During this morning’s last business session at Annual Conference, there was much discussion over a particular resolution. The actual resolution was not controversial, but some of the supporting whereas’s were vague and echoed some of the studied ambiguity on a controversial subject in the Discipline. A conference leader went forward and declared that discrimination has no place in the UMC. I know we’re used to saying that, not only as UMs but as modern Americans. It’s not true, though, and that’s a good thing.
On Wednesday, former conference Chancellor Ewing Werlein warned us about the use of titles. It seems that some church staff people have been calling themselves “pastor” when they’re not. This has led some people to believe they’re qualified to do some things they’re not qualified to do, in turn exposing the churches to legal problems. He urged us to reserve the titles “Pastor” and “Reverend” for properly ordained or appointed individuals. If that’s not discrimination, I don’t know what is.
Discriminating is a form of judging. Sometimes we absolutize Jesus’ teaching on judging and say that all judging is wrong. But it’s not. It’s part of life. We can’t get by without it. We also can’t get by without judging or discriminating with regard to people. When I fly on an airplane, I really hope the airline discriminates betwene those who can fly and those who simply think it’d be really neat to try.
Now those who decry discrimination are trying to say (I think), is that we don’t discriminate on the basis of invalid characteristics. We don’t decide pastoral status on the basis of race or gender (unless one counts some of the newly invented genders – some DO count these, I know). But surely we can clean up our language and do away with pious sounding cliches.
Yes, this is a pet peeve of mine. People seem to throw out the idea of discernment and making judgments about things in the name of rejecting judgmentalism (I say “idea” because we do not cease to discern or make judgments). The categories get confused due to mental laziness–anything that sounds judgmental to me, that is, anything that exercises judgment on me about something I do or approve of is lumped in with the attitude and disposition of judgmentalism.
I once had someone in a reading group criticize a portion in which the author rejected a person’s approach to prayer in a given situation as “judging the way the person was praying.” I agreed with the observational fact that the author was indeed “judging” the way the person prayed in that circumstance. But that “judging” was not invalid. Perhaps there is a superior way to pray in a given instance. If so, then he’s right to judge accordingly.
Through the ordination process, we quite rightly discriminate concerning who ought or ought not become ordained elders for the church. For example, we are right to discriminate against those who are opposed to baptizing infants or ordaining women.
We need to resist being cultural captives when it comes to the use of many words today.