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
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,
- 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
- 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,
- 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,
- 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-
- 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
- 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
- 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,
- 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
- 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.