first interruption of Sessions’ speech, quoting the Gospel’s admonition to care for the needy. He addressed “brother Jeff” as a fellow United Methodist and asked him to “repent.” As security personnel approached him he stopped talking and they escorted him out.

Then the American Baptist clergy spoke up in solidarity with the Methodist. Security also escorted him out but he kept shouting his protests, declaring that his own religious liberty was infringed by his ouster.

In a later Religion News Service interview, the two clergy didn’t specify what policies they were protesting. The Methodist explained: “I interrupted Attorney General Sessions today because his entire political agenda is antithetical to the gospel of Jesus Christ.” He said: “Brother Jeff and I are members of the United Methodist Church, so I think I have a responsibility to call him to account about the harm he’s doing.”

The Methodist is a well known activist in his denomination. At the United Methodist General Conference in 2016 he lay prone on the floor, hogtied, as though writhing in agony, to protest the church’s traditional marriage teaching. Delegates stepped carefully around him. Yesterday he told RNS that protest is “in the Methodist, Wesleyan tradition…an expression of social holiness.” The Baptist similarly said protest was part of his tradition.

These clergy were organized by the Massachusetts Communities Action Network (MCAN), which is “faith-based community organizations in MA working for economic and racial justice.inspired by our faith traditions’ deep and enduring call to justice.

MCAN, which had protesters outside the event, tweeted triumphantly about the interruption inside: “Our clergy members were removed from Jeff Sessions’ ‘religious liberty’ event, which we’re told was a Christian white supremacist event in disguise. We reject their hatred. #ShutDownSessions.” The event host group was the Federalist Society.

An MCAN co-director explained “we’re here to #ShutDownSessions and speak up for love and against hate in the name of religion #FaithInLOVE.”

Should clergy and religious groups aspire to “shut down” speeches by public officials or others? Would they not object to their own events being “shut down” by critics? What would these clergy say or do if congregants during worship stood up and tried to “shut down” their sermon?

Should Christians ever aim to “shut down” free speech? And should Christians on any side of the ideological spectrum completely demonize the other so as to justify the “shut down?”

Recently writer Matthew Anderson noted: “It seems impossible to tell the story about decaying American civic life without including the demise of mainline Protestantism, which functioned as a (highly problematic) bulwark against America’s pluralism devolving into warring factions.”

Previously influential Mainline Protestantism once helped cohere American civic life. Now some of its fragments amplify polarization. Ideally churches inspire social reforms without contributing to ideological wars.

Contra such wars, churches should offer this wisdom: In society and especially politics, saints aren’t always saintly. And sinners can sometimes be redeemed.


14 Responses to Clergy Disruptions

  1. Pudentiana says:

    This is why that even if we pass the Traditional Plan, these obsessive rebels will continue to plague our assemblies, until they are removed by force due to their lawlessness. Lenin called them “useful idiots”. They have lost their moral “compass” and are flying in the darkness.

    • Mike says:

      That is the way liberalism works. It cannot build anything constructive; rather, it moves in on what conservatism has done, and, little by little, destroys that.

      Our nation reached the pinnacle of greatness at the end of World War II, but the liberals have chipped away at the foundation ever since. Indeed, they had already started working in the churches before that. Now, we are seeing the fruits of their labors all through our civilization. They claim to be lifting it to a higher plane, but in reality are pulling it down. Abortion, gay rights, the breakdown of the family, the general lawlessness in our society, can all laid at the feet of liberalism.

      • Dan W says:

        Mike – pinnacle of greatness at the end of WWII? I’m guessing you are not African American, Japanese American, Latino American, Native American or gay American.

        • Mike says:

          Dan, I look at the forest. There may be individual trees that do not contribute to the beauty of the forest. You overlook the beauty of the forest, instead seeing those few trees that are blighted and ugly.

          I do not claim that America is perfect. But there is no doubt that, at the end of WWII, we had reached a point which no other nation in history had climbed to, that of the preeminent power in the world, and we used that power for good, to defeat totalitarianism, to rebuild Europe and Japan, to hold back the scourge of communism, to defend freedom. No other nation in history ever did anything like the Marshall Plan, taxing itself when it was already deep in debt to help lift up other nations from the ravages of warfare.

    • John Smith says:

      They do not need to be removed by force they need to stripped of their credentials and “elder” status. Being removed simply burnishes their liberal “credentials” and gives them something to post to social media. Since the UMC wouldn’t do it before I see little chance the UMC will do it in the future. EXCEPT if the One Church Plan passes be sure the progressives will be quick to enforce party discipline.

  2. Your “liberal” views are not liberal but tyrannical. Your are forcing your views by disruption of the minority upon the majority. If you do not like the United Methodist position and have violated your vow to uphold that position, then go may your own “church” that does not believe in Christ and His teaching. GO!

  3. diaphone64 says:

    Would this be Mr. Will J. Green of New England Conference who’s not yet a full elder?

  4. April User says:

    Activism is using the “arm of the flesh” to affect change.

  5. Dan W says:

    Sadly, there are people around the world actually writhing in agony, suffering real persecution. When these activists aren’t tying each other up, role playing with their buddies, are they doing anything at all to help end the suffering of people of faith?

  6. bob says:

    Will Green is from the Massachusetts slice of the New England conference, where the conference slogan comes from the wicked witch from WIZARD OF OZ, “I’m melting. I’m melting…O what a world.” With a worship attendance of 37 at the church he serves it is fair to wonder about his priorities; does he take time to grow the church and make disciples or time to romp to Portland, Boston, or wherever else he can find an audience. I note on his church website multiple references to Will Green and the affirming-welcoming-inclusive stance of the church…welcoming to all but Jesus Christ, whose name does not rate a single mention on the website.

  7. Al Flanders says:

    Where were these two clowns when Jeff Sessions’ predecessor was running guns and explosive devices to the cartel in Mexico? Not a peep out of either one of them. Smug hypocrites, the lot of ’em.

  8. John Smith says:

    Perhaps if conservative congregations that are saddled with progressive clergy started confronting bad theology in sermons during the sermon we might start making progress. Accountability needs to start with the pewsitters and the congregation. If, as I see so often in UMC statements, all the congregation are ministers maybe they need to start ministering to deceived and wayward elders?

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