By John Lomperis (@JohnLomperis)
In a move that almost seems designed to erase any lingering doubts about the biases of the commission that ran the 2012 General Conference, our denomination’s unofficial LGBT activist caucus has just named the chair of that commission as their new leader.
We have previously documented how the Commission on the General Conference, along with others, manipulated the 2012 General Conference into embarrassing dyfunctionality, in a way that was rather patently favorable to the biases of Dr. Miller. Miller’s selection earlier this month as the new interim executive director of the Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN), which evolved out of the former United Methodist Gay Caucus, seemingly comes as a well-earned reward for all the ways in which Miller’s commission prevented the conservative and moderate majority of the United Methodist Church from expressing itself on numerous important issues.
As noted earlier, this last General Conference saw theologically heterodox United Methodists pull out all the stops for this last General Conference, raising huge amounts of money from secular sources, implementing a massive, nationwide “grassroots organizing” campaign of specially trained activists seeking to persuade conservative and moderate delegates via emotionally manipulative storytelling, launching unprecedented, multi-lingual outreach to non-U.S. delegates, finding a couple of high-profile celebrity pastors with evangelical reputations as spokesmen for their main push on the sexuality debate, and having key leadership bodies organizing the conference unrepresentatively stacked with liberal activists who have made clear their lack of qualms about supposed “neutral referees” abusing their positions to promote their own personal biases. And yet after all of that money, effort, and embrace of Machiavellian tactics, revisionist activists utterly failed to achieve their main legislative goals for the conference, and actually saw liberal voting strength significantly DECREASE from the last General Conference.
The wiser among theologically and sexually liberal United Methodists realize that the 2012 General Conference was likely the last chance for the UMC to liberalize itself on sexual morality, given the demographic shifts in our global church, and some are now beginning to admit this publicly.
In the wake of this landmark turning point for the UMC, it is not surprising that now seems to be a season of transition among the top leadership of heterodox caucuses. Miller now serves as a temporary replacement for RMN’s longtime leader, Troy Plummer, who championed efforts to promote the sex-outside-of-marriage cause by pressuring church leaders to simply not enforce policies they were charged with upholding.
In October, the other main liberal caucus group in our denomination, the Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA), announced the apparently rather abrupt resignation of its executive director, Jill Warren. Warren’s previous professional experience included leading a Unitarian church and serving as a regional director for America’s largest abortion provider. She is temporarily replaced by her former subordinate, Chett Pritchett, who previously promoted MFSA through fundraising and prolific, sometimes crass use of social media. In one memorable tweet, he oddly pitted worship of the triune God against love of neighbor, quipping, “I think Jesus said love your neighbor, not exalt me.” Both Miller and Pritchett are openly gay.
Dr. Miller also has been added to board of directors of the UMC’s controversial DC lobbying office, the General Board of Church and Society (GBCS). Another director of the GBCS for the 2012-2016 quadrennium is Haniel Garibay, an MFSA staffer.
Mainstream United Methodists have long complained that while the GBCS is supposed to serve the WHOLE of our diverse denomination, it has effectively functioned as a divisive caucus group, using the name (and offering plate money!) of all United Methodists to exclusively serve one narrow, destructive minority faction, with groups like RMN and MFSA being the apparent “tail that wags the dog.” With paid staffers of these two caucuses now on the official leadership of GBCS, it seems like they’re becoming less interested in even publicly pretending otherwise.
The appointment of Garibay is especially striking, given that he is one of the directors from the relatively conservative Southeastern Jurisdiction. He lacked enough support in his annual conference (Virginia) for his attempted election as a 2012 General or Jurisdictional Conference delegate to succeed, and he was NOT elected by last summer’s Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference to serve on any general agency. However, a small “selection committee” is allowed to nominate additional directors, as long as they check certain demographic boxes.
Rounding out the liberal executive transitions is Jim Winkler, who has served as the GBCS’s General Secretary since 2000. The UMC Book of Discipline specifies ordinary term-limit expectations that should lead to Winkler’s departure early in this quadrennium. Under his tenure, Winkler has led his apportionment-funded agency in attacking several of the very same official United Methodist positions the GBCS is charged with promoting, while vilifying the character of mainstream United Methodists who support these positions. In 1998, the GBCS board of directors unanimously passed a resolution instructing the staff to seek civil dialogue with its longtime critic, IRD. But through the years, Winkler and his staff have pointedly refused to follow this mandate, preferring only to issue denunciations and misrepresentations from afar.
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