January 29, 2015

Large UMC Congregation Halts Paying Apportionments: Liberal Hypocrisy (Part 2)

In Part 1, I explained some (but by no means all) of the pressures that have made redirecting denominational apportionment payments into an escrow fund seem like an attractive option for some evangelical United Methodist congregations, and how this situation could have been avoided by some faithful and courageous leadership by our bishops.

It is worth further noting how negative reactions to such an action by more theologically liberal United Methodists are actually quite hypocritical.

There is no moral consistency in decrying such apportionment escrowing by evangelical United Methodists, like those at Mt. Bethel UMC, as an unacceptable strike against the integrity and unity of our denomination’s covenantal covenant, without being as vehement in protesting the liberal covenant-breaking noted in Part 1.

And activists in the any-means-necessary “reconciling” movement, who have themselves long been doing whatever they can to violate, tear apart, and undermine our denomination’s official doctrine, covenantal standards, and mutual trust, have zero credibility in now suddenly professing concern for our denominational covenant, connection, and unity.

Furthermore, anyone who would be at all more forceful in condemning or calling for action against an evangelical congregation for threatening the financial pipeline (from which they and their favored pet causes benefit) than they are in seeking concrete action against the theologically liberal threats noted in Part 1 to Christian faithfulness, morality, and mission according to our United Methodist doctrinal standards, betray a rather materialistic misplacement of priorities.

Even according to institutionally idolatrous standard of treating apportionments as the only part of our denominational covenant worth enforcing, or at least by far the most important part, there remains quite a bit of liberal hypocrisy.

Some who would lambaste an evangelical United Methodist congregation escrowing its apportionments seem willing to give a free pass to theologically liberal United Methodist congregations taking the more dramatic step of simply not paying their apportionments.

For example, here in the Chicago area, several liberal, “reconciling” congregations “withheld” (in the sense of simply not paying) between 93 and 100 percent of their assigned apportionments in the last year for which records are available: Bethany UMC of Fox Valley in Aurora, along with Edison Park UMC, Broadway UMC, Epworth UMC, and Irving Park UMC in Chicago. Those five congregations alone were responsible for $97,554 in unpaid apportionments.

It is also important to note that these congregations are also breaking covenant in another significant way: by being formally affiliated with the sexually liberal Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN). RMN is our denomination’s largest unofficial caucus promoting theological liberalism. It is perhaps best known for its self-righteous protests disrupting each of the last several General Conferences, and promotes church acceptance of not only homosexual practice but also pre-marital cohabitation, open bathrooms, and “polyamory” (concurrent multiple sexual partners). A series of UMC Judicial Council decisions, as recently as 2011, have clearly forbidden such formal congregational caucus affiliations. Since that time, evangelical United Methodists have honored this part of church law, discontinuing the practice of having congregations formally affiliated with the Confessing Movement and/or Transforming Congregations, while RMN has defied it.

Here represents another failure of our bishops, thus pointing back to evangelical concerns with apportionments. Including one who is now retired, I can count on one hand the number of bishops I have heard of ever doing anything to prevent congregations in their areas from affiliating with RMN. To be fair, there are some additional annual conferences in which there are no RMN congregations listed, but it is unclear how much this is due to the bishop doing anything vs. simple lack of local interest. Meanwhile, other bishops have actually expressed pride in their congregations that thus violate church law.

I have reported earlier on how one of the heroes of the “reconciling” movement, the Rev. Steven Heiss of the Upper New York Conference, has led his congregation into dramatic decline, is burdening his entire conference by rather obnoxiously forcing regional leadership to deal with his childish defiance of church standards on marriage, and while being such a burden on the rest of the connection, his congregation only paid slight over half of its fair share of apportionments.

Nationally, one of the liberal caucuses, Amy DeLong’s “Love Prevails” (aka, Love Bullies) group, has a stated mission that includes urging liberals to “divest” their money – as well as their presence, service, and even prayers – from any part of the United Methodist Church not submitting to their agenda. And this is the group that has enjoyed the uncritical support and enabling of the main older liberal caucuses (the Methodist Federation for Social Action and RMN) as well as sympathetic bishops and the majority-liberal faction of the Connectional Table.

At the big-picture level, there is great, not always neatly predictable unevenness in how much of their assigned share of apportionments different congregations and annual conferences actually pay.

But no one doubts that by far the most theologically liberal of our denomination’s five U.S. jurisdictions is the Western Jurisdiction, where United Methodists who actually believe in our denomination’s official doctrine are marginalized, sometimes rather harshly. And the hard statistics are crystal clear that the radicalized Western Jurisdiction has for years consistently lagged far behind the other four jurisdictions in the percentage it pays of its assigned share of apportionments.

Furthermore, in their political machinations, theologically liberal United Methodists have (so far successfully) defended a system in which even if the Western Jurisdiction paid 100% of its assigned apportionments, it would still have the dubious distinction of being the only U.S. jurisdiction uniquely privileged with more bishops than it pays for itself, while also being the only one contributing nothing to support overseas bishops.

I recently came across an amusing argument from a noted liberal caucus figure trying to dismiss concerns about how, in proportion to actual membership, the (mainly white) Western Jurisdiction has over nine times as many bishops as central Africa (where about half of black United Methodists live).  The main parts of the argument, which I pass on for readers’ amusement are:

  • Western Jurisdiction “progressives” are somehow doing better in paying apportionments than the other regions, even though every other U.S. jurisdiction has been paying a significantly higher percentage of their respectively assigned apportionments, because Western Jurisdiction leaders have successfully shrunk their membership to such a tiny point, especially relative to other jurisdictions, that even 20% non-payment of apportionments in the West amounts to less absolute dollars that 10% nonpayment in any other jurisdiction.
  • The Western Jurisdiction’s oversupply of bishops means that its bishops have time to hold the presidencies of three UMC denominational agencies (more than any region other than the Southeast), the presidency of the global Council of Bishops, the vice-presidency of the Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters (which exerts powerful influence in determining which petitions related to our global church get ultimately adopted), and the single official slot for representing the Council of Bishops on the powerful Commission on the General Conference (a body arguably more powerful than General Conference itself) – but somehow none of this amounts to “any real influence at all.”

More seriously, I would love to see anyone now criticizing Mt. Bethel UMC for escrowing apportionments demonstrate some moral consistency by criticizing those theologically liberal United Methodists who have done so much to undermine our denominational connection (in addition to not paying their own assigned apportionments), as well as Western Jurisdiction liberals who are not doing their part in paying for bishops.

But I won’t hold my breath.

10 Responses to Large UMC Congregation Halts Paying Apportionments: Liberal Hypocrisy (Part 2)

  1. the_enemy_hates_clarity says:

    I’m no fan of withholding apportionments, but unless radical surgery is done at General Conference, there will be a lot more of it. How long do we continue to fund disobedience and heresy? And ultimately isn’t there a moral obligation to withhold apportionments.

    And the changes at General conference can’t be cosmetic or just around the edges. This is what I would like to see:

    1. 2 term limit for Bishops.
    2. Retired Bishops no longer have an official role on the Council of Bishops.
    3. Council of Bishops meetings are open.
    4. Bishops are reapportioned so each Bishop represents the same number of members.
    5. Agency Boards are significantly reduced in number, and also reapportioned so each jurisdiction has the # of Board members warranted by its membership.
    6. All complaints re: same sex ceremonies or relationships go to a special committee formed at General Conference. All complaints must be resolved in 6 months. 1 year suspension for first offense, defocking for second.

    In Christ,

    The enemy hates clarity

  2. Trish Martin says:

    Easy solution – United Methodist members who don’t want their money going to apportionments (like me) write checks for specific things to benefit only their church. Put the purpose on the memo line – youth group, purchase of music, utility bills, building programs, etc. Then the church itself dosen’t have to go to all this trouble.

  3. Pudentiana says:

    After reading the article it brings to mind the story of a marriage where one is continually faithful and contributes while the partner is unfaithful and squandering the shared wealth. This adulterous behavior can only lead to a miserable separation.

  4. Phil Griffin says:

    The Desert Southwest Conference is listed on the RMN website, I assume with the Bishop’s approval. There are also 8 churches in the conference listed as well. I wasn’t aware this was against a Judicial Council ruling. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Orter T. says:

    Liberals/progressives never learned the concept that their freedoms/rights end where the next person’s nose begins. This was the concept of freedom instilled in me by my 6th grade teacher when she told the story of a newly arrived immigrant getting off the ship. He/she was so excited, they started jumping around, flinging their arms yelling “I’m free! I’m free!”. Problem was in their exuberant celebration of their new found freedom and their right to celebrate it, they punched a bystander in the nose.

  6. MarcoPolo says:

    Agreements made by contract are hopefully agreeable to all parties.
    When one pledges allegiance to a group, it is expected that they will contribute to the betterment of that group.
    This current conflict with certain jurisdictions withholding their apportionments is clearly a violation of contract.

    By comparison, I still pay Federal taxes that support military actions that I disagree with, I’m still obligated to pay!

    • Michael73501 says:

      It seems to me that the “violation of contract” works BOTH ways – and that violation started with those who swore to affirm and keep the principles, values, and morals of the offices and boards they are hold (and hold in contempt) !

      It urge all UM everywhere to have no fellowship with these “unfruitful works of darkness” and keep your money. Believe me, the immoral “rats” on the UM ship will quickly depart hen the $$$$$ stops. The sooner the better….

  7. Michael73501 says:

    The original mechanisms that the UMC put into place to control the UMC – the conferences, councils, organizations, “bishops”, and groups – are broken! Those “mechanisms” worked great for UMC when people had principles and morals, kept their vows and their word. Today, those things the mechanisms needed and relied upon are GONE!

    Defunding the “evil companions” it is keeping is the only chance UMC has to survive. They are only here because the money keeps flowing in for them. WAKE UP !! It is probably already too late!

  8. Terry Harris says:

    Methodist no longer; a committed, Spirit filled Christian yes. All I see in the main article (and comments too) are concerns about commitments rational to a ‘system’, every bit the structure of a business corporation, replete with elites controlling very large amounts of lucre, and new and improved initiatives, err, I mean ministries. The unspoken assumption is, of course God loves ‘good’ capitalism himself and is in fact the invisible CEO, but the lower level officers speak and plan on His behalf.
    But as the article says, “Furthermore, in their *political machinations*, theologically *liberal* United Methodists have (so far successfully) defended *a system* in which even if the Western *Jurisdiction* paid 100% of its assigned apportionments, it would still have the dubious distinction of being the only U.S. jurisdiction uniquely privileged with *more bishops than it pays for itself*, while also being the only one contributing nothing to support overseas bishops.”
    So, here we have concerns that success in christian ministry rises or falls with politics and fluctuations in financial systems with pretensions to legal maneuvers: the ‘machinations’ of the Spirit in this church appears not to even be in the calculus. Just like in the UMC I used to go to, I hear ‘talk about’ and ‘references to’ the New Testament, but I have yet once to hear the language of the New Testament in any methodist church.
    No, this looks exactly like Romans 12:2, scripture warning “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” When believers are actually compliant in worship with the movement of the Spirit, the church grows and money matters recede by being put into proper Kingdom perspective. When churches sidelines the Spirit in pursuit of money, financial management systems and tools, investments and real estate, all to establish ‘security for the church’s future’, have already sidelined the mind of the Risen Savior in the midst of praise and spiritual worship which is a palpable loss; faith in the assembly then suffers a lack of oxygen no longer hearing the pneuma, the living Word of God spoken in spiritual worship, so people still hungry for the unexpurgated Word of God go away empty to ‘knock at the door’ – elsewhere. It’s what happens when a business corporation puts on liturgical robes and ‘spins’ its rationale for existence: fewer and fewer people believe the hype no matter how well intentioned and earnestly delivered. Spiritually hungry people don’t want a seventh day of business so this might be where He braids a whip relative to the existence of the UMC system.

  9. Sherman Dudley Jr says:

    Where God guides, He provides! A system like this is found nowhere in the Gospels, The Book of Acts and not taught in the Epistles; therefore we, the Church should not be practicing and following such a worldly business system.

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