The United Methodist Church is facing the reality of becoming a monoculture denomination. (Monoculture in the church is something that I have touched on before below are a few links to previous posts for reference).
A monoculture denomination is a denomination that is really good at making one type of thing. This efficiency means a monoculutre denomination may be able to grow in numbers, but like all other monocultures, it is very susceptible to sickness and unhealth. Nonetheless, when there is a lower "yield" than previous years and the numbers do not look good, monocultures are very attractive.
Jesus had a little parable about the kingdom of God and buried within it we can see the resistance Jesus has for the monoculture church.
He put before them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, “Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?” He answered, “An enemy has done this.” The slaves said to him, “Then do you want us to go and gather them?” But he replied, “No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.” ’ - Matt. 13: 24-30
Every side of the denomination feels like they are the wheat and others are the weeds. You know the arguments made by different field workers of today:
- Traditionalists argue that Progressives are sowing seeds of disobedience and seek to uproot the entire orthodox tradition.
- Progressives argue that Traditionalists are sowing seeds of contempt and seek to uproot justice for the sake of compliance.
- Non-Compatibleists on both sides argue that those in the are sowing seeds of fear and seek to uproot the whole church for the sake of a Pollyannan idea of unity that is lukewarm at best.
- Compatibleists argue that the extremes are sowing seeds of anger and are determined to uproot the entire church out of their self-righteous peacocking.
The reality is we all are convinced that we are the wheat and others are the weeds. We all are convinced that we are good enough at this thing called Christianity that we can remove the weeds without harming the wheat.
Jesus says otherwise.
Jesus reminds us all that we are not very good at all at discerning wheat from weeds and even if we could, we are so inept that we do much more harm than we realize.
I read this parable in part as a caution against the attraction to a monoculture denomination. In our efforts to be as faithful as possible (growing only wheat) we will always find things/people we believe are not faithful (weeds). The Uniting Methodists stand with those who heed the call of the master and, despite our frustration, let the wheat and the weeds grow together. The Uniting Methodist stand with the humble servants who were confronted with their own limitations. The Uniting Methodists stand with those who trust that the Master is okay with wheat and weeds in the field.
If we cannot live with the weeds in God's field, then perhaps our anger/frustration is less about the weeds and more about our own lack of faithful discipleship.