The Gospel of Exclusion and the UMC

“Heaven has a wall, a gate and a strict immigration policy. Hell has open borders. Let that sink in.“

This was a popular mime on conservative evangelical Facebook pages a while ago and I cannot help but see it in light of the very recent rendering asunder of any chance of inclusivity in the United Methodist Church (UMC). The problem of exclusion and doctrinal litmus tests to belong to Christianity is that it subverts the universal call of Christianity and cheapens the Cross as some sort of crass “ticket,” into “heaven.” And it reduces the Body of Christ to little more than a social club. In the case of the UMC, “united” means a totalitarian regime, “unity through conformity,” not unity in the Spirit that allows for divergence of belief. In truth, creating a status quo religion that constantly is seeking to weed out non-conformists, weakens, rather than strengthens the Body of Christ.

But this is nothing new. When the church decided to pattern itself after the power of Rome, the die was cast. The church has ever since been seeking who it can exclude and how it can control the “gates of Heaven.” In this instance, it is non binary gendered individuals who are declared ceremonially “unclean,” “disordered,” sinful in some way unique to them and “different” than the sinfulness of humanity in general. The LGBTQ community can now be added to a long list of people and groups the church has and still does discriminate against.

But “denominationalism” is a great deal like “nationalism,” it divides rather than unites. So, in a way, the Body of Christ that affirms the image of Christ in all of us need not worry about the UMC as an organization. Those who place a priority of Love above doctrinal purity will find a way to minister to those who need the unbounded Love of God. God bless those who choose love, God bless those who have been hurt by religion.

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