There Bill Mefford goes again.
Mefford is paid in part by apportionments skimmed from the offering-plate offerings of (largely unsuspecting) United Methodists around the country to be the “Director of Civil and Human Rights” for a D.C. lobby office called the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society (GBCS).
On his Facebook page, one of our denomination’s most respected and accomplished elder statesmen, the Rev. Dr. Maxie Dunnam, responded to the recent Supreme Court decision legally redefining marriage with the reminder that “Jesus, not the Supreme Court, defines marriage for the Church.”
This was met with a quick response from Mefford, who publicly changed his Facebook picture to celebrate the Supreme Court ruling against the United Methodist Social Principles he is paid to defend, and who strikingly admitted “Well I never have asked Jesus to define marriage…”
Mefford’s full response is here:
In this response at First Things magazine, Matthew Schmitz helpfully notes some of the many problems with the rather unthoughtful, essentially anti-Trinitarian theology promoted by the GBCS spokesman. Schmitz also notes Dunnam’s heroism in standing up for civil rights in the Deep South in the early 1960s, which notably contrasts with the unbravery of simply following the surrounding culture.
Like the notoriously juvenile “shellfish argument” for church acceptance of homosexuality, suggestions that Jesus is somehow irrelevant or that He “said nothing” about homosexuality are only effective with folk without much familiarity with the New Testament. Regular readers of the Bible understand that the Gospels do not claim to record every one of his teachings and doings on Earth, and that about the only sort of explicit teaching on homosexual practice that would have been especially noteworthy in Christ’s first-century Jewish context would be if He had preached anything contrary to strong Old Testament prohibitions of the practice (and no one has produced a shred of evidence that He did so). But in fact Jesus was rather strong in broadly affirming the Old Testament moral law — as opposed to its ceremonial or civil law, a distinction affirmed in the UMC doctrinal standards. Furthermore, Jesus specifically decried all “sexual immorality,” which He knew His Torah-believing Jewish audience would have understood as including homosexual practice, while preaching a morality that, on sexuality and other matters, was significantly more demanding than the bare letter of Old Testament law, not less. And of course, however much folk like Mefford may choose to ignore it, Jesus could hardly have been more explicit in defining God’s design for marriage as one man and one woman united for life.
However, the sad fact of the matter is that Scriptural depth cannot be said to be one of the GBCS’s strong points. At the last GBCS board of directors meeting, the GBCS’s staff and its extremely ideologically stacked board of directors bizarrely engaged in pantheistic-sounding “Mother Earth” prayer while twisting Scripture into painfully non sequiter proof texts. I honestly have yet to observe a single supporter of the GBCS’s efforts to use the church for its lefty, partisan political agendas indicate any concern or interest in at least correcting such GBCS sloppiness on foundational spiritual and Scriptural matters.
But it is rather striking how many liberal GBCS leaders so readily call crops like corn and squash “sisters” while they are unwilling to respect less liberal United Methodists as their brothers and sisters in Christ in any meaningful way.
Another notable moment of that GBCS meeting was when the Rev. Susan Henry-Crowe, the GBCS’s General Secretary (i.e., CEO), identified responsible use of social media as a key challenge for her staff to address.
But how interested is Henry-Crowe’s staff in not embarrassing her, given how her subordinates’ behavior inherently reflects on both her and the GBCS as a whole?
This is not the first time Mr. Mefford has drawn attention to himself on social media. For a while, he had a habit of aggressively “trolling” the IRD Facebook page. We have reported earlier this year on how Mefford caused a stir, and an unprecedented public apology from his boss (shortly before that board meeting), with his mocking pro-lifers with the sort of loveless, open contempt several GBCS staffers have longed displayed for orthodox faith and for less liberal United Methodists. The GBCS could have seen that incident as a wake-up call to address its systemic problems and could have pursued genuine repentance of shifting direction, rather than offering a quick lip-service apology before rushing back to business as usual.
In contrast to his partial apology for mocking pro-lifers, with this latest incident, Mefford has made clear he is not backing down an inch. In the world according to him, the First Things article printing the verbatim whole of his “I never have asked Jesus” post and highlighting its logical and theological problems makes that magazine guilty of “slander[ing] and l[ying] about people without any basis of truth.” Furthermore, he approvingly retweeted a suggestion that objection to the GBCS using the UMC’s name and resources to promote the sort of worldview espoused in Mefford’s post have no legitimate or sincere concerns, but rather are part of “the anti-liberal industry” who go around “defaming” such “witnesses” as Mefford for the cynical sake of getting money.
Neither Mefford nor supportive GBCS board member Lonnie Chafin appears to have noticed the irony in their attacking the entirely supporter-based funding of an orthodox Christian publication like First Things while the GBCS itself takes the bulk of its own funding, including for its staffers’ generous salaries, from blatantly re-appropriating money that was explicitly restricted for “temperance and alcohol problems” and from the offering plates of a church whose teachings they openly oppose.
Aside even aside from the major issues of the GBCS’s practices of disregarding Christ and Scripture, and the open rudeness for which its staff has long been known, IRD President Mark Tooley recently noted that this underscores how “Our church has clear [biblical] teachings on marriage in church and in civil society that the GBCS has for decades ignored, reviled and lobbied against.”
If the GBCS were willing to do anything to move in a more constructive direction, no one would be happier to celebrate this than me. I recently demonstrated my willingness to publicly praise even the tiniest baby steps by the GBCS in a better direction, before the GBCS effectively turned away from them.
But if GBCS leaders and its monolithically liberal staff want to dismiss IRD/UMAction as part of the vast “anti-liberal industry” for calling the GBCS to actually walk the walk of “creating a culture of respect,” to have the integrity to keep their own word to support our church’s biblical doctrinal and moral standards, and to not pester and oppose United Methodists who actually support those standards, then we wear that label as a badge of honor.
And we will continue to work for a reformed and truly accountable GBCS, with or without the cooperation of its current staffers.