It seems that “Via Media” in today’s vernacular means “There’s the Door.”
The Via Media Methodists are an online United Methodist group blog that started out really well: they stated they sought the “via media” third way between different viewpoints, bringing a fresh perspective to liberal/conservative divide, and some Wesley-centered podcasts with a variety of people. I enjoyed interacting with them in their early days and we found a lot of common ground in opposing Schism in the United Methodist Church.
They marketed themselves as cutting between the issues. Little did I know they would eventually endorse the expulsion of Progressives from the UMC, and tragically seek to cut out fellow clergy from the United Methodist Church.
The Demand Letter
On July 21, 2015, in response to the expulsion and marriage of Benjamin Hutchison, Rev. Drew McIntyre and Rev. Evan Rohrs-Dodge penned a demand letter calling for the expulsion of their UM wedding officiant. These two clergymen are the two principal authors of the Via Media UMC blog–their third collaborator Rev. Stephen Fife has a much smaller percentage of posts and is conspicuously absent.
Here’s the closing text in regard to the wedding officiant Ginny Mikita, who resides in another state from the clergymen:
And here’s what that letter effected:
While Ginny knowingly placed her future ordination at risk in this act of Biblical Obedience, Ginny could not have imagined that her membership in The UMC would be threatened as well. However, on August 27, Ginny’s District Superintendent, Rev. Bill Haggard, informed her that her candidacy for ordination and her membership in The UMC were revoked weeks ago as a result of a letter penned by three United Methodist clergy in other states demanding that such disciplinary action be taken against her. The stated-rationale for such action insists that Ginny was excommunicated when she acquired an online designation necessary for the legal pronouncement of marriage.
Reconciling Ministries Network reported on this story and commented:
Reconciling Ministries Network is aghast at the bureaucratic action undertaken not only by Rev. Bill Haggard, Bishop Deborah Kiesey, and the West Michigan Conference, but also by the pharisaic efforts of clergy from North Carolina, Texas, and New Jersey whose commitment to the letter of the law has outstripped what used to be known as a “religion of the heart.” We wish this were simply a matter of poor leadership, a lack of nerve, or failed compassion on the part of a few, but what we know is that a denomination that enshrines discrimination and sin into its own policies and practices must bear the weight of this extraordinary injustice. The UMC is so committed to the exclusion and oppression of queer people, that in this instance, mere affiliation with the delivery of a gospel blessing upon the relationship of a gay pastor and his loving husband resulted in a modern-day excommunication.
The Expulsion Complex
We’ve previously featured the Via Media Methodists in two topic areas:
- Praise of the A&W plan to allow progressives to more easily leave the UMC.
- Praise of a plan to exclude progressive protestors by closing General Conference.
The letter above really goes beyond the previous passive writings on doctrine to the active seeking to remove a pastor from the United Methodist Church. In fact, as a result of the letter, we see that not only was she discontinued as a clergy candidate, but her lay membership in the United Methodist Church was removed. Removed! The text of the penned later and the Judicial Council decision referenced points directly to removal of membership from the UMC.
The Via Media Methodists erred in calling for removal of Ginny’s United Methodist membership. As a technical matter, she’s not full clergy and thus her membership resides not at the annual conference level but at her sending local church. It would mean her local church would have to remove her by charge conference action. The JC decision doesn’t apply to laity in the ordination process whose membership is not in the annual conference.
But maybe that’s intentional–and if so, that’s quite the witchhunt if the goal is removal of local church membership. If so, then all clergy should poll their congregations to make sure any laity who got ordained online so they could officiate a friend’s marriage will have their memberships revoked. If that’s the direction the UMC is going, then we have 2/3 of the Via Media Methodists to thank.
The True Meaning of Via Media
It seems that “Via Media” in today’s vernacular means “There’s the Door.” It’s a far cry from the careful relevance that characterized VMM at the beginning, but that happens when bloodlust takes over the mind. I hope that they find their way back.
One final thing that troubles me is that the structure of the United Methodist Church states that we are accountable to our local and regional bodies. Instead of trusting that a pastor who is seen as errant would be held accountable, these clergymen interfered across annual conference and jurisdictional lines. It should be noted that clergy trials of late have all been initiated by local complaints, certainly not by ones far-removed from context. While such an action is allowed in United Methodism, not all that is legal is good.
My hope is that other individuals who seek to take it upon themselves to accuse others in the United Methodist Church instead allow the local or regional response by their clergy peers to go forward. Our accountability is to the annual conference, and to trust that process. It’s a shame that there’s a group of Methodists trolling online articles for people to write letters about*. May we all be better.
*[editor’s note: the first version of this post said “bring charges against” which is factually incorrect. I regret the error and am thankful to Sky McCracken for naming it in the comments.]
Thoughts? Yes, I have some.
Or course, Jeremy will continue to engage in hyperbole and histrionics in an attempt to further his conspiracy theories as it relates to the VMM project. Whatever. However, this has nothing to do with “trolling” or trying to show anyone the door. When one becomes a certified candidate for ministry or takes ordination vows, one enters into a system of accountability – by their colleagues and those who are tasked with overseeing their ministry and process. By seeking ordination elsewhere, the Book of Discipline and the ruling of the Judicial Council is clear: that forfeits ones’ standing in The United Methodist Church. To hold one accountable to the processes they have undertaken and the membership vows they took to be faithful to The United Methodist Church is Biblical and necessary. It seems there are some in our denomination that would seek a breakdown of all accountability processes and let Judges 21 be the word of the day: “everyone did that which was right in their own eyes.”
What vested interest do you and your collaborators have in writing the letter?
Why did you not believe that the Michigan area persons had knowledge of the Discipline as you do and therefore you felt compelled to remind them?
Taylor Burton-Edwards (@twbe)
I don’t think you’ve characterized the situation quite fairly or accurately, Jeremy.
The Discipline actually is quite clear about who can be a certified candidate. One must be a professing member of The UMC. By accepting ordination from the ULC, a professing member of the UMC thereby becomes a member of the ULC. We do not and never have done “dual membership.” If you’ve joined another denomination, you are no longer a professing member of The UMC and you can therefore no longer be a certified candidate.
This is not excommunication. It’s not expulsion. It’s the application of the long-established nature of membership in The UMC in our Discipline.
When I teach United Methodist Worship (Drew and Candler), I am always quite clear in the section on ordination to remind my UM students in the candidacy process or who are already ordained in The UMC that if they get an ordination from another denomination, they’ve forfeited their professing membership, candidacy, and, if applicable, authorization to function as an ordained minister in The UMC. This is the way our system has worked for a very long time.
And yes, this applies to laity who get ULC ordinations. De jure, by taking that action, they are no longer professing members in The UMC. They can continue to attend worship, but they are no longer eligible to participate in ways they could have as a professing member unless or until they rescind their ULC ordination and seek readmission as a professing member in The UMC.
I don’t think anyone can (or should) question the legality of the marriage in question. Under Michigan law, persons who have obtained ordination through the ULC are recognized as authorized presiders for weddings in that state. There are no legal ramifications of what happened here, since Ginny Mikita presided at this wedding under her ULC ordination.
I also remind my students, however, that UM clergy are not authorized and therefore not credentialed by our denomination to preside at same-sex weddings. Some states and jurisdictions have laws that specify the presider must be credentialed or authorized by one’s religious body to be a legal presider at a wedding. Not all states or jurisdictions word that in ways that would legally preclude UM clergy from presiding. But some do. Where our clergy do so in jurisdictions with such language in their marriage law (Georgia, where I now live, is among these) they are violating not only our Book of Discipline, but state law as well, and could be liable for both kinds of violation, both in the church and in a court of law.
I share all of this not to say this is how I believe things should be (or should not be!). It is simply where they are– both in our Book of Discipline, in the case of professing membership, certified candidacy, and our lack of credentialing as United Methodists to preside at same-sex weddings, and in the marriage law of some states or jurisdictions.
My comment actually has nothing to do with the type of wedding she celebrated, but with the online ordination…
According to our discipline (possibly P 241… although I’m looking for something more concrete), receiving ordination in another denomination does remove you from membership in the United Methodist Church.
I have heard an anecdotal story about this happening to someone who was ordained online in order to celebrate their friend’s wedding. They didn’t even think about how it would affect their own church membership. I have since cautioned anyone who was considering this, so they could make a choice knowing what the implications would be.
We believe ordination to be a sacred and holy thing. So by getting ordained online, even if for the sole purpose of officiating a wedding, you are uniting with that church and renouncing your membership.
In that case, “withdrawn”, would be the appropriate description of her membership status (according to P241), not termination.
That doesn’t preclude her from having her membership restored, however.
You’re correct on those points, Katie, but by that same paragraph, the process for removing her membership wasn’t followed. That should have been referred to her pastor to explore, preferably with her knowledge, and not handed down from the Cabinet on the basis of an external letter. Likewise, the process for terminating her candidacy was not followed; the DS superseded the District Committee on Ordained Ministry’s sole jurisdiction over lay people who are candidates. Incorrectly and unjustly handled from A-Z.
And of course, none of it embodies grace. Which is the biggest problem we need to look at as a church.
Totally agree with that.
What action is required from a DCOM when a person is no longer a member of The UMC? There isn’t any review of that.
You don’t have to have a hearing when someone joins another church. You remove their name from the rolls and you send a membership letter if one is requested. She withdrew.
That withdrawal (knowingly or not) terminated her candidacy process.
It appears that she thought she had a loophole. She did not.
The results are not based on legal gymnastics. This is as simple as Taylor described it above.
I’m not arguing for dual membership, as TWBE articulates well above. What I’m questioning is why clergy would write a letter calling for the Discipline to be upheld, including removal of UM membership and cessation of candidacy. A separate issue is that process was not followed either, but that’s not the focus of the blog post.
I’ve gotten notice of chargeable offenses (mostly pastors refusing to baptize infants), but I don’t go around sending demand letters. It’s their accountability to their annual conference, not to me. That sentiment is not shared with the above folks.
Taylor Burton-Edwards (@twbe)
So having read the letter, it never asks for removal of membership.
It asks for recognition that the person in question had withdrawn from membership in The UMC and therefore could no longer function as a certified candidate.
One doesn’t remove persons from membership who have already withdrawn. One simply recognizes the action taken by duly noting the person withdrew, and where that withdrawal has ramifications elsewhere (as for certified candidacy) make sure the person understands the consequences of those ramifications.
This is administrative, not punitive; procedural, not judicial.
And it’s a well-established part of the way we administer both professing membership and certified candidacy in The UMC.
Keith A. Jenkins, Ph.D.
As a long-time liberal/progressive clergyperson in the UMC (Retired Elder, Texas Annual Conference), my heart goes out to Ms. Mikita, and I grieve for the pain she and others are experiencing in this sad turn of events. But I also acknowledge that you are correct in everything you have said about the administrative and procedural nature of the actions taken. Ms. Mikita brought this on herself by her own ill-advised actions. That they were motivated by pastoral love and a desire to be in ministry makes the outcome even more tragic, but it does not change the facts. However, there is one part of the issue I would like to hear you weigh in on, if you can do so in this forum, because I think it is really the heart of the matter. Not to put too fine a point on it, why was what Ms. Mikita did any business of the Reverend Messrs. McIntyre, Rohrs-Dodge, and Rankin, none of whom is a member of Ms. Mikita’s annual conference? This action on their part reminds me of the snotty little tattle-tales we all knew in elementary school who curried favor with the teacher by tattling on fellow students, except in this case, the student tattled on goes to school in a different state.
Precisely. I’ve asked this multiple times, with no answer.
I know of a somewhat similar situation in which the DS met with the pastor and asked him if he was aware that affiliating with another denomination meant he was withdrawing from the UMC. He was given a chance to withdraw from the other denomination to remain a UM. This seemed to me a kind and reasonable thing to do. Abruptly exiting someone without offering a chance to repair the mistake does not seem in the spirit of United Methodism. I am sorry to see Taylor Burton-Edwards, whom I respect, defending such impersonal punishment.
And I wonder if grace would have been meted out if outside forces hadn’t interfered. Perhaps that was their intent all along?
Dr. Jenkins, here is how I would answer that. We are a connectional church. Our apportionments support activities outside annual conference boundaries. Bishops are sent to us from outside our boundaries. If we are in fact a worldwide church, than it is appropriate for others not in the West Michigan Annual Conference to voice their opinion.
The enemy hates clarity
As someone who comments on topics across AC lines, I agree it is part of connectionalism to have Methodists everywhere have care and concern for these processes and products.
However, the three clergymen would not be impacted by the local DCoM’s decision-making process as they are not in the same AC. And further, they would not receive the same bishop because none of them are in Michigan’s jurisdiction. So I’m still unclear as to WHY they wrote the letter about a local process. It’s legal, but why was that legality embraced to reinforce removing a laywoman from membership and the ordination process?
I’m concerned that one of the authors of this letter is embracing the practice of excommunication and calling on others to celebrate and embrace it as well. This is not who we are as United Methodists. Are our membership rolls so padded that we need to begin removing people? As I said elsewhere, we are supposed to make disciples, not terminate them.
This action does significant harm to laity and clergy and the whole body of The UMC. It has to stop.
I have a hard time believing that, had she not participated in the same-sex wedding, that these three would have taken the time to address the issue of her ordination. Which leads me to think that same-sex weddings are the real issue, which doesn’t feel very Via Media to me. Maybe Status Quo would be a more appropriate name?
One of the real issues, at least for the other 9 or so United Methodist ministers who performed the wedding ceremony, is integrity. Are pastors bound by their oaths, or not?
The enemy hates clarity
BTW, does anyone know if you can actually become a member of the ULC? They sound very welcoming!
We are all part of a single connection. If our discipline is undermined anywhere then it is undermined everywhere. I applaud the initiative of the two who wrote the letter. Clearly they value the depth and breadth of the UMC connection. If we devolve into a congregationalist model where each local area gets to write its own doctrine and policy then we will simply mind our own backyards. Until then upholding the discipline is the only ethical path.
Ben David Hensley
I don’t see a whole lot of depth and breadth to this procedure.
The reality is that we all undermine the BOD everyday. The UMC is full of humans–ordained or not. We do harm to others, we don’t do all the good that we can and we don’t always love God.
We are so quick to condemn that we don’t even bother to look in our own house to see how we have sinned. So far we have not taken the log out of our own eyes.
I am sorry for her. I do understand why ordination in another denomination would jeapordize her UMC standing. Why was there no mentor she could ask about the consequences? Don’t pastors in other conferences have enough work to do in their own back yard?
Finally, if I could have gotten my ordination online I would have a lot less student loans
I grew up in a United Church and when I was confirmed I was reported as a member to both The United Methodist Church and The United Presbyterian Church (USA). In 1984 I was taken under care of The Geneva (NY) Presbytery, by vote of the the Presbytery, beginning the ordination process while continuing my membership in my home congregation. Shortly thereafter, I withdrew from that process for personal reasons.
Some of the more technical comments here make it sound like my membership in The United Methodist Church should have ended when I was taken under care of the Presbytery. In fact, in 1986, the summer before entering seminary, I completed my candidacy studies and was entered as a certified candidate for ordination, first in the Central New York Annual Conference and then in the Detroit Annual Conference, where I was ordained Deacon in 1990 and Elder in 1992 and have been serving ever since.
Many gray areas and slippery slope interpretations. The fact is current “practice” is all over the map, as well it should be. Maybe grace driven rather than legalistic. Hopefully.
If I advocate not paying apportionments, I wonder if my Bishop will be “grace driven rather than legalistic.”
The enemy hates clarity
And this is why religion organized by man is flawed….
You can be a member of 2 local UMC’s OR a local UMC AND a local church of another denomination. This is associate and affiliate membership.
What you cannot do is be ordained in another denomination while remaining a member of the UMC, UNLESS… that process is clearly outlined in the BoD. These issue are usually done in conjunction with the Bishop and BOOM. We have clergy of other denominations serving as pastors in the UMC UNDER THE AUTHORITY of the bishop.
We also recognize the orders of other denominations…
There are many layers to these issues. And to this story.
When I was began my appointment to the church I currently serve, I learned the story of a member of the church who served a small UMC for five years. He didn’t want to do the course of study,and he didn’t like being dependent on an elder for administering the sacraments, so he sent off some paperwork to someone and received ordination in the Unitarian Church, with the permission of the then-DS. It occurs to me now that, having heard that story, I could have removed him from membership.
Or the “then-DS” should not have allowed it in the first place.
I haven’t seen this addressed yet. Couldn’t someone on the DCOM or the BOM in the Western Michigan conference file charges of “interference with ministry” or however the language is, against the writers of the letter from Via Media? ISTM that their letter, and intent, was interfering with the ministry of United Methodists in Western Michigan.
But, yet again, Ms. Mikita was no longer a United Methodist after she accepted the ordination from ULC. So, whose ministry was being obstructed?
To these commenting as upholders of UM law: I’m not ordained clergy, or well-versed in the UM Discipline. I am just a UMC Member and am also employed by a UMC in a lay position. I am revolted by this application of church “law”. If you need some “biblical authority”, how about this from last week’s lectionary? It could not be more relevant. In Mark 7:6-7, Jesus said, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.’ You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.”
If you are revolted by the rules then join a denomination where the rules are more agreeable. No one is holding a gun to your head. These rules exist for a reason.
She obviously didn’t say that she was “revolted by the rules.” Way to prove Jeremy’s point about the motivations of the “Methocons,” Kevin!
Methocons. I like that.
I think this picture is the crux of the problem. If Ms. Makita had been wearing street clothes, it might not be the issue it is today. Wearing a robe and stole is a public display that one is representing the ordained office – that puts a bishop, cabinet, and a Board of Ministry all on the spot where procedure and theology of ordination is concerned. She wasn’t excommunicated – she united with another denomination/tradition.
If you’re asking for our thoughts, Jeremy – you’ve not fairly portrayed this situation at all. When someone unites with another tradition/communion/denomination, and publicly wears clerical garb as one who is ordained, no charge conference action is required to discontinue church membership. No charges were filed, either, despite your accusation of “a group of Methodists trolling online articles for people to bring charges against.”
You are better than that Jeremy; that was dishonest. You can certainly be upset by the UMC’s present stance, and I’m sure there was a better way to deal with this situation. At the same time, Ms. Makita could have handled it better, too. You may consider yourself a journalist, but you’re also an elder in the UMC. You can be prophetic without being dishonest. We are all in the same covenant community together, and we have to act like it.
Hi Sky, thanks for your comments.
Here’s the statements I made about the three clergymen:
1. “calling for the expulsion of their UM wedding officiant” = fact, their letter called for her discontinuance as a ministerial candidate.
2. “active seeking to remove a pastor from the United Methodist Church” = fact, their letter called for her discontinuance as a ministerial candidate.
3. “The Via Media Methodists erred in calling for removal of Ginny’s United Methodist membership” = untrue in that it should read 2/3 of them. I own that. Fact in that they called for the Committee to uphold the Discipline, referencing the previous passages that she de facto resigned her membership.
4. “these clergymen interfered across annual conference and jurisdictional lines” = fact, and further they have not expressed a connection to the case beyond their connection as United Methodists.
5. “there’s a group of Methodists trolling online articles for people to bring charges against.” Untrue in the “bring charges” language, you are correct. Fact in that they quoted an online article regarding an individual they have not expressed any first-hand involvement with.
Score is 5 factual statements, two *individual words* that were not accurate. As with our previous conversations, Sky, I feel you discredit the whole due to a single error in word choice. I don’t find that to be helpful for the conversation to accuse dishonesty when the weight of the argument stands alone without the two errors in hyperbole. It’s fine for you to choose this as your argument pattern, but I’d like you to be clear that’s how you are choosing to engage this argument.
Sorry – I forgot to post a link to the picture: https://wheneftalks.files.wordpress.com/2015/09/7e4847c872199b09.jpg
Bringing charges is serious business, Jeremy. No one was bringing charges. I don’t think you can gloss over that as just “two individual words.”
I chose to accept your invitation for “Thoughts?” And while I acknowledge that you thanked me in the beginning, you seem to want to be sure that I knew the score at the end. You didn’t even acknowledge or address the first two paragraphs… yet you seem to be upset that no one addresses your points in your comments (“Precisely. I’ve asked this multiple times, with no answer.”).
In this day and age of Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, news can travel 1/2 way around the world in less than a second. Don’t think that DS’s, bishops, and BOM chairs don’t get snapshots of Facebook posts, pics, and videos, and that we don’t get asked about them. Constantly. I’ve been sent such, even videos of pastors acting less-than-pastoral at football/basketball/soccer games. It’s naive to think that the Connection only goes as far as a district or conference line.
I refuse to believe that we in the UMC are above being each other’s keeper. And I have complimented several of your posts in the past. I would like to think you could consider what I thought (since you invited such) instead of keeping score to be sure you know you won, and I lost.
Peace be with you.
Sky, saying someone is “dishonest” is serious business. It implies intent. I don’t think you can gloss over my attempt to seek out what you were referring to as dishonesty as “keeping score.” This is a conversation–I’m unsure why you turned it into a game with winners and losers.
The language of “bringing charges” is an error on my part. I am not being intentionally dishonest. In the five instances of referring to the actions of the three clergymen, I was factual in all 5 except for those two words. That’s the magnitude of an error. I know my heart, and I wasn’t being dishonest when I wrote it. Angry? Yes. Willfully dishonest? No. I’m happy to change the language to better reflect my intent, and I’d be even more happy to know specifically how I am being dishonest.
We are each other’s keeper, but I am unaware of any evidence that the Michigan DCoM had made an error or was about to make an error. Heck, Ginny was likely to be discontinued for her action anyway, so why did the three clergymen take it upon themselves to invoke the Connection in this way? On this blog, I’ve written much about other churches and conferences and boards that I felt were wrong in some way–clearly, I have no ground to stand on to criticize such accountability or watching over one another.
What I do stand on is the facts: three clergymen, who have not expressed or are known to have any connection to Ginny beyond the Connection (she wasn’t even a clergy colleague [not a local pastor]), wrote a letter regarding her status in the UMC which pre-emptively called for her DCoM to acknowledge her membership status and discontinue her from the process. I’m unaware of any connection beyond this, I’m unaware of any errors by the DCoM that would spark such a letter, and if that holds true, then I find the three clergymen’s action to be objectionable. Not illegal, objectionable.
Jeremy “murdered” the truth. Oh, I’m sorry to use the word “murder.” That made it all better.
As is too often the case, Jeremy chooses histrionics and hyperbole over the actual facts and truth.
Ms. Mikita was no longer a United Methodist the moment she clicked on the ordination for Ultimate Life Church. Therefore, she was no longer a member of her local church and she certainly was no longer a certified candidate for ministry. Those were decisions she apparently made of her own free will. Just like people who have left our churches because of the corrosive tactics of revisionists like Jeremy. There is a process for coming back and she can choose to do that.
If you truly mean, ‘The language of “bringing charges’ is an error on my part,” why haven’t you changed it in your last paragraph? And apologized? That’s why I used the language “dishonest” – because while you are admitting it was an error, you’re still allowing it to stand in your article. I’ll take you at your word that you weren’t trying to be dishonest.
Do you still find it necessary to keep score? And is it possible that you could review your own article, looking at words in bold print and italics, and seeing if they are more anger-laden than helpful, without someone taking them point by point and you agreeing/disagreeing for another scorekeeping match?
What we believe matters. But how we say it also matters. Anger can never be an excuse for lack of charity.
The edit is now live. I initiated it earlier, but I was looking for how to do a “strikethrough” but decided to go with an editors note instead. I’m sorry it wasn’t done to your preferred timing. You can take this paragraph at my word or not.
I’m unsure again of your references to “keeping score.” Twice now I’ve scoured my blog posts looking for your references, afraid I had missed something. You may experience it as keeping score, but my intent is to find out what your references are to and whether I can facilitate a more clear reading for people like yourself.
Are there other aspects of the blog post that render it unable to have its primary point responded to? The primary point is this: I find it objectionable that three unconnected (beyond a shared denomination) clergymen chose to interject themselves into an individuals’ ordination process before evidence of error on the part of that ordination process. Do you have a reply?
I was referring to your scorekeeping in your comments to me: “Score is 5 factual statements, two *individual words* that were not accurate,” and “In the five instances of referring to the actions of the three clergymen, I was factual in all 5 except for those two words. That’s the magnitude of an error.” I won’t debate you on your count. I was referring only to your words of bringing charges, and I appreciate you making those changes.
I personally don’t scour blogs and Facebook pictures looking for problems, since as a DS they usually find me and I have no need to borrow trouble. But I would also say that United Methodists ARE a connectional denomination and not a consortium of autonomous churches, which *precisely* means that we ARE connected, rather than unconnected, in every way. A United Methodist in Africa and a United Methodist in Alaska are members of each other’s churches. As a covenant community, what we do in one place affects brothers and sisters in another place.
I will admit my shame in that I’ve spent more time on this than I have today in praying for Syrian refugees, and that our denomination thinks this and other related issues are more important than a modern-day Holocaust in our world. Of that, I need to repent.
It’s been interesting, amusing, discouraging, irritating to see and hear so many people — here and elsewhere — assuming some kind of prerogative to speak for the pastor of the church where Ginny is a member, which is what I am and this is how I see things:
Both the heading of paragraph 241 and the first sentence of the paragraph state that “without notice” is a condition of the withdrawal the paragraph addresses. Ginny’s interaction with the Universal Life Church was not done without notice. She informed me in advance of her plans.
A second condition under consideration in paragraph 241 (or second and third, depending on how one parses it) is a member’s having “united with a church of another denomination.” If there is reason to believe that condition might have been met, the pastor – there is no mention of the District Superintendent – is obligated to “make diligent inquiry and, if the report is confirmed, shall enter ‘Withdrawn’ after the person’s name on the membership roll and report the same to the next charge conference ”
I have inquired as to Ginny’s intentions. She has been clear that her acquisition of a certificate that satisfied the requirements of civil law for the purpose of officiating at a legal wedding was just that and not a decision to unite with another religious community. For anyone in the United Methodist Church to call the document she received an “ordination” demeans our understanding of ordination in the sacred context of the church. ULC calls it a duck, but if it doesn’t look like a duck, walk like a duck, or quack like a duck, so it’s not a duck.
As pastor of the congregation where Ginny holds her membership, I am satisfied and I emphatically affirm that she fulfills the expectations for a professing member of her local United Methodist church as named in paragraph 217 of the 2012 BOD. I do not believe paragraph 241 has standing relative to her membership for the reasons stated above and, therefore, I will not “enter ‘Withdrawn’ after [her] name on the membership roll [or] report the same to the next charge conference.”
It doesn’t appear that anyone noticed that Ms. Mikita’s pastor, Rev. Robert Eckert, set things straight by posting his comment above. Those opining above (yes, including the learned TWBE), were incorrect. It turns out that her District Superintendent didn’t follow protocol and took matters into his own hands. An article has just been published by UM Insight that clarifies her continued membership and candidacy and also describes the just resolution steps agreed upon by others charged in this situation and those making charges. So for those who stumble upon this, here’s the article that gives “the rest of the story” and that contradicts much of what appears above: http://um-insight.net/in-the-church/ordained-ministry/ginny-mikita-8-clergy-speak-out-on-michigan-case/
“The ULC has no traditional doctrine, believing as an organization merely in doing “that which is right”. ” — Wikipedia
How does the UMC decide, for purposes of Paragraph 241, whether an organization is a church or not? Any group whose only doctrine is “do that which is right” seems to be lacking many of the properties of a church; even the Boy Scouts or the Rotary Club would qualify as churches if that doctrine were sufficient.