January 22, 2013

Shameful United Methodism

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By Mark Tooley (@MarkDTooley)

In terms of Methodism’s public witness over the last century, there have been frequent shameful episodes.  Some in authority within the church defended racial segregation, while others made anti-Semitic statements.  From the very start of Bolshevism, there were always some Methodist officials who defended Soviet Communism even as it murdered millions. In the 1930s, some Methodist elites minimized the evil of Nazism. In more recent decades, church agencies and officials have touted the sexual revolution, despite its assault upon Christian teaching, morals, family, and the well-being of children. And the official church silence over the global persecution of Christians, even during the last century, when more Christians were martyred than during the previous 19 centuries combined, embarrassingly continues, with occasional exceptions.

But the recent news release from two United Methodist agencies celebrating 40 years of abortion rights ranks among our church’s historic lows. Today marks the 40th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court “Roe versus Wade” decision, written by United Methodist Justice Harry Blackmun, overturning most state restrictions against abortion and effectively mandating legalized abortion on demand.

United Methodism first endorsed abortion rights at the 1970 General Conference, after a 20 minute debate, and strenuous opposition from Methodism’s then most distinguished theologian, Albert Outler.  In 1973, immediately after the court decision, the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society and United Methodist Women’s Division helped to found the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights, which was headquartered for 20 years in the United Methodist Building on Capitol Hill.  These two church agencies remain members of what is now called the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC).

Last week’s news release comes from the United Methodist representatives to RCRC, one from the Board of Church and Society and the other from the Women’s Division.  It does not quote Scripture and barely mentions God.  Except for an absurd reference to realizing God’s Kingdom through abortion rights, it could just as easily have come from Planned Parenthood or the National Abortion Rights Action League.  It offers NOTHING particularly Christian. It does not lament the over 50 million abortions in the U.S. since 1973, which have included not only the grisly consequences for the unborn but also the incalculable anguish borne by women who have had abortions.  Remarkably, it warns against crisis pregnancy centers for trying to save both mothers and the unborn.  It hails Roe’s having rescued women from “coat hanger abortions and unnecessary deaths” without noting that, although statistics are incomplete, more women may have died from abortions since 1973 than did before.   And it hopes for when “sexuality is safe and celebrated.”  It does not bother to define what form of “sexuality” should be celebrated. Its view of sexuality, the human body, and human life seems completely utilitarian and divorced from Christian teaching or any notion of a living, personal God who reveals Himself through Jesus Christ.

In short, this statement from two United Methodist agencies is shameful and morally vacuous.  A once robust liberal Protestantism, which captured official Methodism early in the last century, used to emphasize protecting the weak from the strong.  Now nearly comatose and having exhausted nearly all remaining moral capital still remaining from the historic faith, liberal Methodism has reached the dreadful spiritual cul-de-sac of celebrating the death of the weak and innocent at the hands of the physically strong.

The 2012 General Conference almost certainly would have voted to withdraw these two agencies from RCRC had it been allowed to vote.  It certainly will in 2016.  Meanwhile, we should all prayerfully and vigorously counteract the anti-life public witness of the Board of Church and Society and the United Methodist Women’s Division.

Here is the full text of their statement:

On this 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, some individuals, organizations and churches are celebrating, while others are protesting. Like many other topics of deep social concern, the church is divided on the issue of abortion. Our Book of Discipline (2012) speaks to the official position of the United Methodist Church by stating, “We recognize tragic conflicts of life with life that may justify abortion, and in such cases we support the legal option of abortion under proper medical procedures by certified medical providers” (Social Principles ¶162J).

On this anniversary of Roe v. Wade, as the United Methodist representatives to the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, we look back upon the four decades since the passage of Roe v. Wade as years devoid of widespread coat hanger abortions and unnecessary deaths. We recognize the significance of marking this day as we continue to face opposition to keeping abortion safe, legal, accessible and rare.

We also recognize that there continue to be many obstacles to reproductive justice, both nationally and internationally. In the United States, the maternal mortality rate has doubled in the past 25 years. Great racial discrepancies exist, as African-American women are 3.2 times more likely to die from pregnancy and childbirth than white women in the United States. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control reports that almost half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended. According to the World Health Organization, every day approximately 800 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, with 99% of maternal deaths occuring in developing countries.

The United Methodist Church has not been silent or inactive on this issue. Projects of the United Methodist Women and advocacy on the part of the General Board of Church & Society have addressed the issue of reproductive justice, but clearly much more needs to be done. We as the church must more fully devote our time, energy, gifts and service to the following priorities for national and international reproductive justice:

Keep abortion safe, legal, accessible and rare.

Ensure universal access to modern contraception, including but not limited to emergency and over-the-counter contraception.

Increase access to pre-natal services, birthing assistance and post-natal follow-up.

Provide accurate, scientifically based sex education in our churches and schools.

Conduct careful analysis of the church’s support for crisis pregnancy centers that may not offer all options of counseling.

In the wilderness of political posturing and divisive blaming and shaming, we seek to be a voice crying out to prepare the way for the Lord to bring about a new era of reproductive justice for our families and communities. We actively await the realization of God’s Kingdom on earth, a kingdom in which all pregnancies are intended, sexuality is safe and celebrated, and families are healthy and secure.

We cannot afford to allow the heated politics of this issue to veil the fact that women are dying and that childbirth remains one of the most dangerous endeavors a woman faces.

May God use us to create a world where every pregnancy is a cause for celebration and not fear.

Julie Taylor
Office of Children, Youth and Family Advocacy
United Methodist Women (UMW),
United Methodist Office for the United Nations (UMOUN)
Church Center For United Nations (CCUN)
777 UN Plaza, 11th Floor
New York, NY 10017
212.682.3633 Ext 3106
Taylor@unitedmethodistwomen.org

Amee Paparella
Director & Organizer for Women’s Advocacy
General Board of Church and Society
The United Methodist Church
100 Maryland Avenue NE, Ste 212
Washington DC 20002
(202) 488-5631
apaparella@umc-gbcs.org


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  • http://daryldensford.wordpress.com Daryl Densford

    “Shameful” is right. How could the rank and file Methodists allow these posers to be in any leadership positions? Are they not elected positions? If not, aren’t those who appoint them in touch with their members feelings and beliefs?

    • Sara Anderson

      Daryl, the deck is stacked. At one time I recall that Church and Society had more than 40 members–only four were evangelical. I know of strong, outspoken evangelicals who have left the board after four years because of the groupthink and solidarity of social liberals. One over-simplified explanation is that theological liberals get involved in church politics because they use the system to enact their “vision.” Evangelicals tend to be more involved in ministry on the local level and don’t want to fool with church politics. That is unfortunate. Also, many pastors don’t want to tell their congregations about these things because they fear they may leave the church. It’s a nasty cycle.

      • John S.

        The only way to unstack the deck is to cut off funding to these “church” agencies. Since the GC won’t, it will have to be done by those in the pews either leaving or giving their money directly to local efforts where the District, Annual and General Conferences can’t get their hands on it.

      • J S Lang

        Sara, that is so true. Liberals are usually people who enjoy seminary immensely (mingling with fellow liberals) but don’t enjoy parish ministry much (mingling with stupid conservative laity), so they gravitate toward bureaucracies (just like being back in the liberal seminary). A pastor who is really called by God is a people person who enjoys parish ministry, and I do know quite a few conservative UM pastors – “grassroots” types who would be miserable working for any of the UM national agencies. I’m generalizing, and certainly there are some liberal pastors who enjoy what they do, but liberals have such a high opinion of their own intelligence that they prefer to “go national” instead of being limited to one local church.

    • avengeflipper

      Because they don’t know. We were Methodists for years. The ladies in our church regularly sent out prolife pamphlets and participated in prolife things. I was raised in the church. We never really paid attention to the Book of Discipline. I was shocked when I found out the truth. We had family and friends there. We raised our children there. It is so hard. We want to go back to our family and friends, but the abortion issue just makes it impossible.

  • Mark

    The statement from the General Board of Church and Society and the Methodist Women’s division is morally reprehensible.

    How incredibly hypocritical to bring up the issue of race when a much higher percentage of African-American unborn have been aborted. And how much more outrageously hypocritical can you get than by decrying unintended pregnancies while encouraging the idea of sex without consequence for decades.

    These kinds of statements are completely our of touch with reality, not to mention historic Christian understandings. How sad that agencies within a once-great denomination are declaring their support for a continued holocaust of the unborn, most of which have been aborted for mere convenience. Their continued cacophony urging “equality for all” and help for “the least of these” is nothing more than hollow rhetoric.

    Shameful, shameful.

  • http://4simpsons.wordpress.com/ eMatters

    If John Wesley were here he would never stop throwing up. If I had known the history ahead of time I would never have joined the UMC, and I am so glad I finally left after 16 yrs. I applaud those who stay and fight for the truth. But if you are there and not fighting, you are part of the problem.

  • http://www.facebook.com/melanie.garuffi Melanie Jean Garuffi

    This is why I left the Methodist Church. As a pastor just starting out, I could not stand in a place where I felt the judgment of God. My heart was torn! At Local Pastor School, a woman from the Board of Church and Society came down one afternoon to speak. It seemed as if she were jumping up and down and shrieking as she said, “The United Methodist Church affirms a woman’s right to an abortion!” I knew the wording in the Book of Discipline was more ambiguous than that, but I looked around the room at the younger pastors and worried that they might actually believe that woman was telling the total truth.
    I was very upset that the leadership at that Local Pastor School were so tolerant of that woman’s behavior. They were also tolerant of the statue in the, then, UM College in Hackensack, NJ where the school was held. It stood in the library. It was a grotesque metal statie of a pregnant female with the words “Abortion Rights” printed on a sign hanging in front of her belly. Oh yes, they also had a picture of two men kissing taped to the end of the shelving of the Christian book section. Believe me when I say I had to grab the closest chair while the room, and my world, seemed to spin.

  • http://4simpsons.wordpress.com/ eMatters

    How bizarre that they refer to “reproductive justice” when rationalizing the crushing and dismembering of innocent human beings. If abortion isn’t unjust then nothing is.

  • Donnie

    I find it really telling the GBCS turned off comments on the blog entry after a couple of days. Earlier blog posts (weeks old) still have their comments open, but this one had 9 of 10 negative comments and they close it. Guess they can’t have the little people voicing dissent!

    • http://4simpsons.wordpress.com/ eMatters

      Thanks for pointing that out! I went there and voted up all the pro-life comments. I hope others do the same.

    • Mark

      The GBCS does not believe in transparency for themselves or free speech for folks who disagree with them. They shut out dissent all the time and they have been doing it for years. They have refused to print or unfairly edited my letters to editor, facebook posts, etc. My comments have never contained profanity or over the top criticisms, only strong disagreement. They view disagreement (with them) as uncivil. These people are children.

      Yes, we finally had to leave the UMC recently after years of debating it. I have degrees from 2 UM-affiliated universities and a long family history of Methodism.

      Very sad.

  • http://4simpsons.wordpress.com/ eMatters

    They have the nerve to say, “Conduct careful analysis of the church’s support for crisis pregnancy centers that may not offer all options of counseling,” which is code for “don’t support pregnancy centers because they won’t recommend abortions.” But CPCs share the Gospel and help women in need – for free! Only those on the side of Satan could oppose those.

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  • Mark

    Here is some more troubling history regarding the GBCS and abortion: http://methodistthinker.com/2009/11/20/church-and-society-decries-pro-life-amendment-to-health-bill/

  • Paul Hoskins

    So they think there should be sex education in the churches and schools? I’ll go along with that – IF they meant churches providing not just the “mechanics” (kids seem to find that out on their own – duh!), but the ETHICS, which they won’t get in schools. I wish the UM was as committed to, say, abstinence programs as it is to “reproductive justice.” Call me a cynic, but when they say, more than once, that they want abortion to be “safe, legal, accessible, and rare,” I’m not sure they’re serious about “rare.”

    When Jesus used the phrase “kingdom of God,” was he really thinking of “reproductive justice”?

    • http://4simpsons.wordpress.com/ eMatters

      You aren’t a cynic. They were most definitely not serious about “rare.” Think about it: They are pro-taxpayer funded abortions. That means they think our country would be better if only there were more abortions. Therefore they must tax everyone, including pro-lifers, to pay for these bonus abortions (of which a disproportionate amount just happen to be minorities — but they think we’re the racists!).

      They are pro-abortion, not pro-choice.

      Reproductive justice is when you don’t kill unwanted human beings that have already reproduced. And the author of life (Acts 3:15) is most definitely pro-life.

    • Mark
      • Paul Hoskins

        I read the article but wish I hadn’t. Sickening. Having people like this as ordained clergy explains a lot.

        It’s funny how, like all feminists, she brings up the “double standard.” Apparently the logic is, since it’s OK for men to sleep around, it’s OK for women too – overlooking the crucial fact that in the New Testament there is no double standard – chastity for all, otherwise just call yourself a pagan.

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  • Therese Z

    I have got to find the actual reference, somewhere on the Catholic blogs, but the number of “coat-hanger abortion deaths” in 1972 was about 145. In 2006 or 2007, about 150. No change. Women who choose that method are doing it out of ignorance or are hiding from the world for one reason or another and they make the same decision for the same reasons, legal abortion or not.

    • http://4simpsons.wordpress.com/ eMatters

      Hi — I think you are referring to the last year the CDC tracked abortion deaths, which I think was 1969 and the number was in that range. And they weren’t all “coat hanger” related. Antibiotics reduced most of the deaths from the previous highs. Bernard Nathanson (an abortionist who later converted) admitted that they lied about the “thousands” of women who died each year.

  • Chad

    We’ve heard it proclaimed often over the years by pro-abortion advocates that abortion should be “legal, but rare”. That was uttered again by the UMC’s GBCS. Here is my question: If abortion is morally acceptable then why state it should be rare? In doing so they make an admission that even they detect something is not completely palatable about this act. Otherwise, why not promote it as an act that should be commonly practiced instead of rarely carried out?

    • John S

      There are many things one might wish to be legal and rare even if they are morally acceptable. The taking of a life to protect another, just war, and so on. All morally acceptable, legal and hopefully rare. The argument you use, although a standard of the prolife movement, is logically flawed.

      • Chad

        I’m sorry, but I believe your philosophy here is flawed. If something is morally acceptable then it should always be embraced. If something is true or moral, then it is true or moral for all people, in all places, at all times. It simply cannot be the case that truth/morality is only applicable rarely.

        Let’s examine the analogies you used:

        “THE TAKING OF A LIFE TO PROTECT ANOTHER”: In what circumstance would you propose a limiting of one to use deadly force to protect another person? I would state this should always be done because it is the moral thing to do; not rarely.

        “JUST WAR”: Just War Theory is one which has been debated for centuries. I believe most rational people would agree at some point there is a justification for war (the debate is mostly over where that point lies). Every time we reach that point though, war should be embraced as the moral thing to do. To claim that once that moral point is reached we should rarely engage in war is a non-sequitur argument.

        So to claim that abortion should be a moral rarity is an argument which doesn’t follow logically.

        Premise 1: The murdering of innocent human life is immoral.

        Premise 2: Abortion is the murdering of innocent human life.

        Conclusion: Therefore, abortion is immoral.

      • http://www.facebook.com/john.morris.338211 John Morris

        If an abortion is absolutely necessary to save a woman’s life, I do not think that a woman could be faulted to have an abortion. As far as just war is concerned. According to the Orthodox Faith, there is no such thing as a just war is always evil. Sometimes it is a lesser evil than allowing a foreign country to invade and oppress the people of another country. Certainly there was a moral imperative to destroy Hitler’s evil regime. However, because war involves killing others, it cannot be dignified with the adjective “just.” If an Orthodox Christian soldier kills in combat, he is placed under penance and must come to Confession before he or she can take Communion.

      • John S.

        The idea of morally acceptable but rare means you attempt to limit the instances in which the morally acceptable is not needed. You lock the doors, strong doors, to deter people from coming in the house so you do not need to shoot someone to protect your family. You engage in diplomacy, trade and other means to avoid the necessity of war.

        War is morally acceptable, it is not desirable, avoiding it is generally the better option.
        Killing someone to protect another is morally acceptable, it is not desirable, avoiding it is generally the better option.

        Thus the argument that something one desires to be rare cannot be morally acceptable is a fallacy. It resonates with the prolife crowd since it conforms to their beliefs and afirms their assumptions.

        As for your syllogism, it resonates with the prolife crowd as they accept your premises, the abortion crowd does not accept your premises as true. If the premises are false the conclusion is false. And again, you are preaching to the choir but not affecting pro abortion or undecideds.

        • Fr. John W. Morris

          I am pro life, but that is not the topic we are discussing. We are discussing war. I do not believe that a Christian can see war as anything but evil. Sometimes it is a greater evil to allow a foreign power to occupy your country and oppress your people, but killing another person is still an evil. It may be a necessary evil as it was a necessary evil to crush Hitler and his evil regime, but just as you get dirty cleaning the weeds out of a flower bed, you get morally dirty when engaging in war. That is why I as an Orthodox Priest am forbidden to bear arms under any circumstances and why an Orthodox soldier who kills in war must come to Confession before he can take Communion. Because no matter how you try to avoid it, you must admit that war involves evil, Orthodox do not accept the just war theory.

    • Chad

      Since I am unable to reply John S’s last post on Jan 30 I will do so here (there is no reply option under his post). Maybe John S. will see it and respond.

      Let me first state simply because an act is legal doesn’t make it moral. Our culture is confused about the distinction today between the two. Unfortunately we tend to derive our morality out of that which man has declared legal instead of first defining what is moral and then making law based on that standard. Also, one clarification: When I speak of abortion I mainly use the term to describe the vast majority of abortions which are done for the sake of convenience. The instance where the mother’s life is in danger is a different moral question than the moral question of ending life for convenience.

      John S said:
      “The idea of morally acceptable but rare means you attempt to limit the instances in which the morally acceptable is not needed.”

      No one wishes for an intrusion into their home which threatens their family, just as no one wants war to happen. The point I’m driving at is once these instances happen what is the moral action to take? Once the threshold of what is moral has been reached then the action rectifying the situation is a moral one every time. Abortion never reaches that threshold as demonstrated in the syllogism.

      John S said:
      “War is morally acceptable, it is not desirable, avoiding it is generally the better option.
      Killing someone to protect another is morally acceptable, it is not desirable, avoiding it is generally the better option.”

      I’m perplexed by your statement. If war is not desirable (because it involves the taking of human life) and killing someone to protect another is not desirable, then why is killing an innocent life in the womb acceptable to you? You state avoiding these situations is generally the better option, but then run headlong toward killing the unborn. Very inconsistent…

      John S said:
      “Thus the argument that something one desires to be rare cannot be morally acceptable is a fallacy.”

      Nice straw man argument. I never claimed that if something is desired to be rare it can’t be moral. My original point (if you scroll up) is that the pro-abortion crowd claims they wish abortion to be “legal, but rare.” Again, simply because something is legal doesn’t make it moral; hence my conclusion that even the pro-abortion crowd senses that even though the act is legal it doesn’t pass the moral smell test when they state it should be rare.

      Simply because we wish for unwanted pregnancies to be rare doesn’t then give moral justification for an abortion to be committed. The abortion morality question really begins at the point the unwanted pregnancy begins (i.e. conception), not before conception when hopes are that it won’t happen.

      John S said:
      “As for your syllogism, it resonates with the prolife crowd as they accept your premises, the abortion crowd does not accept your premises as true.”

      It can’t be both true and false that abortion is moral. It either is moral or is not. I’ve not heard good arguments (from you or anyone else) that abortion is moral. You seem to only want to attack my arguments (which is fine…I can defend my position) without ever offering a defense of your position. I find that interesting. In analyzing the syllogism the conclusion is a natural one if in fact Premise 1 and Premise 2 are correct. If either is incorrect I would like to hear your thoughts on why.

      • John S.

        I have never claimed nor tried to prove abortion is moral. Read my posts.

        I am pointing out the flaws in your argument. If you are merely trying to rally the base, stick with what you are doing, it will work. If they use your arguments as an example they will get nowhere is a discussion but that is not the purpose. Parallel with that, any strong pro abotion person will not be swayed by any argument you put forth, strong or weak. Just as you have abortion is immoral as your starting point they have abortion is moral as theirs. Thus you talk past each other without engaging.

        If you are trying to persuade those who spend little time or attention on the issue or try to split the difference you will be unsuccessful. You keep mixing in abortion is immoral so my arguments are valid.

        This was your statement: “If abortion is morally acceptable then why state it should be rare?” My point was, something can be moraly acceptable and yet desire for it to be rare can be correct. You did not disprove the statement but rather conflated it with Abortion is immoral.

  • http://www.facebook.com/james.s.robb Jim Robb

    This is grim reading, Mark. Not a record for the Methodist Church to be proud of.

  • Fr. John Morris

    This sort of thing is one reason why the United Methodist Church has lost about 1/4 of its membership since the 1960s and. continues its decline into irrelevancy like the other one mighty mainline Protestant denominations.

    • Mike

      I agree, these kinds of politically correct positions on social issues are a major reason that the United Methodist Church is a dying church…in America. Fortunately, the UMC is a global church, growing worldwide, where secular nonsense hasn’t replaced biblical truths as core theology.

      It’s more than a little ironic that where American Methodist missionaries once took traditional, biblical, Christianity to Africa, we now depend on Africa to bring traditional, biblical, Christianity to America.

  • Diane Herrmann

    Two things:

    So, let me get this right….the Office of Children, Youth and Family Advocacy does not advocate for the lives of pre~born children?

    Would Jesus recommend for someone to get an abortion?

  • raymcdonald

    Reblogged this on Ray McDonald's Blog and commented:
    An interesting blog entry about abortion – a subject I recently wrote about myself.

    • BWB

      I don’t know what to make of this comment, “that childbirth remains one of the most dangerous endeavors a woman faces.” There are 7 billion people in the world, and the nations with the largest populations have little access to proper medical care. I lived in West Africa and understand the issues facing childbirth there. To be honest, in 10 years (working with a health post and doing emergency medical evacuations for them) I did not know of a single woman who died in childbirth, I did know of many babies. Even though less than 1% of abortions are in the extreme cases when the mother’s health is at risk, of this percentage the mother is only at risk while the reported deaths contributed to childbirth are higher due to c-sections. So I wonder, “We cannot afford to allow the heated politics of this issue to veil the fact that women are dying.” This article tells a tale of an imagined emergency situation where abortion is the hero, based on misinformation. Little is said about the medical malpractice that occurs in abortion clinics, and the many women harmed for life, physically and spiritually, and no one sues them, they are hidden-young girls should be told of these dangers. The bottom line, there is a lot of money to be made and it is the love of money not the love of our children that drives this. I was sad to learn that millions of dollars donated to Breast Cancer Research is diverted to abortion clinics because they do quick breat examinations to the girls to justify it. When many families are on waiting lists to adopt, our message can support abstinence and adoptions. The churches’ tragedy is that too often Christians are a cause of guilt and shame when we need to embrace compassion and forgiveness. It is the redeeming quality of Christ we all need. What Christ can do with a broken life is amazing and He needs to be the true hero of your life.

      • http://www.facebook.com/john.morris.338211 John Morris

        The problem with the Methodist Church is that it has no doctrinal or moral standards. It seminaries and institutions of higher education are dominated by liberals who reject most of the beliefs and moral teachings of traditional Christianity. Because it does not stand for anything, people do not take it seriously and the Methodist Church has lost at least `1/4 of its members since the 1960s. Methodist forgot Wesley a long time ago when it surrendered to theological liberalism.

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  • http://gravatar.com/dawnvornholt Dawn

    Mark, I was so distressed by their statement that I contacted my pastor and informed him of my decision to withdraw my membership from the UMC. I cannot implicitly support the agencies that represent the UMC on the national stage by remaining a member of the denomination. Keep up the great work that you’re doing to expose the far-left agenda of the UMC.

    • http://www.facebook.com/john.morris.338211 John Morris

      Most mainline Protestant denominations in America are controlled by an entrenched bureaucracy that is committed to the latest left wing cause. They have almost no contact with the people in the pews and could care less what they thing. Instead, they look down on the average member of their denomination as unenlightened dummies who need to be led by the self-proclaimed elite.

      • DAve MIller

        John, what you say is so very true. I have found the clergy of the UMC to be elitist, arrogant and closed minded. THey are more intolerant than any fundamentalist I have met.

        • http://www.facebook.com/john.morris.338211 John Morris

          Actually besides Roman Catholics, I have found most Methodist clergy the most open to local ecumenical relations with Orthodox Christians. Of course there are exceptions, but most Methodist ministers are fairly easy to work with.