The following is a guest post from a Facebook clergy who posted this list online. This is in response to the Frank Shaefer trial where he was convicted of performing a wedding for his son Tim to his male partner. The punishment is a 30 day suspension that will be lifted at the end if he pledges to “uphold the Discipline in its entirety.”
This list is an attempt to show the various ways how United Methodist clergy in good standing do not uphold the Discipline 100%…and have rarely (if ever) been charged for it.
Top 25 ways I’ve observed United Methodist clergy and lay leaders not upholding the Book of Discipline in its entirety (2012-2014 edition):
- Refusing to baptize infants (¶216.1)
- Rebaptizing youth & adults (¶216.2 & 341.7)
- Failure to pray for their church (¶217.6)
- Failure to attend and be present in their church (¶217.6)
- Failure to give of their finances and gifts to their church (¶217.6)
- Failure to witness for Christ in the world (¶217.6 & ¶220)
- Conducting private baptisms (¶226.2c)
- Failure to grant youth all rights and responsibilities of membership (¶226.5)
- Failure of members of the Church Council to visit and provide spiritual oversight to the church’s members (¶228)
- Failure to report to Church Council the names of members who have been neglectful in keeping their baptismal and membership vows (¶228.2b(1))
- Failure to promote United Methodist Campus ministries (¶228.10c)
- Failure to annually report names of college students to Conference Board of Higher Education and Campus Ministry (¶232)
- Failure to keep copies of membership records off-site and secure (¶233.3)
- Failure to send addresses of newly moved members to pastor or district superintendent in community where member now resides. (¶236)
- Failure to nominate youth and young adult members to Church Council (¶244.3 & ¶252.5j,k)
- Failure to consider World Service apportionments as first benevolent responsibility of the church (¶247.14 & ¶812)¶
- Failure to monitor local church investments to ensure concurrence with Socially Responsibly Investments, the Social Principles, and The Book of Resolutions (¶247.20)
- Failure to celebrate all six churchwide special Sundays with offerings, especially Peace with Justice Sunday and Native American Ministries Sunday (¶263)
- Failure of clergy to teach and model tithing (¶304.1c & ¶340.2c2(d))
- Failure of clergy to exercise habits conducive to bodily health (¶304.2)
- Unwillingness of elders in full connection to fully itinerate (¶338)
- Unwillingness of elders in full connection to assume supervisory and mentoring responsibilities (¶334.2e & ¶340.2c3(b))
- Failure to encourage the use of United Methodist literature and media within the educational program of the church (¶340.2c1(b))
- Failure to lead the congregation in paying all apportionments in full (¶340.2c1(e))
- Failure to secure written consent of district superintendent before engaging an evangelist (¶341.1)
In theory, all of these qualify as the chargeable offense of “disobedience to the order and discipline of The United Methodist Church (¶2702.1d).
Paul Anthony Preussler
Donald, as should be obvious from my postings here, I am absolutely opposed to same sex marriage being practiced in Christian churches. I view it as apostasy, blasphemy and heresy. The reason I view it as such is because the Early Church detested homosexual conduct, in almost absolute terms; John Chrysostom was a firebrand preacher, but some of his most fiery rhetoric comes in the form of his condemnations of homosexual activity. Paul the Apostle, who stressed the freedom of Christians from the need to meticulously observe the Torah, took great pains to criticize homosexuality among a list of other offenses that he also condemned in his Epistles.
Now, for the same reason that I object to homosexuality in the church, I am also forced to object to re-baptism. While it lacks a specific Pauline condemnation, and as a result might not be noticed by Protestants, who tend to meticulously study the Bible, but often neglect the proper study of the early Church that first witnessed the bible, and created the only really logical and consistent exegesis of it, re baptizing has in general been considered a heresy.
The Novationists and Donatists were decried as heretics, in part because they re-baptized Christians who had already been baptized, because those Christians had, during the horrible persecution of Diocletian, denied their faith under interrogation at the hands of Roman authorities. The harshness of the Novationists and Donatists, who were otherwise orthodox in doctrine, appalled the rest of the early Church. I will have mercy and not sacrifice, saith the Lord. Thus, this action came to be regarded as heretical. You can rechrismate, but rebaptism is only acceptable if the prior baptism is in some way invalid.
Now, rebaptism has often occurred. Until the 20th century, the Eastern Orthodox would re-baptize Protestants (but usually not Catholics), the reason being that they did not believe Protestant baptisms to be valid. They have now changed their policy on the basis of oikonomia, given the large influx of Protestant converts (I myself might well cross the Bosphorus, so to speak, if the UMC cannot reverse its tailspin into apostasy). Rebaptism is always wrong, if the prior baptism was valid. Now that said, the BOD requirement itself might be wrong; it seems to me that the BOD should enumerate the conditions under which re-baptism is not heresy. I would say at a minimum, these scenarios would require rebaptism:
– If the Baptism was not performed in the name of the Father, the Son, or the Holy Ghost, (or Spirit) (such as “Creator, Sanctifier, Redeemer”, or “Mother, Daughter, Holy Ghost”, the catechumen must be rebaptized, with one exception:
– A Baptism performed “In Jesus Name” by so-called Jesus Name Pentecostals may be valid, as this may have been the praxis of the early church, but the Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox consider it invalid. I would say that the UMC should optionally rebaptize people baptized in Jesus name if they feel their prior baptism was inadequete.
– A Baptism performed in another language is obviously acceptable, as long as the words translate to the names of the Trinity e.g. “In nomine Patri, Filii, et Spiritu Sancti”
– Baptisms performed outside of the contnuum of Catholic churches (that is to say, Methodists, Baptists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and other mainstream Protestants, the Roman Catholics, the Eastern Orthdoox, the Oriental Orthodox and the Assyrian Church of the East) should be presumed valid if the congregant feels comfortable with them, but re baptism should always be available to these people.
– The Baptisms of Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses (if they baptize, I’m not sure), and other bizarre variants on Christianity should not be considered valid in general, but oikonomia if applied here means that we should accept it as long as the formulae are orthodox.
– The Baptisms performed by Mandaeans, Yazidis, Sabeans, and other monotheistic religions distantly related to Christianity are not valid for use in the Christian church.
– Any Baptism not performed using water, via immersion, sprinkling, or affusion, cannot be considered valid. For example, a baptism in milk, alcohol, human or animal blood, urine, semen or other material, would be absolutely inadmissible.
In those cases, and in those cases alone, should re-baptism be offered. Otherwise, to rebaptize goes against the Patristic tradition of the past sixteen centuries. I myself am not prepared to go against that tradition.
In the case of Methodist pastors refusing infant Baptists, this is heterodoxy, although oikonomia compels me to not condemn the Baptists as heretics; I view them as well-intentioned heterodox. I feel the UMC ought to work out a program with the Baptist conventions to transfer Methobaptist preachers to their jurisdiction, as believer’s baptism has never been an essential part of Methodist doctrine (nor for that matter has an assistance on it ever been a part of the mainstream tradition of catholic Christianity).
Lastly, it should be stressed that, given the literal definition of sin (hamartia, literally, missing the mark), any failure to comply with instructions from one’s superiors in the church, whether intentional or accidental, is technically a sin. However, rebaptizing except in the conditions I outlined is technically heresy, and performing same sex marriage is apostasy; ministers who do that ought to be regarded as anathema pending their repentance. Gays themselves should however be treated with love in the church, with the emphasis being on the joys they can attain through pursuit of holy celibacy.
The question was and is about those who question the BOD and its constitution? We have to be honest about who does or doesnt totally live by the UMBOfD! The joke is Under this requirement it is rediculious to think anyone in the UMC would be any less innocent of being charged with something that could effect their livelihood as a member or clergy.
Legalism and or inerrancy of the BOD or the Bible leads to division!
To which is against the teaching of Christ!
I agree, I am at this time posed to membership, churches take Scripture and say that it says to join a local church, there are no words like that, the Word says , members were added daily, or, numbers were added daily, which simply means more came to believe in Jesus Christ as savior, we are the ones who keep coming up with more rules, its up to each individual to read the word, mature and follow, which doesn’t happen all at once, its a lifetime journey. As for baby baptism I know some do this but not Jesus, so who are we following if we baptism babies??
The book of discipline was instituted by MEN in the 1700’s it was not is of God. It is not based in the teachings of Jesus Christ to exempt Homosexual persons from marrage, but was spoken by Paul. Paul quoted the Old Testament.
I do not consider myself a Paulean follower but a Christ follower. NO WHERE did Christ ever exclude anyone who believed in His word! So where do the people who are pushing this exclusion rhetoric get their collective right to judge?
My God is an awesome God who created all people to be His sons and daughters!
This whole situation is from people who think they know better than God.
Child baptism is a parent’s promise to raise the child in the church. I am not going to disagree that maybe it should wait until they are old enough to understand for themselves.
I forgot. Who did Jesus baptise?
Dang… sounds cultists. All of you do
What a bunch of Hippocrates, churches are nothing more than a social society with rules made up by Thier founders to have power and domain over people. Collect funds and control people’s thoughts and actions. I don’t need some so called priest, elder or whomever to condone or condemn my choices in life. I believe in freedom of religion and definitely freedom From Religion. A bunch of suckers abide by your church rules. I chose freedom and pursuit of happiness, which is contrary to what the churches preach , you’re hell bound if you don’t believe the way we do.
Paul Anthony Preussler: if you refuse to accept the ordination of women, then you have no reason to be a United Methodist. This “issue” was long ago resolved and is no longer under discussion, let alone debate. It’s interesting that you are willing to accept some errors, e.g. Baptist heterodoxy and liturgical ignorance for the sake of the oikoumene but not others.
Also, John Chrysostom, while being eminently quotable (genuinely “golden-mouthed”) on compassion and justice at times, was also virulently anti-Semitic (as was Luther.) To base all doctrine strictly on the teachings of the fathers and rulings of the “early” church without regard to their cultural limitations is problematic at best. One could easily argue from Scripture and early church practice that the church should be both communal in its finances and pacifist in its witness and that the “conversion” of Constantine and establishment of Christendom was the beginning of the Church’s corrupting compromise with the world’s values and departure from Jesus’ teachings and witness. (it was.) As I recall, Wesley, not only the Anabaptists, subscribed to this view, and the beginning of monasticism came in the wake of it being advantageous to be a nominal Christian, no longer subject to persecution or a three-year catachumenate.
It was long ago resolved alright, in God’s words, spoken by Paul. If you chose not to follow the word, then you create your own religion and different apposing rules to the word of God. The man is the head of the church, the home as Christ is the head of the church. Stick your head out there if you like but also seek humility to empty yourself of your ideas and fill that emptiness with words on God. Leadership is set up in an order as is all of creation, an orderly creation. There is no mention of Mary even teaching Jesus. Women have long done Sunday school etc. but only because men would not, men too want that top position. Power is what you’re after, and power corrupts!
Paul Anthony Preussler
Accepting the ordination of women is not a confessional requirement of Methodism. I do as a matter of principle avoid all parishes with female senior pastors. I have every right however to remain in the church into which I was baptized, as a confessional Methodist, fighting for reform and a return to the Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant faith of my ancestors, and as an added plus, I have God on my side.
It is you who shows your intolerance by suggesting that I have no place in the modern UMC. Many would disagree. My faith is based strictly on that of the teachings of Christ our Lord, in the Old and New Testaments, the teachings of his All Holy and Laudable Apostles, and the interpretation of those teachings carefully developed by the early Church up through the Fourth Century (I also acknowledge all seven Ecumenical councils, although I do feel that the schisms of the fifth century were somewhat of an aberration; they stemmed from Nestorius engaging in ill-advised theological innovation, and stand as a stark reminder of the danger of deviating even slightly from the Apostolic faith). It strikes me that you, in and of yourself, represent the dangerous intolerance of the new liberal Christianity; would you object to me if I refuted the doctrine of the Trinity, or if I said that the Holy Spirit lives within us, or that Christ was not literally resurrected, or was merely a good teacher, or if I affirmed salvation was possible not through Christ but on a more universal level? I am merely serving as a custodian of that Holy Tradition that we have received; from the fathers of the early Church, from their illustrious successors such as John Cassian, Symeon the New Theologian, Gregory of Palamas, Francis of Assissi, even Martin Luther, despite his major errors, and certainly our beloved John Wesley, the hero of Anglicanism and of Methodism alike.
Now, let us take a look at some specific allegations you make about the faith of the early Church. John Chrysostom was not by any means virulently anti-semitic; he affirmed the validity of the Jewish Old Testament in its entirety (unlike the heretic Marcion, for example), and worshipped a Jewish God, incarnate as a Jewish Messiah. His “Homilies against the Jews” at no point advocated violence or subjugation of them in the manner of Martin Luther; nothing in them even comes close. Chrysostom was angry at attempts by the local Jewish synagogue to subvert his ministry (he was at the time Bishop of Antioch), by poaching his parishioners,. In particular, several of the women of his congregation were attending the synagogue more frequently than they were attending the services in his own church, and were fascinated by Jewish ritual practices such as the blowing of the Shofar on Yom Kippur. Now this fact to me is interesting, because Judaism in its modern Rabinnical form is primarily a hereditary religion inherited on matrilineally; it does not Proselytize; it does except converts, but discourages them heavily, Judaism in the form we now know it, going back at least as far as the eminent scholar Maimonides, affirms the salvation of Gentiles through adherence to the Noahide Laws. Now, in his homilies, John Chrysostom was objecting to local Jews actively proselytizing, and trying to convert members of his own congregation, which was in Antioch. While some might well have been ethnically descended from the Israelites, we are talking about a predominantly Greco-Syriac population in a city that had always been under Gentile control; never was Antioch within the borders of the Kingdom of Israel (in fact the founder of Antioch was one of the generals of Alexander the Great, Seleucus I Nicator).
So who were these Jews, who differed so much from every Jew we encounter in the Old Testament, and every Jew we encounter now, by virtue of their missionary zeal? The question is fascinating to consider. Though I do not deny for a minute the Judaic identity of his opponents, I am unable to clearly identify them as either Rabinnical Jews or as Karaites; Orthodox Rabinnical Jews do not proselytize, and most certainly would not proselytize towards women, whereas the Jews that Chrysostom found himself in opposition to did proselytize, and actively seeked to convert his Christian congregation undo Judaism. This is baffling to one who, like myself, is a scholar of Judaism and a great lover of our sister religion. The Orthdoox Jews pride themselves on not proseltyizing; the Karaites did it for a time, but they are not believed to have existed as early as the late fourth century, when John Chrysostom wrote his “Homilies Against the Jews.” One cannot help but wonder in sheer amazement who these Jews were who Chrysostom railed against; they cannot be clearly identified as being a part of any of the traditions we consider Jews today. Many scholars believe they were a Jewish-Christian sect, such as the Ebionites. This is possible; elements in Chrysostom’s homilies however suggest that these Jews were, if not dominant, then very prominent in Antiochene society; this makes the question as to their identity even more intriguing. This may well have been a form of Judaism, perhaps a Hellenized Pharasaism, with influences from Gnosticism, Platonism, and the “Cult of the Most High God” encountered by Paul in his travels across Classical Greece.
Whatever it is, it is now extinct; while its worship bears superficial similiarity to that of the Rabinnical and Karaite Jews who we know today, at least in so far as the blowing of the shofar (and Chrysostom alludes to a solemnity of the worship services, which suggests some of the Ashkenazi and Karaite traditions, but not to the same extent the Sephardic ideal), the aim of this unusual form of Judaism in seeking to convert Christians, who were largely Gentiles, to the Jewish faith, is completely absent from any form of mainstream contemporary Judaism. Now, this also raises one other valid point; when Christian clergymen at present evangelize the Jews in an aggressive manner, they are (in many cases rightly) condemned as anti-Semitic. In the same manner that the Jews seek to protect their flock from the missionary efforts of Christians, John Chrysostom had every right to engage in coutner-missionary activity of the same sort, to prevent his own flock from being eroded by these most interesting and unusual practitioners of Judaism (who themselves may very well have been Judaizing Christians of some sort, such as the Ebionites). Now, the language in these homilies “Against the Jews” is at times heated, but one should also remember that contemporary with John Chrysostom were equally heated polemics directed at Christianity from leading Jewish authorities.
The historic prayer known in Judaism as “The Eighteen Blessings”, in response to Christianity and other new religions emerging from Judaism in the first century AD, became in effect “Eighteen Blessings and a Curse”; the curse being directed against heretics of any sort (which would seem to apply to Christianity at least by implication, although the Medieval Jews, under fear for their lives against the very real and despicable anti-Semitism of the Crusader-era Christendom, vehemently denied that the “Nineteenth” item in the prayer of the Eighteen” had Christians in mind as a target. I am inclined to believe them on this point; in that even if that particular aspect to their liturgy was originally added with Christians in mind, it does indeed not identify us by name, and I do sincerely believe that the majority of Jews, when pronouncing the prayer of the Eightteen, do not have any intention of cursing us upon their lips. We, on the other hands, frequently have had curses against the Jews on our lips; Martin Luther’s despicable anti-Semitic tracts, filled with scatological imagery, represent the nadir, but one can also not help but object to the historic mistreatment of those Jews living in Rome, by the government of the Papal States, who one would think ought to have held themselves to a higher ethical standard. For that matter, the older form of the Tridentine liturgy, that was revised by Pope John XIII in 1962, on Good Friday, condemned the “Perfidious Jews”; this has now been removed and is not present in the version of the Tridentine mass celebrated in either the Roman Catholic Church, or indeed in the otherwise rather disagreeable SSPX.
One should also mention in closing on this point that curses directed against heretics in general were by no means an exclusively Jewish phenomenon; many of the old liturgies are full of them. The old Coptic liturgy cursed Nestorius, the old Assyrian liturgy cursed Cyril, and the Greeks and Armenians frequently cursed each other in their own liturgical works. It is with great joy that I can report that most of these liturgical curses have been removed from the prayer books of nearly all of the Apostolic churches. On a more positive note, I am of the opinion that the Jewish prayer known as the “Eighteen” is itself the original inspiration for the very important part of our Christian liturgy known as the “Great Litany”, in which we ask God to bless a wide array of different things, including the safety of the Church and of the whole world, all those in civil authority, the abundance of the seasons and the fruits of the earth, and so on. In closing, on the issue of John Chrysostom, he was no more anti-Semitic than a Jewish Rabbi would be, if he objected to a Methodist priest aggressively trying to convert members of his Synagogue. Thus his status as one of the great saints of our religion can remain untarnished. Furthermore, even if he were wrong on the point of the Jews, that would in no way invalidate his teachings on homosexuality, which are correct; their correctness can be verified by virtue of their correlation with the specific instructions of the Apostle Paul, the canons of the early Church, and the similar remarks of other Church Fathers, as well as the Torah, and indeed Christ himself, who stressed the importance of not yielding to lascivious temptation.
I should also point out that its rather rich to accuse John Chrysostom of anti-Semitism, when saying that the Christian teaching on homosexuality (which is identical with the Jewish one) is wrong is an inherently anti-Semitic position to assume; it requires us to say that all Jews before Christ were in fact sinning compared to the Greeks, Romans, and Chaldeans, in banning homosexuality, and it requires us to say that all Jews since Christ have continued to sin in the same manner. Thus it is not I, nor John Chrysostom, who are anti-Semitic, but rather Kim himself, for daring to say that the Torah, given to the Jewish people by our very God in Heaven, is in fact morally wrong. One either has to say that the Jews erred in their receipt and application of the Torah, which is inherently an anti-Semitic proposition, or else, that the God who gave them the Torah was himself morally repugnant; this leads one to a Gnostic or Marcionist worldview, in which the creator deity of the Old Testament was an evil, flawed and incompetent Demiurge, and not the father of Christ. That is also an inherently anti-Semitic position to assume, because it states that the Jews for so many millennia have been worshipping an evil demigod. I, on the other hand, believe that my God gave them the Torah, and that the Orthodox and Karaite Jews have rightly abided in it, and will in time be gloriously reconciled with their Christian brothers and sisters; we share a common heritage and worship the same God, and surely, we will be saved together by our Lord.
Now, before continuing onto the subject of Wesley, the corruption of the Church Catholic at the hands of civil authorities, and the status of the early church, I wish to briefly correct a minor error you made. I tolerate the theological error of Baptists on the grounds, not of oikumene (Ecumenism), although Ecumenical reunification is in fact my objective in tolerating it, but rather on the principle of Oikonomia, that is to say, spiritual economy. You complain of the strict nature of the canons of the early Church; and of the three year period of instruction before baptism. The canons of the early church were exceedingly severe. These canons are in fact still in full force in the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches, but they are almost never applied to the full extent possible; indeed, almost since their very inception, the norm has been to use a principle known as “Economy” (oikonomia in the Koine Greek) to derogate from these canons wherever it is deemed pastorally beneficial. Thus, for many centuries, it has been possible to be received into any of the apostolic churches that share the canonical heritage of the early church, in a matter of mere weeks.
The early Church was not by any means a legalistic religion; the canons established norms of behavior and set the gold standard as it were for conduct by clergy and laity alike, but these rules could be relaxed wherever it was deemed appropriate in light of the Divine Mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of sins, and the salvation of souls; that as many as possible might partake of the Divine Nature and attain Life Everlasting. To put it another way, the Bishops of the early church should not be viewed as trial judges, presiding over cases of criminal law, meeting out harsh sentences as indicated, but rather, as physicians, working to cure the horrible disease of sin in the most appropriate way, with the knowledge that each and every human created by God is unique and worthy of sacred love. In fact, in most of the Eastern Christians, the juridical concept of sin as we understand it in the West is avoided; the Eastern fathers prefer to see sin not as a crime that must be punished, but as a disease; the Church exists to treat and where possible cure those diseases in those willing to approach it, including the very serious disease of sexual depravity, which has ruined so many lives and caused the spread of so many more diseases, both spiritual and physical.
Now, Wesley himself, as an Anglican, most likely regarded the Anabaptists as heretics; I certainly do, but whether or not he took that view is irrelevant. Wesley’s teachings are relevant and important to the extent that they affirm the sacred tradition of the Church; and in most cases they do; of all of the Protestant reformers, Wesley is by far and away the most Catholic and the most Orthodox. However, it is right to say that the influence of the Roman Empire had a deleterious effect on the Christian church, but not the effect you would expect. Constantine made Christianity the official religion; he convened the council of Nicaea to settle the question of the Arian heresy and initially enforced its ruling. However, he himself did not convert to Christianity until his deathbed, and he was baptized by an Arian bishop. Subsequently, his successors reversed is policies and favored the Arians against the Christians; as a result, the Orthodox Catholic Church was persecuted right through fourth century, until finally, just before the Council of Constantinople, the persecution stopped. Athanasius himself was said to have fought “Contra mundum” against the Imperially-sponsored Arian heresy. Ambrose of Milan and his loyal congregants barricaded themselves in what eventually became the great Duomo, the Cathedral of his hometown, and resisted for days on end the attempts of Imperial troops to evict them in favor of the Arian party (a sort of fourth century Occupy movement; perhaps the earliest sit-in in recorded history). The persecution intensified under Julian the Apostate; it only finally subsided in the late fourth century, facilitating a few glorious years around the Council of Constantinople, when the dreadful Arian heresy had finally been defeated, and Christians once again lived in peace around the Empire. Then the Emperor had the bright idea to make Christianity the official religion, and began using civil authority to persecute heretics. The first heretic executed by the Romans was a Spaniard, Priscillian, convicted of harbording a somewhat Gnostic worldview. Now, the reaction of the early church might surprise you; many of the leading ecclesiastical authorities of that time harshly condemned the execution, including Ambrose of Milan, Pope Siricius, and Martin of Tours.
The next several centuries of Christian history can largely be interpreted as the Imperial government meddling in ecclesiastical wars, and fighting a long, bitter power struggle with the Bishops, which the Bishops in the East ultimately lost. The Pope in the West won, although only after years of subservience to the Carolignians; his victory elevated him to the status of an Imperial ruler, and was almost directly responsible for the later excesses of the Roman church after the great schism in 1054. Almost every heresy that plagued the Christian church, starting with Constantine I, enjoyed official Imperial support: Arianism, Monothelitism, Iconoclasm. The only exceptions, which as heresies go are also rather minor, are the divisive Christological heresies of Nestorianism and Monophysitism; here, however, the Empire exacerbated attempts at an ecumenical solution, by using military force to oppress the heretics, interfering with attempts at reconciliation within the Church. Prior to this, there were several minor schisms in the second, third and fourth centuries over matters such as the timing of Easter, that were ultimately resolved through great prayer and ecclesiastical mediation, but it was the Emperors who put a stop to this, through foolish and unwarranted meddling; ecumenism at knifepoint, if you will. The event that ultimately put the western Church into a tailspin however was the Great Schism of 1054, followed almost immediately thereafter by the Crusades, one of the most bloodthirsty acts ever to be engaged upon in the name of Christ; the Crusades were bitterly opposed by almost all Eastern churches, with the exception of the Maronites.
Now, should we consider the cultural context of the early Church when evaluating its theology in comparison to our own? Most certainly; the church of the first, second, third, fourth, and even the early fifth centuries existed in a predominantly secular Roman society, very similar to our own, albeit even more depraved; a world in which slaves were sexually abused by their owners, a world in which people bathed daily in communal baths, in the nude, often with both genders present, with many baths reported to have attached brothels, a world in which gladiators fought to the death in the arena, in a process eerily reminiscent of our own reality television, which has not yet reached the level of a lethal elimination contest (in the manner of the rather good Doctor Who episode “Bad Wolf”), a world which gave us the earliest recorded Novel, Petronius’s Satyricon, which eroticizes paedophilia even of the most deplorable form (in one scene a contemporary reader can encounter only with absolute horror and revulsion, the author describes in erotic language the rape of a seven year old girl by a sixteen year old boy). It should be noted that in ancient Rome, the Satyricon was a bestseller; as is witnessed by the fact that it is one of the relatively few works of Roman literature that has been handed down to us through the generations, essentially intact. That was the cultural context of the early church: a secular world, much like our own, albeit with every depravity a Christian should revile intensified dramatically. The Gnostic heretics of the first century, as described in St. Irenaeus of Lyon’s classic Against Heresy, resemble strongly the New Age religions one can find in places like Ojai, San Francisco or Brighton.
From this sick and depraved world that was the early Roman Empire, somewhere in the fourth century, a remarkable transformation began to occur. The Byzantine Empire rose from the ashes of the old pagan order, and was almost infinitely better from a Christian mindset. This was an Empire that revered God; the Roman Army itself evangelized the Gospel among its ranks. The Gospel of Jesus spread throughout all of the Empire, even those provinces that it was, as a result of the decadence that had previously absorbed it in the third century, in the process of losing. The Western Roman Empire disintegrated, leaving a patchwork of independent Christian states in its wake, as the so-called Barbarians themselves acquired the Gospel, and became as civilized, if not more so, than the Romans who they now conquered. The Byzantine Empire in the East held out a bit longer, and its legacy survives in the beauty of eastern Christianity. Yet these secular states, Christian though they were, were still ruled by sinners, and were still guilty of sin. The great sin of the Imperial governments of Constantinople, and of the Carolignian Empire of the West, was a tendency to meddle in Ecclesiastical affairs, which pitted Church against State in a constant struggle, that was in the West only resolved when the Pope himself was able, through intense cunning (and at the expense of his own Christian conscience, I would argue) able to elevate himself to a status akin to that of the old Roman Emperors; in the East, on the other hand, the Turks ultimately crushed the Byzantine Empire, and from that moment forward, tended to leave the Christian population alone, albeit occasionally inflicting on them various forms of social degradation (such as the tax of Christian boys, who were forcibly removed from their parents to form the fanatic Janissaries, after the seventeenth century). That is the history of the early Church, the terrible, dreadful, wonderful history, by which the Gospel of Christ was made known to the world. Now, as our Christian society rapidly implodes, largely due to the resurgence of heresy, and we risk returning to the depravity that characterized the Roman Empire before Constantine I, the teachings of the Church Fathers, such as St. John Chrysostom, have never been more urgently needed.
As long as I remain a Methodist, I will proudly fly the flag of Orthodoxy, and work within to reform the Methodist church, that it might serve as an instrument by which the teachings of the Church Fathers are disseminated.
Oh my God! If you put as much effort into sheltering the homeless or feeding the hungry or anything else that Jesus mentioned, you might be happier.
Indeed. His cup is so full that he runneth over mightily. What a sad, intolerant, albeit “educated” individual.
Yeah, He sounds like that pesky Moses and Apostle Paul, cluttering up the Bible with all their writings. As for our local church, we don’t have to worry about feeding and sheltering the poor as after the expense of paying a preacher and apportionments, we have no money left.
Carla and Robert Skidmore
Debra, he reminds me of a quote from Shakespeare, “A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
Oh, he prattles on for pages, but says nothing of value.
You sound very educated and versed, but God’s word is simple and meant to be understood by uneducated persons, like myself, you get no where by arguing with people, they have to let go of their sin themselves. the Bible is all we need and people have always pushed their own interpretations, that is why there are thousands of differing ways to worship, (denominations.). They will hopefully see the err of their ways, pray for that. God bless
It is nearly the beginning of 2022 and oh boy, I have witnessed pastors SPRCs, district superintendents, and bishops at every level engaging in coverups for indiscretions of clergy and serious errors of omission by regular church folk. A quick look through Sections 258, 362, and 413 will reveal just how little accountability there is these days. It is downright scary – bishops covering up for bishops, and everyone else just going along as if these people are saints. email@example.com
Referring to the Methodist Book of Discipline (2016)
Paul Anthony Preussler
By the way, please be advised, I edited the above post in an external editor, and copy-pasting it into this blog b0rked my newlines. If the lack of paragraph separations in the above proves a headache, simply copy paste it into another program, like Notepad or MS Word, and they will reappear.
I think you will find brevity leads to more interaction.
Paul Anthony Preussler
Alas, Jeremy, here I must apologize, in the manner of Blaise Pascal; in that I am compelled to write a long letter, as I do not have time to write a short one. Additionally, there are so many theological points that must be addressed in response to some of these posts that brevity becomes an impossibility. The problem is simply that many Methodists, due to the catechetical failures of the church, have no real understanding as to what went on with the Christian church between the time the Gospel of John was written, and Martin Luther nailing his 95 thesis to the door. As I see it, most of the theological problems that are occurring here can be resolved if we study these problems in a Patristic light. However, I will readily confess my brevity; I am a horribly long winded author in the grand tradition of Jules Verne (or indeed my beloved John Chrysostom); this is my nature and I sincerely ask for your prayers that in time, I manage to attain a more concise style, perhaps in the manner of Earnest Hemingway. However, I am pleased to report that, quality comments included, I have managed to produce 35,122 words of theological content based on these discussions, which at some point I do intend to publish as a PDF; as an homage to my beloved Irenaeus of Lyons I might well entitle it Adversus Caesim de Christianitatis
Old Baptist Dude
You know Paul, while I agree with Jeremy you are just a little bit verbose at times, and I don’t agree with you at all on baptism, I do appreciate your heartfelt defense of Scripture. If the “Reverend” decides to censor you,, there’s a blog that deals primarily with church abuse called Wartburg Watch, that’s mainly for the Baptist community that deals with some of the nastier pastors we have; they have a facility for reposting comments that are deleted. Just somethin’ you might want to keep in mind. Also I hope you’re using an alias; I went through holy hell at my church after criticizing the pastor on a forum using my own name. I never post under the same name twice. You have no idea how much damage a wicked pastor can do to your life if you’re not careful. Walk in Christ, Paul.
“Reverend?” With quotes?
Paul Anthony Preussler
I would observe that I doubt any of that would be neccessary; I am aware of Wartburg Watch and actually have a somewhat nice relation with Dee and Deb, although I do not agree with them on theology, I love their stance against clerical abuse. However, I do not believe that Jeremy is one of the “bad guys”; while I wish his blog connected Christianity with hacking in such a way so as to not imply the actual slicing apart of Christianity, and while I wish there were more Real Hackers here (as an IT guy myself who is somewhat connected with “Hacker culture”), I think what he is doing in providing a forum is great.
I do disagree with much of his theology; however, on certain important details such as our view of the sacraments, there does appear to be concord. On one recent occasion a Catholic massively got on UMJeremy’s case over an indiscrete remark I myself objected to, but UMJeremy at my suggestion clarified the matter and the person in question has left our collective presence. I do hope at some point to talk one on one with Jeremy about these theological matters, because I see in him someone who is very close to where I am, differing only on three points that I’m aware of, that being the importance of the patristic tradition, our views on homosexuality, and the ministry of women in the church (which I do support, just not in a manner compatible with his beliefs, or the current UMC polity, for that matter).
Paul Anthony Preussler
Kim made one other comment that I feel I overlooked in my initial response:
“and the beginning of monasticism came in the wake of it being advantageous to be a nominal Christian, no longer subject to persecution or a three-year catachumenate.”
The question of the catechumens aside, which I have already dealt with, this remark raises another troubling concern. Does Kim mean to imply that monastic Christians, living in the desert, starting with Saint Paul the Hermit, and continuing with Saint Anthony the Great, the Desert Fathers, the Anchorites, the Benedictines, the Athonites, and their successors, are in some manner “nominal Christians?” It should be stressed that becoming a monk did not exempt one from the catechtical requirements of the early Church; although oikonomia might often have shortened the duration of catechesis from the canonical three years in many cases due to pastoral neccessity. Nor were monks immune from persecution, Many of the Desert Fathers (and Mothers, for there were celibate women also among the disciples of St. Anthony) were martyred over the centuries. Examples of hieromartyrs include St. Moses the Black, the 10,000 Martyred Fathers of the Deserts and Caves of Scete, the 26 Monk-Martyrs of Zographou of Mt Athos; many of the fabled 48 Martyrs of Cordoba were monks.
So to imply that Monastic Christians are in any way “nominal” is just a huge, sweeping insult against the millions of saints who dedicated their lives to praying for us. It is indeed one of the more cruel things I’ve heard from anyone on this forum, and I very much hope that Kim opts to clarify or retract his remark. Surely Anthony the Great, Benedict, and the numerous monks who followed them, whether they achieved the glorious crown of martyrdom, or died in a more serene manner, are every bit as Christian as any of us; in fact, I myself feel like that in some respects we are the nominal Christians, in comparison to our illustrious monastic brethren (although certainly the church has always held that the monastic life is not required for salvation; one does not become a monk primarily in order to be saved, but rather in order to pray without ceasing not only for the salvation of oneself, but for the safety and redemption of the entire world).
Paul, you take yourself way too seriously. That is not healthy. Remember:
“We do not see things as they are. We see them as we are:
(The Talmud. the basis for all Jewish Law)
This is what you actually said Paul, and I quote:
“My faith is based strictly on that of the teachings of Christ our Lord, in the Old and New Testaments, the teachings of his All Holy and Laudable Apostles, and the interpretation of those teachings carefully developed by the early Church up through the Fourth Century….”
The Pharisees were legalist and new every piece of the law but missed the heart of it. Jesus was constantly expressing “you have heard it written in Scripture….but I’ll tell you…”
John Handy Bosma
I know I’m late to the party, but two thoughts:
1. Why is this list so short?
2. What about the fact that the BOD contradicts itself on the topic of the day?
Sorry, as a congregant, I don’t regard the BOD as a worthwhile organizing document. The fact that so many clergy use it as a tool to spread their bigoted readings of the Bible doesn’t recommend it to me.
I am an unafiliated new age hippy that wants to join a parish with my family for reasons more related to socialization and spiritual reflection and solace and comfort for my children following my passing.
The UMC has been close to the top of my list for some time but I am more than willing to go without if they can not get on board with living the new covenant.
No exclusions … Not leppers, not women and not homosexuals.
Everyone is welcome at the final table and brevity is best on the net lest you become a Troll.
Peace on you! 🙂
I would like to know what was the first book of discipline published? What recent was the most recent one you consider the most conservative biblically? Is the original one available online?
Gee whiz… You guys have entirely too much time on your hands. Lighten up… And go love your neighbor as you do yourselves.
Amen. It seems the “legalists” have left little room for the work of the Holy Spirit.
I just found this thread via a Facebook link. Having read most of the comments here I think that perhaps a little more time could effectively be spent in prayer and ministry instead of trying to score points off each other. If this is what Methodism is like in the US, then I’m glad I’m in the UK!
This is NOT the norm for Methodism in the USA!
Most of us choose to serve, as Jesus called us to do!
Sadly, these characters seem to prefer petty bickering over service and prayer. I am truly glad my pastor emphasizes Bible study, prayer, and service.
In answer to Stephen Gibnet, yes it is online and its called the Bible!
Lord have mercy! My decision to convert to Anglicanism has been ratified.
“I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.”
( Luke 10:21)
Well this is heartbreaking. I am the president of the board of directors for our local community food bank. We have a UMC pastor (not yet ordained) as our director. I just left a meeting where the idea of legal, charitable gaming was shot down because it conflicts with the BOD and our director, soon to be ordained is now in fear that if she watches this happen she will loose her ordainment. I brought this to her as a fund raising idea a month ago, she was on board with the idea. We feed 80 families per week, I am a volunteer. We can no longer pay non food related bills without some type of funding. I am a Professing member of our local UMC Church. The mission statement of my church includes words like tolerant and non judgmental. I wish someone would have demanded I read the BOD before they accepted me as a member. My heart aches for the families who will now go hungry in our community. Please explain how this is Gods work, or how it allows the Holy Spirit to guide the board of directors, which I have prayed for. I am at a loss. I see no other fundraising possibilities that could fund us to the extent we need. I felt guided by the spirit to move forward with this plan and now feel betrayed. We have a lease, utilities and other expenses, food donations are not a problem. It was clearly pointed out that the BOD is the guide on the matter of gambling. If I could make the necessary funds washing cars etc, I would. Our needs are beyond what the local community can support being the poorest county in our State. Just hoping to hear some words of wisdom here, in support or not.
James Nevel Sr.
This is a conversation I just had with my DS, I look at these issues with Clergy the same way you would look at a secular job, when you hire in/agree to serve the Methodist Denomination, you agree to abide/follow the BOD along with the Methodist teachings. If you went against your secular employers regulations, policies, rules they would warn you and then terminate you if you continued to be disobedient. So why should the Methodist clergy be any different? Also, I take special notice to the writings herein above in regards to female clergy serving in the United Methodist, my response/feelings to this is in reality a question that is rhetorical in nature to a point, and that is this: Who do you think taught the people when the disciples left with Jesus on his journey? The woman. I have heard some of the best sermons on my travels from a woman.
I think ministers who are full connection do more damage to our church because they have too much level way. Why do we need another covenant when we don’t use the ones that we have. Our book of discipline covers the whole church, we can use that part that will be good for us. Damage happens when we decide to reinvent the wheel. It is the method by which we grew the church for centuries. find apart that will be good for the ministries that we have in our churches. When we did not include the youth, we no longer knew what they wanted or needed in the church. Therefore they left the congregation and went where there needs could be met.
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This post is worth everyone’s attention. Where can I find out more?
See my recent post.
The shame really comes upon those who commit to the Methodist Practice but then want to ignore the Practice. If you wish to change Methodism, then either do so with the mechanisms prescribed or go to another church/start your own version of Christian practice. This problem has occurred across the Western Churches, where folks take oaths and then try to change those oaths and practices. It is not an Episcopal or Anglican issue, nor an issue strictly in-house for Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, or others. The individual is not the decider about what others can believe within the parameters estabished in the Bible and even interpreted by any scholar worth noting whether non-believers such as Ehrdman or Christians such as Hypoclytus, Wesley or Bishop Robison who declared the Bible was a pile of rocks.
Grow up, whatever you do is between you and God. You are required however to not engage new believers in disputes about opinions, and to allow others to hold peculiarities in their devotion and behavior. If you reject the Bible, you don’t belong in communities that do nor do you have even the human freedom to try to conform the churches that exist to your own convictions. Really, this is not a light or frivolous matter. Live out your convictions, and let others do the same.
This is the same kind of manure that was spread around in the early founding of Christianity up to and including the separation of Roman Catholic from Catholic Orthodox, the Roman Catholic insistence that human opinion and tradition is equal to or superior over the Scripture.
The Reformers did not start out to change Christianity in their day, they wished to restore it from the progressives in the Roman Churches to the orthodoxy of the first 4 centuries of Christianity. Interestingly, the RCC has made reforms since that part answers to the complaints that led to the rejection of those attempting to point out the errors of the RCC according to Scripture and within the parameters established to do so of the RCC. They then as a result of being put out of the RCC had to start their own churches. Hello?
Stop trying to change what others believe, at least here in the USA because there is a clause protecting the right to exercise religious freedom. And stop casting aspirsions upon others, gossipping, slandering, maligning the character of others. You are free to do as you please, but not free to claim excusivity to the Church Jesus founded. It is not “your church” if Jesus is the LORD over your congregation.