Disclosure, the following has nothing to do with my local church. This is a parable that is fictional and clearly I am not Jesus, so this parable will not be of that standard, but here we go:
There is a new group within my church, called "We Can Also" and I do not know how to pastor them.
This group upholds all the same beliefs of the UMC but requires group members to meet the group's financial dues. The group has a leadership that is self appointed and outside the due process of the lay leadership team nominations and the administrative council approval. And while I love prayer, they are asking the whole church to pray for the group's creation even as many disagree with the creation of the group. Additionally, they are asking group members to advocate for the group's interests and seeking out new people to join the group. The group's leadership sets events on dates that the church has events already scheduled and members are forced to decided if they should attend the new group's events or attend to the previously scheduled church events. The group also seems to downplay the resources from Cokesbury and Upper Room for a newer publishing house.
The group's leadership does not see the creation of this group as violating the Discipline. However, the group's requirements on financial contributions and attendance puts people in a precarious position of choosing if they will take their time and treasure from the larger church in order to support this new group or not.
The new group has been asked to consider the harm they are doing to the church (thus violating the first rule of the UMC), but the new group says they will continue their work since they do not see a violation of the Discipline. And when reminded that there is a higher authority on the interpretation of the discipline, they stated that "We Can Also" interpret the Discipline. They went on to write to their group members that their pastor was out of line to say they are breaking the Discipline and that to call this group's creation into question is just another way members of this group are threatened. They explained they are only forming We Can Also, to support those who interpret the discipline they way they do. hen asked about how they interpret the discipline, the group leadership said that they understand it the "right way" and that if I interpret it differently then they will consider leaving the church.
I have a three primary concerns with the We Can Also group in my church:
- I am concerned We Can Also exists in an echo chamber behind a paywall. I am concerned the unintended consequence will be this group will become enslaved to their own thinking and their hearts harden (like that of Pharaoh in Exodus).
- I am concerned others will be inspired by We Can Also and create their own group and the local Body of Christ will not be a body but disconnected parts (like that of the church in Corinth).
- I am concerned that if membership to We Can Also requires that one agrees with their positions and pays dues then does offering communion at their meetings violate the open table of Christ?