January 2, 2014

One Professor’s Letter to a UMC Bishop

The following is a letter written by ordained United Methodist minister and Hamline University Professor Emeritus of Religion Walter Benjamin to a sitting United Methodist bishopProfessor Benjamin received his BA from the United Methodist-affiliated Hamline in 1950, before receiving his BD at Garrett Theological Seminary and his PhD from Duke.

October 7, 2013

Dear [Bishop]:

Unlike you, as a retired professor, I have a lot of time on my hands. Moreover, even though I eschewed the difficult “trenches” of the pastoral ministry, I think I have accumulated a bit of wisdom (ha!) as to the pathologies of our church. After all, unlike our Pepsi Generation, traditional cultures believe that wisdom comes with age. Ergo: at 87, I am brimming over with sagacity!

At our breakfast “get-to-know-each-other” meeting, we did not discuss any substantial issues that plague United Methodism. I hope, however, that you have taken seriously my “If I Were The Bishop… “essay written some 15 years ago. I still stand by that essay (one of your bishop colleagues told me he agreed with 7 or 8 of the 10 recommendations but declined to tell me which ones!). Perhaps, you can up his score by one or two! Seriously, bear with me as I set forth some of my ideas regarding our ecclesiastical problems

Losing the Culture: Catholic Archbishop George of Chicago recently stated, “I will die peacefully in my bed My successor will die in prison and his successor will be martyred in a Chicago public park!” Overstated, perhaps, but there is a modicum of truth to his warning. By every social index the Christian influence upon our American culture is waning. The religious “nones” are at 20%, including 6% who profess to be atheist or agnostic. Marriage, the institution that literally “drove” couples to join a church “for help” (especially when they had their first child), now is simply ignored by couples who simply see nothing wrong with the custom of “shacking up.” To believe that heterosexual marriage is the norm is to be labeled a homophobe by the media. The weakness of the mainline churches is pervasive and all of the classic Protestant churches are now in a “survival mode.” Need I go on?

It is a tragedy of monumental proportions that the influence of the church that used to serve as the spiritual and moral foundation of American society is now weak and waning. Social pathologies, literally unknown during my youth, are now legion. Let me cite but one: “Illegitimacy” is now a verboten word but 41% of American babies are now born out-of-wedlock and that percentage is going up. Increasingly, the family no longer serves as the central organizing feature of American society!

Sixty years ago, Daniel Moynihan, Assistant Labor Secretary in Lyndon Johnson’s Administration, indicated that the black family was “chaotic” because of illegitimacy (now at 72%). Alas, white families are following black pathology and our governmental policies encourage the practice. Many black female teenagers are making what for them is a rational decision; that is, Uncle Sam is a far better provider than any black men they know.

You are undoubtedly aware of H. Richard Niebuhr’s seminal work and his five-fold paradigm set forth in Christ & Culture. Of the five, “Christ Transforming Culture” was the classic Protestant typology. But that was during the heyday of our growth. Now, because American culture is increasingly adversarial, I recommend that we return to the stance — “Christ vs Culture” — of the first three centuries. No, we don’t have to enter the catacombs or join the Amish or Hutterite communities, but we must realize that our culture is becoming perverse and inimical to Christian virtue. The weakness of our church is such that we can have little effect on changing the demonic aspects of our culture. If the predominant culture is undermines moral virtue, Christian witness should be adversarial to its values. Consequently, our task is to psychologically, morally, and spiritually immunize ourselves and our loved ones against it. The continued growth of home-schooling is but one indication that millions of Americans feel this is the only solution to protect their children from the sick viruses of American popular culture.

Churches, like individuals, get sclerotic, feeble, and can even die. In England in the 1700s and in America in the 1800s, Methodism was young, dynamic, and growing. Now we are behaving like the moribund Anglicans that Wesley challenged in his era. And who are the Wesleyans of today? The Pentecostals (world-wide, they are growing at 20 million a year!), Assemblies of God, the Cornerstone Church, and many other evangelical groups who don’t have a burdensome bureaucracy that is hampering Christian mission.

Seminaries: We have too many seminaries and some of them are marginal at best. Frankly, if 13 seminaries were adequate when our membership was 11 million in the U.S., we certainly have too many now that we have slipped to 7.3 million. I taught summer school at two of them and I was not impressed with the students.

Moreover, for 12 years, I served as the academic member of what then was known as the Metro East District Board of Ministry. Frankly, I was appalled at the mediocre candidates we interviewed for Methodist ministry! Sixty plus years ago those heading into the ministry compared favorably with those entering medicine and law. This is no longer the case.

I would recommend that seminarians attend Duke, Emory, or Perkins. Why? They are respected graduate theological schools linked to prestigious universities and therefore have the resources that the others do not have. Their faculty is better paid and their scholarship is far superior to those at our free-standing seminaries.

This fall Duke had an entering M.Div. class of 265 students. Compare that to the paltry class of Garrett. Note well: most of their graduates of the three theological schools serve the South. Perhaps that is one reason why the southern two jurisdictions are doing better than the other three.

I would also add Asbury to this list. It is shameful that not a single dollar of Methodist money goes to the seminary that produces more Methodist pastors than any other school. As you indicated, Asbury graduates have evangelistic zeal, an emotional drive lacking in the graduates of more liberal schools. I have known three graduates of Asbury who served the Cambridge UM Church. Under each of them, the church grew and prospered. Alas, all three are no longer in our Conference.

Frankly, our Conference is plagued by the fact that too many of our pastors have gone to the United Church of Christ’s United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities. Why there? Geographical convenience, especially for those entering the ministry after an initial career or two. Financially, the UTS [not to be confused with United Methodism’s United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio] has been and probably still is, in severe difficulty. Twenty years ago, it asked Hamline to “take it over” in order to solve its budgetary problems. When we declined, it sold off valuable residential properties surrounding the seminary in order to erase some of their red ink. Facing over a million dollar bill of repairs to its beautiful Gothic but aging edifice, Hamline United Methodist Church also asked the University to assume its ownership. Hamline could have used additional space but not at the cost of owning the property.

Each of our two sons, one in business and the other an attorney, took classes at Bethel Seminary and UTS respectively. Steve took three classes at the Baptist School and raved about the quality of his classes (he ceased taking courses because of the demands of nurturing his three young sons). Mark, our son who is an attorney, was disappointed with UTS and stopped after two classes. Both are active in their churches today of which neither is United Methodist.

The institutional hubris (they get UM financial support based on their enrollment) of our seminaries is evident in the fact that they fight against allowing Methodist seminarians to go to non-Methodist schools. It is shameful that such institutional self-serving prevents our seminarians from attending Bethel, which along with Luther, is a superior local seminary. And we believe in “diversity?” Give me a break!

We allow our future pastors to attend UTS, a mediocre seminary at best because it meets the precious liberal criteria on gender and other superficial aspects. The United Church of Christ, with its calamitous decline in membership, has nothing to teach us. We can learn much more from the Southern Baptists. As you know they doubled their membership in the last 60 years to 16 million members.

Ministry: I was in 9th grade when I was confirmed in the Pipestone Methodist Church. Confirmation class was from September to Palm Sunday. We stood in front of the congregation and answered questions on the Bible (we were told the questions and answers earlier by the pastor). At the time I was pleased that my Methodist church membership came “on the cheap!” My best friend, a Missouri Synod Lutheran, had to endure a three-year ordeal of confirmation. Later I realized Methodists did not take church membership as seriously as the more doctrinally focused churches do. For decades, we have been paying the price for “easy come, easy go” attendance musical chairs! Note this: Lutheran pastors were instructed that they should pick out the most intelligent and personable confirmation graduate and urge him to consider the Christian ministry.

Put me down as a “geezer crank” but I have a special dislike for “OPEN MINDS, OPEN HEARTS, OPEN DOORS” as our motto for church growth. Isn’t the only reason for having an open mind to close it on some good idea when it comes along? Conservative evangelical churches are growing today because they are proclaiming that, like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “Grace is costly!” Another bugbear of mine is the 2012 Conference theme: “Healthy Lives, Healthy World.” Lordy, Lordy! Are we a H.M.O.? Another Conference goal was “Spiritual Maturity.” All fine and good, of course, but spiritual pablum when compared to the radical claim that Christ makes upon his followers to take up His cross and follow Him to Golgotha.

Ministry: Females/Males: The issue that is verboten (it is never raised) among Mainline Protestant observers is “What effect is the increasing numbers of women pastors in ministry and as bishops, having upon men considering the ministry and upon membership growth? (I think in our “heart of hearts”, we know what is happening but the canons of “political correctness” mitigate us from honestly airing the issue). We may be in a zero-sum situation here; that is, as more females choose the ministry, that vocational choice will increasingly be rejected by men.

Frankly, I would never consider becoming a Methodist minister today. Those entering the ministry not only “look up” but “look sideways” to see whether they will bond with those they admire. When I was at Hamline and considering going to seminary a significant road-block for me were the cadre of “girly-men” whose lack of a proper level of masculinity (now a “sexist no-no?”) and athleticism was repugnant to me. My pastoral role model was a Pipestone pastor, who earned 9 athletic letters at Hamline!

Why do you think the Marines have no trouble building an elite fighting cadre? Note well: accepting and tolerating mediocre candidates in the ministry is to forfeit gaining outstanding seminarians or pastors! In this, I am not alone. One of my best students at Hamline who served some of the outstanding churches in our conference told me that “I would have sought ordination in a church other that the United Methodist Church if I had it to do over!” How sad.

The issue is far deeper than charging me as guilty of “chauvinism.” (Time out for a moment of humor: The French have an aphorism: “There are three sexes: Male, Female, and Clergy! ‘‘)

I was at Garrett from 1950-53. There were 750 of us, all World War II veterans. We were thoroughly masculine (not a negative attribute then!), one half of us had experienced combat. We knew evil was deep and deadly and knew the Gospel of Jesus Christ was the answer to our personal and worldly wounds. I have kept in contact with 12 of my fellow graduates. All went on to serve large churches, one half became district superintendents and their families had 3, 4, or 5 children. No one had a divorce nor seduced their organist or choir director.

Male bonding, whether in the Marines, Navy Seals, the Masons, and in the ministry, is important for selecting a career. Radical feminists are increasingly pushing our culture to eradicate gender differences (the feminists having won combat status for women, now want their acceptance into the Navy Seals!)

While I agree that women should be encouraged to enter the ministry, you know better than I do, that they often present problems in appointment because ours is an itinerant system. Those who are married are reluctant to serve rural charges if their husbands have city employment. I have two female relatives who entered the ministry at about 40 years of age, stuck it out for 10 years, and then left. A former female student of mine who is an excellent Presbyterian pastor (a “lifer!) in Arizona believes that many female ministers treat ministry as a “hobby.”

As I indicated in “If I Were the Bishop… ” Christianity is a symbol system and a pervasive feminism has changed the symbols so that there is a concentration of the “soft virtues (passivity, meekness, forgiveness, abasement, turn the other cheek, etc.) to the detriment of the “strong virtues” (courage, bravery, fortitude, etc.) so that a normative and positive masculinity is rarely experienced in church liturgy. Catholicism has a good balance here by incorporating the Virgin Mary’s chaste feminism with a male priesthood.

All sociological studies indicate that when an institution “gets the man/husband,” the women and children follow. If we continue down the road we are heading Christianity will take on the character of that of Europe, i.e. church attendance will decline sharply and be made up of women and children.

Merit Applied to Our Pastors & Episcopacy: I’m sure you have existential knowledge of the fact that between 15 and 20 percent of our Methodist pastors are emotionally, spiritually, and psychologically unfit for the ministry. Alas, the Christian ministry is one of the most demanding of all the professions and yet one whose financial compensation is but modest. Like you, I wished that the General Conference had eliminated the life-long tenure that Methodist elders now enjoy. Unlike American corporations, we have no method by which to “prune” our poorly functioning pastors. Tragically, they often are ineffective and leave wounded parishes in their wake (I often think of the parade of ineffective pastors that took my home church at Pipestone from a membership of 650 in the 1960’s to today’s attendance at worship of but 30).

But let us apply the merit paradigm to our bishops as well. Am I right to observe a significant disconnect between the election of male and female bishops? Male bishops are elected after having successfully served large churches with multiple ministries while our female bishops have been elected after having served as district superintendents. Is it possible that some female district superintendents receive their appointment due to affirmative action criteria? I know of no Protestant mega-church in America that has a female senior pastor. What does this data tell us?

Unlike public corporations, we have no mechanism to shift poorly functioning bishops back into the parish ministry. If mistakes are made by our Jurisdictional Conferences, our church may suffer for many years. Moreover, lifelong tenure feeds itself. This end or goal (Aristotle’s “final cause”) is partially definitive of what is good for squirrels, even if an occasional squirrel has for whatever reason (genetic defect) no desire to gather seeds and nuts. Human beings too need to realize the ends of their sexual capacities. These ends are both procreative and unitive; that is, our sexual facilities are by nature aimed at getting us to mate, and bond emotionally, with the person of the opposite sex. That some people’s sexual desires are distorted in various ways does not change their natural end, any more than a squirrel that is missing a leg due to an accident of birth fails to be the sort of a creature that by nature is four-legged. Our church and state should always be pro-family and natalist.

Moreover, each sex in a traditional, Biblical family, contributes the unique gifts of their gender in the education and nurture of children. While married couples sometimes wish to birth a male or a female baby, I know of none who knowingly wants to give birth and raise a child which will later develop a homosexual orientation. That fact in itself indicates that a Biblical and traditional norm or expectation has not been achieved. Alas, sentimental ethics erodes a time-honored and Biblical norm in the attempt via law to mitigate this fundamental difference.

With our culture going pellmell toward normalizing homosexuality (remember it was only 15 years ago that Clinton signed the “Defense of Marriage Law”) I see no reason why Methodists should give ground on this issue. There may be significant damage to the bedrock of our social institutions in the long term by giving equal marital status to homosexual unions. For those who state we should “get up to date” the appropriate answer is: The Church should serve as a thermostat, not as a cultural thermometer. The medical profession is bound by the moral norm – Primum non nocere (“first of all, do no harm”). Our Church too, should be faithful to the Biblical norm of heterosexual marriage.

Reform Organizations: Sound administrators realize that critics are invaluable. Why? Because they care enough to criticize. When consumers stop buying their products, good corporations are zealous to find out the reasons. Churches should do the same. The Confessing Movement, The Institution on Religion and Democracy, and other critics have come into being due to the failures of our church in the last half century. I know individuals in both those organizations and their criticisms are often relevant. Sensitive administrators, clerical or lay, should never attribute sordid motives to those with whom they differ. Do you want to silence the critics? Grow the church!

As you know better than I, our pastors are poorly deployed. They are serving in dying rural communities with a paucity of population. What would we think of an army general who had the bulk of his soldiers facing near empty trenches when the enemy crushed his army with a “double envelopment” around his left and right flank which were lightly defended? Years ago a colleague suggested a novel approach to me: the conference should appoint pastors to enter population centers that are “church and gospel poor.” They would be domestic missionaries supported by conference monies for three years. After that, they would have to “fish and cut bait” and be on their own. A radical step? Yes, but perhaps analogous to Whitfield and Wesley’s preaching in the fields and coal mines in the 18th century. Methinks, Coke, and Asbury would agree.

I know you bring administrative talent, experience, enthusiasm, and spiritual zeal to your task. It is my prayer and hope that under your guidance, [your] Conference can be a “turn-around” leader in the Jurisdiction. Forgive me for any misjudgments or errors that might be in the above critique. You have given yeoman service in the “ministerial trenches” which I have not experienced. You certainly know our weaknesses better than I do. Nevertheless, I hope the above is helpful.

I wish you well!
Walter W. Benjamin, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus: Hamline University


49 Responses to One Professor’s Letter to a UMC Bishop

  1. gary says:

    here, here Professor Benjamin – well said

  2. Donnie says:

    Excellent letter, Professor Benjamin.

  3. Ernest Craig says:

    Great article. Well thought out and delivered.

  4. Karl Kroger says:

    The professor’s love for the Church and desire to see the UMC faithfully serve out God’s call are significantly overshadowed by his childish insults to just about every people group.

    Dear IRD, I know your standards of integrity and ethics resemble that of a self-righteous bully on the playground, but even this is between you.

    • Karl Kroger says:

      beneath

      • Adrian Croft says:

        I wish you would point out some of the “childish insults” in the letter, because I did not see any. I should mention that, as an ex-UM (one of many thousands), I agree with him on every point. The Politically Correct churches are not only untrue to Christianity, but are dying. I sense that PC pastors are unhappy about that situation and resentful at having it pointed out. Clearly they will stick with their PC secular religion to the bitter end, despite the empty pews that it produces.

        • Ben says:

          If the only important metric is church growth, the hands down winner is the LDS church. For those of us who aren’t Mormon, what does that mean?

  5. Daniel says:

    Mostly accurate commentary, and highly politically incorrect. I take exception with denoting Duke as an academically rigorous seminary. Based on my knowledge of recent graduates, they do not have to take any Greek or Hebrew to graduate, and the level of rigor in their theology courses is either weak, or they forget it soon after graduation, based on the sermons I have heard from them.

    Professor Benjamin is correct on the laughable state of catechesis in the UMC. The only weaker one I know of is The Episcopal Church. The Missouri Synod Lutherans and most Presbyterians (PCUSA notwithstanding) take their education and discipleship far more seriously.

    Professor Benjamin also nails it on the feminization of the UMC. I have yet to be a member of a UMC church with a female pastor who was orthodox in belief, and preached the “church militant” in a way that built up the body of Christ. This is having a serious, deleterious effect on the UMC.

    Happily, I left the UMC and joined the LCMS to get away from these issues – I also discovered Reformed theology and had to bid goodbye to Arminianism. Comparing the two, my only regret is that I did not make the change sooner. I look for more UMC members in the U.S. to leave, and The Episcopal Church already has the “LGBT affirming” brand locked up so I don’t look for people to start flocking to UMC churches when gay marriage becomes the de facto norm in most annual conferences.

    • John S says:

      When I was young and attending a Methodist Church we had “…a female pastor who was orthodox in belief, and preached the “church militant” in a way that built up the body of Christ.” But orthodox belief was standard then.

      Really, look at all the elders who have served in your church, how many truly fit the described criteria? This isn’t a gender problem. Most of those who are orthodox in belief tend to leave the UMC and they come to this orthodoxy by exposure to sources outside of the UMC.

  6. Forgiven Sinner says:

    Oh for our churches, schools, seminaries and families to be led by more men like Professor Benjamin. Onward Christian Soldier! May every pastor swear off of skinny jeans and latte’s forever more.

  7. Timothy says:

    Very well said. I grew up in the UMC and found it quite easy to leave. It is becoming more like my wife’s old church, the UCC every day. Sadly, it was more difficult to find a new home, but we did in the OCA (Orthodox Church in America). May God bless you professor.

  8. Morgan Guyton says:

    So black teenage girls are having babies out of wedlock because gay marriage… This exposes a whole lot of things about a certain mindset in our denomination. There will be a response.

    • Keith crosby says:

      So black teenage girls…

      You should read the letter above written by the prof. Clearly you didn’t. The UMC is on its final death rattle… Losing as many member as the Episcopal Church USA and the UCC because the have jettisoned biblical Christianity for socio-political work.

      more biblically conservative congregations are growing. Go figure!

      an exMethodist,
      keith crosby

  9. cleareyedtruthmeister says:

    The professor speaks some painful truths, but they are truths nevertheless. I don’t know about Duke, but Emory’s seminary (Candler) has been departing from orthodoxy for years. The educational process for many UM pastors consists of an intellectually-light indoctrination into New Age spirituality, leftist politics, relativism and postmodernism. The hard work of apologetics has been eschewed.

    • Morgan Guyton says:

      Just to clarify, are you saying that it’s a “painful truth but a truth nevertheless” that black teenage girls are having babies out of wedlock because gay marriage?

      • Kevin says:

        The author didn’t say that… he said that the illegitimacy rate was a contributing factor as was the governmental system of paying single mothers for the children they birth… .

        “Sixty years ago, Daniel Moynihan, Assistant Labor Secretary in Lyndon Johnson’s Administration, indicated that the black family was “chaotic” because of illegitimacy (now at 72%). Alas, white families are following black pathology and our governmental policies encourage the practice. Many black female teenagers are making what for them is a rational decision; that is, Uncle Sam is a far better provider than any black men they know.”

  10. Jon Altman says:

    Thank you for the great service. You demonstrate that racism, sexism and homophobia actually ARE the same.

    • cleareyedtruthmeister says:

      Wonderfully intelligent response!

      • Jon Altman says:

        Conservatives in our Conference vehemently protest the equation of homophobia with racism and sexism. This piece demonstrates all three. Wonder how many will denounce the author.

        • cleareyedtruthmeister says:

          There is more nuance in what the professor says than you are appreciating. Perhaps you should read it again.

          Your comments do betray a typical tactic of political activists: denounce the person rather than grapple with the arguments.

          • Jon Altman says:

            The “argument” amounts to a bitter old man shouting “Get off my lawn.” I’ve given it the “respect” it deserves.

          • cleareyedtruthmeister says:

            Your last comment characterizes your “argument” better than it does anything the good professor wrote (with the possible exception of the “old man” part).

          • theenemyhatesclarity says:

            I agree with cleareyed, Jon. To have a genuine debate, you need to set out the basis of your opinion.

        • Adrian Croft says:

          If you throw in Islamophobia, xenophobia, and transphobia, you can say that’s a fine days work for someone on the religious left(over). Nothing like a lot of -isms and -phobias to prove one’s standing with God.

    • Rev. James T. Smith says:

      Jon, you should have let well enough alone.

  11. Chris says:

    WIth your permission, I would like to repost this letter.

  12. Mark West says:

    I always knew it was the fault of the women.

  13. Gary Bebop says:

    There will be the usual claque of indignant “progressives” who will decry Walter Benjamin’s critique and threaten reprisal through their blogs, but have they not read their own bombast lately? Some pushback is healthy for the church.

  14. John Barrow says:

    Oof. It’s impossible for me to actually *know* where to begin, so I’ll just dive randomly into this heaping pile of excrement and see where I land.

    “Social pathologies, literally unknown during my youth…”

    You know what? Screw it. When you write these words, you forfeit forever the privilege of being taken seriously…by anyone…on any topic. What an addled, raving lunatic.

  15. pamela says:

    I am aghast at the backward, insensitive, abusive attitude portrayed in this article. What century are we in?

  16. Bruce C says:

    I agree that the UMC has issues and problems. But I’m not anywhere close to making the connections this writer is using. I am pastoring a church that is growing in number, and in giving. We grew 13.5 per cent in undesignated giving this past year, and we’ve grown in attendance from 242 in 2010 to 290 in 2013. We have grown exponentially in mission, service– both locally and globally. We keep listening to what Jesus is calling us to do. We rely heavily on prayer, accountability groups, and lively, relevant worship. We are in the heart of the south– and we would be labeled “progressive/liberal” by the IRD, although I don’t use childish terms like “conservative” and “liberal”. I don’t buy the narrative of decline that this guy is selling. I don’t buy that we’ve had a decline in the quality of pastoral leadership over the past 60 years. Times have changed since 1950– and much of it has not been a bad thing, at all. We’ve moved past “Jim Crow” which was enthusiastically supported by protestant churches in the south. I can imagine a letter similar to this being written 40 years ago decrying integration, re-marriage, inter-racial marriages, and allowing women to vote. The good old days, this guy is talking about requires that we have a bad memory. I share the gospel as best I can each day of the week. I even preach it on Sundays. The cross of Christ will survive even our best attempts to pervert it into categories like “conservative”, or “liberal.” Just watch. Institutions come and go. Jesus is just fine. His Kingdom is right on time. True, the Methodist church is not the only show in town. Who cares? Not me. But fear sells, and it motivates us to depart from love and do strange things in the name of holding on to power (see Herod and the magi). It also will motivate some to give money to the IRD. Ok– whatever floats your boat. I’ll just stay in the trenches, keep my head down and continue to listen to Jesus’ voice– Thanks, professor Benjamin for this thought-provoking critique of all that is wrong with my denomination. I get what you are trying to say– we were better, more faithful, had better pastors in the south, and we are meeting our demise at present because we have drifted away from the message of Jesus (or is it the gospel of Benjamin)?

  17. Paul says:

    Setting his arguments aside, I am surprised that he was a professor. His writing is rambling, he hasn’t cited any sources, he is certainly confusing correlation and causation, and I suspect he is inventing some of his facts (but I haven’t taken the time to verify that as yet.) From a scholarly perspective his arguements should be dismissed as poorly made. Had I demonstrated this poor of writing on my own dissertation I would not have been allowed to defend let alone obtain my PhD.

  18. echarles1 says:

    You hit it out of the park. As a Catholic, I pray my church does not marry the spirit of this age.

  19. Joy Butler says:

    So much in this letter troubles my soul, but I most wish to make clear one thing. GAY CHILDREN ARE A GIFT FROM GOD. I am a white, middle-aged, straight, 4th generation United Methodist (raised in the South), and I sincerely hope my children are gay. Now, if Rev. Benjamin reads this, he can say he knows of someone who wants gay children! 🙂

    The analogy of gay children to squirrels with broken legs is unfortunate. A more accurate comparison would be to Grey Squirrels, whose species is one of a multitude of species (including humans) that show naturally-occurring, God-created, same-gender attractions.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_mammals_displaying_homosexual_behavior#Mammals

    • Gene Mims says:

      To hope your children are gay? You have got to be kidding, but if not then most likely it is the end of your line as homosexuals don’t propagate their species.

  20. Shannon, M.Div., Th.M. says:

    Dear Professor Emeritus,

    You would be far more at home in the SBC than the UMC. If you’re going to worship numbers (as many of your arguments rest on popularity), please consider getting out of the UMC. Don’t let tradition stop you.

    Sincerely,
    A Female United Methodist

  21. Byrom says:

    Professor Benjamin speaks the truth. However, I would go a step further and say that many have forgotten Jesus’ prayer in John 17:15 for his true followers – being in the world but not of the world, as well as straying far from the Bible’s teachings.

  22. Ric Walters says:

    I’m amazed at the number of liberals who apparently read this article! I’m also amazed that several of them can’t tell the difference between “homophobia” (which homosexuals have declared to be the unforgiveable sin) and racism/sexism. Maybe you need to look up homophobia in Webster’s before using it to insult the Professor and the rest of us who believe in the Bible’s version of marriage. I’m not afraid of homosexuals, in fact, I love them like Jesus loves me, which is to say that I recognize their choice as a sin, just like some of mine are, and do my best to redirect them to the choice God intended, all without being harsh, judgmental, or mean spirited.

    As for the statement about young black women birthing “illegitimate” children and homosexuality – where did you find that? Nowhere does the Professor compare the two. Sadly, the problem in the black family identified in the 60s has not only expanded to white families, but to just about every other ethnicity, and primarily (at least in the US) because the state will support them better than most men. The feminization of the church has played a part in that because many of the female leaders are liberal in their theology, and they have passed that theology on to their congregations. That’s not to say male pastors haven’t been guilty, either. Certainly there are many who have caved in to political correctness and left their manhood at the door to the pastor’s study. Sadly, they also left their Bibles there, too.

    All that said, I’m glad that you liberals are reading this page, and pray that you’ll find the answers to the questions you’ve been looking for in the Wesleyan, orthodox tradition, not somewhere else.

  23. Mark Grizzard says:

    Awesome, Professor!

  24. Jason King says:

    Well-said, professor. I appreciated the way you spelled out how “the world” & the Devil have, unfortunately, ingrained itself into our UMC and virtually destroyed it.

    Fortunately, I am in the South, and it’s not as bad here as I’ve noticed it in other areas. There are those of us who still care about the UMC and work to fight the Devil’s influence every step of the way. I must say that I do love my local church, the staff, and the laity, and evangelism is alive and well here.

    When will the UMC and other mainline protestant churches realize that God is sovereign, He is not mocked, and we exist to serve and praise Him? The church is not supposed to conform to the world and become some spineless, weak-kneed, toothless-lion-of-a-self-help-group! Sadly, with the leftist, self-serving state of much of the current direction and “leadership” of the UMC, I will continue to look to other sources outside of the UMC in general for edification of the body believers in the work of the Blood of Jesus Christ.

    Advice: what we need is more evangelism, old-fashioned revivals, and preaching on the eternal reward of believers & the eternal horror of unbelief.

    May the Good Lord bless us and guide us!

  25. Charlotte Gebauer Koelling says:

    As a PK entering her eighth decade on this earth and with 10 LCMS clergymen and several parochial teachers in my close family, I read Prof. Benjamin’s letter with great interest and much recognition of patterns he describes that certainly show up well beyond the boundaries of the UMC or, for that matter, the LCMS.

    Others have ably commented on various aspects of the professor’s opinions, and I doubt he needs my approbation … although he certainly has it! I would more like to react to the patterns that show up in the comments. Sadly, they reflect much of the debate between liberals and conservatives throughout society, not just within denominations. As I read, virtually every comment that made me despair at its lack of civility was made by those who objected to Prof. Benjamin’s opinions (the liberal element, for what of a better term). Why such anger and vitriol? Why the name calling and disrespect? As children of God, we are to treat each other with respect and love … surprise, even those with whom we disagree. Why does any one of us believe his or her belief is so perfectly formed that we have license to verbally abuse those who don’t agree?

    Thank you, Prof. Benjamin, for your heartfelt thoughts on issues facing your denomination and plenty of others. Each of us who cares should take each point and consider it carefully in light of Scripture and our own experience within our churches. Want to then engage in a dialogue? Have at it, if it can be done in a Christian way. Otherwise, you damage your own cause by exhibiting such unchristian behavior.

    Just saying . . .

  26. Bill Bysinger PhD says:

    Finally the last two commentators, Walters and King made reasoned responses.

    I have was raised Catholic, became a Luteran by marriage, a Presbyterian by second marriage, and found the Methodist faith along with my wife about 20 years ago. We have been fortunate to be members of many good Methodist congregations but we both are concerned about the secularism of this country and the progressive thinking of many Methodist congregations.

    The facts of the Professor’s article are absolutely correct and he is direct in his approach which I appreciate. The teachings of Jesus tell us to love the Sinner but hate the sin..this is my concern with homosexuality. We for the last 15 years have lived in the South, but for the prior 10 years we lived in the Seattle area and saw much of the Devils work. The issue with homosexuality that is so concering, is that it is based on sexual acts not the love described in the bible between a man and a woman. Heterosexual Marriage is about a love beyond sex and a love that encompasses the teachings of Jesus. This is why I believe most of us who oppose it in the church are not against the person but the act that goes against both old and new testament teachings. This minority of people are influencing too much of today’s society and I experiense this in the questions from my grandchildren, since it has not only impacted our churches, but our schools as well.

    The same is true for the liberal wellfare state. This also goes against all of the biblical teachings about how one takes responsibility and cares for those who are not able to take care of themselves due to some infirmity or dissability. The country is moving to what I saw living in Europe for most of the 1960’s, a people dependant on the state with little innovation, people who were not really motivated by personal ambition, an economic class system created by the state and a society easily manipulated by the state.

    I do not want our country to stray away from the teachings of God and I do not want our UMC churches to stray away from their biblical foundations. John Wesley and Martin Luther tried to takes us back to a bibilical foundation and we a moving further and further away as we begin this 21st century. The bible is not time dependant and neither is God, we must hold it firm and keep these truths paramount.

    May God guide those who lead our UMC Congregations in the truth of the Jesus’ Ministry now and forever.

  27. Megan says:

    Is God a progressive/liberal? I don’t believe so! He is the same yesterday, today, and forever! His Word does not change! If God says something is a sin, then it is a sin! After all, God knows and understands all things, including the practice of homosexuality. And if God knows and understands all things, and He says in His Word that homosexuality is a sin then that’s what it is, SIN! We who are Christians simply need to believe and to trust that God knows what He is talking about! And where does all sin originate? All sin originates in the mind with the thoughts. Like Eve, before she ate the apple, the serpent (Satan), put lies into her mind. She had to choose between what God told her and the thoughts the serpent put into her mind. She thought about these things in her mind and then selfishly chose to disobey God and give into the sinful thoughts in her head, put there by the devil. She could have just as easily rejected those sinful thoughts but she did not. She ate of the fruit and sinned against God. Then, she turned around and put those same sinful thoughts into Adam’s mind. He then had a choice to make, to obey God or to sin. He too chose to sin. Sin is like a disease that can spread to others. That is what the practice of homosexuality really is. It is a sin that is being spread to others by way of the mind. Putting those sinful thoughts into the minds of others, including our young, impressionable children! Don’t you realize how angry this makes God? Currently, the U.M. Denomination fits into the Church of Pergamos in Revelation Chapter 2 of the Bible. The Church of Pergamos (also known as the Compromising Church), tolerates immorality, idolatry & heresies. And the Church of Laodicea is just plain indifferent. God’s instructions to these churches are to REPENT! Be zealous for God! Or judgement will come! We must wake up and recognize what the practice of homosexuality truly is. It is not a separate race of people, as some are trying to claim it is. No, it is sexual immorality!! It is SIN! Why? Because God says it is!! If you get angry about what I have written here, too bad! I have the right to speak out and be heard too!

  28. Chas says:

    While serving as president of an evangelical seminary in Chicago, I was shocked and disappointed when the U.M. church “pulled the plug” on our school. Having several UM students, adjunct UM professors, UM board members and a willingness to offer UM polity wasn’t enough. It was purely political and financial. Unfortunately this is the step that most mainline groups tend to take…..circle the wagons and hope for survival. When will denominations…..all denominations…realize that it’s not about maintaining the hierarchy, it’s about the Kingdom? Hmm……….

  29. Andrew Zaplatynsky says:

    Prof. Benjamin articulates some bitter truths that are bound to provoke a strong reaction. A Hindu mystic I once heard expressed it perfectly, “It is good to have an open mind, but don’t make it so open that your brains fall out”. My sense is that while we trip over ourselves to be relevant, common sense, not to mention traditional Christian principles, have been conveniently sidelined. We have replaced the Gospel with “hey, whatever”.

  30. Hal says:

    This was very interesting reading, both the letter and the comments. Having grown up in the Methodist church with extended family still attending. I have followed the path of the church with much interest. The scripture that I think would most change the heart and direction of the church are the words of the Messiah John 14:15 “If you love me keep My comandments” If he was truly God, and the new testament was not written yet, to what commandments was he referring?And Matthew 5:17-19 Do not think that I came to destroy the law or the prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly I say to you till heaven and earth pass away one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven: but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

  31. billy copeland says:

    nailed it

  32. Robin says:

    Professor Benjamin is correct in his critique, and in no way should he apologize for the wisdom given to him. The only true wisdom of a man is that which is impartation from the Holy Spirit. Wisdom is given to those who fear the LORD.

    Concerning the churches we can read Christ words in Revelation 2:18-29.

    Robin

  33. Robin says:

    A single sentence in the article can sum it all up and is of utmost significance.

    “Social pathologies, literally unknown during my youth, are now legion.”

    In Mark 5:1-20 in the region of Gerasenes Christ delivers a man. The church could learn volumes from these 20 verses.

    Robin

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