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Cal/Nev Disobedience Will May Force Delegates To Decide If The UMC Will Be "United"

From: John Miles smiles@ipa.net
To: smiles@ipa.net
Sent: Monday, April 10, 2000 9:25 AM
Subject: general conference

Dear Friends,

Over the last few weeks, I have thought a lot about the events in Cal/Nevada surrounding the "holy union ceremony." I am aware that I have spent a considerable amount of time on this subject. I thought I might write one more article concerning the issue of homosexuality and General Conference. I recently sent a letter to all the delegates from Arkansas who will be representing us at General Conference. This week I want to share that letter with you.

Dear General Conference Delegate,

I am not sure I should congratulate you or commiserate with you on your selection as a General Conference Delegate. The honor is great but the burden of responsibility is heavy. Thank you for your willingness to represent the United Methodists of our state. I want you to know that I am praying for you, as often as I can remember to. I have pledged to come to General Conference for a day or two to lift you and the Conference in prayer. My church has also agreed to take the Saturday, May 6 slot in the prayer vigil. Your name will be lifted up.

Over the coming weeks I am sure you will be getting lots of suggestions on issues coming before the conference. I wanted to share my thoughts with you as well. There are many important issues facing you. The Baptismal Study and the Connectional Process Team report are both very important to the church. However, these issues have been overshadowed in my opinion, by the action of the Cal/Nevada Conference with regards to the "holy union ceremony." Cal/Nevada's refusal to enforce the Discipline has left us with a crisis that offers no easy solutions. It seems to me that there are three possible responses to this crisis.

First, and least likely, we could simply delete the language about homosexuality from the Discipline and just admit we are not of a common mind. That of course, would at least settle the issue and be a clear sign for those of us who are conservative that it is time for us to depart the denomination.

The second option, and the one I fear the most, is to take the easy way and simply endorse by neglect what Cal/Nevada has done. In this scenario, we continue to affirm the Discipline but admit we cannot hold conferences accountable. The Episcopal Church has tried to live with this arrangement of several years now and it has only led to more and more bitter struggles in their church. Gradually, more and more dioceses have begun to marry and ordain practicing homosexuals. This is not a permanent solution. It would only prolong the struggle between two mutually exclusive positions. Personally, I cannot imagine trying to make disciples under such adverse conditions.

If the General Conference cannot control Cal/Nevada it will not be just the liberals who will at this point defy the Discipline. Neglecting to deal with this issue also opens the door for more conservative conferences to take radical action against a denomination they perceive as out of control. Why should a conference pay apportionments once it has been established that the Annual Conference has the final say about polity and discipline? I personally think our United Methodist seminary system is counter productive. If we accept Cal/Nevada's precedent, we could push for the elimination of seminary as a requirement for ordained ministry within our conference. These are just two of a number actions that could be taken.

It will not be an easy decision you will have to make at this General Conference. Either way you go you will disappoint honorable people who feel very differently about this issue. Obviously, it is my hope that you can get enough votes to hold Cal/Nevada accountable in obeying the Discipline. To do otherwise is to admit that we are not are not really any longer the "United" Methodist Church.

Once again, thank you for being willing to serve this great church and remember you are in all of our prayers.

Your Brother,

John Miles II, Heber Springs

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