Last year, I was forced to file a complaint with the Bishop [Masters v Toms-Complaint to Bishop (redacted)] about hateful and dishonest actions by Bruce Toms, the newly appointed Pastor at Palma Ceia United Methodist Church. At the time, I was told by several Methodist Ministers to not have high expectations; that the Bishop’s first reaction would be to protect the institution; and his second would be to protect the elder. That came true, with a letter from the Bishop making some intellectual contortions that defy belief.
In the end, the Bishop concedes the statement of welcome adopted by the Church in 2011 was not a violation of the Discipline; that a Pastor cannot unilaterally undo the “legal” actions of a Church Council; but still, somehow, managed to find an excuse to side with Toms. Below, is my response to the intellectual gymnastics.
Dear Bishop Carter:
I know you are aware that I am not at all satisfied with the response you have provided. It’s less about your findings, and more about the logic on which you seem to have based the determination. Much of the reasoning stated in your letter would call into question the integrity of the recollections of me and the other lay members involved in the 2011 process, and that’s just not acceptable to me. I know these people to be of the highest moral character, and I know Bill Josey’s recollection of many events to be substantially different than that of everyone else involved. So that’s just not going to go unanswered.
Therefore, I intend to respond to your letter of findings in some detail. You can disregard it if you wish, obviously, but it is important to me and the others involved to respond.
“The question of justice and grace in relation to gay and lesbian Christians is a matter of great importance. It can be approached missionally, pastorally, judicially and legally. Our Book of Discipline affirms the sacred worth of every person (161f) and our commitment to be in ministry “for and with all persons (161f). These affirmations are placed in the context of the Social Principles, which, “while not to be considered church law”, are nevertheless “a call to faithfulness and are intended to be instructive and persuasive in the best of the prophetic spirit” (Preface).”
We all know that 161f is part of the Social Principles and therefore not church law. However, Bruce Toms used it in his now “classified” and secret PowerPoint presentation to make his point that the former (as you call it) statement was in violation of the Discipline. So, since he did nothing wrong, the other sections of 161f would carry the same weight he seemed to give, would they not? In other words, use of the Social Principles was a door opened, not by me, but by Toms.