Boundary Confusion In The UMC

Boundaries and Barriers

Boundaries and Barriers

Within the UMC there is much talk on line about the role of boundaries. There are some who consider the election of Bishop Oliveto a breach in the boundaries of the Book of Discipline. There are others who feel that the organization of the Wesley Covenant Association is a breach of boundaries. The interesting thing to me is that both groups are correct - these are a break in boundaries. What is sometimes missed in all the discussion (including in my own thinking) over these broken boundaries is we may be confusing boundaries for barriers.

Boundaries are those things that are set up to guide and protect. They are generally good things to follow. For instance, if you see a line on the road, it is generally a good idea to not cross it. Boundaries also have a flexibility built into them that makes them easier to uphold in our lives. Sticking with the road metaphor, those lines can be redirected and even redrawn to accommodate wider vehicles or road construction. Boundaries are not the same as barriers because boundaries have an appropriate permeability to them.

Barriers are not permeable. These are like those concrete walls put on the side of the road to ensure that no one can cross over them. Barriers not only protect us from harm but also cause harm if violated. Which is why barriers are more obstructive and obstructive than boundaries. It seems that at the heart at some of the matters in the UMC, there is confusion on what is a boundary and what is a barrier.

Jesus ran into this when he was confronted by the religious leaders of his time. He was told that he was violating laws which they saw as barriers but Jesus saw as boundaries. You should not eat on the Sabbath was a barrier to some but a boundary to Jesus. God, not man, can forgive sin was a barrier for some but a boundary for Jesus. Death was a barrier for some but Jesus shows us it is boundary. 

Boundaries are important to be sure, but they are not the same as barriers. While both are designed with protection in mind, it seems like we are in the deepest mess when we confuse boundaries and barriers. 

(Update note - Thank you to W.J. who helped point out my own confusion in the original post where I mislabeled boundaries and barriers. It just goes to show that even when we think about it, there can be boundary confusion.)