Unity in the midst of theological diversity is by far the most difficult task of the church. It is also the most deeply converting witness to the world when people DO get along with one another. Why else did Jesus pray in the Garden of Gethsemane (John 17) for unity for his followers on the night before his death? He well knew the power of unity among believers and how humans struggle with it. This is very true at this moment in the United Methodist Church.
A look at the early church, as recorded in the Book of Acts, shows it does not take long for the church to be embroiled in interpersonal angst. It began with the issue of who gets served at the daily distribution of food (Acts 6). Then Stephen is stoned to death for theological disagreements with the religious leaders of his time (Acts 7). Peter gets into a hot debate with his fellow Christians over Gentile conversions (Acts 11). Similarly, Paul and Barnabas are questioned about the acceptance of Gentiles in something resembling a session of General Conference in Acts 15. It boils down to “who is IN and who is OUT.”
The history of humanity is a continuous, unhappy saga of self-centeredness. None of us are exempt from the sin of believing our people, our beliefs, our way, our spin on things is the right and only way. Along with this attitude comes criticism of those on the “other” side.
Now at this time in our denomination's history the practice of homosexuality, the ordination of lesbian and gay pastors and the performing of same-gender weddings are the issues that divide us most. American society is turning increasingly toward open acceptance as more states issue same-gender marriage licenses, the armed forces have ended their don't ask, don't tell policy, and popular media depicts positive examples of LGTBQ people on a daily basis.