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Conservative UM Confessing Movement Responds To Bishops: Pastors Should Be More Strict About Membership

The Confessing Movement Response to the Council of Bishops’ Pastoral Letter

The Judicial Council recently ruled on two issues, making clear our church’s position that practicing homosexual persons cannot be ordained in our church, and our conviction that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. The recent pastoral letter of the Council of Bishops responded to these rulings.

Though the Bishops’ letter did not question the validity of the Judicial Council ruling, they sent a confusing message about the pastor’s responsibility in determining who is to be admitted into the membership of the church. The tradition of Methodism has always made the determination of the membership in the local congregation the responsibility of the pastor. The Discipline of 1968 spelled that out clearly and has not significantly changed in United Methodism since. Nor has any of the Disciplines of the United Methodist Church since the 1968 merger have anything to say about pastors being accountable to Bishops, superintendents, and other clergy in matters of membership.

The truth is pastors have been too lenient, not too stringent, in the requirements of membership. To deny someone membership in the church is not to withhold the ministry of the church from them. If we truly believe that all persons are of sacred worth, then ministering to them means seeking to save them from destructive behavior and sinful practice.

Making disciples, which is the mission of our church, requires that we extend the message of salvation universally. It also means our congregations are people “going on to salvation,” spiritually and morally disciplined seeking always not to be conformed to the world but transformed.

The pastoral letter sent a confusing message, thus we feel the Bishops are contributing not to our unity but to disunity. When will we hear a clear word from our Bishops speaking with one voice, upholding the doctrine and discipline of our church?


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