Category : Other Denominations

A Forward in Faith Statement on the Anglican-Methodist Proposals

In our own February 2018 statement, we noted questions about whether the proposals would lead to unity, and whether the office of ‘President-bishop’ (to be held for one year only) could be recognized as a ‘local adaption’ of the historic episcopate of the catholic Church. We are grateful to note some progress with regard to the question of unity, but our question as to whether what is proposed is in fact episcopacy remains.

Our third and greatest concern was about the proposal to set aside the requirement that those who minister as priests in the Church of England should have been episcopally ordained to the office of priest. In response to this concern, which was shared by others, the General Synod asked the Faith and Order Commission to ‘explore and elucidate further the relationship between episcopal ordination and eucharistic presidency’. That the Commission has not attempted to offer such an elucidation is a deep disappointment.

The requirement of episcopal ordination was fundamental to the 1662 settlement, which is in turn fundamental to Anglican identity. The Preface to the 1662 Ordinal makes clear that this requirement is a matter of doctrine. If this doctrine is set aside for a ‘temporary’ period that could last for sixty or seventy years, as is proposed, it will effectively have been abandoned. If a central tenet of Anglican doctrine can be abandoned in this way, what other tenets of Anglican doctrine might follow?

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Ecumenical Relations, Methodist

(UMNS) In-Sook Hwang on the Way forward for United Methodists

We wait for people to fill our pews. We say, “Our doors are open. We welcome you. We are friendly people IF you look and act like us. We accept you IF you agree with us about what to believe and how to live.” We have forgotten how Jesus reached out to people. He walked in towns and along seashores and visited people in their homes. Jesus ate with sinners, touched the untouchable and healed the sick. We also have forgotten how John Wesley reached out to people. He came out of the church building and became a walking church in the middle of fields where poor and marginalized people were.

Just as Jesus Christ was the bridge between God and all humanity through his incarnated life, the church’s role is to connect God and people. It takes risks, sacrifice and empowerment of the Holy Spirit to break down walls and barriers and to build bridges.

Inclusion is easy to talk about, but hard to practice.

Read it all.

Posted in Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

(UMNS) Stephen Mannion on the Way forward for United Methodists

Here is what I want to communicate to the reader: This denomination needs to unite! We unite, as United Methodists, around the Book of Discipline. That is what sets us apart as a denomination. I have never seen a denomination completely disregard their defining document to the extent I have seen in my short stint as a United Methodist. “A house divided against itself cannot stand” (Mark 3:25).

A relativistic, obey-it-if-you-like-it treatment of a denomination’s defining document leads to nothing but chaos. As someone who was reared Lutheran, was Roman Catholic, attended a Presbyterian seminary, was licensed with the Church of the Nazarene and ordained in a non-denominational setting, I have never seen such disregard toward a governing document, and such a lack of respect for the lawmaking body elected and charged to form that document. This is why we are in this position now.

This is my advice, for what it’s worth: United Methodists must decide who we are and begin to consistently uphold and enforce it. To do so is not unloving or ungracious, but orderly and consistent. The denomination went too long passively upholding its foundation of unity, and is now a hot mess.

My first impressions of The United Methodist Church: It is one dysfunctional family. But there is hope. God will have the victory! Praise be to God! His mercy endures forever! The gates of hell will not prevail against His Church!

Read it all.

Posted in Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

An NPR article on United Methodists and the Future

Many of the U.S. meetings were marked by sharp exchanges between progressive and conservative delegates, with presiding bishops trying in vain to keep the discourse civil.

“I beg of you, listen with open minds,” implored Bishop LaTrelle Easterling on the opening day of the Baltimore-Washington conference, as she convened a session on the divisive issues facing her Methodist family.

Before long, however, the deep disagreements over LGBT issues became clear. Rev. Kevin Baker of Olney, Maryland, representing the “traditional” UMC view on marriage and sexuality, objected to the suggestion that the church’s position means it does not welcome LGBT people. “The narrative that I know is that we want all people here,” Baker said, “but that we see that God calls us out of behaviors that are not in line with his words.”

A few feet away, Rev. Michele Johns of Silver Spring, Maryland, identifying herself as Queer, grew visibly upset at the suggestion that God does not approve of her behavior.

“I don’t know how much more I can bear listening to hate,” she said. “I don’t believe God hates me. I believe there are those in the Methodist church who do. And I feel it. Right now, I feel it.”

Read it all.

Posted in Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

Pope Francis: Church of Acts a paradigm for every Christian community

In the Acts of the Apostles, we see the early Christians listening to the apostolic preaching, practicing “a high quality of interpersonal relationships through communion of spiritual and material goods”, remembering the Lord in the celebration of the Eucharist, and dialoguing with God in prayer.

The communitarian dimension of the Christian community stands in marked contrast to the individualism of the world, the Pope said. Through the grace of Baptism, Christians were able to share what they had – not only the word of God, but also material goods – with their brothers and sisters in need. It is precisely because of “the way of communion” and concern for the needy that the Christian community “can live an authentic liturgical life,” the Pope explained.

Finally, the Pope said, the story of the early Church reminds us “that the Lord guarantees the growth of the community.” Remaining united to God and to one another is an “attractive force that fascinates and conquers many”.

Read it all.

Posted in Pope Francis, Roman Catholic, Theology: Scripture

(Vatican News) Vatican document on gender: Yes to dialogue, no to ideology

The third main section of the document offers the proposal that comes from Christian anthropology. “This is the fulcrum on which to support” an integral ecology of man. The document recalls the verse from Genesis, “male and female He created them”. It argues that human nature is to be understood in light of the unity of body and soul, in which the “horizontal dimension” of “interpersonal communion” is integrated with the “vertical dimension” of communion with God.

Turning to education, the document stresses the primary rights and duties of parents with regard to the education of their children — rights and duties which cannot be delegated or usurped by others. It also notes that children have the right to a mother and a father, and that it is within the family that children can learn to recognise the beauty of sexual difference.

Schools, for their part, are called to engage with the family in a subsidiary way, and to dialogue with parents, respecting also the family’s culture. It is necessary, the document says, to rebuild an “alliance” between family, schools, and society, which can “produce educational programmes on affectivity and sexuality that respect each person’s own stage of maturity regarding these areas and at the same time promote respect for the body of the other person.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sexuality, Theology

(LC) Will debate over embracing a New Sexual Ethic Affect Episcopal-Methodist Communion?

Nearly a century of ecumenical dialogue between Episcopalians and Methodists is approaching a crossroad. In May, United Methodist bishops cleared the way for a 2020 General Conference vote on a full communion agreement that would allow the two churches to share clergy. If the Methodists approve the proposal, the Episcopal Church could take it up at General Convention in 2021.

But the proposal faces new obstacles in the wake of the Methodists’ bitterly contested Special Conference in St. Louis in late February. At that meeting, the UMC reaffirmed its stance barring “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” from ordained ministry and toughened sanctions for clergy who officiate at same-sex weddings.

Some now worry full communion could become a casualty of tense, politically charged times in churches at risk of breaking apart. But others say it is time to keep building on ecumenical momentum and not let sexuality debates interfere with a larger witness.

“There will have to be a great educational plan for people to understand it and to not let the one discussion derail the other discussion,” said Bishop Gregory Palmer, cochair of the Episcopal Church–United Methodist Dialogue Committee, which moved full communion forward at an April meeting in Austin.

Read it all.

Posted in Ecumenical Relations, Ethics / Moral Theology, Methodist, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

([London] Times) Pope Francis is interviewed by the Archbishop of Canterbury

A groundbreaking video message by the Pope has been recorded by the Archbishop of Canterbury on his personal mobile phone during private talks in the Vatican.

It is the first time an Anglican archbishop has interviewed a pope, and marks an extraordinary warming of relations between the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches as well as the personal friendship between the two church leaders, who have met five times. In the video, to be broadcast to a rally of Christians in Trafalgar Square next month, the Pope expresses his support for a campaign, launched four years ago by the Most Rev Justin Welby and John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, to mark the 11 days between Ascension Day and Pentecost as a time of intensive prayer for Christians across the world.

The campaign, called Thy Kingdom Come, will focus on empowering Christians to be witnesses for their faith. It offers themes that they can explore on each of the 11 days. These include the person of Jesus, thanks, being sorry, offering, praying for someone, help, celebration and silence. The days of prayer will be marked in 114 countries, with much of the material being distributed online. Resources will be published in seven languages on various websites. About 65 Christian denominations, including Roman Catholics, Orthodox, evangelicals, Pentecostals, Baptists and the Salvation Army, have agreed to take part.

Read it all (subscription required).

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Ecumenical Relations, Pope Francis, Roman Catholic

A pastoral word offered by the United Methodist Council of Bishops

There is a sense among the Council that we are in untenable times. To this end the Council is exploring models and plans of new forms of unity, including work being done in Africa, Europe, the Western Jurisdiction, a new Methodism, the gifts of the black church, among creative experiments in annual conferences and a connection of new expressions of United Methodism.

The Council has nominated a Servant Listening Team to accompany these conversations across the church. At the same time, the whole Council is called to a season of deep listening.

We grieve the brokenness in our relationships, and confess that we are complicit in this. Amidst pervasive dynamics of “evil, injustice and oppression” in the church and the world, we pledge to work for reconciliation in order to demonstrate the way of Christ, which is to love and serve one another. As we approach Pentecost, we call upon the gifts of the Holy Spirit to “make us one with Christ, one with each other and one in ministry to all the world.”

Read it all and there is a UMNS article there.

Posted in Methodist, Religion & Culture, Theology

(United Methodist Theologian) William Abraham–Mountains are there to be Climbed: The Next United Methodism

Our critics have effectively framed the debate in terms of inclusion and exclusion.[4]This is a godsend because it allows them to run a narrative about slavery and women in ministry that puts us on the defensive. It allows them to exploit the natural opposition to any idea of exclusion, for the default position will always initially be in favor of inclusion. It also allows a virtuous narrative about the moral arc of history which requires that we be identified as obsolete and out of step with the times. Add to these considerations that the default position in explaining the Traditional Plan will be to latch on to the ‘punitive’ provisions and the picture of the traditionalist makes everyone cringe. Add a further element, namely, the idea that the very discourse of exclusion is a source of pain, hurt, and even trauma, and we are dragged deeper into a black hole from which there appears to be no escape….

This whole way of thinking needs initially to be seen for what it is, namely, a toxic combination of persuasive definition, virtue-signaling story-telling, and fallacious reasoning. The ultimate issue for the conservative is none of these moves, much less a combination of them. The crucial issue at the end of the day is one of faithfulness to our Lord and to the tested tradition of the church. The failure to recognize this is an egregious error. It is the old game of Sein and Schein, much practiced by the mode of thought beloved of the Frankfurt School of philosophy, so that what seems to be true is not true. Of course, what counts as faithfulness is contested. And, of course, it would be wonderful if we could find a neutral ground on which this contested issue could be publicly resolved. However, the disagreement goes all the way to the bottom so that appeals to the Gospel, notions of justice and equality, scripture, tradition, experience, reason, inclusion, and the like, have been exhausted. To speak technically, ‘faithfulness’ is an essentially contested concept. However, to ignore that faithfulness is the real issue for conservatives is to poison the wells at the outset. Moreover, to frame the Traditional Plan as being essentially punitive is to miss the point at issue. The real issue is accountability to church teaching and practice. Failure to frame this issue initially in this way constitutes an elementary blunder in the interpretation of what is at stake. To put it simply, conservatives are not for sale precisely because they believe for better or worse that they cannot among other things walk away from our Lord’s teaching on marriage. So generally, we need to repudiate aggressively the persistent practice of describing our position in ways that we find utterly fallacious and unconvincing.

A couple of further points stand in the neighborhood. The whole effort to present our position as one of causing harm is also a toxic way to proceed. Thus we are constantly scolded and reprimanded because our discourse and speech is intrinsically harmful; merely to take the stance that we do and to speak as we do is the cause of pain and trauma. It is small wonder that in these circumstances we simply stay quiet and say nothing. Here we face an unavoidable dilemma. We speak, and we are accused of causing harm; we stay silent, and we are accused of collusion with oppression. At one level, the best policy is simply to stay silent, for this way we avoid causing pain; we simply take a hit on being accused of collusion. What is happening here is there we are forced to fight a blindfold battle because the terms of the dispute are never clarified.[5]

Perhaps we can make progress on this front by means of several distinctions. In this respect I intend to operate at a more neutral level.

What is at issue here is the complex nature of identity. At one level, it is perfectly obvious that gender identity cuts deeply into the experience and conception of ourselves as persons….[6]

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in Methodist, Theology

Pope Francis’ Easter 2019 Homily

Today however we see that our journey is not in vain; it does not come up against a tombstone. A single phrase astounds the woman and changes history: “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” (Lk 24:5). Why do you think that everything is hopeless, that no one can take away your own tombstones? Why do you give into resignation and failure? Easter is the feast of tombstones taken away, rocks rolled aside. God takes away even the hardest stones against which our hopes and expectations crash: death, sin, fear, worldliness. Human history does not end before a tombstone, because today it encounters the “living stone” (cf. 1 Pet 2:4), the risen Jesus. We, as Church, are built on him, and, even when we grow disheartened and tempted to judge everything in the light of our failures, he comes to make all things new, tooverturn our every disappointment. Each of us is called tonight to rediscover in the Risen Christ the one who rolls back from our heart the heaviest of stones. So let us first ask: What is the stone that I need to remove, what is its name?

Often what blocks hope is the stone of discouragement. Once we start thinking that everything is going badly and that things can’t get worse, we lose heart and come to believe that death is stronger than life. We become cynical, negative and despondent. Stone upon stone, we build within ourselves a monument to our own dissatisfaction: the sepulcher of hope. Life becomes a succession of complaints and we grow sick in spirit. A kind of tomb psychology takes over: everything ends there, with no hope of emerging alive. But at that moment, we hear once more the insistent question of Easter: Why do you seek the living among the dead? The Lord is not to be found in resignation. He is risen; he is not there. Don’t seek him where you will never find him: he is not the God of the dead but of the living (cf. Mk 22:32). Do not bury hope!

There is another stone that often seals the heart shut: the stone of sin. Sin seduces; it promises things easy and quick, prosperity and success, but then leaves behind only solitude and death. Sin is looking for life among the dead, for the meaning of life in things that pass away. Why do you seek the living among the dead? Why not make up your mind to abandon that sin which, like a stone before the entrance to your heart, keeps God’s light from entering in? Why not prefer Jesus, the true light (cf. Jn1:9), to the glitter of wealth, career, pride and pleasure? Why not tell the empty things of this world that you no longer live for them, but for the Lord of life?

Read it all.

Posted in Easter, Pope Francis, Preaching / Homiletics, Roman Catholic

(Telegraph) Charles Moore–What can happen when a Pope kisses your feet?

It was moving to watch Pope Francis kiss the feet (or, to be absolutely accurate, the shoes) of the warring leaders of South Sudan last week. In human terms, it was particularly touching because the Pope is an old man, so his physical effort added to the gesture of humility.

As it happens, I met one of those leaders, Riek Machar, when I visited South Sudan a few years ago. Despite holding a PhD in “Philosophy and Strategic Planning” from the University of Bradford, he is something of a rough diamond. I would not have risked kissing his feet myself. But that, of course, is only 
the more reason for Pope Francis 
to have done so: great sinners have great need.

The story of South Sudan shows how much divine help is required. 
At the time I met Dr Machar, his country had just emerged from many years of tyranny under the government of North Sudan – whose appalling ruler, Omar al-Bashir, was finally removed in a coup last week after 30 years of wrongdoing. South Sudan thus became a place enjoying new freedom.

That feeling came partly from the fact that it is mainly Christian: the Khartoum government which oppressed it had once harboured Osama bin Laden. It was run by extreme Islamists who persecuted Christians. So when the leaders of this new Christian country later turned on one another and began killing, this represented spiritual as well as political failure.

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, --South Sudan, Archbishop of Canterbury, Pope Francis, Religion & Culture, Sudan, Violence

(America) What does Catholic Social Teaching say about the economy? It’s more complicated than you think.

The political common good is of interest to the church because it is an incomplete but real fulfillment of the eschatological unity to which we are all called. The comparison with the unity of Jesus and the Father calls attention not simply to outcomes but also to the character of relationships. “Gaudium et Spes” states that humans “cannot fully find themselves except through the sincere gift of themselves” (24). Finally, “Gaudium et Spes” challenges limited notions of the common good, expanding it beyond the local community or nation, making clear that we have rights and duties regarding the “whole human race.”

In its treatment of the role of the church in the contemporary world, “Gaudium et Spes” considers and distinguishes economic and political aspects of society, which it discusses in separate chapters. As the theologian David Cloutier notes, each has its own associated good. The treatment of economics focuses on the universal destination of goods, and the discussion of the political order centers on the common good. Here we find the oft-excerpted definition: “The common good embraces the sum of those conditions of social life whereby men and women, families and associations may more adequately and readily attain their own perfection” (74).

Lifted from its context, there is always the danger of reading “conditions” here as if they are purely external situations in which we pursue individual flourishing. But the context in the document makes clear that the common good is the collective work of the community. Individuals, families and groups “are aware that they cannot achieve a truly human life by their own unaided efforts. They see the need for a wider community, within which each one makes his or her specific contribution every day toward an ever-broader realization of the common good” (74). Awareness of this need drives the establishment of various forms of government or “political community” that exist “for the sake of the common good.” This expresses the ancient Catholic judgement that government is not a response to human sinfulness but an essential consequence of our social nature created by God.

Thus, Catholicism views the common good as a particular kind of good that concerns the whole of society. It corresponds with a particular form of agency: collective and political action. The common good is distinct from the economy but related to it as both address different aspects of social life.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Roman Catholic

Terry Mattingly–After wars over Bible, marriage and sex: is Union possible for Reappraising Episcopalians and Methodists?

So far, leaders on the United Methodist left haven’t announced plans to leave. But that doesn’t mean that Episcopal clergy and other liberal Protestant leaders shouldn’t be prepared to help United Methodists who come their way, said the Rev. David Simmons of St. Matthias Episcopal Church in Waukesha, Wis., a leader in several regional and national ecumenical efforts.

“We have to start with the fact that lots of United Methodists are really hurting,” he said, in a telephone interview. “What we should be doing is providing a safe harbor. Our primary motivation shouldn’t be to grab members from other churches. … If we do that then we’re not being a safe harbor. We can’t go around saying, ‘United Methodists hare having trouble, so let’s recruit them.’ ”

Thus, Simmons recently posted an online essay entitled, “How to Deal With Methodists at your Red Church Doors” – referring to the front doors at most Episcopal parishes. His subtitle was even more blunt: “Don’t be a Jerk.” His suggestions to Episcopal leaders included:

* Remember that Methodists have their own traditions and history. It’s wrong to hand them a Book of Common Prayer and try to instantly “make them Episcopalians. … ANY language about ‘Coming Home’ or ‘Returning to the Mother Church’ is harmful, insensitive and historically inaccurate, since American Methodism and the Episcopal Church are both technically equal children of the Church of England.”

* “Lay off the smugness!” Episcopalians, for example, should not brag about “how much further ahead we are” on LGBTQ issues, noted Simmons. Some United Methodist congregations have “been way ahead of us in this in spite of the discipline of the UMC. … Don’t attempt to score cheap points….”

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Methodist, Religion & Culture, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), Theology

More analysis on the United Methodist Special General Conference–Riley Case

One would wish a report of the 2019 General Conference in St. Louis February 23-26 could be made that would go something like this:

The United Methodist 2019 special called General Conference is over. Charged with directing the church on a Way Forward and after nearly three years of discussion, meetings and prayer, the conference debated several options and finally chose the Traditional Plan as its directional path for United Methodism’s future. The plan calls for reaffirming the church’s historic stance on marriage and human sexuality but added several accountability features that should help to reinforce the church’s connectionalism in matters of faith and practice. The final decisions were painful for numbers of persons who wished the conference might have taken a different direction but there was a sense that because this conference was bathed in prayer, the decisions made represented God’s will for the church at this time. The conference closed with the singing of the Doxology and a commitment that United Methodism was now ready to walk in unity and direct its energy toward its mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

That report, unfortunately, is not the one being made. It is true the conference was held after nearly three years of discussion, meetings and prayer. It is true the Traditional Plan was chosen. But It is also true that the General Conference decisions were not the decisions preferred by bishops nor Mainstream UMC nor the Association of UM Theological Schools nor the presidents of UM-affiliated colleges nor a number of church agencies nor various progressive caucuses nor the several thousand visitors recruited by gay advocate groups who were in the stands to celebrate what they believed would be the church’s new movement toward sexual permissiveness. These people and groups were (and are) unhappy. The unhappiness was expressed on the final day when progressives sought to create as much confusion as possible in hopes that the Traditional Plan would not be able to come to the conference floor for a vote. The unhappiness was also expressed at the close of the conference when, instead of singing the doxology at the close of the final session with a prayer of blessing on the church, the chair of the session honored an earlier request by the “leadership team” of the Western Jurisdiction to be given the floor of the conference. It was at that time the “leadership team” basically announced as a Jurisdiction they did not intend to abide by the decisions of the conference. With that the conference ended.

Time for reflection.

The conference from the evangelical or traditionalist perspective.
The church has reaffirmed its historic stance. It was under great pressure to go in a different direction but the center held. The secular press and others may even pronounce the conference as a victory for conservatives. In the church we ought not to be talking about victories and defeats. We want the church to unite and be Christ’s presence in the world. We do not wish to be known for our infighting. Having said that, it can be said that the historic moral and doctrinal teachings of the church are still intact. And that is a positive.

Also a great positive; we are demonstrating that we are a global church. United Methodism outside the United States is growing and is in the process of assuming more leadership in the connection. The African presence had much to do with the outcome of the conference. In that respect the future for United Methodism is bright.

The conference from what should be a general unbiased perspective.
If the truth be known; the conference never had a chance to fulfill its purpose to bring together the church in unity. The expectations were unrealistic. There was good talk about A Way Forward and finding a solution that all groups in the church could live with but the goal was an impossible goal given the present divisions in the church. The one solution that might have promised some hope was one that would involve some form of amicable separation, but the bishops would not allow that solution even to be considered. It is premature to assess the General Conference as a failure (despite the cost of 6 or so million dollars and much time and effort) since it is quite possible that out of the ashes of St. Louis there may now be a willingness to consider options that previously have been ruled off-limits. But that is not apparent at the moment.

Read it all.

Posted in Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

A CNA Article on the recently concluded United Methodist Special General Conference

A major gathering of the United Methodist Church has reaffirmed its teaching on homosexuality, rejecting same-sex unions and the ordination of sexually active homosexuals, prompting predictions that some American congregations who reject this teaching will leave the denomination.

The international gathering, called a Special Session of the General Conference of the UMC, drew over 800 ministers and lay leader delegates to St. Louis Feb. 22-26.

The debate drew out different approaches to the authority of Scripture, marriage, and sexuality, but ultimately left the ecclesial community’s official teaching unchanged.

Scott Jones of the Methodists’ Texas Conference said the decision resolves a longstanding debate and is consistent with the ecclesial community’s teachings on human sexuality, which it has listed in its Book of Discipline since 1972.

That teaching states “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” It bars “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” from ordination.

“We will continue to welcome lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and queer persons to our churches and affirm their sacred worth,” said Jones, according to the United Methodist News Service. “I pray we, as a denomination, can now move forward, working with each other in the spirit of Christian love and joining together as one. We are stronger together in serving God’s mission as a diverse body of Christ.”

Read it all.

Posted in Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

More on the recently Concluded United Methodist Special General Conference (IV)–Thomas Lambrecht’s summary of the main points

  • By a vote of 438 to 384 (53.3 percent), adopted the Traditional Plan, parts of which will not be able to go into effect because they are unconstitutional. Parts that willgo into effect are:
  • Expanded definition of “self-avowed homosexuals” to include persons living in a same-sex marriage or union or who publicly proclaim themselves to be practicing homosexuals
  • Explicitly prohibits bishops from consecrating bishops, ordaining or commissioning clergy who are self-avowed practicing homosexuals
  • Requires all persons nominated to serve on the annual conference board of ordained ministry to certify that they will uphold and enforce the Book of Discipline’s standards for ordained clergy
  • Establishes a minimum penalty for clergy convicted of performing a same-sex wedding of a one year suspension (first offense) and loss of credentials (second offense)

Read it all.

Posted in Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

More on the recently Concluded United Methodist Special General Conference (III)–a UMNS postscript article

United Methodists tried to come to terms with a General Conference that was meant to unify but instead underscored divisions and had all sides acknowledging a high level of pain.

“Catastrophic” was the summary judgment of the Rev. James Howell, a Western North Carolina Conference delegate.

“The church as we’ve known it will not be. It’s going to fracture in ways — different ways,” he said.

Patricia Miller served on the Commission on a Way Forward that bishops appointed to help come up with legislative options for addressing the denomination’s impasse on homosexuality, and the Traditionalist Plan she supported prevailed.

“There is no joy for any of us in this whole debate,” said Miller. “It’s painful for all of us.”

The special legislative session was called by bishops to try to deal with the denomination’s long conflict over how accepting to be of homosexuality. General Conference is The United Methodist Church’s top legislative assembly, comprising delegates from around the world.

In the end, delegates passed by a 438-384 margin the Traditional Plan, which retains church law restrictions against…[homosexual practice] and seeks stricter enforcement.

Read it all.

Posted in Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

More on the recently Concluded United Methodist Special General Conference (II)–John Lomperis of JE

Here is what WAS passed in the Traditional Plan that the Judicial Council has already upheld as constitutional, and so which will be our new church law before too long:

First, we enacted a Traditional Plan petition (#90032) that clarifies the definition of what we mean when we say we forbid “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” to be ministers, candidates, or appointed pastors in our denomination. It was widely understood what the church meant by this. However, for many years, liberal bishops and others had treated this as a loophole, and claimed that unless even openly partnered gay ministers said the precise words “I am a practicing homosexual” or answered uncomfortable direct questions about their regular “genital contact” with someone of the same sex, then there was “no evidence” that they had actually violated our moral standards. Through such word games, some clergy in some liberal areas have been allowed to remain in good standing while knowingly violating our moral standards. This petition closes this loophole, by saying that from now on, anyone who “is living in a same-sex marriage, domestic partnership or civil union,” or “who publicly states that she or he is a practicing homosexual” automatically meets the definition of who is in violation of our ministry standards, with no required further questions about “genital contact” or awkward reliance on whether or not someone says the magic words. This will make enforcement of this longtime standard much simpler and easier to prove than it has ever been.

Secondly, we enacted another Traditional Plan petition (#90044) that limits the ability of bishops to dismiss complaints against clergy accused of wrongdoing. Our process for disciplining wayward clergy begins when someone files a complaint with his or her bishop. However, in recent years, we have seen liberal bishops simply dismiss complaints against clergy who violated sexual-morality standards with which the bishop did not agree. Such abuses of their ability to dismiss complaints had the potential to let each bishop unilaterally both nullify any part of our standards for clergy with which they disagree and also perhaps protect personal friends from facing accountability. But now this petition forbids bishops from dismissing complaints unless the complaints have “no basis in law or fact.” This petition also requires that any time bishops dismiss a complaint, they must share a written explanation with the person who filed the complaint, something which bishops had not always readily done. And all of this also applies to complaints against bishops.

Thirdly, we enacted another Traditional Plan petition (#90046) that reforms the “just resolution” process (the UMC equivalent of out-of-court settlements) that had been subject to such abuse by liberal bishops in recent years. This petition prevents how some liberal bishops had arranged “just resolutions” for violations of our sexuality standards that completely cut out the person who filed the complaint (the complainant) from the process. This new church law makes the complaint filer a party to the process, and requires that “every effort shall be made to have the complainant(s) agree to the resolution before it may take effect.”

Fourthly, we enacted half of another Traditional Plan petition (#90045) on “just resolutions.” This one requires that all just resolutions must “state all identified harms and how they shall be addressed.” This is an improvement over how previous “just resolutions” with clergy who violated our sexuality standards have avoided any pretense of addressing the concerns of the complainants.

Fifthly, we finally adopted another, particularly significant Traditional Plan petition (#90042), that has been filibustered for seven years since the 2012 General Conference, which requires mandatory penalties for clergy found in a church trial to have violated our covenant against performing pastorally harmful same-sex union ceremonies.

Read it all.

Posted in Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

More on the recently Concluded United Methodist Special General Conference (I)–A NYT Article

After three days of intense debate at a conference in St. Louis, the vote by church officials and lay members from around the world doubled down on current church policy, which states that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” The vote served as a rejection of a push by progressive members and leaders to open the church to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Now, a divide of the United Methodist Church, which has 12 million members worldwide, appears imminent. Some pastors and bishops in the United States are already talking about leaving the denomination and possibly creating a new alliance for gay-friendly churches.

“It is time for another movement,” the Rev. Mike Slaughter, pastor emeritus of Ginghamsburg Church in Ohio, said in a phone interview from the floor of the conference. “We don’t even know what that is yet, but it is something new.”

Read it all.

Posted in Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

(UMNS) 2019 General Conference passes Traditional Plan, upholding Christian standards for parish leaders

After hours of delaying tactics by opponents, the United Methodist General Conference 2019 delegates passed The Traditional Plan 438 to 384.

A last-ditch effort to bring the One Church Plan back was defeated in the morning and was followed by efforts to amend the Traditional Plan to address constitutionality issues raised by the Judicial Council, the church’s top court.

The Rev. Tim McClendon, South Carolina, called for a vote on the entire Traditional plan, which affirms the church’s current bans on ordaining [non-celibate] LGBTQ clergy and officiating at or hosting same-sex marriage.

When the vote was announced and flashed on the screen, the room erupted in singing, “This is My Story” from observers. Some delegates gathered in a circle and joined in with the singing.

The delegates on the floor and people in the bleachers went into a call and response, chanting in protest of the vote.

A handful of observers unhappy with the day’s legislative results tried to gain entrance to the plenary floor, but security officers blocked them and eventually moved them through turnstiles farther away from the doors. The protesters continued to chant their demand to be admitted.

Bishop Scott Jones of the Texas Conference said the vote resolves a long-standing debate about how the church “can best accomplish our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

“This decision is consistent with our denomination’s historic stance on human sexuality, outlined in the Book of Discipline since 1972,” Jones said.

“We will continue to welcome lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and queer persons to our churches and affirm their sacred worth. I pray we, as a denomination, can now move forward, working with each other in the spirit of Christian love and joining together as one. We are stronger together in serving God’s mission as a diverse body of Christ,” Jones said.

Read it all.

Posted in Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

The Latest United Methodist News Service story on today’s General Conference Developments

After approving the Traditional Plan in the morning, General Conference delegates spent the afternoon debating and ultimately voting against the One Church Plan and the Simple Plan.

Delegates opposed the bishops’ recommended One Church Plan by a vote of 436 to 386. The vote was 53 to almost 47 percent.

Delegates also voted against moving forward with the Simple Plan, submitted by the unofficial United Methodist Queer Clergy Caucus, by a vote of 494 to 323.

Dorothee Benz, delegate from New York, made an amendment to pull the Simple Plan from a motion to reject all remaining petitions.

The Rev. Adam Hamilton, a delegate from Great Plains, stood to speak for the motion, saying not at least discussing the plan would inflict harm.

“Yes, it’s going to be defeated, that’s clear. But this is the one opportunity to say we care enough to listen for a moment.”

Fred Sayeh, Liberia, argued that the Simple Plan should not be singled out for “special treatment.”

“Every plan had an opportunity. At this point it’s clear delegates are finding a way forward,” he said.

Posted in Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

A UMNS update on the Special United Methodist General Conference as of Last Night

Petitions meant to address pensions and the Traditional Plan topped the list of priorities for what General Conference delegates will work on in their legislative committee.

This was a key vote as delegates to the denomination’s top lawmaking assembly try to set the direction in the denomination’s longtime debate over homosexuality.

By 56 votes, the Traditional Plan topped the One Church Plan, supported by a majority of the bishops.

The Traditional Plan was second behind pensions, and the One Church Plan was fifth behind legislation that deals with disaffiliating churches.

The Traditional Plan would strengthen restrictions against officiating at same-gender unions and being “self-avowed practicing” gay clergy. The One Church Plan would leave questions of same-sex weddings up to individual clergy and congregations.

“We’re very happy the Traditional Plan received the majority of the votes,” said the Rev. Rob Renfroe, president of the unofficial advocacy group Good News, which has championed the legislation.

Read it all.

Posted in Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

(NYT Op-ed) Ross Douthat–Why Celibacy Matters: How the critique of Catholicism changes and yet remains the same

…the way the “healthy sexuality” supposedly available outside the church seems to change with every generation offers a reason to be skeptical that all Catholic ills would vanish if Rome only ceased making “unnatural” demands like celibacy and chastity.

The sexual ethic on offer in our own era should make Catholics particularly skeptical. That ethic regards celibacy as unrealistic while offering porn and sex robots to ease frustrations created by its failure to pair men and women off. It pities Catholic priests as repressed and miserable (some are; in general they are not) even as its own cultural order seeds a vast social experiment in growing old alone. It disdains large families while it fails to reproduce itself. It treats any acknowledgment of male-female differences as reactionary while constructing an architecture of sexual identities whose complexities would daunt a medieval schoolman.

In the name of this not-obviously-enlightened alternative, Catholicism is constantly asked to “reform” away practices that are there because they connect directly to the New Testament — in the case of celibacy, to Jesus’ own example and his hard words for anyone making an idol of family life.

This seems like a bad bargain, no matter how much hypocrisy there may be in Rome.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Stephen Noll–“MEXIT”: Methodists, Anglicans and the Limits of Disagreement

In this post I shall address the “special General Conference” of United Methodists in St. Louis. Here is a brief preview of the agenda:

Last July, the Council of Bishops offered three possible plans for moving forward: the One Church Plan, the Connectional Conference Plan, and the Traditional Plan. The One Church Plan calls for removing language from the Book of Discipline that upholds traditional teaching on sexuality, and allowing individual churches and conferences to decide on the basis of conscience whether they will permit same-sex unions or homosexual bishops. The Connectional Conference Plan calls for completely reorganizing the regional conferences around shared beliefs rather than geography—in other words, creating traditionalist and progressive conferences and trying to hold them together. The Modified Traditional Plan calls for upholding the traditional teaching on sexuality and then offering an exit path for any local churches or conferences that disagree.

One might wonder why the Methodists are the last mainline church in North America to hold the line on biblical teaching on marriage and homosexuality. The reason is that, unlike the Anglican Communion, which granted autonomy to its missionary churches, the Methodists kept them together in one body – the General Conference. And the African churches have voted with conservatives in North America to uphold the Book of Discipline, which states that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” (sound familiar – see Lambeth Resolution I.10, clause d).

The revisionists, who hold the money and influence in the North American Methodist bureaucracy, have employed the usual Alinskyite tactics of “civil disobedience” to challenge the norm by ordaining [non-celiobate] gay pastors and now a [non-celibate] lesbian bishop. They are now calling for “good disagreement” under the One Church Plan, which would maintain formal unity while permitting radically different practices regarding marriage and ordination.

One proponent of the Modified Traditional Plan is Dr. William Abraham, a senior theologian from Southern Methodist University, who has written a paper titled; “In Defense of Mexit: Disagreement and Disunity in United Methodism.” Abraham proposes that the progressive minority be authorized to exit the Church (hence “Mexit”) with their property and to affiliate with another church or form their own “Progressive United Methodist Church” (Abraham suggests then renaming the majority body the “Evangelical United Methodist Church”).

What is interesting to me as an Anglican is how the Anglican experience figures into the theological discussion among conservative Methodists….

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Methodist, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Deseret News) Why the United Methodist Church seeks to end the decades-long battle over whether to change the standards of Christian behavior for leaders

Members of the United Methodist Church don’t agree on biblical teachings about homosexuality. More than that, they don’t agree on whether it’s necessary to agree about homosexuality in order to remain a unified denomination, church members and leaders said.

Participants in this special session of general conference on sexuality are tasked with determining whether it’s possible to avoid a denominational schism. They’ll debate policies on LGBTQ ordination and same-sex marriage, seeking to understand God’s will for the church.

“Our hope is not that this is an argument, but rather a way for followers of Jesus to develop empathy for each other and to listen to disagreements,” wrote Bishop Kenneth H. Carter, Jr., president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, in an email.

Conference delegates will vote on multiple potential paths forward, weighing whether to change church teachings stating that homosexual acts are sinful or provide an exit plan for those who don’t share this belief. Even creating room for pastors and congregations to hold a range of views on LGBTQ rights could lead to a schism, said Mark Tooley, author of “Methodism and Politics in the 20th Century” and president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy in Washington, D.C.

“This could potentially rip apart thousands of congregations,” he said.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Methodist, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), Theology, Theology: Scripture

William Abraham–In Defense of Mexit: Disagreement and Disunity in United Methodism

We might immediately take leave of O’Donovan by noting that what we really have to offer here is a new round of listening and theological debate to be carried out by a new commission to be appointed by the next General Conference. There is no chance of that option being proposed or implemented. We have already been down that road, and we are not about to turn the clock back and try that option one more time.

Ecclesial managers may understandably want to hold out for this option, but the days of ecclesial management are over. “Progressives” and others may publicly be in favor, but serious observers may legitimately see this as equivalent to one more attempt at stalling while more boots for change can be put on the ground. However, this is much too abrupt a way of disposing of what we might learn and conclude from an engagement with O’Donovan.

Let’s agree for the sake of argument on several of his observations and proposals. First, in the emergence of the gay movement, we face an unprecedented moment in history. Second, this recognizable novelty calls for sustained engagement with this new consciousness as understood from within the gay world that is inhabited by gay Christians. Third, Christians who are gay should be free to articulate and work through the description and assessment of their experience theologically and morally. Fourth, it may well be that, in the future, their deliberations will offersignificant improvements in our understanding and practice of mission. Fifth, it is indeedimportant to not only read carefully our biblical texts but to read carefully how we should apply such texts to our current cultural situation. However, once we get beyond these important insights, matters become much more complex and contested. For my part, I find O’Donovan’s critical comments on “liberal” forms of Christianity generally accurate as applied to the issues in hand. “Liberal” versions of Christianity have no monopoly on truth or intellectual virtue. Hence it is vital that Christians who are gay not follow their lead uncritically and embrace solutions that short-circuit debate by simplistic appealto immediate moral certainties or that reach for the first weapon of defense that lays to hand. Thus appeals to analogies with women’s ordination, or with racism, or appeals to generic moral notions like equality, justice, and liberation are not enough; we need deeper moral analysis and reflection. While I would provide a more robust role for intuition in the epistemology of ethics, I would entirely agree that we need to reach beyond intuition and try to understand the potential rationales, if any, which inform and undergird our intuitions. There are in-house, epistemological issues here that need not detain us. Having said all this, I recognize that many will disagree with this assessment of “liberalism….”

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Posted in Ecclesiology, Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

(PBS Newshour) Pope sends ‘signal’ by defrocking ex-cardinal for sexual abuse

Rev. James Martin:

But you know my faith in God hasn’t changed. It’s it’s my sort of disappointment and anger. You know certain people in the church at abusers certainly some of whom I know people who covered this up. But I think it’s also important to say that this happens in all sorts of institutions you know families schools places like that. But in the church what we need to do is really address that and be sort of forthright about it and be as transparent as possible so frankly I am really in favor of the release of these lists that have been happening that’s pretty controversial because it’s it’s necessary for transparency it’s necessary for us to understand how these things happen and enable us to move ahead and reconcile.

Hari Sreenivasan:

Well what are you looking for this week? What helps the church survive this?

Rev. James Martin:

This desire to confront it without any sort of fear. You know that you know we have of the truth the truth sets us free. I mean that that really should be kind of what we’re focused on.

Hari Sreenivasan:

You think the Pope’s doing enough?

Rev. James Martin:

I think the pope could always do more. I think that this meeting in the end of this week is really helpful it’s the heads of all the bishops conferences. There are still countries where bishops have said well it doesn’t happen in our country it doesn’t happen and are part of the world. And I think one of the reasons for this meeting is to teach in a sense those bishops the facts about sex abuse. So I think that’s a really good step forward.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Pope Francis, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sexuality, Teens / Youth, Theology, Theology: Scripture, Violence

RNS profiles a Flourishing South Carolina United Methodist Church ahead of the upcoming Special General Conference

(Please note: you may find basic information about this meeting there–KSH).

In November, with the blessing of his leadership team, Kersey sent out a congregation-wide letter explaining the various plans that will be up for a vote at the special session and declaring his support for the Traditional Plan, which would keep LGBT restrictions in place.

Out of a membership of close to 5,000 people, Kersey said he received three emails from people who said they disagreed with him.

Martha Thompson, who chairs the church’s leadership team and is a delegate to the special session in St. Louis, said she welcomed the letter.

“This was new to a majority of our membership. So I was glad Jeff did it,” she said. “There were some who weren’t in favor. But the overwhelming majority of people I’ve spoken to were glad that he did it.”

Thompson cited the success of the monthlong Advent offering after the letter was sent as proof of the congregation’s support. The church raised $313,000 for that one offering — more than many small Methodist churches’ entire yearly budget.

Both Thompson and Kersey said they don’t want to exclude anyone.

Kersey said he recognizes that there are LGBT people attending the church and said he sees them like he sees everyone else — as people of sacred worth.

“On any given weekend here, we see people struggling with adultery, pornography, same-sex relationship,” he said. “We don’t ask questions. Everyone is welcome to come here with the understanding that we’ll share with them God’s best plan for their life, which is based on our understanding of Scripture.”

Read it all.

Posted in Methodist, Parish Ministry, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

(1st Things) Charlotte Allen–Methodist Madness

….the fact that the UMC still officially considers homosexual conduct sinful (“incompatible with Christian teaching,” according to the Book of Discipline) is another surprise. All the other major mainline Protestant denominations—the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the United Church of Christ—have amended their canons over the years to permit gay and lesbian ordinations and same-sex weddings fairly freely (typically with a few hedges aimed at mollifying conservative churchgoers and clergy).

Nonetheless, anomalous as the UMC’s traditionalist stance on sexuality may seem when the other mainlines have capitulated to secular culture, it seems to have helped the UMC avoid the demographically catastrophic schisms that have plagued those other mainline churches. The Episcopal Church has seen breakaways of entire congregations and even dioceses over the past few decades, a trend exacerbated by the ordination of its first openly gay bishop in 2003. When the Episcopalians approved same-sex marriage in 2015, a still-unhealed rift opened in the worldwide Anglican Communion, 55 percent of whose 80 million members live in sub-Saharan Africa and hold highly traditionalist views on Christian sexual morality. The Lutherans and Presbyterians have also witnessed major hive-offs of their church’s conservative congregations into separate religious entities as their leaders have embraced increasingly progressive positions. One result has been a drastic and seemingly unstoppable decline in church membership for those mainline denominations. The PCUSA counted only 1.4 million active members in 2017, down from 2.3 million actives in 2005. The ELCA lost nearly a quarter of its membership between 1988 and 2016 (from 5.2 million to 3.5 million). The Episcopal Church’s number of baptized members fell from 2.3 million to 1.7 million between 2007 and 2017.

By contrast, the UMC, while not immune to declining membership, has held fairly steady at 7 million U.S. members (down from about 11 million in 1968), and there have been no major Methodist schisms. The UMC is currently America’s largest mainline Protestant denomination. Perhaps Charles Wesley’s beautiful hymns have kept the church reasonably intact, but another key factor may have been its willingness (so far) to allow religious conservatives and religious liberals to abide side by side in uneasy peace under a traditional ethos. The status quo is also maintained thanks to avid Methodist missionary work in Africa and elsewhere during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The UMC now boasts an additional 5 million overseas members, most of whom are theologically conservative like the overseas Anglicans and thus disinclined to support relaxations of traditional Christian ideas about sexuality. Proposals to modify the “incompatible with Christian teaching” language in the Book of Discipline have regularly surfaced at UMC General Conferences since at least the year 2000 but have been decisively rejected, thanks largely to overseas votes.

All of that seems poised for change, however….

Read it all.

Posted in Methodist, Other Denominations, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)