Why Can’t We Agree to Disagree?

Recently a delegate that participated in the election of the Western Jurisdiction’s practicing homosexual bishop used that term numerous times to defend his voting position. I must confess that every time he said it my stomach knotted up.

I’m not the fastest race car on the track at figuring things out, so I decided to peruse the internet to figure out why the use of that phrase bothered me. Lo and behold, the internet search yielded some wonderful information from various psychology and conflict resolution websites.

Agreeing to disagree is a form of conflict resolution whereby both parties tolerate, but do not accept the opposite view. Frequently both parties must continue to work together; when this happens the next step involves some type of compromise. Trust is a foundation stone in all relationships. Each party must trust the other to follow through if the compromise is to be effective.

An example:

 Two friends differ on a political issue. Each feels strongly but realizes continuing discussion could ruin their friendship. They now ‘agree to disagree’ but must reach a compromise if they want to continue their friendship. They decide that this particular issue will no longer be discussed.

After a compromise is reached the ‘agreeing to disagree’ remains valid so long as both parties adhere to the compromise. If one party violates the compromise in an attempt to force their viewpoint on the other then there can no longer be an ‘agreement to disagree’.

Back to our two friends:

They decide to meet for dinner, but one bring along a like minded ‘expert’ to show the other person the error of their ways. The compromise is violated because one friend has demonstrated he cannot be trusted. If there is no trust there can no longer be an ‘agreement to disagree’. Most likely the friendship is ruined.

Okay, let’s address the practicing homosexuality issue:

At the United Methodist General Conference two groups had differing opinions with the Book of Discipline’s stance on practicing homosexuality. Neither side to accede to the other’s position.


A compromise was reached whereby the top legislative assembly would create a commission to study church regulations (within the next two years rather than wait four years). The compromise vote was passed with a rough split of 51-49 in favor. The compromise was not popular, based on the voting split, however it did pass.

We have now ‘agreed to disagree’ and a compromise has been reached.

Back to the practicing homosexuality issue:

Unfortunately, one group decided to violate the compromise. Rather than wait for the committee’s report, they decided to move forward and elect a practicing homosexual bishop in order to ‘push the issue’. The compromise was violated because one group demonstrated they could not be trusted.  If there is no trust there can no longer be an ‘agreement to disagree’.

From the psychology and conflict resolution websites:

  • If your will triumphs over your partner’s, at first you may experience some satisfaction, but in the process you’ve inadvertently turned your partner into an adversary. So, finally it’s a Pyrrhic victory: the cost to your relationship far exceeding the initial reward of your success.
  • Moreover, when you lock horns in the effort to bait, badger, or otherwise argue your partner out of their preferences, you’re telling them in so many words that your personal wants and needs have higher priority, are more worthwhile, than theirs. And, realistically, how could a secure, loving attachment ever emerge from such a “me first” interpersonal stance?

Personally, I did not like the compromise solution but was willing to abide by it before deciding whether or not I could remain a United Methodist. Unfortunately, the other group felt their needs had a higher priority and their needs were more worthwhile. After demonstrating that they cannot be trusted there is no possibility for me to ‘agree to disagree’.

I finally understood why my stomach knotted up every time I heard the delegate repeating ‘why can’t we just agree to disagree’. It was full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Mottoes and Beliefs

There are several ‘mottos’, or ‘beliefs’, or ‘statements’ that have been used in an attempt to justify the acceptance of homosexual practices:

1. Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors
2. United Methodists value the self worth of all individuals.
3. John Wesley said that we should do no harm.

Those proposing the acceptance of homosexual practices are presupposing that only they know what these various statements actually mean. Their position is just as closed minded as the one they accuse others of having. They frequently use these statements in an attempt to make people feel guilty about have a different understanding or bullying the opposition into keeping silent.

All sinners who accept Jesus Christ as their savior will be blessed by God with His unfailing grace and forgiveness. The United Methodist Church, as do other Christian churches, invites all sinners to come and learn about salvation, grace and forgiveness.

Unfortunately, some people will never feel comfortable in church. This is unfortunate but must be accepted as fact. Jesus Christ’s offer of salvation is His gift to us. To receive his gift of salvation we must accept Him as our savior, confess our sins, and ask God to help us lead more faithful lives. This is our gift to Him.

Jesus constantly delivered messages designed to make people feel uncomfortable, particularly those people who felt most righteous. Did He do this out of hate or anger? Definitely not! He did this out of love. He wanted people to examine their sinful nature and live more faithfully according to God’s commandments. Some people were so uncomfortable with Jesus’ message that they participated in His crucifixion just to get rid of him. They even offered Him the opportunity to save himself by changing His message so they would feel more comfortable. Jesus NEVER wavered!

First and foremost we must admit that we are of a sinful nature, or we will never feel comfortable in an environment that tells us we are sinners. It doesn’t matter whether it is one sin or 100. Is that God’s fault? Is that the church’s fault? Or are we at fault for trying to alter Jesus Christ’s message so that we feel comfortable sitting in church?

Western Jurisdiction Bishop’s Election

Clergy and church leaders have described the recent Western Jurisdiction’s bishop election using various statements:

o It was a landslide
o Garnered every vote
o There was overwhelming support
o Received more votes than any other jurisdictional candidate

Although some of the statements are ‘technically’ true, they do not accurately reflect the election as it unfolded.

Originally there were 9 nominees for the Western Jurisdiction bishop opening. As the balloting progressed many candidates received fewer and fewer votes and dropped out.

Only three candidates remained starting with the 13th ballot.

The votes received by each candidate remained essentially unchanged on the 14th, 15th, and 16th ballots. At this point in the voting it appeared no candidate would be able to garner a sufficient number of delegate votes to complete the election.

After a 21 minute break in the voting process, two of the candidates withdrew their names. When the final vote was taken, 88 delegates voted for the one remaining candidate, Karen Oliveto, and 12 delegates abstained from voting.

Was it a landslide? Was there overwhelming support? The definition of landslide: an election in which the winner gets a much greater number of votes than the loser(s). In this instance there was only one candidate on the ballot.

Garnered every vote? Technically this is true because every vote cast went to her. Unfortunately, 12% of the voters abstained.

Received a larger percentage of votes than any other jurisdictional bishop candidate: As a point of reference, the bishops elected in the four other jurisdictions received sufficient votes even though multiple candidates were on the ballot.

Withholding Apportionments

As a result of the elections of what many consider an unqualified bishop in the Western Jurisdiction there have been questions concerning the best way to financially support a local United Methodist Church without supporting the Annual Conference and Jurisdiction leadership.

Each local church pays an ’apportionment’, or ‘mission shares’ to the Annual Conference. The apportioned amount is a percentage of the dollar amount spent by the local church on defined expenses. Here is a .pdf on the specific apportionment calculations.

Apportioned money sent to the Annual Conference by each church (will vary depending on the conference):

  • 39.3% – conference office support including staff
  • 24.3% – support of the bishop, including staff
  • 4.5% – retiree health insurance
  • 9.6% – ministerial education
  • 3.9% – miscellaneous expenses
  • 15.8% – charitable contributions
  • 2.6% – new faith communities

There are several ways to limit funding to the Annual Conference:

  1. Place all apportionment payments to the Annual Conference in an escrow account to be held for payment until such time as the bishop and conference leadership conform to the United Methodist Church Book of Discipline as written.
  2. Determine the percentage of the church general fund that goes to the apportionment payment. Allow church members to specify on their donation ‘for local church only’. Reduce the amount of apportionment by the percentage of money specified ‘for local church only’.
  3. Rather than make a tithe, or general donation, to the church, make a specific, or targeted, donation.
  1. Gifts that are targeted, or specifically identified, for purchasing something that the church needs but cannot afford and otherwise would not purchase will not be passed on to the Annual Conference.
    1. An example might be writing a check to the memorial fund in someone’s memory to replace old worn out hymnals which the church cannot afford to do. This would improve the church without providing extra money which could be used as part of the apportionment payment.
    2. Another example might be paying for new ceiling tiles to replace stained ones where the church cannot afford it.
    3. Frequently churches are asked to provide financial support for local or national non-United Methodist groups and agencies but cannot afford the expenditures. Supporting one of these groups is another example of how to help with the local church ministry without providing financial assistance to the Annual Conference.
    4. Directing money to the outreach programs in the local church, such as providing clothes and supplies for school children or providing holiday food and Christmas presents for local families will extend the church ministry without assisting the Annual Conference.
  2. Operating expenses such as office expense, expenses for property maintenance and insurance, and utilities for the church are part of the apportionment calculations. If you provide payment for any of those items part of your money will be passed on to the Annual Conference.
  3. If any money paid to the local church is designated for something the church is planning to purchase, some of that money could possibly end up in the Annual Conference. It is sort of like having a family budget where you have excess money in Item B, but insufficient money in Item A. Therefore, you just move money from B to A and everything is covered.