I find the September Hoosier United Methodist Together (HUMT) article “Ecumenical pact does not open door to gay clergy in UMC” regrettable – to say the least. That the official publication of the Indiana Conference of The United Methodist Church chose this United Methodist News Service (UMNS) article to report a joyful and historic moment in the Church is nothing less than offensive.
On Aug. 21, Linda Bloom (UMNS) reported on the historic agreement of full communion between The United Methodist Church (UMC) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). The article was titled “United Methodists, Lutherans take historic step forward.” On August 21, the ELCA Church-wide Assembly voted to drop its ban on gay clergy. I wondered how long it would take for (UMNS) to report that this vote would not change the UMC ban on gay clergy. On Aug. 26, Linda Green (UMNS) reported what I expected in her article “Ecumenical pact does not open door to gay clergy.” This was the UMNS article reprinted in the Hoosier United Methodist Together.
Why? I searched the September issue of Together for details about the historic full communion agreement. There was nothing. In the “gay ban” article there were four paragraphs which gave some information about the historic agreement. But there were eleven paragraphs devoted to the gay clergy closed door. Does this fact reveal something about the Indiana Conference of The United Methodist Church? I only pose the question and offer no judgment here – though I certainly have an opinion.
I am confident that all clergy – gay and straight – serving The United Methodist Church in the Indiana Conference are aware of the UMC ban. I am confident that all laypeople – gay and straight – who think this issue is important are likewise aware. Only those who live with fear of the inevitable day when this ban is finally lifted would be concerned about what impact the ELCA decision would have on The UMC and, therefore, find this information interesting. There are other news sources where those people could find an answer to their question. As a subscriber to several UM newsletters – including those provided by the various caucus groups – I am well aware that much information about the “gay ban” was quickly circulated. The HUMT did not need to devote a half page of its publication to report this information instead of celebrate that United Methodists and Lutherans had taken a wonderful step forward. In my opinion, this was a slap in the face to our ELCA partners. Certainly, our UMC GLBT pastors and laity did not need another overt slap in the face. Surely our official United Methodist publication in Indiana can do better when it chooses UMNS articles to pass along to its readers.
Rick Miller, Pastor
The Church of the Saviour
I have been an ordained minister in The United Methodist Church since 1954, and a superannuated (retired) minister since 1989. I loved my life in the Church and consider myself a Disciple of Jesus, a devoted Wesleyan and one who has appreciated the connectional life which the Church has provided. I loved the idea of a supervisory ministry, and flourished in the graces which I found in the congregations and offices that I served.
Of late I have felt the warmness of my feelings replaced by a cooler detachment that has come as a result of a decision which has been made for me by others without due process including my participation in those decisions which have somewhat diminished my capacity for living. I am referring to the decision that was made by the 2009 Indiana Annual Conference session, which has reduced the benefits for health care for the retired (clergy).
My concern does not primarily concern the loss of benefits so much as it is my awareness that all this was done without any consultation with me about what concerns my life, my future and the life and future of my loved ones. Some might think I had fair access to the forum where this matter was discussed and decided in the manner it now stands. But there is no way that some of us who have 24-hour care for fragile loved ones could have attended the conference. I do believe that the lack of contact with retired people in the discussion which preceded the decision is a serious breach of faith with the community of ordained ministers, missionaries and other religious professionals.
I do remember how hard we once worked for the Preacher’s Aid Society, and then for an unfunded liability, and finally a fully funded pension program. I worked for health benefits, and we all thought we had achieved a standard of support for our retirees that would stand a long time. Now that support is eroding. Some of us believed that our gains were lasting and we would never have to go begging ever again. That could well happen if the present attitudes prevail. It seems to me and to other retirees that there is some loss of faith.
I do feel the conference leadership has been negligent in meeting and planning with the very people for whom the benefits are to help. Does the conference leadership think this is something which members of the churches would not address if approached?
I do believe we have had suffered some sort of lapse and I would like to see it mended.
Note: This letter was edited for length.
James F. Morin