Encouraging Developments in Northeastern Jurisdiction

By Thomas Lambrecht –

The Northeastern Jurisdiction is often thought of as a bastion of progressive thought in United Methodism. It is usually rated as the second most progressive jurisdiction, after the Western Jurisdiction.

That is why several developments in the last week are encouraging for evangelical United Methodists there and across the church.

Bishop LaTrelle Easterling of the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference enforced the Book of Discipline and recent Judicial Council decisions related to the examination of candidates for ministry. That conference’s Board of Ordained Ministry had announced in April that it would not “consider or evaluate sexual orientation or gender identity, nor see them to be sufficient reasons to deny a candidate’s ability to live up to our United Methodist standards.” That policy flew in the face of Judicial Council Decision 1341, which required that boards of ordained ministry carry out a full examination into all candidates for ministry to ensure that they are properly qualified, including in the area of sexual ethics. The Book of Discipline requires all ministry candidates to observe “celibacy in singleness or fidelity in a heterosexual marriage.”

Questions were raised about two candidates at the Baltimore-Washington Conference meeting who are self-avowed practicing homosexuals. After it became apparent that the Board of Ordained Ministry had not done a full examination, Bishop Easterling halted consideration of all candidates at the session. During a recess, the board questioned each of the candidates about their adherence to the required standards of sexual ethics, confirming that two are indeed practicing homosexuals. Easterling then ruled that those two candidates could not be considered by the clergy session, and that their recommendation was out of order.

Easterling’s rulings came in response to a question of law raised by the Rev. Mark Gorman. Easterling herself disagrees with the position of the church on these questions. “I pray that in 2019, we move away from the restrictive language in our Book of Discipline, and allow for all to really find a full and complete home within the United Methodist Church,” she is quoted as saying. Still, despite her personal views, Easterling did the right thing in upholding the Discipline’s requirements and processes.

It is also noteworthy that the Peninsula-Delaware Annual Conference passed a resolution “strongly encourag[ing] the General Conference of The United Methodist Church to maintain the current language in the United Methodist Discipline concerning matters of human sexuality as we prepare for the special session in 2019.” The resolution passed 176-152. It was a substitute for a proposed resolution that called for the General Conference “to resist schism and express openness to diverse perspectives in matters of human sexuality.” The moving and passing of the more traditional substitute is an illustration of how it is possible to change the direction of an annual conference action via an amendment moved by a member of the conference from the floor. This bodes well for the General Conference, where similar motions to amend from the floor may be necessary to help the conference move in a more traditional direction.

In the Upper New York Conference, a resolution calling upon that conference’s delegation to General Conference to unify around the “One Church Plan” was defeated by a vote of 455-392. The “One Church Plan” – previously known as the “local option” – would change the definition of marriage to “two adults” and permit United Methodist clergy to perform same-sex weddings and be ordained as practicing homosexuals. The “One Church Plan” is supported by the majority of North American bishops and the “Uniting Methodists” caucus. Good News and the Renewal and Reform Coalition strongly oppose the plan.

All of these actions are significant in indicating that there is more grass roots strength for an evangelical or traditional perspective than some might think. If annual conferences in one of the more liberal jurisdictions can act in support of our current Book of Discipline, that might portend the church continuing to take a more conservative direction regarding marriage and sexual ethics.

I would like to hear news about actions from your annual conference. Please email your reports to me at tlambrecht@goodnewsmag.org.

Thomas Lambrecht is a United Methodist clergyperson and the vice president of Good News. 

Comments

  1. Please forgive my ignorance; but how did we end up with Female Bishops in light of the Scripture?
    1 Timothy 3:1 This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work.
    1Ti 3:2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach;
    1Ti 3:3 not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous;
    1Ti 3:4 one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence
    1Ti 3:5 (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?);
    1Ti 3:6 not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil.
    1Ti 3:7 Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. NKJV
    My question is simple, when the the UNM throw out the scriptures regarding the qualifications of Bishops. Now Back to John Wesley, which I have posted several times, without reply: “In all cases, the Church is to be judged by the Scripture, not the Scripture by the Church.”Had we adhered to the Bible, we would not be in this precarious position.

    • A man brother

    • Michael Peters says:

      My Brother. I am strong in Biblical adherence, and will defend it to my death. The question here is about “False Teaching”. The words in 1 Timothy 3 are instructive, that is not gender specific but informative. I apologize if these thoughts of mine are offensive to any who reads my interpretation.

  2. Edna Reynolds says:

    Thank you for sharing this information! The current situation before our denomination has been very worrisome and both my husband and I (lay delegates to the NCCUMC) have been VERY concerned about the possible outcome of the 2019 Called General Conference. Your message has greatly calmed our concerns and has given us much hope that the “grassroots” interactions and votes will put this issue to rest….at least for the foreseeable future (the next four years, at a minimum).

    Thank you and God bless you always!

  3. William says:

    Please forgive my seeming skepticism— but I can’t help but think that the progressive forces in our church are working 24/7 + to try to pull some sort of maneuver(s) at our 2019 General Conference in an attempt to fool enough delegates in order to bring this “one (local option) plan to victory. Now, that would split the church — but to a progressive, so be it. Therefore, I pray that the orthodox/traditional forces are in full armor, leaving no stone unturned, and NOT trusting anything the progressives do or say from this time onward up through the General Conference. If this sounds harsh, apologies please, but it’s just a reminder, as far as I have observed, of what the church is up against when dealing with the liberal forces within it.

  4. W. Roiser says:

    My husband and I have tried to come back to the UMC, but each attempt to find a good church has met with failure. I guess we have been too naive in thinking that in our Michigan area there is at least one church near us that is standing strong against all of this progressive, pro-openly gay agenda. We have tried to go further and further outside the large city we live in; which is in the middle of the state; hoping that in the more rural churches we would have luck, but we have had none. We don’t wish to travel more than 1/2 hour from our home. After reading many articles and information on what is going on in the UMC – even after the 2019 General Conference and any future split in the UMC – we in this liberal leaning area will probably still be left out-in-the-cold and be forced through necessity to go to another denomination that isn’t so co-dependent and seeming to relish engaging in combat, instead of “disengaging” and going their own way. Is this denomination filled with people who like to fight? They get an adrenaline rush out of being in the fray and are addicted to it? We will hold on until the General Conference in 2019, but it won’t be hard to leave the UMC in this progressive leaning area unless there is some alternative QUICKLY put in place for people like us traditional, evangelical believers. A church that isn’t controlled by the progressives who claim 1 Corinthians 13:1-7 as their own. They claim “love” as their mantra, but if you disagree with them about homosexuality you are treated very “unlovingly”. I find this whole situation very sad and dysfunctional. My circuit rider ancestor would be filled with great grief if he could see what has happened to his beloved Methodist church – the church he literally died for.

  5. Wait for the Lord. Once the dust settles on this which will likely mean after a decision is rendered in the 2019 conference, some congregations will go one way, some another. We must allow some sorting out. Then those of us who prefer for our church to not be the battleground for the latest ideas can return to a Methodist church that is true to Holiness teachings and traditional Christianity. The progressive churches will not endure without the traditionalists. The progressive “United Methodist” people insist on bending the traditionalists to their will. This is obvious. If the progressives were not so interested in forcing their ways on the whole church, the church would likely get along for a while longer. Out of conflict comes resolution. If traditionalists are open to the idea of leaving the church as a group then a new Methodist movement can grow from this. No matter the outcome of 2019, if our loyalty is to the Christian faith and Methodist movement we really don’t need the buildings or the ones who want to desperately control the church property including financial assets. Traditionalists can start again if needed. We will certainly miss our centrist friends who are not the cause of this conflict and like us would prefer to congregate with those who have the pursuit of a holy life in mind. We the people are the church whether there is a building, a seminary or anything else official as “Methodist”. Recall John Wesley commissioned men to spread the Methodist movement who were not ordained as Anglican priests, the episcopal or Church of England was unsuccessful in its spread compared to the Methodist movement precisely because Methodist circuit riders were not constrained by the Anglican seminary requirements. Our brethren in the Southern Baptist Convention are not required to go to seminary to pastor a church. In a Baptist congregation, knowing the scriptures and being called to ministry is more important than attending an official seminary. Seminary is good in many ways, but the UMC has to compete with Baptist and Bible Church Evangelists for Methodists who put a higher value on scripture than on the structure of the UMC. There is always a place to worship God and we always have options regardless of the outcome of a General Conference.

  6. Chuck Harris says:

    “If the progressives were not so interested in forcing their ways on the whole church, the church would likely get along for a while longer.” I know, I am taking one sentence out of context, but I’m not so sure I understand the difference between that and “If the conservatives were not so interested in forcing their ways on the whole church, the church would likely get along for a while longer.” Or the difference between “the progressive United Methodist people insist on bending the traditionalists to their will” and “the traditionalist United Methodist people insist on bending the progressives to their will”. The big sticking point is that the conservative end of the spectrum has been able to codify their beliefs and demand that the other end of the spectrum believe as they believe.

  7. Chuck,
    “The big sticking point”? That would be General Conference that has based its decisions on the Bible plus 2,000 years of Christian tradition. Since our beliefs over the history of the denomination have, indeed, been codified on the Holy Bible — praise be to God!

  8. The traditionalists are not trying to “change” the organization to meet their agenda. The organization already exists and was built upon nearly 2000 years of understanding that was never seriously entertained as having an alternative. If we could get in our time machine and ask the original founders of the Methodist movement whether we should consider that a certain activity was in conflict with the Christian lifestyle and teaching, they would be dumbfounded that men and women from the 21st century would be so confused, perhaps they would be willing to give a direct answer after that awkward period of time when they were trying to figure out if we were just playing a joke on them. Seriously, in any other time, a reaction to such a question would be that the question is entertaining and rediculous rather than seriously entertained. It seems odd that people are so quick to drop teachings that were basically taken for granted for all of human history so that they could decide in the last few decades we know better than all who came before. We are not dealing with worldly issues here, the church is not of the world. The society from Rome and Greece to the present western world has always had ways that are contrary to Gods kingdom. If we are following the societies ways we cannot say we are holy and set apart. If we are following Holiness teachings, society will hate us. Christians have been hated by the worldly since Jesus walked with the earliest believers. Should we prefer for the world to love us now or should we focus on bringing the ways of The Kingdom to earth? It’s much better to just live according to scripture than to try and bend to the worlds ways. Shadrach Mechack and Abednego come to mind. The prophet Daniel told us about men who won’t bow down and worship worldliness but only worship Hashem or “God”.

    • William says:

      Dear E,

      Beautiful. Thank you so very much.

      What has completely baffled me all the years of this conflict is who the culprits are perceived to be. It has never been the traditionalists trying to change the Bible and 2000 years of Christianity. It is not the traditionalists who have rejected Christian marriage that is unequivocally defined by Jesus as recorded in Matthew and Mark, plus, of course, throughout Scripture.

      So if the traditionalists do not have a problem with the long standing position of the UMC on marriage as well as Biblical prohibitions against the practice of sexual immorality, then why would it be them as the ones to depart a demonstration that they agred with? Why would it not be those who disagree with the UMC as the ones to depart?

      Baffling.

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