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By Their Fruits

A response to Jimmy Creech’s call for lawlessness

By Rev. Bradley C. Knepp
Pastor, Mt. Holly Springs UM Church
Mt. Holly Springs, PA

August 12, 1998

It seems clear we cannot roll over and go back to sleep regarding those who would seek to have our denomination abandon our Biblical heritage. It is simply intolerable for Mr. Creech to imply that those of us who would follow the clear commands of holy Scripture are bigoted, ignorant, and fearful. His call for "ecclesial disobedience by defying the prohibition and publicly celebrating same-sex covenants" ought to keep us all watching and praying.

It is repugnant for Jimmy Creech to yank John Wesley into his godforsaken corner. The social justice and piety of John Wesley were established upon the authoritative Word of God, the Bible, not the cultural winds of modern depravity. Referring to Wesley and others, our Discipline states, "Our forebears in the faith reaffirmed the ancient Christian message as found in the apostolic witness even as they applied it anew in their own circumstances. Their preaching and teaching were grounded in Scripture" (1996 Book of Discipline, 60).

Pastors who perform illegal "same-sex" sodomite marriages should be prosecuted to the full extent of Church law, not only for their ecclesial disobedience, but because they are not truly part of the Church of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, Matthew 7:20-23 - "Thus you will know them by their fruits. Not every one who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.'" Jesus said, John 14:15, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." This is not judging others; it is simply identifying the fruit.

Jimmy Creech is wrong about the true nature of the Church being denied in the denomination’s prohibition to conduct sodomite marriages. The true nature of the Church is that it is exclusive – it is only for those who know and love Jesus (John 10:26-27; John 14:6). The Church is closed in the sense that sin is not welcome within (Ephesians 5:11). Christ and His Church extend Christ’s welcome to all persons, but Christ and His Church do not approve of all things (Galatians 3:3; Revelation 3:16). Jesus said, Matthew 22:14 - "Many are called, but few are chosen." Sin is not to be accepted by Christ or the Church. Homosexual behavior, sodomy, is sin. Sinners who come to the Church must stop sinning to remain part of Christ’s true Church (Romans 6:1; 1 Timothy 5:20). This is not to say there is no sin after being saved; but there must be repentance following sin (see 1996 Book of Discipline, 62, Article XII).

If sinners don’t want to change, if there is no conviction of sin, if no repentance, then there is nothing the Church can do for them. Jesus says unrepentant sinners are to be cast out of the Church – treated as the world treats outcasts (Matthew 18:15-17). Such concupiscent, if not reprobate, persons have assaulted themselves by effectively excluding themselves from the Church – by never submitting to the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ as given to all people through the Bible.

The historic General Rules of the Methodist Church also say the unrepentant person should be put out of the church. The General Rules list rules and prohibitions ranging from taking the name of God in vain to laying up treasure on earth. They conclude with the following statement: "If there be any among us who observe them [the rules] not, who habitually break any of them, let it be known unto them who watch over that soul as they who must give an account. We will admonish him of the error of his ways. We will bear with him for a season. But then, if he repent not, he hath no more place among us. We have delivered our souls." (1996 Book of Discipline 62, p.72.)

Jimmy Creech has broken the explicitly stated rules of our church. He has been invited to change his ways, repent, to no avail. Now he advocates public rebellion and lawlessness opposing the order and discipline of the church. By the rules of our church, now clearly affirmed by our Judicial Council, he, and those 241 others who have pledged to follow his sinful call, should voluntarily leave the church so others will not be forced to do the unpleasant work of sending them out.

What about those who in their hearts do not want to obey this prohibition, but will obey it outwardly? Zadok and Abiathar give us the answer. Both priests ministered before the congregation of Israel. But only Zadok ministered before the Lord. Pastors and laity who do not accept the Word of God, the Bible, as their authoritative guide to God and every day faith – those who have a form of godliness but deny its power – those who are religious but don’t know nor love Jesus – God will deal with them in the end. We do not necessarily know who they are and we do not have to. God knows. They will be put out as Abiathar was put out. Though they stand and minister before congregations, they do not stand and minister before the Lord. The wheat and the tares must grow together, for now.

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