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Delegate Sees Cal/Pac NEWly 'Discerned' Welcoming designation as OLD Lie


A REPORT ON THE ANNUAL MEETING
OF THE CALIFORNIA-PACIFIC CONFERENCE
OF THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
BY
BILL MADDOX
LAY MEMBER(SUBSTITUTING FOR SUSIE ADKINS)
VENTURA COLLEGE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH


June, 1998

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 member’s 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 conference.

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 Father’s Day. (In fact, that was one of the other topic of discussions - the weekend chosen for annual conference seems to conflict with Father’s 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 “Reconciling”2 or a “Transforming”3 conference.

Actually, the Bishop ‘discerned’ the direction of the conference to be a “Welcoming” conference.

The text reads as follows:

California Pacific Annual Conference
The United Methodist Church
Resolution #21 Discernment Process
Directional Statement
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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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:

(http://www.rcp.org/welindex.html)

Welcoming Ministries

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 didn’t. I would have expected some of the Bishop’s 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.


Footnotes

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

Our Mission

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/)

Our Mission:
"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."

Our Purpose:
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.

Our Confession:
This then is our confession: "We Confess Jesus Christ: The Son, The Savior, The Lord."

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 Disciplines.

  1. 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 human fulfillment."
  2. 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.
  3. 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 homosexuality."
  4. 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."
  5. 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.

Sexuality Principles

We commend the following principles for delegates to the General Conference to consider in the continuing debate over sexuality:

  1. 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.

  2. 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 Discipline.

  3. 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."


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