Cheers and Jeers

In reading your recent editorial in Good News titled “A Judicious Decision for United Methodists” (January/February 2010), I must strongly disagree with the way and manner with which you presented me in your article.

You were incorrect in attributing to me a quote you cited in the previous Judicial Council’s Decision 1032. At no time in the internal process of responding to an Administrative Complaint in the Virginia Conference, or in speaking at an oral hearing of the Judicial Council when this case was considered, or in submitting my written response, did I ever use the words in the phrase you quoted. You have collapsed my role, the written opinion of the Judicial Council Decision 1032, and your own opinion about consequences of this case into your referencing me and the use of the quote. Had you exercised the courtesy of contacting me prior to quoting me in your editorial, I would gladly have had conversation with you regarding this matter. I am convinced that had you taken that step, you would not have misquoted me or misrepresented me in your article.

Bishop Charlene Kammerer
Virginia Annual Conference

Editor’s note: In his January/February Good News editorial, Rob Renfroe commended the United Methodist Judicial Council for “its good work” in ruling on the issue of homosexuality within our denomination “and for allowing the General Conference to speak for the church.”

As a means of giving a context to his commentary, the Rev. Renfroe referenced a previous decision by the Judicial Council—our denomination’s version of the Supreme Court. “Decision 1032,” he wrote, “determined that Virginia Annual Conference Bishop Charlene Kammerer was wrong when she ruled that the pastor of a church did not possess ‘the right and responsibility to exercise responsible pastoral judgment in determining who may be received into church membership of a local church.’”

We want to clarify that the italicized quotation was not directly quoting Bishop Kammerer, but was quoting the question that was put to her at the Virginia Annual Conference and that she ruled against. We apologize for the misunderstanding.
—The Editor

Easter exhortation
Thank you for Dr. N.T. Wright’s essay, “Hope in the Midst of Trouble” (March/April 2010). It reminds the Church in succinct ways that we dwell for a time between the bookends of Jesus’ resurrection and the consummation of history, a role that indeed calls us beyond merely “dwelling” to the daily fulfillment of the Great Commission.

In other words, we the body of Christ must allow no room for copping out on the driving needs of this day; neither do we work at it as those who have no hope. So, the Church must be Christ in the world.

I thank you for supplying this article and in it, a nugget of inspiration for a post-Easter exhortation to my congregation.

Duane Sarazin
River Hills UM Church
Burnsville, Minnesota

Villainous hearts
In your March/April 2010 issue in the article “For the Cause of Unity,” you state, “We respectfully ask that if leaders of our renewal groups have ever used derogatory language to refer to persons whose beliefs or practices differ from ours that we be given that information. We will personally ask them to apologize and make whatever amends are necessary.”

Well, well, well. Here is your “mote in your own eye” moment. In this very article you yourselves do exactly that. Under your subhead “Tension Points” on pages 13-15, you repeatedly and sneeringly use excessive derogatory language toward LGBT Christians and those who affirm them. For example:
• “a self-avowed practicing homosexual person”
• “vocal proponents of the acceptance of homosexual practice”
• “sexual relationships outside of heterosexual marriage, with no commitment or covenant expected”

All of the above are most cruel and unChristian terms, and for the use of this hateful language you should be sorely ashamed and make restitution as you promised. Another’s capacity to love is not a “practice” and to contemptuously refer to folks as such is exactly what you made a specific commitment to correct. People who affirm our LGBT brothers and sisters are hardly advocates of any sort of sexual act, as your nastily worded manifesto wickedly proclaims. You, whose ranks surely include the divorced and remarried, are in no tenable ethical position to judge any others’ sexualities and loves, and your appeal to prurience and gutter language there is reprehensible.

Your entire article only advocates unity under your dominance and such will not and should not occur. Your vicious complaint about LGBT musicians, for example, is beyond the pale. You have shown beyond a shadow of a doubt that by publishing this screed you are not at all interested in unity, only in your own raw, naked power to exercise the hatred in your villainous hearts.
As upsetting as your horrible article was, I thank you for giving me the inspiration to fight the corrupt power you represent.

George Nixon Shuler
Junction City, Kansas

Head of the Church
No improvement or reorganization plan will save the UM except one that puts Jesus back at the head of the Church, denies universalism and pluralism, and stops the disregard for the person in the pew. I am inclined to think it is too late, however.

E. Louise Parker
Fort Worth, Texas

Lay Witness Mission
What a wonderful surprise when I opened the January/February 2010 issue of Good News to the article about Lay Witness Missions.

My husband Stan, now deceased, and I spent 20 years going on missions with different coordinators. George Wickes of Dayton, Indiana, and John Nicholson from Joliet, Illinois, were most frequent.

We went on more than 100 missions during that time. For some of the missions, we led the singing. Music was a big part of missions. It was a spiritual renewal for us and the many people we met. People were saved and others rededicated their lives to Christ. It was like a mini-revival each weekend. Thanks again for the article.

Roberta Weiss
Bremen, Indiana

Example of Jesus
I am saddened that you—and so many others within the United Methodist Church—have chosen to exclude and thereby cause pain to homosexual persons, when I am sure you must know that Jesus would do no such thing were he in your place.

I hope you will not consider what society has taught you to think about homosexual persons and how they should be treated, but what the example of Jesus teaches us. As is often the case, the two differ starkly from one another, and the more socially acceptable course is not always the right one.
 I will be praying for you.

 Jane Allen
Via email

Right to speak
Thank you for an enlightening article, “Afghanistan and the United Methodist quandary” (January/February 2010). Both my husband and I are United Methodists and have great issues with the social justice group. With a son currently in Afghanistan and a career military soldier, we are proud of his service as well as the service of other brave young men and women who risk their lives to protect our lives and freedoms. They fight so we as citizens can have differing points of view. This does not seem to be recognized by some who participate in ugliness for anyone who disagrees with their position. This seems a bit hypocritical on their part. However; they have a right to speak. I do as well, without being accosted as a church member in another United Methodist church did to me in the sanctuary with a chastisement on why I would let my son go in the military—and in a not very Christian manner.

This faction has taken over a huge part of our church policies as the only way to approach a problem or issue. If you disagree, you are the problem. Thank you for your response to this error, which could be thought of as deliberate. Yes, we are to love our enemies, but we are not to allow them to take our freedoms and especially our freedom to worship. This is the basic reason for having a strong defense system. If we do not, we will not be able to worship and honor our God and his son Jesus Christ.

Gail Walker
Via email

Clobbering heretics
Your view of United Methodist unity is Good News? It sounds more like law than gospel, the letter than the spirit, fear and not freedom (“For the Cause of Unity,” March/April 2010).

Since you do not like the kinds of theologies held in high places and the directions they lead, you would replace them with your own “generous orthodoxy.” I have never seen any orthodoxy, generous or otherwise, that was not meant to clobber some heretic as defined by the orthodox. One person’s generous orthodoxy is another person’s heresy trial. For that reason, I also oppose removing the guaranteed appointment, since it protects freedom of the pulpit.

You belabor the emotional issue of homosexuality, while claiming to be more concerned about basic theological issues. In particular, you don’t seem to like the United Methodist quadrilateral of equal authority for scripture, tradition, reason, and experience. Simply objecting it is not what Wesley taught begs the question: Why should it be?

Pressure to change theology with far reaching consequences has been effective. Scripture is no longer the first among equals, as in the 1972 UM theological statement, but assumes authoritative dominion over tradition, reason, and experience in a separate section in the 1988 version. They are only to be used to interpret the authority of scripture. This is called the dogmatic method in theology. You, too, seem to be using the “water dripping on the rock” tactic to wear down your opposition and replace the regnant historical method in theology with your dogmatic starting point. In one regard, you are also right. There can be no middle ground between the two methods.

Telling United Methodists what they have to believe cuts off our attempts at faithful discussion and determination of new forms for twenty-first century Christianity and claims an absolute certainty, which many of us find arrogant and obscurantist. I follow the model of Plato’s dialogues where everyone gets their say and everyone is free to decide who is right.

In short, the effect of adopting your dogmatic position would be inauthentic to our own heritage and force many of us, including our brightest, questioning youth, to look for a new church or drop out of church altogether. Maybe that is what you want. Or worse: tongue-in-cheek acceptance of a creed just to keep our jobs or a place to belong. Loss of intellectual integrity is a high price to pay for a clearer, but narrow-minded, institutional identity. It is certainly not “Good News” that we can get excited about. Nor is it a guarantee of unity and church growth.

David McCreary
Southminster UM Church
Lincoln, Nebraska



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