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Where Do Your Apportionments Go?

by Michael Gonzalez


Well it's been over two years since Christ UMC in Memphis, TN publicized its internal investigation into the use of UMC funds with respect to UMC boards and agencies. Since Christ UMC's annual apportionments are consistently in the ballpark of a million dollars, the leadership of that church believed that good stewardship meant knowing what efforts its contributions funded.

Much to the chagrin of the church members on the task force of CUMC, a portion of the money provided to the UMC umbrella (by every UMC church in the denomination) is used for purposes that are generally divergent from the purposes of the church, in conflict with Scripture, and in conflict with the Book of Discipline. In addition, the UMC continues to hold huge sums of money on hand, while the world yearns to hear the Gospel, but doesn't because the UMC evangelization effort around the world continues to shrink.

With regard to influence of the boards and agencies, throughout the denomination, it appears that there is a feeling of helplessness on the part of membership (which is realistic), on the part of clergy (which is understandable), on the part of bishops (hard to understand), even on the part of the Council of Bishops (absolutely ludicrous)!

It's as if 99.9999% of the entire 8.1 million members of the UMC believe that it is beyond their control as to what the boards and agencies of the UMC do with their own money. How in the world has virtually the entire UMC resigned itself to its own helplessness as to the disposition of the members' own money?

As I become more informed on the structure of the UMC and the facts of what goes on in this denomination, I am more and more amazed. If the UMC were a person, we'd say that it is hopelessly schizophrenic--it professes one doctrine yet varied actions in complete divergence to the doctrine are rampant.

What is foremost troubling to me is how all of these actions against doctrine can be so well documented, and so well known among the LEADERSHIP of the UMC (although virtually completely UNknown by most pastors and nearly all of the membership), and yet the actions are regularly ignored and accepted as unchangeable. Even in the rare instances where the issues are brought to the quadrennial general conference, the legislative body of the UMC is reluctant to struggle with the facts and generally side-steps the heart of the problems.

Below are excepts from this 1998 report:

While it is believed a large portion of GBGM funding goes to worthy missional endeavors, it appears that the primary purpose of many groups that receive funding is not to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ but to promote their own political and social agendas. It would seem far too many recipients of Church funds have no explicit Christian witness whatsoever.

As the official lobbying group of the United Methodist Church, [the General Board of Church and Society] has the largest lobbying office operating on behalf of a denomination. Its offices are located in the United Methodist Building in Washington, D.C., across the street from The Capitol and the Supreme Court. The United Methodist Building contains over 50 staffers from the Board of Church and Society, the Women's Division and the Commission on Religion and Race. By comparison, the Southern Baptist Convention, which has twice our denomination's membership, has only 4 staffers at its Washington office.

In an article in Christian Social Action, the official magazine of GBCS, contributing editor John Swomley derided Promise Keepers as a "male backlash to equality for women." Swomley criticized the group for its adherence to "fundamentalist" beliefs such as "the second coming of Jesus to earth in power and glory." An example of the topics for its major articles includes "Religious Right Rediscovered: Coalitions of right-wing groups are still working hard to impose a narrow orthodoxy on American life." In the magazine, John Swomley wrote that conservative Christians are "opposed to separation of church and state, including the free exercise of religion as it applies to groups other than their own. They oppose equal rights for women, resist the right of personal and marital privacy, advocate censorship, and in general foster an atmosphere of hostility to various economic and civil rights." This is the magazine that supposedly represents all United Methodists.

The Women's Division is the primary provider of Christian educational materials for Methodist women. Authors who are on the Women's Division reading lists include Letty W. Russell, Chung Hyan Kyung and Rosemary Radford Ruether. A sampling of these women's beliefs are as follows:

1. Letty M. Russell - "The biblical witness continues to evoke my consent, even as I reject many of its teachings as well as its patriarchal context.... The Bible is especially dangerous if we call it 'the Word of God' and think that divine inspiration means that everything we read is right."

2. Chung Hyan Kyung - "Asian women theologians use the Bible as a reference...and not as an absolute unchangeable truth from God."

3. Rosemary Radford Ruether - "For while Christ has continually been upheld as the heart of the promise of Christianity, Christ is a major problem in feminist theology. That problem has been born of an unholy trinity, father-son-holy ghost."

 

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