Response to the New England Declaration 2000
At the Annual Conference Session in June a document was presented that has caused a lot of conflict within the conference and grief to our spirits. This letter is in response to that Declaration.We, too, believe that as Christians, we are called to embody Gods love (as manifested by Jesus Christ) in the world and to extend Gods welcoming love to all. However, we differ greatly in what we believe that means and how that is accomplished. It seems that care and sensitivity for the feelings of others and desire to please has been substituted for Gods love. Gods love for us is communicated in the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus death on the cross. Thats serious business, its about life and death, not what feels good. Jesus gave His life to free us from sin, reconcile us to God, and give us eternal life. As Christians, we have journeyed through the cross to the throne of God, we have experienced His love and are responsible to share that with others and show them the way to experience it for themselves. When Jesus dealt with the woman caught in adultery, Gods love was expressed as "...neither do I condemn you." "Go now and leave your life of sin." Gods love takes people where they are; leads them away from their sin into a relationship with God and the promise of eternal life.
We serve the Almighty God who sees the affliction of the oppressed, who hears their cry, who knows their sorrows, and who comes to deliver them - and we are grieved when those who claim to serve such a God - deny the deliverance He offers to those whose cry He has heard.
Because we know that: God is a just God but in His love for us, He desires that none should perish; Jesus is the only way to that salvation and He has the power to change lives today; through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can live a life pleasing to God; the Word of God has authority over Christian living and the Book of Discipline is the rule of the church, subject only to the Word of God, we cannot stand idly by and watch people being misled, in the name of Christ.
We affirm the sincere concern of those whose purpose for signing the New England Declaration is that the homosexual community might feel loved and welcomed in the church so that they will have the opportunity to hear the Gospel and come to know the Lord of Life.
We affirm the desire of people in the homosexual community to be reconciled by the church. But the church has misled them by allowing them to think that is synonymous with what they truly desire - reconciliation with God.We are all subject, as human beings, to the temptations of life that cause us to succumb to our desires for things that we know in our hearts are wrong and self-destructive. Sexual immorality is but one of those desires, we all stand in need of reconciliation. True reconciliation only comes about when we recognize our weakness, desire to change and then accept Jesus sacrifice that we might be forgiven and reunited with God. It is only when we have allowed Jesus Christ to be first in our lives that true change - transformation - takes place, and we experience reconciliation with God and peace in our hearts.
We affirm the statement in the Book of Disciplinethat "the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching" and because we believe that to be true...
We affirm the statement in the Book of Discipline which forbids the performance of same-sex unions by our pastors and in our churches. We will not be a party to misleading people regarding the grace and mercy of God and condoning the celebration of sinin the church.
We affirm the statement in the Book of Discipline which forbids the ordination and appointment of self-avowed, practicing homosexuals. Our pastors are seen as Gods representatives, as those who best know God. When we allow weaknesses to be exalted, sin to be promoted, we do a serious disservice to to those we are called to serve. Jesus said when a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into the pit. Allowing persons who refuse to deal with these weaknesses in themselves to lead others in the church will lead us all into the pit. Our pastors should be the best examples of Christian Discipleship in the church, human but striving for perfection, (as they all vow in the ordination process) not changing church policy to allow for their weaknesses.
We affirm the statement in the Book of Discipline that requires our pastors to maintain fidelity in marriage and celibacy in singleness.
We stand in opposition to Bishops, District Superintendents, and those in positions of authority in our church, who choose not to enforce the Disciplinary mandates and especially those who chose to ignore the fact that some of the pastors they appoint make no effort to disguise that they are practicing homosexuals.They close their eyes & ears so that they dont see or hear the "self- avowed" part and therefore knowingly appoint pastors who are actively and intentionally disobedient to the Book of Discipline and the Word of God. (According to the Book of Discipline, a self-avowed practicing homosexual is one who openly acknowledges to a Bishop, a District Superintendent, the District Committee on Ordained Ministry, the Board of Ordained Ministry or clergy session that the person is a practicing homosexual) By their weak response or inaction, they have violated the essence of the Discipline that they vow to uphold. Our churches are paying the price for their failure and they need to be held accountable.
The church has a mandate from God to lead people to Jesus Christ - that is our sole purpose for existing. In the process of doing that, we are called to prepare their hearts by serving and meeting their needs. We have done a grave disservice to the very people we have been called to serve and lead out of captivity when we try to convince them that its good to be in captivity and that God designed it that way. Shame on you who repent of racism and cry out loudly against sexism only to keep homosexuals in a different kind of slavery, slavery to sin.
We take our stand withJesus Who said He was sent "to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed." (Luke 4:18b) and with Moses when he stood up to Pharaoh, as directed by God, and said, "Let My People Go!"
Please send copies to: Cross Currents, United Methodist Office, P.O. Box 249, Lawrence, MA 01842-0449