|Pro-Homosexuality West Coast Bishop
Delivers "New Age" Messsage at N. GA Conference
Cause for Concern (a little background information):
Frankly, I was concerned when I heard that Bishop Edward Paup had been invited to speak to the North Georgia Annual Conference. This concern came out of two exposures I had to information about what had been happening in this conference.
First was the awareness that Shalom Ministries, founded in July 1993, is an official ministry of the Metropolitan District of the Oregon-Idaho Conference of The United Methodist Church, and that at the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference of 1998, it was designated as a Conference Advance Special.
Shalom Ministries is self-identified as, " an outreach ministry of empowerment, education, and justice that serves lesbian, gay and bisexual people, people living on the social or economic edge, people who have been alienated from religion, and churches who want to welcome any of these people."
The Shalom ministry and newsletter was started by, what was understood to be, lesbian partners Jeanne Knepper and Alice Knots. In June of 1996, Alice left Jeanne to "begin a new life in Denver." The attached Shalom newsletters will disclose that this is a homosexual advocacy ministry. Articles clearly identify, among other things, Rev. Jeanne Kneppers participation in a covenant service for Erin and Kim, statements that the relationship between David and Jonathan was a homosexual one and a show of support for legislation in both civil and church law which supports the practice of homosexuality.
My second experience had to do with an encounter I had with a clergy couple who had left the Oregon-Idaho Conference because of the extreme opposition they received as evangelicals. The wife was already ordained in another conference, but the husband found it impossible to be ordained because of his theological positions, and had to leave the conference with hope of being ordained elsewhere. They shared horror stories of opposition in this conference to the evangelical witness and the rampant acceptance of homosexual practice. The wife pastored a church with a dynamic transforming ministry to homosexuals. However, when she raised the issue of such a ministry of change and transformation at the annual conference meeting, she was met with open hostility.
This occurred under the leadership of Bishop Paup, and Shalom Ministries has continued without any opposition from the bishop.
In light of this, I listened to Bishop Paups address on evangelism, endeavoring to discern what was said, what was implied and what was not said.
What was Said:
The bishop said that meeting is our destiny, and that among those we meet are the creatures who share this earth with us. He spent considerable time talking about our "encounter" with others.
He referenced Psalm 139 in Petersens translation.
He lifted up Bishop Desmund Tutus comment, "Everyone we meet is made in the image of God when we meet them, we should genuflect." Bishop Paup expanded from this to talking about seeing God in the eyes of those we encounter.
The bishop said when a person seems to be so different from us, it is not easy for us to see God in that person. We must be willing to meet and experience God in another one of Gods children.
He then talked of what it means to be a part of the Western Jurisdiction, sharing that he has perceptions of the southeastern area and we have perceptions of the western area. He said, "We have a wonderful challenge and opportunity to get past the challenge and perceptions that tear down the church and find things which unite us."
Bishop Paup requested our prayers and support for the Western Jurisdiction. He shared that less than 20% of Oregons population is affiliated with any church, and that there is a total United Methodist membership of only 450,000 in the entire Western Jurisdiction.
The bishop read from John 1 and encouraged the audience to move beyond our first impression and be open to encounter. He stated, "When we are willing to encounter, then we can experience that god within us.
He went on to say that our first impression when we encounter others is to change them. He used students who engage in violence as an example. He reminded us that we must be "ready to experience the god in that young person." Just "look into their eyes and love them." Say, "You never looked better." The bishop concluded that incidences like Littleton and others will not stop until we take the time to love our children and youth.
Bishop Paup then moved to Petersens translation of Romans 12. (This translation reads like a paraphrase and is very loose with the text. This passage particularly seemed to lose its focus and depth.)
From this passage he challenged the audience to, "love from the center of who you are." He asked, "What are we trying to tell the world?" "What kind of story are we willing to share-and are we willing to do it?"
What was Implied:
Bishop Edward Paup came as a representative of the Western Jurisdiction to the Southeastern Jurisdiction to break down our preconceived understanding of what is happening in that conference.
Bishops Tutus statement about genuflecting to the god within each other parallels the Hindu and radical feminist understanding of the "god within" each of us. At the 1993 Re-Imagining Conference participants were instructed to "bow to the god within each other." The bishops reference to meeting "the creatures who share this earth with us" makes one think of earth spirituality and the concept that the creatures are our siblings.
Those who differ, or believe differently, from us are to be accepted and we are to experience God within them and perceive them as Gods children.
It seemed to be implied that the things that divide us are inconsequential. We should just put them aside and live in harmony.
The Southeastern Jurisdiction should partner with the Western Jurisdiction to reach the unchurched in that region.
Again the implication is that we can "encounter" each other and "experience that god within us."
The implication regarding our response to youth is that if we just accept them as they are and love them, they will change.
To love from the "center of who you are" implies that we have the power to do that on our own and that our love is adequate for all situations.
What was Not Said:
The facts we know about what is happening within the Western Jurisdiction give us valid cause for concern. These facts were not dealt with at all.
We were not reminded that the Holy Spirit indwells believers who accept Jesus as Savior, but that we worship and bow only to the true and living God as revealed in Jesus Christ. Nor were we reminded that God is indeed immanent (near and within), but He is also transcendent (above and existing apart from His creation). In regard to the creatures of the earth, we were not reminded that humankind is unique from all of the other creatures, being formed in the image of God and imbued with an eternal soul.
The clarity was not given that we are certainly to love all people and see the image of God within each of them-but to also realize that not all are children of God. Jesus said, "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for Gods wrath remains on him." (John 3:36) In which case, we are to love and share Christ with those persons who do not know Christ as Savior and Lord. Nor was it stated that while there are some differences of belief which are arbitrary-there are others that are clearly defined in Scripture and essential to defining the Christian community.
It was not explained why evangelicals in the Southeastern Jurisdiction should partner with the Western Jurisdiction when evangelicals of that jurisdiction are so oppressed and those who advocate for homosexual practice are so strong. Nor were we told why we should lay aside our convictions and commitment to a high view of Scripture for the sake of a false unity.
While the bishop spoke of having "encounter" and thereby "experiencing that god within us," he failed to address the need for all of us to know Jesus Christ as our personal Savior and thereby experience the unity which comes naturally from being an integral part of His Body.
The bishop failed to point out that the Littleton situation showed clearly that the young people who truly knew Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior were the heroes of the day. They were willing to give their lives for Christ. They had experienced transformation-forgiveness of sin-not an acceptance and sanctioning of it. It would have been good if Bishop Paup had reminded us that, while we personally can not change young people, we do want God to transform their lives through the redemptive power of Jesus Christ. That will truly eliminate violence in the lives of young people, as several of those who died had testified.
Rather than tell us to "love from the center of who you are," how much better if the bishop had challenged us to let the love of Jesus Christ overflow from our hearts to others-to experience fully "the love of God which is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit."
With all due respect to the office of Bishop and to Bishop Edward Paup as an individual-I personally found his presentation filled with theological misdirection and lacking in integrity by failing to honestly address the serious differences between evangelicals and liberals within the United Methodist Church. His charismatic personality was winsome and his presentation smooth. However, it came across as a somewhat manipulative, empty rhetoric.
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