A few years ago, The Coca-Cola Company declared that its operating strategies would be to “think globally, but act locally.” The concept was probably not invented by Coke, and there are other organizations and causes that have co-opted the same philosophy. By that expression, they meant that the products of The Coca-Cola Company will stand for refreshment, affordability, high quality, fun, etc., on a world-wide basis. Likewise, the company itself will insist on high standards of business ethics and professionalism in every market in which it operates. But, the company also acknowledged that individual markets have unique an particular requirements. And to be a valued supplier, The Coca-Cola Company needed to be both aware of, and responsive to those requirements. It makes sense. But it bears mentioning that “thinking locally” never granted permission to a local manager or executive to do ANYTHING counter to or harmful to the global image or positioning of the company or its brands. Violators pay with their careers, as senior corporate executives are totally committed to preserving and protecting the good name and reputation of the company and its products.
The United Methodist Church is facing a serious threat to its authority. “Thinking globally,” United Methodist Church law, forbids its ministers from performing ceremonies that celebrate the union of same-sex couples. This has been a contentious subject for a number of years, but so far, a part of the “global operating strategy” of the United Methodist Church is to uphold the belief that homosexual practice is not compatible with Christian teaching.
Unfortunately, the United Methodist Church has, within its ranks, a number of ministers who have taken the “act locally” concept a bit too far. The Los Angeles Times reported last Thursday, that United Methodist ministers in California, (where the state’s supreme court recently ruled in favor of permitting gay marriage) are performing, or are planning to perform same-sex marriages. These ministers will be performing ceremonies in direct violation of the church law of the denomination they have freely chosen to be ordained and governed by ecclesiastically. It is my hope that the bishops of the United Methodist Church, its “senior executives,” will be as thoroughly commited to the clear teaching of scripture, as the top management of The Coca-Cola Company is with respect to the principles and image of their company.
If a denomination is to remain relevant, it must have global standards by which it conducts its global ministry. And while ministry clearly is a local activity, in fact it really is an individual person-to-person activity, it is not an unreasonable expectation on the part of any church that its ministers support the laws and teaching of that church. Ministers who are not faithful to the laws of their church must be disciplined in a serious and credible way. Given the seriousness of this matter, that is individuals doing violence to the very church laws that they pledge to uphold, expulsion seems like the appropriate response. It seems to me that this is no small matter. The name and reputation of the United Methodist Church really does hang in the balance.
The world will be watching. The Lord is watching.