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Virgina Bishop Bashes Falwell While Overlooking His Own

Bishop Sharon Christopher isn't the only Bishop to Criticize Jerry Falwell. I would like to share a letter I sent Bishop Joe Pennel, Jr. of Virginia. It is self-explanatory. Our Bishops appear to be more concerned with Brother Falwell than their own back yards.

February 26, 1999

Bishop Joe E. Pennel, Jr.
4016 West Broad Street
Richmond, Virginia 23230

Dear Bishop Pennel:

I have questions concerning the "Response to Same-Sex Unions" published in the Feb. 1st issue of The Virginia United Methodist Advocate. Considering your position and the access you may have to other information, I am hoping you will be able to clarify what lead you and the Cabinet to making the decision expressed.

I realize there are issues that must be addressed solely within an individual conference's jurisdiction — but considering what we know about this situation - its broad-reaching effects, I am disturbed that there is no bolder or direct response from your office and the Cabinet. I do wish to understand the rationale behind the decision that "the celebrated union must be addressed within that conference" to the exclusion of any expressed sentiment regarding the union itself or those who so willingly violated church law.

First: How do we reach the conclusion that this is an issue to be addressed only by the California/Nevada Conference when the United Methodist News Service reported that "more than 150 clergy" from across our nation conveyed the church's blessing on an unholy union?

Secondly: When does "connectionalism" apply if it is not applicable to the disturbing trends which are flourishing and causing discord throughout all United Methodism?

Thirdly: Can we amputate ourselves from any battle afflicting the Body of Christ because sin/rebelliousness (contempt & disrespect for the Word of God and The Discipline) is difficult or hard to deal with?

John Wesley said (Sermon on The Duty of Reproving Our Neighbor) ". . .I have now only a few words to add unto you, my brethren, who are vulgarly called ‘Methodists'. I never heard or read of any considerable revival of religion which was not attended with a spirit of reproving. Thus it was in every part of England when the present revival of religion began about fifty years ago. All the subjects of that revival, -- all the Methodists . . .were reprovers of outward sin. Rich or poor, let us all arise as one man; and in any wise let every man ‘rebuke his neighbor, and not suffer sin upon him!'"

Wesley also said (in the same sermon) ". . .if we refrain from performing this office of love to any, . . . they may persist in their iniquity, but their blood will God require of our hands."

Could not our leaders' "Response to Same-Sex Unions" have contained a serious, direct, and earnestly loving word of reproof for those in rebellion — yea, so that "God shall bless us, and all the ends of the world shall fear Him?" Sadly, many see this to be the one thing lacking in nearly every discourse concerning the matter -- and yet the one thing sorely needed. Do you not agree?

I would at this time broach your Ponderings column which appeared in the following issue of The Advocate (2/22/99) wherein the opinions of another Christian believer warranted a great deal of your time. I will share it with you in brief. I have taken it from Rev. Jerry Falwell's press statement on the Internet .

"When I delivered my sermon on the second coming of Jesus Christ last week to a pastor's conference in Kingsport, Tenn., I conveyed biblically-based truths that I have believed and preached nationally for more than 40 years. Since Jesus came to the earth the first time 2,000 years ago as a Jewish male, many evangelicals believe the Antichrist will, by necessity, be a Jewish male. This belief is 2,000 years old and has no anti-Semitic roots. This is simply historic and prophetic orthodox Christian doctrine that many theologians, Christian and non- Christian, have understood for two milliennia."

"At the outset it should be noted that there is honest disagreement among evangelical Christians in regards to the background of the Antichrist. In essence, there are three views:

  1. The Antichrist is not a real person at all, but an evil system.
  2. The Antichrist is a real person and will be a gentile.
  3. The Antichrist is a real person and will be Jewish.

"Of course, no one can be absolutely dogmatic in this matter, but I personally feel (and have publically stated) that the third view has more scriptural support than the previous two.

"There are (at least) three scriptural passages that lead me to believe the Antichrist may be Jewish:

"Ezekiel 21:25 - "And thou, profane wicked prince of Israel, whose day is come when iniquity shall have an end."

"Daniel 11:37 - "Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers. . ."

"John 5:43 - "I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not; if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive."

"The church fathers generally believed in a personal Antichrist. In fact, one of the most famous, John Chrysostom (347 - 407 A.D.) held that the Antichrist would be a Jewish dictator from the tribe of Dan, based on the following:

"Gen. 49:17 Jacob's prophecy upon his son Dan: "Dan shall be a serpant by the way, an adder in the path, that biteth the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward."

"Jeremiah 8:16,17 Jeremiah's prophecy concerning the tribulation: "The snorting of his horses was heard from Dan; the whole land trembled at the sound. . . For they are come, and have devoured the land, and all that is in it; the city, and those that dwell therein. For behold I will send serpents, cockatrices among you, which will not be charmed and they shall bite you, saith theLord."

"Revelation 7 The tribe of Dan is omitted from the list in Revelation 7. This chapter records the tribal identity of the 144,000 Hebrew evangelists who will be saved and called to special service during the tribulation.

"Let me briefly summarize:

* This view is not novel or new. It is not without biblical support. It is not anti-semitic.

"Since I delivered this Kingsport message, some have felt that my comment expressing my opinion that the Antichrist will be Jewish could possibly be construed as anti-Semitic. I did not intend for my sincere belief on this issue to cause any pain to anyone, Jewish or otherwise. I am strongly pro-Jewish and pro-Israel. My statement was not dogmatic since no one can be certain of the identity of the Antichrist. If I had known the statement would be publicized and misconstrued, I would never have made it. I have earlier apologized to any persons who were offended thereby, and I restate that apology now."

Bishop Pennel, in light of the article you wrote concerning Rev. Falwell's comments, it would serve you to know a number of United Methodist Evangelicals are of the same opinion as Rev. Falwell, and I myself have been taught that viewpoint by United Methodist pastors. I believe your assertion that Rev. Falwell is "sincerely wrong" is self-ingratiating in light of the fact you fail to offer any concrete evidence to support your view point. As Pastor Falwell states the notion that the Antichrist could be Jewish is many years old, without anti-Semitic roots, and it is one of three viewpoints common today.

In light of the brevity of your response to the rebelliousness within our own denomination, I found your lengthy criticism and reproof of Rev. Jerry Falwell interesting. The mere opinion of another Christian believer warranted your entire column and yet your official statement concerning same-sex unions was without one single word of reproof for the clergy involved in breaking church law.

Fourthly: Given your position, high leader over shepherds and sheep in the Virginia Conference would it not have been in the best interest of Christ and His Church to have placed reproof where it is needed the most?

I believe if you had contacted Pastor Falwell prior to writing your column, and if you still felt the need to express your point of view on the matter, you might have expressed yourself more graciously and you could have as well indicated your view to be one of three common interpretations held in this day and age, and have enlightened many of Rev. Falwell's apology. It is troubling to me as a layperson that leadership can be so dogmatic and quick to respond to an area that is truly left up to personal interpretation, but so silent in areas that are clear and even specifically defined by church law. Please forgive me for the time I have taken to express these things to you. I do hope you accept this letter in the spirit I am sending it. You are in my thoughts and prayers often.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Judy C. Rominger

I received a letter dated March 4th, from the Bishop's Administrative Secretary stating, "This is to acknowledge receipt of your letter on February 26 to Bishop Pennel related to questions you have about two different articles you have read in the Advocate that were written by Bishop Pennel. He is out of the office until the middle of March attending two general church meetings. When he returns to the office, I will be certain that he gets the information contained in your letter. Thank you for taking the time to write and for the thought and research that went into your letter."

I have no doubt Bishop Pennel received my letter. I do wonder though why he has not cared to respond. Since this is May 1st, I don't presume he ever will.

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