Three things I've heard lately have been coming together in my mind.
First, the Lambeth conference of the Anglican Church recently concluded. A major issue of the conference was the ordination of a gay bishop a few years ago. From reports I've heard, it seems that while the Americans and British are divided over the issue, they tend to lean more to the left than Anglicans in other parts of the world. It seems some churches under the Bishop of New Hampshire have been pulling out to be under African bishops.
Second, a local Methodist colleague remarked to me that the United Methodists would have a very different policy about homosexuality if they weren't part of a world-wide communion. But the African churches again were specifically named as some who band with the Southeastern U.S. and other conservatives in other parts of the world, and their votes dominate on the issue.
Third, I'm thinking about what people have often mused about American Catholics versus the entire Catholic church, and how we're much more ready to ordain women and married men.
So I'm putting these thoughts together and thinking, is it a good thing that we're as small a denomination as we are? Does it enable us to have a clearer voice? Does the fact that we're more homogenous in culture mean that we can take more liberal, open positions? These things would argue yes.
The other side of it, of course, is the gains one gets by being part of a world-wide movement, beyond just numbers and power. Perhaps we are too quick to act on things because we're a small group of people who agree on issues, and not because they're really grounded in our faith. Perhaps we vote ourselves into a corner where we're limiting who can feel comfortable in our churches. We run the risk of being so fringe we're irrelevant at times.
But, as for me, I'm proud of the stances we take as a denomination, and I cherish our ability to do so. And, at the same time, I'm glad that we as a denomination, and as a district as well, have been encouraging emerging churches in Africa and other parts of the globe, and I love our connection with our Transylvanian and Hungarian brothers and sisters, even if we don't agree on everything as far as politics may be concerned. Perhaps we have the best situation--a small denomination, with an ever-increasing network of related denominations around the globe.
But we have one thing that none of those denominations I mentioned have: congregational polity. And that gives us the individual ability, as churches, to call ministers of every sexual orientation, gender, marital status, and more. We have polyamorous ministers, transgender ministers, and straight married (to one person) ministers. What a wonderful thing our ability to hold this diversity is! Perhaps, with congregational polity intact, we could grow to the size of the Catholic church and not have the problem of these divisions. The trick is, as always, honoring our diversity. If we can in one small church here that I serve have Republicans and Democrats, Christians and Pagans, gay and straight together, then at least we know it's possible. We only need to sustain it and strengthen it as we grow.