No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

One minute you’re feeling sorry for the Council of Bishops. The next you’re shaking your head.

Motivated by a sincere desire for honest and potentially healing conversations concerning human sexuality, The Bishops’ Task Force on Unity proposed and the Council agreed to create a space for such conversations for the first time at this General Conference. In the category of “no good deed goes unpunished” a representative of the GLBT community rose to express his disappointment with the experience and accused the Council of a lack of leadership, oversight, and planning.

Unfortunately, no specific allegations were made, only the general charge that gays and lesbians were “bullied emotionally, spiritually, and physically.” Without substantiation of these very serious allegations, it is virtually impossible for the Council of Bishops or The United Methodist Church to respond in anyone’s satisfaction. Ultimately, that is very unsatisfactory for both sides of this vexing divide.

Few, if any were satisfied with the process — the inordinate amount of time taken to perfect the rules threw the schedule of the Conference into disarray. Everyone who has led a large meeting or an organization knows how easily schedules and planning can be disrupted by unexpected events. And rather than being accused of some deficiency of leadership or character, one hopes for understanding and grace — especially when your intent has been to bring people together and you have taken unprecedented, even risky, steps in hopes of doing so.

How different that moment would have been if the delegate had thanked the Bishops for their concern and leadership in fostering healing conversations, then expressed his frustration with the process, and asked the Bishops to create a plan that would have allowed those conversations to be completed.  In a church setting, rather than condemn those who have tried to do the right thing, can’t we assume the best of others and believe that if asked to do so, our leaders will rise to the challenge?

Thank God for the compassion, class, and the maturity of Bishop Robert Hayes which turned a sad moment of unfair criticism into a beautiful moment of prayer and compassion.

Now on the other hand, what a shock to see the first name on the Bishops’ list of nominations for University Senate: Dr. Jerry Campbell, president of the Claremont School of Theology and the driving force behind the creation of Claremont Lincoln University, an institution dedicated to training clerics of various faiths, including Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, and Christianity.

Two years ago, The University Senate put Claremont School of Theology on “public warning” and embargoed allocations from the MEF because Claremont failed (as Dr. Campbell stated in his “response to the church”) “(1) to provide a current audit and management letter, and (2) to consult adequately with United Methodist authorities about its new mission, vision, and plans to develop a theological university.”

In addition, Dr. Campbell has been very public in his belief that Christians who feel they need to evangelize persons of other faiths have “an incorrect perception of what it means to follow Jesus” (quoted in the UM Reporter).  Of course, when Jesus ascended to heaven, everyone other than a small band of disciples were of other faiths. The only reason we today believe in Christ is because early Christians took the good news of Jesus to (evangelized) persons of other faiths — in fact, they did so even though they were persecuted and martyred for their belief that Jesus is the Savior of the world and for their faithfulness in proclaiming the Gospel.

Dr. Campbell is highly credentialed but he certainly has an understanding of disciple-making that is far from Wesleyan. We were told by Wesley to “offer them Christ.” And we were told by Jesus himself to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Faith in Jesus Christ is where discipleship begins. And if we are wrong-headed in calling people to faith in Jesus, then we United Methodists are certainly misguided to believe that our mission is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

So, what were our Bishops thinking when they nominated Dr. Campbell who is so far from the mainstream of United Methodism? We’d love to have a conversation with them to find out. But we don’t have to elect any candidate, endorsed or not, who believes it is not Christ-like to offer Christ to all people.