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The anarchy that IS the UMC or The United Methodist Church, Inc.

By Michael L. Gonzalez


As if it's any surprise, Melvin Talbert, in the position of bishop in the California-Nevada Conference, and all of his minions, have succeeded in making every faithful Christian of the UMC look like a fool. "A fool" you ask me? Why do I say this? Faithful Christians of the UMC are fools for thinking that their denomination holds fast to the Word of God or even any self-declared rules and/or standards. Why do I use such secular terms as rules/standards? Well, obviously because the UMC doesn't appear to be anything but a secular organization.

If you're not interested in my opinions, just read the article exonerating Talbert et. al. and all their shenanigans at http://umns.umc.org/00/aug/389.htm

For sake of argument, let's say that I'm a church-goer of lukewarm faith. Suppose I'm motivated to learn just what the UMC stands for. I visit a church and talk to the pastor, and say that I really want to know the details of the UMC. Seeing that I'm serious, the pastor loans a copy of the latest Book of Discipline to me for my study. So, I read the Book of Discipline cover to cover, and then I decide to surf the Web and see what other UMC information I can find to learn some current events. I then read all kinds of articles, including the above linked article, as well as the following:

http://www.ucmpage.org/news/ca_disobey26.html
http://umns.umc.org/00/feb/061.htm
http://www.ucmpage.org/news/ca_disobey_hearing15.html

Seeing the dichotomy between the Book of Discipline and the current events, I decide to meet with the pastor for clarification; below is my fictitious conversation with the pastor:

PASTOR: Hello Mike, how've you been?

MIKE: Well, I've read the entire Book of Discipline and I was impressed with the thoroughness of the document, but when I read so many current events on the Internet, it confused me.

PASTOR: How's that?

MIKE: From the Book of Discipline, I see that you, as a UMC pastor, have many rules bounding you, and I also know just what you believe about Christianity.

PASTOR: What makes you think that you know what I believe about Christianity when we haven't had a single discussion about beliefs?

MIKE: Well, the Book of Discipline includes all kinds of statements of faith and it lists all of the oath-type statements that you must make in order to be ordained. So, I know that you hold true to all of these things in the Book of Discipline, right?

PASTOR: Well now, just because it says all those things in the Book of Discipline doesn't mean that every single pastor believes them all. Let me assure you that I think I pretty much agree with all the Book of Discipline, but we shouldn't pass judgment on other pastors and their belief systems.

MIKE: But didn't you and all pastors have to make these statements and professions of faith and stuff like that?

PASTOR: Sure we all did that, all right. But, it's assumed by most of the UMC leaders that some pastors just say those things and don't believe them. You know, it's a new pastor's right to disagree with the Book of Discipline; after all, it's an old book, and it tends to be sort of rigid, and you need to understand that the UMC is growing to be more and more about pluralism, diversity, tolerance, and like that.

MIKE: So you're saying that the UMC leaders, bishops and the like, I guess, assume that when pastors are ordained that some (or all?) of the pastors-to-be are just lying when they make the professions and whatever?

PASTOR: Now, don't use that word "lying!" No it's sort of like just holding to an opinion that differs from the statement that is coming out of your mouth. You know, this is America where everyone has the right to her/his own opinion.

MIKE: It looks to me like this "opinion" thing is fairly widespread in the UMC leadership. That bishop in Sacramento was accused of lying, but his superior ruled that he was only stating an opinion. Say, I wonder, was the guy who said the bishop wasn't lying just giving an opinion, or was he stating a fact, or something?

PASTOR: We pastors don't comment much on such subjects.

MIKE: Well that really disappoints me because I wondered if you could explain to me this Sacramento 68 thing. I read that these scores of pastors jointly performed a same-sex union, and yet the Book of Discipline says that pastors can't do that. Did I read the Book of Discipline correctly?

PASTOR: Sure you did.

MIKE: According to the reports, these pastors made a public spectacle of themselves and paraded around the fact that they disobeyed their vows and stuff. Then some committee looked at the facts and said that there was no evidence of the pastors disobeying. I don't get that.

PASTOR: Well, you see, the pastors were demonstrating that they disagree with the Book of Discipline and they think it should be changed, but that can only happen via a General Conference. So, they are making a stand for their opinion.

MIKE: OK, I see the disobeying in order to stand for their opinion, but doesn't that mean that they must accept the consequences of their stand? After all, I thought the whole Christian thing was about persecution, and standing up for what you believe in and then accepting your fate with respect to what the earthly forces will do to you.

PASTOR: What would you expect to happen?

MIKE: Well, that Creech fellow was tossed out on his backside for doing the same thing, wasn't he?

PASTOR: Sure he was, but he did it all by himself, and in a Conference whose opinions are held a little closer to what the Book of Discipline says. The difference is that in California there were scores of pastors who disobeyed and it was understood before they ever did it that the bishop and just about all the leaders in California would support the disobedience, and make sure that none of the pastors would have to suffer anything for their actions, like losing good appointments, or losing pensions, and good stuff like that which pastors get if they stay in the UMC long enough, and do what the bishop tells them to do; you know--you have to "play the game" a little.

MIKE: OK, I think I'm understanding now; don't forget that I used to work for a large corporation, and after so many decades, I learned to work that system, just like you pastors are learning to work the UMC system. Yea, I've seen those corporate policy books: rules, rules, rules--who needs 'em! I moved throughout the corporation, and I can relate to the UMC structure: The head guy at this factory defines the rules that he will follow, and then he makes clear what rules everyone else is to follow; then you go to the next factory, and the head guy there has totally different rules, and yet the corporate office says the rules are the same for everybody, but of course, they aren't. Also, I've seen where the boss plays favorites among the department heads; it all depends on who agrees with the boss, and who will kiss his backside, you know, it's like what happened to all those pastors in California who got on the wrong side of the bishop and ended up being booted or left on their own before the guillotine fell on them.

PASTOR: Now what a minute, you can't draw a comparison to your secular corporation and the UMC!

MIKE: Well sure I can. Look, it's right here in the news. You've got 60+ pastors who perform a same-sex union to demonstrate their opinion in defiance with the Book of Discipline, and they're let off the hook and given a pat on the back for doing what the bishop wants 'em to do, right? Now compare that to a handful (or so) of pastors who, along with the full backing of their congregations, declare that they won't give money to the bishop as a means to demonstrate their opinion in defiance with the Book of Discipline, but this group gets castigated by the bishop and his department heads--er, I mean DS's. Ya see, it's just like the corporation--do what the boss says and you get promoted, go against the boss, and your rear end is grass--know what I mean? Forget that corporate rule book stuff, you just need to find out what the boss wants to hear, and then you can get ahead.

PASTOR: I really don't like how you draw those analogies.

MIKE: Well, you know, it's just like this bishop who throws out the pastors who don't like his program. I figured that this bishop gets to treat people as unjustly as he wants to, because he's like the plant manager of the factory that's making the biggest profit, so the corporate heads let him run things as he sees fit, since his bottom line is looking good. And that's where I haven't figured out the UMC system yet. You see, this California bishop has a conference that is shrinking in membership, attendance, and even money, yet the UMC big wigs let this bishop continue to do things his way, which would appear to be producing red ink on the bottom line. What's the deal?

PASTOR: You see, that's where you're wrong. The UMC is a Christian Church and we don't measure success by numbers and money.

MIKE: Now Pastor, where'd you get that idea? In reading the UMC literature, practically everything the UMC does is measured against head counts and money. I agree that a church shouldn't function like a corporation, but you sure couldn't tell it by looking at the UMC.

PASTOR: Well with all the research you've done on the UMC, I can bet that you're ready to join that new members class next week, right?

MIKE: Oh no, Pastor! This UMC is not for me. You see, I hated that corporate job, and the last thing I want to do is join another corporation. No, you see, I'm looking for a Christian church. You see, besides reading all this UMC stuff, I've also read the Bible. Even though I went to church all my childhood, I never really understood the meaning of Christianity until I read the Bible cover to cover in my adulthood; and I've been in a Bible study with other Christians, and I'm beginning to see some of the meat of what it means to be a Christian, and I can see from the current events that the UMC is not behaving like a Christian organization.

PASTOR: Well, I'm disappointed that you won't consider joining our church, but the important thing is that you join a church where you can grow as a Christian.

MIKE: That's just how I feel also. See ya Pastor, and if you ever get fed up with the UMC like I did with that corporation, give me a call and we can cry together about the big pensions we threw down the drain in favor of following our convictions. But hey, you know, money isn't everything, and as I'm reading in the Bible, I'm beginning to think that it's the LEAST important thing.

PASTOR: Hey, thanks for the encouragement!

PASTOR to himself: Wow! Here I am again, in the position of having to convince a wandering soul that in order to join my church, you can't hold to strong convictions or say that everyone can't follow their own opinion. Gee, I know what I believe, but I'm told by my bishop that I'm supposed to allow other pastors to preach stuff that I don't even think is Christian. I'm beginning to wonder just how much longer it will be before my own convictions are practically nonexistent. I wonder what the spouse would think if I talked about taking a stand to defend the faith, and thus risk losing everything that I've built in the UMC, position, pension, and all?


Michael L. Gonzalez gonzoml@concentric.net

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