Bishop David Bard

Bishop David Bard

By Walter Fenton-

Bishop David Bard, the newly appointed leader of the Michigan Episcopal Area, has signed-off on a frivolous and insulting “just resolution” of a complaint filed against the Rev. Michael Tupper, a retired clergyman in the West Michigan Annual Conference.

Bard’s endorsement falls under the category of “it would be funny” were it not so damaging to the integrity and unity of The United Methodist Church. And coming just a few months into his tenure, it calls into question his willingness to defend the church’s polity and uphold its teachings. At a minimum, his decision to endorse the Tupper resolution suggests he will only do so selectively.

Tupper, a now retired elder in the West Michigan Annual Conference, presided at his daughter’s same-sex wedding in 2014. A complaint was filed against him that eventuated in a “just resolution” endorsed by the now retired Bishop Deborah Kiesey. The resolution included no adverse consequences for Tupper’s actions, nor did it even elicit from him a promise not to preside at future same-sex services.

Not surprisingly, he defied the church again by presiding at another same-sex union in July 2015. A complaint was dutifully filed and Bishop Kiesey sought to dispense of it in the same manner as the first one. However, Tupper, who wanted publicity drawn to the church’s teachings against such weddings, demanded a church trial, believing his guilty plea and the loss of his ministerial credentials would move the denomination to radically liberalize its teachings on marriage.

Late this summer Tupper finally relented in his demand for a trial. Given the details of the just resolution Bard endorsed, there’s little wonder why he did. The resolution rewards the guilty and afflicts the innocent.

Rev. Michael Tupper

Rev. Michael Tupper

According to two provisions in the resolution, Tupper and the Counsel for the Church, the Rev. Elbert Paul Dulworth, “will set up Training Sessions for all Michigan [Staff Parish Relations Committee (SPRC)] chairpersons to attend in the spring of 2017 in helping them to set up a process of discernment in every local church during the fall of 2017 regarding their readiness to accept the appointment of a gay clergyperson.”

And lest clergy think they can escape the mocking resolution, Tupper and Dulworth were also given the task of setting up a “Training Session for all Michigan clergy in the spring of 2017 to offer pastoral care for LGBTQI individuals who are considering marriage or ordained ministry.”

Never mind that both provisions either skate close to or across the lines established by the church. Bard evidently believes laity who volunteer to serve in the time consuming role of SPRC chair and pastors who have plenty on their plates should travel many miles and waste valuable time in order to attend training sessions designed by a clergyperson who has willingly and knowingly violated the Book of Discipline. The not so hidden goals of both sessions is to teach laity and clergy how to become party to violating the church’s teachings. Presumably, even clergy and laity who are committed to upholding the denomination’s understanding of Christian marriage are expected to turn out for these teach-ins.

“This just resolution is a rejection of the authority of General Conference,” said the Rev. John Grenfell, Jr., a former Detroit Annual Conference district superintendent and a long time advocate for clergy and laity in church disputes. “It grants permission to two elders to redefine the life and mission of the church, when only General Conference can do that. Laity and pastors have the responsibility to support the order and discipline of The United Methodist Church, not attend programs that undermine and reject the guidelines of holy conferencing.”

Bard’s endorsement of the resolution signals his willingness to at least selectively tolerate and even reward open defiance of the church’s polity and its teachings. This will not bode well for an episcopal area that is already facing significant drops in worship attendance and church membership. And it will further demoralize laity and clergy who stand-up for the church’s good order and integrity, and expect its leaders to do the same.

Walter Fenton is a United Methodist clergy person and an analyst for Good News.


  1. This is a sad commentary on where the leadership of the United Methodist Church has decided to side with. No longer can the laity count on scriptural integrity from their leadership only what is politically trending and in keeping with the worlds views.

  2. A vote by a not so standing bishop in favor of schism.

  3. Liberation theologians have a single agenda. Power. Once they have it they will only advance their perpetuation of it. This entire final stage of the UMC is a desperate group lying, manipulating, distorting, and exercising their institutional power to hold on to it. The WCA should have a developed plan to transition clergy and congregations into a new community while jettisoning those committed to the ideology of liberation and all its Marxist underpinnings

  4. Walter,
    You are being ever so kind to Bishop Bard. And, you are being even kinder to the Councel for the Church, Rev. Dulworth. Even Rev. Grenfell is overly diplomatic in his assessment. A fully descriptive assessment of what has been done here would not look good in print, thus explaining your and the other two gentlemen’s restraint.

    This and the other acts of rebellion and independence since 2016 General Conference, after the call for and appointment of the commission, gives a rather clear direction for the 2019 special General Conference of granting those in rebellion their independence.

  5. This is it. The church must divide.

  6. This only pushes the church to division. Lawlessness must not be tolerated

  7. The United Methodist Church is UNITED no more…. If the Book of Discipline is not followed by our church leadership have our American bishops already left?

  8. I have also read the Just Resolution that referenced a “Big Tent” option that is supposedly under consideration. My whole problem with the UMC is its Big Tent theology that leaves it making conflicting and even contradictory statements; in other words it does not have a clear and consistent message to offer anybody! When the pedal hit the metal for me, Big Tent Methodism with its random and confusing sound bytes proved useless. Luckily I wandered off and after decades of confusion and partial understanding I finally discovered a clear understanding that without a doubt we have The Best God! If all the UMC can do is formalize its “Big Tent”, I do not see much of a future for me and the denomination or for the existence of the denomination–and I say that after 4 long years of cruising the internet listening to a myriad of voices that revealed a spectrum of theologies and other understandings that I found mind boggling. Right now we are dealing with the exact same problem that the current election revealed about the country: an intolerant progressive elite leadership who is completely detached form a huge swath of the people they are trying to lead! We need to not only repent before God for this mess now calling itself Methodism but also offer an abject apology to John Wesley for taking his fear that Methodism would become the form of religion without the power to a whole level of powerlessness he probably never imagined! I once read where somebody proposed that the reason the church in America has become unintelligible to the rest of America is because it has become unintelligible to itself. Welcome to the Unintelligible Methodist Church. The only reason I stick around is because I never chose this mess–it was simply part and parcel of the life I received and I am curious what will be the outcome of GC2019. The United Methodist Church is in existence because John Wesley was committed to creating “a practical religion for a plain people” in community with each other. Well this is most definitely not it.

  9. Thanks for the article. As a faithful United Methodist, it is both enlightening and disheartening to see the maneuvering by those determined to undercut the Church with false teachings while pushing for the acceptance of same-sex marriage. To continue to defy the Discipline is one thing. To dismiss the teaching of God’s Holy Word is much more serious. Eventually, all will answer to God for the mistakes being made.
    What we know as the United Methodist Church may soon become a thing of the past. Yet those who remain faithful to God need not fear. The doors of the Church of Jesus Christ remain open for those who are faithful and believe that only through Christ do we have the promise of being saved from our sins.

  10. Yeah, those are the words of Christ that have settled the argument about marriage for my entire life. I like you do not understand what these Bishops are doing other than fulfilling Jesus words about blind guides leading the Blind.

  11. The dilemma in the Methodist Church reminds me of what has transpired in this country regarding immigration. We, the country, and we, the UM Church, have rules and laws. Our Savior clearly compelled us to follow the laws of our land. However, instead of peaceably and appropriately following these rules/laws and/or attempting to change the “offensive” language, the uncompromising progressives have resorted to a pattern of civil disobedience. These actions undermine the character of our church, violate the statutes of our land (in the case of immigration), and insult all other members/citizens who may or may not agree with the liberal notions, but who are honorably committed to due process and reasoned consideration by majority rule. If you respect your church and your country, you either abide by its standards and follow its procedures for securing change, or you depart for membership elsewhere. You don’t resort to self-help.

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