Good News greets with some dismay – as will many men and women in the pews – the Judicial Council’s convoluted and ultimately unsatisfactory ruling regarding the Western Jurisdictional Conference’s nomination, election, consecration, and assignment of Bishop Karen Oliveto, an openly gay bishop who is married to another woman, and one who has admitted to presiding at some 50 same-sex weddings.
In its dense, nineteen-page ruling the Council says many of the right things, but as so often is the case with the institutional church, it fails to take the necessary action. It leaves Oliveto in her office, and essentially remands the case to the Western Jurisdiction’s College of Bishops. And as United Methodists have come to realize, that jurisdiction has a solid track record of defying and even mocking the church’s polity and law when it comes to its sexual ethics and teachings on marriage. Because of past decisions and statements, we have little confidence the Western Jurisdiction bishops will properly handle a case where the facts are obvious to all. It is unlikely that a penalty commensurate to the breach will be meted out swiftly.
By allowing Oliveto’s election and assignment to stand, the decision has sown further confusion across the connection. Many rank-and-file United Methodists will conclude no branch of the church is actually willing to defend its biblically rooted, time-honored, and widely shared teachings on sexual practice and marriage. It will deepen the sense of malaise and reinforce the growing opinion that church leaders just continue to “kick the can down the road.” Concerned United Methodists will find it strange that we do not permit our clergy to conduct same-sex unions in our sanctuaries but that a bishop was consecrated after having performed dozens of them and is herself party to one.
Despite this frank assessment we remain convinced we have very good reasons to remain hopeful for the people called Methodists.
First, the Judicial Council’s decision has now clarified things for the Commission on a Way Forward. If the Western Jurisdiction (and other jurisdictions and annual conferences) persists in defiance, it will make it clear that those actions have placed The United Methodist Church in schism and that it is no longer possible for us to live together in one body. It then becomes incumbent upon the commission to devise a plan of separation that is as fair and equitable as possible. If we can no longer go forward as a church united by its teachings and polity, then we must plan to go our separate ways. A new structure will allow conservative, orthodox, and evangelical congregations to give their full focus to proclaiming the Gospel and growing the kingdom of God through innovative and entrepreneurial forms of ministry for the 21st century.
Second, the Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA) holds the promise of being the vehicle for the renewal and revitalization of Methodism in whatever comes next.
Finally, we remain steadfastly confident in the power of the Gospel revealed to us in Scripture. It transforms us, empowers us, and enables us to rise above seemingly insurmountable obstacles. We will persevere, and we are confident the prize we contend for is not far off.
“If the Western Jurisdiction (and other jurisdictions and annual conferences) persists in defiance, it will make it clear that those actions have placed The United Methodist Church in schism and that it is no longer possible for us to live together in one body. ”
I am thankful to hear the truth expressed openly. It’s time to acknowledge the ‘elephant in the room’ and move forward. God’s Holy Spirit is still leading us to minister to a hurting world that needs to hear the Gospel message.
I’m confused about the JC’s decision. The UMC.org just published the following explanation and it sounds different from the understanding of the Good News Mag, WCA, the IRD and the RMN. Since we don’t have church police, who enforces the law or message? I’m mostly concerned that I read news stories that say the United Methodist Church is anti-gay. This is so untrue. Persons in the UMC have different theological understandings of LGBTQI issues, but the Methodist church believes all persons are of sacred Worth. The last message we want is to be compared to Fred Phelps church, but I fear the damage has already been done. Does the Good News Folk have any take on the perspective below?
We are all God’s children, and we all are sinners. The Bible is very clear “marriage is between one man
and one woman”. In our world of tolerance we justify anything that does not fit our agenda. It is a sad day when we mock Jesus decisions and miracles. God help the United Methodist Church.
“If we can no longer go forward as a church united by its teachings and polity, then we must plan to go our separate ways…Finally, we remain steadfastly confident in the power of the Gospel revealed to us in Scripture.”
Sounds like to me church teaching and polity are a bit more important than the gospel revealed to us in Jesus Christ. Whom do you think Jesus would exclude from church?
“Sounds like to me church teaching and polity are a bit more important than the gospel revealed to us in Jesus Christ. Whom do you think Jesus would exclude from church?”
So, what you’re saying is that the definition of sin is not a Gospel issue? This is the institutional church usurping the role of God in defining sin. It is idolatry now just like it was in the garden, and it completely circumvents the Gospel by eliminating any need for it. So, first and foremost, this is a Gospel issue.
Second, who would Jesus exclude from the church? Well, Jesus is part of the Godhead. This means that he has existed in perfect unity, harmony, and agreement with the Father and the Spirit since before time began. So, have you read the Torah? Because that is the Godhead revealing what sin is in exhaustive fashion and detail, and we do not have the right to redefine it to suit our fancy. One of the major themes is the Ceremonial law and the cleanness that is required in it to live in the camp where God dwells among His people. The Ceremonial law that Christ has fulfilled on the cross on behalf of all who believe in Him. In that action and that action alone, do any of us have any standing before God to be included in His church. If we reject His revelation and His Gospel, then all of us are excluded from His church and at enmity with God. It is not loving in any way, shape, form, or fashion to teach others to deny this core reality of biblical Christianity.
I am heartened by the Council’s decision. I am a lifelong Methodist and had hoped to remain one. There is always a “but,” and this is mine:
If the UMC Gen. Conf. acts to accept a change in our Discipline, I will resign my membership. All my life I have sung the song “we are one in the Spirit, one in the Lord, and pray that all unity will one day be restored,” yet we continue to accommodate the secular world more than God’s Word. I have been repeatedly dismayed that the UMC body has refused to take a public stand as to what, when, and how we support the Gospel and God’s Word. I can’t support the “gay” position in our society nor in our church. This is a decision I never dreamed I would have to make, but I’m now more comfortable leaving the church than staying IF this Discipline change takes place.
There is absolutely nothing in scripture that suggest that homosexuality is even remotely a part of God’s plan for marriage. Everyone is tested and has areas of weakness that must be overcome by the work of the Holy Spirit. The entire basis for LGBTQ inclusion in leadership positions, however, is taking an area of revealed sin and elevating it to a level of absurdity. The Bible declares these practices to be an ABOMINATION before the Lord. It demanded Capital Punishment in the Old Testament and is addressed in multiple locations in the New Testament as a reason why a person would NOT find their way into God’s plan for eternity. This is not difficult to understand. We are dealing with out-in-the-open, in-your-face sin. We are dealing with practices that demands repentance. We are talking about doing the work of Satin if we see this any other way. This has nothing to do with mine or any other person’s opinion. We are dealing with the conduct that ushers people into Hell. Is there any way to say this more clearly?
As a retired pastor, in the Western Jurisdiction, there is one symbol of our Faith that deserves some attention. It is that of the Good Shepherd. Yes, it comes from scripture, and it seems that scripture has become a bit old fashioned in our modern day way of doing things. But we must realize that the vast majority of the UMC membership, the folks who grew up, raised their children, gave of themselves and their substance to build up our churches and organization, are well acquainted with this image. The shepherd, Jesus reminds us, comes to the gate of the sheep fold, calls forth the sheep, and those who recognize the voice of the shepherd will follow their shepherd in trust throughout the day. But if they do not recognize the voice of the shepherd, they will not only not follow, they will flee in the opposite direction. And, Jesus added, a hireling the sheep will not follow, because the hireling cares nothing for the sheep. That is as true today of sheep as it was when Jesus first spoke his parable. The people of the pew, the laity of the United Methodist Church, who are often referred to as “the sheep of the pasture” are not dummies. They come from all walks of life, educational backgrounds, and work experiences. They hear the voices calling out to them to “Follow me.” And they use their maturity, experience, and discernment, developed over a lifetime as they hear the voices calling out to them.
We are not a business, we are a church. In a business, the employer tells the employees what to do, and they must follow their leader, or lose their job. But in a church, which is a voluntary association, the membership is more to be described as sheep of the pasture, who follow because they have trust. If they have any doubts, they will hesitate. I feel it is most important for the leadership to pause once in a while and take a look over their shoulder, to see if anyone is following, and especially to consider what is wrong if a great number are NOT following. How well do you REALLY know your sheep?
Our Lord Jesus (another old-timey phrase) also cautioned that a king should determine the size of his army BEFORE he leads them off into battle. Let us not be half way across the field, yelling “Charge!”, only to look back and find that we are all alone in our crusade. Foot soldiers, sheep, or laity, call them what you will. I hear the voice of the Generals out here in the West. But I am not so sure that there is an army behind them.
The Church doesn’t gather to evangelize. It gathers for praise, worship, instruction, and reproof. The Lord’s Day and other gatherings of Stated Worship are not collectively evangelize. The Church (“the called out ones”) isn’t a place for unbelievers and defiant sinners. We SCATTER to evangelize. So the answer to your question – all unbelievers are by definition excluded from the Church. They receive inclusion upon repentance, and then only.
The problem? The Church (capital C) has become an altogether difference thing from “church” (lower case c) which has become a secularized marketing and/or promotion of a pseudo-Christian faith. Instead of scattering to evangelize, let’s setup churches that are extremely comfortable for and agreeable to unbelievers and get it all done in an hour where we don’t have to invest the time in reaching out to the world, just let them come to us. And when they come – if we are really, really nice and like-able and charming – maybe just maybe they’ll also agree to like Jesus.
That’s nearly all of what passes for evangelism in 2017, pure and simple.
Dan Brauser is absolutely correct. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called to love those caught in all types of sin and offer to them the way of repentance & transformation through Jesus Christ. To just affirm them in their sin is probably the most UNLOVING approach we could ever take, and to elevate someone who is actively and publicly living a lifestyle that is clearly opposite of Biblical teaching and church law, is sadly, in complete defiance of God and His Word and His church.
I meant to say, “and to elevate to BISHOP someone who…” I apologize for the typo.