Letters to the Editor – March/April 2014

Excellent editorial

I just wanted to send a note of thanks to Rob Renfroe for the excellent editorial he wrote in the most recent edition of Good News on the topic of talking past one another, particularly in regard to the topic of homosexuality. It was the most comprehensive and well-thought-out analysis of this issue that I have come across anywhere. As he addressed the five commonly raised arguments for abandonment of traditional teachings he gave balanced and reasoned responses any of us as clergy or laity can apply when we are confronted by these popularly accepted positions. It is so critical for us to remain faithful to long held principles because they have been proven over time. To set aside several thousand years of standards for contemporary views is arrogant and will indeed diminish the influence of the church further. Thank you for being an effective advocate for biblical and long held teachings of the faith.

Dennis M. Henley

Christ United Methodist Church

Scottdale, Pennsylvania

 

A way forward?

The United Methodist Church isn’t – united, that is! From this layperson’s perspective, it appears that it has been a long time since it was (if it ever was with respect to Wesleyan orthodoxy). And it seems unlikely that the deep differences between the “liberal” (herein called the American Methodist Church, AMC, for convenience) and “conservative” (the Orthodox Wesleyan Church, OWC) factions of Methodism are going to be resolved by “holy conferencing” or by the repeated public debacles at future General Conferences. I urge that we initiate formally the process of finding a shalom way for new communities of faith to grow out of the divided UM Church, in a way that is biblical and doctrinally satisfying to both groups.

Doctrinal work: The OWC faction appears to want to adhere to the Book of Discipline. If there have been objectionable accretions over the years, now is the time for those to be weeded out so that a new Book of Discipline will be available to govern the OWC. The AMC faction may want to carry over portions of the existing Book of Discipline to the new AMC, but clearly they will modify many sections of it to suit their doctrinal preferences. The existing UM Church should not raise copyright issues about either group using the Book of Discipline for this purpose.

Membership work: Now would be a good time for orthodox Wesleyans from other denominations to consider leaving their denominations if similar doctrinal conflicts are occurring within them. Similarly, perhaps some liberal Protestants in other denominations will find the new AMC a better doctrinal fit than their existing confessions. Both factions of the UM Church should engage in prayerful discussions with all members to educate them about where the OWC and the AMC are headed, then resolve to allow people to move where their hearts and the Holy Spirit move them. A neutral third party group should be chosen to develop educational materials and to supervise an election process whereby each individual congregation chooses which faction to receive its future allegiance.

Property and money work: Journalists, agnostics, and non-believers love to splash church conflict all over the newspapers and electronic media. Public acrimony, and especially lawsuits, over church buildings and real estate are a terrible witness to the people we are trying to win to Jesus Christ. I recognize that the following is almost Pollyanna-ish, but churches and real estate belong to God, not to the UM Church or the individual congregations. From the pulpit we regularly hear about the unimportance of our “stuff” (cars, houses, etc); churches similarly should view their “stuff” as unimportant compared to the mission for which all of us are here. I propose simply allowing churches to move to either OWC or AMC with their buildings and real estate (and their debts and other liabilities). This will be easy when the congregation is wholly in one camp or the other. Christian conciliation should be used to help congregations develop agreements for how assets and liabilities are to be distributed, especially when a congregation’s allegiance vote is much less than unanimous.

Hierarchical work: The hierarchy of The United Methodist Church is composed of thousands of clergy and lay employees who handle millions of dollars for the national and International ministries of the church. The OWC and AMC factions should prayerfully begin considering how this hierarchy will be modified to address the ministry foci of the two new churches. Some of this discussion will occur as part of the adoption of respective versions of the Book of Discipline, but the ramifications of the transition from UM Church to OWC/AMC are enormous, both to the employees of UM Church and to the ministries and people serviced by UM Church. This may be the most heart-rending aspect of the entire spilt.

As a layperson, I can’t pretend to know the thought and divination processes the ordained clergy of the UM Church employ to arrive at their views of what United Methodism should be doctrinally. However, I can apprehend the enormous amount of spiritual energy (and money and time and angst) that this conflict has already cost both the clergy and the laity. Shouldn’t we acknowledge that it is time to knock the dust off our sandals and embark on our continuing faith journeys along separate paths? Wishing God’s shalom to all,

Anthony R. Benedetto 

Christian Conciliator 

The Woodlands, Texas

 

Living and dying

Chris Johnson’s article is excellent in calling us to “living and dying we may bear witness to the vibrant hope of redemption found only in Christ — a hope that transcends even the grave.” Death is the last taboo. Chris speaks directly to it by expressing our “vibrant hope.”

David Bryan

Via web

 

Talking past one another

I appreciate the editorial, “Talking Past One Another.” I also appreciate the fact that United Methodists have a process for determining our beliefs on a matter such as this. Would Scripture hold the final word for you on all matters of that which is or is not permissible as a faithful follower of Jesus?

Scott Mann

Christ United Methodist Church

Lafayette, Inidiana

 

Identity vs. practice

“Talking Past One Another” is a well-written article and I agree with much of what Rob Renfroe wrote. The only thing he got wrong is that homosexuality is not a “practice.” Homosexuality is a God-given identity. If you tell someone that who they are – that who God created them to be – is against Christian teaching, you are doing harm.

Brad Walston

Via web

 

Talking past one another

I’ve yet to meet one who doesn’t affirm the Discipline’s statement that “all persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God” as pertaining to LGBT persons just as much as heterosexuals. Indeed, the entire doctrine of Original Sin teaches that every one of us is created in the image of God, but also that the entire human race has been corrupted by sin… so that the divine image reflected by every human being is imperfect. We are all broken icons, without exception. It is God’s love for us, even in the midst of our brokenness and sin, that gives us sacred worth.

The word “practice” tends to be used for two reasons. First, the few scriptural references to same-gender sexuality speak to activity, not proclivity. Second, that is the language of the Discipline and it was used there precisely because of the scriptural proscription of particular human behaviors. Thus, traditionalists do not see discord between the “sacred worth” and “incompatibility” language of the Discipline.

Where progressives and traditionalists begin to have different understandings is over the anthropological question of whether same-gender attraction is shaped by God in his creative action or whether it is rooted in our fallen nature. If it’s given by God, shouldn’t the church have recognized that at some point during its first 2000 years (especially during the pre-Constantinian period when it stood in stark contrast to external cultural influences)? And if it’s rooted in our fallen nature, isn’t Jesus’ redemptive work just as effectual to those who identify as LGBT as those who are heterosexual?

We have two fundamentally different understandings of human sexuality as what one “does” instead of who someone “is.”

John Robbins

Via web

 

Healing through the window of heaven

Love the testimony of Frankie Revell in “Healing Through the Window of Heaven.” His words, faith, testimony, and teachings are such an inspiration. Praise God.

Lori Smith

Via web

 

Prayers for healing

I am one who shared the prayers for Pastor Frankie Revell’s father (“Healing Through the Window of Heaven”). May God be praised for his healing power at work in and through his people.

Edward E. Heydt

Via web

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