New Jersey Methodists Speak Up for the Confessing Movement and Stand Up for Apostolic Faith
To the Editor [RELAY, NJ's Methodist newspaper]: 2/8/99
As concerned laypersons, we were surprised and dismayed by your editorializing of the article New Confessing Association Formed in New Jersey Area in the February issue of RELAY.
We write to express our strong support of the recently formed New Jersey Association of Confessing United Methodists. This group, doctrinally speaking, certainly represents the viewpoint of the majority of United Methodists and is not about politics or schism as implied in your article. The Confessing Movement is following Judes instruction of contending for the faith by encouraging United Methodists to re-focus our attention on our doctrinal heritage and the authority of Scripture that we believe are critical to the long term health of United Methodism.
That United Methodism is going adrift doctrinally is demonstrated by a number of Bishops and clergy as well as by some of our national boards and agencies, now embracing radical liberal theological positions and exhibiting a reluctance to adhere to the basic doctrines of the Christian faith. The apparent emphasis on a diverse, inclusive social gospel seems to have eclipsed the need to preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
Among our concerns are our seminaries and the steady erosion there of the authority of scripture and the evangelical viewpoint; the serious decline of the number of missionaries in the field; partial birth abortion and anti-parental notification support through RCRC (Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice); radical and unchallenged theological utterances by Reimagining conferences and others that do damage to the body Our attention now, however, is focused on what has become the flag issue (homosexual unions) in The United Methodist Church. We make the following observation: Our churchs desire to be inclusive has led to the failure to apply needed discipline to clergy who have been guilty of violating doctrinal standards and church law. This failure is strong evidence of the disdain of some of our church leaders for the concerns being expressed by the majority of persons in the pews.
An example of this dearth of leadership is illustrated in the most recent of the ever escalating challenges to United Methodist law and unity. On Saturday , January 16, 1999, in Sacramento, California, before 1000 guests and assisted by more than 80 other recruited United Methodist pastors, Rev. Donald Fado performed a ceremony of same sex union for a lesbian couple who, it turns out, had lived together for 14 years and had held a private ceremony years before. A public relations effort was launched to insure maximum media coverage and to send an in your face message to the rest of us United Methodists. Earlier, Rev. Gregory Dell of Chicago, openly conducted a same sex ceremony for two gay men in open defiance of the judicial councils ruling only weeks before. Both of these incidents are clear and blatant violations of Church law. Are the Bishops going to back the decisions made in Lincoln? Can we expect Church trials and ecclesial justice to be done? Well, maybe.
Bishops Sprague and Talbert are, however, both sympathetic to the actions taken by these law breaking pastors over whom they have supervisory responsibility. Will jury selection for the upcoming trials be orchestrated by the Bishops, and if so does this not call into question the basic fairness of the process? The trials should be held without delay, and the pastors should be disciplined or removed from ministry in the United Methodist Church. To condone homosexual practice undermines the authority of Scripture, rejects the healing power of the word of God, and subverts over 5000 years of Judeo- Christian belief and practice.
In spite of this we confessing United Methodists who seek renewal in the church have no sympathy or agreement with demonstrators who express hatred toward persons who practice homosexuality. God loves all persons. While we oppose homosexual behavior, we believe fervently that our Church must reach out with the love of Christ to those who condone and/or practice that lifestyle. We definitely should welcome them into the church,as we should all sinners. We should minister to them, but we should not unite them in marriage. Those advancing the pro-gay agenda are a very vocal but small minority. Only 360 pastors out of a total of 53,600 are on record as supporting the performance of same sex ceremonies. This small (less than 1%) group, however, is causing irreparable damage to local congregations around the country and may be strongly contributing to our steady net loss of church members, estimated at 250 persons per day. (What is the plan of those who oppose the Confessing Movement to staunch this exodus?) Perhaps these pastors would be more comfortable in another denomination which is more sympathetic with their viewpoint. If so, this could be done through a process of amicable separation. Then we could lay this issue to rest and focus our energies on more productive gospel proclaiming / healing pursuits.
Closer to home, North Jerseys recent petition to General Conference to change the language in the Discipline which essentially renders homosexual behavior as normative, acceptable Christian behavior, was a stunning revelation to many United Methodists in the South. This action has been countered by several local churches in southern New Jersey who have passed resolutions urging the General Conference NOT to change the language. Clearly, the Church needs strong leadership at this critical time, leadership that will act to stop the defiant behavior of a small vocal minority set on redefining and destroying United Methodism. We urge our Bishops, District Superintendents and Pastors to speak out.
The Confessing Movement of the Church is trying to take a leadership role by redirecting us back to the basic apostolic faith articulated so well by John Wesley, our Articles of Religion and our historic doctrines. We invite any laymember or clergy of the Northern or Southern New Jersey Annual Conferences who share our concerns to join the NJ Association of Confessing United Methodists.
Please contact us:
Bill Plumb (609) 234-7546 firstname.lastname@example.org
Bill McMahon (908) 284-0255 email@example.com.
Cindy Arndt, Flemington UMC
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