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.