The Silent Casualties of Clergy Trials

young-clergy-exodusLast night we had a DreamUMC chat. It’s a twitter-based discussion that takes place for an hour twice a month and it has taken place ever since General Conference 2012. Yes, twice a month laity and clergy discuss United Methodist topics. Really.

Last night, we discussed the Church Trials of the previous week and how they fit into the United Methodist Church in 2013. One of the questions was this:

Q4: Who are we not hearing about? Who are the silent casualties of our disciplinary processes? How can we do better?

The responses blew me away. Here’s most of them with some light edits for readability (these are individual tweets submitted in direct response to the above question):

  1. We aren’t hearing about all of the LGBT teens that kill themselves because their church doesn’t love them
  2. My UCC, Presby, Lutheran, and non-denom friends who LEFT the UMC without a trial or fanfare and blossomed in another denomination
  3. The “methodist middle” who wants to do ministry, be church, “don’t like ugly”.
  4. The uncertain. Those who don’t know what to think (about trials or sexuality). Churches can’t just ignore it
  5. as people threaten to leave and cry foul, we never hear from all the people who have already left
  6. Silenced? People who want the UMC open & affirming but aren’t on board with the progressive strategy of ignoring Para 341.6.
  7. the folk who thought twice & didn’t go to a UMC church to experience Jesus for the 1st time bc of what they saw on news
  8. most in my church barely know the BoD exists, never mind trials.
  9. had 2 young adults tell me this week they are reconsidering going into ministry in the UMC due to the trials. Sad.
  10. Homeless youth – who find themselves such because parents claim Christ and then deliver ultimatums.
  11. we don’t hear the voices of the people in pews who are there because they love God and love each other. You know. Methodists.
  12. We are ignoring all of the people that leave, the parents that have queer kids to raise, the people we are supposed to serve
  13. My non-progressive friends who don’t want to be known for who they exclude but who they work alongside. Praxis > Orthodoxy
  14. We are not hearing from GLTBQ employees of churches – at risk of their own sort of trials.
  15. We don’t hear from those who struggle to be celibate, whether gay or straight, & how little support they get 2 live out covenant.
  16. Central Conference folks without instant twitter, facebook, Internet news
  17. The silent victims are folks in the pews who pay for these trials. GC is the forum to get change. Don’t bankrupt the Church.
  18. We don’t hear from those who feel marginalized by a discipline that promotes a “only the holy” public face.
  19. Persons who r generally LGBT supportive but who value work w/in structure feel beat on when they raise ‘this is our rule’ .
  20. basic clergy and laity integrity issues are swept under the rug in place of hot topics
  21. We may not be hearing from candidates. I know I have been told to not be outspoken about anything while in process.
  22. young people who struggle with staying in the church because of how certain people treat their LGBTQ friends.
  23. these persons often feel they’re made pariah when they honestly care abt persons involved. how 2 keep in convo?
  24. working in DC I have heard from many former UMs who want nothing to do w/ a church that permits such things as church trials
  25. Silent casualties – LGBTQ who dismiss their call to ordination or drop out of the process
  26. Until NO queer kid is shunned, degraded or bullied by church, I kinda don’t think there’s a more important, life-saving issue.
  27. Good point about candidates. Bet the UMC is losing good people to denoms where at least you know where they stand.
  28. The young people interested in ministry but who either have LGBTQ friends or are LGBTQ. It’s alienating and discouraging
  29. Young people who want to leave but found the church and the people in it to be their only support on LGBTQ issues.
  30. These people love God and love to serve him but are disheartened by the messages they hear from outcomes of these trials.
  31. Those who have orthodox faith and enjoy being in denomination with folks who believe differently than them

Just reporting…thought it was fascinating as they were coming in!

Your turn:

  • Who else are we not hearing from because of our disciplinary processes?
  • Who else is excluded from the way how we deal with dissenting words and actions in the United Methodist Church?

Thanks for your comments!

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Comments

  1. John Thomas says

    Jeremy, you’ve hot the nail on the head. It’s not primarily about marriage equality, it’s about standing up for LGBTQ youth who are told in UMC congregations they are less-than or even evil. it’s about standing against (but dialoging with) African UMs that don’t know of other ways to interpret the clobber verses of the Bible. It’s about those who face a choice to suspend the ethical and remain in the UMC, or leave and go to another church (where they don’t believe they’re called to serve and their Wesleyan theology and core doctrinal standards don’t align (by this I mean issues of salvation, not church policy)).
    I can also tell you that I have observed a huge disconnect between what’s generally being taught at the right-of-center UM seminary I attend and the student body, versus what’s being preached and the stance of the UMC– a majority of the students, staff, and faculty being affirming on LGBTQ issues, and the rest wrestle but are open-minded.
    Further, I have witnessed first hand the loss of candidates and clergy to other churches (particularly the UCC in this area)– good people, who I know God works through, with high christologies, and fairly traditional beliefs, save for the treatment of LGBTQ people. it’s an incalculable loss to the UMC, and conservatives and our bishops ignore these people who have fled and are leaving, instead focus only on the loss of conservatives if the policy changes. The lack of prophetic witness is disheartening.

    • says

      The Africans correctly interpret the Bible by adhering to the same, correct interpretation of them held by the Church Fathers. Are you daring to suggest that Ss John Chrysostom and Gregory of Nyassa, among others, got it wrong? Because if you do that, you’re also saying the Jews got it wrong, both before and after Christ, compared to their pagan neighbors, who actively embraced homosexuality, and if you say that, then you’re effectively engaging in a form of implicit anti-Semitism (at least against Orthodox and Karaite Jews).

      Regarding prophetic witness, we do not have the right to claim the charisma of prophesy to radically reinterpret the Christian faith in a manner that is almost diametrically opposed to its historic teaching, not just on homosexuality, but on many other issues, while still calling ourselves Christian. I’m sure you’ll write this off as a “clobber verse”, but consider Revelations 18-19. We can use the teaching charism to develop Christianity in response to new issues, such as the ethical questions posed by new technology, but homosexuality is nothing new; it is an ancient practice, and one that has always been viewed as sinful in the Judeo-Christian faith (except by heretics such as Gnostics, and the revisionist theologians of the present).

      • John Thomas says

        I believe that the acceptance of LGBTQ people in early Christainity has been written out of history, we hear of gay saints, and interpretations of scripture far more inclusive than the prevailing interpretation today, even the word homosexuality is a recent invention. We don’t have original manuscripts of the church fathers and mothers, and they had no concept of sexual orientation… You can easily watch Fish Out of Water or Matt Vines YouTube video on the issue for more information. At the end of the day, I know it my heart that, as Bishop Tutu said: my God is not a homophobe– I would not be a Christain today if I believed the things you say, it’s as simple as that. The Holy Spirit still works and like slavery, treatment of native Americans, women’s ordination, and racial civil rights the UMC will one day apologize for it’s stance.
        You won’t find many stats of the LGBTQ youth who are bullied to death due to the treatment in UMC and by other Christians, but if you worked in the LGBTQ community for any length of time, you would witness the stories of hate by UMs and others who preach the inhumane “love the sinner, hate the sin”, with projects like GLSEN, TrevorProject and many local efforts, there’s also the issue that, due largely conservative Christain beliefs in families of LGBTQ bullying and suicide, that such deaths be not classified as hate crimes or have any trace of LGBTQ connotation, similar to the stigma of families wrh members who died of AIDS (talk about another failure of the church to be the church!)

        • says

          What you are saying is simply untrue. The oldest New Testament manuscripts date from the second century, and the New Testament together with the Old are the single best attested works of antiquity. The oldest manuscripts of Plato, Aristotle, Homer, Virgil, Herodotus, and other classical authors were written centuries after the original autograph, yet their authenticity is not disputed. Disputing the authenticity of the New Testament text is rather pointless, considering that more manuscripts of it survive, than of any other writing from antiquity, with the exception of the Old Testament. As far as the writings of the Church Fathers go, most of the surviving manuscripts of them date from the Middle Ages, at a time when homosexuality, while forbidden from the church, was still widespread, especially in the form of pederasty.

          It is a ridiculous exercise in revisionist history to say that the Church Fathers tolerated homosexuality, given that we have homilies by St, John Chrysostom, pastoral epistles by St. Gregory of Nyassa, the instructions of the Apostle Paul himself, and the Torah, for that matter, which all concur in condemning the practice. Any doubt over the correct interpretation of Paul can be resolved by the canons of the early church, and the teachings of John Chrysostom and Gregory of Nyassa, among others, two of the most respected saints of the early church. The vast cloud of witnesses unequivocally condemns the practice.

          Regarding gay saints, the only two saints it is argued were gay are Ss. Bacchus and Sergius; however, there is some doubt as to whether they even existed, or were rather a hagiographic myth created in the wake of the persecutions of Julian the Apostate, similar to the later mythos surrounding St. George; none of the ancient documents regarding them indicate that they were in a relationship that was sexual, and the Armenian Orthodox church considers them to have been a father and son. Erasmus, the 16th century theologian, struggled with homosexuality, and it is believed that John Henry Newman struggled in like manner in the 19th century. It is beyond doubt that many of the saints in the great cloud of witnesses experienced homosexual temptation, and many of them probably succumbed to it at one point or another, but the important thing to remember is that they were ashamed of it, and repented of it, and thus it is not generally recorded in their hagiographic narrative. One can be homosexual, and be a Christian saint, as long as one struggles to control one’s sexual passions, and repents fervently whenever one succumbs to temptation.

      • DeLyn Celec says

        @Paul Anthony Preussler Why do you refer to an entire continent of people, i.e.: “The Africans,” as one people who agree lock-step with one another? It doesn’t matter what you believe about LGBTQ issues; people on the African continent are at least as diverse as your own culture and it is insulting to homogenize all views into one.

        • says

          I am referring not to the population of Africa, which is widely diverse. I should know, as someone who used to work in Ghana, for Ghana Telecom; within Ghana alone there are many different tribes, each with its own language and customs, and they are all very beautiful; the Ashante, the Fante, the Dagbon, I love that country; as an added plus, my driver was from Burkina Faso. He was a Muslim, and I was best man at his Islamic wedding; I flew all the way to Africa so I could be there for him. So don’t even think about lecturing me on diversity! I also routinely enjoy Ethiopian food (it really annoyed me when the only Ethiopian restaurant in Accra, Lalibela, closed, as that was one of my favorite restaurants; no air conditioning, but the food was so spicy, it would make you sweat to the point where you didn’t notice the heat), and attend Coptic Orthodox church services on Saturday morning. Africa is one of the most diverse continents.

          In referring to “the Africans”, I am referring to the African parishes of the United Methodist Church, which were established in many cases through the heroic work of missionaries, including my own great uncle, who is still alive, nearly 90 years old. He worked in Angola, the Congo and the Gambia. In the 1950s he was one of several Methodist missionaries to be imprisoned in Angola, taken to Lisbon, and tortured in the central prison by the cruel fascists of the Antonio Salazar dictatorship, for daring to preach the Methodist faith against the wishes of the Lusotropicalist dictatorship. He and his wife also routinely battled with tropical diseases during their work, including malaria, falaria, and various other illnesses; one of their children died from such a disease at the age of 17. However, the work they did paid off. They founded communities, where there is now proper food, sanitation, and shelter, for thousands of people, and at the same time preached the Gospel of Christ to people who had never before heard it.

          Their parishes, across Africa, and others like them, practice a much more Orthodox form of Methodism than the degenerate form of our faith that is currently practiced in America. I believe our religion will be saved by the Africans. I should also note in closing that there is a substantial pan-African movement, of Africans from all different tribes, cultures and ethnicities, who long for a united Africa, and also there is the African Union. So it is quite proper to speak of the Africans as a group, for many of them urgently wish such union, in the same manner as one can speak of the Americans or the Europeans as a group (and to the same degree that Americans and Europeans are culturally and indeed politically united).

      • Wahoo Lon says

        Can’t the same be said about divorce? Yet we have divorced clergy, divorced bishops, haven’t heard a sermon condeming the divorced to hell in a long long time.

        If, as you say, “we do not have the right to claim the charisma of prophesy to radically reinterpret the Christian faith,” I’m wondering why we need to say anything at all? I’d be happy if we just removed any references about homosexuality in the BOD and claimed before God and Humanity, “we have no special revelation about homosexuality.” let the text and the history speak for itself. let our churches and people wrestle with them as we do everything else.

        • says

          I have elsewhere on this blog called for clerical divorce to be dealt with as follows:

          1. If a pastor divorces his wife, he should be deposed. Such an act is a sin against love, a sin against the integrity of families, and cannot be tolerated.

          2. If a pastor is divorced by his wife, in this case, he should be suspended for 60 days and required to undergo a secondary phase of spiritual formation. This would correct for matters in the event he was having an affair, et cetera, and if he was on the other hand innocent, in the manner of John Wesley, would give him a chance to recover.

          • Wahoo Lon says

            I see that you’ve posted modifications and a personal edit of a statement of faith elsewhere on the web. If you can change the statement of faith why can’t the connection?

            The fact of the matter is that we are Protestant and therefore don’t receive tradition dictator of our “modernity” (with which you seem in a fight against). But use tradition as a piece of the Wesleyan quadrilateral. I don’t recognize an experience of grace in what you write. These acts of penance you recommend are without umc precedent and harken to Catholicism or orthodox traditions.

            A church that treated divorced persons in the manner you suggest would not last long in America. A church that treats gay people as it does won’t last much longer. The stridency and gracelessness you propose will cause the death of the church.

          • says

            Firstly, Happy Thanksgiving. I attended a beautiful interfaith thanksgiving service at one of the last conservative Episcopal parishes in the country; the Methodists were also there, as well as a Jewish congregation and an Islamic delegation. I felt in seeing God’s children reunited in prayer, a foretaste of the heavenly liturgy that awaits us in the world to come.

            Now, nowhere have I modified a Methodist or other statement of faith. There is a very blessed and kindly man named Dave Mosher who runs a blog “Against Apostasy”, with the best of intentions. Unfortunately his theology has been shaped largely by an Evangelical and Baptist tradition which does not understand the importance of the ancient creeds. I have been working to persuade him to accept the Nicene Creed, and also to not condemn as apostates those who practice infant baptism or believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist (which is in fact the more ancient faith, as far as we can tell from the writings of St. Justin Martyr).

            I am working to advocate a general return to the faith of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, which at present I fear exists more as an abstract concept than as a single unified entity, despite Ignatius IV of Antioch’s claim to the contrary; but I do not believe the Gates of Hell have prevailed against it. Rather, the Christian community has dispersed across the globe, and a result of the immense amount of time that has passed, and the immense distances involved, theological consensus and full recollection of the specific dogma of the Church Fathers has been lost for many, especially Western Christians.

            Thus, much of what I advocate may seem alien to someone raised solely within the traditions of degenerate, contemporary Protestantism, with its crypto-Gnostic overtones. It may seem to be Catholic or Orthodox, and that’s because it is. Protestantism is valid only as a reaction to the Roman Catholic Church’s heterodoxy and clerical abuse in the years leading up to the Lutheran schism; I don’t feel it has anything new to offer theologically that wasn’t already there in the faith of the early Church, although that said, many Protestant traditions, freed from the oppression of Roman abuse, became distinctly beautiful. I love the liturgy and faith of the Scandinavian Lutherans, the early Moravians, the early Methodists, the early Congregationalists in the US, and some of the Presbyterians. However, most of this has been lost, and what we’re left with is the burnt out shell of a Christian culture. To recover our faith, we must look to the East, to revive the traditions of the Catholic and Orthodox faith including its strong emphasis on repentance and spiritual renewal through asceticism and continuous prayer, its iconographic theology, and its profound emphasis of the importance of Holy Tradition.

            Now, of all the Protestant churches, two came closest to the Orthodox, Catholic faith: the old Methodist Episcopal church into which I was baptized, and the high-church Anglicans (known as Anglo Catholics). While the Anglo Catholics are hanging on in the form of the Province of the Southern Cone, the schismatic ACNA, and other like-minded groups, the Methodists, even conservative Methodists, have largely lost sight of the Orthodox, Catholic tradition they inherited, along with Protestantism, from John Wesley, who it is generally believed was secretly ordained as a bishop by Erasmus of Arcadia in 1763.

            The Wesleyan Quadrilateral is entirely compatible with Orthodox, Catholic Christianity. The Holy Scriptures are ultimately the supreme source of Christian doctrine. The Holy Tradition shows us how this faith was received by the Church Fathers, guiding our interpretation; we must remain faithful to this tradition at all times. Occasionally, in analyzing scripture and tradition, anomalies arise, and where they arise, reason exists to guide us. An example of the proper use of reason is in deciding whether to apply the traditions of the church with the full force of Arkriveia, or whether to derogate them via Oikonomia, as dictated by pastoral neccessity. Another legitimate use of reason is to address theological questions that were not faced by the Church Fathers, primarily relating to the impact of modern technology; contraceptives, nuclear weaponry, and genetic engineering being among prominent examples. Finally, the experience of grace is the last part of the quadrilateral, and I would say, the most important from the perspective of individual devotion. It is the experience of our faith that convicts us of it; I myself have experienced the tender embrace of the loving hand of God, and I feel God is in the process of saving me; through his grace alone I have survived the loss of my beloved grandparents, the severe illness of my father and my fiancee, and many other hardships.

            The experience of grace however is personal; there is an epistemological limitation in how we share it with one another (unless perhaps one is a telepath; unfortunately I can’t count Deanna Troi amongst our midst). I can only tell you that I myself have experienced the real presence of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, since I first received it at the age of five in my Methodist parish; I can’t prove it to you; in like manner, I have to accept on the basis of faith whatever you tell me about your experience of the Holy Spirit.

            However, the experience of grace is of vital importance, which is why I feel more Methodists should commit themselves to incorporating significant aspects of daily prayer and repentance in their lives. I have greatly benefited from the use of the Jesus Prayer, and strongly recommend it, along with the Orthodox practice of fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays (which is difficult at first, but beneficial over time), and where possible, observing the liturgy of the hours, at least in the form of morning and evening prayer. Having a rule of prayer is a boon to Christian spiritual formation.

          • says

            Lastly, I should also add, your point that no church in America could survive with the severity of faith that I advocate is refuted by the fact that the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, the Roman Catholics, the Assyrian Church of the East, and for that matter, the remaining conservative Protestant denominations, which are very strident in upholding their traditional doctrine, namely, the PCA, the Southern Baptists, and the LCMS, are doing fine, while the liberal mainline churches are hemorrhaging members.

            The only liberal church that has had any success at all is the Unitarian Universalist communion; I would argue this is because the changes liberal theologians such as yourself want to make to the Christian faith are fundamentally incompatible with it; attempting to reconcile it with it in the manner of the Episcopalians, the United Church of Christ, the PCUSA, and to a lesser extent, the UMC, produces profound cognitive dissonance which alienates parishioners. The UUs do not pretend to maintain the Christian faith, except as one of many possible belief systems within their community; as a result, Unitarians do not feel the sense of confusion that arises among Christians who find themselves in the midst of heretical worship services.

            I was at a ELCA Easter service, which was liturgically traditional and rather beautiful, albeit led by an extremely liberal pastor. He said, “Was Christ Married? Possibly.” at one point in the liturgy; when he said this, one could almost feel the respective stomachs of most of the congregation turning in agony. The fact is, for people raised in the sincerity of Christian faith, the dogmatic apostasy modernist theologians advocate so stridently (much more stridently than most conservatives; since you seem concerned about strident dialogue) to be almost physically painful, in some cases, quite literally nauseating. In fact, when I initially stumbled across this blog, I was literally taken ill by some of the posts; but with great effort and prayer, I was able to settle down, appreciate the inner beauty in the person of UMJeremy and the nobility of his intentions, however misguided his actions are, and to begin my work of polemic response. The dialectic theology this produces has been very helpful to me personally in defining my own faith, and this is why I advocate religious freedom. However, it is of vital importance that to preserve the Protestant churches, we not allow the corruption of contemporary heresy to advance any further, but instead return to the ancient and beautiful faith received from the Holy Apostles through the Ecumenical Councils; that faith which is truly Orthodox and truly Catholic.

          • John says

            Wahoo, yes we fall within the umbrella of Protestantism… but we drawn deeply from the same well as the Eastern church. Unlike the preponderance of Western Christians, as Wesleyans we do not hold to a juridical, positional soteriology whose primary focus is on the moment God’s justifying grace becomes operative in the life of the believer. Wesley’s emphasis on that subsequent outpouring grace that moves us onward and upward towards entire sanctification (Christian perfection or being perfected in love) was drawn from Orthodox teaching of theosis, wherein the believer is thoroughly remade in the image of God.

            The connection can change its statements of faith, it’s true, but the constitutional hurdles to be made in order to do so make it almost impossible. So, our statements of faith stands as we have receive it. Of course, anyone is free to assent to them or not, but it would be disingenuous at best to have more than minor points of disagreement and still self-identify as a Methodist Christian. I would not presume to call myself a Southern Baptist if I promoted paedobaptism, an Orthodox Presbyterian if I taught that God’s grace could be rejected or that Christ’s atoning death was effectual for all humanity, or a Lutheran if I believed that the eucharist was a purely memorial ritual.

            How in heaven’s name have we reached the point where we’re teaching those whose eternal lives are entrusted to our nurture and care that our beliefs don’t matter? I don’t believe that we’re unable to reach youth and young adults because we’re too firm in our teachings… I believe that youth and young adults are walking away because they correctly perceive that we don’t have a clue what we’re talking about because half of us don’t know the foundational doctrines of our church and the other half disavow them.

            The tradition that Albert Outler referenced in his development of the so-called “Wesleyan Quadrilateral” is that core body of teachings that has been handed down through the ages. We can understand it as “that which has been believed in all places in all times by all of the saints.”

            And as you defend “modernity” please bear in mind that it is a highly particular worldview that is as time- and culture-bound as that tied to any age either preceding or succeeding it, and as such, offers its own set of epistemological strengths and weaknesses.

          • says

            I must say John its rather refreshing to encounter someone on this blog who actually fully understands historic Methodist doctrine, particularly the correlation between the Wesleyan conception of “Holiness” and the Eastern doctrine of Theosis. This connection is of course particularly interesting in light of Wesley’s apparent secret ordination as a bishop by the Greek Orthodox prelate Erasmus of Arcadia, acting solus, in 1763. While Methodists are undeniably Protestant, I feel our historic doctrine comes closer than that of any other tradition, even the Anglicans, to facilitating a reconciliation with the Orthodox and Catholic faith of the early Church.

    • David Elmore says

      I believe the Bishops (at least a great many of them) are well aware of these issues but feel bound to uphold a Discipline they don’t always agree with themselves.

  2. Julie A. Arms Meeks says

    Those provisional candidates who have openly gone to another denomination to seek transfer and have told them why & been accepted there with welcome arms – yet silently leave the UMC w/o the UMC fully knowing why.

    I agree about the Central Conference folk. I wish we could reach them better/more easily.

  3. Mrs. McKinney says

    As an educator I cannot stand for anyone to be bullied no matter what the reason and it goes both ways. As a Christian, I cannot stand for people to take away from or add to the Bible. There are plenty of other denominations that have caved into ordaining homosexual marriage and I am glad that UMC has not. Biologically and mathematically, there can be no marriage equality because homosexuals cannot reproduce/procreate. Matthew 24 states the 24 signs of Jesus’ return and one of them is “As the days of Noah were, people will be marrying & giving in marriage”. Lets concern ourselves with Romans 1:15-16 in not being ashamed of the gospel (1 Cor 15:1-4= Christ died for our sins, was buried & rose again) of Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes. 2Cor 4:3-4 But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost, in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

    • says

      I agree entirely; we must in love train those suffering from homosexual inclination to control their passions. Many saints did struggle with this. However, homosexuality is no worse in the eyes of the lord than any other sin, which is why you are also right to say that all bullying is a dreadful sin that the Church must oppose with all its might. I myself have suffered from homosexual temptation times (especially in my teenage years; when I was 14 I went through a brief phase where I was terrified that I would succumb to these temptations, until God delivered me from it). Through the grace of the Holy Spirit, I was delivered from these temptations, and am now engaged to be married. Unfortunately, my beloved fiancee is extremely ill, and if she dies before we tie the knot, I will most likely pursue a path of holy celibacy, and perhaps enter a monastery.

  4. says

    I am going to review each of these concerns in detail. These are real concerns, and should not be overlooked, but in my mind, they do not justify a departure from the Biblical and Apostolic faith of the Church on the issue of homosexuality, or indeed any other issue. Now, on the problems themselves:

    1. We aren’t hearing about all of the LGBT teens that kill themselves because their church doesn’t love them

    Have any teenagers actually committed suicide on account of the UMC’s doctrine on this issue? A quick Google search reveals nothing. At any rate; the UMC does love them; the current theological position explicitly affirms that homosexuals are of sacred worth. Yet this raises another important point. In the Philokalia, the Ladder of Divine Ascent, and other texts of the Eastern fathers, it is warned that falling into delusion frequently results in tragic outcomes such as suicide. The blame for any such suicides that occur cannot be ascribed to the Church, for upholding Biblical doctrine, but to the Devil, who has tempted and deluded these innocent children into sexual depravity. The UMC officially states that it loves homosexuals; I love homosexuals. It is of vital importance that we do more to connect with them, in love, and help them overcome the sexual derangement inflicted upon them by Satan.

    Now, it must be stressed that any child suicide is a horrible tragedy; the worst tragedy possible. I have no doubt that Christ will save the soul of any child driven to such despair. The way we can prevent such suicides is to love our youth, even those who have sinful inclinations, and in love, train them to govern their passions, through hesychastic devotion, the study of the Philokalia, and acts of Christian fellowship. We are responsible for any suicides of homosexually inclined children that occur, but not because of our doctrine on homosexuality, which is correct, but rather because the way we pastorally care for those suffering from demonic attacks upon their sexual passions is entirely inadequate.

    2. My UCC, Presby, Lutheran, and non-denom friends who LEFT the UMC without a trial or fanfare and blossomed in another denomination

    Individuals who are not comfortable with the doctrines of their church can either remain within and press for reform, or leave to a different denomination. I have chosen to remain, to help guide the Methodist church back to its scriptural roots; however, at some point in the future, if the UMC descends much further into heresy, I myself will depart and most likely join one of the Eastern churches. In like manner, from my perspective, though I consider laity to be in and of themselves incapable of heresy, if someone who has been caught in the Satanic delusion of heretical or heterodox teaching leaves the Methodist church for another church, that is a tragedy, but much less of a tragedy then if they were to remain within the UMC fostering dissent. In particular, I feel homosexuals who wish to remain sexually active, rather than adhering to the Orthodox doctrine, ought to join the Unitarian Universalist church, which in my opinion is a good organization, which does promote morality in an inter-faith manner. Those who we can’t save, we can at least convey into the hands of an ecclesiastical organization that will care for them and give them some access to the Divine.

    3. The “methodist middle” who wants to do ministry, be church, “don’t like ugly”.

    The “Methodist middle” are primarily laity; the way we can retain them is to maintain our present doctrine but affirm our love for homosexuality. Additionally, homosexuality should not by any means be the main issue discussed pastorally. We can retain the Methodist middle through solemn and uplifting liturgy, and through edifying preaching, that expatiates the scripture readings indicated by the lectionary. Another good way to keep them in the flock would be to reinstate the practice of Love Feasts, one of the more beautiful aspects of historic Methodism that has disappeared in recent decades. The Copts still have Love Feasts, they call them “Agapes”, charmingly enough. I have been to one, at a hierarchical divine liturgy; it was one of the best meals I’ve ever had and it cost me nothing (although I made a donation anyway).

    4. The uncertain. Those who don’t know what to think (about trials or sexuality). Churches can’t just ignore it
    5. as people threaten to leave and cry foul, we never hear from all the people who have already left

    In the interests of brevity, which is admittedly not my strong suit, I will answer these two together. Many of those who have left the Methodist church in recent decades have been driven away by the weak, spineless and uninspiring theology espoused by generations of liberal pastors. It is worth noting that the more conservative denominations have not experienced the congregational losses that have plagued the mainline churches; it is also worth noting that the UMC, the most theologically conservative mainline church (and I believe the only one to still maintain Biblical doctrine regarding homosexuality), has declined more slowly than its contemporaries, and is still the largest Protestant church in the United States terms of total membership.

    6. Silenced? People who want the UMC open & affirming but aren’t on board with the progressive strategy of ignoring Para 341.6.

    These people must repent, or alternatively they should consider the Unitarian Universalist church, which has a theology which can accept homosexuality without self-contradiction.

    7. the folk who thought twice & didn’t go to a UMC church to experience Jesus for the 1st time bc of what they saw on news

    I doubt there are very many of these; the majority of new converts to Christianity are entering in through those denominations which are more evangelically active. We are deluding ourselves if we think that the UMC, in its present degenerate condition, has any meaningful impact in terms of evangelization; due to our theological liberalism, we are a church that confuses prospective Christians and alienates them from Christ, not a church that successfully receives them, and we’ve been that way since at least the 1960s.

    8. most in my church barely know the BoD exists, never mind trials.

    This is as it should be. The laity in general should not be disturbed in their faith through the unwarranted discussion of ecclesiastical discipline. The BoD itself is largely irrelevant as far as laity are concerned; it applies primarily to clergy. The only confessional requirement that I feel should be imposed upon Methodist laity is conformance with the doctrine expressed in the 381 revision of the Nicene Creed, and also the Athanasian and Apostolic Creeds, which together with the Holy Scriptures, contain everything necessary for salvation. It is the responsibility of the clergy to develop the faith of the laity beyond these basic confessional requirements.

    9. had 2 young adults tell me this week they are reconsidering going into ministry in the UMC due to the trials. Sad.

    This is not sad; they would not make good UMC ministers because they do not agree with our fundamental doctrine. For the same reason, I myself would make a rather lousy Sunni Imam. These young adults should rejoice that they have avoided a lifestyle that would ultimately be poisonous to them, and instead engage with humility and enthusiasm in whatever path the Lord has set out for them.

    10. Homeless youth – who find themselves such because parents claim Christ and then deliver ultimatums.

    Any parent who causes their child to become homeless, and refuses to provide them with shelter, ought to be excommunicated from the Methodist church. Parents have a responsibility to care for their progeny until their progeny have attained the ability to care for themselves. This responsibility is not negated by the religious devotion, or lack thereof, of the youth in question; for a parent to render their child homeless for deviating from Christian doctrine is to sin, absolutely, against love, and against the person of Christ, and is in fact one of the most profoundly un-Christian things you could do. We sinned horribly against our Father in Heaven; yet he did not abandon us to the devil. Rather, he sent his only begotten son to redeem us, taking our sins upon himself, and trampling down death by death; Jesus, to procure our salvation, descended into Hades and took Hades captive! Parents and their children must, in their relationship, form an icon of the relationship between God and humanity; thus, anyone who would abandon their child is anathema, and should be excommunicated accordingly.

    11. we don’t hear the voices of the people in pews who are there because they love God and love each other. You know. Methodists.

    The input of the laity in Ecclesiastical trials is irrelevant, except for purposes of avoiding schism. At the council of Ephesus, Theodore of Mopuestia was not condemned, in spite of being the original author of the Nestorian heresy, because his generosity resulted in many Syriacs revering him. After a while, he faded from memory, and was duly anathematized in the sixth century, at the second council of Constantinople.

    12. We are ignoring all of the people that leave, the parents that have queer kids to raise, the people we are supposed to serve

    It is ultimately the responsibility of parents to raise their children, under the pastoral guidance of the Church. I pity any parent however who ignores Christian doctrine and leaves the church, in order to raise their child in sin. Such abuse is equivalent to that of those parents who evict their children from their home; the only difference is that while the former ought to be excommunicated unless they repent; these latter negligent parents effectively excommunicate themselves. We must pray for their repentance and their return to holy Communion.

    13. My non-progressive friends who don’t want to be known for who they exclude but who they work alongside. Praxis > Orthodoxy

    All I can say to this is lex orandi, lex credendi. To say that praxis is superior to Orthodoxy is an inane statement; Orthodoxy encompasses praxis as well as dogma. What we pray is what we believe; therefore, our prayers themselves must be Orthodox in order for us to participate fully in the Apostolic faith.

    14. We are not hearing from GLTBQ employees of churches – at risk of their own sort of trials.

    The Church must assure all employees and indeed all laity that it is not about to go on a witch hunt to seek out and expel all homosexuals. Such would be profoundly unchristian. Sin is a private matter between the sinner and God; the church must only exercise discipline in limited cases, primarily against ordained clergy who fail to teach the Apostolic faith, and laity who sin openly and rejoice in their sinful nature. Employees who are not in the ministry should only be fired for reasons that amount to administrative misconduct. Everyone in the UMC is a sinner; clergy, laity and secular employees alike. It is the role of the church to help its family move towards a state of greater holiness, in approach of God.

    15. We don’t hear from those who struggle to be celibate, whether gay or straight, & how little support they get 2 live out covenant.

    This is a valid point. The UMC has a horrible record when it comes to Christian celibacy, owing to its Protestant roots. However, I rejoice in the fact that a few years ago, the first Methodist convent opened up. I hope to see many more Methodist monasteries open in the years ahead; all Methodist pastors should be required to attend training in pastoral care for celibate Christians, and the UMC should have an official system of cenobitic, idiorhythmic and solitary monasticism. We ought to pay the living expenses of monks, whether solitary or communal, who dedicate themselves to a life of prayer, and we ought to have among the ranks of our clergy friars or hieromonks, and both male and female hierodeacons. What is more, we should phase out married Bishops, and set out to have an entirely celibate prelacy by 2050. We can restore the office of Chorepiscopi, a sort of junior Bishop, who can be married, and these married Chorepiscopi would replace the District Superintendents.

    16. Central Conference folks without instant twitter, facebook, (irrelevant; I’m not going to comment on this)

    17. The silent victims are folks in the pews who pay for these trials. GC is the forum to get change. Don’t bankrupt the Church.

    The cost of ecclesiastical trials is part of the necessary overhead of running an organized religion with a structure of canon law. That said, steps should be taken to reduce the cost. If we transition to a model where we replace our salaried, married Bishops who live in the world, with monastic bishops whose basic needs in terms of food and shelter are provided for, but who are not otherwise compensated, we could dramatically slash the cost of clerical trials. The advocates for each side could be drawn from the ranks of the unpaid monastic clergy, and a panel of unpaid monastic bishops would decide the case; in doing this, the costs of a church trial would be minimal.

    18. We don’t hear from those who feel marginalized by a discipline that promotes a “only the holy” public face.

    If people feel marginalized by the Christian faith, then clearly they are ignoring the Holy Spirit that calls them to Christ. A divine synergy is necessary to approach the Church; this synergy requires active participation on the part of the human, and this participation is possible only for those who have some degree of spiritual receptiveness. Someone who is a slave to their sexual passions, or is utterly absorbed in the zeitgeist of contemporary society, will not be able to answer the universal call to Holiness. Many of these people were baptized Christians; this remarkable fact demonstrates the utter failure of our systems of catechesis within the UMC.

    19. Persons who r generally LGBT supportive but who value work w/in structure feel beat on when they raise ‘this is our rule’ .

    I am LGBT supportive, in that I love gay people, have gay friends, and consider them to be of sacred worth. But Christianity requires that they conquer their own sexual passions, and restructure their homosexual relationships into platonic friendships, and either redirect their sexual passion towards the opposite sex, or alternately, learn to suppress it in its entirety.

    20. basic clergy and laity integrity issues are swept under the rug in place of hot topics

    I would agree that the efforts of people to get the UMC to abandon Biblical doctrine on homosexuality are a huge distraction from the normal work of the church, which is to celebrate with joy the Holy and Life Giving Mysteries. However, the unworthy cannot receive the Eucharist in safety; for to someone in a state of sin, the Eucharist is poison. Holy Communion requires repentance, thus, the secondary mission of the church is to help people realize the sins they have committed, and repent of them. In the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions, this is accomplished through personal confession to a priest, but in the Protestant tradition, and in the Assyrian Church of the East, it is accomplished in a more general way, through the petition to God for forgiveness in the liturgical general confession. Both are valid; I do like the Anglican approach of offering personal confession to those who seek it. “All may, some should, none must.”

    21. We may not be hearing from candidates. I know I have been told to not be outspoken about anything while in process.

    Candidates must be scrutinized closely to see that they truly believe the Methodist understanding of the Christian faith. Those who are unable to devote themselves to teaching our faith, in its entirety, do not belong in the clergy of our church.

    22. young people who struggle with staying in the church because of how certain people treat their LGBTQ friends.

    Laity who mistreat homosexuals in any way should be privately censured, and if they persist, excluded from communion. It is meet and right to warn homosexuals that the Bible and the Church says what they’re doing is wrong, but it is evil to treat them in a cruel or degrading manner. I have gay friends, who are aware of how I feel about their sexual orientation, but that does not stop us from loving one another in human fellowship, as Christ has taught us.

    23. these persons often feel they’re made pariah when they honestly care abt persons involved. how 2 keep in convo?

    We must indeed keep homosexuals in the conversation, by constantly reminding them of the fact that we do love them; we merely wish for them to develop the ability to develop a mastery over their own sexual passions, and not to yield to the constant and unending temptation of the devil. If they occasionally slip up, they will not be condemned for it; but like all sinners, myself included, we must expect them to persevere in their journey towards God, to the end, that they may win the infinitely valuable prize of life eternal in Christ.

    24. working in DC I have heard from many former UMs who want nothing to do w/ a church that permits such things as church trials

    This is a ridiculous statement. All organized religions have some system of discipline. Even the Unitarian Universalists will conduct ecclesiastical trials when a clergyman is accused of some form of abuse. I would challenge whoever said this to name one single religion, anywhere in the world, that does not have some system of discipline or regulation. Consider the Burning Man festival; it has a strong religious element, it features a temple, and several liturgical acts, and allows its participants to engage in a huge array of freedoms, including the ability to enjoy the festival in the nude. However, it also has a strict set of regulations, and its own corps of volunteer security guards, the Black Rock Rangers, to enforce it (they are almost directly equivalent to the sextons and ushers of Christian churches).

    25. Silent casualties – LGBTQ who dismiss their call to ordination or drop out of the process

    Someone who does not seek to control their sexual passions, and instead wantonly engages in homosexual activity, or heterosexual activity outside of marriage, is not fit to be a clergyman in an Orthodox, Catholic church such as the United Methodist Church. They should work for the Unitarians, the Episcopalians, or another denomination that allows such activity.

    26. Until NO queer kid is shunned, degraded or bullied by church, I kinda don’t think there’s a more important, life-saving issue.

    The church should never shun or emotionally abuse children struggling with homosexual temptation. It should instead, with the utmost love, teach them how to distinguish right from wrong, how to resist temptation, and how to control and direct their passions to the glory of God. This is perhaps our most important responsibility, and one at which the UMC has utterly failed in recent decades, hence the current crises.

    27. Good point about candidates. Bet the UMC is losing good people to denoms where at least you know where they stand.

    People who cannot follow Methodist doctrine cannot be Methodist clergymen; but I sincerely pray that God will bless them in their chosen career in another denomination or indeed in another line of work. We must not forget however that the narrow door leads to salvation, and many good people stumble on the way.

    28. The young people interested in ministry but who either have LGBTQ friends or are LGBTQ. It’s alienating and discouraging

    I have gay friends, and am presently in the discernment process for ministry (I presently work in IT but have grown weary of the tribulations of secular life). I am not discouraged, but rather encouraged, by the UMC upholding the Biblical doctrine.

    29. Young people who want to leave but found the church and the people in it to be their only support on LGBTQ issues.

    These young people should continue to be supported, even as the Church also seeks to help them control their passions and attain holiness, growing in Christ Jesus.

    30. These people love God and love to serve him but are disheartened by the messages they hear from outcomes of these trials.

    They should not be disheartened; if they truly love God, they will keep His commandments in joy. I love how the Eastern Orthodox view Great Lent as a time of joy and celebration; a joyous fast as they move closer to God through ascetic self-denial.

    31. Those who have orthodox faith and enjoy being in denomination with folks who believe differently than them

    The Unitarian Universalists have many Christians among their ranks, even some who are relatively orthodox. However, true Orthodoxy is practiced in an Orthodox church, as we are saved not individually, but as a community. This requires that we unanimously repent of our wickedness, collectively uphold the commandments of God, and together enter into Holy Communion with our Lord Jesus Christ.

    • Don Nelson says

      As one who served in the United Methodist Church as an ordained elder in the Oklahoma Conference for 10 years before I could no longer abide by the Doctrinal bias and bigotry I experienced from those in leadership positions I find any and all references to “Biblical and Apostolic Faith” absurd and nonsensical. If the UMC was to truly adopt a Biblical approach it would follow Wesley’s “If your mind be as my mind” and truly minister to the human condition as it exists in a very diverse world. But that will not happen so long as there are those that cling to an archaic and draconian set of dogmas. It is time for the UMC to move into the 21st century and stop trying to resurrect the dark ages.

      • says

        There is nothing draconian about the faith of Orthodox Christianity. We affirm the sanctity of life and the sanctity of human sexuality. Men are inherently sinful, and must learn, through spiritual formation, to control their passions. Almost all of the excesses of American society that liberals and conservatives alike object to are the result of decadent indulgence, the result of people not disciplining themselves. Obesity results from failure to control one’s appetite, succumbing to the sin of gluttony. Suburban sprawl, the corporate financial scandals, the massive debt, all result from various forms of avarice and materialism. The single teenage parents, the spread of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, and other horrors, are all largely the result of people failing to discipline their sexual appetites. The vast numbers of homeless and mentally disturbed people and the huge numbers of casualties on the roads due to impaired driving, are the result of people yielding to the demonic temptation to abuse substances. All of these are failures of self control.

        How possibly is the church being archaic and draconian, in stressing the importance of the Catholic faith, the faith of John Wesley, which stresses abstinence from alcohol, control of sexual passions, generosity, simplicity of living, and humility? If every American did as the church historically taught, this country would not have degenerated into its current nightmarish condition. Shame on you, and everyone like you, who argues that, in this dark hour, when the teaching of God’s divine Word has never been more important, that the church should instead abrogate its holy and sacred responsibilities and merely affirm the depravity of contemporary society.

  5. says

    By the way, while my weakness is a severe lack of brevity, I find Twitter pushes one too far in the other direction; I personally find the highly compressed language it requires to be rather vulgar. As a geeky aside, I also recall when Twitter first came out, running on a Ruby on Rails platform, and it used to crash several times a day. They finally rewrote it in Java, with some use of Scala, if memory serves. The Java language is somewhat unpleasant, but Scala runs on the Java virtual machine and is highly enjoyable, not unlike Ruby. For those participants of Hacking Christianity who actually are Hackers, I do recommend Scala. I realize this is a bit OT, but this is at least ostensibly a hacking site, and I couldn’t resist throwing in a bit of geek talk after seeing all of these ridiculously crunched Twitter messages (I mean, would it kill them to allow, say, 256 characters, which will fit into a mere 256 bytes? You could still cram four posts into one kilobyte, which in modern storage terms, is literally nothing).

  6. d says

    Who you are not hearing from are generational United Methodists. Families that have for generations felt pride in their Methodist heritage. Persons that have seen their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren married, baptized, educated and laid to rest in a church they once called home.

    You are not hearing from those that sit in pews year after year and have to watch a church changed from church, whose goal was to bring personas to Christ, changed into a community activists organization.
    Once a church, the UMC is now more concerned with changing the world by social activism and politics than the Word of God. A church that talks God, quotes scripture and does the works required but a church that is far from God.
    You Don’t hear from those that keep their opinions to themselves for fear they will be called bigots, haters, & homophobes. You do not hear or feel the pain caused when they have to listen to some say they are just waiting for the “oldies” to die off so the “so called” progressives can have their way. A church whose pastors are tripped by a quote of scripture. Pastors that spend more time being social activists than shepherds of their flock and gate keepers of the church.

    There are literally hundreds of thousands of people that have left the UMC, ELCA, Episcopal and Presbyterian Church. They turn to The RCC, NALC, Baptist and other denominations that teach what the UMC once taught and stand where the UMC once stood. . They do not leave because they are bigots. They leave because they believe in the God they learned about from scripture. They remember what that Sunday School Teacher taught them long ago. They believe the Bible really is the inspired Word of God and will not disobey what they believe God has revealed by the prophets and apostles sent to teach the church and words that are written and recorded in that book we call the Holy Bible. No activist, activism, community organizer, Bishop, Pastor, name calling, or threat will change their opinion. Many have proven that fact by starting new denominations, changing church affiliations, starting home church or simply practicing their faith in private. They leave behind long held traditions practiced by their families that revolved around the United Methods Church. These people, whose heart was once always with the United Methodist Church, have had to make hard decisions, break traditions and change their families future generations.

    The UMC is in trouble and has been for a long time.

    • says

      I myself am inclined to join the Syriac Orthodox Church, which has already received me into communion by the way, although I have not formally renounced my UMC membership. I suppose the UMC might excommunicate me on the grounds of my having taken communion at a Syriac Orthodox church, but if they did, it would make them look bad. Becoming Syriac would also put me in communion with the Copts and the Armenians (and the Ethiopians) and thus I would be united with the three most persecuted Christian ethnicities of the present era. The Oriental Orthodox communion is the most ethnically diverse communion in existence, in that it consists of Egyptians, Syrians, Iraqis, Ethiopians, Indians, Guatemalans and British, each in separate independent churches in full communion with each other, but with their own liturgical traditions. I love it.

      The Assyrian Church of the East also desires my membership, and I love them, but the downside with them is they lack the rich iconography of the Oriental Orthodox (although they are not, contrary to popular belief, iconoclastic). However, they lack the connections that the Oriental Orthodox have and a lot of people still falsely accuse them of Nestorianism. At one time they were Nestorian, but they have renounced that heresy upon the occasion of Mar Dinkha IV assuming the Catholicate in 1975.

      Then there is my beloved Eastern Orthodox church, which I love and admire so much, especially the Antiochian patriarchate. Would that I could join all three, and the ACNA and the Roman Catholic Church for good measure.

      However, for the time being, I remain a Methodist, and I will continue fighting for a restoration of our historic faith as long as hope of a renewal occurs. If the liberals win, I will participate in the new conservative denomination that will inevitably arise, and I will work to shape it to be compassionate and true to the Apostolic faith, unlike many of the conservative Protestant denominations you mention (some of them, such as Sovereign Grace Ministries, some Southern Baptists, Mars Hill, and the 9Marks set, go beyond being theologically conservative, and are just outright nasty; there is a line between Orthodoxy and Fundamentalism, and I prefer to stay on the Orthodox side of that line).

      • Wahoo Lon says

        I worked with an Orthodox church and stayed at a monastery for a week. i can assure you, it is gay, gay, gay. lovely traditions and all that.

        • says

          The Eastern and Oriental Orthodox do uphold the teachings of the Apostles on homosexuality. I rather do hope that you’re not using “gay” here in the form of an anti-homosexual slur, or as a slur of any sort, because using it in this manner does actually suggest real hatred or disdain for homosexuals, even when used by people who are at least ostensibly pro-LGBT. I have come to the realization that its wrong to use “gay” to refer to things we dislike, as wrong as referring to homosexuals using the derrogatory term “faggot”. These terms are deeply hurtful to homosexual people, and I have no wish to hurt them at all. I disagree with their lifestyle choice but I love them as human beings; I believe the church should teach them how to relate to those of their same gender in love, but not in a sexual manner, which is the teaching of the Apostles.

          Consider the painting of the Last Supper, in which John is depicted leaning against the breast of Christ. This is act, while not of a sexual nature; it is an act of physical affection. These acts exist in a wide array of contexts between people who are not sexual partners. The most perverse aspect of our modern society, is that due to the extreme excess of sexuality in our depraved society, completely non-sexual forms of physical affection have taken on sexual overtones. This may be an overreaction perhaps to some of the excesses of the Victorian age, in which zealots, some of them Methodists, sought to overly restrict non-sexual forms of physical affection, with disastrous effects. The horror now days is that one cannot touch another person in love without risking “violating” their “personal space”. What the church must now do, is, using Biblical messaging, teach people how to relate to one another with physical affection, while understanding this affection as being entirely non-sexual in nature, even though such affection does naturally surround the intimacy that does occur in marriage. We have to de-sexualize touch, in order to purify sex itself, and reclaim the holiness of sexual intercourse as ordained for us by God. This requires extensive work on the theology of the body, and great spiritual formation, particularly for clergy.

          • Wahoo Lon says

            Oh, I meant they were having gay sex with each other. Man on man lovemaking. Public statements and formal documents against homosexuality, but behind those monastery walls….

          • says

            Occasionally, monks and nuns have violated their vows of celibacy and had illicit sex either with members of the same sex or the opposite sex. This is semantically equivalent to adultery within the context of monasticism, and is grounds for expulsion. While some monks have yielded to temptation in this manner, it is rather scurrilous to imply that they all do, in the manner you just did; roughly akin to saying that all married couples engage in extramarital affairs.

            The canons of the Orthodox church (which also are the basis for Roman Catholic canon law) prohibit monks sleeping two to a bed, and prohibit double monasteries (a monastery and a convent connected together, or even close enough together in physical space so as to raise suspicion). The Roman Catholic church later deviated somewhat from the latter canon; in my mind, it is inappropriate for German nuns to be the caretakers of the Papal household, elderly though they are, and against the spirit of the earlier canon law tradition.

            Several monks have fought severe battles against sexual temptation. One noted monk, who was later glorified a saint, stayed up through the night for days on end in prayer, to overcome his temptation towards fornication. To stay awake, he tied his hair around a beam in the ceiling, forcing himself upright. In the end, he succeeded, and was released from sexual temptation entirely through the mercy of God.

            The monks on Mount Athos sleep three hours a night, eat two ten minute meals per day, spend eight hours a day standing in church, and spend the rest of their time working and praying. They simply do not have time for sexual relations. In addition, there are also many hermits, solitary monks who live alone, outside of monasteries. A famous modern hermit is Father Lazarus, the “Last Anchorite”, an Australian who was received into the Coptic Orthodox Church and lives alone in the hills above St. Anthony’s Monastery in Egypt. He was featured in several rather good recent documentaries; I feel safer knowing he is praying for me.

            One interesting fact about the early church is that historically, an attendant was required to be with the BIshops at all times. The main purpose of this attendant was to verify the Bishop’s celibacy; that is to say, that the bishop refrained from any sex with anyone (or indeed anything, or himself). This practice has been discontinued, but in my mind it demonstrates the great lengths the early church went to, in order to create an atmosphere of sexual purity.

            Now, it is true that many have failed. Just as many married men and women have cheated on their spouses, many who have vowed celibacy, whether priests, bishops, or monks, have also engaged in illicit sex with persons of both genders. One extreme recent example was the sexual abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church. It is worth noting that the Apostolic Canons mandate perpetual excommunication for any priest who sodomizes a boy; many children suffered horribly, and many lives were ruined, by the fact that the Roman Catholic Church failed to apply that canon. This demonstrates one very important point; while more often than not, the canons can be relaxed for reasons of oikonomia (spiritual economy), there are many cases where pastoral care mandates that they be applied with maximum severity (the Greek theological term is Akriveia).

            Had the Roman Catholics applied the Apostolic canons with Akriveia, and permanently excommunicated the priests in question when their sexual abuse of boys came to light; they would have spared many other children from horrible abuse; however, they failed to do this, and instead went beyond even the requirements of oikonomia, in actively covering up the crimes and moving the molesters between parishes. The correct application of oikonomia in that case would not have been to cover it up, but rather to defrock the priests, report them to the police (as long as the confessional seal was not violated; in other words, that the knowledge of the abuse did not come to the Church by means of the sacrament of Confession, which is by nature inviolable), and exclude the offending priests from communion until just before death, which was the penalty the early church applied for many lesser offenses. However, were I a bishop, I suspect I would have simply applied the canon with the full force of Akriveia, and permanently discarded the paedophiles from the Church, according to the instructions of the Apostles.

  7. Brian says

    “We can love completely what we cannot completely understand.”
    ― Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It and Other Stories

    • d says

      “Slowly we became silent, and silence itself if an enemy to friendship.”
      ― Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It and Other Stories

  8. Julie A. Arms Meeks says

    Paul Anthony, at 10:54am you say “…deluded these innocent children into sexual depravity. The UMC officially states that it loves homosexuals; I love homosexuals. It is of vital importance that we do more to connect with them, in love, and help them overcome the sexual derangement inflicted upon them by Satan.” Just stop it. Stop it now. This is EXACTLY the kind of spiritual violence we speak of – you claim to love homosexuals and then you turn to derogatory and demeaning language. Depravity? Derangement? You think this is how one expresses “love” and “sacred worth”? THIS is why people leave the church.

    I need to ask – are you unaware that any number of homosexuals in the UMC are preacher’s kids? I’m not just bringing that up because of Rev. Frank Schaefer’s trial but because of knowing others. Do you not think/realize/know that those “kids” were in fact well raised in the faith, had sufficient parental & pastoral care, and yet were still harmed by the UMC’s doctrine as it impacted their own lives.

    Also, your #8, re the laity: “The BoD itself is largely irrelevant as far as laity are concerned” – untrue. Since 50% of the delegates voting on church law every General Conference are laity, every lay person SHOULD know what is contained in the BoD.

    I could go on & on but right now, if I should say more, it would be with anger as my guide, not grace.

  9. says

    Julie, you need to let go of your anger, and set aside your preconceived notions about the moral and ethical precepts of modern society, if you wish to understand the Apostolic Faith of Christianity. Through intense prayer and fasting, you may be able to reach an understanding of where Christians such as myself are coming from. To quote Georges Florovsky, I want you to look at my faith. It is a very ancient faith, a very beautiful faith.

    The most loving thing a parent can do in raising their adolescent children, whose sexuality is effectively in the process of asserting itself, is to guide them to direct their natural sexual impulses in the right direction: towards heterosexual monogamous matrimony; not heterosexual promiscuity, which is every bit as bad as homosexuality from the standpoint of Christian morality. Indeed Augustine himself sinned in this manner in his Manichean youth; his great remorse over it caused him to, in later life, assume a very negative attitude towards sex in general, which is perhaps excessive, but nonetheless I do revere much of what St. Augustine has to say, as did John Wesley.

    I love homosexuals. I cannot condone under any circumstances their actual sexual activity. They have effectively lost control of their passions, due to demonic influence, and have succumbed to temptation. However, they are not damned because of this; it is no worse than any other sin, and if repented of, it will be forgiven. The most loving thing one can do in many cases is to warn someone that they’re making a huge mistake, giving them a chance to perform an emergency course correction, which in many cases can be quite painful, but is ultimately beneficial. To put it another way, as I see it, my homosexual friends are like other friends I’ve had who were intoxicated, and were about to drive away from a party. I stopped them; I blocked their car using my car and was in the process of calling the police, to prevent them from potentially killing themselves; fortunately, they calmed down and got the message, and thus the situation was resolved peacefully. However, had I allowed them to drive off intoxicated, and they had perished, their blood would be on my hands. I could not live with myself; nor can i live with myself if I fail to let my gay friends know how I feel. I never tease them, I never torment them, I never insult them. However, when they are depressed, I offer them spiritual guidance, and in at least one case, I was able to make a real difference in their life.

    What is more, your argument that people leave the church because of this view is utterly fallacious. I can’t recall once hearing a Methodist minister in recent years preach a sermon on homosexuality. The reason why references to it in the historic texts of Christianity are so scarce is simply because it was always assumed to be a perverse act, and was simply not discussed; relatively few people engaged in it, those who did were “in the closet” so to speak, and the church functioned. Erasmus, the famous theologian and contemporary of Martin Luther, had a homosexual affair in his youth, which he later repented of to a profound degree. What is more, if your reasoning behind the decline in UMC membership were correct, one would expect to see a proportionately greater decline in the membership of more conservative denominations, but in fact, those denominations are growing in size considerably. The Eastern Orthodox, the Southern Baptists, the PCA, the new eco denomination, and a wave of independent churches, and the Roman Catholics, are all seeing an influx of converts from liberal mainline Protestant denominations.

    I would say that in fact, the liberal theology you espouse actually alienates people from the church, for the simple reason that it is in fact hateful. The abrasive language of liberal apologists, the absolute intolerance for dissenting viewpoints, the dehumanizing and frankly demonizing way in which conservative theologians such as myself are discussed, and furthermore, the complete rejection of church tradition, not just relating to homosexuality, but also the male priesthood, the traditional liturgy, the beautiful traditional hymns, the love feasts, and all of the other wonderful things we once did in the Methodist church, all serve to alienate ordinary people of moderate social and religious conscience.

    I myself have experienced nothing but love from conservative pastors, but on several occasions, not even in a theological context, but rather in a pastoral care context, I have been savagely mistreated by liberal pastors within the UMC. On the night my grandfather died, a liberal clergyman manhandled my mother, who was weeping uncontrollably, in a misguided attempt to calm her down. On another occasion, when my father was taken to the hospital, and a false report came in that he was dead (in fact, he was alive and recovering, but an aide accidentally pulled up the wrong file), a liberal pastor happened to be at my house talking to my mother. Upon hearing the news, I ran to my room and locked my door; he pounded on my door and demanded to talk to me. I refused. Most recently, I was savagely abused by a liberal pastor of the parish I had attended since 2006 when I requested that he spend some time counseling me about spiritual concerns relating to my father’s illness. Most of the actual pastoral care I get now comes from a Methodist pastor who lives about 30 miles away from me, in a parish too far away for me to regularly attend, and a local Episcopal priest who happens to be theologically conservative (he’s like one of five conservative priests left in the Episcopal church). So my experience with liberal clergymen on a personal level has been one filled with incidents of extreme spritual violence; and at the hands of liberal theologians such as yourself I have been the recipient of derogatory and demeaning language.

    Now, this bears the important question: what is the correct Christian response to this misbehavior? The answer can be summed up in two words: love and prayer. As you are a (presumably) layman, by my own standards I will not write you off as a heretic, since in my view only clergy are actually capable of heresy; rather, I will regard you as someone who disagrees with me, and I will pray that in the manner of George Whitefield and John Wesley, you might at least be able to reach the ability to “agree to disagree” with me in terms of this theological discussion. And I will pray for your wellbeing, the safety of your immortal soul, and I will thank God for the fact that you clearly are a person who is full of love and concern for the disadvantaged members of society. The love that underlies your anger is beautiful; I beg you to pray and attempt to discern more closely the will of the Holy Spirit, so that you can apply that love in harmony with God’s divine energies and attain theosis.

    Now, regarding homosexual children of Methodist pastors; if a Methodist pastor fails to correctly raise their child in the Biblical doctrines of sexuality, that is a great tragedy. Some of these children may well have been abused by their parents, and since their parents were clergymen, by the church as well, and this in fact might account for their homosexual orientation. I would say that they were not in any way harmed by Methodist doctrine, rather, they were harmed by hypocritical and incompetent pastors who failed to communicate that doctrine in a loving and supportive manner, due to a lack of prayer and inadequate pastoral training (the UMC has founded many fine seminaries, but I fear several of them are not quite up to par these days).

    Lastly, regarding the laity; the laity should not in general be concerned with the Book of Discipline, or indeed with any manner of ecclesiastical governance. I personally feel that the limits of lay involvement in church operations should be control over the finances (the laity should be completely responsible for the “front office” of the church, that is to say, the management of its accounts, properties, and so on), and also the ability to veto the appointment of a Bishop. When a clergyman is appointed in the Eastern churches, the congregation customarily proclaims “Axios” (literally “He is worthy!”). However, in history, there have been a few cases where such a proclamation has not been forthcoming. As the Methodist church reforms itself to assume a state of greater Orthodoxy, the degree of lay involvement in ecclesiastical affairs should be limited to the ability to veto the appointment of clerics, and the ability to impeach clerics who are negligent or malfeasant in their pastoral duties, as a backup system in cases where the disciplinary trial system fails.

  10. Gordon Wells says

    RE: Comments (many) by Paul Anthony Preussler. I have read all your comments as listed above. Paul you are certainly well read, articulate and know of what you speak……from your perspective. This is where I get snarled up. I do not believe you, nor any one else, has the authority to tell me how or what I should believe.
    I am a life long (75 yrs) United Methodist. I like being a United Methodist because we can all have divergent views and still get along. At least that is the way I was brought up! How is it that we have arrived at this point of “You are right and those that do not think/believe your way are wrong”. I do not expect nor want a dissertation in response, just wanted you to know what an old Methodist hears when you speak.

  11. says

    Gordon, allow me to clarify: I do not presume to tell you, a layman, what you *must* believe. I value how the US Constitution absolutely protects religious freedom, freedom of conscience is the most important freedom, and Christ’s death on the cross ought to serve as a rather poignant reminder of its importance. Nor would I dare presume to say that one is damned for not adhering to the Orthodox, Catholic, Apostolic faith of the Christian Church; God forbid. In fact God does literally forbid; “Judge not, lest ye not be judged.” I am certain that, through the infinite mercy of God, a great many people, with any luck, the majority of the human race, will accept the love of God through the saving grace offered in the person and the actions of Jesus Christ. What is more, I love the study of theology in general; I see in the vast majority of religions a legitimate pursuit of the divine, which manifests itself in the form of beautiful architecture (Shinto temples, Islamic mosques), beautiful liturgy (the Alevi semah, the Whirling Dervishes), and beautiful deeds (the absolute non-violence of Jainists, the generosity of the Sikh people). Surely, these faiths represent a sincere and beautiful reaching out of humanity towards the loving hand of its Creator, and God will not ignore those who have not received His Gospel of Peace.

    My purpose in countering heresy through polemics is rather, to preserve and defend the traditions of the Orthodox Christian doctrine, received from the early fathers, and transmitted to us in the Methodist tradition through the work of John Wesley, whose Protestant faith could truly and properly be called Catholic, in the sense that it represented that which always has been believed by everyone, everywhere, according to the definition of St. Vincent Lerins. My polemics are aimed not primarily at laymen, but at the clergy of the Methodist church. They are the ones responsible for teaching you, and other laity, the Christian faith; they are not mere functionaries whose purpose is to mechanically administer the sacraments, but are also preachers, called to serve as our spiritual fathers, to proclaim the Gospel and ensure the correct transmission, and indeed reception, of essential dogmatic foundation of Christianity.

    When a clergyman such as UMJeremy fails to do this, it does violence to the Christian religion in three ways: it endangers the immortal souls of the faithful, by corrupting their understanding of our faith with false and misleading concepts, many of which have previously been condemned throughout the history of the Church as heresy; it threatens to prevent or obstruct the cure of souls of future generations of Christians, by boiling away the communion of pious believers who have received the faith, into which our descendants would otherwise be raised, and lastly, it destroys the cultural heritage of Christendom, by obliterating the unique beauty of our religion, which is surely a tragedy for anyone who loves religion in general, even one who is not themselves Christian.

    Of these concerns, it is the second problem posed through the transmission of heretical doctrines which is most troubling. The easiest way to acquire a religion is to be born into it; proselytizing is very hard, and is successful only in rare cases, and with the direct intervention of the Holy Spirit, On the other hand, when a newborn Christian is baptized, according to the Orthodox faith, we believe that the Holy Spirit automatically effects a rebirth within their noetic faculty, ensuring their immediate presence in the communion of saints, that Paul speaks of, into which they will be raised. Even without infant baptism, being raised into a religion still leads to loyalty, in most cases, as the experience of the majority of world religions testify. Thus, what heretical pastors are actually doing is destroying the Christian religion, to paraphrase George Orwell, in the past, the present, and the future. They destroy it in the past, by obliterating our beautiful cultural and liturgical heritage. They destroy it in the present by corrupting the faith, alienating the devout and confusing the weakminded. They destroy it in the future, because if their actions are unchecked, in fifty to a hundred years time there will not be a community of pious, Orthodox Methodists in which to be raised.

    Heresy causes Christian communities to degenerate into apostasy, usually within just two or three centuries. Consider the Unitarians, who were devout Christians at the time of the American revolution. While a minority still consider themselves Christian, the majority have abandoned the religion, and the Unitarian Universalists do not insist upon any doctrine as neccessary for salvation. God forbid that the Methodist Church should devolve into that. Another example of heresy resulting in apostasy, and eventual ablation, can be found in the Arians; no members of this fourth century heresy, which was at one time dominant, and the religion of the Roman Emperors, who until late in the fourth century actively persecuted Orthodox Christians, survive. The last Gnostic Christian sects, the Bogomils and the Cathars, died out before the Renaissance (some say the Waldensians were related, but I personally doubt this, as their doctrines are rather different, and closer to that of the other early Protestants, motivated primarily by a mistrust of the authority of the Roman prelates). The two largest remaining Gnostic faiths, that are not contemporary revivals, are the Yazidis and the Mandaeans; the former worship Taus Melek, the Peacock Angel, who has obvious Christological characteristics, but is also clearly identifiable with Lucifer, and especially the Islamic conception of Shaitan, leading the Muslims to regard them as devil worshippers. The Mandaeans on the other hand worship John the Baptist rather than Christ, regarding him as a “false Messiah” (or as some, seeking ecumenical dialogue, amusingly suggest, a “Book messiah”, owing to the fact that the word in their Syriac dialect for “false” also means “book”). They may in fact be descendants of the original disciples of John the Baptist, but more probably, they were a Christian Gnostic sect that eventually discarded the Gnostic Savior of Christ in favor of his forerunner, owing to the pernicious aspects of Gnosticism.

    Thus, I am here not to tell you, the layman, what you must believe. Rather, in humility, I seek to describe the faith of the Church Fathers, as I have received it, and as I believe it to be true, which I feel that United Methodist clergymen are obliged to transmit. Should you believe this faith? Probably, but to quote Pope Francis, who am I to judge? Your beliefs are ultimately between you and God, however, Methodist pastors have absolutely no right to destroy the religion into which I was baptized, the faith of John Wesley, and of the Church Fathers, the vast Cloud of Witnesses, and the holy Apostles, received from God himself iin the person of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

  12. ryan says

    I just don’t understand many of the comments here. The approach here it totally backwards. Of course gay and lesbian teens are evil in themselves, just like every straight person. We are all totally depraved and objects of God’s wrath apart from Jesus. It is as if we have totally abandoned orthodox Christians doctrines who tell us who we are and who God is.
    The Church is indeed hurt by church trials. Elders who take a vow and then choose to break their vows in a very public way so as to cause injury to the fellowship of Elders (in this latest case) and to the church. If an elder cannot uphold Christianity, then they ought to surrender their credentials and quietly leave the church. Standing up to be bold in their sin is not good for the church nor for anyone else.

    • John says

      Ryan, thanks for reminding us that we are ALL tainted by Original Sin. As for his view of Total Depravity, John Wesley declared that he was but a hair’s breadth from Calvin; I should also point out for the sake of those who find the term “hateful” that “total” here refers not to being 100% depraved in all our ways but rather that there is no part of our being that has not been affected by depravity. And though God may be wrathful, his wrath is always borne of love for his creatures. Thanks be to God that through Jesus Christ he has provided a way out of our depravity… not just by forgiving it… but by sanctifying us, healing us, and remaking us in his image.

      Through conscious and deliberate actions that bring forth church trials, the covenantal community is torn apart and our collective witness to the world is greatly diminished. It should be pointed out that trials only come forth when offending parties refuse both to confess their wrongdoing and submit themselves to the community’s authority. In conformity with Matthew 18:15-17, those who still refuse after being brought before the whole church should be treated like pagans and tax collectors (cast from their midst). Harsh? In the minds of those for whom individuality trumps community, perhaps. But it’s not harsh from the perspective of the ongoing health of the covenant community, especially when one considers that the ultimate goal of church discipline is to bring the offending back into the forgiveness and fellowship of the community.

  13. says

    Ryan, that is a very valid point, however, one should remember that the mechanism of Church Trials is itself legitimate, and of apostolic origin. The right to a formal trial before being deposed was implemented in the early Church, after unpleasant experiences in which diocesan Bishops unilaterally deposed clergymen under their episcopal authority for unjust reasons (petty personal dislikes, nepotism, refusal to pay a bribe, and all sorts of other forms of sinful corruption). It is entirely possible for someone to be falsely accused of violating the canonical legislation of the Methodist church. However, you are right to say that in clear cut cases such as this, where someone has blatantly and intentionally contravened Methodist doctrine, they could do the Church a huge service by just resigning, and going to work for another denomination more compatible with their worldview (the PCUSA, the Unitarians, the Episcopalians, the UCC, the ELCA).

  14. Paul says

    Oh I agree about the mechanism of church trials in general. An accused being able to make a defense is indeed a great thing. I am sure that there have been many falsely accused or charged for personal reasons, and nepotism etc. I was attempting to speak more directly to what is the current situation in the UMC; ecclessial disobedience for the sake of attempting to hold the denomination hostage to particular rogue and heretical belief. The damage done currently is be people who disagree with what has been Christian and UMC doctrine for 2,0000 years. There are currently other options that clergy and members can turn. IF one disagrees then there is room to go. The damage done is by those who vow to uphold a church, but by their actions work to destroy it. This movement to invalidate the Word of God is an insipid cancer that eats at our effectiveness in Kingdom building.

    • ryan says

      SORRY. I was trying to write you Paul and instead of starting with ‘paul’ in my text, I made that my name!!! So sorry, just a typo of putting a name in a wrong box. Please forgive me and know the above words are mine. I would correct it, but don’t know how.

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