Richard Rohr speaks about the spiritual life in a number of ways that are both accessible and refreshing. At the school he founded, he speaks about there are three boxes: Order, Disorder and Reorder. He goes on to say that conservatives tend to (but not always) get stuck in the Order box. There is a desire to make life as ordered as possible. So we set up rules, accountability, authorities, consequences (punitive if need be) all in the effort to create order. When you read the legislation being considered by the UMC at the May General Conference, there is a much legislation about keeping or expanding order.
For instance, in the March/April publication of the conservative magazine Good News, Thomas Lambrecht (UMC clergy person and VP or Good News) wrote the following (emphasis added): "We do not see the disagreement over marriage and sexuality as a major threat to the future of United Methodism. After all, we have survived with it for 40 years. Instead, the major cause for potential schism is the intentional disobedience and defiance of our denominational policies and requirement." (source)
With all the chatter and concern about LGBTQ issues and the church, the vice president of one of the most influential conservative publications in the UMC says the real threat is the current and potential future disorder that is happening. Rev. Lambrecht goes on to outline no less than nine pieces of legislation that Good News promotes all of which attempt to create greater Order in the UMC system.
This is the great work of our conservative sisters and brothers. It is the work of trying to order the life of the Church with agreed upon rules. I akin this work to that of trying to get children to play the game of soccer. You have to lay out the rules so that some sense of order may take shape. Otherwise you will have kids running out of bounds, using their hands to pick up the ball, kicking the referee in the shin, and nothing that looks like soccer.
The concern among many is that the UMC is falling out of order. For some this is not a good thing, while for others, the disorder is a welcomed and good thing. To be clear, not all disorder is chaos. Take a look at this picture:
While they are both salads, one is more ordered than the other. The one that is disordered is not in chaos (that might be a fruit smoothie). It is however, non-linear and interconnected. It is messier and to some it may look like like chaos, however the fact of the matter is the salad on the right and the salad on the left are both salads. They just approach the nature of salad differently.
So let us have some grace when it comes to dealing with our conservative brothers and sisters who may value order more than the more liberal voices who (according to Rohr) tend to get stuck in the "disorder". A forthcoming post will attempt to connect disorder and the UMC General Conference.