Here I Stand: "Why Feed Leviathan?"
by Rev. Carson Daniel Lauffer
Some recent events in our beloved church have caused me to reflect upon a question that is growing in importance for most of us. Rev. Arthur Landwehr's comments recently that we should remain silent and in prayer for another six years over the recent heresies in our denomination has forced me to examine why I cannot remain silent for even six more weeks. I love and respect Brother Landwehr. He has been a valued colleague and counselor for some years. Nevertheless, on this issue he is wrong. Here is why.
The United Methodist Church has basically been silent for many years on the issue of homosexuality. I do not mean that we have not said a great deal about the practice. We have. What we have not done much of is to speak publicly the reason homosexuality is opposed by the Church of Jesus Christ and why it will never be any different. It simply is not allowed in the Bible nor in Christian tradition. We cannot remain silent any longer for another reason. A recent auditors report from the GCFA has just demonstrated that our General Agencies have amassed an exorbitant amount of excess funds over the last several years. These agencies have accumulated nearly $500,000,000.00 in excess funds most of which are not earmarked for any ministry. It is estimated that the GBGM has accumulated funds and investments which amount to 40 times what is recommended by the Church. They have enough funds to keep them going for upwards of ten years without one single dime of World Service giving going into their coffers. Enough accumulated in fact that they are totally unaccountable to General Conference.
H.T. Maclin, founder of the Mission Society for United Methodists, has been the voice crying in the wilderness for years on this subject. Forgive us H.T. for not heeding your message. Moreover, the funds that have been spent have often been used for purposes that are clearly politically partisan in nature. One such gift has brought ethics charges against a South Carolina Senator for accepting gifts from a non profit organization for political purposes. GBGM spokespersons disingenuously cry ignorance. Funds, God's funds, given by trusting lay persons for the cause of missions, are spent by the GBGM for websites which promote witchcraft and licentiousness.
What blocks us from a glorious future is a two headed Leviathan which must be defeated if we ever hope to begin to fulfill the purpose which Mr. Wesley said we were raised up to fulfill. This purpose, and we have no other, is "To spread scriptural holiness throughout the land." Yet we keep feeding this two headed Leviathan through our World Service giving.
I have a question: "Why feed this Leviathan?"
In fact this Leviathan with two heads is destroying those who feed it. The heterodox stands of many of our Bishops and the appeasement of many others combined with the heretical teachings of many of our seminary professors is destroying our common life. These persons attack the authority of scripture, the eternal nature of the Godhead including Jesus Christ, and the Biblical and Wesleyan emphasis of holiness of heart and life. These have combined to destroy our doctrinal position. It is simply not possible, as Lyle Schaller has suggested, to have a centralized government and a vastly pluralistic theology. I would go further. It is not possible to maintain the United Methodist Church as a Church faithful to the Apostolic Tradition when those very positions are constantly under attack even by many of our bishops.
The first head of this Leviathan which must be attacked until it is subdued in the Name of Christ is called rampant heresy. It is readily seen in the teachings of many at our seminaries who are involved in witchcraft and sorcery. It can be seen in the Re Imagining conferences which deny that Christ is our Savior. It can be seen in the way the Council of Bishops refuse to uphold the Apostolic faith in spirit as well as letter. It can be seen most tragically in the denial of our birth right that all can be saved from sin and can lead a holy life.
George Morris said it right when he commented in a recent sermon "Do you honestly think that we would even be talking about homosexual union ceremonies if we believed in scriptural holiness?"
My prayer is that our leaders who have supported heresy will repent. I pray that those bishops and pastors and laity who have sat on the fence for so long would get so uncomfortable that they too would repent and get off the fence. I pray that all of us will repent before God for our sins against the God who has graciously revealed Himself through scripture and through the person and work of Jesus Christ, God Incarnate.
The second head is the lack of integrity of our General Boards and Agencies. It is simply disingenuous of the GCFA to institute policy guidelines for amounts of excess funds allowable when these policies have already been in affect for years and have been ignored. We must ask and re-ask every General Board and Agency "Why have you accumulated these excess funds when the cry for more missionaries has gone up from the people for decades?" Why have you accumulated these funds when there are starving children in the world that our people have given millions of dollars to save, and by your hoarding, you let die?" "Why have we spent more money on non-UMC groups than we have on missions and relief?" "Why have you created this war chest?" "Why have you had the gall through all of this to continue to ask for more and more apportionment money?" "Why should we now trust you with one more penny of God's money?" We must also ask ourselves "Why have we remained silent for so long?"
To answer this last question let me suggest a possible answer. "We tend to operate primarily on fear." Congregational leaders do not speak even often when they know that sin is being committed because they either fear to lose their property or they simply dread a fight. Pastors of large and small churches alike fear losing their appointments. Conference operatives love power and place and fear losing it. When I asked an officer of Our Conference recently "In light of the recent disclosure that our General Boards and Agencies had accumulated nearly $500,000,000.00 in excess funds why should anyone pay one more penny to World Service?" I received the following reply, "Paying World Service Apportionment allows our conference to have a seat at the table with the GBGM." If that is the reason we pay World Service when the GBGM is so corrupted by money then it is time to find some other way to finance our mission work. We generally have a fear of conflict. Finally, we have a fear of knowledge. When this horrendous situation was brought to light at our recent District Stewards meeting the general response was boredom. We simply do not want to know.
I don't know about you but I find this two headed Leviathan to be one horrible dude. But that dude has one who will conquer him. His name is the Lord Jesus Christ. "We fight not against flesh and blood but against Principalities and Powers." Ephesians 6:12.
To defeat this two headed enemy we must determine to go to war. There are many weapons of a spiritual war, the written Word of God, truth, faith, righteousness, prayer in the Spirit, etc. They may be summarized in one piece of Biblical advice "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love." Could this be why we tend no longer to believe in holiness of heart and life? Could it be that we have just about given up on perfect love?
I think so.
What can we do about this situation?
God has made God's will clear in Holy Scripture and through tradition. Our task is not to make them conform to our conscience. Our task in life is to bend our conscience to the God revealed in both scripture and Apostolic tradition.
Rev. Carson Daniel Lauffer, Pastor