The Midwives Were United Methodists Too

My colleague Adriane Curtis rightly pointed out that my last post about Moses failed to mention the midwives. Shiphrah and Puah refused to obey the pharaoh’s orders to kill the Hebrew baby boys. They were clever and subversive. They resisted.

Indeed, they are exemplars of resistance for us.

There are two forms of resistance: Protest and non-compliance. Protests are public witnesses that do not violate the Discipline. Non-compliance may not be a public witness but it is a violation of the Discipline.

Resistance, in whatever form, is only an interim ethic, as it was for the midwives.

But I am not sure Mainstream UMC sees it that way. In their April 26 response to the Judicial Council ruling, they declared

“Mainstream UMC is not going anywhere.  We will not be bullied out of our church.  We will not stand idly by while LGBTQ persons and their allies are singled out and harassed in our churches.  We will not allow others to define ministry for 2/3 of the U.S. church.  We are digging in against the Traditional Plan for as long as it takes.”

While I agree that acts of protest and non-compliance are appropriate and necessary, I have to ask: As long as it takes for what?

If the goal is to overturn the Traditional Plan, then resistance is ill-advised. But if the goal is to move toward the creation of a new denomination or denominational structure, then resistance has some merit.

All this passion and activism raises a question: Why resist?

The congregation I serve, North United Methodist, is practicing both kinds of resistance. As I have listened to my lay leaders discern their course of action, here is what I have learned from them.

Do not resist….

  • To change the denomination which has reaffirmed the traditional stance for nearly 50 years.
  • To punish your opponents with sanctions.
  • To prove your righteousness by seeking the spotlight.

Do Resist….

  • To prepare for the creation of a new denomination.
  • To preserve your integrity in a denomination fraught with hypocrisy that enforces a single social principle while ignoring its other social principles.
  • To love your fellow LGBTQ members by protecting them from further harm done by the denomination’s policies and pronouncements.

Yes, we must resist as a positive and loving expression of our baptismal vows, as Natalya Cherry wisely pointed out to me. But beware of the temptations and the unintended consequences that accompany it.

 We must follow the example of the midwives for the time being, but we must also get ready to follow in Moses’ footsteps while the Red Sea is still parted.

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Notes for a New Methodism

Rev. Darren Cushman Wood is the senior minister of North United Methodist Church in Indianapolis, Indiana and is an elder and full member of the Indiana Annual Conference. He is a graduate of the University of Evansville and Union Theological Seminary (New York). Darren was a delegate to the 2004 & 2008 General Conferences and a delegate to the 2000 & 2016 Jurisdictional Conferences. He is the author of "The Secret Transcript of the Council of Bishops" and "Blue Collar Jesus: How Christianity Supports Workers' Rights."

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