E. Stanley Jones declared that Christianity was “the science of living well with others according to Jesus Christ,” and he identified 14 principles of Corporate Living that should help Christians apply that “science” to their daily lives.
As United Methodists ready themselves for Portland, Oregon, maybe this advice from Jones can help UMs live well with each other in the corporate body that is General Conference.
The piece of advice offered by Jones that is the most relevant for General Conference is actually number 12 in his list:
“If you find that there is a basic inequality or injustice at the heart of your relationships in reference to anyone in the group, don’t counsel patience unless and until you are doing your best to right that basic injustice or inequality. For that basic wrong will poison relationships and will break out again and again until righted. No surface kindness can atone for that central wrong. Build your fundamental relationships on justice and equality and everything else becomes easier.”
Jones was writing out of his experience as an American missionary in India who observed the violet way that the British reacted to Gandhi's call for justice and equality. Jones recognized that right relationships was also a fundamental principle of Christian community, and he made it a center aspect of life within his Christian Ashram.
In our time, delegates to General Conference will have the opportunity to right the basic inequality and injustice that the UMC is carrying out against its LGBT members. This call for justice has been heard at every General Conference since 1970. The issue will not go away until the relationship is made right.
Let’s put Jones’ theory to the test. Let’s amend the Book of Discipline so that LGBT members equally share in the rights and privileges of church membership, and then see if every other decision and vote at General Conference does in fact become easier after that.