The Wisconsin Association of Confessing United Methodists, or WACUM, is a group of Wisconsin United Methodists who have been organized for about 20 years and seek to both hold the United Methodist Church to its historic standards and keep it firmly planted within the orthodox family of Christian Churches. Its Board is elected annually from the members with equal lay and clergy representation. Its past and present presidents have been both lay and clergy and its 4 officers are also evenly divided between lay and clergy.
The WACUM Executive Committee today publicized this letter to Wisconsin Bishop Hee-Soo Jung and the Wisconsin Conference Board of Ordained Ministry (BOOM) Co-Chair Rebecca Henry, in response to the BOOM’s recent announcement, which Bishop Jung allowed to be publicized on the Wisconsin Annual Conference website, that they apparently intend to join a handful of other declining, theologically secularized annual conferences in disregarding United Methodist standards forbidding the approval for ordination of candidates unwilling to abstain from sexual relations outside of monogamous, heterosexual marriage.
(In related news, recent statistics revealed that under Bishop Jung’s leadership, the Wisconsin Conference has the third-greatest proportional membership decline of United Methodism’s roughly five dozen U.S. annual conferences.)
Dear Bishop Jung and Rev Rebecca Henry,
We, The Executive Board of The Wisconsin Association of Confessing United Methodists were very disappointed with the actions of the Wisconsin UMC Board of Ordained Ministry; we therefore send you this letter. It will be sent to Michelle Virnig as well the Cabinet and released to the public through various means on Thursday, December 1, 2016 of this week.
The Executive Board of The Wisconsin Association of Confessing United Methodists notes with sadness the following press release from our Wisconsin UMC Board of Ordained Ministry.
From the November 15, 2016 edition of ENEWS of the Wisconsin Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church published this notice:
After spending more than six hours in prayerful deliberation, the following statement was edited and adopted by the Wisconsin Board of Ordained Ministry: “The Book of Discipline charges the Board of Ordained Ministry to ‘renew a culture of call in the church by giving strategic leadership.’ Discrimination interferes with our ability to respond fairly to all whom God calls to ministry. The Wisconsin Annual Conference Board of Ordained Ministry recognizes that our members, our Annual Conference, and The United Methodist Church are not of one mind about credentialing LGBTQ individuals. The Board holds all candidates to high standards for fitness, readiness and effectiveness in ministry. We do not consider sexual orientation and gender identity to be sufficient reasons, on their own, to deny God’s call to ministry and they will not be considered in the evaluation of candidates by the Board of Ordained Ministry. Board members conscientiously and prayerfully examine each candidate. While the Board makes every effort to reach consensus, if we cannot, members may vote their conscience.” (Underline added)
The Wisconsin Association of Confessing United Methodists Executive Committee (WACUM) finds the statement underlined above to be in complete disagreement with the United Methodist Book of Discipline and the duties and responsibilities of the Wisconsin Conference Board of Ordained Ministry.
In particular, we refer to pages 718-721 of the United Methodist Book of Worship, including the questions 8 through 13,
- Have you studied the doctrines of The United Methodist Church?
- After full examination, do you believe that our doctrines are in harmony with the Holy Scriptures?
- Will you preach and maintain them?
- Have you studied our form of Church discipline and polity?
- Do you approve our Church government and polity?
- Will you support and maintain them?
And the guidelines and rules for their functioning as an agency of the Annual Conference as found in the Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, paragraphs:
- 304.1.i which states that those seeking ordination shall “Accept that Scripture contains all things necessary for salvation through faith in God through Jesus Christ; be competent in . . . Church polity; . . .”
- 304.1.j Be accountable to the United Methodist Church, accept its Doctrinal Standards and Discipline. . .
- 304.3 While persons set apart for ordained ministry are subject to all the frailties of the human condition and the pressures of society, they are required to maintain the highest standards of holy living in the world. The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in the United Methodist Church.
- 635.2.h To examine all applicants as to their fitness for the ordained ministry and to make full inquiry as to the fitness of the candidate . . .
- 635.2.i To provide all candidates for ordained ministry a written statement of the disciplinary and annual conference requirements . . .
Members of the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry (BOOM) are to serve within the rules established by our General Conference and Wisconsin Annual Conference and do not have the privilege of promulgating any other rules or abrogating those set before them via the Book of Discipline (BOD). Committee members unable or unwilling to abide by the BOD in the discharge of their responsibilities as members of the Conference BOOM are unfit to serve and should remove themselves from the BOOM or be removed from serving on the BOOM.
While the BOOM does “not consider sexual orientation and gender identity to be sufficient reasons, on their own, to deny God’s call to ministry,” and recognizes The United Methodist Church is not of one mind on this issue, they have no authority to change or in any way abrogate their responsibilities as outlined in the BOD. The General Conference of the UMC alone establishes the evaluative criteria and selection process for all seeking ordination in the UMC.
The policy change of BOOM violates Judicial Council decisions that state that “annual conferences may not legally negate, ignore, or violate provisions of the Discipline with which they disagree, even when the disagreements are based upon conscientious objections to those provisions” (decision 886). For BOOM or the Wisconsin Conference to ignore or violate provisions of the Discipline related to the qualifications for ordained ministry is to break faith with the people of the church and to tear the fabric of the church’s unity. It is an act of schism.
Therefore, we, the Executive Committee of WACUM request a public response from our Episcopal Leader, Bishop Hee-Soo Jung, ruling that the actions of the Board of Ordained Ministry to disregard and abrogate those portions of the Book of Discipline with which they disagree are null and void and to instruct them to be obedient to their ordination vows as explained above. We also request that present BOOM members unable and/or unwilling to abide by our BOD in the discharge of their duties remove themselves or be removed from the BOOM and be replaced by Bishop Jung, who has the authority to name persons to serve on the BOM between sessions of the Annual Conference.
The Wisconsin Association of Confessing United Methodists Executive Committee
Rev. Ethan Lowell Larson, President
Rev. Scott McMurray, Vice-President
Lynn Messner, Secretary
Jeanne Haugen, Treasurer
Rev. Paul Yoder
Rev. Karen Booth