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Two UM Bishops Undermine the Christian Faith They Are Pledged to Defend

From UMAction Briefing June 2002

Two UM Bishops Undermine the Christian Faith They Are Pledged to Defend

An event called “Kairos mostly United Methodists, to Madison, Wisconsin, in February 2002.Its stated objective was to combat “a growing exclusiveness in The United Methodist Church.” Its special focus was to attack United Methodism ’s stand for Christian sexual morality and against homo- sexual practice.

Featured speakers included United Methodist Bishop Sharon Zimmerman Rader of Wisconsin, retired UM Bishop Judy Craig, and retired Episcopal Bishop Jack Spong. Other presenters included Larry Pickens, a member of the UM Judicial Council (the church ’s highest court); Susan Laurie, a self-identified lesbian and staff member of the “Reconciling Ministries Network;” and Greg Dell, a Chicago UM pastor and prominent pro- homosexuality advocate.

The Book of Discipline requires all United Methodist Bishops “to guard the faith, order, liturgy, doctrine, and discipline of the Church ” and “to guard, transmit, teach, and proclaim, corporately and individually, the apostolic faith as it is expressed in Scripture and tradition, and, as they are led and endowed by the Spirit, to interpret that faith evangelically and prophetically.” UM doctrine includes the Articles of Religion, which strongly affirm the traditional Christian faith. The Book of Discipline affirms the sanctity of the marriage covenant, requires “fidelity in marriage and celibacy in singleness ” for all UM clergy, declares that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching, ” and prohibits “self- avowed practicing homosexuals ” from serving as UM clergy. See The Book of Discipline, pars.45, 103, 161C, 161G, 304, 404, and 414.

However, Bishop Rader urged the audience to assert their own identities against all authorities, secular and religious. She complained, “We ’ve been warned not to challenge our government or its unjust economy or its military policies....We ’ve been warned not to talk openly about sexuality. We ’ve been warned not to say that we believe The Book of Discipline is sometimes incompatible with Christian teaching. We ’ve been warned not to say that we are gay or lesbian.”

Imploring her hearers to def y these warnings, Bishop Rader quoted Jose Hobday, a New Age mystic and one-time teacher at the University of Creation Spirituality, to the effect that everyone must “take a step into yourself ” and “take a step into mystery.”

Bishop Craig implored the audience to live “a faith appropriate to our time, ” setting aside the ancient creeds. “Contending with heresy is what helps keep orthodoxy alive, ” she asserted. “We are saying of the tradition and orthodoxy that it is the heresy.” Denying the Christian belief that God is permanent and unchanging, she said she prefers to live in “a tradition that is new ever y day.”

Bishop Craig explained her personal creed: “I do believe Scripture reveals essential knowledge of the God of the universe, and I do believe the work of Jesus is critical to the work of my life. Now let ’s see, what particular words have I left out? Salvation, propitiation, atonement. I ’m working on those words … maybe someday. I didn ’t talk about final authority ….”

Attacking the authority of the traditional Christian faith was a common theme throughout Kairos CoMotion. During a workshop on homosexuality, retired United Methodist pastor John Kruse alluded to the irony that many leaders of this conference were on church payrolls: “The church is one of the only institutions that pays people to subvert it.”

Although Kairos CoMotion was advertised as a non-denominational Christian event, much of the worship and some of the program material appeared to be a mixture of religions. The conference manual quoted widely from Eastern spirituality and offered blessings for food from the Zen, Chinook, and Christian traditions.

Action: Remind Bishop Sharon Rader, politely and graciously, that she pledged to uphold our church ’s Discipline and doctrine, including the historic Christian faith and the authority of Scripture.

Address: 750 Windsor Street, Suite #303, Sun Prairie, WI 53590. 608-837-0281.
E-mail: szrader@aol.com. (If you contact Bishop Rader, please send a copy of your comments to UM Action as well at cregner@ird-renew.org or fax 202-969- 8429

Thank you!

Before writing her or other United Methodist officials, please pray for guidance to communicate Christ ’s love for His church, and your love for our church, in a winsome and loving manner that will be faithful, effective, and persuasive.


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