Georgia Clergyman Responds To Current Crises In The UMC
STATEMENT TO THE CONGREGATION OF MARSHALLVILLE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
Rev. James A. Gibson, Pastor
Sunday, March 21, 2004
Late yesterday afternoon, a jury of 13 United Methodist clergy members of the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference returned a verdict of "Not Guilty" in the church trial of the Rev. Karen Damman. Rev. Damman had been charged with engaging in practices declared by the United Methodist Church to be "incompatible with Christian teaching" after she had admitted on several occasions that she was living in a homosexual relationship with another woman. Despite her own admission and the clear teaching of the Book of Discipline that the practice of homosexuality is "incompatible with Christian teaching" and that "self-avowed, practicing homosexuals are not to be accepted as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church," the jury voted 11-0, with two abstentions, to acquit Rev. Damman.
This is not the first time the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference has thumbed its nose at the Discipline of the Church. The trial itself occurred only after the United Methodist Judicial Council had found the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference guilty of an "egregious error of church law" in initially dismissing all charges against Rev. Damman. This latest act of defiance, however, is probably more egregious than any previous, for it has the effect of nullifying church law and radically departing from 2,000 years of Christian teaching on sexual morality and the conduct of those set apart for representative ministry. This departure from the Apostolic Faith is for the purpose of advancing a revisionist agenda which is diametrically opposed to the Church's mission of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ and its liberating message of love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, and healing for those who are enslaved by sinful desires, behaviors, and lifestyles.
All of us are sinners, and I count myself as chief among them. But as an elder in The United Methodist Church, I am bound by covenant with all my colleagues who are ordained to the ministry of Word, Sacrament, and Order. I am constantly reminded by bishops, district superintendents, and other denominational officials that we are a "connectional church," that we as United Methodists are part of a community bound in covenant by our vows of membership and ordination. Today, that covenant has been broken by the lawless acts of a renegade annual conference which has placed itself outside the fellowship of the Body of Christ and in grave danger of the judgment of God.
We have heard for some years now that our denomination is in a state of crisis. Today, those years of crisis have culminated into a moment of decision. Every annual conference and every local congregation must decide. Will we continue down this road which can only lead to our destruction; or will the faithful among us finally stand up and say, "No! We will not follow the lead of lawless persons and their destructive heresies. We will follow Christ, and only Christ, and his Word shall be our one and only sufficient rule. His way, and only his way, will lead us to Truth and life eternal."
As long as I have been pastor of this church, I have tried, with the help of God, to steer us on a course of faithfulness to Christ. I may have come up short at times. At other times, I may have gone a little overboard. But on this day of decision, I renew my pledge to you to steer a faithful course and to be true to the vows which I have made before God to faithfully attend to the ministry of Word, Sacrament, and Order.
May God help our denomination. May he bless and sustain those who struggle within it to serve him wholeheartedly; and may we, as a local congregation, be numbered among the faithful.
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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