Pastors and theologians release ‘Integrity and Unity’ statement

A group of leading United Methodist pastors and theologians released a statement calling for the Council of Bishops to restore the unity of the church and the integrity of the covenant that United Methodist pastors have vowed to keep. Representing all five jurisdictions, more than 100 clergy and laity gathered in Atlanta on Friday, July 18, 2014, to discuss the future of the church and issue a plea for United Methodist bishops to “exercise their spiritual and moral authority by teaching and upholding corporately and individually our United Methodist doctrine of human sexuality as expressed in the Discipline.”

The group emailed their statement to the members of the Council of Bishops and launched the website www.MethodistCrossroads.org in order to garner lay and clergy support for their endeavor.

Rob Renfroe

Rob Renfroe

“There are several plans being floated across the church that are designed to lead United Methodism out of the chaos we are now in,” said the Rev. Rob Renfroe, president and publisher of Good News. “Those who gathered in Atlanta made it clear that the best step to a faithful future is for our United Methodist bishops to teach and lead in accordance with the will of the General Conference and the Book of Discipline.”

The group in Atlanta released an 850-word document in which it expressed gratitude for bishops who uphold the Book of Discipline and the clergy covenant, grieved the fragmentation of the church, and called upon the Council of Bishops to issue a public statement “to restore the unity of the church and the integrity of our life together.”

Pastor Levingston 1-b

Kenneth Levingston

“We need our bishops to uphold the clear biblically based teachings of The United Methodist Church that marriage is between one man and one woman,” the Rev. Kenneth Levingston, pastor of The Higher Way Church: Jones Memorial United Methodist in Houston, Texas. “For more than 2,000 years the Christian church has consistently upheld the sacred covenant between man and woman as the standard for marriage. We are pleading with our bishops to uphold scripture, our shared covenant, doctrine, and tradition.”

Because of several recent examples of what appeared to be the circumventing of the Discipline’s teaching regarding same sex unions, the group’s statement called on the bishops to “fully enforce the Discipline with respect to those clergy members who disregard church teaching and choose to preside at same sex services.” The statement asks the council to censure “those bishops who have stated they will use their influence to prevent trials as a means of just resolution for clergy who preside at same sex services.”

Scott Field

Scott Field

“The Call to Action survey a few years ago reported that there was a very serious trust gap between the people in the pews and the leadership of the denomination,” said the Rev. Scott Field, pastor of First United Methodist Church in Crystal Lake, Illinois. “It is discouraging to clergy and laity alike when it appears that bishops do not take seriously the will of the General Conference and the clarity of the Discipline when dealing with clergy who break covenant with the denomination by performing same sex unions.”

To address this “trust gap,” the statement asks that when trials are necessary, bishops commit to “appoint as counsel for the church individuals fully supportive of both the church’s teachings and the necessity for organizational accountability.”

Tom Harrison

Tom Harrison

“It is nonsensical for some bishops to appoint clergy who are opposed to the Discipline’s requirements to ensure that the Discipline’s requirements are enforced through the judicial process, which at least two of our bishops have done,” said the Rev. Tom Harrison, pastor of Asbury United Methodist Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  “Such a moral conflict of interest creates the impression that those bishops are not serious about maintaining and upholding United Methodist doctrine and discipline.”

At the gathering in Atlanta, the leaders spoke openly and frankly about legislative solutions, the role of the United Methodist bishops in helping restore unity, and the possibility of amicable separation if the bishops are unable or unwilling to restore unity.

Randy Mickler

Randy Mickler

“The group believed that with the widespread upheaval within the denomination, the preferred step would be to have the bishops issue a clarifying statement after their November gathering,” said the Rev. Randy Mickler, pastor of Mount Bethel United Methodist Church in Marietta, Georgia.

“We have arrived at the moment when the future of our denomination is being determined,” the group concluded. “Our prayer is that the Council of Bishops will act to restore our covenant and make true unity possible.”

–Methodist Crossroads

Comments

  1. I wonder how many small membership/rural churches were represented I the “group” of a 100 pastors and theologians?

    • Kevin Bishop says

      Byron,
      You make an excellent point. I am certain that few if any of these “majority” small membership/rural churches are represented here.The truth be known these churches represent the greatest Wesleyan influence we have for a renewal of our beloved movement. I am perplexed by this. I pastor three of these types of churches ( hang onto your hat) and they are burdened with over $32,000 a year in apportionment’s and direct billing with little or no concern from the Conference they are a part of. On behalf of the churches I serve in inquired over six months ago about joining this new Wesleyan Covenant Group and emailed several for more information, but as of to date I have not heard back from any one. I have come to peace and the realization that I truly fall into the “red headed stepchild” camp. This “poor and ignorant” country preacher, as my official liberal mentor says, has no where to turn. The more I pray, fast, and meditate I realize there is no room for me. I am thankful to God for the ministry He has given me here for these churches are truly making an impact with individuals and their respected communities, but they have no voice. I will continue with what God has given me in obedience and in humility take my place at the table. Come Holy Spirit !
      Pastor Kevin Bishop

    • Byron,
      Whether small churches were well represented or not, I think the main thing here the integrity of our leadership in keeping to our Methodist doctrine. Those who want to throw it over the side and bring in their own version of “New Morality” need to be challenged. If you haven’t already looked at the new website http://www.MethodistCrossroads.org, you might look. You can “sign on” there and you will be represented.

      • I did just look at the MethodistCorssroads.org. version of the “New Morality” and I must say that it is very cleverly written. For a traditionalist like myself, I could find myself agreeing with a lot they had to say, and I believe they could deceive a lot of other people, just like they are being deceived themselves.

        A division would be very difficult, but as Jesus told us ” A House divided against itself will not stand”. and we cannot go on this way.

        When there is a confrontation there has to be a victor and a loser, otherwise there can be no healing. I have often thought “What would Jesus have done if the moneychangers decided to
        fight back and refuse to leave the temple.” Of course we will never know, but we do know that
        the moneychangers participated in the killing of Jesus, and now we have the Holy Spirit to direct us in our paths and decisions. There is a victory.

        • Barbara, just you are clear: the folks at Methodist Crossroads are traditionalists who favor the biblical position on marriage (one man and one woman) and sexuality (only within heterosexual marriage). They are trying to get the bishops to uphold the United Methodist Church’s biblical stance on these issues.

  2. Dear pastors and bishops, I am deeply sorry about what’s happening in the UMC. Although I am not a member, I feel as I am.
    Actually everyone is, If your church is Jesus’ s church, you are here for all and for everyone.
    For that love Jesus has for all of us, without any exception.
    Those who believe in exceptions, don’ t believe in God. God loves us all with an unthinkable and unimaginable love. All without exceptions.
    Tell me which kind of doctrine, paper or covenant would have canceled the forever lasting Covenant between us and God?

    I hope this does not sound too hard. If yes, believe it is written only good thoughts for you.

    If you want to gather, gather to speak about and talk about how to help everyone to reach the church, to become part of it (no matter if s/he is gay, man, woman, black or white)
    Remember we are all one. For our Father matters everyone of us the most, and all equally.

    I have already tried to reach your pastors with my letter, yet non of them answered.
    So at last I put it on my website.
    Everyone is welcome.

    I wish you all the best and the best for UMC.
    aneta

  3. Victor Galipi says

    The 2 point charge where I attend in Bailey, NC, has committed to distributing and collecting signatures for the Integrity and Unity Statement. This is a clear, strong, gracious call to our bishops to simply do what they vowed to do in their ordination vows and their membership vows: teach, uphold and enforce the Book of Discipline and even more the Holy Scriptures.

    The 90 Days of Prayer for The United Methodist Church started today, and I had the opportunity, as leader of this initiative for our churches, to present and begin this 90 day season of prayer for all 3 of our worship services. The response was favorable, encouraging and joyful.

    I urge every UM pastor and layperson to go to http://www.confessingumc.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Call-to-90-Days-of-Prayer-for-UMC.pdf to learn more about and participate in the 90 Days of Prayer. Though the 90 days has already started, churches could easily start this coming Sunday, Sept 14, and have 83 Days of Prayer. Also, I urge pastors and laypeople to go to http://www.MethodistCrossroads.org#sthash.afVM2eyy.dpuf and sign the Integrity and Unity statement.

    May God bless The United Methodist Church and move in a mighty way among us according to His word and for His glory over these next 90 days and well beyond.

  4. Genesis Granadosin says

    The united Methodist Church Council of Bishops are fragmented on the issue of same sex marriage, homosexuality. They cannot even discipline their own who clearly defied the Book of Discipline. The moral standards of the Leadership is at its all time low and the only way to redeem this is for the Council of Bishops to uphold the Biblical covenant to which they were elected to. They should be accountable to the General Conference, and those Bishops who defy the Book of Discipline is an insult to the members of the UMC worldwide.
    Methodism is more than a denomination, it is a movement, and it should remain as such to make disciples of all men and women, professing that salvation is received by grace, through Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord.

  5. Donald E. Johnson says

    I endorse the Statement of Integrity and Unity. The United Methodist movement is in distress. I am confident our Bishops are all-too-aware of this reality. I encourage our Bishops to heed the message embodied in this Statement. This struggle reminds me of Mordecai’s uncomprimising words to Esther from long ago – and may serve as a source of counsel to our Bishops: “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance [for the faithful in the United Methodist Church] will arise from another place, but you . . . will perish. And who knows but that you have come to [your] position [as Bishop in the United Methodist Church] for such a time as this?”

  6. Janice M. Gillispie says

    I pray with all my heart that the council of Bishops will act to restore our covenant and make true unity possible! Marriage is one man and one woman!

  7. I am 55 years old. I am a lifelong Methodist. I was lucky enough to hear Jim Moore, Lamar Smith and other gifted poachers. I withdrew my Methodist church membership of 16 years when a fellow member questioned my mother’s and grandmother’s traditional catholic practices “but are they Christian?” I finally had enough of pompous blowhards.

    bottom line, I wonder if unemployment lines will change perspectives.

    Bottom line, ministers who lose the “customer service” perspective are ripe for the unemployment lines.
    My suggestion, get it over already. Cut out the unnecessary overhead like the rest of corporate America and become a lean “customer serviced” organization. And for those who cannot cope, show them the door.

    This is the reality that your congregation members face daily.

    Does this clarify the issue?

  8. Bob Grizzard says

    If we as the UM Church are to enforce our Discipline, why is there an outcry when the disciplinary parts of the Discipline are used to reach what the parties to the actions can agree is a ‘just resolution’? Is the outcry because there is an insistence on “my idea of justice” instead of that which is in the Discipline. Why can we not agree that the process of the Discipline can reach a result with which one may not agree, but which is ‘just’ as considered by those empowered in the Discipline to make that call?

    Is the ideal of a just resolution, which includes mercy and forgiveness wrong? I hear the echo of Jonah lamenting that God forgave Nineveh and did not destroy it. Perhaps we all should spend some time in the belly of a leviathan.

Trackbacks

  1. […] July of 2014, Good News posted this article about the background of the Integrity and Unity Statement, posted here along with […]

  2. […] rejection is the last word, and others think it’s the first word.  Some feel that it should end the conversation, while others think it should start […]

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