DECLARATION

THE NORTHERN ILLINOIS DECLARATION

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ATTENTION ALL UNITED METHODISTS!

Note From The Author: Because of a recent Judicial Ruling, the Northern Illinois Conference can no longer refer to itself as a "Reconciling Conference". This fact would tend to lead one to believe that this document in now moot and should be removed. However, removing the name through council decree is not the same as a change of heart and therefore this document is still relevant to the issues of the day.

THE NORTHERN ILLINOIS DECLARATION

July 4, 1998

(Updated Version)

From time to time, issues arise in the church that challenge the fundamental identity of the Church of Jesus Christ and the Gospel which it proclaims. In our day, voices in the church announce "new revelations" from God, a "fresh wind of the Spirit," a "new understanding" of the faith. These voices are importing "worldly wisdom" into the church, while jettisoning historic Christian teachings and scriptural imperatives. "Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? (1 Corin 1:20) In attempting to make this "worldly wisdom" normative, there is now a move to give reason and experience power over the authority of scripture. In this regard, the church’s response to the issue of homosexuality now occasions this question: "Will the United Methodist Church confess, and be unified by, the apostolic faith in Jesus Christ; or will the United Methodist Church challenge the primacy of Scripture and justify the acceptance of beliefs incompatible with our Articles of Religion and Confession of Faith?"

In 1996 fifteen bishops took a public stand in expressing their dissatisfaction with the United Methodist Disciplinary stand that homosexual practice is "incompatible with Christian teaching." They declared that their personal convictions contradict the proscriptions in The Discipline. By taking such action, they have expressed open defiance of the very discipline they promised to defend. This stand constituted a breach of the covenantal relationship within the Council of Bishops and was an assault on the integrity of the church. The fact that it became public knowledge continues to be a source of division and conflict within our community of faith. It has also provided support and encouragement for others to take a public stand in defiance of The Discipline.

In June of 1986, the Northern Illinois Conference acted to become a "Reconciling Conference." "Reconciling" churches "affirm the participation of lesbians, gay men, their families and friends" in the life and ministry of the church. (Reconciling Congregations) Since 1984, the "Reconciling" movement has been at the forefront of those working for the church’s approval of the practice of homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle. "The Reconciling Congregation Program is a movement of churches and individuals who are working for the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people in our denomination." (Reconciling Congregations Home Page) They should be applauded for their recent decision to remove from their literature statements publicly promoting the right to perform covenant services for same-gender couples and the ordination of practicing homosexuals. However, it is extremely doubtful that those actions reflect a change of beliefs or agenda.

The issue is not the welcoming of all persons, including gays and lesbians into the church. Acts of violence, hatred, and denial of basic civil rights against gays and lesbians are to be deplored and opposed by all Christians. "All persons shall be eligible to attend the worship services [of the United Methodist Church], to participate in its programs, and, when they take the appropriate vows, to be admitted into its membership in any local church in the connection." (Discipline, Par.208) However, the "Reconciling" movement wants more than just the opportunity to sit in the church pews for worship and study. The "Reconciling" movement wants to change the message that the church preaches. Rather than a message of grace, forgiveness, healing, and holiness, the "Reconciling" movement wants to hear a message of endorsement and approval.

As a church, we are to be a "hospital for sinners and not a hotel for saints" and welcome everyone who wants to enter. However, while homosexual practice is no more or less a sin than any other that separates us from our God, both the Bible and the Discipline of our church clearly present such practice as a sin. We are "sinners saved by grace" and the remedy is the same for all. There must be repentance before there can be a restoration of fellowship with God and the possibility of being transformed by God’s grace. This has been the message of the church across the centuries. With Christ we say, "Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more."

Recent occurrences have forced us to take a public stand on this issue. This includes things such as: the trial and acquittal of Rev. Creech in Nebraska (an act which we view as an ecclesiastical form of jury nullification), public and brazen recruitment of clergy to sign public statements committing themselves to performing same-sex marriages in violation of the spirit and intent of the Discipline, and the use of very obvious and deceptive practices in promoting the ordination of "self avowed practicing homosexuals" under the disguise of "it isn’t necessarily so".

There now seems to be an attitude by those with whom we disagree that acceptance and approval of "self-avowed practicing homosexuals" within the United Methodist Church is simply a matter of time. An attitude that the combination of the strong public pressure for acceptance, discouraged evangelical leaders leaving the church, and apathy concerning the issue will prevail. It is for all these reasons that we believe it is imperative at this time to take a public stand on this issue.

Therefore, the undersigned members of the United Methodist Church make this declaration:

  1. We can no longer recognize or be bound in any way by the designation of the Northern Illinois Conference as a "Reconciling Conference".

  2. We cannot in good conscience support, either morally or financially, any ministry or program of the Northern Illinois Conference that "promotes the acceptance of homosexuality." (Discipline, Par. 906.12)

  3. We declare our support for "The Confessing Movement Within The United Methodist Church." Along with the Confessing Movement, "we confess that Jesus Christ is the Son, the Savior, and the Lord, according to the Scriptures... We will faithfully support United Methodist activities, groups, programs, and publications that further this confession and spread the Good News throughout the world in faithful obedience to the apostolic witness. We will vigorously challenge and hold accountable those that undermine this confession." ("A Confessional Statement")

  4. We endorse the ministries of "Transforming Congregations," a "ministry of transformation of homosexuals...based on loving compassion, Scripture, and The Discipline of the United Methodist Church." Transforming Ministries "affirm the Biblical witness that homosexual practice is a sin and that the power of the Holy Spirit is available to transform the life of the homosexual." In this spirit, we seek to "minister to persons struggling with homosexuality, their families, and all others affected by homosexuality as partners in Christ’s work of healing." (Transforming Congregations)

  5. We exhort United Methodist congregations, pastors, and laity to take a courageous stand on this issue and work to reverse this divisive course of action that is alienating many of our members.

  6. We commit ourselves to pray for our church and its leadership. We also commit ourselves to pray for scriptural reform and spiritual renewal of The United Methodist Church.

  7. We are eager to dialog with those who disagree with us. However, we cannot compromise the integrity of the church or the fundamental doctrine that "the Bible is the whole and sole rule both of Christian faith and practice." (John Wesley, Thoughts upon Methodism, 1786)

We welcome all who would join with us in this cause. Please return signed statements to: The Confessing Movement of the United Methodist Church, 1787 Middlebury Road, Ashton, Ill 61006

 

 

For more information write to The Confessing Movement within the United Methodist Church, 7995 East 21st Street, Indianapolis, Indiana 46219 Phone (317) 356-9729 FAX (317) 356-9742