In Response to My Critics!
My retirement from the United Methodist Church ministry took place about a year or two earlier than originally planned.
There was an incident in which 3 people lodged a complaint against me with the D.S. Unfortunately the issue was not handled according to procedures spelled out in the United Methodist Church Book of Discipline and this resulted in a chaotic situation that tore the churches apart where I had been pastor for nearly 23 years. It's most regrettable that a minuscule number of people who don't really want a pastor but rather a puppet can intimidate the members of a congregation and manipulate them according to their carnal whims!
So rather than continue under those conditions I opted for early retirement in July 1996 with the sense that God would open a new door somewhere down the road.
Doors did open with opportunities to preach in different churches for vacationing pastors and to teach in Bible study sessions in the church which Jean and I attended on Sundays when I wasn't preaching.
But then God put on my heart a burden to get involved in a web site ministry. Just one major problem about this -- I knew absolutely nothing about where you go or what you do in getting started with a web site. This issue continued for some time with a lot of lost sleep coupled with prayer that if this was what God wanted, then He would open the door on this.
The day came when, with the help of my grandson who directed me to a hosting service and assisted me with some basics, Circuit Rider's Range was launched in late March 1998. A pastor with whom I had been communicating on the internet also gave me a lot of help with some of the mechanics.
Since March 1998 the site has grown and now has its own domain which makes for a much shorter address. It has been visited by people from all over the United States as well as some foreign nations. Due to the nature of the content it has evoked quite a number of responses by way of the Guest Book and personal emails. The ratio of these responses has been about 25 or more to 1 -- that is, for about every negative (usually a "I hate your guts!" type) response, there are 25 or more that express agreement, say an "Amen!" and/or offer a word of encouragement to keep going with the site.
The responses come from lay persons, clergy, and high ranking officials such as church bishops. Most of the negatives have come from United Methodist clergy. I did receive a lengthy negative from a professed atheist who tried to clog my Guest Book and another who signed my Guest Book with the words, "You are nothing but a (expletive deleted)!" and gave an URL address to a porn site! This person was from England.
Within my own W. PA Conference of the UMC where I am an ordained elder reaction has been mixed, with a number of pastors and lay folks expressing appreciation and agreement and others among clergy ranks particularly expressing anger and dismay.
Objections to Circuit Rider's Range
The objections are a bit varied and I will attempt to list some of these as well as make a measured response.
I was hauled over the coals by a member of the Board of Ordained Ministry of the W. PA Conference for posting pictures of aborted children in areas of the web site. My response to this person is at Response to a W. PA Conference Boom Member I have made the issue of abortion a primary issue because there is no other abomination of which a nation can be guilty which will invite the judgmental wrath of God faster than the indiscriminate destruction of its unborn future citizens at the rate of 1.2 or more million per year! And the "official position" of the UMC essentially sends a message that any woman who wants an abortion can get it, if she uses the right terminology to describe her "situation." Hence, the reason why the bishops of the UMC are so silent, and why some of them get rather disturbed when I ask them about this matter!
It has been suggested more than once that if I am so dissatisfied with the UMC and can't accept the "trends" then I should leave it. Members of the UMC hierarchy sometimes drop remarks like this in the midst of their frustration in knowing that not everyone is dancing to the tunes they are playing on their fiddles! If these persons making such suggestions had the final judgment call on my life as it has been lived here on earth, then obviously I would pay serious attention to them! The last I heard and read, it is Jesus Christ Who holds the position of Judge and determines how it shall be for us in our eternal existence in terms of reward and residence. For those who feel I should leave the UMC, why don't you tell Jesus to tell me that I should leave -- I'll listen to Him since He is the one Who called me into the ministry, and the one Who told me to stay in the UMC even though I had a number of attractive opportunities to leave.
"Too negative!" -- there are those who regard the UMC as somewhat a kind of "sacred cow" -- plus their being influenced by the "positive thinking" heresy! Don't say anything negative, especially about the church -- just quietly agree to disagree, put on a happy smile, and repeat again and again how great we are -- alive and well -- a church of "open hearts, open minds, and open doors!" Ah, a question at this point -- when it comes to that negative stuff -- what do you do with Jesus, John the Baptist, Paul, and a host of O.T. prophets -- seems each had some negative things to say about the inconsistencies and hypocrisy of the religious and political establishments of their times! How well would they get along in the present day UMC or other mainline churches?
I was raised in the Methodist Church -- Jesus Christ saved me from my sins and called me to preach in the Methodist Church -- and I have been greatly blessed in seeing God work miracles of His saving and healing grace over the years of ministry He has made possible. I also know that if there is not widespread repentance and renunciation of the apostate teaching and practices that have infiltrated the UMC since the early years of the 20th Century, the UMC will become nothing but a visible caricature of a church filled with all that is the opposite of peace, joy, love, and hope!
It has been noted that views expressed on CR's Range do not offer much incentive for an unchurched person to become a part of the UMC. If such a person enters by way of the main page he/she is immediately challenged to consider the claims and call of Jesus Christ upon one's life by means of a question and a link (The Way, The Truth, The Life!) to an area in which one is confronted with the claims and demands of Jesus in His own words. The issue is not whether that person wants to join the UMC or any other church! My advice to a person on church matters is this -- where is the church in which God is calling you to serve? If it is the UMC, are you prepared to deal with conflict as you stand for the truth as God has plainly revealed it in His inspired Word? Are you prepared to stand for the integrity of the Son of God, His atoning death for the sins of the human race, and His literal resurrection 3 days after the crucifixion? Are you willing to stand without apology for God's standards for the expression and experience of human sexuality? Be assured that if you do, sooner or later, you will engage in some kind of conflict from those who are determined to rewrite the Scriptures on the aforementioned subjects and others beside. If you are, and you feel God is calling you to serve in the UMC, by all means come on in and join in the battle for truth vs. apostasy!
We have lost a lot of fine God-fearing pastors who hold to a high view of Scriptures as well as a lot of lay folks, NOT because they have been exposed to a radical web site known as Circuit Rider's Range, but because of being Biblically sensitive people and reading the "handwriting on the wall" concerning the UMC, they simply got fed up with the apostate trends taking place over the years, even before the CR's Range web site came into existence. And so, wanting to be involved in God's work in this world, but getting tired of the stuff that was happening in a mainline denomination, they left -- either for a more conservative group or started an independent church. Sadly, it seems far easier to condemn these folks for leaving, or saying "Good riddance, they were nothing but a bunch of fanatics anyway!" than it is to honestly face the reasons why they left, and then by prayer and bold witness take steps that will purge the church of the diseased theology and moral cancer that is killing it!
Just a suggestion -- instead of jumping on me for the negative remarks made about the UMC, why not jump on the persons who have created the conditions that are solid and easily documented grounds for those negative statements and criticisms? Ooops, sorry! I forgot -- these are the days of "celebrating our diversity" -- just come on in -- bring every warped and twisted idea along and be a part of the happy UMC family! See But Doctor, I Feel Good, and People Say I Look Great!
In conclusion -- to my critics I leave a parting comment which I directed to a church member one Sunday morning many years ago. She was obviously disturbed as she approached me after the worship service and said, "You were doing some judging in that sermon this morning!" To which I replied, "How about we let God judge whether or not I was judging. I can wait until then if you can!" Her blood pressure must have jumped another 10 or 20 points as she snorted and stormed out the door!
So that's how it is folks -- let's wait and see what God says about it, OK? Of course, that could be a problem too -- there seem to be some in the UMC who don't want to face the fact that Jesus Christ will have the final word regarding each of us and our place in eternity.
But on the other hand there are those of us in the UMC and other churches who share the exciting sentiments of Paul when he said,For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. (Philippians 1:23,24 NKJV)
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. (2 Timothy 4:7,8 NKJV)
and John when he said,
Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. (1 John 3:1-3 NKJV)
By the way, have a great forever!
Clayton D. Harriger
Elder in full connection
W PA Annual Conference, The United Methodist Church
And presently pastor of
Gipsy Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
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