On July 18, I met with over a hundred pastors and leaders from across our denomination in Atlanta, GA. We worshipped, prayed, and talked together about where we stand at this time in the church and what our next step should be. The statement below came out if that discussion. I encourage you to read it, sign your name to endorse it, and share it with the members if your church. The bishops need to hear the voice if the church! Now is not the time for timidity or silence.
Click here to sign your name to endorse this important statement.
Integrity and Unity
We are United Methodists. We are sinners, saved by the grace of God in Jesus Christ, who have found a spiritual home in The United Methodist Church. We firmly believe in our Articles of Religion and Confession of Faith. We treasure our orthodox Wesleyan heritage. We value our polity and our connectionalism. We trust the process of holy conferencing and many of us have given decades of our lives to serving the church we love. We are grateful for those bishops who uphold our Discipline and covenant with faithfulness. And we have never wanted to be anything other than faithful United Methodists.
We are grieved that our church has been torn asunder by those who disregard the will of General Conference, who disobey the Book of Discipline, who reject holy conferencing as a means of discerning God’s will for his church, and who misuse the quadrilateral by elevating experience above Scripture and the teachings of the Church Universal. Sadly, many of those who are sowing discord and who are undermining our unity are pastors and bishops.
For more than 40 years, we have been willing to live with our differences and to converse about the issues that divide us. For more than 40 years, we have prayed for our church and for the unity that our Lord prayed for in John 17. For more than 40 years, we have stayed at the table, listening respectfully to those who differ with us. For more than 40 years, we have supported UM boards and agencies that have promoted policies that we have often disagreed with. For more than 40 years, we have witnessed church meetings, including the Connectional Table and several General Conferences, being disrupted and hijacked by those with a single-issue agenda — at times with the foreknowledge, blessing, and encouragement of some of our bishops.
We have witnessed an entire jurisdiction vote to disregard parts of the Discipline with which it disagrees. We have heard active bishops publicly declare their disagreement with our United Methodist positions, even encouraging governing authorities to adopt policies contrary to the will of General Conference. Many of us have served in annual conferences where our orthodox beliefs and our traditional views regarding sexuality are distorted and demeaned.
Despite all of this, we have remained in the church and in conversation with those who disagree with its teachings. We have persisted because, in spite of our differences, our bishops pledged to uphold the Book of Discipline. When pastors broke covenant, there was an agreed upon process for holding them accountable. However, we no longer have that assurance. Some of our bishops have already used their influence to circumvent the process of accountability outlined in the Discipline, and still others have said they would do likewise. And though these bishops have broken faith with the General Conference and the church, and though their actions undermine the integrity and the moral authority of the Council of Bishops, the council has not demanded they recant their statements or even give an explanation for their actions.
We respect our Council of Bishops’ desire to be signs of unity for the church. Their responsibilities also include “to teach and uphold the theological traditions of The United Methodist Church” (BOD ¶414.5). We believe that faithful leadership and teaching from our bishops is desperately needed at this time, particularly in matters related to same-sex practices. Therefore, we look to our bishops to exercise their spiritual and moral authority by teaching and upholding, at a corporate and individual level, our United Methodist doctrine of human sexuality as expressed in the Discipline.
We believe that the issue is not ultimately one of sexuality alone, but of covenant and governance. Therefore, we call upon our bishops at the close of their 2014 fall meeting to issue a public statement to restore the unity of the church and the integrity of our life together. We believe faithful expressions of this governance in keeping with the Discipline of The United Methodist Church would include:
The Council’s commitment to promote, defend and uphold the church’s biblical teaching that marriage is a sacred covenant between one man and one woman;
A commitment from all active bishops that they will fully enforce the Discipline with respect to those clergy members who disregard church teaching and choose to preside at same sex services;
A strongly worded directive to all annual conferences and jurisdictions not to circumvent the Discipline’s teachings regarding same sex services or the ordination of self-avowed practicing homosexuals;
A public statement noting that those bishops who have stated they will use their influence to prevent trials as a means of just resolution for clergy who preside at same sex services have been censured by the council; and,
A commitment from all bishops that when trials occur they will appoint as counsel for the church individuals fully supportive of the church’s teachings and the necessity for organizational accountability.
We have arrived at the moment when the future of our denomination is being determined. Our prayer is that the Council of Bishops will act to restore our covenant and make true unity possible.