The Furture of the UMC or lack thereof.

First a little bit about me before I give another opinion. I was born and baptized in the First United Methodist Church in Billings, MT.  To make a long story short, I am and have been a member of my UMC church now for almost 4 years. I love the piety and sometimes I like the polity of the United Methodist Church.

If the United Methodist Church does not support full inclusion of all people, then I feel there will be no United Methodist Church to be a part of.  There is no argument that the United Methodist Church (UMC) is not united on this issue of inclusion, specifically full inclusion of LGBTQ people. The UMC Book of Discipline calls for the inclusion of all people, but, at the same time, the Book of Discipline is contradictory when it comes to the topic of LGBTQ people. However, until LGBTQ people feel welcomed by the entire church, (or at least the majority at General Conference), there may not be a United Methodist Church 50 years from now.

Recently, the UMC Judicial Council ruled that the Social Principals in the UMC Book of Discipline, paragraphs 160-166, are only meant to serve the church as guidelines, not church law. Amen.

Here is an example of something I would change in the UMC Book of Discipline.

Now, if we can only get rid of a line in the clergy rules that states any clergy that officiates a same-gender ceremony could lose their clergy credentials.

Here is the exact phrasing from the 2008 Book of Discipline, paragraph “2702. 1. A bishop, clergy member of an annual conference ( ¶ 369), local pastor, clergy on honorable or administrative location, or diaconal minister may be tried when charged with one or more of the following  offenses: (a) immorality including but not limited to, not being celibate in singleness or not faithful in a heterosexual marriage;** (b) practices declared by The United Methodist Church to be incompatible with Christian teachings, including but not limited to: being a self-avowed practicing homosexual; or conducting ceremonies which celebrate homosexual unions; or performing same-sex wedding ceremonies

It should be written as:
2702. 1. A bishop, clergy member of an annual conference local pastor,clergy on honorable or administrative location, or diaconal minister may be tried when charged (subject to the statute of limitations in ¶ 2702.4)* with one or more of the following offenses: (a) immorality including but not limited to, not being celibate in singleness or not faithful in a heterosexual monogamous marriage; (b) practices declared by The United Methodist Church to be incompatible with Christian teachings, including but not limited to: being a self-avowed practicing homosexual; or conducting ceremonies which celebrate homosexual unions; or performing same-sex wedding ceremonies.”

*General Conference meets every 4 years to amend the Book of Discipline.

I have some LGBTQ friends, and they feel welcome at SOME United Methodist Churches, but not all of them and certainly, not in the general church overall.

Civil war in the church?

(Muffled thoughts onto paper)

Ever since 1972, United Methodists have disagreed over the inclusion of humans in the church; specifically, those who enjoy the company of others of the same gender.

Some conservative United Methodists are using the Book of Discipline (the law book of the church) much like the Pharisees in the Bible. The Pharisees had their own book of laws, and Jesus told them basically to go stick their book of laws somewhere, and follow the two greatest commandments. One, love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul, and with all your strength. Second, Love your neighbor as yourself. The rest of law hangs on these two commandments.

So what part of “Love God” and “Love your neighbor” don’t the conservative United Methodists understand?

Contradicitons in the Book of DisciplineWhen it comes to this topic of same-sex humans (aka homosexuals, still human), I believe the Book of Discipline contradicts itself in the Social Principals section.

In Paragraph 161.f Human Sexuality—We affirm that sexuality is God’s good gift to all persons.
To me, that sentence tells me that God has gifted each person their own sexuality and the UMC affirms that people are born with their sexuality.

We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons. ALL means ALL. This is why ALL congregations ought be reconciling congregations, part of the Reconciling Ministries Network; ought be welcoming congregations; welcoming of all people regardless of creed, social status, economic status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or race.

We affirm that all persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God.
If God created man in his image, then why are Christians arguing over God’s creation? God said it was good, and the UMC affirms this.

In the next paragraph, 162, section J
Equal Rights Regardless of Sexual Orientation—Certain basic human rights and civil liberties are due all persons. We are committed to supporting those rights and liberties for all persons, regardless of sexual orientation.
People are entitled to equal rights regardless of sexual orientation. How simple is that? Or is it that simple? Gay rights are human rights! I have never heard, with my own ears, a straight couple say “Our marriage is ruined because the gay guys got married”.  Same-sex couples are Humans and therefore just want to be treated as humans. And to my understanding of this sentence from the UMC Book of Discipline, human rights and civil liberties are due all people.

No doubt our church, the United Methodist Church is in a civil argument over this issue of same-gender marriage. War, not quite yet. We are not launching missiles at each other, or conducting acts or war like the Battle of Gettysburg, but lawsuits are being filed against some clergy because THEY are standing up for the human rights of marriage and civil liberties. Lawsuits are being filed against these clergy because they are putting the two greatest commandments, a head of “church” law. Much like Jesus did back in his time when he broke the sabbath to do good work, or when he overturned the tables of the money-changers.

Today, one UMC bishop stepped up and did something that no clergy in the Northern Alabama Conference would do. Bishop Melvin Talbert officiated a same-gender ceremony. Technically, the two guys were married in Washington DC back in September. But, the two guys wanted a civil ceremony in front of friends and family, and when their local clergy told them no, they kept going up the chain and eventually asked (retired) Bishop Talbert, to which he obliged. In my view, Bishop Talbert showed others what it meant to love God, and love his neighbors.

The conservative bishops in the United Methodist Church could charge Bishop Talbert for going against the rule book, however, I think that Bishop Talbert would be made out to be a martyr. Bishop Talbert could lose his clergy credentials and lose his retirement benefits.

All these lawsuits amongst clergy do not go before the United States court rooms, but the United Methodist “Supreme Court” also known as the Judicial Committee. It is actually the only level of committee that simulates the US Supreme Court and is the only level of court in the denomination.  To my knowledge, there are currently three, maybe four, pending cases before the United Methodist Judicial committee. I believe the committee only meets twice a year. So when they meet next, I for one will be paying attention to see if they follow behind the US Supreme Court, or will the Pharisees prevail and the UMC will have some martyrs of their own.

If the United Methodist Church wants the slogan or motto of “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors” then they have got a lot of changes to make, or repeal the motto. No church should use that motto unless they are a “Reconciled Church”.  Amen.methodist_logo1

*Changes can only be made every four years at General Conference; next General Conference is in 2016 in Portland, Oregon.

*All references to the Book of Discipline are that of the 2008 edition.