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Faithful UM's Appeal Dismissal of Heresy Complaint — Head Bishop Says Restatement Of Heresy Is Accountability!

Dear Bishop Ough,

Through an informational meeting led by laypersons in our conference, we've become aware of the debate that's been raging behind the scenes within the UMC.  We must say that we were bewildered to learn that for some decades, UMC leaders, UM seminaries, and UM clergy have been in disagreement about actual meaning of the traditional creeds and denominational articles of faith.

We have become more informed as to the seriousness of the complaint against our own Bishop C. Joseph Sprague, and at the same time we now are told that our leadership has opted to dismiss the complaint in favor of open dialogue.  Although we don't understand how the leadership intends to restore accountability to the denomination through dialogue, we are at least encouraged by your swift attention to the complaint and your decision to speak to the whole church.

Please consider this letter from us as our way of urging you to begin, as well as conclude, the dialogue period just as quickly as you dismissed the complaint against Bishop Sprague. Along this line of thought, we intend to help those who are working toward opening up grass-root dialogue on this subject in neighboring UM churches.  We concur that the more educated the membership becomes on the subject of doctrinal integrity, the more quickly we can resolve this issue of 'progressive interpretation' that threatens the very existence of the institution of the United Methodist Church.

We will be joining others of like-minded literalists in an effort to inform other UM members in our area.  We will be stressing how God has made His word clear in the Bible, and how the great Christians who founded the Methodist and EUB Articles of Faith were certainly following God's Word.  We concur that the last thing the denomination needs is a 'radical interpretation' of The Word, who is the same yesterday, today and forevermore!

In the name of the truly Risen Lord Jesus,

Signed by 35 Individual Members

Cc: Tom Lambrecht
All UMC Bishops, US and International

[Under the letterhead of the West Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church, Bruce R. Ough, Resident Bishop, Karen M. Martin, Executive Secretary]

April 9, 2003

Individual Members
First United Methodist Church

Dear Members of First United Methodist Church:

Thank you for your recent correspondence regarding the complaints filed against Bishop C. Joseph Sprague.  I appreciate you taking time to express your thoughts.

A supervisory response team did recently dismiss the complaints.  In doing so, the team asked Bishop Sprague to issue a statement clarifying and reaffirming his adherence to the doctrinal standards of The United Methodist church.  He has done so.   This, the complaints were not summarily dismissed.  There was accountability.  When is the last time you recall a bishop being held accountable to publicly state his or her adherence to our doctrine?

I am taking the liberty to send you a copy of the supervisory response team's statement, as well as Bishop Sprague's reaffirmation of the doctrinal standards of the Church.  Comments in your letter led me to believe you were relying on media reports of this action rather than the original and complete documentation.

John Wesley gave great importance to his Articles of Religion and Confession of Faith.  They form the foundation of our “Methodist” theology.  But above all else, he advocated a “heart relation.”  Wesley came to understand that we are saved by grace, not by doctrine.  That is why we have historically lived with the tension of trying to balance doctrine (belief) and faith (as informed and shared by Scripture, tradition, experience, and reason).

This is not to excuse pastors or bishops from upholding the standard doctrines.  But it does explain why The United Methodist Church maintains that our theological task includes “testing, renewal, elaboration and application of our doctrinal perspective in carrying out our calling to “spread scriptural holiness over the lands’.”  (The Book of Discipline (2000), Page 75) Any serious attempt to live into this theological task will from time to time lead to statements that seem “to be at variance with established doctrines of the Church.  However, such tension does not imply that the basic and historic expressions of the doctrines are being denied or overturned.

Continue to pray for the unity of our Church, which can only be found in Christ Jesus.  May God bless you and your faithful witness for Jesus Christ.

Yours in Christ,

Bruce R. Ough, President
North Central Jurisdiction College of Bishops

Dictated by Bishop Ough, stamped in his absence/kmm

Enclosure  [Copy of Supervisory Response to Complaints Against Bishop C. Joseph Sprague and Bishop Sprague Statement]


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