A United Methodist Church news article yesterday announced that for the past 40 years the denomination has kept one tradition unbroken; namely we have fewer members this year than last. For the whole span of the existence of this denomination, each year we have become a little older, smaller and closer to the brink of extinction…every single year!
But…according to the report there is good news – we are more diverse now than before. If I read that correctly, it’s good news that we’ve learned to play together, red and yellow, black and white, but as a group we are dying.
Uh….how is that good news?
It seems that finding we are a little more diverse so we are a little more like the racial and ethnic mix of our culture, and celebrating it as a win, while the total number of disciples is evaporating before our eyes, is a little like the last gasp of the Titanic.
In Titanic (the movie), the ship is breaking apart and the string ensemble gathers on the deck playing Nearer My God to Thee while people are leaping into the freezing waters to die. When we publish the new hymnal we ought to include #666 “Nearer My Diversity Celebration Dance to Oblivion – Clap Your Dead Hands, Trees of the Field”!
Perhaps we have forgotten that there is little in Scripture that instructs us to monitor the diversity of our group.
In fact, I seem to recall Scripture explicitly tells us to ignore our diversity altogether:
There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28(NLT)
What Jesus actually instructed the first disciples to do was look outward from their little group – not inward, and be about the business of carrying genuine Good News to whomever they encountered. And by instructing them, he was giving us our marching orders as well; those orders are commonly called, The Great Commission:
Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20(NLT)
Wrangling in General Conference, Annual Conference, Districts or Facebook, about diversity of race, ethnicity, gender-issues or sexuality may be interesting and call for a thousand-and-one committees and splinter caucuses…but it hardly keeps pace with a forty year loss of 6 million members, while the U.S. population has increased by 123 million.
I’d say we’ve been straightening the pictures on the living room wall while the house is burning down around us.
That’s not following Jesus; it’s not making disciples…and it’s not even in the same universe with transforming the world.
What it IS….is irrelevance of the highest degree…and if we don’t change, it will simply be reduced to a three letter word: sin.
When you encounter someone who wants to argue about diversity, remember what Will Rogers said about wrestling with a pig – don’t do it; you’ll both get dirty…and the pig loves it!