I Have Examined the “Third Way”
Last night, July 31st, was a great day – it was not only JK Rowling’s birthday, it was Harry Potter’s. To celebrate the hero who struck down the dark Lord Voldemort Reconciling Ministries Network posted a picture of Harry Potter with a quote, a harmless way to celebrate the greatest literary figure of modern times, but Reverend Drew McIntrye cried foul (as shown in the picture to the right).Drew is a person who claims to be a moderate, in the middle, and to listen to all sides; yet rather than asking RMN about why they were celebrating Harry Potter with a quote…on his birthday, Drew knew what their motivations were and called them out on their malicious act of aggression. And I, in the same manner, called him out for instigating and jumping to conclusions. Which lead to Drew asking me to read some of his articles, so I examined his writings and found exactly what I hoped not to.
His blog is not his own, but a shared collective of heterosexual White men "in the middle", called Via Media Methodists (VMM) see here. This groups claims to "offer an alternative beyond the current polarization in The United Methodist Church" and "to raise the level of discourse within The United Methodist Church", which sounds nice, but I wonder how they are doing that without any minority groups represented. From the 4-6 articles I read, none of the authors actually engage the arguments of RMN or Good News, they reduce both "sides" to stereotypes, and then elevate their third way as being the best option. But the third way has no solution to end LGBT suffering, no fix for the polarization besides "relationships", no plan for how to fix the division in the church, in other words - the third way so far is just more privileged people talking to each other about how they have the answers.
My friend Benjamin Moberg recently wrote an amazing post about the problems within this rising "third way" movement, his post addresses same-sex marriage specifically, but can be applied to the overall problem of the third way, that it is all talk and no walk. One thing the Good News & Renewal Movement people have in common with the people of Reconciling & Love Prevails is this: they are doing things. RMN & Good News are writing legislation and meeting in churches, doing the work that leads to change (or to staying the same; the third way, so far, is only offering a new and creative of way of sitting still and doing nothing.
I wonder if the VMM have any desire to aptly reflect the theological views and beliefs of the "polarized" groups they condemn. I have yet to see on their blog participate in a genuine engagement with any of the authors of the RMN blog or any of the writers of Good News; I have seen that they do take the time to insult and criticize both sides which I guess is fair enough. But what the UMC needs now is leaders, not people who only have the ability to sit still and nay-say. What the UMC needs now is people with power and privilege to humble themselves in the sight of the Lord.
Back to LGBT inclusion, Drew explained to me why the VMM does not address a solution to the current exclusionary laws in the Book of Discipline in a tweet which was promptly replied to by another tweeter. It amazed me that Reverend McIntyredid not see the debate around LGBT inclusions to be doctrinal or ecclesiastic, when it is concretely about the doctrine of human sexuality/creation and the way the Church functions. How then does this "issue" (one of the most talked about in our global connection) not elicit concern for the ordained elder in the UMC? I cannot presume to know, but perhapsit could be because the heterosexual, cisgendered, White, male, married, middle-class, already ordained elder - has no need to be concerned except when it comes to the issue of schism. I am a queer, cisgender, Black, male, single (non-practicing for you BoD nerds), seminarian, the way these debates go determine whether or not the UMC has a place for me in it. It is through that lens I see these "secondary" arguments, they are very real for me because they determine for me if Christianity is what we are looking for, or if we need to look for another (see Matthew 11:3).
Someone asked me recently if I was willing to change my mind on the "issue" of LGBT inclusion, and I said yes, but I should have elaborated. I am not willing to change my mind if that means believing that LGBT persons are not fully loved by God, as they are, but I am willing to change my mind on whether or not the UMC has the ability to join with God in loving my LGBT siblings. Despite my snarky tweets and sarcasm, I am an optimist, I believe the UMC is capable of being the Church, of being that community of love Christ prayed for; but new evidence is being presented daily that is changing my mind about that. The VMM is just another example of how little God's LGBT children matter to the powers that be. My mind is changing about whether or not the UMC is capable of being like Christ, but my spirit...my spirit calls to my remembrance that in God all things are possible. Even the third way can stop stagnation and start moving somewhere, even Good News and RMN can come together and live into the reality that they are one in Christ, and that even the UMC, the giant bureaucracy it is, can fix its eyes on Jesus and become His hands and feet in the world today.
I have examined the third way, and like my friend Ben I found it lacking, but I also found another way on December 31st, 1995 - that way is called Jesus and following His example I plan to love and include all who seek to be reconciled to God, because I do believe that Jesus is the One we have all been looking for.