Delegate Sees Cal/Pac NEWly 'Discerned' Welcoming designation as
A REPORT ON THE ANNUAL MEETING
OF THE CALIFORNIA-PACIFIC CONFERENCE
OF THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
LAY MEMBER(SUBSTITUTING FOR SUSIE ADKINS)
VENTURA COLLEGE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
I was born a Methodist. Although not baptized as an infant, I attended Woodlawn
Methodist Church during my formative years, was baptized, and took the vows of membership
at confirmation time. I was raised throughout my life in the Methodist (and later United
Methodist) Church. However, this was my first time to attend any annual conference. A most
unusual and bittersweet experience.
To me, the most touching thing was the opening night church service. Tears of joy
streamed down my face in the worship that seems to be gone so often from normal Methodist
church services. I found the singing to be the most touching part of the service.
Television monitors were set up so the words could be read without referencing hymnals
or printed sheets.
Bill Blair and I attended together - and perhaps the church would be better served by
having more diverse personalities attend for its representatives. We listened and learned
from the lay members meeting some of how the apportionments work. We brought home
example worksheets for calculating our apportionments, and, more precisely, how to reduce
them. These are items that will be put to good use for our church.
And, I found it fascinating to see how resolution items were approved or disapproved. I
did learn I do not have the patience to put up with the political process. For example, in
a discussion of giving no Cost of Living raises and up to 5% merit raises for conference
personnel, something that seemed reasonable to me, we got bogged down into a 20 minute
debate on the issue, and 3 separate votes.
But, perhaps, the biggest item talked about and the one having the biggest affect was
introducing us to a new method of decision making call the process of spiritual
discernment. Personally - I was not overly impressed. I suppose I am stuck too much
in the autocratic method of management. And my hat is off to Bill Blair if he can get it
to work here. Actually, I am impressed with his patience with the Administrative Board.
However, I will admit that the process seemed to work at the conference.
The process of discernment was used to help develop the Calling for the
The final version reads as follows:
- Following the example of Jesus Christ...
- Bridging the barriers that divide us...
- Drawing strength from one another through the power of the Holy Spirit...
- We, the California-Pacific Annual Conference, Covenant with God to cultivate, in
partnership with local churches, new ministries and new disciples, new leadership and new
life, for such a time as this...1
This final version is slightly different from the original - but still noticeably
improved. I missed the discussion on Sunday morning when it was adopted. I had
decided I wanted to be home with my family for Noon on Fathers Day. (In fact, that
was one of the other topic of discussions - the weekend chosen for annual conference seems
to conflict with Fathers Day. - Price was the reason given for having it that
weekend.) The other big item for the discernment process was the decision to become, as
some resolutions would have had, a Reconciling2 or
a Transforming3 conference.
Actually, the Bishop discerned the direction of the conference to be a
The text reads as follows:
California Pacific Annual Conference
The United Methodist Church
Resolution #21 Discernment Process
June 20, 1998
In the name of Jesus Christ, we are bold enough to think the Holy
Spirit is leading this Annual Conference in the following direction:
- We pledge to make our churches welcoming to all people,
without regard to sexual orientation, in order to be consistent with the mandate of
inclusiveness found within the Discipline.
- We affirm our intention to include every local church in constructive dialogue on
the Christian response to the issue of homosexuality. We will create levels of creative
dialogue that will continue the rich experience we have had together in these past days.
- We agree to commit the necessary resources of the Conference to fulfill this
Covenant. The Bishop will appoint a Response Task Force to lead us in this process.
- We challenge each member of the Annual Conference to pray and fast and seek further
guidance from the Holy Spirit.
All this we do in respect for each other as children of a loving God.
Then the delegates were given 4 choices on how to vote. The first included those who
would fully support the document. The second included those who would support it but with
reservations. The third included those who did not support the document, but would allow
it to be the will of the conference and not work against it. The final category included
those who, as a matter of conscience, could not support the document at all.
After weeks of personal Bible study, reading the sermons of John Wesley that seemed
pertinent, and reading what other denominations are doing, (in preparation for just such a
decision) I was one of about 3% that voted the 4th category. I was truly surprised by the
low number voting against and to find myself so out of step with the rest of the United
Methodist Church. By the way, the resolution overwhelmingly passed based on the counts in
the first and second categories.
You are going to be told that becoming a Welcoming Conference
is now something new. That we are seeing a wonderful compromise between
Reconciling and Transforming. I think I heard the phrase A
model for the future.
I tell you now that it is not new. Once I got access to the World Wide Web, I was able
to look up the Reconciling Home Pages. There, you will find this page:
The Reconciling Congregation Program is part of a much larger ecumenical
"welcoming church" movement which now encompasses more than 800 congregations,
ministries, and judicatories in ten faith traditions. This ecumenical movement is growing
at the rate of two new churches each week--probably the fastest-growing grass roots
movement in mainline churches today.
So, review the footnote containing the Reconciling mission statement and compare that
with the NEW welcoming conference directional statement. You decide for
yourself who knew the similarities and who didnt. I would have expected some of the
Bishops Staff to have known. And I also believe that a lie of omission is
still a lie.
As stated earlier - I am an old time Methodist. I have also found another alternative
called the Confessing Movement (http://members.iquest.net/~confessingumc/).
Its mission statement I can support.4 and doctrinal
statement on sexuality 5
I would propose that we, College United Methodist Church, adopt this as our statement,
and not get lost in the sea of moral relativism. When I took my vows, I promised to fight
the forces of evil of this world. To the best of my ability - I am doing just that.
This report respectfully submitted to the administrative board, July, 1998.
1 From e-mail titled: California-Pacific Annual
Conference - The United Methodist - Church Daily Summary - Sunday, June 21, 1998 - (Final
Report) - by Jim Johnson
2 From their web site: http://www.rcp.org/mission.html
RCP Mission Statement
"The United Methodist Book of Discipline states that God's grace is available to
all and commits us to be in ministry with all persons. However, in principle and practice,
the United Methodist church excludes some people, particularly lesbians, gay and bisexual
persons, from full participation in its life and work.
The result is a Body of Christ that is broken and incomplete and that often acts in
unjust ways. A Reconciling Congregation Program exists to be a healing voice within this
climate of fear, ignorance, intolerance and injustice. The program encourages and equips
individuals, congregations, campus ministries, and church bodies to be instruments of
justice within the church by inviting all persons to be full participants in the life of
the church, both in policy and practice. In this endeavor, the program provides a
supportive network, educational and worship resources, and strategies that enable and
empower individuals and church organizations for Christian ministries with lesbian, gay
and bisexual and other persons."
3 From their web site: http://www.messiah.edu/hpages/facstaff/chase/h/transmis.htm
Transforming Congregations is committed to provide information, resources, and training
to churches, districts and annual conferences in understanding and involvement in a
ministry of transformation of homosexuals, and also to encourage transforming ministry
based on loving compassion, scripture, and The Discipline of the United Methodist Church.
Transforming Ministries seeks to:
- AFFIRM the Biblical witness that homosexual practice is sin and that
the power of the Holy Spirit is available to transform the life of the homosexual.
- MINISTER to persons struggling with homosexuality, their families, and
all others affected by homosexuality as partners in Christ's work of healing.
- CALL the church to recognize its need for repentance and healing of its
homophobic and accommodating responses.
- INTEGRATE all persons striving to live as faithful disciples of Jesus
Christ into full membership in the local church.
4 The Confessing Movement (http://members.iquest.net/~confessingumc/)
"Confessing Jesus Christ as Son, Savior, and Lord, The Confessing Movement
exists to enable the United Methodist Church to retrieve its classical doctrinal identity,
and to live it out as disciples of Jesus Christ."
The purpose of the Confessing Movement is to call The United Methodist Church, all laity
and all clergy, to confess the person, work, and reign of Jesus Christ.
This then is our confession: "We Confess Jesus Christ: The Son, The Savior,
5 See Appendix I
APPENDIX I Doctrinal Standards - Confessing Movement
Tract Number Three: Our Doctrinal Standards and Sexuality
AT ISSUE: What does the scriptural confession of Jesus Christ as Son, Savior, and Lord,
as interpreted according to United Methodist Doctrinal Standards, require of us regarding
the recurring debates on sexuality and Christian Marriage? As the one and only Lord of
all, Jesus Christ reigns over creation and history, and hence over every aspect of human
existence, including human sexuality.
During his earthly ministry Jesus taught: "Have you not read that the one who made
them at the beginning 'made them male and female,' and said 'For this reason a man shall
leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one
flesh'? so they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together,
let no one separate" (Matthew 19:4-6 NRSV). This is basic Christian truth regarding
human sexuality. Marriage is an enduring covenant between one man and one woman. Marriage,
according to Christian teaching, is a bond with a solemn promise of mutual commitment.
Marriage is able to provide a living environment for the welcoming and raising of
children, the most precious gifts that come from human sexuality.
The moral relativism of our time rebels against Jesus Christ's gracious rule over human
sexuality. This relativism and rebellion have found their way into the United Methodist
Church. There are those in the Church who understand marriage as a short-term contract,
who desire to legitimize homosexual practice, and who care little about protecting the
unborn child and mother. In some quarters of our denomination, premarital sex,
extramarital sex, and serial marriage are silently tolerated. A confusion has arisen in
our Church between the Lordship of Christ and the reigning cultural virtue of tolerance.
The Confessing Movement challenges the misuse of the principle of tolerance to set aside
the authority of Scripture and Church's teaching on human sexuality.
Scripture and Sexual Relativism
One result of the confusion over tolerance is that the Church is continually being
pressured to make decisions which abandon the normative teaching of scripture with regard
to homosexual conduct. The argument is frequently made now that the biblical prohibitions
against same-sex acts are irrelevant because they are part of a pre-modern cultural
context. But the normative moral force of biblical texts on sexual behavior cannot be
explained away by reference to changing cultural contexts. While every sacred text is
written, delivered, and shaped within some cultural context, its moral force is not
reducible to that context.
For example, many advocates for a Christian acceptance of homosexual behavior argue
that the prohibitions in Leviticus against same-sex acts are part of the Jewish law from
which the gospel has released Christians. But Paul clearly did not believe that such
sexual behavior was a part of the ritual purity code of Levitical law that was transcended
by Christ's sacrifice on the cross. The Mosaic moral tradition still exercised normative
guidance for Christians. Paul wrote, "Shall we sin because we are not under law but
under grace? By no means!" (Rom. 6:15). He understood that grace did not do away with
morality; it provided the energizing power for it. "Do we, then, nullify the law by
this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law." (Rom. 3:31).
Those who would legitimize homosexual acts within the Church often base their arguments
upon a re-interpretation of Romans 1, arguing that it is not applicable to contemporary
understandings of homosexuality. Yet many responsible biblical scholars, as well as the
Church at large have not been convinced by these new interpretations. Indeed, Paul's
profound analysis of sin in that text rests on a powerful analogy between homosexual
behavior and idolatry. Homosexual behavior denies our identity as male and female, just as
idolatry denies our identity as creatures of God. John Wesley himself called attention to
this analogy (Notes Upon the New testament, p. 522), arguing that just as idolatry brings
dishonor to God, so homosexual behavior brings dishonor to the body created for the union
of male and female in marriage.
Another argument which is put forward to justify the "blessing" or
"marriage" of same-sex partners is the claim that people of homosexual
orientation would be denied full personhood or integrated identity if they were denied
sexual gratification. To accede to such a claim would amount to a denial of the
possibility of celibacy. It would dishonor the life and ministry of generations of
Christian singles, and worst of all, it would deny the integrity and full personhood of
the Incarnate Lord himself.
The normative character of scripture which our United Methodist doctrinal standards
uphold requires that we challenge the current attempts to render the sexual ethics of the
Bible as ambiguous and culture-bound. Confessing United Methodists believe that our
Church's requirement for "celibacy in singleness and fidelity in marriage" is a
valid biblical principle which should be defended.
Reaffirming long-established Disciplinary Maxims
The Confessing Movement Within The United Methodist Church affirms and supports the
balanced language of the 1972 and all subsequent United Methodist General Conferences and
- Our Discipline since 1972 has been right to affirm that homosexuals are "persons of
sacred worth, who need the ministry and guidance of the church in their struggles for
- At the same time, our Discipline since 1972 has been right to hold unambiguously to the
conviction that the practice of homosexuality is "incompatible with Christian
teaching." This principle has been sustained by stable or increasing majorities of
between 66% and 80% when tested, and must be upheld wherever challenged.
- The 1976 and all subsequent General Conferences have been right to withhold funds from
"any 'gay' organization or use any such funds to promote the acceptance of
- The 1984 and 1988 General Conferences were correct in adopting as a standard for
ordained clergy the commitment to "fidelity in marriage and celibacy in
singleness," and in stating clearly that "self-avowed practicing homosexuals are
not to be accepted as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The
United Methodist Church." And the 1988 General Conference was right to "affirm
that God's grace is available to all."
- The 1992 General conference was wise not to overturn this stable tradition of
interpretation in favor of a neutral stance that would have surrendered the Church's long
tradition to the pressures of current moral relativism.
We commend the following principles for delegates to the General Conference to consider
in the continuing debate over sexuality:
- On the principle of continuity and congruity of precedent with our previous decisions on
sexuality, we urge the General Conference of 1996 to continue to hold fast to the
Disciplinary language and balance of the five points indicated above.
- Classic Christian teaching grounds sexual behavior and marriage in the creation story.
Therefore, to "bless" committed same-sex unions as if they were valid holy
matrimony would be a departure from the biblical understanding of marriage. Such liaisons
must not receive the Church's blessing. This should be clearly set forth in our
- Our Discipline should strongly affirm for all persons (laity and clergy) the church's
standard of sexual morality: "fidelity in marriage and celibacy in singleness."
Dear Reader: You may or may not agree with all that is said above. But we know you love
the Church and we invite you to join as we think together about doctrine and our life
together. "If your heart is as my heart, then give me your hand."