A Response to Bishop Bruce Ough’s Address

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A statement from Good News.

We believe that the hope of the world is what Jesus Christ does through the local church. At our best, The United Methodist Church, with its message of grace and truth, is used powerfully by God to transform lives and communities.

Acknowledging that our denomination is broken, divided, and dysfunctional is heartbreaking, but it is reality and it needs to be admitted. Bishop Bruce Ough’s morning statement at General Conference should be applauded for its directness and its honesty, but it was also a cause for sadness and disappointment. His confession that the Council of Bishops is divided and unable to provide the leadership we need to be a united and vibrant church is another indication of how serious our dysfunction is.

It’s particularly disheartening, in light of the fact that we have debated issues regarding human sexuality for over 40 years, to hear that the Council has not done the work necessary to provide the leadership the church needs and deserves at this time. We had hoped and prayed that the Council would exert the moral and risk-taking leadership this desperate moment requires. We are afraid we are about to witness a terribly disruptive and divisive ending to General Conference and then several years of chaos and harm. This development is more than the result of different views held within the church. It is the fruit of leadership that has failed us.

We are grateful the Council has finally begun to talk about how deep our divisions run and perhaps have the kind of conversations that should have been going on for the last ten years. We are praying that these conversations will be fruitful and lead us to a way forward.

Good News and our allies have proposed legislation at this General Conference that would restore integrity and accountability to our covenant. Most of that legislation has been approved by legislative committees and we expect it to be passed by the entire conference and become church law. Though we are of divided opinion, our way forward will be together, following what we have agreed to be the positions and practices of the church.

We are grateful we are a global church that is growing where the Gospel is being faithfully proclaimed and lived out. We remain committed to a vibrant and faithful practice of Wesleyan orthodoxy that honors the Scriptures and proclaims Jesus Christ as Lord. We will continue to work for a faithful future for the people called Methodist and are bold enough to believe God will so act that our best days are yet to come.

Comments

  1. OliverChurchill says

    I fear that there is really no reason for evangelicals and orthodox Methodists to remain in the denomination. Whatever is done, the LGBTQI/leftist factions are determined to negate the certain defeat of the proposed sexuality petitions. Clergy and bishops are paralyzed by self-interest due to guaranteed appointments, secure pensions and medical benefits. They cannot be expected to give these up and therefore cannot provide leadership. The other option is to allow individual churches to leave the denomination with their property and clergy staff to pursue ministry as God calls them. The best of all worlds is for the orthodox/charismatic/evangelicals to affiliate in their own (Methodist) denomination and allow the remainder of the dying church to fall of its own dead weight. We should divide the assets of the existing UMC to support ministry and clergy pensions and perhaps even jointly continue to fund those pension and benefit funds. But I do not see another way out currently.

    • Wow Oliver, that’s very Christ-like…

      I don’t consider myself a member of a “leftist faction”. I was a child of the Thatcher era in the UK. I am a believer in free markets when it comes to capitalism vs communism. Definitely “Right of Centre”

      Yet I am gay. Gay people are not necessarily left wing politically speaking. However, while I believe in social responsibility, my faith and belief in Jesus tells me I can’t ignore the marginalised.

      I don’t “feel” marginalised. Your anti-gay stance causes me no harm, but it is frankly wrong for a church to be built on Christ’s life and to say gay people are not equally valid as children of God, in ANY role they are accepted for.

      Frankly, as an Englishman I feel better qualified to know the Weslyan way, and if you do not want to follow the Weslyan way, why not join the Baptist church?

      There is nothing at the Baptidt church you’d find objectionable (in the US). The Methodists and Baptist church in the UK might not suit you but here in the US I think you’d feel at home as they have a more traditional view. No?

      • Nancy Cifers says

        There is a difference between seeing value in someone and condoning our sins. Please love me enough to put up a roadblock to any lifestyle that I may live that has no repentance and encourages my brother to sin. You are loved by a God greater than any enemy. I am your sister. We won’t agree but at least hear what is really said not what activists tell you. We can’t change our beliefs about sin to ease your conscience but leave your soul to God and pray his mercy on you and ourselves. If we are wrong, I’m sure you can see how we have Biblically come to our beliefs. I hope we can go beyond what divides us so that we can serve Him and grow in our faith. As we are now, we waste effort on arguments and we push each other to sin in our thoughts and words. God was at GC and has us in his hand. Don’t push others out of the UMC if you don’t want to leave. As the voting went, you are in a minority.

      • OliverChurchill says

        Then realize first it is called “Wesleyan”, not “Weslyan”, at least here in the US. And our debate is really about the authority of scripture, which John Wesley called “infallible”. I am not going to judge you because your private life is between you and God, so do not seek my approval for it. Similarly, I am not going to be dragged into your struggle for authentication. You need to seek God for that, not the church. And that is the problem with the LGBTQI extremists. They want to force the majority of the church to approve of and support their sexual praxis. I do not support fornication, adultery or any other form of biblically prohibited sexual conduct and I have no problem articulating that. Am I sinless? No. But because I may have sinned does not render me incapable of making an informed decision regarding sexuality. Note that when a women confronting a problem with her sexuality, once forgiven, was told by Jesus to go and sin no more.

  2. Susan Beverly says

    I am encouraged by the steadfastness of the 2016 General Conference Delegates and their willingness to vote their conscience in the midst of turmoil and at times hostile environment created by the threat of protesters as well as the actual displays of protest that disrupted the General Conference. In light of the many legislative measures that were passed to enforce accountability in our denomination I believe steadfastness and perseverance is the right course for this time. It is possible that it may be necessary for a schism to take place in view of the deeply divergent doctrinal position and social agenda of the LGBTQ agenda and their supporters. It truly does require a new gospel shaped by culture rather than founded on the Gospel of the Lord Jesus as recorded in Scripture and directed by the Holy Spirit of God. The time may come when evangelical and orthodox Christians may be forced to separate from The United Methodist Church but I believe we should stay the course as long as there is a possibility for a course correction and Spiritual renewal. If orthodox Christians in every local church will be as committed to the cause of Christ as those who oppose the faithful preaching of the Gospel have been for these last 40 years I believe God will make a way.

  3. Hey Oliver, as a UM clergy I never chased after the “self-interest” items that you claim paralyzes us. I left a burgeoning career in Mechanical Engineering to answer God’s call. I have sought to be faithful and to uphold the BoD. I have weighed the tradeoff of itinerancy with guaranteed appointment – and watched as my savings and equity plummeted in being faithful to the Bishop’s appointment. I am an evangelical (in the best sense of the word) who has been appointed to a liberal church in a liberal conference where evangelicals have little voice and might as well not bother voting. So I am thankful for this guaranteed appointment that gives me protections against progressives who would see it as a matter of justice that I am recused from the denomination despite the fruitfulness of my 25 years of ministry. As pastors (across all denoms) drop like flies because of the weight ot changing culture and declining membership, with called churches seeking out that “can’t miss young pastor” who can “bring in the young people,” I am thankful for a (truly less than perfect) system that honors the covenant and commitment and sacrifice I (and others) have made to serve in the Kingdom.

    • OliverChurchill says

      Then you are no doubt familiar with the hundreds of ineffective (and potentially soul-damaging) pastors who do not need to be pastors. Good to hear you stand as a witness, but God is your protection, not church polity.

  4. Sad day for the Conference. Hoping that church practice is upheld and that LGBTQi proposals are rejected.

  5. Kenneth King says

    I don’t quite understand how even the possibility of unity is still on the table without repentance. If LGBTQI actions are sinful–which I believe Scripture to affirm–then the church is not to associate with them at all (see 1 Corinthians 5:9-11) if they remain unrepentant. Unless the commission will somehow lead them to repentance, they are only delaying the inevitable.

  6. Brian Taylor says

    I have to believe that this General Conference, with the support of our overseas members will do the right thing by the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost. What I am concerned about is the lack of leadership supplied by the Council of Bishops. They have been given great privilege by being elected to their position. They are disregarding their duties to the faithful and the hopeful. This may be why their life time status needs to be changed to a fixed service time, much as being attempted with congress. If they will not enforce the BOD, if they will not provide the spiritual and organizational leadership required of them, then they need to be replaced.

  7. Kenneth, your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

    The old ways are not always the right ways for eternity. Scripture is very clear about all manner of things we have learned to adapt our interpretations of (divorcees being just one)

    We have been saved from our sins, casting our neighbors asside, and we can start anew, thanks be to God for his Son’s sacrifice to us.

    In England the Methodists do associate with us (LGBTQ), My previous minister blessed me and my partner ahead of our marriage. On the day of our ceremony our minister officiated at the service. We had scripture reading from (Ironically Paul’s letter to the Corinthians), hymns and even a gospel choir. Our leader of the music ministry worked with us on music selections.

    Finally, I should say I am happily with my partner of 12 years (2 married) and I am very happy in the UMC as a member of the Chancel choir and leading in worship with my fellow SATB singers each week.

    We can quote/exchange biblical texts to suit our own positions all day and night. The reality is that the world is changing. We can ignore that with our heads buried inside the bible and blinkers on when we look up from it, or we can really listen to the text and the Spirit, and see the good around, us even in homosexual people who did not choose to be whom they are.

    We are supposed to care for each other. Let’s focus on that?

  8. AmyinIowa says

    Seriously? Like we bother to shun all other unrepentant sinners? Sorry, but unless we start treating other sins as harshly, the only reason for picking one over another is our own prejudices and insecurities. We let people into our churches without judging other habits the same way. Here is, in your words a sin, that should alienate everyone from the church, the way by which people have been able to receive grace in a unique way for centuries. Basically, by your explanation, we should deny grace to those who you think need it most. Our pews are full of professional liars, thieves, adulterers, abusers, bullies, self-righteous egotists, and more who are able every day of the week to get inside without question. They fill both pew and pulpit. They come to church and sin even while they are there, leading the church to care for its own above the world, withholding their resources because they don’t trust the other sinners with their money that is better spent on things of the world, and skip whenever they have an excuse to be elsewhere because they should not have to choose. Yet we don’t have sex in church. This sin, even if you think it is one, is not harming us or causing others in church to sin. Ours are. What about those? Maybe some can feel better about their own sin by crucifying others, but I am just not ok with that. Sorry, Kenneth, but that argument just doesn’t hold water. There is a big lot in the eye of the church. How about we actually deal with that at General Conference instead of this slight of hand. Until we recognize that Christ came for both Jew and Gentile, we will never be the church God calls us to be.

    • Amy,
      We are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God. But, there’s a huge difference here — these others that you mention are not making demands of the church. LGBT people brought this on themselves by setting themselves apart and making their demands of the church, demands that have consistently been in conflict with Scripture. The homosexual specific language in the BOD is a result of the actions and repeated actions of this specific group, thus forcing the church to react and continue reacting. Had this group not have ever made their demands of the church, unlike these others that you list, nothing would be in the BOD related specifically to them. However, perhaps it is time to remove the h word, homosexuality, from the BOD. Let’s start with:

      The practice of any sexual relations outside that of a man and a woman in marriage is incompatible with Christian teaching.

  9. William B. says

    I believe there is hope in the intention to thoroughly examine the LANGUAGE of the BoD regarding human sexuality. The unexamined exegeses of the homosexuality passages in Old and New Testament
    used by “orthodox” Methodists since 1972 (and before) have not served the church well, and certainly not LGBTI Methodists, who are ALSO created in the image of God. Homosexuality described in the scriptures refers to exploitive actions toward vulnerable persons, whereas the reality today reveals loving, committed relationships of LGBTI. The “orthodox” need to catch up to the issue as it stands TODAY.
    A serious, prayerful, objective examination of the human sexuality in the BoD is therefore long overdue.

    • William, you may continue spouting off with liberal talking-points about about the Biblical text; you may even be correct, in some cases, that Biblical references to homosexuality are about “exploitive actions toward vulnerable persons.

      Again, let me state, IN SOME CASES. When Paul wrote to new Christians in Rome, however, this is pretty clearly not the case; “24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error. 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done.” (Romans 1:24-28)

      Further, while not referencing homosexuality specifically, our Lord Jesus clearly stated God’s intent for heterosexual marriage. Quoting from Genesis, Jesus affirmed God’s plan when, “4 He answered, “Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”” (Matthew 19:4-6)

      In your exegesis, please keep in mind the whole of scripture as your context.

      • Randy, God may have had intent for heterosexual marriage, but God made me as I am. Incapable of having sexual desires for women. I don’t believe God wants me to be unhappy.

        I’m not lusting after men (to use Paul’s roads) but in the same way as heterosexual men desire intimacy with their partner (wife) I desire the same with mine (my partner, married to me)

        99.98% of the verses in the bible do not mention same sex sexual activity. The 6 or 7 verses that do are definitely not in the context of loving, committed, consensual relationships.

        Paul

    • William B,
      If the orthodox are wrong on the practice of homosexuality as a sin, then they have been wrong for 2000 years, and, using this line of reasoning, likely wrong on the practice of multiple other sins, especially sexually immoral sins. How do we erase from the Bible the practice of homosexuality as a sin by redefining it “as it stands today” without erasing multiple other sins by redefining them as they stand today, especially the other sexually immoral sins? For example, what about the loving, committed relationships of single heterosexuals?

      The Bible firmly and unequivocally establishes that all sexual relations outside that of a man and a woman in marriage are incompatible with its teaching. If there is Scripuural evidence to the contrary, progeessives in the UMC have been unable to produce it these last 46 years.

      • We redefine because we do…

        Like the Levitical laws we do not observe.
        Like our ordination of women into ministry.
        Like the abolishment of slavery (which we defended by quoting scripture)
        Like the acceptance of interracial marriages, and of different “unclean” people and their cultures.

        Because “love” I think!

        Your 2000 years quote is a bit far fetched. It was only in the last 45 years or so that we have seen humanity develop the understanding of human sexuality we’ve now achieved. It’s not going to reverse itself either. My partner and I have godchildren who knowbIm gay and married.

        At school they know other children who have same sex couples who parent them.

        It’s becoming normal, as opposed to when I was in school and hid who I was from my friends… Children won’t have to feel as I did. They won’t be driven to suicide in their young lives as too many have been.

        Doesn’t actually matter what you or I think as we are the past and the children are the future. They will change things even if we do not. I hope and pray there will still be a church that they join.

    • OliverChurchill says

      By “unexamined” you mean undoubtedly that we should modify our opinion of sexuality and sexual mores to conform popular culture? I don’t think I have that option.

    • Colin P. McWhirter Attorney PA says

      I have read as much as I can about the issue of Homosexuality in the Bible. It is clear that the Bible condemns homosexual acts, however this sin seems to have been singled out by God for very harsh punishment. If you read the story of Sodom, the Bible says they were all destroyed by God for their sexual sins. (Men, Women and Children.)Evan banished Cain did not receive the Death Penalty from God for committing the Murder of his brother. in fact God placed a Seal of Protection on Cain so that he would not be killed by others.
      Lot was not a homosexual, neither were any members of his family.The people standing outside of Lot’s house demanding that he turn over the visitors in his house were not marginalized individuals. They were literally a mob out in the street shaking their fists at the Angels of God demanding to have their way. Sounds just like the “Protesters” today who are out in the street shaking their fists at God’s Church. The modern day protesters in the church are just like the ones in Lot’s day. They won’t stop. Until they have split the church in two, they won’t be satisfied. They refuse to acknowledged their sin and ask forgiveness. They remain unrepentant. The modern leaders of our church should move forward without them and let those who look back suffer the fate of Lot’s wife. This is an issue where there can be no compromise.

  10. I thought the Judicial Council had ruled this attempt by the Bishops for a Committee to study the BOD, etc. to be Unconstitutional. If this is true, where does this leave the Church now?

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