From: James V. Heidinger II
Just wanted to acknowledge your comments about our Good News response to the Bishops' Pastoral Letter.
First, I like the sounds of the essay by Erik Thoennes and would appreciate your sending it to me or forwarding it by E-Mail. I have felt that way about some scholars, wishing they might be more vigorous in challenging and denouncing those who would totally distort major doctrines of the faith. I had felt something like that about N.T. Wright who has travelled about with Marcus Borg doing point/counter point kinds of lectures. Wright, it has seemed to me, is perhaps too charitable with Borg who so totally deconstructs the gospel stories. However, Wright was here at Asbury Seminary several weeks ago and gave three lectures on the resurrection and was incredibly good. I would think that Borg would leave any such duo presentation looking like a minor league player, if not a heretic. Wright is so solid and sound, but has not been on the attack against those who deny the faith. Rather, he attacks them with enormous dosages of truth.
All of us will struggle, Jai, with making our case firmly against leaders who should know better. I must confess I have often felt like simply telling them off. To just tell them, indeed, they are "theologically inept" and "utterly incapable." I have been "told off" by one bishop at Lake Junaluska which was the first time I have been "told off" in so long I couldn't remember when the last time had been. My sense is that Good News has been challening and denouncing false teaching across the years, and we have heard repeatedly the pejoratives that we are "divisive, intolerant, and uncharitable." I could add more adjectives to the list.
Our response to the bishops' Pastoral Letter did try to find some things that we could affirm. Their call to prayer and fasting is something that you would affirm, Jai, as you have been calling for that as well. I don't think it is wrong, or unholy flattery, to try to find a few things that could be affirmed. Another thing we can affirm is their encouraging ministry to all persons, including those practicing homosexuality, stating that it must be done "within the bounds of our Book of Discipline." That is worth affirming, because that means we would start with the assumption that the practice of homosexuality is "incompatible with Christian teaching." There would be lots of implications to that, obviously. You would need to affirm "transformational" ministry in such a case. Again, one of our theologically astute board members caught the first sentence which affirms Christ "who alone is our salvation, our hope, and our peace." Whether this is what they really meant, we felt we should call attention to it, that Jesus Christ is, indeed, the only Savior and hope for the world. My guess is, some of the bishops will choke on that but they have said it by implication and it should be affirmed.
Having said that, Jai, our statement is a pretty negative critique of the Pastoral Letter. Enough so, it took three full pages to list the points. I hope you have read the points beyond the opening line of each paragraph. Our critique is neither nice or conciliatory, but rather, quite straightforward in challening content and in lamenting no episcopal leadership, even suggesting that they aren't called to be moderators and discussion leaders. I suppose we might have just said, "This is a banal piece of duplicitous double-speak which is not worth the paper it is printed on." I might have even felt better "telling them off" in that way, Jai, but I think that would have been counter-productive. I think it is far more productive to try, in the Spirit of Christ, to lay down substantive arguments that might, when all are put together, have said by the strength of their content, "this is really a banal piece of duplicitous . . ." In other words, Jai, I think what we have said in our response is pretty much that: all in all, though there are some things we can affirm, this is really a poor statement, very poor. And in personal conversation with you and others, I would probably use that kind of language.
Pray for us, Jai, that we will walk the fine line between hitting the issues firmly, but always doing it in a way that honors Christ. I think it is a sad contradiction if we stand for and defend the truth of the Gospel in ways that are un-Christlike, that discredit and demean the evangelical witness. They may deal with us with those tones, and they do. I hope we don't begin to respond in like manner.
Blessings on you, Jai. I hope you have a blessed holiday season there in Marshalville.
Your brother in Christ,
I would just like to say that as a lay person, former Sunday school teacher, and current Disciple bible study teacher I find it an absolute joke that Bishops have to be reminded what the Bible is absolutely clear on. Yes, love the sinner and hate the sin. But all you OVER-PAID AND I REALLY DO MEAN OVER-PAID POLITICIANS who call yourselves Bishops better just remember one thing.
You can debate, and give your opinions until the second coming. But I really don't think God cares about your thoughts on the subject. God made it very clear on where he stands on this issue, and not one Bishop can think on a higher level than God.
One other small thing I believe the Bishops need to remember. GOD IS WATCHING YOU ! and God will take into account your actions and maybe your non-actions on this issue. Perhaps you have not considered the person who has Homo-sexual desires who struggles on a daily basis to lead a Godly life, who is desperate to have the reassurance and leadership from you Bishops to reaffirm his or her doing right. Is there a Bishop among you who will stand for God ? Is there no leadership left to help the people who struggle to do the will of God and not give into temptation?
We need leadership now ! God is Watching ! All that I have said, I say in love, but also in truth. I maybe a small nobody member in my church, but I fear God and believe in his word. Remember also the way God holds teachers and LEADERS accountable.
In his Love, and for the Love of my Church
Richard Lee Martinous
The folks at Good News need to read Erik Thoennes' excellent essay, "An Invitation to Adultery: A Response to Religious Pluralism in Light of Divine Jealousy," paying particular attention to the section on "Jealous Scholarship." Thoennes rightly calls evangelicals to throw caution to the wind in the face of contemporary efforts by religious pluralists to water down the Christian faith. "Godly jealousy," he writes, "demands that the Christian scholar lovingly abhor and denounce false teaching, even if he will be considered divisive, intolerant, and uncharitable."
The Good News response to the Bishops' pastoral letter seems to bend over backward to find something nice and conciliatory to say to this motley collection of empty suits who have proven themselves theologically inept and utterly incapable of providing moral and spiritual leadership for a denomination adrift in a sea of idolatrous pluralism.
I can only assume that much of the Good News response is done with tongue in cheek. The Council of Bishops has become the laughing stock of the whole of the Christian Church. Now is not the time to be exchanging niceties with these incompetent prelates. It is time to call this "pastoral letter" precisely what it is: a banal piece of duplicitous double-speak which is not worth the paper it's printed on.
United Methodist Prayer Summit
South Georgia Confessing Movement Fellowship
I am very concerned anytime I hear someone using the literary convention about a "hell worse than Satan could create". In the first place Satan did not create hell anymore than he has the power to create heaven. In the second place, we can not even begin to pass a qualitative judgement on something eternal when we live in the finite world of time and space. The infinite hell that the finite (divinely inspired) writers of the Bible tried to describe to us is obviously a place to be avoided at all costs. Thirdly, my experience with a brother who has identified with the homosexual lifestyle convinces me that the "hell on earth" is a result of the rejection of God and his revealed order for his creation's life rather than the supposed "homophobia" of the Church.
It is only the transforming power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that can deliver these persons. The UMC is failing to "offer Christ" when we dilude his power and intention to transform our fallen human nature. God did not "make" us sinners; the fall made us sinners and sons and daughters of Adam and Eve. The sacrifice of Christ can make us sons and daughters of God. I dearly love my brother but I hate homosexuality. He is now middle-aged and lonely having been through one disfunctional relationship after another and seeking the "help" only of counselors and clergy who offer more of the same confused world-view that is devoid of the true power of God.
From: Peggy Holloway firstname.lastname@example.org
Another young person has fallen victim to the rhetoric of hate against gays and lesbians that is propagated by the leaders of the religious right in the United States and by the Confessing Movement of the United Methodist Church. A young man in the military was bludgeoned to death by a fellow serviceman because the man thought he might be gay and because he "hates homosexuals." Why do people "hate homosexuals" enough to murder someone for that identity (or in this case perceived identity.)? It is because our churches continue to send the message loud and clear that "homosexuality is incapatible with Christian teaching." This message is based on hyperbole, half-truths, and lies about the true nature of homosexuality and it is reprehensible that your organization continues to do so, causing death, bodily and spiritually. If nothing else, at least the Conservative Christians appear to care about children The suicide rate of gay and lesbian teens if triple that of the rest of the population. How can you continue to preach a gospel of hate to these children that is so dreadful that the only way out is to take their lives (and these are children who have not engaged in the "sin" of homosexual activity-they are spriritually destroyed by the church just for being the way God made them!
Please continue to rethink your interpretation of Scripture and the six, tired, worn, and misquoted passages you use to condemn these children to a hell worse than Satan could create!
A Concerned Christian.
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