How sad. Thirty-three of our retired Bishops have chosen to divide our annual conferences again over the gay ordination issue. Led by one Judith Craig whose "experience" of gay/lesbian pastors' dilemma over ordination issues. What happened to Wesley's other quadrilateral tests; Scripture, tradition and reason? Have they gone out of vogue? Or do they not line up well with the Liberal Agenda of what matters most to the Liberals? If "experience" is the test for Annual and General Conference agenda that matters, how about the "experience" of women who have had abortions and "experienced" grief, devastation, and depression just to name of few side effects of post abortion "experience". Shall we debate that as well and bring all the conservative/liberal arguments to the table for vote? How about husbands/wives divorce "experience" issues. Gun-toting divorced men coming to the Pastor's office to discuss his loss of marriage and children? Shall we debate that as well and bring gay marriage to the table as well? Think of all the "experience" trauma we could bring to divide our Annual and General Conf. voting blocs.
The United Methodist Church has helped start more "community non-denominational" churches in America over this one issue than we have started nationally combined on our own I would suspect. I would think the Bishops would start noticing the decline of membership/worship numbers the last 20 years we have debated this issue and ask themselves what we are gaining/losing in the debate.
It grieves me to see once again that our Annual Conferences and our General Conf. will be dragged thru these contentious battles and then be told to "kiss and make nice" as though it really didn't matter after all.
I understand the problem. I understand the dilemma. I have counseled many of the wounded in all "experience" struggles of every kind and category it seems. I have wept with them as well. But I think it's time we admit we are not going to agree and separate ourselves so that all can get on with the Church each group wants and deserves, whatever that might be.
I suppose we could have the pro and con groups separate themselves in a walk- out as our political brothers and sisters are doing around the country, run away to another state and hold our Annual Conf. and General Conf. delegations hostage while claiming that we are "doing justice for the middle class" or whatever class we might assign to the aggrieved on either side. And hope someone will change our diapers when the stink becomes overwhelming in the hot tub retreat center.
I am retired as well. But I haven't started a caucus group to force agenda on the Annual Conferences or The General Conf. Maybe our retired Bishops need to take up a hobby in retirement and "experience" something besides politically correct migraine headaches or attempt to create them for others.
M. Gene Young, Retired U.M. Pastor
It was disheartening to read that 33 of our retired (United Methodist) Bishops took it upon themselves to oppose the General Conference’s ban on gay clergy. By this action, they have placed themselves in opposition to 40 years of consistent action by our General Conference. Their statement assures that our long nightmare is not over, and next year we will once again be subjected to our quadrennial flagellation.
These retired Bishops unwittingly demonstrated that in at least one way they are just like the rest of us. When we go to the Bible with our preconceived ideas, we are sure to find what we are looking for. They sadly call for the Church to follow culture, instead of redeeming culture. Even worse, they may not even recognize that culture needs to be redeemed.
Surprisingly, however, I found a hopeful ray in an otherwise discouraging article that I had not anticipated. It was in Bishop Whitaker’s suggestion that the current wording in the Book of Discipline might be changed “to take less a tone of condemnation and emphasize the need for all clergy’s celibacy in singleness.”
I would heartily endorse this idea in the hope this action could bring some resolution and peace to our church. In my most hopeful moments, I believe that if we who agree with the Discipline’s stand on homosexuality could get in a room with those who want to change it, conference together (a novel concept!), and agree on this one step – then maybe 40 years of pain could be released, and a new day for the church would emerge.
After all, the problem is not with homosexuals. It is with homosexuality. We know that God loves homosexuals just as he loves the rest of us sinners. It is homosexuality that God hates. Jesus lived a life in which He condemned sin, but He always loved the sinner. We should, too! Let us confess that we have gone about this all wrong. Our congregations should be sanctuaries where homosexuals find home and hope and love.
I must admit, however, that in my darkest moments I don’t believe this is what those who want to change our Discipline want at all. I think there are those who will not be satisfied until homosexuality is endorsed as an alternative lifestyle, marriage has been redefined to include same-sex unions, and our sanctuaries are used to bless such unions.
When I was a member of the General Conference in 1992, every morning I was greeted by a group lobbying for “committed gays, lesbians, and bisexuals.” Can somebody explain to me what a “committed bisexual” is?
J. Wesley Hertel, senior pastor
Mt. Auburn United Methodist Church
This is in response to the article in the Feb. 2011 Together titled “33 retired bishops urge end to gay clergy ban.” Let it be clear that “nearly 40 percent of the denomination’s 85 retired bishops have signed the statement released Jan 31” means that more than 60 percent did not sign the statement.
Let it be clear that although the “Statement of Counsel to the Church 2011” has been made by certain agreeing individuals, they do not speak for the majority. They do not speak for the on-going, mainline, Bible-obeying witnesses who believe and teach that Jesus came to save sinners from their sins.
Let it be clear that there is a definite reason why for 39 years the United Methodist Book of Discipline, the denomination’s law book has said “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore, self avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers or appointed to serve The United Methodist Church.”
The reason being that 39 years ago, when the homosexual movement was gaining momentum, it was the determination of the spiritual leaders of the UMC to make a needed, authoritative declaration so that there would be no doubt nor confusion about the biblical position the church was taking. Their emphatic refusal to condone homosexuality and their all inclusive ban on any “self avowed practicing homosexuals” holding any leadership position in the Church was – and remains – perfectly clear.
Let it be clear that those chosen Christian leaders were not just making random, inconclusive statements … but they themselves had been making “prayerful consideration of the Bible, the church’s Wesleyan heritage and the bishops’ experience.”
Let it be clear that there is a reason the “delegates consistently have voted to keep the restriction.” The reason being that their convictions have not changed nor have they exchanged the teachings they hold for something else. They, themselves, continue to give “prayerful consideration of the Bible, the Church’s Wesleyan heritage, and the bishops’ experience.”
So let it be clear that all of us as Christians, as followers of the Lamb and as witnesses to and for Christ should have genuine and widespread concern for our leaders and the continued Biblical direction to which we are called and sent.
Let it be clear that there is also a reason why the subject of homosexuality surfaces every four years at the UMC General Conference. The reason being that there continues to be a contingency who refuse to accept what the Bible-inspired Book of Discipline says.
Furthermore, let it be clear that for thousands of years past, from 39 years ago to the present and for as long as our gracious God allows humanity to make our own decisions, there will be “self avowed practicing homosexuals” whose agenda is seeking to legitimize their homosexuality.
And to be sure, it creates “a lot of problems in the life of the Church” as well as outside of it, while a suspicious, cynical, critical and unsaved world looks on.
Therefore, let it be clear that each of us should take biblical and spiritual responsibility to plead and preach the Blood of Jesus, to love one another, to seek holiness without which no one shall see God, to live in the Spirit and not fulfill the desires of our sinful nature, and to be a trustworthy witness.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Against such there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”
Fort Wayne, Ind.