May/June 2011 Letters to the Editor

Call to Action
Regarding the analysis of the Call to Action in the March/April issue, I applaud Dr. George Hunter for naming theology and spiritual formation as two of the Great Omissions in the Call to Action. I’m guessing Dr. Hunter will agree, but the truth is, theological and spiritual formation should always be mentioned together as dimensions of the same task. I work with college students and other emerging adults. The crying need of this generation is good, solid, exemplary (i.e., visible in lives of mentors and models) doctrinal formation; what we in the academy sometimes call first order theology. Theological formation is spiritual formation. John Wesley got this fundamental truth in a way that we simply do not these days.

I also want to disagree with the Rev. Kent Millard for defending the legitimacy and reliability of the research organization used to develop the Call to Action. Of course, these organizations are good at their jobs, but are they using the right tools for the analysis we need? Social science research methods render social science results. That there is “vitality” across congregations of a wide theological spectrum simply means that the definition of “vitality” fits what a social science method will define ahead of time as useful or appropriate. It simply begs the question about theology.

Finally, let me add what may look like a tangent, but I think is not. Whereas I love the local church and understand its importance for ministry,
I plead with United Methodists not to forget about the rising generation. To that end, we had better not put all of our eggs in the local church basket. Yet, when we face the pressure of denominational decline, we still default to talk about “the local church” when we want to cure what ails us. On the contrary, until there is large scale and systematic reformation in the theological aims of higher education (this includes church-related schools and state university campus ministries), we will continue to abandon our emerging adults to whatever pop culture forces happen to be at work. And we will thereby fail at one of the four missional priorities established by General Conference.

Stephen Rankin
Dallas, Texas

Cracks before the rift
I am disturbed as well by bishops who do not have the integrity to uphold our denominational rulings. They seem to conveniently ignore the fact that General Conferences speak for the United Methodist Church. But over and above this is the reaction many of us receive who hold to what we believe are clear Biblical mandates concerning human sexual behavior.

I have found that many (not all) who are supposedly tolerant, liberal, and open-minded can become very hostile and narrow-minded when they find I am on the “other side” of these issues. It’s as though holding to traditional Biblical morality is some kind of religious or cultural crime.

Considering the terrible brokenness people experience around sexual issues, it would seem that the more liberal viewpoint isn’t working. From an exegetical basis, there is not a single word or phrase in the original New Testament Greek (related to human sexual matters) to condone the “liberal” viewpoint. In any case, it makes me wonder just how long the UM Church can live with this kind of tension before the cracks become a wide rift. I pray that does not happen.

Brian Channel
Durand UM Church
Durand, Illinois

Failing as disciples
In the article, “Leaders react to homosexuality statement by retired bishops,” retired Bishop Sharon Z. Rader is quoted as saying many have told her the initiative “brings hope for the future of our church and the making plain of our desire to invite, receive and empower all who desire to live as faithful disciples of Jesus as part of The United Methodist Church.” Bishop Larry Goodpaster, writing on behalf of the Council of Bishops’ executive committee says, “We call this holy conferencing.” Why do our bishops, General Conference, Good News, and whoever considers this topic worth talking about not realize that the main problem is that we’re even willing to discuss this topic?

The fact is evangelical, Bible believing Christians who oppose homosexual ordination believe it is impossible “to live as faithful disciples of Jesus” while continuing to practice homosexuality. The two are in opposition of each other.

As long as Bishop Rader and those like-minded continue to believe it is possible to live as a faithful disciple of Jesus while continuing this practice ,I, and others like me, have no reason to do any holy conferencing on this subject.

There is no reason to talk to someone who refuses to pay attention to  the clear teachings of Scripture. And may I go a bit further in saying that I am annoyed that our current council of bishops does not hold this opinion.

Remember the issue is not whether we should invite homosexuals to church in an attempt to introduce them to Christ and disciple them. The issue is whether we’re going to call them to be faithful to Christ by leaving their homosexual lifestyle behind. It will not be easy. They will stumble and fall, and we will have to extend grace. But if we do not ask them to leave this lifestyle, then we are failing to “live as faithful disciples of Jesus.”

Brandon Fulmer
Mann Memorial UM Church
Augusta District,
North Georgia Conference