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To Bishop's Council: Lead Or Lose Faithful Members


March 1, 2000

R.O. Biggerstaff
5000 Prieto Dr
Pensacola, FL 32506

Bishop R. Morgan President, Council of Bishops
2000 Warrington Way, suite 280
Louisville, KY 40222

Dear Bishop Morgan:

I am writing to convey to the Council of Bishops my anger and dismay at the appalling lack of leadership in the United Methodist Church (UMC) today, by our bishops. Going into General Conference 2000 (GC2000), we are a church torn and already over the edge of schism. The reason is that our bishops, either by silence or statement, have been complicit in failure to defend the faith and uphold the Discipline, in direct violation of what each bishop vows when he/she is consecrated and/or ordained an Elder.

I am a member of Warrington United Methodist Church in Pensacola. I am Stewardship Chair, Chair of the Staff Parish Relations Committee, the Vice President of the Administrative Council, lay delegate to Annual Conference, and am on the Finance Committee. My wife is Secretary of the Administrative Council, and we both support our church with our time and money.

When we joined UMC, we had an appreciation for the theology embraced, and the administrative structure. Those are still extant, and are fine. What is totally unacceptable is that the theology and discipline are largely ignored and subverted by bishops who are, at best, silent in the face of apostasy, and, at worst, an active part of this. We have bishops today who extol the virtues of sin, without call to repentance. We have bishops who support, either by personal involvement, or by lack of intervention when it involves UMC organizations, witchcraft (Wicca), homosexuality, and abortion.

We have legions of pastors who share these same proclivities, and have so stated publicly, just as some of our bishops have. These pastors are also under vows to support, defend, and uphold the UMC structure and theology, as are our bishops. These pastors have been encouraged in their activities either by the silence, or by overt word and/or deed of our bishops.

When I filed charges against 182 UMC pastors several years ago who had publicly signed a statement of support of homosexuality and same gender marriage, not one trial resulted from the charges. Twenty seven bishops were in supervisory positions over those pastors. It is interesting to note that a common refrain I received as feedback is that "the pastors were merely giving an opinion--they were not doing anything wrong- remember freedom of speech". This is specious reasoning, and is hogwash. The vows pastors and bishops voluntarily take give no wiggle room for such nonsense. These pastors and Bishops are, more so than others in the church, charged with supporting and defending the faith, and the Discipline. Aside from flouting the provisions of the Book Of Discipline (BOD), they have positional authority in the eyes of the laity, therefore a duty to be true and faithful to the BOD. As such they have a special duty not to speak against what the General Conference has put in place. The only options to disagreement to GC established policy by pastors and bishops is resignation, silence, support of those policies, or compliance.

Before moving on, I also want to speak now to the reticence of bishops to hold other bishops accountable. This is simply additional evidence of the total breakdown in leadership. Our Book of Discipline (BOD) states that bishops are General Superintendents of the UMC. As such, any bishop has the total responsibility to carry out all the provisions of the BOD as if he/she were the only bishop in UMC. In short, it doesn't matter what other bishops do or say, it is up to any bishop who recognizes what is right to act to ensure that any Bishops who are out of line are made aware of that fact.

What has happened is that the UMC has been hi-jacked by a bunch of renegades. What else is it to be called when a group operates openly, in contravention of provisions in the BOD, while our Bishops silently look on and observe. Oh, to be sure, they occasionally issue some spoonful of pabulum, mumbling about "feeling the pain of the body of the church", and asking "can't we just all get along?"

Well, we are approaching GC2000. If sin is re-defined by GC2000 to allow pluralism and inclusiveness to advance, then I will take action to separate myself from UMC shortly after. If nothing of significance is changed in the BOD, but action is not taken by our bishops to bring the renegade faction in line with stated UMC policy and structure soon after GC2000, I will take action to separate myself from UMC. In short, if our bishops don't take firm, decisive action to bring the actions of those operating in violation of the BOD into compliance, then it will be obvious to all that our UMC, as it is protrayed, is a sham and a fraud on the body of members.

Perhaps the above will become food for thought and reflection on the part of the Council of Bishops. Perhaps it will assist them in concluding that what I feel and plan may well be indicative of what many other lay people in UMC may also be feeling and planning, but who just haven't put their thoughts in writing. Do our bishops care? They certainly should. Will they take effective, timely action to "get the train back on the track"? Time will tell.

R.O. BIGGERSTAFF
PH: 850 456 0513
FAX: 850-456 9782
EMAIL: rbigg@pcola.gulf.net

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