Is New Caucus More Committed to "Uniting Methodists" or Excluding Traditionalists?

Is New Caucus More Committed to “Uniting Methodists” or Excluding Traditionalists?

on November 17, 2017

This article is part of a series of writings about the new “Uniting Methodists” caucus group within the UMC, led by Adam Hamilton, some high-profile leaders within general agency and liberal caucus circles, and others. Within these articles, I have put in bold sentences for which I would especially welcome feedback in the comments if I have missed something major. I have put *stars in front of the names of individuals on the “Uniting Methodists” leadership team.  Articles in this series will be released over the course of several days. The “Uniting Methodists” group is examined in light of the following:

How Do We Understand and Define “Centrism” within the UMC?

Sexual Morality

Covenant Breaking

Core Theology

The Church’s Social Witness


The Arab-Israeli Conflict

African Inclusion

Marginalizing Traditionalists

Dividing the Church



I have noted earlier the new “Uniting Methodists” caucus’s evident ethos of “no enemies to the left” and aiming almost all of their firepower against traditionalist individuals and values. But what about just basic treatment of traditionalist believers? (Even beyond other matters covered in this article series.)

It is important to acknowledge at the wider context in which we live. In the United States, we have seen a rapid acceleration not only of expansions of gay rights, but of ominously heavy-handed repressions of people who disapprove of homosexual practice. This has included high-profile corporate firings of people on the sole basis of their personal pro-traditional-marriage beliefs to the government forcing Christian small business owners to face crushing six-figure fines, forced loss of livelihood, and other extreme government coercions and punishments if they do not wish to be involved in supporting same-sex union ceremonies or gay “pride” events. Within several annual conferences, including the Pacific-Northwest, Northern Illinois, Iowa Conferences (where *DJ Del Rosario, *Lonnie Chafin, and *Melissa Drake are part of the conference leadership), traditionalist United Methodists have actually been facing mistreatment and marginalization for their loyalty to the UMC’s own official doctrinal and moral standards.

Now *Olu Brown, for one, has expressed his general commitment to defending traditionalists from marginalization, despite his own liberal views. I welcome such words.

But in terms of actual action, I have seen no example of anyone in “Uniting Methodists” spending one penny of their political capital in specifically opposing such marginalization of traditional believers in the wider U.S. society, or in liberal-dominated UMC annual conferences.

If they are unwilling to do so, it raises questions of how much the folk in this group really see us orthodox believers as their brothers and sisters in Christ in any meaningful way, if they callously refuse to make our suffering their own. It also raises such other questions as if they are willing to honestly and humbly address how their ideological commitments give them a real privileged status in certain contexts. And if they sit out such battles, this effectively amounts to a strategy of choosing to callously sit by and watch traditionalist suffer a tortuous attrition as scapegoating politicians, ruthless corporate forces, and more strident UMC caucus leaders do their dirty work for them of crushing us into the mud.

*Adam Hamilton, a main leader of this group, even flatly declared that “Bishops … don’t assign ‘conservative’ clergy to ‘liberal’ congregations or ‘liberal’ clergy to ‘conservative’ congregations.” I remain shocked by how he could say something so blatantly untrue. He cited as his only source “several bishops and superintendents.” Sure, they generally like to consider such things in finding the best “matches.” But if *Hamilton had bothered to go beyond the denomination’s elite hierarchy to talk to some of the little people, particularly in more liberal conferences, he could have found plenty of examples of heavy-handed liberal bishops imposing liberal pastors on conservative congregations, with little evident concern about how damaging that was to the church. And as others have noted, a great many U.S. bishops face a challenging math problem of having a larger number of “conservative congregations” than there are conservative pastors to go around. Before making such a broad statement, that has likely misled many people given the prominent voice he has, I wish *Hamilton had first taken some time to really examine how our appointment system often works in practice for the vast majority of United Methodists who do not get the privileges and exceptions afforded to megachurch pastors like him.

Meanwhile, during the big “Uniting Methodists” meeting in Atlanta this week, one of the speakers, Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) employee Helen Ryde actually tweeted out this whopper of a claim: “Progressives have never called for conservatives to leave” the UMC.

If this RMN employee or other “Uniting Methodists” had been interested in actually listening to traditionalist United Methodists, they could have heard plenty of stories of us being told that if we should object to some of the problems in our church we should leave, along with many instances of evangelical clergy candidates have been unfairly treated by boards of ordained ministry and later in appointments. And have they already forgotten how in 2005, the entire liberal-caucus movement rallied behind Virginia Bishop Charlene Kammerer as she tried to force a faithful, compassionate pastor named Ed Johnson out of the UMC?

Rhetoric notwithstanding, time and again, self-described “progressive United Methodists” have made very clear to us how they really resent sharing the church with us and would much rather we leave, and hand them the keys. Seriously, if there is a single individual in the liberal caucus world within the UMC who sees evangelical believers like me as beloved brethren in Christ, in any meaningful way, I would love to meet him or her. But I would also love to meet Bigfoot. And as a matter of basic empirical evidence, after three years of Harvard Divinity School and spending more time at liberal-caucus events than most orthodox believers ever will, I expect I am no more likely to meet either sort of mythical creature.

I have found very little evidence that any leader in “Uniting Methodists” has any interest in challenging or even acknowledging any of the ways in which revisionist leaders have mistreated orthodox believers within the UMC in situations where the former has had more power. Instead, *Hamilton and Ryde simply deny the abuse is even happening.

Furthermore, “Uniting Methodist” leaders are not quite sitting such battles out. RMN has actually signed onto a “friend of the court” brief submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court against Christian baker Jack Phillips, who happily served gay customers, but who is protesting how, in his attorney’s words, “The government wants to force him to use his artistic talents to celebrate events that violate his faith,” namely, same-sex union services. At one point, Philips was even threatened with jail time. My colleague, Joseph Rossell, has a good response to the claims of RMN and others against Brother Phillips.

When *Rachel Baugham, *Doug Damron, *James Howell, *Ginger Gaines-Cirelli, and *Dave Nuckols all offer various forms of unqualified support to RMN, and at the same time make no effort to internally challenge or publicly oppose such RMN activities, then they are quite literally siding against a brother in Christ who does not want to be thrown in jail for supporting historic, biblical Christian teaching about homosexuality.

I cannot imagine what would be more far-left than this.

Also relevant is how in 2014, the GBCS directors, which included *Chafin and *Howell, overwhelmingly adopted a statement that appeared to misleadingly conflate truly draconian anti-gay laws in other countries with some “religious liberty” bills proposed in some American states to protect the freedom of conscience of traditional believers in such cases as those linked to above, categorically opposing both.

Furthermore, in the aforementioned Iowa Conference, three faithful, evangelical pastors faced so much hate and demonization for their properly filing a complaint against an activist clergywoman who pursued a reckless publicity stunt of breaking our denomination’s sexual morality standards (while expecting these pastors and others to pay a lot of apportionment money support her campus ministry, no questions asked). When I tweeted about how the outspoken Dr. Dorothee Benz spoke of wanting “to write a blog ripping these men of privilege a new a^&%$%#,” Nuckols quickly responded by affirming his fellow RMN activist, attacking the pastors’ characters, and pointedly refusing (see here and here) to call his RMN comrade’s vulgar, hate-filled rhetoric as inappropriate.

And of course, all those “Uniting Methodists” (particularly *Douglas Damron, *Ginger Gaines-Cirelli, *Dave Nuckols, and *Theresa Thames) strongly supporting Karen Oliveto are among other things supporting her abusing the bishop’s office to mistreat orthodox believers in the Mountain Sky Area and publicly demonize orthodox congregations as “the bad churches” (her actual words).

Is none of the above any concern to any leader of “Uniting Methodists”?

I’ve seen no evidence that it is.  

  1. Comment by Tim on November 18, 2017 at 10:47 am

    With Hamilton’s stance on the inerrancy of scripture and his blatant promotion of ordaining gay pastors, I find him to be a heretic. That is all.

  2. Comment by William on November 18, 2017 at 12:36 pm

    When will orthodox Methodists finally realize that the progressives (and now their “Uniting Methodists” colleagues) have no intention of working across the isle with them. In fact, the progressives are so caught up in their idol (LGBT movement) worship that they are blinded to any other position other than their own. They are on a mission to either fully and completely liberalize the church or destroy it should that fail. The delegates to the 2019 General Conference must come to grips with this ugly reality and divide the UMC if any remnant of it is to be saved past the next 25 years.

  3. Comment by Arthur Gee on November 21, 2017 at 12:59 pm

    The Methodist Church like the Democratic has left my values. Perhaps it is time for me to leave the UMC as I did the Democrats.

  4. Comment by Cathy Byrd on November 23, 2017 at 6:20 am

    I and others are remaining in our local Methodist congregation where the leadership is faithful to Scripture and traditional Christian doctrine, but we are designating our giving in such a way that it can only be used for the local church/community and the local mission committee’s goals (including partnership with churches in Uganda, Mexico, Ecuador, Honduras, and other regional and global missional initiatives….we are not isolationist!) But there will be none of our giving going to UMC apportionments that support liberal UMC seminaries, agencies, COB, etc. I will personally also be supporting Asbury Seminary and Wesleyan Covenant Association. Speak in the language understood by the episcopacy…

  5. Comment by larry platt on November 21, 2017 at 2:33 pm

    Until we submit to absolute truth and quit trying to change it with our subjective truth substitute there is only one option for the umc. If a bishop, d.s. , ordained clergy, local pastor, or any person denies absolute truth the war is lost

  6. Comment by Daniel on November 21, 2017 at 6:26 pm

    Remember Beckwith’s law:
    “Whenever a practitioner of a traditional vice appeals to the right of privacy as the justification for the state to leave him alone to engage in that vice, he will inevitably demand that the state require that those who morally disapprove of his practice cooperate with it, either materially or formally.”

    Substitute “UMC” for “state” in the above quote and you will see where the so-called Uniting Methodists stand and what will happen to orthodox United Methodists.

    If you don’t mind being hit with the UMC equivalent of excommunication or being declared anathema by you DS and bishop, the next time you get a “liberal” pastor, ask him or her if they fully assent to the literal meaning of all of the Nicene Creed, specifically the virgin birth and bodily resurrection of Christ, as well as the bodily resurrection of all humanity to either eternal life or eternal damnation. If they answer no or attempt to weasel out of a definitive assent, contact you DS via the Staff-Parish relations committee and tell them you need a pastoral change and this time you pastor needs to be a Christian 🙂

  7. Comment by Neldene Matusevich on November 21, 2017 at 9:19 pm

    The Methodist Church like many, have lost their first love. They are more concerned with the world than with the Church. They have become people pleasers rather than following scripture. All is in God’s word. You have strayed from it.

  8. Comment by Cathy Byrd on November 22, 2017 at 6:44 am

    I had experienced United Methodism in a traditional and conservative mode in the Deep South…perhaps it is what I chose to see because of my own devotion to Christ, Scripture, the Body of Christ, and Wesleyans’ devotion to accountable community which I have practiced. I began pursuit of deacon ordination in 2008 with the support of my community, church leadership, and district Committee on Ministry. For six years it was a joy and a blessing. I was commissioned in 2012 after a very positive experience with Board of Ministry interviews. During my 2 year residency the BOM had a 40% or more turnover and the format for interviews was changed under a liberal Bishop and suddenly in 2014 I found myself facing a BOM in which I knew not one person after 32 years of involvement in District and Conference activities, including long time Walk to Emmaus activities and 12 years as a delegate to Annual Conference. The antagonism and dismissiveness I experienced from the interview team I have described as nothing short of an emotional ambush. The Lord showed me in the midst of the hour and a half long interview that the resistance I was experiencing was not about me or my ministry, but was representative of the larger battle within The UMC between traditional doctrine and values and the liberalism that was now controlling much of the process. The degree of politicalization and disdain for scriptural authority and conservative social and theological adherents were evident in the barely subtle snarling, petty, and mocking way in which the Asbury educations, social issue positions, bible study submissions, personal experiences and ministry calls, and the choice to pursue deacon orders instead of elder orders of myself and at least one other traditional female deacon candidate were treated by the BOM interviewers. She accepted their discontinuation from pursuit of deacon ministry in the second year of interviews. I did not. It was an all-out battle for the next three years from which I did not feel the Lord’s release until this year. I am now engaged in pursuit of deacon ordination through an alternate, non-UMC route, as I know whom I have believed and to what I have been called. The Lord has thoroughly dealt with me on what I came to see as my own idolatry of denominationalism, my denominational snobbery, and my reverence for The UMC as I had known it for 45 years. My personal ecclesiology has been matured beyond denominational identity and I am more effective in the ministry of counseling, Christian education and discipleship than before, especially among the homeless, addicted, emotionally traumatized, and socially marginalized populations with whom I work. Through the BOM deacon ordination process I found myself personally identifying with their dilemma like never before….spiritually homeless, attachment addicted, emotionally traumatized by “Christian” community, and socially marginalized by the leadership of The UMC. I still belong to a local UMC and know a number of wonderful, traditional UMC pastors and congregations, many of whom are now bracing for hard decisions coming their/our way in the near future that are becoming more clear-cut and less difficult with each month that these deliberations continue.

  9. Comment by Cathy Byrd on November 22, 2017 at 6:55 am

    One additional note: I was not totally oblivious to the presence of progressive liberals in our midst. I had chosen to believe that they, like myself, had been called by God for a purpose which God alone knew and within which God was working. God would use each of us according to his purpose and timing for his church. It was a “live and let live” mentally…I was prepared to accept their call and presence and assumed they would accept mine, as there are all kinds of people and philosophies to which the Gospel needs to be delivered. I was clearly deluded in such thinking. When political agendas and personal preferences transcend the Gospel and those who have considered Jesus Christ to have been a misogynistic bigot are showcased and hailed as up and coming “leaders” in The UMC, the wolves-in-sheep’s clothing have shown their true nature. In religion as in politics progressive liberalism seeming does not intend to co-exist with conservative traditionalism.

  10. Comment by Roy C. Dickey on November 22, 2017 at 4:07 pm

    The new liberal beliefs, while not intentionally going against biblical teaching clearly contradict the “Word” as shared in the Bible as it relates to same sex relationships. They are an abomination to God. What is left to question.

  11. Comment by Shield on November 25, 2017 at 8:47 pm

    How can you rail against divisive and unhelpful rhetoric from the left when you directly link the expansion of gay rights with the repression of believers? In almost half of the country it is still currently legal to fire or evict someone because they are gay. In 48 states it is currently a perfectly acceptable legal defense to claim that the reason you killed someone was because you found out they were gay. A ghastly number of LGBT teens are made homeless or driven to suicide by the conditions they experience in their lives. What end does making a link between trying to remedy these issues and the oppression of the faithful serve other than convincing people who do not support same-sex marriage that gay people are indifferent towards their suffering and are willing to harm them for their own benefit?

  12. Comment by Skipper on November 27, 2017 at 9:57 pm

    Expansion of such rights is a threat to those we love, including those who advocate for immoral relationships themselves. We would like to share the true way to please God and show Him the respect He most rightly deserves by honoring His Plan of Created Order.

  13. Comment by Shield on November 28, 2017 at 9:31 pm

    It’s a threat to those you love to make it illegal to justify murder on the basis of someone’s presumed sexuality? It’s a threat to those you love to make it illegal to cause someone to be homeless or destitute because someone assumes that on their off time they might be gay?
    Your insistence that somehow it’s repugnant to God to ensure that His creations have the same right as anyone else to live a life free of wondering if they’ll be permitted to take shelter in homes they pay for is a grave slander against His Name.

  14. Comment by Shield on November 28, 2017 at 9:47 pm

    There is no injunction against allowing a gay person to work for you in exchange for pay, and there is no injunction against allowing a gay person to rent a residence owned by you in exchange for money. Show me any injunction or instruction even kind of hinting at this which would not apply to any and every other sinner as well. You cannot. Advocating for either of these practices requires one to ignore both the actual letter of the Law and God’s love for all of His creation, not just some of it. It is not loving to let people starve on the street when they are perfectly capable of sustaining themselves. It is certainly not Godly.

  15. Comment by John Lomperis on December 6, 2017 at 6:48 pm

    In all but two US states it is “perfectly acceptable” in the eyes of the law to murder someone for being gay? And all this time, I thought that murder was illegal in all 50 states.

  16. Comment by Louis on December 9, 2017 at 11:12 pm

    Thankyou John

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