February 12, 2014

United Methodist Bishop Scott Jones Pledges to Uphold UMC’s Biblical Policies

Bishop Scott Jones of the Great Plains Conference of the United Methodist Church (encompassing Kansas and Nebraska) recently strongly declared his commitment to uphold the denomination’s ban on same-sex unions.

In a January 15 gathering of all ministers (elders, deacons, licensed local pastors, and associate clergy members) of his conference, he forthrightly addressed the challenge our church is facing with the nationwide, secular-supported campaign of renegade United Methodist clergy performing publicity-stunt same-sex unions in hopes of testing, besieging, and overwhelming our denominational accountability structures. Such activists have been emboldened by not only the quiet and not-so-quiet encouragement of a few radical bishops, but also by the perceived weakness of the UMC Council of Bishops as a whole in terms of its expected unwillingness to stand firm against strong liberal challenges.

In declaring his commitment to uphold the UMC’s standards, Bishop Jones reported being asked “what if 100 of us do same-gender unions?” The bishop’s answer was refreshingly direct: “Then there will be 100 suspensions from ministry during the supervisory response followed by 100 trials.”

Bishop Jones made clear that he “want[s] to do everything I can to avoid trials,” which can cost about $100,000 apiece. But responsibility for avoiding trials “is primarily in the hands of the clergy who should remember and abide by their sacred promises to live by the discipline of our church.”  For “not to hold a trial when a chargeable offense occurs and a just resolution cannot be achieved is to violate our United Methodist identity.”

He also noted that the clergy defendant in a church trial “may be spending up to $50,000 of personal money.”  That may give some renegade clergy second thoughts about provoking a trial against themselves.

Citing Paul’s exhortation for Ephesian Christians “to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,” Bishop Jones outlined “three fundamental, non-negotiable and basic characteristics of our unity.”

The first is doctrine. He reminded his elders that they “have all made a sacred promise to preach and maintain our doctrines,” noted that congregations expect the pastors he sends them to teach the church’s faith, and characterized the UMC’s internal theological diversity as something that must remain within the boundaries of this core doctrine.

The second is the UMC’s 2008 revised mission statement: “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”  Bishop Jones stressed that this rather than any hot-button social issue must be kept “the main thing” for the church.

And the third is the UMC’s discipline, through which “power is lodged in our conferring together.” While “[t]here will inevitably be disagreements” with regional and General Conference decisions, Bishop Jones explained that the denomination’s connectional, discipline-shaped identity means that “we are [nevertheless] loyal to the decisions we make together” and the process by which we make them.

He noted the increasing polarization in American society and the UMC on not only homosexuality but also abortion, reminding his clergy of the existence of congregations in the conference with strong views on opposing sides.

Bishop Jones told the conference’s clergy: “If a disagreement with the Church’s teaching or discipline is highly important to you and if you have given up hope of changing the church’s doctrine or discipline” – which describes the position of a growing number of pro-homosexuality UMC clergy now resorting to the renegade disobedience movement– “you have to decide either to live with it or to leave and find another church that better expresses your understanding of the Christian faith.”

Some of the bishop’s “extreme center” and unity-in-diversity rhetoric cries out for a deeper engagement with exploring the content of the UMC’s effectively unchangeable core doctrine and examining how much theological diversity can be sustained within the boundaries of biblical, historic Christian faith.

But such a clear statement from an active U.S. United Methodist bishop declaring that he will not be intimidated by the antics of church-disrupting, secularizing activists, reminding his clergy of their sacred obligation of loyalty to the church’s faith, and warning them against joining the movement of breaking our denomination’s biblical covenant is very refreshing and needed at this time. The address by Bishop Jones is worth reading in full here.

Will other bishops have the moral courage and spiritual integrity to stand with Bishop Jones in issuing similar statements?

20 Responses to United Methodist Bishop Scott Jones Pledges to Uphold UMC’s Biblical Policies

  1. Daniel says:

    No, and the chances of others like bishop Jones getting elected in the future will shrink dramatically as the community organizer activists and other clerical and lay agitators gain control of jurisdictional episcopacy committees.

    • cleareyedtruthmeister says:

      Daniel, reality compels me to agree with you. This ain’t our first rodeo. Of course, I hope we are wrong.

      When the current UMC church leadership is viewed generally–along with the immoral national political leadership–the die is cast: we will continue to slouch toward Gomorrah unless radical changes occur.

      Robert Bork, God rest his soul, is proving to be a Jeremiah.

  2. Roger says:

    It is very encouraging to know these words & pledge of Bishop Jones. He is a man of integrity, example; sense of duty and service to the oath of office that he has undertaken. I would describe him as a Nehemiah. Nehemiah stayed on the job and was not intimidated or lured away by Tobias and company. I hope that other Bishops will join this movement back to our heritage and faith.

  3. John Welch says:

    Why is homophobia a “core doctrine”? We didn;t need it before 1972, when I was baptized and later joined the Methodist Church. I affirmed the Apostle’s Creed, which says nothing about sexual orientation.

    Can anyone defend homophobia as theology?

    • Phil says:

      phobia means fear/anxiety. I don’t see any fear being implied by this discussion. All those that disagree with same-sex marriage are not Homophobic, The word is used too often to gain support through emotional reaction.

      • John Edwards says:

        I agree “Phil”. The word “homophobia” has become a polarizing word in our secular, and now our religious society.

        • Douglas Asbury says:

          Yes, I have long thought homophobia to be an inadequate term to describe what actually exists in conservative Christianity. “Homomisia” – using the Greek term meaning “hatred; disgust for; revulsion of; contempt for; abhorrence of” is clearly a more appropriate term.

    • cleareyedtruthmeister says:

      And, since it is not logical or Christian to conflate any form of sexuality with theology, there is certainly no defense of homophobia as theology. (This may seem strange to those whose existence revolves around their sexuality…but it is, nevertheless, true).

    • John Edwards says:

      “John Welch”, recall that you also affirmed two things as part of your membership in the UMC (it’s in the UM Hymnal): (1) that the Holy Bible is the word of God, and (2) to uphold the UMC. Therefore this is a binding oath on you. Perhaps your minister didn’t emphasize this to you when you joined. If you didn’t umnderstand what you were getting into, don’t blame the UMC for being homophobic?. Blame yourself for being information-phobic!

  4. Patricia Looper says:

    Will other bishops be similarly strong in defending the BOD is the question. The very fact that so many bishops have been so long silent during the last several years speaks volumes. Thank the Lord for Bishop Jones. The BOD is clear. For forty years changes have been offered and voted down. Efforts to marginalize by name calling those who defend the BOD have not worked. It is time for those who are so discontented with the current language on this subject in the BOD to leave The UMC. We will miss their gifts and graces but not the confusion and upheaval they cause in this great denomination. Leave, please. The majority has spoken for forty plus years. Accept that and form another denomination, or join with the UCC or the Episcopalians, or other groups that agree with your conclusions on biblical interpretation. I speak for the majority of the people in the pews who don’t even know what is going on, because too many pastors are afraid to broach the subject. It is time this subject be brought forth. If it is, I know that an overwhelming number of those in the pews will also say, “Leave, please.”

    • Robert McDavid says:

      and that is exactly what people are doing…leaving….at the rate of more than 1% every year for OVER forty years

      …regardless of what happens with this issue….there is literally nothing that can be done to stop it—

      …perhaps one should dare say….”it’s ok if the UMC disappears….” God works above, below, beyond all human-made denominations….and the Holy Spirit will continue to do what the Holy Spirit has always done…’move the hearts and minds and hopes of people willing to allow this”

  5. Betsy Kersey says:

    Thank you Bishop Jones …

  6. Earl J. Haggard says:

    Thank you Bishop Jones for being willing to recognize and confront the elephant in the room. When my orders were recognized from the Church of the United Brethren in Christ and then was accepted as a full member of the connection, I had to answer if I knew, could accept, and would support the doctrine of the United Methodist Church. I said YES! Thank you for saying yes also. May God help the Great Plains Conference and the United Methodist Church to remain strong and continue to make disciples for Jesus Christ and the transformation of the world. May God bless and keep you strong Scott Jones.

  7. Dr. John E. Juergensmeyer says:

    Thank God for UM Bishops willing to enforce the UM Discipline!

  8. Marco Bell says:

    It is no doubt, encouraging to many Orthodox Christians and devout Methodists, that Bishop Jones has made public, his clarity on such issues.

    Just as Pope Francis recently restated the unlikelihood of women ever becoming Priests in the Roman Catholic Church, so too, has Bishop Jones made clear, the UMC’s position on LGBT existence beyond laity status.
    I think it is clear to many, and I agree with Cleareyedtruthmeister (and others), that a schism needs to occur in order to divorce those who apparently can no longer coexist.

    Just as in Nature, cell division must occur in order to progress further.

    You know where I stand on this issue, and I hope to see a new Church born from the ashes, that can serve ALL of humanity.

    I applaud Bishop Jones for maintaining his commitment to his vows, as I don’t waver on MY sacred promises, and I’m glad he doesn’t either!

    We can all agree, to disagree, I guess!

  9. Jeffrey says:

    we need to start charging any and all clergy who speak out against the UMC’S stance on homosexuality under Book of Discipline ¶ 2702.4e…..dissemination of doctrines contrary to the established standards of doctrine of The United Methodist Church

  10. Herman P. de Haan says:

    In a society that has forgotten right from wrong, we need to remain strong in our convictions. Marriage is between one man and one women. Those that disagree should move on to a faith that supports their convictions, not drag down the UMC.

  11. John Edwards says:

    Bishop Jones presides over a fairly non-liberal conference of the UMC. Unfortunately, the UMC in the NE Texas is highly liberal and has many pastors and bishops promoting the non-doctrinal positions mentioned by Jones, and they would eat him alive here! What I see happening to the UMC is somewhat like what happened in the Civil War: the Methodist Episcopal Church split into two factions aligned geographically with the warring factions of North and South. Decades after the South lost the war, the Methodist Episcopal Church South had to throw in the towel and reunite with the MEC North, or face dissolution, because they were on the wrong side of Scripture! I know this because my grandfather was a preacher in Clarendon, Texas at a church still bearing the name “MEC South” in stone along its crest! Only this time, the lines of division will not be so clear as the Mason-Dixon line. Forget about the word “United” in UMC – I predict a division of the more-or-less conservative middle of our country against the liberal coastal states. I predict it to begin in about a decade (or less) and end in about five decades after the liberal churches decline and dissolve, because they too are on the wrong side of Scripture.

  12. John Edwards says:

    We also need to do a more thorough job indoctrinating new prospective members into the UMC, so that we don’t have more confused members like “John Welch” above who do not understand the core doctrines of the UMC and think the UMC represents something it does not. I am for using a catechism somewhat like Luther’s Small Catechism, expanded to describe core doctrines from the Book of Discipline. Both clergy and laity should be expected to uphold these as a condition of membership.

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