“The designated hitter rule gives me hope for the future of the United Methodist Church.” - Megan Keller
I mean, this statement is brilliant, right? Come on! In one pithy phrase, Megan has included baseball, ecclesiology, and current events, mixed with a bit of social commentary and an edge of controversy. This is the finest single sentence I have read in a long, long time. Maybe ever!
Here’s what you need to know to appreciate the brilliance of this sentence:
First of all, you need to know that Major League Baseball has two subdivisions, the National League and the American League, and they play by different rules. Namely, the National League allows the disgusting aberration of pitchers batting ... oh er, I mean … the National League game is “more pure” because all the players bat. Whereas the American League allows for teams to utilize a “designated hitter,” whose one job is basically to hit glorious, majestic home runs that make people cheer and make the game more enjoyable for everyone … hm, eep, I mean … the American League has a player whose only role is to hit, and who is “designated” to do so on behalf of the pitcher who uses the time to rest in the dugout.
I am being facetious to make my larger point, obviously. I find it rather amusing, though there are some who take the matter quite seriously. My larger point is that teams in the National League and in the American League are a part of Major League Baseball, despite the fact that they play baseball by different rules.
The second thing you need to know to appreciate the genius of Megan’s sentence is that the United Methodist Church is currently in a bit of a tizzy over allowing gay people to get married and ordained, or not. There’s a Commission working now on a proposal they will then bring to a General Conference meeting in February of 2019, at which point some decision will be made, at which point United Methodists around the world will have to decide what to do next.
Will we come up with some variation on the “designated hitter rule” to apply to the United Methodist Church? Some way to be a part of the same league, even if we may play by slightly different rules? A way for some pastors to marry any and all couples, while some would marry only opposite-gender couples, as they chose? A way for some bishops to ordain people without considering sexual orientation, while others would?
I am a “marriage equality” pastor. I have a good friend and colleague down the street who is a “traditional marriage” pastor. We are both United Methodist pastors doing all we can to be faithful to the call of Jesus Christ for ourselves personally and for the churches and the communities we serve. I have the utmost respect for his ministry, and I know that the feeling is mutual.
Can we not come up with some way for us to both be United Methodists? I’d like to be allowed by my denomination to officiate at any wedding ceremony I deem appropriate. I’d like for my friend down the way to be afforded the same opportunity.
People on the extreme left won’t like it because, “Ew, pitchers batting!” People on the extreme right won’t like it because, “Purity of the game!” But I’m pretty sure most of us in the big, diverse middle can figure it out. Most of us can be okay with individual pastors and individual conferences doing ministry in particular ways that suit particular social contexts. I have actually had an email exchange with the pastor friend in question, posing that very idea. We are on the same page.
I don’t know exactly what it would look like. It would probably get confusing every so often. Yes, it would require compromise, which is hard for everyone. But like Megan said, there's a spark of hope here, isn't there?
They figured out how to do it in MLB; surely we can figure it out in the UMC.