The Rev. Tom Berlin, Clergy Head of the Virginia Delegation to General Conference, has used the terms “incompatibilist” and “compatibilist” in recent communications to explain what is currently going on in The United Methodist Church.
In a March 17 video on his Facebook page, Berlin acknowledges that some may hear the term “incompatibilist” as a negative one. When he uses the term, he said, he views it rather as a clarifying one.
Berlin shared the term came from Tom Lambrecht, with the Good News Movement, whom Berlin worked with on the Commission on the Way Forward. In a conversation, Berlin asked Lambrecht why he couldn’t live with the One Church Plan, a plan before General Conference 2019 that would have left questions of such weddings up to individual clergy and congregations —and questions of gay ordination up to individual conferences.
Lambrecht said, “I am an incompatibilist. Many of us are incompatibilists. If a gay person is being married anywhere in the Church, we don’t want to be part of that Church. If a gay person is ordained anywhere in the denomination, we don’t want to be part of that denomination.”
Berlin said this conversation helped him understand these two terms of incompatibilist and compatibilist.
Berlin defines himself as a compatibilist.
Lambrecht defined compatibilist as, “If you are part of a group of people that those people may not choose to do a same-gender marriage or may not necessary want a gay person to be ordained because of their reading of Scripture, but if that happens they aren’t going to leave the Church over it. It is not a church dividing event for them. That’s compatibilist.”
But Berlin emphasized that for incompatibilists the above scenarios would be a church dividing event for them.
As an additional resource, you can view Berlin’s ‘Sugar Packet’ presentation from 2017 in which these viewpoints were broken into four zones.