UMC Judicial Council

April 20, 2017

A Preview of the UMC Judicial Council’s April 2017 Cases

In the United Methodist Church’s structure, the Judicial Council serves as the equivalent of our denomination’s supreme court. Its next semi-annual meeting will be held April 25-28 in Newark, New Jersey.

Some high-profile cases are directly related to United Methodism’s controversies over sexual morality.

Official UMC policies teach that marriage is only between one man and one woman, say that sex is only for within this covenant, call all homosexual practice “incompatible with Christian teaching,” and forbid clergy from performing same-sex union ceremonies or personally being sexually active in any way outside of monogamous, heterosexual marriage. However, a relatively tiny but very disruptive minority of UMC clergy have been openly defying these policies.

Given the widespread interest in these cases within and beyond my denomination, as well as widespread misunderstanding of how this process actually works, I offer this overview of all of the cases on which the Judicial Council will rule next week. Five of these seven cases are directly related to our controversies over sexual morality.

 

Docket #0417-1: The South Central Jurisdiction’s Request for a Declaratory Decision (aka, the Karen Oliveto case)

Last July, delegates in the Western Jurisdiction (one of the five large jurisdictions into which American United Methodism is geographically divided) eventually voted to elect the Rev. Dr. Karen Oliveto of San Francisco, an openly partnered lesbian, to be bishop, despite the aforementioned policies in the UMC’s governing Book of Discipline.

Oliveto was public about her lesbian partnership since at least 2014, and so the expectation of our church law is that she would have faced accountability for violating the Discipline’s explicit ban on ordaining “self-avowed practicing homosexuals.” But under California-Nevada Bishop Warner Brown, who retired last year, this did not happen. Oliveto told the media that Bishop Brown “has been very supportive of me and my wife.”

It is proper and important for church leaders and all involved in our denominational discussions to raise such questions as what this election may mean for the Way Forward Commission, why those defending and filing briefs on Oliveto’s behalf were so committed to spending so much time to make sure someone with her bizarre theology of rejecting Jesus Christ’s own explicit teachings while defending the alleged benefits of demon possession is made a prominent church leader, and why no liberal United Methodist that I’ve seen appears willing to criticize the dictator-like ways in which Oliveto has used the bishop’s office to seek out and attack what she calls “the bad churches” (her actual words!) who hold to official UMC doctrine.

But strictly speaking, the Judicial Council’s rulings next week will not be on such big-picture matters, but rather on much narrower questions of church law. It is even a bit misleading to refer to this case as “the Oliveto case,” as many are doing, since that suggests that this is a sort of trial for Karen Oliveto and that this case is exclusively about her, neither of which is the case.

As Dr. Oliveto was being elected, delegates to the 2016 South Central Jurisdictional Conference, which was meeting at the same time, were aware of this. And so they decided, by majority vote, to ask the Judicial Council to rule on a set of specific questions made in direct response to Oliveto’s election. These questions were submitted by Ms. Dixie Brewster, a lay delegate from the Great Plains Annual Conference and Steering Committee member of IRD’s UMAction team.

In February, Lonnie Brooks, former lay leader of the Alaska Conference, publicly shared the contents of the ten legal briefs that have been submitted to the Judicial Council in response to these questions. These briefs came from individual or groups of United Methodists in all five U.S. jurisdictions as well as Africa and the Philippines. For the record, as a strong advocate of transparency, I personally have no problem with his revealing what I submitted to the Judicial Council.

[UPDATE: I have posted here a copy of the legal brief I submitted to the Judicial Council.]

Then more recently, the United Methodist News Service publicized official copies of the briefs submitted by both the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops and by Ms. Brewster through her counsel, the Rev. Keith Boyette, esq.

There are essentially three basic steps of the Judicial Council’s ruling in this upcoming case.

First, before it does anything else, the Judicial Council needs to decide if it has “jurisdiction” to rule on the questions. The argument that under our church law, the Western Jurisdiction electing Karen Oliveto is none of the South Central Jurisdiction’s dang business has been made in briefs submitted by:

  • Brooks along with his co-author, Rev. David Livingston (who as a clergy delegate from the Great Plains Conference had tried to convince fellow South Central Jurisdiction delegates not to bring this matter before the Judicial Council);
  • Richard Marsh and Llewelyn Pritchard, Chancellors of the Rocky Mountain and Pacific-Northwest Annual Conferences, respectively, in the name of every active and retired bishop in the Western Jurisdiction, as well as of Dr. Oliveto herself;
  • Rev. Thomas Griffith, retired elder of the California-Pacific Conference;
  • Kevin Nelson, whose statements and actions reflect on the organization, United Methodist Women, which commissioned him as their “home missioner” and ambassador.

If the Judicial Council accepts the first part of the arguments separately made by each of the individuals noted above, then that will be the end of its ruling. Because if the Judicial Council has no “jurisdiction” (or authority) to rule on the substance of this case, then there is nothing more for the Judicial Council to say.

But that would be a rather surprising result. No less prominent United Methodist leaders than the executive committee of the Council of Bishops publicly urged the Judicial Council to rule on this case during the latter’s October 2016 meeting. But the leadership of the Judicial Council declined this request, citing the need for sufficient time for consideration of the matters raised by the case. Why do that if the final result would be to only issue a very brief, one-page ruling that avoids addressing the very church-law matters the Judicial Council needed more time to consider?

If the Judicial Council decides that it does, indeed, have jurisdiction to rule on the questions (really, one integrated question with several sub-questions) submitted by the South Central Jurisdiction, then it must rule on the actual questions themselves. These questions, which can be read here, are what is centrally before the Judicial Council here. While they necessarily include a lot of UM church-law jargon, the bottom line is that they ask the Judicial Council to issue an authoritative, binding statement on what the standards in the UMC Discipline on marriage and sexual morality really mean, particularly in terms of whether or not someone’s being in a same-sex “marriage” (or same-sex civil union) “of public record” counts as them violating the Discipline’s ban on ordaining “self-avowed practicing homosexuals,” and whether or not someone in such a public homosexual relationship can be made a United Methodist bishop.

Contrary to what some have claimed, whatever the Judicial Council rules on these questions will become binding church law for our whole denomination, not just the Western Jurisdiction, and not just for the specific case of Oliveto.

Interestingly, the brief of the Western Jurisdiction bishops appears to take pains to avoid admitting that Oliveto’s election is any sort of protest against what these same bishops have elsewhere described as the Discipline’s unjust and immoral policies on homosexuality which they have committed to disobeying. Rather, the Western Jurisdiction bishops are now declaring that, despite the provisions of the UMC Discipline noted above, “our polity is silent on whether the status of a same-sex marriage is allowed or prohibited between a clergyperson and another.” My brief and others have argued otherwise. (I do wonder what liberal caucus activists think of these most liberal of UMC bishops shifting from “biblical disobedience” to “professions of technical obedience” to the Discipline.)

Thirdly, after the Judicial Council makes a general ruling on the meaning and application of church law, we will need to see what they say that would point towards how our church law can be applied and enforced in the specific case of Karen Oliveto.

The Judicial Council will hear oral arguments on this case.

 

Docket #0417-2: The Northeastern Jurisdiction “Stop the Trials” Resolution

Several delegates from the New York Annual Conference, including Dr. Dorothee Benz of the Methodists in New Directions (MIND) group, submitted a resolution to the 2016 Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference. Originally entitled “Stop the Trials: A Moratorium by Bishops Within the Northeastern Jurisdiction,” this resolution denounced policies in the UMC Discipline forbidding clergy from performing same-sex marriages or being personally homosexually active, and sought to prevent these policies from being enforced anywhere in the Northeastern Jurisdiction.

Rev. Gere Reist (the liberal former Secretary of General Conference ) made an amendment to accomplish Benz’s goals by “request[ing]” relevant church officials throughout the Jurisdiction “to state that there are no funds available for” bringing accountability for clergy who choose to break these standards. While one brave delegate publicly noted that this amounted to “essentially asking people to lie” about their budgets, the majority of Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference delegates nevertheless voted to adopt this resolution with the Reist amendment.

One delegate then requested what is called a “decision of law.” This means that the bishop who was presiding over that session of the jurisdictional conference, Bishop Mark Webb of the Upper New York Conference, was required to write a legal opinion within 30 days of when the request submitted. The request questioned if the jurisdiction had any right to adopt the resolution discussed above.

Bishop Webb’s decision of law ruled that the resolution was invalid and “out of order,” citing well-established church law that jurisdictions and annual conferences have no right to negate, ignore, or violate portions of the Discipline, even if some people disagree with these portions of the Discipline.

When decisions of law are requested, first the decision is issued by a bishop and then the bishop’s decision is forwarded for the Judicial Council for review. The Judicial Council has authority to uphold or reverse any part of bishops’ decisions of law, as well as to rule that a request for such a decision was not properly submitted. Whatever the Judicial Council finally rules becomes binding church law.

It would be most consistent with a long history of previous rulings for the Judicial Council to simply affirm Bishop Webb’s ruling in this matter.

 

Docket #0417-3: Decision of Law from the Western Jurisdiction

In this case, the Judicial Council is basically being asked to rule on a very “insider baseball” matter about the Western Jurisdiction’s compliance with some rules in the Discipline about who may be eligible for or restricted from a certain position.

This case does not directly involve sexuality or other hot-button controversies.

 

Docket #0417-4: Mandatory Suspensions in “Just Resolutions”

When United Methodist clergy violate the covenantal standards of our denomination and refuse to repent, a main way to hold them accountable is by having a church trial, at which the offending pastor can be removed from ministry, or face a lesser penalty, if found guilty.

However, we also have a process called “just resolutions,” the church equivalent of out-of-court settlements, through which bishops are encouraged to help everyone agree to a resolution of the problem in a way that brings repentance and restoration without needing the expenses, time, and emotional drain of a church trial.

The problem is that in recent years, several bishops with more secularized Western values on sexual morality have abused this process when clergy have performed same-sex union ceremonies, in direct defiance of the UMC Discipline, by imposing “just resolutions” that involve no repentance, no restoration, no penalty (beyond such joke-penalties as “24-hour suspensions”), nor, as Scripture commands, any warning for other clergy to not follow the offender’s example.

So a United Methodist church group in Pennsylvania submitted four petitions that would have required that any “just resolutions” for the specific offense of performing a same-sex union ceremony, when the accused minister openly admits to having done this (so that there is no question of guilt or innocence), must include a one-year suspension from ministry. The submitted rationale for all four noted: “This is the only offense for which there has been a recent, widespread pattern of the ‘just resolution’ process being abused to effectively allow for open breaking of our moral, biblical, compassionate Disciplinary standards with which some bishops personally disagree.”

All four of these were passed by strong majorities in their legislative committee, but after being amended to apply to just resolutions for ALL offenses, not just those involving same-sex unions.

Before the full General Conference had a chance to vote on these four petitions, three of them were challenged and brought to the Judicial Council. In Decision #1318, the Judicial Council ruled that these petitions were unconstitutional, and so the General Conference could not vote on them. I have already critiqued the tortured logic of that ruling. That decision was based on the rather blatantly false claim that mandating suspensions as part of “just resolutions” would somehow take away clergy’s right to trial, and on the Judicial Council’s choice to ignore the rationale in the submitted text of each petition that such a change in church law “[p]reserves clergy right to trial without needing trials for accountability” – since offending clergy would still have every right to refuse a just resolution and face a church trial if they really, really wanted a trial.

But the bottom line is that at that time, the Judicial Council had a liberal majority, and they ruled in a way that promoted their biases rather than a strict construction of church law.

Then later, the Rev. Scot Campbell, a liberal leader from the New England Conference (and my old friend from my Harvard days), noticed that for some reason, the Judicial Council had only been asked to rule on only three of these four similar petitions, and so he moved to have the Judicial Council rule on the fourth one from this group, which specifically dealt with “just resolutions” for bishops accused of breaking our standards.

In this case, the Judicial Council will have the opportunity to either reverse some of the problems of the previously mentioned decision or to re-affirm that disappointing ruling.

 

Docket #0417-5: Pro-LGBTQ Ordination Policy in New York Conference

Can annual conferences (the UMC’s main geographic unit, of which there are dozens) adopt their own ordination policies in place of the ban (in ¶304 of the UMC Discipline) on ordaining “self-avowed practicing homosexuals”?

This central question is coming before the Judicial Council in both this case and the next one discussed below.

Last year, the New York Annual Conference publicly announced a new official policy REQUIRING some of those charged with screening ordination candidates to welcome gay candidates within that region of United Methodism, since “discriminating against married persons regardless of the gender of their spouse or against those who hope to be married is not the path we believe God is calling us to walk.”

A couple months later, the New York Conference made a big public deal of saying they had taken “historic” actions by ordaining and commissioning several gay activists under this new policy, at least one of whom publicly admits to being in a lesbian “marriage.”

At that same annual conference session, an evangelical pastor requested a decision of law, with the request challenging this new policy and asking for clarity on if the board of ordained ministry (the main body charged with screening ordination candidates) is required to determine if candidates meet the biblical standards of sexual self-control which the Discipline requires of all UMC clergy, and what right such boards have to approve clergy they believe to be in violation of these moral standards. (I have seen no one here object to the idea of ordaining individuals who are same-sex-attracted but, because of their Christian faith, committed to lifelong celibacy.)

As reported earlier, New York’s interim bishop (until last September), Bishop Jane Middleton, initially tried to avoid responding directly to these questions, until she was forced to do so by the Judicial Council.

I have submitted legal briefs on this case challenging both the new pro-LGBTQ ordination policy and the affirmations of certain gay-activist candidates under this policy. Others have submitted other briefs on different sides.

At one point, the current chair of the New York Conference board of ordained ministry (BOOM) characterized this case as asking the Judicial Council, “essentially, to rule on whether BOOM and its district Committees on Ordination can operate outside the disciplinary rule  (¶304).”

 

Docket #0417-6: Pro-LGBTQ Ordination Policy in Northern Illinois Conference

This case is very similar to the New York case above.

Last year, the Chicago-based Northern Illinois Conference Board of Ordained Ministry announced its own pro-LGBTQ ordination policy that was remarkably similar to that of the New York Conference, even using the exact same wording at one key point.

At the 2016 Northern Illinois annual conference session, an evangelical pastor there similarly requested a decision of law, challenging this new policy and seeking clarity on the board’s rights and responsibilities in determining ordination candidates’ compliance with the UMC Discipline’s biblical standards for sexual self-control.

As with the New York case, Chicago Area Bishop Sally Dyck initially tried to avoid responding directly to these questions, only to be forced to do so by the Judicial Council.

Two key differences from the New York case are first of all, that this Northern Illinois case included no record that I have seen of any particular gay activists actually being ordained under this new policy, and second of all, that Bishop Dyck’s latest response did end up ruling the pro-LGBTQ ordination policy “out of order.”

Beyond that, much of the church law involved in either one of the two cases discussed above would logically apply to the other.

 

Docket #0417-7: Decision of Law from West Michigan Conference

This case involves questions about the precise status in church law of campus ministries and campus ministers according to the rules of this one particular annual conference. It does not directly relate to major theological issues or moral controversies.


54 Responses to A Preview of the UMC Judicial Council’s April 2017 Cases

  1. Kaz says:

    Folks, when you see your church controlled by people who aren’t even remotely Christian, it’s time to leave. You may have a sentimental attachment to your local congregation, and you may feel the urge to stay in the denomination and “fight the good fight.” But consider the matter of stewardship of your precious time. The UMC is as rotten, spiritually and ethically, as the other mainlines, it’s just been slightly more hesitant to openly celebrate homosexuality, but be assured, the seminaries run by the UM are thoroughly and absolutely opposed to the sexual ethics taught in the New Testament.

    The ship is sinking. Why would you want to be on it? There are good churches out there, ones with real Christians. It may take some work to find the right fit, but it will be worth it.

    • Reed Swanson says:

      Do you realize that the United Methodist Church unlike other mainline denominations is international? The international church is growing more orthodox every day.

  2. Bernice McBride says:

    Since she ‘married’ another female, it doesn’t sound fabricated. It sounds factual. The Methodist church has been hijacked by lgbtq.

    • Dawn M. Flower Blundell says:

      That isn’t the fabricated part. It’s the “pro-demon, anti-Jesus theology” part, and probably the “bad churches” part, since he steadfastly refuses to substantiate it. Other more subtle forms of spin and alternative facts, too. I hear you about how you feel regarding LGBT issues, and I am sorry that their desire to be treated like human beings makes you feel hijacked. Do you feel that something is being taken from you, when gay people gain the same rights and responsibilities that you and I enjoy?

      • Michael C says:

        Who should we trust on this issue?
        You – or the New Testament?

        I’m sticking with the New Testament.

        I’m sure you’re very proud of being so “inclusive,” but being more inclusive than God is just a tad presumptuous. For 2000 years, Christians consistently taught that homosexuality is a sin which can exclude a person from heaven. It’s a curious coincidence (to put it mildly) that it wasn’t until the rise of the gay movement that some so-called “Christians” suddenly “discovered” that Christians had been wrong for 2000 years. The New Testament was wrong, and the gay activists are right? Sorry – FAIL.

        You may think you’re on the “right side of history,” but if you persist in condoning a sin that is clearly condemned in the New Testament, you may find yourself on the wrong side of Judgment Day. Christianity is not about conforming to the world, and the Religious Left is in total conformity.

        • Dawn M. Flower Blundell says:

          Oh, I think God is the one to trust above all, and conforming to God’s will is exactly what this issue is all about. We have no interest in “conforming to the world.” We see the church’s attitudes and behaviors toward gay people yo be deeply and clearly sinful, and out of line with the will of God in Jesus Christ. So, we have resolved that — even at risk of our ministries and our lives — we must stop participating in this sin of pride and cruelty.

          • Dawn M. Flower Blundell says:

            Also, the church did not teach for 2000 years that homosexuality would keep a person out of heaven, nor were the NT passages at issue always translated that way. But even if it did, and even if they were, it would still have been a wrong thing that the church would need to repent from, and reform. Like the long, long list of other sins we have committed as a church in the name of Jesus Christ…like the long, long list of things we have misunderstood, and then corrected as we have grown in faith with God.

          • apriluser says:

            Please substantiate your claims.

          • Dawn M. Flower Blundell says:

            This statement is based on long years of reading and studying, most of it in books and personal experiences, rather than online, so it is more difficult to easily find sources to share with you. One good book that distills a lot of the history of Biblical and social views of homosexuality is “Walking the Bridgeless Canyon” by Kathy Baldock. You can find it pretty much anywhere. Here is a link to an article by Walter Wink that discusses some of it: http://www.godweb.org/wink.htm

          • Dawn M. Flower Blundell says:

            To be clear, I am not saying that the Christian church never condemned homosexuality. Of course it did. But in the same breath, most writers (John Chrysostom, Peter Damian, Augustine, Martin Luther, Thomas Aquinas) grouped homosexuality with masturbation, bestiality, and any form of sex between men and women that could not result in a child, calling them all worse than murder. Until the 20th century, all of these things were included in the word “sodomy.” In their view rape and prostitution were better, because at least they weren’t murdering potential babies. So for them, it’s not that homosexuality itself was wrong, it’s that any waste of semen was murder. Some also expressed horror at men who “take on the role of women” in sex…in other words (sorry, don’t mean to be graphic here), the penetrator was guilty of wasting semen, but the receiver was MORE guilty because he was acting like a woman. Horror of horrors. Sexual restraint was also hugely important to early Christian writers (as well it should be), and so a big part of their disgust about any type of sex that wasn’t about reproduction — even between husband and wife — was that it was considered lustful and self-indulgent. I have an awesome 19th century book here at home that goes on and on and on about how a “real man” has no interest in sex at all, no enjoyment of it, and only does it reluctantly to create heirs. It evidently was extremely popular in its day, and has reviews in it from like 20 pastors.

            With all of that in mind, here is a list of quotes from early Christian writers about homosexuality. As you will see, almost all of them talk about sex with boys rather than with 2 adult men. They also mention being “emasculated”, being addicted to pleasure and luxury, etc. Ironically, the guy who put the list together thinks it is making his point, but he evidently didn’t read the quotes very carefully LOL. http://www.christian-history.org/homosexuality-quotes.html

            He leaves out John Chrysostom in his list. Writing in the 300s, Chrysostom goes so far as to make clear that the Romans 1 passage is only about lust, and not about 2 men who are in love. Which he evidently knew was possible, and not sinful. Which, of course, is true.

            Interestingly, Peter Damian wrote a famous book about priests and their sexual excesses in the 11th century. In it, he is angry that the habit of the Christian church was to punish priests for sex with nuns or other women, but to ignore their sexual activity with young men (young adult men who were novices, in the first stages of taking their priestly vows). He writes that he knows that the church has never punished such things before, but that it is wrong, and it should, because any sex for a priest is wrong. By implication, then, we know that when clergy had sex with each other it was not considered a problem.

            Sorry this is so long. There is so, so much more. But no, it doesn’t come out of thin air. Blessings.

          • Dawn M. Flower Blundell says:

            Hmmm I posted a comment with more detail, but it seems to have disappeared. It was kinda long, maybe there are length limits on this board? I will try to re-create it later.

          • Macy Rivera says:

            What are these things on this long list that you speak of?

          • Dawn M. Flower Blundell says:

            Hmm my other reply to you seems to have disappeared too. I am new to this forum, don’t know its quirks yet. My other response was to the translation differences, and treatment of homosexuality in the Christian church over the centuries. Anyway, as to this question, I am thinking of the ceremonial memorial and apology the UMC made last year to Native Americans who were massacred by a group led by a UMC pastor in the 1800s. All of the ways in which Christian people murdered and enslaved Native Americans. The way we prevented women from being in ministry until 60 years ago. The shame we collectively express regarding our refusal to fully include black people in our churches, resulting in the creation of a special black “Central Conference.” Just going off the top of my head here, but there is also the rampant corruption in the Christian church at many points in its history (think Martin Luther and the reformation, regarding the church’s corrupt use of donations), slavery, the Inquisition, witch trials, Christian treatment of Jews for hundreds of years, etc. Every single one of these I have listed we see now as horrible errors of faith…and every single one of them was hotly debated at the time, and supported with clear, solid, black-and-white scripture and hundreds of years of history.

          • Macy Rivera says:

            Hi Dawn. I enjoy reading your thoughts. You are up on your history, and I agree with some of what you say. The atrocities of humans hurting each other in historic times is strongly opposed by the Lord when He says to love one another. Those ways absolutely must change.
            However….

          • Dawn M. Flower Blundell says:

            Thanks, Macy, I enjoy reading your thoughts, too. A few quick things:

            Homosexuality is not the first Sin, and is mentioned nowhere in the 10 commandments. I have never heard of anyone trying to edit them. Maybe you can explain that to me a bit more, because I am not following.

            I have no idea regarding multiple spouses, and honestly I don’t have any interest in the topic. That isn’t what we are talking about regarding gay or transgender people. I hear you about the “slippery slope” thing, but it is not helpful to go down that road. To me, it sounds like saying “if we allow people the freedom to spank their children, then will we allow them to just murder them?! It will be mayhem!” I mean, it’s just silly.

            Marriage between one man and one woman is nowhere commanded by God, in no Bible. I know that you have heard this before, but that is demonstrably untrue because there are a wealth of examples in the Bible of both polygamy and lifelong singleness. Both are held up as good and holy. It is true that the Bible does not mention married gay people…but there are a whole lot of perfectly normal things that the Bible does not happen to mention. Like, I don’t know, owning pets. Painting. Gynecology. To my mind, since I am 100% certain that men were attracted to and fell in love with and made lifelong commitments to each other in Bible times just as they do now, Bible writers did not consider it important enough to worry about. Which tells me that we probably shouldn’t be bothering about it either.

            Homosexuality is not a “lifestyle” any more than being an ordinary, married heterosexual person is. Gay people are just humans, looking for love and commitment with a lifelong partner, just like everyone else. If we agree that clergy people are welcome to lead the heterosexual lifestyle in this regard, then we should agree that they are welcome to find a lifelong partner of the same gender, too, if that is who God has created them to love.

          • Macy Rivera says:

            Dawn, The issue is not society leading this lifestyle. It is whether the pastors should be held to follow and respect the laws of the UMC. Society does not have the power to change the Church’s beliefs or laws. That is freedom of religion. No person, a.k.a. “sinners” is denied membership in the UMC. All are welcome. That is something that the church has prided itself on for many years. However, when it comes to being a member of the clergy, there are rules. Rules to be respected and followed, due to the oaths taken at the time of ordination. They are now being disregarded and disrespected. Rules are now being followed based on the individual ideas of each clergy, rather than the rules set. The church has been disrespected. It has a right to specific beliefs, and to enforce them. Any time that the church is considering throwing in the towel and dividing, we have mayhem. This is definitely mayhem! I believe that in 2019, we likely will be planning division. I am happy that these matters have now his the presses. It is getting the true problems of the church exposed to the public, and finally to the light of its members. No more in the closet for the church. Now, they will be forced to deal with it. No more lies. No more cover-up. I have experienced issues that should have been dealt with by the church’s senior pastor, but were not, for fear of this secret getting out to the congregation that he had hired a homosexual pastor. This pastor used to eat breakfast with my family after church. Even she pushed the problem under the carpet, so that her secret would not be disclosed. When the “disobedience” effects the congregation, it is wrong. No pastor wants that mayhem on their desk, so they push it under the carpet and do everything in their power to hide the problem. It we turn our eye on sin, we are then sinners too. Now, the cat is out of the bag. It will be a wild ride, so hang on!

          • johnschuh says:

            You are just wrong. Sodomy has always been regarded as sinful by the Church. In general we took our morality from the Jews, with modifications to conform with Christian teachings.

          • Dawn M. Flower Blundell says:

            All of that is true. But sodomy and homosexuality are not the same, though that is the way we use the word now yes. All “wastes” of semen were considered worse than murder (see the writings of Augustine, Aquinas, Chrysostom, Peter Damien, etc), and thus gay sexual behavior was grouped together with masturbation, bestiality, and even any sexual activity between married people that could not result in a child. Until the 20th century (and actually, technically even now in legal definitions right here in the US), the word “sodomy” included all of these things. (See various commentaries over the centuries.) Partly, this was because of limited understanding of biology: people believed that semen contained tiny actual babies, and that the woman was simply the incubator. Thus, in the writings of the early church fathers, and the civil and religious laws of the past centuries, rape and prostitution were considered preferable to any form of wasting semen, because a child was not murdered in it. In addition, beginning as far back as the 4th century, the church was teaching that ALL sex was wrong if one took any pleasure in it (see again those same church fathers, and others) because it was self-indulgent and thus not godly. We know better now, understand how babies are made, know that sex within marriage is a good and holy thing, and that masturbation is harmless and normal. We know that some forms of sex are harmful and evil, because they take advantage of innocent victims and does them deep spiritual and physical harm. So, since we know that “semen wasting” is not something we have to worry about anymore, and we know that sexual morality is formed by a knowledge of the deep spiritual intimacy it expresses, and we know that thus careless or violent or lustful sex remains wrong because of that intimacy, it seems logical that we should also know that sex between two faithful, committed, loving gay men is as normal and healthy as it is between a man and a woman.

          • johnschuh says:

            The Church appeared toward the end of the Hashmonian era. The parties named by Josephus were a product of that time. Of all these, Jesus was closest to the Pharisees,although he was a great critic of them. Many Jews were and had been strongly influenced by hellenism since the time of Alexander and the Hasmonean kingdom was set up in the wake of a rebellion aimed to save the country from the fate that finally overtook it after 135 AD. The Pharisees and the Christians each survived that disaster and each contended for the allegiance of the Jews and that gentiles attracted by their God.Morally, they were on the same page. If you read the Didache, you see that converts were catechized by those Christians to followed a “way of life” that was a modified form of the Law of the Jews. But from the start there was also a view that virginity made it easier to follow the way. The difference tween their thinking and that of Augustine was a matter of degree not kind.

          • Dawn M. Flower Blundell says:

            Sure, and?

          • johnschuh says:

            The early Christians thought of sex in terms of Matthew 19.

          • Dawn M. Flower Blundell says:

            Matthew 19 is about divorce, and why — despite the laws that governed it — Jesus commanded against it. It does not preclude gay people getting married.

          • johnschuh says:

            Matthew 19 goes back to Genesis, God made man males and female, and what he says about marriage is to emphasize unity of man and women.

          • Macy Rivera says:

            Dawn, I am seeing your replies as definitions of homosexuality and the rights of homosexuals, and ideas of how the church is outdated. What make the church not allowed to have different beliefs from you. Freedom of religion. Remember, other churches permit this behavior. Why not stop all of the hostile protests and move on to another church? After the UMC divides, the new church will be protested next simply to “get their way”. This is ridiculous. Others are entitled to a different opinion than the homosexual. Lies, deceit and coverup are what got the UMC in this situation in the first place. Cut the multiple sins outside of homosexuality as well.

          • Dawn M. Flower Blundell says:

            Amen to the ego abstinence and need for less hostility. But oh Macy. None of those accusations are true. What lies? What coverup? Those who protest are all, 100% Methodist. They are over 90% heterosexual, standing with and for our gay brothers and sisters, parents and children, friends and colleagues. There is nothing nefarious here. Just committed people of God, risking everything to stand for what is right.

          • Macy Rivera says:

            Dawn, the instances that I can name from my personal experience in a Florida church: gay pastors taking jobs without disclosing homosexuality. Pastors hiring other pastors, knowing the problems that their personal decisions will cause within the church. When other church problems arise, they are unable to manage them, due to fear of angry individuals disclosing the secret. That’s just a few. This deception IS causing major problems. Lying always does — in any relationship!

          • Dawn M. Flower Blundell says:

            Amen. Abuse is even worse. Don’t you think all of those problems could be solved by not treating gay people as though they are some sort of contaminant? So that they could lead a whole and healthy life serving God?

          • Dawn M. Flower Blundell says:

            Help me understand your first sentence a bit? We were talking about sodomy, definitions of it, etc…what do you mean about definitions of homosexuality, or their rights?

        • Dawn M. Flower Blundell says:

          Re the “sudden” discovery that Christians had been wrong on homosexuality for 2000 years: the first Bible that condemned homosexuality was published in 1946.

          • apriluser says:

            You are completely correct in that the church has not been helpful at all for people dealing with homosexuality. Rather than condemn, we should have been seeking help for these precious brothers and sisters.

          • Dawn M. Flower Blundell says:

            The “help” that the church has sought to provide has resulted in suicides. It seems clear that it is the church who needs help.

          • apriluser says:

            In the 50-some years of being in the church as a parishoner and decades as a clergy spouse, not one person took their own life. (Your comments tend to pull facts out of thin air and have no stats to substantiate your claims. I’m not sure that’s the perception you are aiming for.).

          • Dawn M. Flower Blundell says:

            I am sorry you feel that way. As a pastor of a good sized church, I have been busy for the past couple of days preparing for worship and various events, and so I haven’t been able to gather the resources you have asked for. I am so glad that you haven’t experienced a suicide in your church, praise God for that…it is awful. Beyond awful. Here are some statistics about that, which you might find helpful, from the National Alliance on Mental Health, and the other from a suicide prevention site. Both cite the same statistical data about the lack of family/church/community support leading to a much higher rate of suicide, depression, and alcohol and drug abuse: https://www.nami.org/Find-Support/LGBTQ. http://preventsuicidewv.org/help-for-lgbtq-youth-suicide-prevention/

          • Dawn M. Flower Blundell says:

            Oh, and here is some information regarding the harm that church “help” (in the form of formal or informal conversion therapy) has caused: http://whatweknow.law.columbia.edu/topics/lgbt-equality/what-does-the-scholarly-research-say-about-whether-conversion-therapy-can-alter-sexual-orientation-without-causing-harm/

          • Macy Rivera says:

            Correct!! These suicides are taking place by those who are feeling outcast by society, not the church. The church needs to provide help for this sin, not confirmation.

          • Dawn M. Flower Blundell says:

            Macy, what is that statement based on? Where did you hear it? Because it is the polar opposite of the studies I have run across. Here are a few. One article is super long, but has a bunch of links to studies and analysis that you might be interested in.

            https://thinkprogress.org/what-happens-when-gay-people-are-told-that-homosexuality-is-a-sin-f2963a84d65b

            https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-02/cums-lil021414.php

            http://whatweknow.law.columbia.edu/topics/lgbt-equality/what-does-the-scholarly-research-say-about-whether-conversion-therapy-can-alter-sexual-orientation-without-causing-harm/

            Happy reading. Blessings. 🙂

          • johnschuh says:

            How is the Church going to help people when the social pressure is to conform with the new morality? Suicides are people who find themselves on the horns of a moral dilemma. You blame the Church. Why not blame gay propaganda which insists that their sexual desires are inborn but which might have other causes?

          • Dawn M. Flower Blundell says:

            Oh John. Please spend some time talking to someone who deals with suicidal people. And read, maybe, some of the articles I posted before regarding the connection between church persecution/rejection and suicide attempts among LGBTQ people. Such bizarre accusations, conspiracy theories, and horrible unChristian cruelty here on this board, to prop up a sinful belief system. Seems to me to show the rotten core of it, and the rotten fruit.

          • Dawn M. Flower Blundell says:

            Because, John, that has been tried and found wanting.

          • Macy Rivera says:

            Dawn, that attitude will NEVER keep this church United.

          • Dawn M. Flower Blundell says:

            …it’s not an attitude. It is statistically true that ex-gay therapy and policies that try to change gay people into heterosexuals have caused actual harm. Severe harm. There are a great many studies that show the ill effects of it. And so, it seems to me that those policies and activities need to stop. Of they continue, then we are most certainly not united.

          • Dawn M. Flower Blundell says:

            How could denial of it possibly be helpful?

          • johnschuh says:

            Militant homosexuals don’t wasn’t help; they want affirmation. In fact they demand affirmation and if they don’t receive that they try to disrupt things.

          • Macy Rivera says:

            I agree!!! For other sins that require abstinence, we do. We love the sinner and hate the sin. However, we don’t rewrite our beliefs to get past a problem that is occurring within our clergy and conveniently dismiss it.

          • Dawn M. Flower Blundell says:

            Sigh. I know that words written here will never convince. Wanting someone to love, a family, and the freedom to have those things while also serving God is not a sin that requires abstinence. It is a normal, deeply-rooted human desire. To equate that desire with something twisted, to call them “militant” and angry, to lump them in with murderers and pedophiles and alcoholics and rapists and God knows what else…THAT is sinful. Why on earth would you deny to someone else the same rights, joys, and responsibilities that you enjoy?

          • Macy Rivera says:

            Dawn, those are YOUR words. Mine were people who have problems with abstinence. Abstinence is what the UMC requires of the homosexual. My example was alcoholism, simply because that requires abstinence as well. The UMC will not hire the alcoholic either — abstinence. Very simple. Is the homosexual angry, seems so. Very serious problem in the UMC. Be careful what you quote. Read twice.

          • Dawn M. Flower Blundell says:

            Macy, I wasn’t quoting you. I was referencing things that people on this board and elsewhere often say. I think it was you, on another thread, who talked about fake protesters, all angry homosexuals wanting their way, not even Methodist? Something along those lines. Others here have called them “militant” — you can find that in this very thread — not wanting help or compassion, equated them with murderers and rapists, called them perverts, equated the desire for love and family and ministry with something destructive and like alcoholism, etc.

          • johnschuh says:

            The first chapter of Romans condemns homosexuality. Do you not think that Paul knew far more about the practice than you do? It is not of course ONLY homosexuality that he comdemns.The Greeks were far more public with their sexual practices than people are today. He had only to go to the nearest public toilet in any city to see people doing stuff that would turn your stomach but which he saw as just part of the general madness affecting society owing to their worship of false gods. The stuff that you can see in “adult films” could be seen on open display. Ditto what went on at Woodstock, but on a tiny scale so as not to bother public commerce as a whole.

          • Dawn M. Flower Blundell says:

            I’m not sure what Paul knew or didn’t know about homosexuality. I am sure that Romans 1 is about the kind of sexual excesses you describe, and not about a loving, faithful relationship between two adult men. Even St John Chrysostom, way back in the 300s, makes that clear. He writes, in a looooooong homily on Romans 1, that it is strictly about lust: “For it [Paul, in Romans 1:26, 27] does not say that they were in love, and thus desired each other, but rather “they burned in their lust toward one another.” It’s fascinating. Here’s a link to one translation: http://www.documentacatholicaomnia.eu/03d/0345-0407,_Iohannes_Chrysostomus,_Homilies_on_The_Epistle_To_The_Romans,_EN.pdf

          • johnschuh says:

            Classical society was quite open to open display of the body and even bodily functions. Paul every day saw stuff that most of us can see only in private situations. Now with Jews, sodomy was not something they did, but for the Greeks it was a normal thing. Christians adopted Jewish morality in general. As for affectionate relationships, pederasty was normal. For male Greeks, it was part of growing up, in fact porneia was the norm. What we call homosexuality –and this is a modern term–was just another aspect of social life. The major difference is that in ancient t times, homosexuals never organize political or thought of themselves as a group of people separate from other people. The sexual revolution is basically a rejection of Christian morality, The old Greeks did not think Christians odd in this; just strict. I find it odd that some people who call themselves Christian think homosexuality compatible with Christianity. We have the testimony not only of Paul but the Didache of what early Christians thought of Greek morality They called it the way of death.

      • johnschuh says:

        The point of Christianity is to treat people as human beings. We want to be sound in mind and body, and we want people to be honest about the condition of each one. Likewise we expect the truth in matters of of salvation.

  3. JRconcernedUMC says:

    I have read some of the posts on this discussion and it seems to me that people get loving people confused with accepting sinful lifestyles. Jesus called the woman at the well out for her having many husbands and he told her go and sin no more. God loves us all I really believe that I Corinthians 6:9-10 says it best, Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. Also Jude along about verse 7 says something about the sins and times we live in. Why do you think he said “Contend for the faith that was once delivered to the saints?” This is the time we have to stand up and speak the truth in love it’s better to get our flesh under subjection and “die to the flesh” now and our selfish and UNGODLY desires than to burn in hell forever. This life is short the hereafter is not!

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