October 13, 2014

Does Gay UMC Group Want to “Burn the Damned Church Down”?

Will the national leadership of the Reconciling Ministry Network (RMN), the main unofficial United Methodist caucus seeking church acceptance of homosexual practice along with extra-marital sex more generally, even repudiate one of their own prominent regional leaders who recently expressed her support for the idea that the United Methodist Church is “damned” and should be “burned down”?

What am I talking about?

Given her own outspoken liberalism on homosexuality, many lefty United Methodists were hoping that Bishop Peggy Johnson of Eastern Pennsylvania would simply break the vows she made to God and the church to enforce our church’s policies, including those upholding biblical standards for sexual self-control. Liberal United Methodists even cheered a petition from some non-Methodist group gathering signatures of people who were largely non-Methodist (and not even necessarily Christian), without necessarily any appreciation for the church and its theology whatsoever, and telling her to disregard the UMC’s doctrine and standards.

Yet on social media, there was profound disappointment when she (finally) put her clergy publicly on notice that, from this point forward, they will face consequences if they performed a same-sex union service in violation of our rules. This was actually one of the strongest such public warnings I have seen from any United Methodist bishop recently.

When the RMN announced this on Facebook on Friday, October 3, the very first comment, from Joshua Allen, says: “A bishop’s role is to uphold discrimination against God’s beloved? Then burn the damned church down…because that’s what it is–damned.”

 

Burn the Church Down

 

I can hardly imagine the blowback IRD/UMAction would receive if we would ever used such extreme and violent language against the church!

To be sure, it is not fair to hold an organization responsible for the words or behavior of any random individual who happens to be sympathetic or loosely associated with it.

But what about people who are specifically selected to be the group’s representatives and leaders?

One such individual is Sara Thompson Tweedy. She is now chair of arguably the most militant and active regional RMN chapter, on whose leadership team she has already served for a while. We have reported earlier on how this ordained United Methodist minister and activist for the LGBTQ cause recently turned out to be homosexually active herself, and how a complaint against her was unfairly dismissed.

As the screen capture shows below, this RMN leader was among the first to indicate her supportive endorsement by “liking” this comment:

 

Tweedy likes arson

 

I realize all this took was a quick click of a mouse. But what sort of person, even for a moment, believes that it is appropriate behavior, in a public forum, for someone prominently identified as a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to express support for denouncing the United Methodist Church as “damned” and even metaphorically (or literally?) calling for someone to “burn the damned church down”?

That’s not just a rhetorical question. It has a definite answer: This is someone RMN is apparently okay with having in leadership to represent the organization’s values and its attitude towards United Methodists outside of their faction. This is the sort of person RMN will uncritically rally behind and treat as a poster child for the sort of ministers it thinks the United Methodist church needs to model Christian character to others. This is the sort of person RMN invites to write for them, to brag about her disregard for the doctrinal standards, connectional covenant, and her own promises to God within United Methodism. This is the sort of person that the notoriously radicalized New York Annual Conference recently decided was one of the best of its roughly 100,000 members to represent their values at Jurisdictional Conference.

Nor is this just an isolated incident.

The fact of the matter is that the entire theologically progressive movement within the United Methodist Church seems to be built around prideful rejection of personal accountability. Such a mindset could hardly be more antithetical to historic Methodist values.

Meanwhile, even many “moderately liberal” UMC officials have again and again demonstrated that when push comes to shove, they are reflexively unwilling to draw any firm, consequence-bearing lines in the sand of the most minimal expectations for appropriate behavior on the part of the progressive caucuses. The examples are legion, from Bishop Hee-Soo Jung deciding that former RMN employee James Preston’s violently shattering a communion chalice at the 2004 General Conference (and later bizarrely, blasphemously claiming that the one who inspired him to do so was God) was no barrier to promoting him to District Superintendent, to the Connectional Table leadership’s decision this year to reward the liberal caucus activists who obnoxiously disrupt their meetings (while effectively marginalizing evangelical caucus representatives who patiently play by the rules).

This has sadly but unsurprisingly led to such unrestrained shrillness in interpersonal interactions being common, rather than exceptional, for those lifted up as leaders of the any-means-necessary progressive United Methodist caucuses. And it is a basic matter of intellectual honesty and empirical facts to acknowledge that leaders of renewal caucuses, while we always have room for improvement, simply do not engage in the sort of over-the-top interpersonal belligerence recounted in this article.

And where are there any liberal United Methodist caucus leaders that clearly, publicly draw the line against even some of the most extreme words and actions of their allies within the church? There are none that I can recall.

The antics of Amy DeLong and her “Love Prevails” group, which even some folk who are hardly fans of IRD have labeled “Love Bullies,” are too well-known for me to need to say much about them here.

But extreme shrillness by liberal United Methodist leaders even in casual interactions is hardly limited to that one group.

At the 2012 General Conference, while one female renewal group leader was quietly handing out literature to delegates, she found herself accosted by a belligerent, bearded (male) Common Witness Coalition activist who angrily verbally harassed her and accused her about her support for Christian sexual ethics. The man acting in such an abusive and physically intimidating way was not simply an unrepresentative activist over whose behavior the liberal coalition had no control, but Richard Bentley, an ordained minister and (at the time) a staffer for the Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA), the other main liberal United Methodist caucus group.

At the last couple of General Conferences, I have seen other progressive United Methodist leaders hold signs denouncing orthodox United Methodists as the equivalent of the Ku Klux Klan and as “Fundasexuals.”

In 2012, Jim Winkler was still CEO of the denomination’s lobby office, the General Board of Church and Society (GBCS), which he chose to run as an extremely liberal caucus group openly disdainful of moderate, conservative, and African United Methodists and openly opposed to official United Methodist positions the agency was charged with promoting. At that year’s General Conference, there was a moment near the end in which it became clear that a committee-endorsed motion to end our denomination’s scandalous affiliation with the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (which uses our church’s name to oppose any legal restriction or even moral opposition to abortion) would die, not through honest and open debate on its merits but rather by time running out. Winkler’s response was, rather pointedly, to turn to an absolutely crestfallen and heartbroken member of our Renewal and Reform Coalition team to laugh mockingly and triumphantly.

If a similarly prominent leader of a renewal caucus had ever engaged in the same sort of loveless, cruel, kick-them-while-they’re-down behavior towards liberal observers at the very moment they were weeping in anguish over “losing” another homosexuality vote, this would be (rightly) decried by United Methodist leaders from across the theological spectrum.

Since at least 2012, I have observed progressive United Methodists (with the commendable exception of Candler Seminary’s dean, Jan Love) falling over themselves to demonize the Rev. Dr. H. Eddie Fox and dismiss all the great work he has done to spread to Gospel as evangelism leader for the World Methodist Council, simply because he is guilty of the apparently unforgivable sin of supporting historic, biblical Christian standards on sexual morality.

During the 2012 General Conference, another GBCS staffer, Katey Zeh, found time amidst her tweets promoting church support for elective abortion and homosexual practice to re-send a tweet from a fake account named “Lord Voldemort” that “confessed” to having “been inappropriately touching @fakeeddiefox.”

I am all for humor, within some basic boundaries. But who would think that exemplary behavior for a staffer of a Christian denominational agency ever includes publicly joking about sexual abuse of someone she sees as an ideological enemy?

Again, it’s not a merely rhetorical question, but there is an answer: Jim Winkler, who hired most of the folk who are still on GBCS staff, apparently thought this was the best person to lead the lobby’s efforts being done in the name of “Healthy Families.” Not sure how that theme fits with defending parental violence against very young children or laughing about the hilarity of people getting molested.

One of the most notable incidents was at the 2008 General Conference. Someone who at the very least rather resembles a rather prominent activist and leader in the “reconciling” movement was rather unhappy with the positions IRD was peacefully advocating there. So much so that this individual lost control, furiously yelling “You’re EVIL!” and wildly arm-clawing at one of my fellow staffers, only being held back by a nearby friend.

Through all of these extreme words and actions run several consistent themes among progressive caucus leaders, as far as I can observe: No one is willing to take responsibility or make an effort to keep their own faction/house in order. There is no evidence that repentance is even on their radar screen. And definitely no interest in basic Golden-Rule civility towards, let alone “reconciling” with, Christians who do not share their progressive values.

If other RMN leaders would like to demonstrate that this is not a fair picture, they can start by clarifying whether or not they agree with the “fiery” Allen-Tweedy attitude towards the United Methodist Church.


31 Responses to Does Gay UMC Group Want to “Burn the Damned Church Down”?

  1. MarcoPolo says:

    Seems like a schism is in order.
    If only to move each faction of the great Church along, past the fork in the road.
    In my opinion, I think there can exist, two Methodist Churches. One Orthodox, and one Progressive. Just like so many other religions whose followers have deemed it’s predecessors lacking in service to God, and/or Mankind.

    • Nick Porter says:

      The liberals are free to leave any time.

      • MarcoPolo says:

        They (we) are!

        • Nick Porter says:

          Not fast enough apparently.

          • MarcoPolo says:

            For the sake of discussion…may I ask:

            Is it, or is it not realistic, that the Methodist Church CAN divide itself along ecumenical (or doctrinal) lines, forming a denominational split? Orthodox and Progressive.

            I sincerely care that there be a Methodist faith for the diversity of people seeking Christian fellowship that sees the power of God as an omniscient force in life capable of embracing both.

            Of course, that desire to please God would be suspicious of both camps.

            This would be no simple matter, given real estate and property, etc…
            Just my curiosity. No ploy to pollute the thread.

          • Nick Porter says:

            Look no further than The Episcopal Church for the answer to that.
            You’re welcome.

          • John S. says:

            Splitting ortho/progo is relatively easy, one pushes doctrine, one pushes politics. Splitting the money, property and naming rights is another matter. See TEC. Which is why ideas like this are put forth.

          • Carlos IMG says:

            You’re correct. Things can get messy with a split. The PCUSA has a better setup for congregations wishing to separate.

          • John S. says:

            The PCUSA has a very different polity than the UMC. PC (all kinds) congregations have much greater autonomy. For the UMC to follow that path the Bishops and conferences would have to divested of much of their power.

    • John S. says:

      There are many Methodist Churches already, UMC, Free, Weslyan Methodist, etc. This is about the UMC though and the two cannot share power within the same denomination.

      • MarcoPolo says:

        Duly noted, John S.
        But why is there such calamity over making the distinction between those churches that wish to adhere to a more Orthodox version, over the more Progressive groups?
        The Episcopal church made several transformations over the last couple of centuries, why then can’t the Methodists?

        I recall the Methodist Church growing in the sixties, while I was a young teenager. It finally seemed like the church was taking a more compassionate approach to social issues such as Equal Rights for minorities, and thus rebranded itself for a more definitive role in America.
        I imagine that same evolution will be required for the current UMC.

        • John S. says:

          Because the UMC is a top driven, centralized, power hungry beast. To differentiate on a congregational basis power would have to be centered in the congregation rather than the Bishops, Boards and conferences. Congregations cannot choose their Pastors, set their apportionments, and must accomadate their charge conferences to the DS. What will you do if a congregation is self identified as Progressive and the Bishop says, here is your Orthodox Pastor? Or will denominational id now contain a subset UMC(P), UMC(O) and UMC(former)?

          • MarcoPolo says:

            I had always wondered what role the District Superintendent held…. but to ask another question, why then wouldn’t it be agreeable for a congregation to be able to select their pastors.
            I’m imagining a Methodist Church where they distinguish themselves as you suggested, ie: UMC(Progressive), and UMC(Orthodox).

          • John S. says:

            To take the power away from the Bishops would require a bigger change and a harder fight than anything seen on the LBGTQX front. The UMC is power driven from the top down. To give the congregations/laity power and authority is against the DNA. Could you see what would happen to the GBCS if it were suddenly accountable?

  2. localhistorywriter says:

    Rest assured that, when church liberals are in private, their conversations are even more blatant (and anti-Christian) than the things you captured off the web. I know these people, what they say about conservative Christians could not be reproduced on this site.

    The religious left lives in a fantasy world – first off, they’ll claim that the church is bound to decline in numbers if it doesn’t conform to the secular culture – a delusion easily disproved by the facts. On the rare occasions that they acknowledge this hard data, they will indeed admit that they couldn’t care less if the denomination shrinks – because what’s left will be THEIR church, which they won’t have to share with “bigots” and “haters.” The bureaucrats in all the mainlines have been pro-gay for years, and there is zero chance of them ever giving people with traditional Christian views any real say in things. Given their delight in fantasy, I think they really do believe that the shrunken church really is “more Christian” – in their view, the people who leave were nasty, hate-filled people who would have stayed on if they had been truly Christian. What the left wants is a church that fully embraces the gay agenda, the feminist agenda, and the environmentalist agenda – and don’t kid yourself into thinking that they won’t add on new agendas as needed, such as polyamory and pedophilia.

  3. Dan says:

    John,

    It sounds like you are celebrating the Columbus Day replacement holiday, Indignant Persons’ Day 🙂 !

    I think the other more insidious move currently underway is the “Day of Holy Conferencing” on human sexuality being planned by many annual conferences. I hope Mark Tooley and you will report on the Virginia Annual Conference Day of Holy Conversation scheduled for this November 22 at Woodlake UMC in the Richmond suburbs. I expect much weeping and wailing about how mean the UMC is for not being “fully” inclusive and how spiritual violence has been done to those excluded. It will be all about “feelings”, and scripture will undoubtedly be contorted to support the rainbow banner crowd’s demands. I thought bishop Cho was a more orthodox choice after the disaster that was Charlene Kammerer, but I looks like the fix is in.

    • StarlightMama says:

      Considering that Bishop Cho has quite vocally chosen to uphold the Book of Discipline in light of same sex marriage being allowed in VA, I think your assessment of him is premature and grossly unfair. I know him to be an upstanding man of prayer, rising early in the morning to pray for the churches and pastors in the conference. You also forget that while his cultural background is a conservative one, he was called to ministry in a liberal area (Northern VA) and no doubt, there will be those from that area who will have him in crosshairs. His battle is not an easy one and if anything, you should be praying for him instead of lobbing snark bombs at him from your high horse.

  4. Nick Porter says:

    I went to see if they still had it up, but they took it down. They can’t even own up to what they truly want to happen. What they want is for the entire UMC to bow to their demands. I hope when the UMC has their next convention that they get defeated even worse than the other times they tried to push that shameful garbage through.

  5. xnlover says:

    About half-way through reading this, the prodigal son’s older brother came to mind. I’m guessing his father had to listen to a similar list of specifics after the brother had come home and that the short list we have in the scriptures is but a small sampling of what the brother said.

    • Carlos IMG says:

      Are you comparing the younger brother to progressives? Nothing alike. The younger son acknowledged his sins and begged his father’s forgiveness. I’ve never heard a progressive even use the word “sin” except for the collective sins – racism, sexism, homophobia. Speaking as a former Methodist, I would be happy to see the progressives pull out of the UM, considering that in the other mainlines the liberals have continued to control things, forcing the Christians in the UM to find godly churches. Progressives have an obsession with hanging on to the “brand name,” even as they watch their numbers dwindle.

  6. jlagrone says:

    John,
    I appreciate your concerns, but feel that a “like” on a Facebook status doesn’t constitute news. Surely there are bigger fish to fry in the UM Renewal discussion this week?

  7. Steve Rodriguez says:

    With all due respect, the mainline Protestant faiths are reaping what they have sowed. To allow women to lead the Church, in violation of God’s Word, and then to allow the monster and vile abomination of homosexuality into the Church, what did you think was going to happen?

    1) 1 Timothy 2

    8 I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy
    hands, without wrath and doubting; 9 in like manner also, that the women
    adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not
    with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, 10 but, which is
    proper for women professing godliness, with good works. 11 Let a woman
    learn in silence with all submission. 12 And I do not permit a woman to
    teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.

    2) Leviticus 18:
    “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.”
    “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have
    committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood
    is upon them.”

    Also, I Corinthians, Romans 1, I could go on, you should know better than I.

  8. Since when did the Bible change on issues on fornication ?

  9. Terry Smith says:

    I don’t believe in vilence and burning down a church is vilence, there must be a better way to change the minds of the church goers than to perform vilence.

    • MarcoPolo says:

      I’m pretty sure the “Burn the damned church down” was just a sarcastic and extreme expression of dissapointment in the church’s policy.
      I too, don’t condone violence, but on the subject of equal rights for marriage, why forbid someone of their ability to contribute to society as a “certified couple”?
      It’s not going to affect anyone else’s marriage one bit!

  10. Terry Smith says:

    I do believe that there shouldn’t have a wedding for gay people it is against God it is a obomination to Him.

  11. Heddrick Steel says:

    What goes around comes around. If the rules don’t count, then the rules don’t count. Sauce for the goose; sauce for the gander. The bottom line: don’t go telling some that that group over there can pick and choose the rules they follow, but that this group can’t.

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