Posts Tagged ‘The Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church’

Which of these things is not like the other?

July 25, 2016

Our poor Council of Bishops… Having only had 44 years’ notice, how could they have possibly foreseen widespread ecclesial disobedience after they kicked the can labeled “LGBT controversy” down the road last May at General Conference? Back then, they said they would convene a specially appointed commission to recommend splitting up our denomination a way forward on the issue at a called General Conference some time before 2020.

They’re still working on it, as they say in this statement, even as the Western Jurisdiction and several annual conferences are breaking church law.

Still, you have to admire the diplomacy of the following sentence, which goes out of its way to blame both sides for this present crisis. Let’s see… Which of these three is not like the other?

“The reported declarations of non-compliance from several annual conferences, the intention to convene a Wesleyan Covenant Association and the election of the Rev. Karen Oliveto as a bishop of the church have opened deep wounds and fissures within The United Methodist Church and fanned fears of schism,” said Bishop Bruce R. Ough, Council president, in a detailed statement outlining the actions taken.

Please note: The convening of the Wesleyan Covenant Association, a new organization of like-minded evangelical United Methodists, which was formed in response to the ecclesial disobedience of the Western Jurisdiction, does not break church law.

And the answer is a surprising “yes”

November 15, 2013



Click here for more. The traditionalist Institute on Religion & Democracy calls such “high-profile, public insistence by the Council on accountability for one of its own is unprecedented in modern UMC history.” In addition to the inevitable calls for further “conversation” (insert eye-rolling here) and task forces, the bishops wrote:

We respectfully request that Bishop Wenner, President of the Council of Bishops, and Bishop Wallace-Padgett, Resident Bishop of the North Alabama Conference, address the action of Bishop Talbert and file a complaint under the provisions of Paragraph 413 for undermining the ministry of a colleague (Paragraph 2702.1f) and conducting a ceremony to celebrate the marriage of a same gender couple (Paragraph 2702.1b) within the bounds of the North Alabama Conference.

I’ve read that this counts as a win for people like me who support our Book of Discipline. I’ll take it.

Will the bishops provide leadership?

November 14, 2013

The Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church is meeting this week in North Carolina, and pastors on both sides of the homosexuality divide are waiting to see whether they’ll offer any guidance or leadership on this issue. What will they say or do, for example, about the fact that one of their own—the retired liberal bishop Melvin Talbert—recently performed a same-sex wedding in Alabama, in violation of our Book of Discipline and over the objections of the presiding bishop of that area?

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know where I stand: I support our church’s traditional stance on human sexuality, which is also the stance of the vast majority of the universal Church—whether Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, or evangelical. Outside of marriage, which by definition is between a man and a woman, celibacy is the rule, whether you’re gay or straight.

I wrote this blog post last year, in response to an Adam Hamilton sermon, which reflects my best thinking on the subject.

If it means anything to you, I graduated from the Candler School of Theology in 2007 happily liberal on the subject, like many of my classmates, but I’ve changed my mind. This change corresponded on my part to what I believe is a deeper commitment to the authority of scripture, a rediscovery of my evangelical roots, and a desire to be a pastor (and person) of greater integrity and faithfulness.

In a sermon in 2011, I said the following, which I still want to emphasize:

The problem is that most of us know and love people who are gay. They are often our friends and neighbors and family members. They are often brothers and sisters in Christ. And some of you listening to me may be gay—and I’m glad that you choose to love and serve Christ in this church. You are welcome here. When the vast majority of gay people say that they didn’t consciously choose to be that way, I have no reason to doubt them. After all, I didn’t consciously choose to be straight, and I wouldn’t know how to not be straight. It’s who I am—which works out well for me because I get to marry, and be sexually active in the confines of that marriage, and be an ordained minister. Good for me! How can I not feel anything but compassion for gay Christians who struggle with an orientation over which they have no control.

While I feel passionately that changing our church’s position would be tragically misguided, in my passion, I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that our church’s position directly affects many of God’s beloved children, who are made in his image, and who are no more in need of God’s saving grace and mercy than I am.

So I resonate with Pope Francis’s recent words on the subject—that by overemphasizing church doctrines related to sexuality, we can make the good news of Jesus Christ seem like bad news.

“It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time,” the pope told the Rev. Antonio Spadaro, a fellow Jesuit and editor in chief of La Civiltà Cattolica, the Italian Jesuit journal whose content is routinely approved by the Vatican. “The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.

“We have to find a new balance,” the pope continued, “otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.”

I don’t disagree with his words at all. But, unlike me, he has the luxury of saying this knowing that his church’s doctrine on human sexuality is never going to change. Never ever ever. Obviously, United Methodist Church doctrines aren’t nearly as secure. So pastors like me speak up, because what’s the alternative?

When I got ordained in 2010, I wasn’t kidding when I told God, the bishop, and the Board of Ordained Ministry that I believed in the doctrines and polity our United Methodist Church. My fingers weren’t crossed behind my back. So when these doctrines and polity, which relate to something as central as human sexuality, are under assault, what am I supposed to do? Act like it’s no big deal? Like I don’t take it personally?

Again, I meant what I said back in 2010 when I was ordained.

My question is, did all of these clergy colleagues of mine who are disobeying the Discipline and failing to live up to their promises—in Pennsylvania and elsewherenot mean what they said?

This is why I can’t go along with Methodist historian Tom Frank’s “open letter” to the Council of Bishops this week urging them to ignore these acts of covenant-breaking. Dr. Frank writes:

I am not asking you to change the church’s statements on homosexuality. Clearly that is not within the powers of the Council. I am asking you to acknowledge that a large number of faithful United Methodist ministers in good standing cannot in conscience restrict their pastoral duties to accord with these statements.

I’m sorry: Cry me a river! This “large number of faithful United Methodist ministers” knew what they signed up for when they were ordained. Many of them had other ministry options available to them if they couldn’t live with our church’s doctrine. I don’t believe that all or even most of them experienced some dramatic change of heart on the subject after they were ordained.

No, many of them probably winked and nodded when they were asked questions related to sexuality. It’s a game of “how to answer a question without being completely forthright.” I’m ashamed to say I played it myself back in 2007 when I was commissioned. Let’s not be naive.

Regardless, now that my covenant-breaking colleagues see that the church isn’t following her mainline sisters over the cliff, they want to take the wheel by force.

I hope the bishops do whatever they can to stop them.