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Bishop Rules Resolutions That Violate Discipline Do Not Violate Discipline

From: Henry Stewart henrys@cableaz.com
Sent: Thursday, July 05, 2001 10:13 AM
To: Confessing List Subject: [cmdiscuss] Desert Southwest Annual Conference "Rest of the Story"

By now you have probably read the reports from many of the annual conferences. I want to share with you the "rest of the story" as it happened in the Desert Southwest Annual Conference.

UMUnity, Inc. is a renewal group in the Desert Southwest Conference. We advocate support for the Discipline and for the tenets of historical Christianity. We have conducted several seminars with a message of hope and ministry to those wishing to leave the homosexual lifestyle.


During this year's conference session, a group of clergy and lay persons distributed black armbands as a "silent witness" as a protest against the sexual purity requirements for clergy. To counter them, UMUnity distributed large name tags with the words "2000 Discipline" and the Cross and Flame logo. This badge demonstrated our support for the current position of the United Methodist Church as illustrated by the Discipline.

At the Thursday morning clergy session a group of about 20 of those wearing black armbands made a statement that they opposed the 2000 Discipline and then stood against the walls, refusing to vote on issues of ordination. Bishop Dew did nothing but was clearly in sympathy with those that stood.


UMUnity invited Dr. Ira Gallaway of the Confessing Movement to attend our Annual Conference as a guest and observer. On Friday he spoke at a luncheon with a powerful message. One of his key points was that the work of United Methodist clergy is a calling, not an occupation. If a clergy member considers his work solely as an occupation, he should leave. Those pastors that cannot go beyond worrying about the "prestige" of their next appointment and the size of their pension have no business in the ministry. They are incapable of shepherding their flock when the wolves circle.

Saturday Afternoon

On Saturday afternoon of the conference the "we will not be silent" resolution came up for consideration. This was the resolution originally passed at the 2000 Western Jurisdictional Conference. It called for "gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered persons" to have "full participation at all levels in the life of the church...", including ordination and serving as clergy.

Most of our Conference leadership strongly supports this position. UMUnity's position was that this resolution asked the conference to violate clear Biblical teachings and would put our conference in direct conflict with the will of God. In addition, the resolution was in conflict with the 2000 Discipline.

During the conference our group was frequently in prayer. We saw its power demonstrated mightily on that Saturday. During the discussion of the resolution we were able to communicate every major point of our opposition. A number of our discussion points were raised by people that had not been present at our strategy sessions! We received support from totally unexpected areas. At least one pastor decided it was time to speak out after years of silence. Lay people across the conference hall spoke in opposition to this resolution.

The most powerful testimony was given by a courageous lady who shared her account of deliverance from homosexual practice through the love of her congregation bringing her to know Christ. This account totally flustered the Bishop to the point that he had difficulty speaking after she was done.

After debate closed, I introduced a motion to vote on this resolution by secret ballot. This motion was defeated by a count of 155 to 137. We then took the vote on the resolution itself, which passed by 191 in favor, 137 against.

The convener of UMUnity, Nathan Holt, then raised a question of law since Judicial Council Decision Number 911 states "it is unlawful for an annual conference to adopt a resolution which negates, ignores or violates provisions of the Discipline." Bishop Dew ruled that the resolution was not in conflict with the Discipline. This decision is automatically appealed so the Judicial Council will now rule on the legality of the "We will not be silent" resolution.

The vote on the resolution was disappointing, but not unexpected. The clergy in our conference have been intimidated by the Bishop and leadership for several years now. Appointments to the larger, more "prestigious" pastorates have largely been governed by clergy position on the issue of homosexuality. Those that support acceptance of practicing homosexual clergy receive "promotions," whereas those that oppose it aren't frequently selected. Thankfully we have not yet experienced the "demotions" of evangelical clergy the California-Nevada conference has experienced. Thank God for our evangelical pastors that are faithful stewards of their flocks!

In addition, the conference laity delegate selection rules strongly favor the preferences of the conference leadership, placing all the local churches at a significant disadvantage in presenting their viewpoints. Many of the laity in the Desert Southwest Conference oppose the ordination of practicing homosexuals.

As I see it, the defeat of the secret ballot motion was part of a campaign of intimidation common in the Western Jurisdiction. Otherwise, why was the secret ballot motion defeated for the resolution? If a person is convinced that their position is "correct", what harm can come from a secret ballot? Per Ira Galloway, too many of our clergy consider what they do to be a career rather than a calling. I've personally heard way too many of our clergy ask "what about our pensions?"

Last year we sent out a mailing asking that churches inquire about the position of their prospective Lay Members to Annual Conference. We did not advocate a specific stance on any issue, and we very clearly pointed out that each Lay Member was not bound by the church but could vote his or her own conscience. We just wanted to ensure that the members of a church knew the position of their representatives, and didn't elect them solely because they were "retired" and had attended for the "past ten years." A number of clergy became quite irate at this mailing. What's so "evil" with free discussion unless you're afraid the will of God will not be the same as your human will?

Saturday Evening

Ordination was held on Saturday night at one of our local churches. A "Shower of Stoles" rack was posted at the entrance to the sanctuary, fully sanctioned by Bishop Dew. Standing room only crowds for ordination were common in past years. This year there were numerous empty seats, and the attendance was less than expected based on the number of candidates. I believe that many people chose not to attend when they found out about the Shower of Stoles exhibit.


On Sunday morning before the conference I woke up early to pray, read the Bible and seek God's will. When I opened the Bible, it just "happened" to open at 1 Samuel 16. My attention was immediately drawn to the first verse in the chapter. (This is the account of Samuel coming to grips with God removing His blessing from Saul.)

Now I'm not one to open the Bible and use the first passage I see as a prophecy. But in this case I do believe it was a prophetic word. I can only conclude that God has chosen to remove His blessing from our conference leadership.

Please pray for us in the Western Jurisdiction!

Your brother in Christ,

Henry Stewart Vice-convener,
 UMUnity, Inc.
Lay Member to Desert Southwest Annual Conference

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