Hello there -- Theo, CR's administrative assistant, here! Recently a communication was sent to about 20,000 United Methodist Church clergy and lay persons. That commentary is posted below. Out of respect for his privacy the name of the author is not listed. Below that commentary is CDH's reply, Houston, we have a problem!, which was sent to the author.
Stop the Battle of General Conference
And Return to the Gospel Message!
By xx xx
The Battle of General Conference
The hype regarding General Conference 2004 contains all the elements of a national presidential convention. The conservatives, fresh from a resounding victory in 2000, are preparing to expand their influence substantially. The liberals dazed by their prior defeat and still in a state of relative disarray, are scrambling to mitigate the damage. Issues have been defined, delegates aligned and voting rights determined in such a way that a conservative victory seems virtually assured. Within the United Methodist Church, conservatives have become a formidable political machine intent on adoption of their version of classical Christianity.
The key changes will roll back previous advances for women, minorities, social programs and gays. They will establish doctrinal standards that will severely limit tolerance for alternative theological thought. These are not fringe or wedge issues but fundamental changes that will dramatically shift the character of Methodism.
The Gospel Message
In the Gospels we read about religious leaders who repeatedly tried to trap Jesus into saying something that would justify condemning Him. They asked Him what the most important commandment was, and His reply encapsulated the Gospel message. The first commandment is to love God with our whole heart, soul and mind. The second is to love all people as we love ourselves. If we do these things we will find that we are being faithful to the intent of the law. Jesus didn't create a new code of conduct but reminded people of a long-standing tradition. The Gospels are filled with stories of Jesus demonstrating that what God wants is our hearts. He denounced the mere outward appearance of holiness. He denounced the judging of others. He befriended those who were treated as outcasts and sinners by self-righteous religious leaders.
The Gospels say that The Father loved us so much that He sent His Son Jesus to die for our sins. If God judged us, we would all fail miserably because none of us is worthy of God's love or capable of earning it. But we don't have to be worthy or earn it because He gave it as a free, unconditional gift. He loved us first, just as we are. Now He wants us to demonstrate that same love towards Him and others. He said that His followers were to be known by their love for each other. If love is to be our identifier, how many of us could be readily identified as Christians?
What We Must Do
Perhaps the most difficult task in following Jesus is to take personal control over our faith and belief system. This step is extraordinarily difficult because we have been taught to rely on our church and ministers for spiritual guidance. Their authority provides the comfort of apparent certainty that alleviates our fear of the unknown. That process works fine in ordinary situations, but when fundamental issues arise that spark serious disagreement and make certainty an elusive target, we need to be able to think for ourselves. By thinking logically and clearly about our faith, it becomes our own personal, deeply ingrained belief system; not just something that someone in spiritual authority told us.
To find the truth in the current situation, you won't be able to simply ask your bishop or pastor. You will also need to talk to others who will provide you with differing points of view. You will need to uncover the real issues and understand the underlying assumptions. Extensive dialog is essential to understanding the truth. If someone tells you that you are wrong to question what they say, then you are listening to a very dangerous person. People whose ideas can't stand the light of reason are not seeking the truth.
In solidifying our faith and belief system, we need to go beyond just reading the Gospels and allow the contents of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John to permeate our very beings and direct our actions. The concept of Open Minds, Open Hearts, Open Doors provides a wonderful frame of reference. The time-tested Quadrilateral provides an outstanding tool kit. Following Jesus is a simple concept but not an easy task. Yet, attempting to follow Him is ultimately what makes us Christians.
Because of our presumed Godly focus, the church is supposed to be fundamentally different from worldly focused organizations. If that is so, why do we act so much like other organizations? We are supposed to act like Jesus, yet the conservative agenda and the tactics being used in an attempt to win the battle of General Conference are decidedly foreign to what He said and did. If we are truly followers of Christ, we must ensure that our goals are consistent with the Gospel message. We must cease using political tactics to achieve our goals. We must confront this situation boldly if the United Methodist Church is to remain a relevant component of God's Gospel plan.
Personal Note by the Author
I believe that the direction the United Methodist Church is taking is in basic conflict with the Gospel message. As a follower of Jesus, I feel compelled to encourage others to re-examine their positions and begin dialogs that will bring the entire denomination into alignment with the Gospel message. This material has been sent to nearly 20,000 United Methodist clergy and laity, throughout the Annual Conferences. Please share it freely as there are no restrictions on its use.
Credentials of the Author
xx xx is a heterosexual, male cross-dresser and author of the community best seller, The Bliss of Becoming One! Since 1996 xx has been a voluminous contributor to the transgender press regarding spiritual and social issues that affect everyone who is discriminated against, especially those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered or questioning. With his wife, Marsha, they demonstrate that gender variances can be integrated into every day lives. xx publishes Email newsletters with a circulation of 5,000. Copies can be found at: xoxoxox. xx is a member of the United Methodist Church but all writing and speaking engagements are done independently.
And now the reply to the above......
Subject Line: Houston, we have a problem!
Thank you for sending your comments on the need to stop the battle of the General Conference of the United Methodist Church and returning to what you perceive to be the "Gospel message."
In my subject line I used a term that has to do with space shuttle missions and in the event that something goes wrong, Houston is notified of a problem. Your comments do present a serious problem.
You are clearly advocating without condition the full acceptance of sodomites, lesbians, and others with certain unique sexual preferences and/or orientations. Further, these should be included in the whole scope of the life and ministry of the church simply on the basis that we all ought to "love one another" and presumably we'll be one happy family exhibiting the "Gospel message."
It must be kept in mind that in order to know Jesus and follow Him there are demands which absolutely must be met. These are not imposed by any theorist or student of the Christian faith but by Jesus Himself in clear understandable statements. They are found in the Gospel accounts at: Matthew 18:3; Luke 13:3; John 3:3 and John 6:53. These requirements, which are not optional, include being converted, repenting of all sin, being born again, and partaking of the very life of Jesus in a committed faith relationship.
One of these which a number of persons intentionally avoid or simply try to pretend that it doesn't even exist is Jesus' demand to repent. This applies to all sinful behavior, including sexual sin, as well as desires, attitudes, relationships, and speech!
A more troubling area is the fact that if the practice of same-gender sexual activity is accepted as is being advocated, then are we not obligated to permit the open practice of fornication, adultery, incest, and bestiality within the ranks of the UMC as well? The Episcopal Church recently installed a practicing sodomite as bishop and this is being hailed by many as a significant step forward. But in order to be consistent the Episcopal Church will have to also allow for these other sexual activities to be expressed openly as in the case of the newly installed bishop and his live-in lover! So if the UMC adopts your interpretation of the "Gospel message" with acceptance of sodomite and lesbian lifestyles, then it will be necessary to accept all other practitioners of varied sexual conduct lest we be guilty of exclusion and bigotry - or putting it another way - guilty of forni-phobia, adulter-phobia, incest-phobia, and bestial-phobia!
You would have no problem finding supporters for such lifestyles. For those who object, to whom or to what can you appeal for some degree of authority - someone or something which says, "Sodomy and lesbianism are acceptable, but fornication, adultery, incest, and bestiality are not!" Certainly you cannot appeal to the Scriptures on such an issue - because if you do, you have a glaring conflict right up front! Same sex activity is condemned and forbidden just as explicitly as are fornication, adultery, incest, and bestiality!
I am fully aware of pseudo-scholarship that attempts to take the statements of Scripture as pertaining to same-sex activity and twist them in such a way that in this age of toleration such statements have no application. But then, in traveling that road we would have to say the same regarding fornication, adultery, incest, and bestiality would we not?
No, the battle will continue and I for one am willing to concede that the sodomites and lesbians are indeed gaining ground in their stated goals of legalized marriage, adoption of children and recognition as being legitimate family along with full acceptance into the life and ministry of churches, plus many other benefits and privileges which heterosexual married couples presently possess.
But a time is coming when Jesus Christ will interrupt the present flow of human history at which time all of us will know beyond the shadow of a doubt exactly who has been right and who has been wrong on the issues of human sexuality and where God precisely established the boundaries of sexual expression and experience. I can wait until then if you can!
Still contending at www.crrange.com
Clayton D. Harriger
Elder in Full Connection
W. Pennsylvania Annual Conference
The United Methodist Church
See also: If the United Methodist Church Goes Pro-Sodomy, What Then?
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