The  Statement To The Wylie UMC

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A Statement to Wylie United Methodist Church

By Dr. David Ray, Senior Pastor

August 21, 2002

In May of 2000 the United Methodist Church convened its General Conference in Cleveland, Ohio. For many it was a pivotal point in our denomination’s history. A fundamental question had to be answered. Would our denomination continue its drift away from the authority of God’s Word, or would we seek to once again follow John Wesley’s cry, “Let me be a man of one book”?

Both sides had wins and losses on the Conference floor, but afterwards many proclaimed that the Conference reflected hope that our denomination was moving back toward the Bible as our ultimate standard for life and doctrine. However, after two years one wonders if such optimism was justified.

Yes, General Conference voted for many of the right things and voted down many of the wrong things, but “voting” doesn’t mean the same as “doing.” Since the Conference two years ago, many of those who disagree with the voting have declared their displeasure and have responded in disobedience. They have rebelled against the decisions of our denomination and demonstrated that our denomination has lost its will and ability to discipline itself.

So what has been happening within the United Methodist Church since General Conference? The list of rebellious activities is long and sickening. Granted not much has happened in West Texas and thus little has been reported within our newspapers, however, this has not been the case across our country. People have been reading about United Methodists all across our land. Here are some of the activities that others have been reading about.

  • Rev. Karen Dammann has publicly confessed that she currently lives with her lesbian lover. She also confessed that she has lied to the Pacific Northwest Conference concerning taking “family leave” when her lesbian partner had complications following child birth. Her Bishop Elias Galvin, after specific directions from the Judicial Council, filed charges against Rev. Dammann, but the Conference Board of Investigation has dismissed the complaint and she will be allowed to remain a pastor in good standing. The Seattle newspapers have reported these details. This comes at no surprise since the entire Western Jurisdiction has pledged to not follow the guidelines of General Conference concerning homosexuality (UMNS, Jan 15, 2001).

  • On October 18, 1998, St. John’s United Methodist Church in Lubbock, across the street from Texas Tech, voted to become a Reconciling Congregation. Such action declares the congregation to be open to everyone regardless of sexual preference. (Most churches are open to everyone who are interested in repentance, but Reconciling Congregations teach that there is no need for repentance for the sin of homosexuality). Hundreds of other United Methodist congregations have also declared themselves as such. The Judicial Council ruled that such labels (as Reconciling Congregation) must be removed from local congregations, but St. John’s and many of the other churches have refused to do so. The Lubbock Avalanche Journal has reported the story.

  • Over 300 clergy and lay representatives of the New England Annual Conference endorsed the “New England Declaration” and pledged their open defiance of United Methodist Church policy regarding same-sex unions. They promised to continue to perform such ceremonies in spite of the General Conference ruling. Boston-based Bishop Susan Hassinger raised no objections (UMNS, June 2, 2000).

  • The United Methodist Church provided the legal and financial support that sent young Elian Gonzales back to communist Cuba with his dad. Our country was divided over this issue, but few United Methodists realized the extent our denomination played in the drama. Elian’s father made a special trip to the UM offices to thank the United Methodist officials before returning to Cuba (UMNS, June 28, 2000).

  • A resolution before our 2002 Northwest Texas Annual Conference that voiced support and thanks to our United States Armed Forces was DEBATED before being passed.

  • United Methodist pastor Dan Sailer lied under oath to exonerate a man who was on trial for assault and battery. He was later convicted of perjury when it was discovered that the man on trial was actually Rev. Sailer’s homosexual partner and lives with him in the church parsonage in Spokane, Washington. The woman planned to file an official complaint with church officials but hours before the meeting her $500,000 home was fire-bombed and totally destroyed. Police are still investigating. Seattle-based Bishop Elias Galvan has allowed Rev. Dan Sailer to continue in his pulpit in spite of the General Conference ruling that “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” can not continue to serve (UMNS, Feb, 23, 2001).

  • The chair of the Board of Global Ministries has announced that he believes that the day of missions is over and that we should put an end to sending missionaries to other countries (umns.umc.org- July 18, 2001). Other United Methodist missionaries have voiced support for the Palestinian Liberation Organization including defending the “suicide bombings” against Israel (UMNS, Apr 19, 2002).

  • San Francisco-based Bishop Melvin Talbert (now retired) refused to discipline 68 of his clergy who participated in same-sex union ceremony in 1999. Six UMC pastors attempted to file charges against the 68 and Bishop Talbert, but the charges were dismissed. All six of the pastors who filed the charges are no longer serving UMC churches. Each has been suspended or has chosen to resign under pressure (reporterinteractive.org, Feb. 26, 2002).

  • United Methodists from around the country opened their hearts to the surviving families from the terrorist attack from September 11, 2001. As of August 15, 2002, little if any of the 17 million that poured in has been used to help these families.

  • Bishop Joseph Sprague of Northern Illinois addressed Iliff School of Theology in May, 2002. In his message to the seminarians he denied the classic understandings of Jesus’ full and unique deity, virgin birth, blood atonement, and bodily resurrection.. He went on to say that to believe these traditional understandings today is “idolatry.” Bishop’s Sprague is in the process of publishing his thoughts in an upcoming book. This is the same Bishop Sprague that was arrested along with Albany, NY-based Bishop Susan Morrison at the 2000 General Conference for protesting the UMC policy towards homosexuality (gbgm-umc.org/nillconf, June 26, 2002).

  • Prof. Janis Price, professor of education at United Methodist DePauw University has been suspended from her teaching duties because Teaching in Focus, a periodical of Focus on the Family, was found in her class room. Prof. Price has filed suit to regain her position (agapenews.org- July 23, 2002).

  • The official stand of the UM church on abortion is that we do not condone abortion as a means of birth control, yet the United Methodist Church is a major supporter of the “Religious Coalition for Reproductive Rights,” one of the largest pro-abortion lobbies in the country. United Methodist minister Rev. Monica Corsavo was recently appointed as chaplain for Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the country (worldnetdaily.com- Apr 13, 2002).

  • Democratic State Representative Nancy Hetherington, declared publicly that she is a practicing lesbian. She is the first state representative in Rhode Island to declare such. Rep. Hetherington is also an ordained United Methodist minister. Her Bishop has no plans to discipline Rep. Hetherington. (www.providencejournal.com- Mar 13, 2001).

  • Rev. Toni Clark has told a Denver newspaper that she conducts at least six same-sex unions a year at her UM church. Her Bishop has refused to call her to accountability. Rev. Mark Kemling of Lincoln, Nebraska, has performed same-sex union ceremonies. When asked to appear before the Board of Investigation he failed to appear so the charges were dropped. Rev. Jay Vetter also of Lincoln has recently participated in another same-sex union ceremony but had his wife actually say the vows to stay within church law (reporterinteractive- 7/31/02).

  • Following the General Conference’s ruling to not allow same-sex union ceremonies in United Methodist buildings, United Methodist Universities Duke (North Carolina) and Emory (Atlanta) announced that this ruling would not apply to their campus chapels. Their respective Bishops have supported these decisions.

  • Two Washington D.C. clergywomen, including the director of Christian education at the Foundry Memorial UMC, which President Clinton attended, have openly acknowledged their participation in “croning,” a ritual tied to the practice of Wiccan witchcraft. One of the clergy women admits that she practices “white magic.” Bishop Felton May has not held them accountable (ucmpage.org).

  • Glide Memorial UMC in San Francisco was recently lifted up in a denominational publication as a model church. The congregation spends millions of dollars annually on social programs, but openly confesses that it has no doctrinal or moral standard. The pastor says, “Our 10,000 members include gays, lesbians, African, Asian, Middle Eastern, Hispanic, Native American, Europeans, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, agnostics, and atheists, as well as Christians.” UM Review, Northwest Texas Edition, June 7, 2002.

  • Rev. Gregory Dell performed a same-sex marriage in his church in Chicago in defiance to the General Conference ruling. After an expensive church trial he was suspended for 6 months but was allowed to remain in his church office where he organized and led a pro-homosexual movement within United Methodism. After the six month suspension he was restored as pastor.

  • Rev. Carol Youngblood-Holt, pastor of Trinity UMC in Toledo, Oregon, is a powerful advocate for the acceptance of homosexuality within the UMC. The United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry announced on July 26, 2002, that they were awarding her with a $10,000 scholarship to subsidize her attacks upon the church’s official stand.

  • In Washington, DC, the Foundry Memorial UMC, the church the Clinton’s attended while in office, recently sponsored a homosexuality symposium. The key note speaker, Episcopal Bishop John Spong, said Jesus was a “drag queen” and Paul was a “self-hating homosexual.” During the worship service a guest pastor prayed over the group a prayer addressed to “our ancestors, lights, angels, saints and the spirits of Buddha, Mohammed and Jesus.”

  • Rev. Richard Zomastny asked his Bishop for a special leave of absence in 1999. During the time off he had a sex change operation and became Rev. Rebecca Steen. Following the surgery and recovery “she” presented herself to her Bishop for reappointment as was promised. A lay leader from her previous congregation discovered the secret plan and blew the whistle. With the new publicity Rev. Steen decided not to pursue an appointment allowing her Bishop off the hook (UMNS, July 1, 2002).

  • The various homosexual activists groups have established an organization called “A church within a Church.” The purpose is to network “United Methodist congregations and individuals who are committed to and involved in ministries striving for full inclusion of homosexuals and transgenders.” Several United Methodist churches have found that they can circumvent the guidelines of the General Conference concerning homosexuality by “hosting” gay congregations within their buildings.

  • Rev. Williams announced that he was a “practicing gay man” before his Annual Conference in 2001. His bishop and Board of Investigation refused to discipline him in spite of the clear ruling of the General Conference. The Judicial Council insisted that the Board of Investigation must hold a church trial. They did so, but Rev. Williams refused to answer their questions and was allowed to return to serve his local church. Following Rev. Williams “acquittal,” a leader of the Gay movement declared, “This is a great victory, but we must remember that we are a small liberal corner of the country. There is still much work to be done.” (ucmpage.org/news- May 31, 2002).

  • An Austin, Texas, UM clergy refused to cancel a same-sex union that was scheduled in his church. In creative, legal maneuvering, the marriage was conducted in the street in front of the church and a pastor from another denomination made the actual pronouncement so that no church “laws” would be violated. A Chicago church has built a moveable “chapel” for such union ceremonies.

  • Frequent delegates to General Conference from Columbia, South Columbia, Mr. Rhett Jackson recently said, “I have a wonderful pastor at my local church. He is well educated, continues to study and his sermon delivery is outstanding. He, like hundreds of other UM clergy, must preach to at least two congregations at every service. One group is very fundamental in its beliefs; among them are even a few biblical literalists. The other group is small but growing. We are seeking a Christian religion of reason. We believe deeply that the message of Jesus that calls us to love and justice is of and from God, but we do not believe in the virgin birth, physical resurrection, ancient creeds or any of the other magic revealed in much of our liturgy and literature. My minister, with love and compassion, manages to handle this divide- but how long can this last?” (Reporterinteractive.org 7/23/02)

  • A small UM congregation in Fairbanks, Alaska, was supporting their pastor and paying their apportionments in full. They were also supporting Good News and the Confessing Movement which concerned their Conference leadership. Last summer their Bishop appointed an interim pastor to their congregation to teach what true Methodism should be and to correct their conservative leanings. The congregation refused to be swayed. The Alaska Missionary Conference then requested the resignation of the entire leadership of the congregation, but the leadership refused. In June 2002 Bishop Paup and his Cabinet took an unprecedented heavy-handed tactic and simply voted to dissolve the congregation calling it a “conflicted congregation.” The church building now sets empty though the ownership of the property is being settled in court. (Good News, August 19, 2002.)

  • The UM Board of Church and Society has condemned President George W. Bush for his first act in office- a bill refusing to allow US funds to be used to support abortions around the world (UMNS, Feb. 1, 2002).

  • “There are already several dozen lesbian and gay Methodist clergy in my conference, as there probably are in every conference across the country,” said Paul Beeman, retired UM pastor for the Northwest Conference. “The church has erected a “don’t ask, don’t tell, and don’t pursue policy.”

A few of these situations are still in process. In other words, in a few of these cases the right thing might still be done in the future. However, the majority of these situations follow a set pattern that can be traced. The action is exposed. The Bishop that oversees the pastor in disobedience claims to be powerless. Charges are filed by other pastors or lay who are concerned. The institution pretends to investigate. The charges are dropped claiming lack of evidence.

In West Texas we still have this image of United Methodism that stands for both truth and compassion, but that is no longer the image that most of our country now has of our denomination. We are considered by most as a denomination that has lost its bearing and forsaken its foundations. The evidence is plain to see. Wesley is still often quoted, but more and more so only by preachers from other denominations.

But what others think is not as important as what God thinks. We are at best lukewarm and in danger of being spewed from Jesus’ mouth (Rev 3:16), or worse we have already had our name blotted from the book of Life (Rev. 3:6). I am certain that most of the good folks of the United Methodist Church are not directly involved with this rebellion and disobedience, but indirectly we carry guilt simply by keeping silent. How much more will our sleeping church tolerate (Rev. 2:20)? Within our connectional institution, my sin is yours, and yours mine. Most may not be involved directly, but we all carry the responsibility unless we speak up. This is at the heart of what it means to be a connectional church of which the United Methodist Church is.

We have grown so accustomed to hearing that our Boards and Agencies preach what we know to be contrary to the Bible that we now take it for granted. We have grown to expect our Methodist seminary professors to reject the very tenants our denomination was built upon. We would be surprised to hear something different and we just assume that it has to always be this way. When will we wake up? We have tried to become all things to all people and we are rapidly becoming nothing to anyone. We have a form of godliness, but we are denying its power (II Tim 3:5).

Our denomination is already being split into pieces. Fellow pastors and lay folks have been leaving for years. Some pastors grow cold. Their vision dies. Their hope wilts. They get depressed. They get lazy. They become vulnerable to sin. Of those that have graduated in the last 25 years from where I attended, Asbury Theological Seminary, and returned to the Northwest Texas Conference, roughly ¼ have left the ministry all together. Another ¼ have found other forms of ministry within the Methodist umbrella. Another ¼ are now serving other denominations. Only about ¼ of us are still here and many of us would jump at the chance to leave. No wonder the Conference (and our entire denomination) is running out of pastors.

I have sought to bring renewal to United Methodism. I have prayed for it and I have supported the renewal groups of Good News and the Confessing Movement. Though these groups have had some significant impact, they have failed in their goal. They have been seeking to do what Jesus said should not happen. They are seeking to fill the old wineskins with new wine (Mt 9:17). I now no longer believe that renewal is possible through these means. It is my opinion that very few, if any, of these renewal leaders believes that its possible either.

I take my ordination very seriously. The covenant I pledged is dear to my heart, but I feel that the terms of the covenant have been corrupted. I feel as if I have been in a marriage with one who has consistently been unfaithful. She has shattered the terms of the covenant and even worse, she promises to continue to do so without repentance.

So what am I to do? What is this congregation to do? The answers to those questions are not yet clear, but the luxury of doing nothing is no longer available for me. The thought of standing before the final judgment and attempting to explain why I remained in an institution that was openly rejecting the Biblical Faith because I was afraid of losing a pulpit, a paycheck, and a pension sends cold chills down my back.

 

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