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Southern UM Bishop Lindsey Davis Says UM Homofest, "OK"   Keep Sending In Those Dollars

 From: TransCong@aol.com [mailto:TransCong@aol.com]
Sent: Thursday, September 08, 2005 8:34 AM
To: jwarrene@ucmpage.org
Subject: Junaluska "Hearts on Fire" reports

Hi John,

I'm working on a report and commentary about our breakfast and the Hearts on Fire fallout. You could also refer readers to the personal blog of one of our Board members, Terrence Toon, who attended as a participant. It's at http://www.westgatechurch.org/forum

John Lomperis has his report up on the IRD website, but as media he was not permitted to attend workshops and small group gatherings.

Thought you'd also be interested in this email that Bishop Lindsey Davis sent to cabinet and pastors in the North Georgia Annual Conference.

Blessings ... Karen

Subject: "Hearts on Fire" conference
Bishop Davis writes-

"Since so many of you continue to receive comments from clergy and laity in your districts concerning the "Hearts on Fire" Conference at Lake Junaluska, I want to share some information which I hope you will find helpful.

1. This event does not violate The Discipline of the United Methodist Church. The Discipline does not prohibit such a group from meeting on United Methodist property. The Discipline simply insures that no United Methodist funds shall be used by any gay caucus or group or otherwise used to promote the acceptance of homosexuality. The "Hearts on Fire" conference is not the recipient of any Church funds. The General Council on Finance and Administration has sent a memo prohibiting the reimbursement of expenses of Church officials, including Bishops, who participate in this event.

2. The scheduling of this event was discussed by Rev. Jimmy Carr with the Executive Committee of SEJAC over a year ago when the initial contract for the rental of the space was completed. It was the judgment of the Executive Committee that we ought to be gracious in our treatment of this group as we have been with other caucus groups in the past. The Discipline in paragraph 161 says that "we commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons". We interpreted this section of the Discipline to mean that we should exercise the fruits of the spirit especially love, goodness and gentleness with these persons. It is very easy to be hospitable to groups with whom we happen to agree. It is quite another challenge to be gracious to groups that foster a point of view that is so different from our own.

We made the decision to be gracious; we were reluctant to refuse the group knowing that such a decision would be seen as a sign of inhospitality, homophobia, and the fear of conversation and dissent by Southern United Methodists. This debate should not be framed around issues of hospitality. Our differences are clearly theological and that should be the basis of our conversation on these matters.

3. One of the broader questions has to do with how we deal with controversy and dissent within the life of the Church. The issue of homosexuality has been very divisive in our denomination and other mainline Protestant communities for several decades. I have no doubt that this controversy will continue, but the broader question is, how will we deal with it? I also believe that the Church needs to provide a place for debate and expressions of perspective on these controversial issues. Our Church has always been a place where people could freely speak their mind and seek the discerning wisdom of God. I'm not fearful of such a discussion, nor am I fearful of providing space for such discussions to take place.

4. Let me simply caution all of us against over-reaction. There are a variety of groups within the life of our Church that love to take advantage of these kinds of situations. There are persons in our Church that have become single-issue individuals. I expect all of us to engage in these conversations in a spirit of mutual respect and love for one another. We do not have to agree on the broader issue of homosexuality, nor do we have to agree on the decision to allow the "Hearts on Fire" conference to take place at Lake Junaluska. However, we do have a high calling from God to be involved in making disciples for the transformation of the world. To devote enormous amounts of time to conversation about this event distracts us from our primary purpose. I appeal to you to help our people keep all of these issues in proper perspective.

5. There are some individuals in churches who are talking about withholding apportionment money from Lake Junaluska because of this event. I believe to make such a decision is a tremendous over-reaction and does nothing to build the Kingdom of God. I hope you would encourage your people not to be so unwise as to "throw the baby out with the bath water". There are individuals within the life of our Church that would use controversies like this one to more widely divide our Church - I do not believe such actions are consistent with God's vision for our future. Exercise mature leadership and seek to be a non-anxious presence in the midst of controversy.

In Christ,


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