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Other Evangelical Methodists Preceive Dangers of   "Connection Process Team's" Global Vision

Dear Friends,

I am interrupting my discussion on the liberal, moderate, conservative factions in our church to reflect on some recent events that greatly effect our church.

First, is the decision of the Judicial Council to reject the use of unofficial titles as descriptive for an Annual Conference. The case before the Council was Northwest Texas Annual Conference's decision to become a Confessing Conference. The Judicial Council ruled that neither, Confessing, Reconciling, or Transforming were appropriate labels for an Annual Conference. Although I cosponsored a motion in the North Arkansas Conference to declare ourselves a Confessing Conference, I still think the decision was a good one as long as it applies evenly to all groups.

The second piece of news is the report from the Connectional Process Team. The team is attempting to restructure the global United Methodist Church. The new structure has a noble intent, removing the United States as the principal focus of the UMC. However, in the midst of our crisis over homosexuality it also looks like an end run around our present system. Right now the Central Conference vote as a block against homosexual ordination or marriage. Without their support the margins would be much slimmer. Obviously, this may not be the design of those intent on restructuring but it looks like the result if it happens.

Quoting from the United Methodist Reporter, "The General Conference would deal with matters related to ecumenical relationships, global missions and social justice and have a legislative responsibility for the common material in the Book of Discipline, the church's collection of laws, other common material such as the Constitution and doctrinal statements,. Beyond a relatively small core of common material, each central conference (the United States conference included) would create its own Book of Discipline with policies and procedures to fit its respective cultural context." [emphasis added]

Finally, from the United Methodist News Service,

CAMPBELL, Calif. (UMNS) -- The lay leader of the United Methodist Church's California-Nevada Annual Conference and a member of the conference's board of trustees have announced they will celebrate their 15-year relationship with a service of holy union.

The ceremony uniting the two women will be co-led by a group of clergy that includes the pastor of the couple's home church, 930-member St. Mark's United Methodist Church in Sacramento.

Jeanne Barnett, the lay leader, and Ellie Charlton, her partner, made the public announcement at the Oct. 17 biennial meeting of the Reconciling Conference program at a church in Campbell. A reconciling conference is one that accepts all people, regardless of sexual orientation, as full participants in the life of the church.

The Rev. Don Fado, pastor of St. Mark's, is organizing the service and has invited other clergy to join him in the act of "ecclesial disobedience." The date for the ceremony hasn't been set, but it will occur in early 1999, Fado said....

So far, 67 [80] clergy members have announced their readiness to co-celebrate the Barnett-Charlton union with Fado. Seven are people from other conferences who know the couple. In addition, a group of Cal-Nevada laity have stated their public support of the right of United Methodist pastors to bless such unions, and some have indicated their willingness to be part of the service in Sacramento if asked.

Obviously, this service is a clear contradiction of the Discipline. My concern will be whether the clergy present will be brought up on charges and whether they can be convicted in a liberal conference. If a group of elders from the Cal-Nevada Conference refuses to convict, then our connectional system has suffered a nearly fatal blow. I think the outcome of this event will have profound consequences on the church. Do we have the will to enforce our discipline not just on renegade elders, but renegade conferences?

Your Brother,

John Miles

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