Oden, Against Schism in First Things

Thomas Oden has a piece in the April 2012 edition of First Things entitled "Do Not Rashly Tear Asunder: Why the Beleaguered Faithful should stay and reform their churches" (pp. 40-44). He is writing about the specific situation of the United Methodist Church on the issue of ordaining those in same-sex unions. The essay is an argument to those of his fellow members in the Confessing Movement Within the United Methodist Church to remain within the UMC rather than separate.

John Wesley serves as an example, since Wesley never left the Church of England and preached a sermon in 1784 entitled "Against Schism". Oden offers a number of poignant quotes from that sermon: "Do not rashly tear asunder the sacred ties which unite you to any Christian society."

Oden states: "Wesley admonished those who hastily assumed that separation is a moral virtue: 'They leave a Christian society with as much unconcern as they go out of one room into another. They...wipe their mouth, and say they have done no evil!' They may be 'justly chargeable before God and man, both with an action that is evil in itself, and with all the evil consequences which may be expected to follow'" (p. 41).

In the essay, Oden argues that schism is only legitimate when the church requires members to do something that is immoral. Citing Wesley again, "If 'you could not remain in the Church of England, without doing something which the Word of God forbids, or omitting something which the Word of God positively commands: If this were the case (but, blessed be God, it is not) you ought to separate from the Church of England'" (p. 42).

Throughout the essay, it feels as if Oden is repetitive and overly redundant; however, according to tradition so was the Apostle John: "Little children, love one another."

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