Three ERF Clergy Make Statements to Bishop
at Meeting to discuss Separation
As many of you already know, on April 1st, 18 pastors and 25 laypeople
signed a document asking for a fair process to leave the Annual conference of the United
Methodist Church. As the president of the Evangelical Renewal Fellowship, a group of
United Methodist committed to historic Christianity, I called the meeting and signed the
document. There are several reasons I feel it is time to separate from the
United Methodist Church.
Let me list them for you:
- United Methodists have lost their doctrinal integrity.
Leaders in the UMC are no longer held accountable to believe and teach the basic tenants
of the Christian faith as revealed in the Bible and articulated in our doctrine.
First UMC Marietta Georgia has compiled a documented list of some of the abuses that have
taken place in-the last five years. Time and time again leaders of our denomination
support and teach things contrary to Christian belief and ethics, contrary to the
scriptures and contrary to the Discipline of our church. They are not held
accountable or disciplined for this, in fact some are promoted.
- We are not supported and cannot be supportive of our
leaders. We are told to send approximately $35,000 to
the denomination each year. Some of that money is spent well. Some of it goes
for my pension. However we receive very little back from that money and others
receive very little from that money. Instead most of it goes to keep a huge and
largely unnecessary bureaucracy afloat This bureaucracy has hundreds of millions of
dollars invested in the stock market and we have leaky roofs. A few years ago we
were asked to help raise ten million dollars to plant more churches. I think
planting more churches is a great idea. However, we were told that these churches
would help stem the tide of growing evangelicalism and bring people back to mainline
religions. I have no desire to plant more theologically liberal Methodist
churches. We are part of the growing tide of evangelicalism. I cannot support
most of the agenda items presented by the leadership of our Annual conference. As a
pastor, I do not feel support, prayed for and uplifted by the leaders in our Annual
conference. This does not mean they are bad people, it simply means we are going two
- We are painted with the same brush. When
our leaders do something publicly the perception is that is what Methodists believe.
When our bishop supports the president who is approving partial-birth abortions the public
believes that is what Methodists stand for. When our pastors perform same sex
covenanting services the public thinks Methodists are all doing it and approve of
it. Several men in our Promise Keepers group have told me when they tell their
friends they are United Methodists they have to immediately add some kind of disclaimer,
saying 'no not that kind of Methodist' We have to continually apologize for the public
statements and practices of other United Methodists, especially our leadership.
- We waste energy and resources fighting each other.
It is obvious there are two different worldviews competing within the United
Methodist Church. The view our church espouses holds that the Bible is the inspired
word of God and the final authority on all matters of faith and practice. We believe
that Jesus is the unique Son of God, fully God and fully man and the exclusive Savior of
the world. There are no other ways to God but through Jesus. We believe the
mission of the church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ. We want to convert
people and lead them into a mature relationship with Jesus Christ. Another view says the
Bible is one book among many, instructive for the church but not the final word.
Revelation is going on now that can supersede the Bible and it is up to the church to
decide what the Spirit is saying now. Jesus is one way among many and we should
support all faiths without believing Jesus Christ is the ultimate truth. The mission
of the church is to simply do good and reform society, but not to try and evangelize the
world. These two views are incompatible. And both sides waste energy trying to
win the organization over to their worldview. Why not separate and let each view
operate without internal squabble.
- We are complicit with evil. This may
seem like a strong statement but I believe it is true. We help support a system that
has told us to give money to feed children and reform the world, and by and large, we have
been giving money to be invested in the stock market. We help support a system that
professes to believe in the classical Christian faith yet allows and rewards serious
deviation and compromise of that faith. We help support a system that promotes and
practices ethics that undermine the family and go against four thousand years of
Judeo-Christian sexual ethics. We are told if we don't do this we are disloyal and
schismatic, I think schism has been brought upon us and the loyal thing to do is to not be
a part of that system any more.
Rev Don Roulston ?
Porterville Grand Avenue UMC, Porterville, CA.
I have been asked to share why I want to leave our
annual Conf. I want to say this is not easy for me. In 23 years of ministry I
have never stood and spoken from the Conf Floor. I am sure by many I have been seen
as a loyal pastor. I have not sought to make waves or become known by the Conf.
leaders. The churches I have served have always paid apportionments in full.
One difficult financial year at Grand Ave., we borrowed $7,200 from an undesignated
savings account to pay our apportionments at 100%.
In spite of the perceived loyalty, there has always
been a dread for June to come and Annual Conference. What divisive issues would we
discuss this year that I would have to try to explain to some irate parishioners?
To be very honest with you, I have been very silent in talking
about the divisive issues in the local church, and this has probably been a mistake.
I have worked hard to build a strong church at Grand Avenue. Last
Sunday we received 16 new members. We are set to receive 7 more this coming Sunday.
In talking with this group of new, younger members, I have been surprised to find
they have similar theological understandings, including the homosexual issue, as the large
majority of the Grand Avenue Congregation. I thought they might have a different
perspective, but this is not the case.
Why have I been silent in my local Church? It is
simple. If many of the church leaders knew what the Conf Leadership supported, they
would find it very easy to be a member of another church that held to what they consider
biblical principles. Who would we lose? Most of the Administrative Council members,
Sunday school teachers, the Evangelism and Membership Care Committees ---this list could
go on and on.
Since the Creech trial became one of the lead stories on our
local paper's religion page, I have been talking to one family after another
explaining what our Disci line says regarding homosexual unions. I have read it to
them. They have interpreted the wording as I have, the way the large majority of
United Methodist at General Conf intended it to be interpreted. I have sought to
give them hope that they could remain United Methodist.
With the Conf leadership continuing to interpret the Discipline
in such a different way from the leadership of my local church, and from what I believe
was the General Conf intentions, I am not sure how much longer the local leadership will
When I was a little boy, I "inherited" a little red
wagon. Lots of little children had had it before me. By the time I
got it, there were no hubcaps, the wheel bearings were worn, the wheels were held on, not
by coffer keys, but by rusty nails. Every once in a while one of those nails would
break and after a while the wheel would fall off.
The last few weeks, my church has reminded me of my little red
wagon. I feel like I am constantly having to check the wheels, making
sure they don't come off. I'm not sure how much longer I can keep the wheels on and the
church effectively ministering in the Porterville community with articles and letters
being put out that or so opposite what the large majority of Grand Ave. Church believes
and stands for.
I grew up in the Methodist Church. I have
been loyal as a United Methodist pastor. It pains me to stand before you and say
please show me a way I can remain a United Methodist. When I came back from Seminary
in 1975 to be appointed, I felt called to be a minister in the United Methodist
Church. I had other options, but I felt called to California. I desire to
remain a United Methodist here in California, but because of deep theological beliefs, I
have reservations about remaining a member of the Ca./Nev. Ann. Conf. I
know I speak for many of my church leaders as well.
I. This Conference has broken faith with United Methodists
We can no longer trust that the will of the United Methodist church, as determined by
General Conference will be followed by this Annual Conference. The
Discipline of our church is ignored, and its authority is flouted. One pastor
publicly proclaims that her church had been blessing gay holy unions for decades, and
another said he has lost count of how many he's performed. All this done with
impunity and even with the blessing of this leadership. Jimmy Creech was publicly
promised a position in this Annual Conference. Since 1972, General Conference
has spoken clearly and decisively that homosexual practice is not to be
condoned. And yet this conference blesses what the General Church cannot
condone. This Conference has broken faith with United
The UMC has as its heritage, the legacy of John Wesley. John Wesley was a man
of one book, and that book was the Bible. He led a Spirit empowered revival that
had as its aim the spread of "Scriptural holiness across the land." Today,
to speak of Scripture and holiness in the same sentence is to be written off as a
fundamentalist. Wesley was viewed as a threat to the bureaucratic Anglican Church,
which made him feel unwelcome at their table. This conference has become the
Anglican Church of Wesley's day to evangelicals. This
Conference has broken faith with our United Methodist heritage.
I want to leave this Annual Conference because it is clear we no longer share the
same religion. Lyle Schaller says the number one question facing the future of
United Methodism is this: "Is the Christian faith a revealed religion that was
disclosed by God ... in the Holy Scriptures for all generations to come? Or
is Christianity a religion that both expects and obligates each generation to reinterpret
the redefine the faith?" We answer that question differently. For
evangelicals, the Christian faith is not a riddle to be solved, but a revelation to be
received. It's not a mystery to be discovered, but a truth that was "once for
all delivered to the saints." What divides us is not a single issue, but a foundational difference on the nature of biblical authority and the
Lordship of Jesus Christ.
I want to leave this Annual Conference because the decisions and promulgation's of
the leadership of this Conference cut me off at the knees in trying to build an
evangelical church. In some parts of our country there is still pride among
evangelicals for being United Methodist. But it has become an embarrassment in
evangelical circles to be United Methodist in this Annual Conference. I teach at
SJCC, [San Jose Christian College] and the classes view me with surprise as "a
United Methodist who actually believes the Bible." This
Conference has broken faith with United Methodists, and become an embarrassment to us.
I want to leave this Annual Conference because in ceaseless promotion of the gay
lifestyle, the leadership of this Conference is promoting schism. Wolfhart
Pannenberg, one of the most esteem theologians of our day, wrote: "Here lies the
boundary of a Christian church that knows itself to be bound by the authority of
Scripture. Those who urge the church to change the norm of its teaching on this
matter must know that they are promoting schism. If a church were to let itself be
pushed to the point where it ceased to treat homosexual activity as a departure from the
biblical norm, and recognized homosexual unions as a personal partnership of love
equivalent to marriage, such a church would stand no longer on biblical ground but against
the unequivocal witness of Scripture. A church that took this step would cease to be
the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church." This
Conference has broken faith with our United Methodist Heritage.
II. This Conference has broken trust with evangelicals
I do not feel welcome or included at the table of this Annual Conference. I
do not feel that Evangelical theology is ever considered when this AC trumpets its
inclusiveness and diversity. The Bishop, D.S.'s and Conference staff, assembled
here, as far as I know, all disagree with the statements in our Church's Discipline about
not condoning the practice of homosexuality and considering that practice to be
incompatible with Christian teaching. This Conference has
broken trust with evangelicals.
Furthermore, there has never been an Evangelical D.S. in the 20 years I've
been a part of this Annual Conference. Some say it's been closer to 30 or 40
years. I know AVS [ Al VomSteeg] was offered the position once, at a time when he
couldn't accept it. But there has been no follow through. It has never been a
priority. This Conference has broken trust with evangelicals.
For 6 years I was forced to take a Sabbatical and then LOA from this Conference
because the Bishop refused to appoint me to work in Ghana with the MSUM [Mission
Society for United Methodists] . There is no written agreement among Bishops not to
appoint to the MSUM. Many other Bishops have done so. But not ours. The
President of the Methodist Church Ghana wrote to Bishop Talbert requesting that I
be appointed to work directly with the Methodist Church Ghana to train
pastors. Copies of this letter were sent to and received by my DS and the Chair of
the Conf Relations Committee. The Conference response was to not act on this, even
to deny ever receiving such a letter. And there was no follow through because no one
cared. At the same time I was requesting a special appointment, we had pastor's
under special appointment to serve as an elementary school teacher, a financial service
representative, a psychodramatist, a president of a sex institute, and a political science
instructor, to name just a few. These were considered "in keeping with
the goals of this Annual Conference." AVS recently transferred to another AC where
the Bishop there appointed him to work with the MSUM, because our Bishop refused.
And this in spite of an overwhelming vote of our Ministerial Session in favor of the MSUM
as an acceptable site location for ABLC. Evangelicals are made to feel unwelcome at
the table of Jesus Christ in this Annual Conference. This
Conference has broken trust with evangelicals.
Lyle Schaller says this about the UMC in his book, appropriately entitled, Tattered
Trust: "Why is the system dysfunctional? Because it is organized on the basic
assumption that Christian people in general and congregational leaders in particular,
cannot be trusted " Last year we lost an evangelical congregation at
Salem UMC in Lodi. One of the largest evangelical congregations is halved in size
because the cabinet knew more than the SPRC whom to appoint there. Quest for Quality
training says "the focus is always on the customer," but our Conference prefers
to lord it over them. Jim McGhee left this Annual Conference a number of years ago;
feeling there's no future for evangelical pastors. Al Vom Steeg is gone, Kevin
Clancy is leaving. 22 pastors signed a document saying we want to leave this annual
conference because we are tired of being abused and having our values treated with
derision. The system is designed for the results it's getting. This Conference has broken trust with evangelicals.