Letters to the editor: January/February 2012

Clergy covenant

I am writing in response to the Rev. Thomas A. Lambrecht’s article in the November/December issue concerning two recent judicial council decisions. The Rev. Lambrecht and I had a chance to express our views before a trial court in the DeLong trial last June, so it may surprise him to learn that I actually agree with his perspective on the Northern Illinois ruling, albeit for somewhat different reasons. I don’t want annual conferences interfering with the judicial process, even when they suggest a perspective with which I might agree. The potential for mischief in all directions is too great. The judicial process needs to have its own integrity and its own autonomy if it is not to be corrupted by the political currents of the day. We ought to be wary of remedies that weaken the inherent protections in our judicial system.

The place where I differ with Brother Lambrecht and with the religious right in general is in its reductionist understanding of clergy covenant. The word covenant is almost always employed as some sort of a synonym for obedience to decisions made by the General Conference. The notion conveyed is that to disobey a portion of the Discipline is to fracture the clergy covenant, whatever the reason for such dissent might be. This is a weak and brittle understanding of the covenant that binds together those who are ordained.

The covenant of the ordained, expressed in one of the passages from the Discipline that almost soars, is something quite different: “Ordained persons exercise their ministry in covenant with all Christians, especially with those whom they lead and serve in ministry. They also live in covenant of mutual care and accountability with all those who share their ordination….The covenant of ordained ministry is a lifetime commitment, and those who enter into it dedicate their whole lives to the personal and spiritual disciplines it requires” (par. 303.3).

This is a view of covenant that transcends the shifting sands of church opinion. It is grounded not in the decisions of a given General Conference, but in a mutual commitment to offer our lives in the service of all of God’s people as the Holy Spirit gives guidance. I implore my friends on the right to find language to express their frustration with those with whom they disagree that is not the language of covenant. Christians from the beginning have understood that their covenants with God and with one another might well bring them into conflict with the laws of the day, civil or ecclesial. It is a terribly weak understanding of covenant that cannot tolerate and even honor such an understanding.

Scott Campbell

Cambridge, Massachusetts

 

Reclaim the UM Church

I support Good News in hopes that we will reclaim the United Methodist Church. I have seen professing Christians accept and promote sin even when their error is shown to them in the Scriptures. Their reply is, “Well, I do not read it that way.”

At annual conference a few years ago, I spoke with a young man, a preacher’s son, who gave me that response when I pointed out that homosexuality was a sin according to the Scriptures. This young man had just begun working for one of denomination’s boards. How is it that there is not a governing policy preventing the promotion and acceptance of sin?

I think we make a mistake in the use of “conservative” or “liberal” when defining attitudes or movements within the Church. We should be using scriptural terms such as sin, faithfulness, obedience, etc.

I know it must be even harder for you when you must constantly be confronting those in leadership positions with these anti-Christian attitudes. It boggles the mind how sin can be so easily accepted and promoted by people who should know better.

God bless you in this endeavor to keep our Lord’s Church faithful to him.

Charles M. Combs

Cabins, West Virginia

Matter of time

I will no longer be supporting Good News. I am just getting tired of the leftist agenda pushing and pushing for acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle in the United Methodist Church. I know you are doing what you can to slow the tide of change, but since it has become culturally accepted, I think it is only a matter of time before the UM Church caves in to their demands. I no longer worship in a UM Church and will return to the former UM Church when we again split back to before 1968 and there is an option to choose between doctrines as a result of the split. I have been a Methodist since 1966 and a United Methodist since 1968. I have served both former EUB and Methodist churches and it is sad to see what became of the former Evangelical United Brethren Church.

Thank you for informing me in the past.

Harlan Nonhof

Phillipsburg, Kansas