I recently responded to Thomas Lambrecht’s post on the approaching separation of the United Methodist Church. Lambrecht was responding to Adam Hamilton’s response to his first post Primary Reasons for Separation on 1 February 2021.
There is no question that Hamilton is a great speaker, writer, and influencer who leads the largest church in the denomination. In fact, the size of his congregation makes him even more so an influencer among bishops. He speaks and they listen, but as critical thinkers, we have to drill down to what he really believes. You identify his core beliefs pretty well, but you do so with soft white confirmation gloves.
Hamilton represents the progressive side of the denomination, and we can’t overlook the damage they have done. When bishops proudly violate church law and even gloat about it in UMC News, we very literally have a problem Houston. What separates the UMC from the other 80 million or so Methodist around the world is the discipline, without it, there is no denomination.
The UMC today is comprised of several factions that are linked in Wesleyan tradition with very different reads of the scripture and its application leaving each segment of the pie diametrically opposed to the other. Hamilton’s response to your initial post is as expected, wonderfully crafted, uplifting and signalling of unity. The only problem is there is no unity.
I want to briefly go back to Hamilton’s influence among progressive and even some traditional bishops. Where has he been in condemning violations of church law among progressives? When has he made a statement on the progressive use of UMC News to celebrate the appointment of Karen Oliveto, the first openly gay and married bishop, or the other gloating posts on newly ordained gay clergy. In the short span of time since the special general conference we have seen UMC News literally transformed from denominational news and into a social justice news service. Where has Hamilton been on all of this or any of this?
In closing let me tell you that I don’t think Hamilton is a bad person. He has clearly brought thousands to Christ, but from a purely traditional viewpoint, he has convinced far too many people that tradition, experience and reason are more important when combined than the scripture itself. John Wesley always made it clear that scripture always trumps the other three elements of the quadrilateral. Hamilton touched on that in his response, but in practicality, we have seen no evidence of this from progressives. If we had, we wouldn’t be where we are today.