Why Little Will Change At the UMC General Conference

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May 182016
 

As some of you may know, the United Methodist Church is holding their quadrennial General Conference in Portland, Oregon this week. As has been the case for the past several General Conference’s (GC), a major topic is the  full inclusion of LGBT people (or as the conservatives call us, “the self-avowed practicing homosexuals”) in the life of the church. My prediction is that little will change in regard to those issues.

There are several things at issue. One is some hateful language in the United Methodist Book of Discipline (BoD) which says that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. The others are the ordination of openly gay clergy, and of course; marriage is a topic, but not at the top of the list.

If anything changes in regard to these issues, it will be for the worse, and we’ve seen some of that already with the election of all conservative members to the Church’s Judicial Council, or the UMC Supreme Court if you will. Continue reading »

In A Mirror Dimly-Response to a Series by Bishop Michael Lowry-Part 4

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May 072016
 
This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series Response to Lecture Series by Bishop J. Michael Lowry
Bishop J. Michael Lowry, Central Texas Conference, United Methodist Church

Bishop J. Michael Lowry, Central Texas Conference, United Methodist Church

United Methodist Bishop, J. Michael Lowry of the Central Texas Conference, recently addressed a gathering of the United Methodist Scholars for Christian Orthodoxy Conference at Armstrong Chapel United Methodist Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. He has put his address, “In a Mirror Dimly”: The Future of the United Methodist Church”© on his website as a four-part posting.

 

Bishop Lowry seems to argue that the Methodist Church should (or at least, likely will) split over the issue of the inclusion of LGBT people. As you might guess, given that he’s speaking to people who claim to be “orthodox,” that he is, as southerners might say, “agin it.” And of course, that would mean that, while I don’t disagree a split may happen, I don’t agree with his position on the topic at hand.

Part 4: Convicted Hope

This is a short conclusion to Bishop Lowry’s series. He claims, “signs of new life all around.” This is his clinging to the belief that it will be the orthodox church (his definition of orthodoxy) that survives and thrives, all evidence to the contrary. Continue reading »

In A Mirror Dimly-Response to a Series by Bishop Michael Lowry-Part 3

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May 052016
 
This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series Response to Lecture Series by Bishop J. Michael Lowry

United Methodist Bishop, J. Michael Lowry of the Central Texas Conference, recently addressed a gathering of the United Methodist Scholars for Christian Orthodoxy Conference at Armstrong Chapel United Methodist Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. He has put his address, “In a Mirror Dimly”: The Future of the United Methodist Church”© on his website  as a four-part posting.

Bishop J. Michael Lowry, Central Texas Conference, United Methodist Church

Bishop J. Michael Lowry, Central Texas Conference, United Methodist Church

Bishop Lowry seems to argue that the Methodist Church should (or at least, likely will) split over the issue of the inclusion of LGBT people. As you might guess, given that he’s speaking to people who claim to be “orthodox,” that he is, as southerners might say, “agin it.” And of course, that would mean that, while I don’t disagree a split may happen, I don’t agree with his position on the topic at hand.

Part 3 – Deeper Reflections & Observations in a Fog

Now Bishop Lowry begins to come out into the open about where he is in all this. In the opening paragraph in this part, he says, “First, whatever your position on same-gender marriage & ordination, a decision should not be made on the grounds of losing or gaining members! I cannot say this strongly enough.” (Emphasis Lowry’s) I think we are both in agreement on this point, but our motivations differ. Continue reading »

In A Mirror Dimly-Response to a Series by Bishop Michael Lowry-Part 2

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May 042016
 
This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series Response to Lecture Series by Bishop J. Michael Lowry

United Methodist Bishop, J. Michael Lowry of the Central Texas Conference, recently addressed a gathering of the United Methodist Scholars for Christian Orthodoxy Conference at Armstrong Chapel United Methodist Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. He has put his address, “In a Mirror Dimly: The Future of the United Methodist Church”© on his website as a four-part posting.

Bishop J. Michael Lowry, Central Texas Conference, United Methodist Church

Bishop J. Michael Lowry, Central Texas Conference, United Methodist Church

Bishop Lowry seems to argue that the Methodist Church should (or at least, likely will) split over the issue of the inclusion of LGBT people. As you might guess, given that he’s speaking to people who claim to be “orthodox,” that he is, as southerners might say, “agin it.” And of course, that would mean that, while I don’t disagree a split may happen, I don’t agree with his position on the topic at hand. Given that, I’m going to respond to his article/speech taking on each of his parts in corresponding articles here.

Bishop Lowry starts Part 2 by raising the question weighing heavily on the Church as the 2016 General Conference approaches:

“What will happen at General Conference just a few weeks away? Will the delegates vote to eliminate the ‘incompatibility’ clause with regards to homosexuality and embrace marriage and ordination of those who self-identify as LGBTQ?  I don’t know.  Will current language about ordination and the prohibition of performing same-gender marriages be retained as a chargeable offense?  I don’t know.

He expresses his main concern as, “Secondly, should the Discipline significantly change on these presenting issues, those of us who live in the United States should expect some form of denomination- splintering rebellion in the worldwide (and in parts of the U.S. as well) church.” And cites the recent experiences of the Anglican communion, the Lutherans and the Presbyterians to support his statement, and I find common ground with him there.

There remains, even here in America, an entrenched group of the old guard, calling themselves “orthodox,” who continue to shroud their bigotry under the cloak of Christianity, and their belief that an unchanging biblical interpretation is about nothing more than sexual morality. They never seem to acknowledge the Church (at least the UMC) has evolved on issues such as women as elders, slavery, divorce and re-marriage, and even many of the ancient marriage rules. They will never say they want to go back to the time before those re-evaluations, but I suspect many of them might actually be OK with that.

However, in Part 2, Lowry makes it clear that the primary concern for the orthodox is homosexuality, and keeping in the incompatibility phrase, and continuing to prevent ordination and marriage for LGBT people. He makes it a point to describe us as “self-avowed practicing homosexuals.” I’m getting so sick and tired of that. Let’s dissemble this bullshit a little. First off, LGBT people are not “self-avowed.” We are gay, made that way by God, and the only thing we “avow” is whether we will live honestly and with integrity. Then there is that whole “practicing” thing. No sir Reverend, after all these years, I don’t practice a lot; I pretty much have it down pat. What I want to ask willfully ignorant assholes like Bishop Lowry is, “are you a self-avowed practicing heterosexual?”

With the rant over, let’s get back to his article. He names 4 scenarios for those that would not concur if these horrible, horrible changes are made to the Discipline:

  1.  Embrace the change despite any misgivings and be hopeful that proponents are correct (despite all evidence to the contrary) that such actions garner an influx of new young disciples.
  2.  Stay in the church as a loyal minority (especially in the United States).
  3.  Leave the United Methodist Church to form a new branch of the Wesleyan movement as a part of the universal church. In doing so, make a corollary set of decisions around whether or not to pursue legal action over property, endowments and the like.
  4.  Simply leave (presumably to take up membership in another Christian tribe).

The rest of us have put up with their bigotry since the 1950s or so, when the “incompatible” clause was added, so I’d think they could stick around and put up with us not being incompatible for a while. But I love the statement in his last paragraph, ” We all, both those in favor and those opposed to a change, have much to fear from hasty decisions made in the passions of the moment.” Good grief, the church has been wrestling with this issue, and discussing for 20 years…hasty, really? Of course, should the Discipline change (an unlikely event given the inordinate influence being given the Central Conferences-Africa), it will be a hasty and ill-conceived change by Lowry’s measure. If things stay the same, we’ll hear from him about his relief that he can still hate gay people, uh, I mean, that the church has remained true to the Bible and tradition.

In A Mirror Dimly-Response to Series by Bishop Michael Lowry-Part 1

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May 042016
 
This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series Response to Lecture Series by Bishop J. Michael Lowry

United Methodist Bishop, J. Michael Lowry of the Central Texas Conference, recently addressed a gathering of the United Methodist Scholars for Christian Orthodoxy Conference at Armstrong Chapel United Methodist Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. He has put his address, “In a Mirror Dimly: The Future of the United Methodist Church”© on his website as a four part posting.

Bishop J. Michael Lowry, Central Texas Conference, United Methodist Church

Bishop J. Michael Lowry, Central Texas Conference, United Methodist Church

Bishop Lowry seems to argue that the Methodist Church should (or at least, likely will) split over the issue of the inclusion of LGBT people. As you might guess, given that he’s speaking to people who claim to be “orthodox,” that he is, as southerners might say, “agin it.” And of course, that would mean that, while I don’t disagree a split may happen, I don’t agree with his position on the topic at hand. Given that, I’m going to respond to his article/speech taking on each of his parts in corresponding articles here.

In Part 1, Bishop Lowry uses the Isaiah 20:43 verse, ““Look! I’m doing a new thing; now it sprouts up; don’t you recognize it? I’m making a way in the desert, paths in the wilderness.” to introduce his belief that he is seeing, “the re-emergence of a vibrant orthodoxy in the North American mission field.” Lowry believes the United Methodist Church (UMC) is slowly collapsing, but believes, “The decaying Christendom bureaucracy (which I too, to a very real degree, represent) masks the beginnings of a remarkable rebirth of a healthy Wesleyan Christian Orthodoxy.” Continue reading »

Satan’s demons of hell have destroyed…God’s Gentle Loving People

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Feb 112016
 
This entry is part of 1 in the series God's Gentle Loving People

do_justiceI’m starting a new series of short posts just to call out of the xtian craziness that I see. I’ll try to avoid stupid stuff from ill-informed and people poorly taught by their religious leaders, but I will make it a special point to call out those who are religious leaders. And probably happy to have the distinction of being the first post in the series is Pastor Dave. I’ll leave his name in, since he actually put in his post on a Facebook page I follow in the Opening Post (which he authored), so I suspect he was rather proud of his statement.

“Satan’s demons of hell have destroyed the UCC, the Disciples of Christ, the Lutheran Church in America, the Episcopal Church USA, one branch at least of the Moravian Church, and the Presbyterian Church in the USA through these evil people in the LGBTQI Movement. We MUST NOT LET THEM do so to the United Methodist denomination. When the UM denomination liberalizes our standard principle that the homosexual life style is a sin and sanctions LGBTQI ordination, that is the day I WILL LEAVE THE DENOMINATION in which I found JESUS and in which I faithfully served as a Biblical, orthodox, evangelical pastor in active ministry for 41 years. MAY GOD HELP AND REDEEM US FROM THIS EVIL. —David Reynolds (“Pastor Dave”)”

Continue reading »

Why the Christian Church May Never Crawl Out of Its Hole

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Jan 182016
 

In the western world, churches, in particular Christian churches, are showing a general decline in attendance and membership. There’s much hand wringing within those denominations most affected; reports are being prepared, and great plans are being made to try to stem the tide, but I am not yet convinced the people in these organizations have the self-awareness to overcome the trend.

The Facebook response to a recent article I posted in a conservative United Methodist discussion group really brought this home for me, and helped me congeal my thoughts on this subject.

Background Statistics

Stats aren’t all that fun, but I think it is necessary to give some background on what is happening that’s causing this concern. The overall number of people who are religiously affiliated has, according to Pew Research, not changed all that much between 2007 and 2015. ((“U.S. Public Becoming Less Religious,” Pew Research Center, Nov. 3, 2015)) However, according to their most recent “Religious Landscape Study, “A growing share of Americans are religiously unaffiliated, including some who self-identify as atheists or agnostics as well as many who describe their religion as “nothing in particular.” Altogether, the religiously unaffiliated (also called the “nones”) now account for 23% of the adult population, up from 16% in 2007.” ((Ibid))

Continue reading »

An Open Letter to the UMC General Conference Commission

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May 132015
 
Robert Mugabe

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe

It seems the Commission on the General Conference for the United Methodist Church, meeting last month, decided to hold the first quadrennial General Conferences outside the United States . The original choice had the GC going to Zimbabwe in 2024, and the Philippines in 2028. Fortunately, an ever-present advocate for LGBT people within the Church was there, and raised a few concerns, including the fact that Amnesty International has declared Zimbabwe one of the most dangerous countries for LGBT people. The years were switched.

Needless to say, I’m not happy, and am writing the Commission members to let them know. I can only believe this is an attempt to create such cost and hardship for the many constituent groups that attend the GC, that many won’t attend. There was some discussion this year to try to hold the General Conference behind locked doors, and indeed, a number of committee and commission meetings have been held in this way. Since that didn’t go over so well, I think this move is designed to effect the same result.

My letter is below: Continue reading »

As Usual Methodist Episcopacy Missing in Action

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Jan 182015
 
Bishop B. Michael Watson, North Georgia Conference

Bishop B. Michael Watson, North Georgia Conference

It will come no surprise that members of the Georgia legislature have introduced model legislation like that introduced in other legislature where marriage equality has either passed or been instituted by judicial action. This one of those “Religious Freedoms” bills designed to allow “christians” to discriminate against anyone they don’t like…because, you know…who would Jesus hate.

In this instance, a group of religious leaders in Georgia have banded together and issued a letter denouncing the bill, and explaining that no one, besides certain Republican members of the legislature has actually asked for the bill. I was heartened to see that a number of United Methodist pastors from Georgia had signed the letter. But as usual, the Methodist Episcopacy was missing in action. Continue reading »