In the summer before my 30th birthday, I answered “Yes” to some questions. The context for these questions was during the Oregon-Idaho United Methodist Annual Conference. I was about to be Ordained as an Elder and granted full membership in the Annual Conference. During the Annual Conference Session, the candidates for ordination are brought before the assembly and asked 19 historic questions that date back to the time of John Wesley.
Here are the historic questions:
- Have you faith in Christ?
- Are you going on to perfection?
- Do you expect to be made perfect in love in this life?
- Are you earnestly striving after it?
- Are you resolved to devote yourself wholly to God and his work?
- Do you know the General Rules of our Church?
- Will you keep them?
- 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?
- Will you diligently instruct the children in every place?
- Will you visit from house to house?
- Will you recommend fasting or abstinence, both by precept and example?
- Are you determined to employ all your time in the work of God?
- Are you in debt so as to embarrass you in your work?
- Will you observe the following directions? a) Be diligent. Never be unemployed. Never be triflingly employed. Never trifle away time; neither spend any more time at any one place than is strictly necessary. b) Be punctual. Do everything exactly at the time. And do not mend our rules, but keep them; not for wrath, but for conscience’ sake.
At the time, I answered all of these questions in the affirmative. The bishop explained that these were historical questions and that circumstances may be different in our time than in the time of Wesley. Still, the intent of the questions was to examine our hearts, our faith and our commitment to ministry.
When I answered these questions, I lied about #9. I had studied the doctrines of the United Methodist Church and I found that many or most of them aligned with my understanding of scripture. But, there was at least one glaring contradiction for me: The Church’s doctrine as it relates to homosexuality: “The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.” (Par 161F) I don’t believe this is “in harmony with the Holy Scriptures.” I have always known, to the core of my soul, that Jesus loves and accepts all people. The UMC is wrong on this issue. It’s been wrong since this language was first voted into the Discipline in 1972.
Still, I answered, “Yes.” I guess I thought, “Yes, for the most part. That is good enough. Lots of people in the UMC share my view.” So I spent the next 27 years of my life as an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church.
There is another question, for which I am no longer a “Yes.” It is question #12. I no longer approve of the UMC’s government, discipline and polity. I have come to understand that the way that the UMC is governed, and it’s polity, are too often instruments of abusive power.
When I think about how Jesus equipped and sent leaders, there was nothing of hierarchy, complaints, trials and punishments. The biggest concern wasn’t the “Covenant” (read: Law), it was the practice of forgiveness, healing and grace. There was not even a “set apart” ordained class of religious practitioners. There were just followers of Jesus living in community with the people they served.
I don’t buy it anymore. I can’t stand complaints brought against pastors who celebrate loving commitments between adults. I can no longer hold membership in a denomination that contributes to a culture that would have LBGTQ youth commit suicide before it would fully include them into the life of the Church.
But what I find even more distressing, honestly, are the liberal and progressive UM clergy who are incensed by the Church doing what it always said it would do. It is enforcing the beliefs and policies that it adopted as its Discipline. The people out of integrity are not those prosecuting the offenders. They are, actually, acting in harmony with their view of a judgmental God who withholds salvation from sinners. The are following the Book of Discipline, the same one we all answered “Yes” when asked if we would support and maintain it.
I took early retirement in June this year to step outside of the UMC for the first time in my life. My choice came from a need to restore integrity with my faith. Since then I have been healing, praying, recovering while serving emotionally disturbed youth and their families. Now, it is time to take the next step.
In solidarity with all of the people harmed by the polity of the UMC – with Robyn Morrison, Frank Schaefer, Annie Britton, Delyn Celec, J Zirbel, Kristen Burkert and so many more (LGBTQ and allies), I am surrendering my credentials as an Elder in the United Methodist Church. Robyn and I are planning a liturgy for Sunday, December 22, the fourth Sunday of Advent. On the day after the longest night, we will celebrate the completion of my connection with the United Methodist Church. The Church that I have loved all my life. The Church that has denied love and grace for too many for too long.
I invite other Ordained Elders in the United Methodist Church to consider if you can answer these historic questions with integrity. If not, are you ready to surrender your credentials – even if no one brings charges against you?
In Christ’s powerful love,
Blessings to you Rev. Gerry. The challenge is that the voice is getting quieter with each ally having to leave. As a gay man going through candidacy in the UMC, suspending the ethical to ultimately seek ordination to work to change the policy and reach out to our LGBTQ youth this is a very difficult situation.
It is so sad that clergy have to deal with these difficult choices. As a layperson in the church, I wish you well, Gerry. To those who believe they must stay with the church to change it, I wish you well also. I too, have struggled about staying with the denomination, but it is hard to leave church family and the missions I have chosen.
My congregation is a Reconciling Congregation so we are trying to keep the faith locally, at least.
Thanks for admitting that you lied at your ordination vows. I wish other wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing clergy would leave like you did.
Your canard about people committing suicide because churches won’t marry them is another lie. Do some research. Their sexual preferences are often a consequence of other issues, not the cause.
I wish the pro-LGBTQ lay people would leave as well.
“I have always known, to the core of my soul, that Jesus loves and accepts all people.”
Statements like that betray a non-Christian worldview. Jesus accepts all who repent and believe. If you shake your fist at God, as you are doing, then you are not meeting God on his terms. He set very gracious terms, but you don’t get to sit in judgment of them.
The Bible couldn’t be more clear. Bible-believing Christians and even two out of the three types of pro-gay people* (religious or not) can see these truths:
100% of the verses addressing homosexual behavior describe it as sin in the clearest and strongest possible terms.
100% of the verses referring to God’s ideal for marriage involve one man and one woman.
100% of the verses referencing parenting involve moms and dads with unique roles (or at least a set of male and female parents guiding the children).planned
0% of 31,173 Bible verses refer to homosexual behavior in a positive or even benign way or even hint at the acceptability of homosexual unions of any kind.
* The three general types of pro-gay theology people: 1. “The Bible says homosexuality is wrong but it isn’t the word of God” (obviously non-Christians) 2. “The Bible says it is wrong but God changed his mind and is only telling theological Liberals” (only about 10 things wrong with that) 3. “The Bible is the word of God but you are just misunderstanding it” (Uh, no, not really.)
You should give up your pension too since you can’t support the UMC’s doctrine. Money from the pension is just as “evil” right?
“I can no longer hold membership in a denomination that contributes to a culture that would have LBGTQ youth commit suicide before it would fully include them into the life of the Church.”
Funny, but of all the gay people I know (quite a few, actually) NONE of them has committed suicide. I don’t have ANY friends who’ve had a gay friend commit suicide. If the “30% of teen suicides are LGBTQ suicides” myth were true, I could expect at least 4 of my friends to be dead. Why aren’t they? Because this claim is bogus, and you bought the lie, Mr. Hill.
No study has been able to replicate GLSEN’s “study” that so exaggerated gay teen suicide rates. Why? Because GLSEN likely only surveyed kids who were already “at risk” for several other reasons. Scientifically valid and confirmed studies have been tested to show that gay teens are only slightly more likely to commit suicide than any other teen. The difference is negligible.
These exaggerated claims regarding gay teen suicides carry as much scientific validity as Kinsey’s claim that “10% of the world is homosexual” (which every demographic study since has shown to be equally bogus.
Do some research before you base your theology on some piece-of-malarky “statistic” that GLSEN sends your way. Remember: GLSEN has an agenda, too.
We are sorry you feel this way. Please read the following. There are many, many other stories like it. May Love Prevail.
Shamed: How The UMC contributed to my son’s death
That is an emotional ploy to change the topic. Some people at a UMC were total jerks to a kid who obviously had plenty of troubles already. That is completely different than saying that homosexual behavior is a sin. Your problem is that you disagree with God, then you find non sequitur arguments like that to bolster your position. Using that logic, MADD is responsible if an alcoholic kills himself.
It appears to me that intolerance is a human behavior, not a God-behavior. As an expression of God’s love, Jesus was likely most intolerant (if at all) of the more subtle human sins like pride, pomposity, dry intellectualism, and exclusivity. The Bible is full of human behavior and behavior that is attributed to God but that was not likely to be God-behavior. It is the irresistable unconditionality of God’s love for us humans that pulls us toward a relationship with God, not arguments about who is more sinful than the other or what “life-styles” are ok with God and which are not..
Carol, Jesus specifically talked about lust and anger as well. The Bible addresses sexual sins many types — both hetero and homo. And Jesus was very exclusive in the sense that his entire word teaches over 100 times that He is the only way to salvation. He is very inclusive in that everyone who repents and believes in him can be saved from the punishment for their sins.
The compassion / intolerance line is a false dichotomy and it begs the question by assuming that it is compassionate to encourage people to stay in physically, emotionally and spiritually destructive lifestyles. It is sad how people are so swayed by fallacious sound bites like that. If you really love people and have compassion for them then you will tell them the truth. Jesus is intolerant of sin.
My disagreement with the OP is more basic: the Social Principles (e.g., ¶ 161F) are not doctrine.
The Plan of Union (Journal of the 1964 General Conference, page 3023) stated that “our present and established standards of doctrine” originally referred to Wesley’s forty-four standard sermons and his “Explanatory Note Upon The New Testament”. The 1808 General Conference added The Articles of Religion to this understanding. (See the First Restrictive Rule: ¶ 17)
In Memorandum 1002, the Judicial Council voided a General Conference resolution for violating the First, Second, and Fifth Restrictive Rules. Here is the “Resolved” statement from that illegal resolution: “Therefore, be it resolved, that the 2004 General Conference affirms its commitment to the basic doctrines of the Christian faith as taught in Scripture and in The United Methodist Articles of Religion and in the sermons of John Wesley.”
If the above argument is too arcane, there is another more pragmatic reason why the Social Principles are not doctrine. Not only is “dissemination of doctrine contrary to the established standard of doctrine of The United Methodist Church” a chargeable offense for clergy (¶ 2702.1e), but it is also a chargeable offense for professing members (¶ 2702.3d). It is incomprehensible to me that anyone who has read the Social Principles agrees with all of them. If the Social Principles are doctrine, merely expressing disagreement with them would be a chargeable offense.
All of the above is not meant to trivialize how offensive the Discipline’s language at ¶ 161F is. I’m just incredulous about people protesting this language calling this language “doctrine”.
More than likely John Wesley didn’t know anymore about homosexuality that did the writers/;translators of scripture.