By Rob Renfroe –
Not long ago I spoke via Zoom to the Zimbabwe General Conference delegation. They have asked several persons representing all theological views to talk to them about the future of the United Methodist Church. The man who spoke before I did would classify himself as a “centrist” with progressive leanings. He’s a genuinely good man and has been a good-faith partner in working for the separation that we desperately need. I respect him, his thinking, and his sincerity.
He was asked by one delegate, “What position will traditionalists hold if they do not join the Global Methodist Church but remain in the Post-Separation United Methodist Church (PSUMC)? How will they be treated?”
His answer was, “I cannot imagine a United Methodist Church without traditionalists being respected and put in places of leadership.”
That has been the line we’ve heard from most centrists and many progressives. Nothing will really change. There’s room in the big tent that is the United Methodist Church for all people and all opinions. There’s no real reason for people of good will to separate. And once the hard-core Bible traditionalists (the people that Good News represents) leave, the beliefs of reasonable traditionalists will be honored; and the PSUMC will be one happy, live-and-let-live family.
Again, I believe the man I described above and some others like him are sincere in their views. And I believe they are absolutely mistaken.
We have recently seen a rash of pastors removed from their pulpits by centrist/progressive bishops without consulting with the pastor or their churches – even though the Book of Discipline says they must consult. This has occurred in three different jurisdictions with three different bishops. Why? Because these pastors have made it clear they are traditionalists who support the coming Global Methodist Church.
Already, there have been several annual conferences where “centrist” and “progressive” bishops have removed traditionalist district superintendents and replaced them with others who share the bishop’s nontraditional beliefs. There is now no one close to these bishops who understands or represents traditionalists.
Many annual conferences have gone on record that they will disregard the Book of Discipline’s prohibitions of same-sex marriage and the ordination of practicing gay persons. They are presently ordaining practicing gay persons. Just recently a district in the Illinois Great Rivers Conference certified an openly gay person who performs in drag, Isaac Simmons, as a candidate for ministry. (Certification is the first step in a years-long process toward ordination.) Simmons recently preached at the church where he serves in Bloomington in his drag persona “Miss Penny Cost.” On a YouTube video Miss Penny Cost prays to Mary and refers to God as “Our Lover who art in heaven.” Drag Queen persona aside, a district committee in Illinois Great Rivers felt comfortable recommending for UM ministry a person whose theology cannot possibly be reconciled with authentic Wesleyanism.
Near the time of his crucifixion, Jesus said, “For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?” (Luke 23:31). It’s not an easy passage to understand, but the general meaning is that if people will do wrong when there is some kind of restraining influence present, what will they do when that presence is gone?
Up until this time, we traditionalists have been the restraint that has kept progressives from doing all they desire in remaking the UM Church. And still they have mistreated pastors and churches who hold traditional beliefs, embraced a progressive sexual ethic, and walked away from Wesleyan theology. When many of us, if not most of us leave, what will they do and how far will they go in the future?
It’s not hard to imagine because we have worked against their agenda at every General Conference since 1972. Once we leave, UM boards and agencies will likely again become partner organizations with the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, which supports any abortion at any point for any reason. The church is likely to vote to condemn and divest from Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, as has been proposed time and time again at recent General Conferences. When we are gone, every annual conference will celebrate same-sex marriage and LGBTQ ordination. In fact, there may come an immediate push to redefine marriage, so that it includes more than two persons. In a recent sermon a “centrist” leader said that the vision for the PSUMC will include the affirmation of “trans folks, bi folks, kink folks, poly folk, gender fluid folk and others.” Just to be clear, “poly folk” is a reference to persons who are simultaneously in relationships with several sexual partners. At General Conference 2019, nearly 40 percent of the delegates voted for the Simple Plan, which removed the prohibition against clergy being unfaithful in marriage as a chargeable offense. When traditionalists leave, that 40 percent will probably be at least 60 percent of the PSUMC.
Pastors who do not want to disrupt their churches will tell their people that nothing much will change after the separation. With traditionalists out of the picture, they envision a golden age of peace and understanding will break out within the PSUMC and everyone will be welcome.
But if centrists and progressives do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry? Embracing the LGBTQ agenda is a justice issue for them. As we have seen in The Episcopal Church, what starts out as permitted soon becomes encouraged and eventually becomes mandatory. “Centrist” pastors will tell their congregations that nothing will change. They may even believe that. But everything will change. There is no energy behind the centrist movement any longer. Those who now dominate meetings held by those with nontraditional beliefs are not the centrists but the progressives. Progressive, woke young clergy do not look up to, and will not be deterred by, middle-aged, primarily white centrists who believe in justice by half-measures. And the progressives will win the day.
Eventually, one can foresee the PSUMC becoming a thoroughly progressive denomination that will not allow for freedom of conscience or practice. And the old centrist guard will not be able to stop the march towards a church that is devoid of traditional beliefs and practices.
It is not surprising that centrist leaders cannot see where the PSUMC is headed. They haven’t wanted to see where the church has been headed for the past 20 years – even though we told them that separation was coming. Consequently, we had to go through several destructive General Conferences and many people have been deeply and unnecessarily hurt, waiting for these leaders to grasp the inevitable. If some in the church now want to trust what these same leaders say they see for the future of the PSUMC after we’re gone – mutual respect, traditionalists being placed in positions of influence and authority, local churches enjoying a real measure of autonomy – they are free to do so. They are also free to take the words of Jesus seriously. “For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
If traditionalists buy into the Great Lie that they will be treated fairly— take a hard look at this (below) and let it sink in. If centrists think this a fair, just, and equal treatment of traditionalists — I have some beautiful beachfront property for them at bargain prices for sale in Nebraska.
Complaints Against Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson Formally Dismissed
Dear North Georgia United Methodists,
Due to the unusual public attention drawn to complaints filed against Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson, your Conference Committee on Episcopacy feels it is important to offer an update.
A series of complaints filed by the Mt. Bethel UMC Executive Committee against Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson have been dismissed by the SEJ Committee on Episcopacy and SEJ College of Bishops upon the conclusion that the Bishop acted in compliance with The Book of Discipline.
The complaints were addressed using the process provided in ¶413 of The Book of Discipline. This process involved the SEJ Committee on Episcopacy, the supervisory response team, the complainants, and the respondent. It included prayer, Bible study, personal interviews, study of the relevant paragraphs in the Book of Discipline, and reflection on Judicial Council Decisions 101, 501, 1174, and 1307.
After following this process the supervisory response team, consisting of representatives from both the SEJ episcopacy committee and the college of bishops, found that Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson acted in compliance with The Book of Discipline. Therefore, the supervisory response team recommended that the complaints be dismissed. The SEJ Committee on Episcopacy received this recommendation on August 26, 2021, and approved it. The SEJ College of Bishops reviewed and affirmed the recommendations and the action of the SEJ Committee on Episcopacy on August 27, 2021, agreeing that Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson acted in accordance with The Book of Discipline.
We are grateful for the time and diligence that was put into this process and we appreciate Bishop Sue for her leadership in the North Georgia Conference.
Yours in Christ,
Chair, North Georgia Conference Committee on Episcopacy
You seem to have a more realistic view of how the other side is playing the game. Tom is more naive. However, I do not understand why y’all don’t fight harder. The liberals are not going to play by the rules at all. Why do you think there will be a vote next year? Even if there is a vote, most Bishops will not let churches vote to leave. Then what will you do, just complain about unfair it is. By my calculation, there are only 3 AC can leave next year, The rest of the churches are jsut screwed.
ABSOLUTELY — TRADITIONALISTS ARE GOING TO BE TREATED FAIRLY IN A POST SEPARATION UMC. Well folks, welcome to the psUMC — it has already arrived in North Georgia.
Update from the Conference Board of Trustees
Attorneys for the Board of Trustees of the North Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church have filed the necessary paperwork with the Cobb County Superior Court to move the ongoing issues with Mt. Bethel United Methodist Church toward resolution.
While the Conference and its representatives have engaged in negotiations with local church officials and have made good faith efforts to resolve the issues without litigation, the current situation has not changed and it is untenable. The Conference Board of Trustees will continue to take all necessary and appropriate actions to ensure compliance with the tradition and the Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church.
Rob Renfroe’s article, If They Do These Things, says only part of what needs to be said about the state of the UMC. The unsaid is that for far too long the Church of the Living God has been content, fat and happy, and totally apathetic. Thank God, there are still some denominations that will not tolerate the heresy and advocacy for blatant sin that exists in the North Georgia Conference of the UMC through its bishop Sue Halpert-Johnson. Jesus told the woman caught in adultery, “go and sin no more.” He told one that he had healed, “sin no more lest a worse thing comes upon you.” The Word says, be holy for I am holy. The New Testament is replete with specific lifestyles that will NOT inherit the Kingdom of God. It is God’s will that none perish, but all come to repentance. In 1 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul instructed the church in how to deal with their brother in Christ who was living in adultery in their midst, but not before he had reprimanded the church for their arrogance in not addressing the matter! It was NOT the specific sin of adultery that was in question; it could have been the sin of teaching heretical tenets to deceive souls, leading them to perdition, as in the case of Halpert-Johnson. So, like Apostle Paul, the pastors and leadership of every Bible believing church should arise with one voice and give the bishop over to satan for the destruction of the flesh that her soul be saved in the day of the Lord. She should be turned over so she would learn not to blaspheme as Paul turned over some in the church. The Bible believing pastors in the North Georgia Conference should once again teach the truth-that is that God sent Jesus to save the world from sin; not to give us over to live in sin! The New Testament plainly declares the Christian lifestyle, and it is NOT a lifestyle of fornication and homosexuality, no matter how many bishops say it! If God is God, serve Him. If your god is sex, money and greed and fame, keep serving him!
Pretty much the folks that imposed this nasty action determining their action was justified. Who would have thought it.
What you say is obviously correct. But, this thing has progressed way past that. Bishop Haupert-Johnson and the Southeast Jurisdiction College of Bishops, along with most other American and European bishops, do not heed such words. They are not interested. They do not care what we think. They work for an INSTITUTION that they have locked in on and are doing everything at their disposal and then some to preserve that institution and their places in it by taking down as many traditionalists as possible while awaiting General Conference, hedging their bets that this will somehow contribute to their cause. Perhaps they should take a finance class — as they run traditionalists off, the money is going with them.
MT BETHEL IS NOW BEING HELD HOSTAGE
The lawsuit of absurd charges against Mt Bethel is also blocking them from disaffiliation from the UMC. They officially filed for disaffiliation with the North GA Conference five months ago. The bishop is holding them hostage against their will, while denying them their Discipline rights, as she seeks to take their property and assets in civil court.
The paragraph in the lawsuit states: Mount Bethel is ineligible to pursue disaffiliation under 2553 of the Discipline as the Board has specifically affirmed that local churches seeking disaffiliation under 2553 of the Discipline must first demonstrate compliance with the Discipline.
So much for ‘Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness’. The concept of ‘where your treasure is, your heart is also’ is being confirmed with the fervent obsession about money.
Progressives have already demonstrated exactly how they will treat traditionalists in the psUMC. To assume they are going to find grace after the split is naive at best.
If I remember right, Jesus Christ said “imitate me.” Jesus also said, “I did not come to set aside the law, but to fulfill it.” Liberals have either forgotten what He said, never read it, set it aside like so many other scriptures that don’t support their narrative, or simply don’t care.
UPDATE: from a 9/17/21 Atlanta Journal Constitution article, the North GA Conference issued the following statement:
“The disaffiliation process is not managed by the Bishop. The process is managed by the Conference Board of Trustees, who have been unanimous and consistent in indicating that they will not negotiate disaffiliation terms with any church that is not in compliance with the Book of Discipline.”
“Simply put, the Mt. Bethel leadership cannot pick and choose which parts of the Discipline they want to follow, and their request for a disaffiliation vote does not release them from their other obligations under the Discipline. Mt. Bethel leaders made the decision to reject their obligations under the Book of Disincline, and they are now dealing with the consequences of those actions. This situation is not about disaffiliation.”
The Conference Board of Trustees is currently working with a number of local churches wishing to disaffiliate, the Communications Office statement said, but those local churches are compliant with the Book of Discipline, “including their acceptance of pastoral appointments and their appropriate respect of the denomination’s trust clause.”
1. The disaffiliation process might not be “managed” by the bishop, but for sure under the direction of the bishop.
2.. Mt Bethel is not in compliance with the Book of Discipline simply because the bishop and her protégés say so.
3. For this progressive bishop to accuse Mt Bethel of wanting to pick and choose which parts of the Discipline they want to follow is both laughable and exposes all these charges against Mt Bethel as bogus and fraudulent.
4. And, the claim that the conference is working with a “number of local churches” wishing to disaffiliate who have “appropriate respect for the trust clause” and their “acceptance of pastoral appointments” fails to mention that these pastors appointed to those churches are also subject to disaffiliation from the denomination thus giving up their credentials, their health benefits, their pension fund benefits, et al.
5. Finally, there’s not enough space here to fully expose the preposterousness and outright deception of this release.
Anthony, you are correct on everything except that pastors who disaffiliate do not lose their pension fund benefits. Those are guaranteed regardless.
Tom, thank you for your response. I sure hope those pastors appointed to these disaffiliating churches, certainly those churches that could become independent of the UMC, get to retain their pension fund benefits if they depart the conference and the denomination with their congregations —- or the bishop has guaranteed them a spot in another conference church should they desire not to depart the conference and UMC thus, obviously, retaining these benefits.
All this begs the question — did the bishop CONSULT with these pastors prior to their appointments to churches engaged in the disaffiliation process — something she denied the Mt Bethel pastor?
NOTE: so many of the communications coming from my North GA Conference, certainly with relation to the Mt Bethel situation, seem to assume that people across the conference are beyond dumb, gullible, and naive that they will fall for anything.