Mass Lesbian Wedding Church Counsel Tenders Sharp Rebuke "Cal Six" Respond
We have heard very little from the Bishop in recent days, however we have received this from the pastor who served as the Counsel for the church during the proceedings of the Sacramento 68. Between this letter, and the article he posted on our conference site ("reflections on the Holy Union Case") he has revealed his colors. Seems our fears that this is a case of 'the fox guarding the chicken coop' are founded. Our Response is following. Thanks again John.
In His hands, John
April 7, 2000
Brothers in Christ:
I have just received and read your "Why We Are Concerned" paper which accompanied your pitiful (and perhaps actionable) ransom demand letter. What arrogance! What ego!
I entreat you to do those of us with whom you disagree, and the church at large, a favor. Please desist from your feeble attempts to present our position in order to give the false impression that you understand where we are coming from. Your token nod to our conviction is hollow in the face of the violence you do to our perspective, all in your attempt to appear reasonable and fair. You are neither. You know nothing of my theology, nor of my ethics, nor of my faith. How dare you presume to speak for me!
How dare you paint a caricature of me as having arrived at my conviction "...in the face of..." scripture and historic orthodoxy." Had you bothered to ask, or better yet, come to witness the hearings, you might have begun to understand that such a conviction can be born of a careful and prayerful study of scripture and historical orthodoxy, and not "in the face of." As to the "clear will of the General Conference," it is historical fact that church institutions, in their judicatory expressions, have often erred. Do you concede the possibility that the General Conference can err?
Please continue to articulate your ethical, Biblical, and theological positions. But stop arrogantly presuming that you have the ability to articulate mine.
One last point, if I may. In your second to last paragraph, your arrogance rises to new heights... you seem convinced that you and you alone are able to discern what is the voice of Jesus Christ. How dare you! Is there no shred of humility left in you? When did you become infallible?
Yours in Christ (despite your denial),
Response of the "Cal Six":
We are not surprised at the energy in your letter. Our statements are clear. They declare that our Bishop and conference leadership have manifested rebellion against the authority of the Church.
Your energy does much to affirm our perspective. In Paragraph 358 the task of the church counsel is to "sign the complaint as a judicial complaint, forward it to the committee on investigation and represent the Church in any proceedings of the committee on investigation." (TBOD, 1996) Your job was to represent The United Methodist Church. What were you doing with that job? Why did you not recognize your conflict of interest and refuse the Bishops appointment to be counsel for the church?
In your "Reflections on the Holy Union Case" posted on the Cal-Nevada website and, we presume, published in your church newsletter, you report that you were relieved that the Committee on Investigation did not press charges. You then give five very passionate arguments detailing why you feel the law prohibiting same sex unions is wrong. What confidence can we have that you pressed the Churchs case against the 67 with vigor?
Surely you understood the international import of these complaints. Surely you recognized that, to quote the Bishop, "this one narrow focus of law" carried on its back the best attempts of the General Church to keep our profoundly divided denomination together as we work to discern Gods will for the most controversial issue facing the church since slavery. Surely you knew your task was to embody the rule of law in this highly charged environment. Surely you knew that how you represented the Church in prosecuting this case would flavor our annual conferences posture relative to the General Church. Paul, you, as well as the Bishop, allowed your personal agenda to move you to attack the very nature of our connectional system by overthrowing the constituted authority of the General Conference and the Judicial Council.
We can concede "the possibility that the General Conference can err." But we also recognize that only the General Conference or the Judicial Council has the authority to make that determination. You paint us with the hateful words of "arrogance" and "ego." My goodness, Paul, we have not presumed to overthrow the authority of the Church. We will be the first to surrender our orders if the General Conference embraces doctrine or discipline that violates our clear sense of Gods will. Since 1972 the General Conference has stood firm regarding homosexuality. Reasonable people understand that the prohibition against same sex unions is simply the Church being clear in not condoning the practice of homosexuality. For twenty-eight years the General Conference has worked to clarify its position through heated and cantankerous debate. Twenty-eight years!
We feel the Sacramento 68s act of "ecclesial disobedience" was intentionally provocative to challenge the law of the church. We are a little uncomfortable with "civil disobedience" against the church, but we recognize and appreciate the motive. What is reprehensible is the attack against the authority of the Church perpetrated by the Bishop and conference leadership. Don Fado and the others acted out of a spirit of political defiance. Conference leadership acted out of a spirit of rebellion.
You criticize our "feeble attempts" to present your position. We have never named you in our documents and correspondence. But in your letter to us you speak collectively, using "our position," "our conviction," "our perspective." That suggests to us that you identify with the position, conviction, and perspective of a group that has clearly defined itself against those of us who contend for historic orthodoxy. In our documents, we never had in mind, "Paul Wiberg." You seem to identify with a certain theological/political clique. That is your business.
Of the six, our senior member has been engaged with our conference for over thirty-three years. We have had much experience engaging and evaluating theological perspectives through participation on the Board of Ordained Ministiry and District Committees on Ordained Ministry. Many of our most passionate Evangelical colleagues have come over from the other side, bringing great insight. Moderates, both retired and active, now deeply concerned about what is before us, have shared their perspectives. We dont write from a position of uninformed ignorance.
Over decades there have been volumes written, from the left and the right, clarifying and contending. Some have been polemic, others searching for common ground.
We remind you of the Dialogue on Theological Diversity within The United Methodist Church and their report, In Search of Unity published in February 1998. We found the report very thoughtful and even-handed. Of the six there are those of us who would identify more closely with the compatibilists, those who "are convinced that the diversity of points of view can remain together within the denomination." Others of the six identify more closely with the incompatibilists, those who "do not believe that divergent judgements can be housed indefinitely within the same denomination." All six resonate with the studys call to "persistent prayer, fasting, rigorous thought, and compassion through Christ-like dialogue."
Paul, in your "Reflections on the Holy Union Case" you use the basest characterizations against those with whom you disagree. What do you mean by, "the fundamentalists who call themselves evangelicals,"and to whom are you referring? You write,
How can you possibly characterize the action of an international deliberative body as "a small part" of anything! It sounds like you are saying that the General Conference is nothing but a conspiracy! How heroic of you and our conference leadership to overthrow such darkness. And you chastise us for being convinced that we "alone are able to discern what is the voice of Jesus Christ" And you go on: "How dare you! Is there no shred of humility left in you? When did you become infallible?"
Paul, did it ever occur to you that perhaps the General Conference and the Judicial Council, the constituted authority in The United Methodist Church, is speaking with the voice of Jesus Christ? It is apparent to us that you do not believe so simply because that voice disagrees with yours.
And now we come to the heart of the matter. The great crisis before us is, indeed, not about homosexuality. The true issue is authority. In Search of Unity affirms how the Holy Spirit works in our midst.
The logical extension of your actions would destroy that unity. You would attack our international connectionalism. You would shipwreck the fruit of years of careful, prayerful deliberation and discernment. We are not attacking the integrity of The United Methodist Church. We are not rending the unity of the church. We are not acting out of thoughtless arrogance. We do not presume to countermand the will of God.
As we clearly state in our document, Why We Are Concerned, those who have intentionally chosen to challenge the will, discipline and order of the Church have "destroyed the trust that makes life in community viable, vital, and life giving." From you own hand, Paul, you identify with those who "have chosen self-will, autonomy, and broken covenant."
In our mailing we never accused you of anything. Never have we identified you in any of our documents. But you have revealed yourself. You, the "counsel for the Church," have identified yourself with the rebellion and have declared for those who would overthrow the authority of the Church.
Paul, we implore you to search your soul. What have we done, after all? We have cried for help as we have experienced those entrusted with authority abuse that authority and attack the integrity of the Church. The only power we have is truth. Search your heart. Think again.
With great hope and expectation,
Kyle Phillips John Motz John Sheppard
Greg Smith Don Roulsten Dave Wainscott
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