The end of the season is so often tough for fans of the Cubs and the White Sox. Again, this year we find ourselves passed up by other teams on their way to the play-offs. The White Sox just barely had a .500 season. The Cubs, well, didn’t even notch that modest record.

One of the end-of-season bright spots was the new single-season American League home run record set by Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees. He hit 62 dingers this season, eclipsing the records of two other Yankee superstars: Roger Maris who hit 61 homers in 1961 and Babe Ruth who hit 60 in 1927. Chasing a record at the end of the season is always exciting for those of us who still follow baseball, so I’m on the bandwagon for Aaron Judge. Admittedly, however, for a White Sox fan to see ANOTHER Yankee record-setter, well, call it “Second City Spite” (actually Chicago has now slipped to Fourth City status…). It makes you wince just a little, doesn’t it?

The Yankee-centric end of season reminded me of the much-debated “worst trade in baseball history”: the trade of Babe Ruth from the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees in 1920. Ruth had joined the Red Sox in 1914 and led the team to three World Series Championships in the next five years. In 1920, though, he was traded to the New York Yankees. Over the next twelve seasons, The Bambino led the Yankees to seven American League pennants and four World Series Championships. The Red Sox, on the other hand, spent nearly nine decades as a team of “lovable losers” until, 86 years after that fateful trade, the “Curse of the Bambino” was broken when the Red Sox notched a World Series Championship in 2004.

Q: Who got the better deal in the Babe Ruth trade from the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees?

A: It depends. The owners of both teams had different priorities; both got what they wanted.

The majority of sports writers and baseball fans think this is the slam dunk first place winner for worst trades in baseball history. I think the whole situation is much more complex than that.

By 1919, Harry Frazee, the owner of the Red Sox, was at the limit of frustration dealing with Babe Ruth. The Red Sox had been looking for a reason to get Ruth off the team. Both on and off the field, he had temper issues. He drank, smoked, got into fights, and didn’t do a particularly good job of taking care of himself. He frequently demanded a higher salary and sometimes refused to play because he had not gotten his way.

Even more importantly, from my perspective, Mr. Frazee was also a Broadway producer, the owner of two theatres, and the owner of Fenway Park, homefield of the Red Sox. Though sometimes flush with funds, in 1920 he was cash poor and asset rich. His trade of Babe Ruth, for what was at the time a record sum, allowed him to prop up his then-current Broadway production, hold on to his theatres, and, through a personal loan by one of the owners of the Yankees, retain ownership of Fenway Park, too.

Add to that the relief of unloading an increasingly difficult celebrity ball player, and it seems like Mr. Frazee actually did pretty well for the situation he was in.

This brings to mind the current situation faced by United Methodist churches.

Right now, United Methodist churches have a unique and limited opportunity to consider which “team” they will be on in terms of their denominational affiliation. Some churches in Northern Illinois are well into a process of discerning their future affiliation, others are just beginning to become aware of the unraveling of our denomination, and still others are attempting to keep any mention or news of the denominational divide off-limits for open discussion.

One thing will hold true in this season of disruption whether your congregation decides to remain United Methodist, or to become part of the Global Methodist Church, or to join one of the existing Methodist-related denominations, or to establish yourselves as a non-denominational community church: you will experience major change. No matter the location, type, theological perspective, missional focus, demographic composition, ministry context, or aspirations of your local church: change is on the doorstep. Your church is facing a genuine fork in the road.

United Methodist Bishop Scott Jones of the Texas Annual Conference provides a clear and brief summary of the situation, four options for local churches, encouragement to love and respect one another as we discern the best future for our local churches, and wise counsel on the upside and the downside for the future of both the Global Methodist Church and the United Methodist Church.

Click above to watch the most pertinent section which starts at 12:12 and runs to 23:48, not quite twelve minutes.

It is well worth your time to view the video of Bishop Jones as you are considering the future of your local church. View the entire video here.

Which of the four options will your church choose for its future?

As Bishop Jones observes, in this situation not to decide is to decide. There is no such thing as neutral. By design or default the future will arrive. The question is whether your local church and its leadership will intentionally engage a season of congregation-wide decision-making in order to determine your preferred next chapter of discipleship or will your local church and its leadership let the future be determined by others? All United Methodist congregations have a unique and limited opportunity to choose their denomination.

Is it better to stay with the United Methodist Church or disaffiliate to join the Global Methodist Church? Very important question! Like asking who got the best deal in the Babe Ruth trade, it depends on what you want and what actions you are willing to take to achieve your preferred outcome. Another famous player for the Yankees, Yogi Berra, reportedly put it this way: “When you get to a fork in the road, take it.”

Exactly.

Need some information resources to help you and your church leaders?


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REV. DR. SCOTT N. FIELD

REV. DR. SCOTT N. FIELD

Interim President
Wesleyan Covenant Association
1 Corinthians 15:58

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