Violating the Discipline to show violating the Discipline is wrong

discipline-wesleyThe Good News movement has a blog update about the Bishop Talbert complaint process. It has some facts and some musings about what “stage” the process is at because it is all private. However, look at the end:

Good News believes that, for the good of the church, this process must go forward with maximum transparency. At the very least, the fact that complaint(s) have been filed and any eventual resolution of such complaint(s) should be announced to the church.

Hahahaha. Hilarious. Wait, what’s so funny?

Good News is calling for a violation of the Discipline.

According to the complaint process (summarized version here), the process is confidential (like any HR complaint at any non-profit or business or even local church SPRC process) and accountable. It’s not a public process like Good News wants it to be:

¶413.3b: The supervisory response is pastoral and administrative and shall be directed towards a just resolution. It is not part of any judicial process. The supervisory response should be carried out in a confidential manner and should be completed within 120 days.

For those that need to know our terminology, “should” is one step down from “shall” and isn’t considered to be a recommendation. “Can” is the term for permissive choice. Furthermore, 413.3c continues to depict confidentiality as part of the process, as third-parties are invited in after agreeing to confidentiality, and at the resolution of complaints all parties agree as to “what information is sent to third-parties” and public sources.

Having an open process is not part of our polity. For people that so enjoy rigid interpretation of the Discipline (regardless of how many ways people don’t uphold the Discipline literally), this is an ironic (or even hypocritical) request.

But that’s not the hilarious part. In addition, Good News’ appeal is not to the letter of the polity but to the Bible. From the post:

The public nature of the offenses, announced in advance and well covered by the media, requires a similarly public response from the church (see I Timothy 5:19-20). Such transparency is needed to help church members have confidence that the bishops have kept their promise to uphold the Discipline and hold each other accountable.

The call is to be obedient to the bible. Huh. Where have I heard that before?


Biblical Obedience is Bishop Talbert’s rallying hermeneutic, which calls for us to be obedient to the Bible even when it is in conflict with our Book of Discipline. It calls for us to violate the Discipline when we know (and have accountability structures that support) that the Gospel calls us to do something more. The focus is on pastors offering weddings for same-gender couples even as our polity restricts such actions.

While Talbert’s concept is more fleshed-out than Good News’ calling for obedience to 1 Timothy rather than the Book of Discipline, it is refreshing to see that even the Good News movement supports biblical obedience when the polity of the church gets in the way.


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  1. Ryan says

    Bishop Talbert is clearly guilty of violating both. I don’t know much about the Good News group, and I certainly don’t agree with them that the process should be public. I believe, as the BOD states it should be confidential. There are reasons for the confidentiality of the process.
    I believe the reason why the Good News group might be calling for public announcement is what is at the heart of this. I believe that the Good News group, or blog does not trust the leaders in private process. I can’t say I disagree with them. We seem to have all types of leaders in the UMC who have shown blatant disregard for both our polity and Scripture.
    At issue is probably where we disagree on this issue at least. There is no such thing as so called same-sex marriage. It simply doesn’t exist. Bishop Talbert can’t conduct one because there isn’t anything to conduct. This is not only Biblical, but also the law of Alabama (which is way secondary to all this, but none the less part of it). The bottom line is that the more I read your blog the more you just don’t want to be obedient and that you in fact hate the denomination.

    • says

      Ryan, thanks for most of your comments. I say “most” because this one strikes me as off-base:

      The bottom line is that the more I read your blog the more you just don’t want to be obedient and that you in fact hate the denomination.

      As I’ve written about many many times, the UMC is my church too. I celebrate the accountability processes that we have in place. I push back against calls for schism. I celebrate connectional polity as opposed to congregational. I call to account efforts to defund the UMC that I love.

      Perhaps a less-selective reading would reveal more to the bottom line than you’ve previously offered.

    • John Welch says

      In the State of New York, same-sex marriage certainly exists. Several other states, as well…at least, that’s what I’ve read. Ryan is free to visit Albany to see if the state legislature and Governor Guomo exist; the legislature passed the law and Governor Cuomo signed it.

      • Ryan says

        John New York is a beautiful place. I have traveled to many parts and cities, but I think I have not been to Albany. I have little doubt about what you say I will find in Albany. There certainly is a group of people with no real power who have made a declaration in opposition of the reality of the thing.
        They would do just as well to pass a law saying the sun revolves around the earth. Passing a law with regards to a matter makes it no more real. Perhaps they could also place hunting parameters on unicorns or really any number of laws that defy and contradict the plain truth of the matter.

  2. Brad S says

    We are going to snip and snipe and bark and bite at each other until there is nothing left of the Church. The Church is already dying and this will only hasten it’s demise.

  3. Ryan says

    My issue probably is that we seem to be bogged down in something that isn’t really a major issue. Souls, lives are being lost because people don’t know Jesus, and a major part of that is because what is left of the UMC in the United States is using so much energy to fight this heresy of trying to normalise sexual sin. Goodness gracious. First came the massive onslaughts of easy no fault divorce and the church simply not doing enough to protect the marriage covenant. Then came the idea that sex before and outside of marriage was ok, or at least not really talked about. And now we are literally having discussions about process because we have leaders in our denomination calling sin blessed and beautiful, and fighting to call sin good, and good sin. I’m pretty tired of it all and I’m only 37. This fight simply can’t go on. If it goes on then we all lose. And what we lose is not a denomination. It is the souls of people. And Jeremy you and I have but one task set before us as clergy. To save souls. Condoning sin isn’t the way to do that.
    And, please hear me, I am writing at the end of a long day and a long week, and so yes, I know my words are perhaps not at gracious as they could be. But I just don’t get how this fight over sin helps the cause of the Church universal.

  4. AntyM says

    Ah, Biblical marriage. Love it when people go back to that. Well, here it is:
    Let’s see how many are willing to follow that!
    Oh wait, you mean marriage HAS been redefined in our time, and repeatedly?…

    Frankly I would like the Good News people (and other Christians) to try following the teachings and example of Christ. Instead we’ve got a bunch of Pharisees. And that is what is killing the church.

    • Ryan says

      That link is actually a bit of rubbish. It does describe types of ‘marriage’ described in the Bible, but not the theological teaching about marriage and God’s intention for marriage. Jesus actually talks about marriage as between one man and one woman. Jesus actually talks about any use of sexuality outside of that as being sin. The Church has taught on it for centuries… But yeah, let’s use modern American secularism and the lie of ‘higher criticism’ as a lens by which we distort Scripture and tradition.

      • tonto says

        Matthew 19:12 is the only actual comment in Jesus own words. Please read it. Note that the Apostle Paul was the Apostle Paul, a saint called and converted by God himself. He was not Jesus, and he had a lot of issues.

  5. says

    I think this is ridiculous. I attend (and LOVE) a UMC church, yet I shake my head at the church leaders unwillingness to look at the homosexuality “sin” under the cultural and biblical context just as we now understand women are not property and that bi-racial marriages are NOT unbiblical! I find the resistance to reflect and re-look at our stance on the homosexuality issue as the main problem… why change the rules of questioning? Surely we can do now with this issue as we as a church have done in the past with the issue if women in ministry for example! I think the way this is being… or better said NOT being handled reflect more of the leaderships unwilling as to let go of church law in lieu of love. I pray in time we see what a big mistake it is to judge and discriminate those folks who love Christ who happen to be LGBT. This entire situation teaks of hypocrisy! That’s why many unchurched folks run from the church. C’mon we can do better than this!

  6. AntyM says

    Scripture, Tradition, Reason and Experience. These four things should work together to provide understanding of our lives as followers of Christ. Times have changed, science has helped us to understand better the gift of sexuality- given at birth, not chosen, and as a part of God’s creation. We women are not here to be incubators for “man’s seed” nor any of the many other Biblical understandings. Yes, Jesus talked about one man and one woman in a marriage and prohibited divorce, so that women would be protected in a culture where men had already loosely interpreted the Scriptures to their benefit (per Rabbi Hillel, a couple decades before Jesus). Jesus did not speak of “homosexuality” to condemn it (nor support it). However, he interpreted his own Scriptures so that people wouldn’t be bound up in the laws and rituals of the Jewish faith (which Paul, for all the good he did, still suffered from); rather, Jesus said it was all summed up as : Love God, love one another. Until the literalists take EVERYTHING in the Scriptures literally and put it into practice, I find the arguments empty, self-serving, and hypocritical. Don’t we have better things to focus our time, energy and money on that “debating” something which should be beyond debate? God created all people, lesbian, gay, bi, trans, etc. It is what it is! We don’t have to like it or understand it. But our lack of understanding clouds our minds and hearts, and has hurt many people. I pray our denomination will stop it. Open hearts, open minds, open doors… Can we do it? I know many individual churches than can and do. I pray the UMC will get there too. And I pray that God will work in the hearts, minds, and souls of those who are so stuck and sure of themselves that they don’t realize that God is still speaking and at work.

  7. Ryan says

    Of course God created all people, but all people are totally depraved, or ‘inclined towards evil and that continually’ as Wesley put it. We understand all people to be people of sacred worth, but we also believe that all people are objects of God’s wrath apart from the saving grace found in Christ Jesus. All people are born with a sinful nature after The Fall. Your position seems to negate original sin, the doctrine upon which Wesley said Christianity would rise or fall.

  8. says

    “…but all people are totally depraved…” Hmm… Not much for Original Blessing are we? If all people are “objects of Gos’s wrath, then we’re all pretty much doomed. That is certainly one way to look at it, I suppose. But, there are those of us who are little more hopeful, somewhat more open, and a whole lot more accepting. Ultimately, thank God, salvation (whether it be mine or someone else’s) is not up to me.

    • JB says

      We are all God’s creations and made in his image and that came before the Fall. You can’t “fall” unless you were up somewhere to begin with. God’s grace overcomes the “fall” if we seek his will.

  9. Ryan says

    original sin isn’t one way to look at it. The text of Article VII of the Articles of Religion of the Methodist Church. This is one of the Articles given by Wesley to the Methodists from the 39 Articles of Religion of the Church of England. “Original sin standeth not in the following of Adam (as the Pelagians do vainly talk), but it is the corruption of the nature of every man, that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam, whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and of his own nature inclined to evil, and that continually.”
    So no, it isn’t one way to look at it. It is at the heart of Methodist Doctrine. Are you much familiar with the Articles of Religion? I wouldn’t fault you if you weren’t. I graduated from a UMC seminary, Garrett-Evangelical, and they were barely mentioned. Sad really.

  10. David says

    I think you may be reading more into the Good News letter than is there this time. They asked for “maximum transparency” and urged public sign-posts (that the complaint the Bishops said they would file has been filed, and that it has been resolved in some way). I don’t think that strikes at the confidentiality of the process, and I hope we would offer that much to a local church whose pastor was suspended or in the news for a chargeable offense.

    The intent May well be to ask for the minimum and hope the Bishops will offer more, but if fulfilling the request violates the Discipline, can we ever admit a complaint had been filed against any clergy person if it doesn’t enter the trial phase?

  11. Zzyzx says

    I just have to laugh at the irony of such a litigious and judgmental group calling themselves “Good News.” Someone needs to go back and read their Luther, because it sounds like they may be completely mixing up Law and Gospel (and even then, possibly misunderstanding the “Law” part…)

  12. Country Preacher says

    A friend just told me about your website. I am so pleased to find it! Thank God for Bishop Talbert!

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