Magazine Accuses UMC of Hate Crimes For Opposing Homosexuality
|February 26, 1999
AN OPEN LETTER
Womens Division, GBGM
Joyce D. Sohl, Deputy General Secretary, Womens Division
Dana E. Jones, Editor, Response Magazine
|FROM:||L. Faye Short, President, RENEW Network|
|SUBJECT:||February Issue Response Magazine|
|I have received and
read the February issue of Response magazine
dedicated to the topic When We Hate. While this is a legitimate area of concern for
United Methodist Women to address, an astonishing deduction is interwoven within several
of the articles and is the main topic of others. An illogical and erroneous leap is made
from legitimate hate crime concerns to accusations that many Christian organizations, and,
yes, even churches, are instigators of hate and hate crimes.
We know that hate and cruelty, indeed sin, exists in this world. It is right to decry brutality such as that exhibited by those who killed James Byrd and Matthew Shepard. Perpetrators of these and other such crimes should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, and everything possible should be done to deter such brutal acts of violence on the part of individuals or groups. But to put Promise Keepers, Dr. James Dobson and the Church of Jesus Christ in the same camp with those who hate and kill is an incredible accusation-it is unconscionable.
The kind of rhetoric used in the February issue of Response against Christian organizations and against the Churchs stand on homosexual practice sends the message that it is homophobic and promoting of hate crimes for Christians to say: homosexual practice is sinful and homosexuals can change. This flies in the face of the vote at the last four General Conferences to retain in the United Methodist Book of Discipline the statement that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching, and the statement that denies the ordination of practicing homosexuals.
What we are seeing is the use of the official United Methodist Womens magazine to discredit the commitment of the church to the biblical standard on the issue of homosexuality. Response is being subsidized significantly beyond subscription income with organization funds. (According to 1997 records, Response subscription income was $522,000 versus expenditures of $1.3 million, which included salaries and benefits in the amount of $416,000.) United Methodist Women are paying for the production of Response both through their gifts and their subscriptions. In the case of this issue, they are paying to subsidize opposition to their churchs official position on homosexual practice and to speak against other Christian organizations seeking to uphold the biblical standard through a public witness.
This is not the only time Response magazine and other UMW resources have been used to promote a position taken by the Womens Division in behalf of the women of the church. While this issue of the magazine maligns the political activism of other religious groups (identified as the "religious right"), no mention is made of the Womens Divisions own well-documented partisan political involvement on Capitol Hill. Perhaps we must ask, "Can the Womens Division be trusted to rightly portray the conscience of United Methodist women through its publications and actions?"
The majority of women within the United Methodist Church would concur that Scripture conveys a standard of moral and ethical practice applicable to us all as we live out our Christian lives. We are called away from a life of sin into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. And, we fully recognize that we have been called to share this ministry of reconciliation with the world. Sharing Christ and calling people to Gods standard is not an act of hate-it is the deepest act of love we can offer.
I appeal to the elected Directors of the Womens Division to address the serious nature of the accusations made in the February issue of Response magazine against Focus on the Family, Promise Keepers and other Christian organizations who supported the "Truth in Love" campaign. The attack on the good character of these organizations in this issue of Response is so offensive that a retraction and apology would be in order.
I also appeal to the Womens Division staff, the directors and the staff of Response to remove from its campaign against hate crimes any implication that to bear faithful witness to the Churchs stance on homosexual practice is part of a rhetoric of hate. The Womens Division has voiced its acceptance of the will of General Conference as outlined in the Book of Discipline and the Book of Resolutions. Any programs or campaigns it promotes should therefore uphold, not call into question, Church law.
I appeal to you all to faithfully represent the women of the United Methodist Church who empower your ability to act by their gifts and their trust in you.
Be humbly worthy of that trust.
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