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June 10, 2014

Detailed Analysis of Hamilton’s “Way Forward” for the UMC

I earlier gave a summary response to the proposal of the Rev. Adam Hamilton and others for the United Methodist Church to follow the lead of the Episcopal Church on sexual morality while adopting a more congregation-based, less connectional denominational system.

What follows is a more detailed analysis of the statement:

 

 A Way Forward for a United Methodist Church

We stand at a crossroads in the United Methodist Church. The ongoing debate over homosexuality continues to divide us. One side believes that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. The other side believes that scriptures related to homosexuality are like scriptures related to the subordination of women, violence or the acceptance and regulation of slavery, reflecting the values of the times in which the scriptures were written more than the timeless will of God. [All emphases in italicized quotations from the statement are original.]

This both points to and passes over how the divide over homosexuality stems from far deeper disagreements. Nowadays, intellectually honest theological liberals admit that the Bible indeed condemns homosexual practice, which this statement does not dispute. Hamilton himself now bases his eventually adopting a pro-homosexuality stance to his claim, reflected in this description of his “side,” that certain doctrinal and moral teachings of the Bible (notably parts which run contrary to his modern U.S. culture) “never ever reflected the heart and character of God.”

The drafters surely knew what they were doing in using such emotionally loaded language as associating the orthodox “side” only with the negative word “incompatible” while associating only their own “side” with opposition to “the subordination of women,” “violence,” and “slavery.”

 

 

Every four years United Methodists meet for General Conference, devoting much time and energy to the debate over homosexuality. We leave General Conference more divided than ever. Some, believing the current policies of our denomination regarding homosexuals are unjust and do not reflect God’s will, call for a reversal of the language in the Book of Discipline restricting the rights of gay and lesbian people to marry or be ordained. Others suggest that if this were ever to happen, they would have no choice but to leave the denomination.

Talking about ordination into clergy leadership in the church as a matter of individual “rights” seems more grounded in secular American cultural obsession with entitlement and autonomous individualism, rather than the sort of self-denying communitarianism to which Scripture and our theological heritage call us. The language of “rights” for would-be clergy implies greater concern for what they are individually entitled to rather than more biblical concerns about calling, qualifications, self-sacrificial service, and teachers being judged by a higher standard.

 

 

Some, in frustration with the current impasse, are now violating the Discipline and officiating at weddings for homosexuals. Others, frustrated that the Discipline is being flouted, are now calling for the formal division of the United Methodist Church into two denominations: one that holds that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching, and which forbids the marriage of homosexual people and the ordination of self-avowed, practicing homosexuals. The other, presumably, would embrace homosexual marriage and ordination.

We, the undersigned, believe the division of the United Methodist Church over this issue would be shortsighted, costly, detrimental to all of our churches, and not in keeping with God’s will.

Again, homosexuality is merely the presenting issue for far deeper divisions. Presenting this as the only point of division does a disservice to any reader seeking to honestly understand the situation.

In terms of unity, this statement does little to address the more central question of what basis is there for church unity without unity on as core matters of the faith as the resurrection of Christ, without an operative covenant of conduct, and without basic Golden-Rule concern for each other.

And how far are the signers willing to take their broad call for foundation-less “unity”? Would they oppose any “division” in the form of bringing meaningful accountability for those who willfully break the covenant and deny as much of the United Methodist Church’s doctrinal standards and their own ordination vows as they want?

Scripture and church tradition (especially in the Wesleyan stream) have plenty to say about the importance of discipline for leaders, even when that means temporarily breaking fellowship with those who insist on being a disruptive, hurtful influence within the body. Basic reason says that if we act as if absolutely NOTHING is more important than making sure that not a single covenant-breaking clergy leaves the United Methodist Church, and that we will always empower them by being too afraid to ever state firm limits to how far we will go to appease them, more orthodox United Methodists, especially the sort of lay people who are too often ignored in such discussions, will get hurt and leave.

 

 

While some on either side of this issue see only two sides in the debate, a vast majority of our churches are divided on this issue. United Methodists have gay and lesbian children, friends, co-workers and neighbors. A large number of our churches have gay and lesbian members. Our members, like the broader society, are not of one mind on the issue of ordination or marriage for gay and lesbian people, and many find themselves confused about bisexuality and those who are transgender. Most of our churches, regardless of the dominant view of the issue in their congregation, stand to lose members if The United Methodist Church divides into two churches over homosexuality.

There are some helpful points here. But this mixed composition of our denomination makes a strong case against the statement’s call for dis-connectionalism and atomizing congregationalism.

How is it not true that “regardless of the [locally] dominant view of the issue,” annual conferences and congregations “stand to lose members” if we adopt this proposal for the general-church to rather unbravely pass the buck, forcing every annual conference and congregation to go through contentious processes of deciding whether or not to have homosexually active clergy and same-sex union services, bringing all the divisiveness of General Conference to the local level, with those that liberalize facing similar membership losses to those seen in other denominations?

 

 

We believe the decision to divide the church over homosexuality would be shortsighted. Views on this issue in our society are rapidly changing, yet are far from settled. The February 2014 Pew Research Center poll found that 54% of Americans now favor the right of gay and lesbian people to marry, up from 31% just ten years ago. Among young adults, support for gay marriage is now at 66%. The church does not determine Christian ethics by looking at poll numbers. But, the poll numbers tell us that the people we are trying to reach, and the people in our pews, are divided and shifting on this issue. To form a new denomination primarily based upon opposition to homosexuality would negatively impact that Church’s ministry with 54% of the population, and two-thirds of young adults. Further, a significant majority of young clergy in the United Methodist Church hold a more progressive view on homosexuality. A denomination formed largely due to its opposition to homosexuality may find its ministry to younger adults increasingly difficult in the decades ahead.

Weathervane theology. If indeed “[t]he church does not determine Christian ethics by looking at poll numbers,” then why does this all-American group even cite a poll of what 54 percent of all people (Christian and non-Christian) in one snapshot of time in one particular country as an argument for redefining the church’s ethics? United Methodist Bishop Timothy Whitaker has helpfully challenged the inherent ethnocentrism of such cultural myopia.

Certainly, we should be aware of the realities of our mission field. But this paragraph seems to portray evangelism as a matter of researching what the non-Christian “market” wants and then pandering to that, as if the supernatural, transformative work of the Holy Spirit plays no role in evangelism or in making people who become Christians into new creations. That is hardly what Jesus or the early church did! What ever happened to understanding that non-Christians and new Christians need to be taught the church’s faith?

The statement claims “a significant majority of young clergy” for its “side” (presumably meaning to continue its U.S.-centrism), but cites no hard evidence for this strong claim. As one thoughtful liberal observer of United Methodism recently quipped, “Advocate for LGBT inclusion in the UMC if you want, but don’t argue against all evidence that doing so will attract young people.” For more extensive rebuttal from actual young adults of the claims by graying-haired signers of this statement about how to reach my generation, see the symposium recently held on this website.

And if the church disagreeing with a slight, 54-percent majority of Americans was really a driving concern, rather than a mere talking point, this raises huge questions of moral consistency. How many of the initial statement signers have ever had the courage to publicly declare that for the sake of our missional effectiveness, UMC general agencies should stop using the name and financial contributions of the whole church to support divisive political agendas that are opposed by much larger majorities of the American people? I recall a large-church pastor in my conference noting that the hyper-partisan political lobbying of the apportionment-funded UMC General Board of Church and Society (GBCS) a few years ago was giving many of the people we need to reach one more reason to not be United Methodist.

Yet the list of initial signers of this statement includes folk who have been defended, enabled, and promoted such divisive politicization of our denomination. I quickly noticed at least one, the Rev. Dean Snyder of D.C., who has been rather involved in the Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA), an unofficial caucus devoted to getting the church to officially support leftist political agendas (consistently aligned with just one wing of one of the two major U.S. political parties) on every conceivable issue, no matter how many people this alienates. Furthermore, after getting his initial list of 55 co-signers, Hamilton was quickly able to get the endorsements of current MFSA board members Neill Caldwell and Laurie Hays Coffman. Thus, this professed concern rings a bit hollow

Theologically, one of the things I deeply appreciate about our Methodist tradition is how the dual emphasis on the justifying grace we receive at conversion AND on subsequent sanctification is a helpful corrective to tendencies in parts of American evangelicalism which act like “getting people saved,” as important as that initial step is, is all that matters. Solely focusing on getting people in the door while sidelining concerns about holiness is extremely un-Wesleyan.

Again, it is misleading to frame homosexuality as the only issue rather than merely the most prominent presenting issue.

 

 

We believe that the question of homosexuality is virtually irresolvable at General Conference. Maintaining our current position will force progressives to continue to violate the Discipline as a matter of conscience. Reversing the position at General Conference would force hundreds of thousands of our conservative members to leave the denomination as a matter of conscience, with devastating consequences to many of our churches, and in turn, to our shared mission and ministry together. We believe there is a better way forward than the current impasse or the division of the United Methodist Church.

The refusal to take responsibility here is striking. The statement’s framing suggests that progressives are not personally responsible for choosing to break covenant, but the mean orthodox majority of the church is forcing them to do it!

Amidst the Talbert controversy, a prominent UMC leader told me that it was ridiculous for this renegade retired bishop to claim that his violating the Discipline was a matter of his “conscience,” since he chose (with no one forcing him) to pursue ordination in this denomination, to vow to uphold this denomination’s standards, and to stay.

I note that at least one of the signers, Snyder, claims to have broken covenant 20 times by performing sex-sex union ceremonies, though apparently without the courage to publicly specify the details of when he allegedly did this. I notice another, Rev. Ginger Gaines-Cirelli, who led her previous church to affiliate with the Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN), in direct violation of church law. Among the later endorsers of this statement is Andy Oliver, communications director for the Reconciling Ministries Network, a well-funded caucus group which defends the morality of all consensual sex and champions such covenant-breaking actions.

So with this statement, covenant breakers and their enablers imply acknowledgment of the harm done to the body by covenant breaking, but then propose to very one-sidedly reward the covenant breakers, with no apologies, accountability, or reconciliation.

Furthermore, why exactly is the issue “virtually irresolvable at General Conference”? Do they simply mean they are pessimistic about getting the liberal majority they want? Or are they referring to how General Conferences have become increasingly dysfunctional thanks to illegal, disruptive, angry protests brought by Snyder’s MFSA, Gaines-Cirelli’s RMN, and their close ally, Love Prevails? (Note that only one “side” ever resorts to this any-means-necessary, Golden-Rule-dismissing tactic.) I notice at least one signer who was observed standing in solidarity with such protesters at the 2008 General Conference. And the #2 signer, Hamilton’s right-hand man Mike Slaughter of Ginghamsburg UMC, participated in such a protest at the 2012 General Conference (see him at 22:29 here), which relied on raw physical force to prevent General Conference from even considering proposals that could have brought much greater resolution to the conflict by requiring firmer enforcement of our covenant. There are likely other such protest participants among the signers.

Again, the lack of honest clarity and refusal to take responsibility is striking.

One of the things I have come to love about our Methodist tradition is our most-distinctive, and too-often-neglected, doctrine of entire sanctification. Among the implications of this is that there is NEVER an excuse for a Christian committing intentional sins of lying, covenant breaking, or anything else. The statement’s casually excusing the chosen sins of dishonesty, covenant breaking and hurting the body (not to mention hurtfully encouraging people’s ultimately self-destructive sin) is rather un-Wesleyan.

The statement admits that “[r]eversing the position at General Conference” would have “devastating consequences to many of our churches, and in turn, to our shared mission and ministry together,” but then bizarrely goes on to call for a reversing of our current position at General Conference.

If covenant breakers are sincerely interested in “a better way forward,” then why don’t they sincerely, publicly repent of the harm they have caused, and then not presume to dictate the resolution to those who have been hurt by them?

 

 

Paragraphs 201-204 of The Book of Discipline note that the local church is the “most significant arena through which disciple making occurs.” It is “primarily at the level of the local charge…that the church encounters the world,” and “the local church is a strategic base from which Christians move out to the structures of society.” Further, it states that, “Each local church shall have a definite evangelistic, nurture and witness responsibility for its members and the surrounding area…it shall be responsible for ministering to all its members.”

Remember, the bullying protests and cynical filibustering of Slaughter and company prevented the “local church” committee from presenting a single one of its reports to the plenary of the 2012 General Conference.

 

 

In recent years the General Conference, through the Discipline, has given increasing permission for local churches to organize in ways that are most helpful to the congregation. Further, local churches already determine their own strategies and plans for making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. This leads us to the following suggestion for how we move forward as a denomination:

We propose that the United Methodist Church entrust to each local church the authority to determine how they will be in ministry with gay and lesbian people including whether they will, or will not, allow for homosexual marriages or unions.

Under this plan the current position of the Discipline would become the position of each local church, but a local congregation, at the request of the senior pastor and with a supermajority vote of the members of the congregation and only after a process of prayer, study and discernment, could determine their own position. Churches could vote to adopt a more inclusive policy allowing for homosexuals to be married in their churches and welcoming gay and lesbian clergy. Conversely, they might take the position that their members are “not of one mind” on this issue and therefore postpone any decision until they gained greater clarity on the issue. Doing nothing would mean that they affirm the current disciplinary language. Traditionalist churches around the world would retain the current language in their local congregations. Strongly progressive churches could adopt more inclusive language and practices.

Regarding ordination, in keeping with the current provisions in the Book of Discipline empowering Boards of Ordained Ministry to review candidates for ordination, we suggest that annual conferences be permitted to determine whether they will or will not ordain self-avowed, practicing homosexuals while allowing local churches to determine if they would or would not be willing to receive gay and lesbian clergy. In conferences where the ordination of gay and lesbian people was allowed, they would be held to the same standard heterosexual clergy are held to: fidelity in marriage and celibacy in singleness.

The drafters seem to have missed the point that such an open door for blessing sexual sin is precisely what orthodox United Methodists have fought against and progressives have fought for for decades. Surrendering to the demands of the progressive minority is no sort of “compromise.”

And just imagine telling every annual conference and congregation they are on their own and must decide whether or not they will have same-sex unions and homosexually active clergy—after the General Conference officially declaring that the clear teachings of Scripture, 2,000 years of church history, or relevant sections of our United Methodist Doctrinal Standards need not be considered authoritative on such matters.

This plan would essentially tell the bullying protesters who use raw physical force to take over church meetings and silence church members who disagree with them: as the top leaders of the United Methodist Church, we do not have the courage to stand up to you, so please take your disruptive protests to the annual conferences and congregations.

In some of these local and regional contexts, I imagine the protesters would not have to push very hard.  But an official change of policy would still, as this statement itself appears to admit above, drive many orthodox members out of progressive-dominated conferences and churches.

Things would be nastiest, with protests, angry speeches, and hurt feelings all around, in conferences and congregations that are theologically mixed, especially those in which more orthodox and progressive members have been able to live together under our current Discipline in relative peace.

Ultimately, as both Al Mohler and Tony Jones agree, there can logically be no “third way.”  Either a church will bless same-sex unions or it will not. Either a conference will ordain “self-avowed practicing homosexuals,” or it will not.

We could not expect even more strongly orthodox congregations and annual conferences to be spared. After all, at recent General Conferences, depending on the specific vote, changing the UMC Discipline to allow for openly homosexually active clergy or the blessing of same-sex unions has only earned the support from between around one-third to as little as one-fifth of delegates. (Seeing the weakness of their “side,” liberals gave up on even trying for plenary votes on these specific policy changes at the 2012 General Conference.) This demonstrates the disruptive potential for even such a relatively small progressive minority pressing for change at the local level. The ability of bishops and pastors to protect their flocks from such church-draining agendas would be greatly undermined if they were suddenly robbed of the powerful tool of being able to say, “Look, even if I agreed with you, within the United Methodist Church we simply do not have the ability to liberalize our policies at the local level.”

Having a super-majority requirement or a traditionalist starting point for local liberalization votes would not fundamentally change any of these realities.

Furthermore, every congregation and conference independently choosing its own values raises more questions than it answers. How does such atomizing congregationalism fit with our historic belief in the importance of a connectional church? Given the lack of a principled basis for allowing local autonomy on this issue alone, to what other issues could this apply? (Some have suggested infant baptism, women’s ordination, or paying denominational apportionments.) What right would a congregation have to block the bishop from appointing them a pastor who performs same-sex unions if that was not the sort of pastor they wanted (or the other way around)? Wouldn’t this allow for a homosexually active bishop?  How could a congregation or annual conference liberalize and later reverse itself? What would happen when congregations or annual conferences merged? The list goes on.

Furthermore, this statement does nothing to directly address the problem of ecclesial disobedience. Would any of the “Episcopalianizing 56” demand the removal from ministry of renegade ministers who violate the policies of their congregation or annual conference by performing a same-sex union ceremony, when these signers have not already done so for renegade clergy who have thus violated the policies of our denomination? I highly doubt it.

The statement pays lip service to being against pre-marital sex (for now), but this is unsustainable. On what authority do the signers base their partial sexual liberalization, given that the biblical case against homosexual practice is arguably stronger and more explicit than that against pre-marital sex? Given the repeated instances documented on this website of people in the “reconciling” movement practicing and urging acceptance of pre-marital cohabitation, and even “polyamory” (concurrent multiple sexual partners), while mocking moral concerns about “living in sin,” what reason is there to believe that they will stop doing so after the church moved significantly (even if not yet completely) in their direction? Would any of the original signers personally file complaints against a minister for cohabitating before any commitment ceremony, or for encouraging acceptance of polyamory?

 

 

This proposal is, at this point, merely conceptual. There are many questions that must be answered and many details to be worked out. A study team will be working on legislation required to implement this policy. But we believe this concept gives us the best opportunity to address one of the most challenging issues the church faces today, and to do so in a way that honors each local church and reduces the harm that will inevitably come from either dividing the United Methodist Church, or continuing to force all churches to conform to one interpretation of scripture regarding the issue of homosexuality.

At each of the last several General Conferences progressives have rather selfishly hogged huge amounts of time for their attempts to liberalize the church’s sexuality standards, to the point of leaving no time for other pressing concerns, concerns for which General Conference is their only recourse. At the last General Conference, attention-hogging progressives even vowed to use their bullying physical force to shut down the General Conference again to prevent plenary delegates from even considering a (committee-endorsed!) proposal to stop the extremist Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) from using the name of our church in its political lobbying. Such activists did not care about how deeply painful this is for many pro-life United Methodists. But their bullying threats were strengthened by the shut-down-the-conference protest they had already had a few days earlier with Mike Slaughter.

And now the Hamilton-Slaughter group says that what the next General Conference needs is not time for other people to have their concerns heard for a change, but rather to, within the very limited business time available, again prioritize the time given to the denominational equivalent of an obnoxious dinner guest who always dominates the conversation.

 

 

What Unites Us as United Methodists

United Methodist congregations already hold different views on how to interpret the scriptures related to homosexuality. They also have different ways of being in ministry with gay and lesbian people. What makes us United Methodists is not our position on homosexuality, but a core set of theological, missional and ministry convictions.

To be United Methodist is to believe, follow and serve Jesus Christ. It is to hold together a passionate and personal evangelical gospel and a serious and sacrificial social gospel. It is to hold together a deep and wide understanding of grace and a call to holiness of heart and life. It is to hold together a faith that speaks to the intellect and a faith that warms the heart. To be United Methodist is to be a people who study and seek to live scripture and who read it with the help of tradition, experience and reason. To be United Methodist is to invite the Spirit’s sanctifying work in our lives to the end that we might love God with all that is within us and love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

United Methodists believe that God’s grace is available to all, not only a predestined “elect.” We believe that God brings good from evil, but we don’t believe that God causes evil. We believe that it’s okay to ask questions and that we’re not meant to check our brains at the door of the church. We find helpful those guidelines we call the General Rules: Refrain from evil, do all the good you can, and do those things which help you grow in love for God. The Covenant Prayer is for us a powerful reminder of what it means to call Jesus Christ Lord: “I am no longer my own, but thine. Put me to what you will…”

United Methodists have at times been called people of the “radical center” or the “extreme center,” holding together the best of each side of the theological divide. It is this ability to hold together the important insights and perspectives of both the left and the right that is exemplified in a church that allows local congregations to hold varied scriptural interpretations on the issue of homosexuality. 

We believe the world needs a vital United Methodist Church now more than ever. In an increasingly secular age, the world needs churches that can make an intellectually sound case for the gospel, proclaim a faith that touches the heart, and call Christians to action seeking to help our world look more like the kingdom of God. A vital United Methodism will remember its heritage and mission. It will be deeply devoted to Jesus Christ, and serious about its role as his body – in the world. If it will have a future, it must help gifted young adults to answer God’s call to full time Christian service. And it must focus on both starting new congregations and working to revitalize existing congregations.

By moving the decision-making regarding homosexuality to the local church, we hope to end the rancor, animosity and endless debate that divide our denomination every four years at General Conference. What we propose would allow conservative, centrist and progressive churches to come to their own conclusions regarding this important issue and to focus on how best to minister in their own communities. We will be bound together by what we share in common, rather than posturing to impose our will upon one another in areas where we are so deeply divided.

United Methodists have an approach to the gospel that 21st century people can and will respond to. Our hope is that United Methodists might be united around our common heritage and our theological and missional convictions, so that we might be used by God to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

This section has a mix of true statements and less helpful interpretations of United Methodism. It is not really intellectually honest to claim that a division is one of “how to interpret” certain scriptures when there is actually agreement on what they teach but disagreement about whether or not to follow them. No church in the world has absolute uniformity, but keeping the UMC safe for secularized theologies that are indistinguishable from Unitarian Universalism is not the sort of diversity worth protecting. It is odd how the statement refers to theological convictions that ground our unity but makes no explicit mention of the Doctrinal Standards which no General Conference has the power to amend and ordained United Methodist clergy vow to “preach and maintain.” But these include #VI of the Methodist Articles of Religion, which declares that “no Christian whatsoever is free from obedience of the commandments which are called moral,” so I guess they did not want to go there in a statement seeking church acceptance of homosexual practice. The statement also gives a rather diluted summary of the Methodist General Rules, which are much more rigorous than such rhetoric misleads many into believing.

The extreme vagueness of what they say about the theology that should serve as grounds for unity seems intended to avoid anything could prevent them from getting the signatures of a self-described “universalist” like the Rev. Snyder or folk from RMN-affiliated churches that attack the doctrine of the historical fact of Christ’s resurrection. The statement is much more concerned with emphasizing theological differences with our Reformed brethren than with Unitarian Universalism.

While lamenting “the rancor, animosity and endless debate that divide our denomination every four years at General Conference,” the statement urges “moving the decision-making regarding homosexuality” and all that “rancor, animosity, and endless debate” down “to the local church” as “a way forward.”

It is certainly not the most faithful, helpful way forward.

 

 

Signatories

 

Adam Hamilton, Senior Pastor, The Church of the Resurrection, Leawood, Kansas

Mike Slaughter, Lead Pastor, Ginghamsburg UMC, Tipp City, Ohio

David McCallister-Wilson, President, Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington, D.C.

Dan Johnson, Senior Pastor, Trinity UMC, Gainesville, Florida

Rudy Rasmus, Senior Pastor, St. John’s UMC, Houston, Texas

Don Underwood, Senior Pastor, Christ UMC, Plano, Texas

Deborah McLeod, Senior Pastor, Mandarin UMC, Jacksonville, Florida

Tom Berlin, Lead Pastor, Floris UMC, Herndon, Virginia

Ben Disney, Senior Minister, Arborlawn UMC, Fort Worth, Texas

James Harnish, Senior Pastor, Hyde Park UMC, Tampa, Florida

Dean Snyder, Senior Pastor, Foundry UMC, Washington, DC

Ginger Gaines-Cirelli, Senior Pastor, Foundry UMC, Washington, DC

Catherine Fluck Price, Co-Pastor, Harvest UMC, Bradenton, Florida

Steven Price, Co-Pastor, Harvest UMC, Bradenton, Florida

John McKellar, Co-Pastor, White’s Chapel UMC, Southlake, Texas

Todd Renner, Co-Pastor, White’s Chapel UMC, Southlake, Texas

Mark Miller, Lead Pastor, Ebenezer UMC, Stafford, Virginia

Clayton Oliphant, Senior Pastor, First UMC, Richardson, Texas

Stan Copeland, Senior Pastor, Lover’s Lane UMC, Dallas, Texas

Andy Stoker, Senior Minister, First UMC, Dallas, Texas

Steve Harper, Retired Professor and UMC Elder, Winter Springs, Florida

Luther Henry, Senior Pastor, St. Barnabas UMC, Arlington, Texas

Jan Davis, Senior Pastor, First UMC Rowlett, Texas

Mike McCurry, Professor of Public Theology, Wesley Theological Seminary

Holly Gotelli, Senior Pastor, Flower Mound UMC, Flower Mound, Texas

Annette Stiles Pendergrass, District Superintendent, Florida Conference

Kory Knott, Senior Pastor, Custer Road UMC, Plano, Texas

William Barnes, Co-Lead Pastor, St. Luke’s UMC, Orlando, Florida

Jennifer Stiles Williams, Co-Lead Pastor, St. Luke’s UMC, Orlando, Florida

David Adkins, Senior Pastor, First UMC, Round Rock, Texas

Jack Soper, Senior Pastor, Arapaho UMC, Richardson, Texas

Donald Wiley, Attorney and Counselor, Dallas, Texas

Donna Claycomb Sokol, Senior Pastor, Mount Vernon Place UMC, Washington, D.C.

Ouida Lee, Senior Pastor, United Methodist Church of the Disciple, DeSoto, TX

Tim Brewster, Senior Pastor, First UMC, Fort Worth, Texas

Beth Fogle-Miller, Senior Pastor, Memorial UMC, Fernandina Beach, Florida

Bob Bushong, Senior Pastor, First UMC, Winter Park, Florida

Peter Moon, Lead Pastor, Woodlake UMC, Midlothian, Virginia

Steve Ramsdell, Senior Pastor, First UMC, Waco, Texas

Barbara Miner, Associate Pastor, Floris UMC, Herndon, Virginia

Charles Parker, Senior Pastor, Metropolitan UMC, Washington, DC

David Alexander, Directing Pastor, First UMC, Mansfield, Texas

Philip Rhodes, Senior Pastor, First UMC, Hurst, Texas

Mike Ramsdell, Senior Pastor, First UMC, Mansfield, Texas

Tom Robbins, Senior Pastor, First UMC, Temple, Texas

Chris Mesa, Senior Pastor, Acton UMC, Granbury, Texas

John Mollet, Senior Pastor, First UMC, Grapevine Texas

Kendall Soulen, Professor of Systematic Theology, Wesley Theological Seminary

Will Cotton, Senior Pastor, St. Barnabas UMC, Arlington, Texas

Brad Brittain, Senior Pastor, Central UMC, Waco, Texas

Lee Trigg, Senior Pastor, Aledo UMC, Aledo, Texas

Jim Conner, Senior Pastor, Genesis UMC, Fort Worth, Texas

Laura Echols-Richter, Executive Minister, Grace Avenue UMC, Frisco, Texas

Christ Hayes, Lead Pastor, Keller, UMC, Keller, Texas

Mary Spradlin, Senior Pastor, Arlington Heights UMC, Fort Worth, Texas

Magrey deVega, Senior Pastor, St. Paul’s UMC, Cherokee, Iowa

NOTE: The above are just the original signatories.


  • ray worsham

    Interesting all those Metroplex pastors. I wonder how the “biblical obedience” (in quotes as this group can only tolerate truth turned upside down) resolutions made out at their annual conference this week? The Michigan, B-W, & New York conferences crowed about the passage of that slate. The Texas conference came out two to one against. Have not seen any crowing about that…

  • Jacobus Arminius

    What about the Historic Questions that all ordinands must affirm? Will we have two Books of Discipline (since the questions require them to affirm that the BOD is in accordance with the inspired Word of God)? Or will be have two sets of Historic Questions, one for the orthodox believers and one for the compromised “believers”? Or maybe the liberal congregations will start utilizing the “gay” Bible.

    How can anyone on the Hamilton-Slaughter side of this issue call vow-breaking a display of biblical disobedience or conscience?

    Thanks, by the way, John, for attending the Confessing Movement dinner in Indy.

    • Roger Campbell

      Roger Campbell
      It appears the biggest concern on everyone’s plate in the confessing movement is that of homosexuality. I agree this is big and divisive, but what about the issues involving abortion, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, and our acceptance of evolution? The evolution issue is huge! It undermines the authority of scripture. If scripture isn’t our primary measuring stick for our doctrinal beliefs then we may as well join a social club.

      • JoeMudd

        Our little Methodist church IS nothing but a social club. The very structure of it’s “governing body” is patterned after the world instead of scripture. The “LAY” preacher having to jump through hoops before being recognized, now that has scriptural backing,,,,,, NOT. The whole thing is a construct of man.
        Dare I share a word God gave me about the Methodist church?
        “It’s a life support system for a retirement plan” OUCH.
        I stay to see it CHANGED into GOD’S will. As for the Libs and Gay’s Romans 1 says it all. Love in Christ.

  • Jacobus Arminius

    Would this “Way forward” also allow local congregations to decide whether or not to pay their apportionments? Why would an orthodox congregation want their money going to the morally compromised church “leadership?”

  • JoeMudd

    WOW anybody going to ask GOD how he feels about all this? Does He not speak to His church any more? Are we so confident in our sin that CONSEQUENCE is of no issue? The one thing I am sure of is that Wesley
    is spinning like a gyro in his grave. The whole thing is corrupt let it unravel and die, it may resurrect, but only if God builds the house will the labor not be in vain.