a recent headshot of Iowa United Methodist Bishop Laurie Haller

Response to Iowa United Methodist Bishop’s Divisive Decree

UMVoices on December 8, 2021

Some context is important for understanding the new divisive decree of Iowa’s aggressively liberal United Methodist bishop. In the United Methodist Church, the international General Conference delegates, meeting in session, are the only people with authority to take such dramatic actions as enacting a comprehensive separation plan or changing the denomination’s definition of marriage to include same-sex couples. 

But many (predominantly white) liberal Americans have made clear that while they are happy to be part of an international church in which they are in charge, they are vehemently unwilling to submit to General Conference decisions driven largely by African and Filipino delegates. 

Now Iowa Bishop Laurie Haller has chosen to dramatically promote greater church conflict by arrogantly claiming to institute her own vision, effectively replacing the globally decided Book of Discipline, to govern her annual conference, which is over 98 percent White

Core elements of the Haller Discipline are (1) replacing the United Methodist Discipline’s longstanding, globally supported prohibition on any “ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions” with explicit permission for clergy to officiate any weddings they want, “as long as it is two consenting adults who have been counseled” and (2) to effectively redefine the “gracious exits” provision adopted by the last General Conference as focused on offering an exit ramp to congregations who dissent from the Iowa United Methodist bishop’s unbiblical, anti-internationalist vision rather than to those who dissent from the global United Methodist Discipline. Haller’s dictatorial announcement indicates that she intends to order her district superintendents (who are all unilaterally appointed by and dependent on her) to implement this policy. 

The questionable timing has made it challenging for pastors actually doing the work of ministry to respond. The Iowa United Methodist bishop’s decree was only emailed out the afternoon of the Tuesday before Thanksgiving (and later posted online). And Haller declared her intent to impose this disruptive, church-harming policy on January 1, immediately after the business of the Christmas season. 

While she is rudely ignoring the voices of non-American United Methodists, the Iowa United Methodist bishop’s explanation says that the Haller Discipline she seeks to impose as the new rules for her conference was “informed by” the far-left, “progressive incompatibilist” covenant recently adopted by the majority of the (U.S.-only) North Central Jurisdiction.

Haller claims to have developed her Haller Discipline “in consultation, conversation, and collaboration with” a range of Iowa United Methodists. 

But the theologically traditionalist leadership in the conference (i.e., those who respect the global church and support the UMC’s historic, official doctrinal and moral standards) has emphatically rejected Haller’s proposed decree, and responded with this forceful challenge:

A Faithful Response to “Leading Now and Into the Future – Our Vision”

The leadership of the Iowa Wesleyan Covenant Association Regional Chapter has received and reviewed the Iowa Annual Conference Appointive Cabinet’s and Bishop Laurie Haller’s “Leading Now and Into the Future – Our Vision” (hereafter “Leading Now”). We are shocked and brokenhearted that Bishop Haller and the Cabinet believe their insights are superior to the discernments of The United Methodist Church’s General Conference and its Book of Discipline. This attempt to circumvent the Discipline and enact new policy and procedures is an egregious abuse of power and privilege by the Bishop and the Cabinet.

As we all know, our church’s teaching is that a Christian marriage is between one man and one woman. At numerous General Conferences the UM Church, through the work of its global delegates, has prayerfully, faithfully, and repeatedly reaffirmed this understanding of marriage, and most recently did so at the special 2019 General Conference in St. Louis, Missouri. Bishop Haller and the Cabinet do not have the authority to supersede the UM Church’s teachings with their own opinions. Such an approach is an invitation to confusion, chaos, and anarchy. According to “Leading Now,” as of January 1, 2022, the Bishop and the Cabinet will permit Iowa Annual Conference clergy and local churches to preside at, and host, same-sex weddings, contrary to the explicit provisions of the Discipline.

Therefore, we respectfully call on Bishop Haller and the Cabinet to rescind “Leading Now.” We also urge episcopal colleagues in the North Central Jurisdiction and among the Council of Bishops to strongly encourage Bishop Haller and the Cabinet to withdraw “Leading Now.”

If the document is not rescinded, we are confident faithful local UM churches (traditionalist, centrist, and progressive) in the Iowa Annual Conference will decide they can no longer submit to the authority of leaders who legitimize acts in defiance of our church’s teachings and its time-honored way of discerning God’s will for the whole.

Ironically, Bishop Haller and the Cabinet demand that congregations who can no longer be part of a Conference that disregards the Discipline follow the terms* of the Discipline in exiting. “Leading Now” claims the terms constitute a “gracious exit,” but they are neither gracious nor sincere given the context. They are not the terms proposed in the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation. Essentially, the Bishop and the Cabinet lean into the legislation proposed in the Protocol to justify their defiance of the Discipline regarding Human Sexuality. They then ignore the Protocol and return to the Discipline to hold churches accountable who feel they can no longer be a part of a Conference where the Bishop and the Cabinet have chosen to disregard and defy the Discipline.

We are all disappointed the UM Church has not been able to convene a General Conference and so adopt the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation, an amicable and orderly plan of separation widely endorsed by leading Bishops, theologically diverse advocacy groups, and annual conferences. However, disappointment does not entitle Bishop Haller and the Cabinet to make-up their own rules in the interim. Again, we call on the Bishop and the Cabinet to rescind “Leading Now.”

Blessings,

The Iowa Wesleyan Covenant Association Regional Chapter

* “Local congregations who desire to leave the Iowa Annual Conference, will need to 1) present a written statement outlining their desire to leave as their faithful response to this vision of ministry and human sexuality to the Bishop and the Appointive Cabinet, 2) schedule a charge conference with their local District Superintendent, with a two-thirds majority vote in favor of disaffiliation, and 3) must satisfy any remaining apportionment payments and pension liability calculations.”

  1. Comment by What do you expect? on December 8, 2021 at 9:35 am

    This will be the first, but not the last of these kinds of edicts. After the fun and games at the North Central Jurisdiction meeting in November and the Bishop’s letter footnoted twice by the Iowa bishop in her statement you would have to be blind not to see this coming. I hope clergy have the wisdom to just ignore bishops who do this, or at least shield congregations from the damage to the faith people like her are causing.

    I just hope I can get on a lifeboat after the Titanic hits the iceberg.

  2. Comment by Pastor Mike on December 8, 2021 at 10:23 am

    When Bishops violate the sacred trust of “guarding the faith, order, liturgy, doctrine, and discipline of the Church” (401, BOD), they cease to be leaders.

    When a church does not follow and uphold fundamental Christian teachings and doctrine, it ceases to be a church.

    When the people celebrate sin and worship idols, they are rushing down the wide and inviting path that leads to destruction and death.

    And the result?

    The church becomes another social club that performs good works. It becomes unrecognizable from the thousands of other secular clubs in the world.

    The people are lost. There is no recognition of sin. There is no repentance. There is no forgiveness. There is no acceptance of Christ. There is no conviction. God help us.

    “Jesus wept.” – John 11:35

  3. Comment by Star Tripper on December 8, 2021 at 10:28 am

    The author seems surprised by this bishop when the entire Alphabet Advocate movement has been thumbing their noses at God for a couple of decades. Why should they bow to the authority of other mortals? Indeed, since our side took the victory of 2019 and promptly surrendered the entire denomination with this cowardly exit plan the Prometheans on the other side should logically move forward and complete their victory.

  4. Comment by Anthony on December 8, 2021 at 12:36 pm

    If she is revoking the definition of marriage as contained in the Discipline, then why is she not revoking the Trust Clause as well?

    DOES THE UMC STILL HAVE A JUDICIAL COUNCIL? If so, WHERE ARE THEY???

  5. Comment by Steve on December 8, 2021 at 2:51 pm

    Star,

    Exactly! Surrendering victory only shows that the WCA leaders who touted it really didn’t want victory, and the “cowardly exit plan” only shows what those same WCA leaders really wanted: $$

  6. Comment by Dan W on December 8, 2021 at 4:26 pm

    All hail Queen Laurie the First.
    Lifetime appointment, no accountability…

  7. Comment by td on December 8, 2021 at 5:15 pm

    In my experience, this is typical of how UM Leaders have behaved for decades. They only follow the rules when they agree and ignore them when they disagree. However, they hold congregations, but not clergy they like, to a strict reading of the discipline. Maybe we should be pleased that they are officially announcing in public that they have no intent to follow the discernment and decisions of general conference.

  8. Comment by Anthony on December 8, 2021 at 7:27 pm

    Liberals have started this Great Lie, this bishop has joined in, and it is showing up in their talking points more and more: “This vision provides a home for everyone – whether they consider themselves liberal, evangelical, progressive, traditionalist, middle of the road, conservative, centrist or something else.”

    This is nothing more than a condescending position statement directed at a target audience, namely those leaving the United Methodist Church to align with a new traditional Methodist denomination — The Global Methodist Church. This elitist narrative apparently views this group as so inferior, as so manipulatable, as so inane that they can easily be duped by such preposterous propaganda into blindly remaining in and financially supporting this future UMC.

  9. Comment by Anthony on December 9, 2021 at 10:01 am

    PS
    In fact, the Council of Bishops have made the GREAT LIE their official position:

    https://www.unitedmethodistbishops.org/files/websites/www/a+narrative+for+the+continuing+united+methodist+church…._.pdf

  10. Comment by Brian Evers on December 9, 2021 at 2:02 pm

    She responded to the letter and basically told the WCA to pound sand because she is who is she is.

    https://files.constantcontact.com/7d18bf39601/dfc0d6bf-0c92-4175-9399-bd571bd4d299.pdf

  11. Comment by Anthony on December 9, 2021 at 3:03 pm

    She repeats the GREAT LIE in her response again. This Great Lie is becoming the standard talking point among the progressives. They very well know there will be no place for traditionalists in their psUMC. This condescending statement shows us how stupid they truly believe traditional Methodists really are.

    ” First, we, like many Iowa United Methodists, desire a church that is fully inclusive and believe that in our denomination there is room for centrists, conservatives, and progressives.”

  12. Comment by Donald Link on December 9, 2021 at 4:41 pm

    I understand that a couple of Methodist pastors have moved to the Roman Catholic Church with a view to ordination and that a number more are considering it. Since devout Methodists are essentially in tune with Rome’s social message and since their traditional theology varies little, this may become a trend.

  13. Comment by Steve on December 9, 2021 at 5:29 pm

    Hate to see it. The “gracious exit” idea was meant to avoid the appalling property wars of the Episcopal Church over the past couple of decades.
    Here’s a recent article about the Episcopal Church that may suggest what Methodist churches may have to look forward to for the next couple of decades:
    https://virtueonline.org/maryland-accokeek-parish-story-injustice-revisited-new-settlement
    The Episcopalian experience suggests who gets the property depends in large part on the will and endurance of the congregation. Most congregations aren’t going to have enough of both. I know I don’t. Much easier to just find another church.

  14. Comment by Jeff on December 10, 2021 at 2:13 am

    Big deal. Whoopie, the impotent WCA took, sort of, offense to Haller’s heresy; however, heresy is my word, because the WCA cannot bring ITSELF to clearly call ANYTHING that satan’s progs do to be “heresy”. If you doubt that, I have an email from Tom Lambrecht that spells their explicit policy out.

    The TransQueers are merely a different “misson direction”, don’t you know. Or as the insufferable Bob Phillips puts it, a “mitosis” of the “cellular structure” of the body of CHRIST. “To each his own theology”. According to the WCA, Jesus was wrong! Apparently, you *can* simultaneously serve both GOD and mammon (and Molech and Baal). Who knew?

    And now, the chickens are coming home to roost. The HERETIC (There! I said it!) Haller becomes a covenant breaker, pushing sexual immorality. Scripture anyone? How many Romans 1:28-31 boxes does the execrable “bishop” Laurie Haller check off?

    And yet… NONE of the UMC bishops have come out publicly against this rank covenant-breaking and heresy. No! Not one.

    Because comity.

    Stay with the cancer-ridden UMC at the peril of your own soul and witness. Christian! You can do better than this.

  15. Comment by Leo on December 10, 2021 at 9:42 am

    It’s heartbreaking to see such vitriol being cast on fellow Christians, for loving their neighbors enough to welcome them into God’s church, even when some don’t like the way God made them, hate their capacity for love, and hate that they form lifelong relationships worthy of blessing, too.

    “For you were strangers in the land of Egypt…”

  16. Comment by April user on December 11, 2021 at 10:53 am

    Not only is the Roman church receiving those that are fleeing the UMC but the Methodist’s predecessor – the Anglican Church has become a new home for those disaffected by their current situation. In particular, the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) has seen pastors and lay people from other denominations find an historic and traditional faith home in the ACNA. not a perfect group of Christ followers but a wonderful band of brothers and sisters to journey with.

  17. Comment by The insufferable Bob Phillips on December 11, 2021 at 12:19 pm

    Jeff has given me a promising new title for my business card. Anyone can be “the Reverend,” (thank you ordination) or Dr. (thank you Princeton) or Captain (thank you Navy), but ‘The Insufferable Bob Phillips’ is an eye-catcher. Did Jeff know my daughters when they were teenagers? If so, please know their opinions have softened. Most of all, recall GK Chesterson’s wisdom that “the reason angels can fly is that they take themselves so lightly.” So, lighten up, laugh loud, and live in Christ…

  18. Comment by Wayne on December 13, 2021 at 1:10 am

    The one piece of good news is that she will have to take mandatory retirement at age 70. I am guessing that will happen within the next 5 years or less, unless she is younger than she appears. In the mean time, I expect she’ll experience the exit of a decent number of churches from her watch.

  19. Comment by John Smith on December 13, 2021 at 5:28 am

    This is what happens when you center you ecclesiology around unaccountable bishops. Which, of course, will be a feature of any follow on denomination.

  20. Comment by Jeff on December 13, 2021 at 4:52 pm

    Clever reply, Rev. Dr. Phillips, Capt. USN!
    I admire the way you deftly sidestepped the issue of your (and WCA’s) failure to confront the frank heresy in the UMC, while still managing to burnish your own credentials.
    Well played, sir.

  21. Comment by Melvin Aycock on December 13, 2021 at 7:12 pm

    It appears to me, the orthodox Methodist Churches of Iowa still have a powerful tool against this sort of apostasy, and that is the power of the purse. If a significant number of local churches refuse to submit conference apportionments, someone will have to listen.

  22. Comment by Dr. Lee D. Cary on December 19, 2021 at 9:49 am

    “But many (predominantly white) liberal Americans have made clear that while they are happy to be part of an international church in which they are in charge, they are vehemently unwilling to submit to General Conference decisions driven largely by African and Filipino delegates. ”

    Eventually, progressive liberals always come out of the closet as fundamentally racists.

  23. Comment by C.A. Buster on December 29, 2021 at 7:39 pm

    Take a look at these various comments to this post, and you will see why the UMC cannot flourish in it’s big-tent “home for everyone – whether they consider themselves liberal, evangelical, progressive, traditionalist, middle of the road, conservative, centrist or something else.” Me? I’m looking for a ‘bible church’ and I’m not yet convinced the proposed GMC will meet those needs.

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