So there have been a lot of takes on the UMC #gc2019 votes on LGBT issues.

But the take with the most relevance to non-Methodists is one I haven't seen anybody make. So here goes.
Also, cc @salimfurth for sending the email that prompted this thread
Different churches organize themselves different ways. For example, my own church body, @thelcms , gives a lot of power to laypeople at the congregational level, but then also has a strong center: it's got a very weak mid-level bureaucracy compared to e.g. Catholics, Methodists.
But when we do get together to hash out decisions for The Whole Denomination, what we mean by "the Whole Denomination" is "All AMERICAN churches (plus 2 longstanding Americans-abroad congregations in Hong Kong and Germany)"
So when we vote on stuff, the hundreds of thousands of Lutherans who worship in church bodies we planted in foreign countries do not get a vote.
This is what we might call a "National church" model. It's common in many denominations. Takes on it vary, but some version of "National churches" typify most Lutherans, Presbyterians, Baptists, and Orthodox.
Basically, in "National Church" traditions, very important doctrinal decisions are decided *at the national level*. Some Catholics have pushed to move the Catholic church that way, btw.
Now, there are also churches on the other radical end: many Pentecostal and Charismatic churches make essentially *all* decisions at the congregational level. This trait is definitional to so-called "non-denominational" churches as well.
But the UMC is one of several church bodies, as well as Anglicans and Catholics, where a lot of key doctrinal decision-making is, putatively at least, *global* in scope.
So, for example, at the beginning of the 21st century, non-American delegates to the UMC made up maybe 10-15% of delegates. But in the most recent General Conference, they made up ***43%*** of delegates!
The next General Conference of the UMC will *almost certainly* be *minority American*! Most of these foreign delegates, though not all, are African.
This kind of arrangement, where the old mission-sending countries admit mission-field countries as ecclesiastical equals into decision-making bodies that both sides are subject to, is, IMHO, how the church *should* operate.
Sorting out fellowship agreements, covenants, and any number of inter-church relations is just a pain in the butt, when you could just all agree to be one body making collective decisions together.
But crucially, and here's the pivot that may interest non-Methodists and non-Christians....

This is really a conversation about colonialism.
A strong majority of rich-world delegates to the UMC #GC2019 wanted to liberalize on LGBT issues.

A stronger majority of developing-world delegates took the opposite stance.
In polities like, say, ELCA, the money of the American denomination is used to pressure the foreign denominations to accept the shifting values of the colonial denomination.
And to be clear, it IS colonial. A map of, say, Lutherans, around the world, is not purely a map of colonialism, but it's definitely heavily influenced by it.
The trick here is that "Global Church" polities like UMC, Anglicans, or Catholics *also have a colonial map*!

The difference is, *they give equal voice to the colonized*.

"National Churches" systematically de-privilege the voices of the colonized.
So in the UMC, or Catholicism, or Anglicanism, you get internal tensions where the numerical-majority of formerly-colonized-peoples are pushing their church bodies one way, while the rich minority of former-colonizers want something else.
The fact that American progressives are cheering on *the side that wants to diminish the voices of colonized peoples* is striking.

"Oh it was fine being one global church when white people had the power, but now that Africans might be in charge, HAH, nope!"
Is it consciously about colonialism?

No.

But that's the thing about neocolonialism! It's never *consciously* about colonialism! It's about formal and informal institutions that *mimic* colonialism perpetuating its effects.
I don't actually think the left wing of the UMC is upset about having Africans in charge: they are sincerely anti-racist folks.

What I do think, however, is that this whole saga problematizes common narratives about how to deal with colonialism.
If former colonial powers actually listened to e.g. African voices, I dunno, maybe we wouldn't have our churches going full-speed-into-progressivism. Maybe we'd have different attitudes about how to do family planning in poor countries. Maybe we'd see climate change differently.
Now, my expectation here is that the UMC will probably schism. Which is fine. Lutherans are DOWN with schismatics.

But my point is to illuminate that the dynamic at play here is that the unusual values of Western progressives don't play well globally.
And when you try to foist them onto the people we spent centuries exploiting, dominating, and enslaving.... I dunno man maybe you should take a step back and rethink what you're doing.
ALSO there's a super fun subplot here where some progressives advance the idea that #Actually Africans would support progressivism, but they've been duped by wicked evangelical missionaries into believing horrible things.
Because, like, apparently, in that narrative.... Africans are unable to think for themselves? The implication here is whatever missionaries say to Africans, Africans will believe. Which, uh, that's definitely an explicit restatement of pro-slavery ideology.
Maybe African Christians aren't gullible victims of wicked evangelical propaganda.

Maybe they are your intellectual equal, whose voices should be listened to and respected.
IN OTHER WORDS

You can have a church that endorses progressive values.

You can have a church that treats formerly colonized people as equals.

Having both... is not something anybody has found a way to do yet!
And I should note here that UMC liberals look bad here *because* they are operating in a global-church context.

"National Church" bodies are actually doing something arguably worse, but it doesn't *look* bad.
And yes, that's a critique of my own church polity. I simply do not think "National Church" models are healthy or sustainable. Diversify your risk pools, people! Make sure if one limb gets sick the other limbs are healthy enough to hack it off!
Put another way:

The staunchest defenders of national borders within the church are not conservative Christians, but progressive ones.
Missing some Tweet in this thread?
You can try to force a refresh.

Like this thread? Get email updates or save it to PDF!

Subscribe to Lyman Expand the House Stone, AKA 石來民
Profile picture

Get real-time email alerts when new unrolls are available from this author!

This content may be removed anytime!

Twitter may remove this content at anytime, convert it as a PDF, save and print for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video

1) Follow Thread Reader App on Twitter so you can easily mention us!

2) Go to a Twitter thread (series of Tweets by the same owner) and mention us with a keyword "unroll" @threadreaderapp unroll

You can practice here first or read more on our help page!

Follow Us on Twitter!

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!


This site is made by just three indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3.00/month or $30.00/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!