Talk of schism in The United Methodist Church abounds, exposing an already distracted church. Contemplating split precisely when the world needs an embodied message of reconciliation is a transparent betrayal of the church’s nature and mission.
John Wesley in his sermon “On Schism” declares:
To separate ourselves from a body of living Christians, with whom we were before united, is a grievous breach of the law of love. It is the nature of love to unite us together; and the greater the love, the stricter the union. . . . It is only when our love grows cold, that we can think of separating from our brethren. And this is certainly the case with any who willingly separate from their Christian brethren. . . The pretences for separation may be innumerable, but want of love is always the real cause.
As Christ’s followers, we are commanded to love one another with the same love with which Christ loves us. Love is precisely the criteria by which the world knows we are disciples: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another”(John 13:15).
However we may rationalize schism as faithfulness to truth and orthodoxy, or as the cost of bold prophetic witness, the world correctly sees it as the failure to love. A church that cannot struggle together with conflicts over sexuality, interpretation of Scripture, and orthodoxy has little to say to a violently divided world.
The failure to love is also a negation of the church’s leadership. History is replete with examples of the church’s failure to provide leadership in times of polarization and division.
A historian of American religion, C. C. Goen, provides a relevant case study. His book Broken Churches, Broken Nation: Denominational Schisms and the Coming of the American Civil War chronicles denominational schisms as precursors to the violent breech in the nation.
Though he does not contend that the churches caused the split, Goen argues that the denominational divisions represented a tragic “failure of leadership.” The Methodists, Baptists, and Presbyterians opted for retreating into homogeneous ecclesial enclaves rather than engage in difficult conversations on slavery and human dignity. Attempts at persuasion gave way to legislative coercion. When legislation failed, division and violence became the attempted solutions.
Rather than leading the nation toward justice and reconciliation, the denominations simply mirrored society’s brokenness. By splitting into self-justifying enclaves of like-minded congregations, the denomination opted to mirror the brokenness in society. The church, thereby, provided an ecclesial model and theological underpinning for a broken nation and subsequent civil war.
The United Methodist Church is once again positioned to provide leadership to a world dreadfully divided and retreating into dangerous ideological ghettos. Will we once again exhibit a failure of love and leadership?
I am finding a hopeful alternative in an unexpected place. I have the privilege of providing a pastoral presence with approximately forty people living with some form of dementia, their families, and staff who care for them. Those marginalized children of God embody reconciliation and oneness that transcends uniformity.
Every worship service is Pentecost at Bethany, the memory care facility. Although each participate is unique and the religious backgrounds include Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, and “none,” we gather as one community. Many have lost verbal abilities and comprehension. Theological and creedal abstractions elude them. Behaviors are unpredictable. Disruptions are accepted in stride.
It is not uncommon to hear a resident sing “Amazing Grace” in her native Portuguese or another in Spanish or Italian. A Jewish man joins in praying the Lord’s Prayer. People who can’t remember their own name recite Psalm 23 in unison. Some who have forgotten who Jesus sing “Jesus Loves Me” with gusto.
Much of the language is babble and incoherent. Yet, there is an understanding that transcends cognition. I asked, “How is it that you seem to understand one another?” A woman whose persistent petition during intercessory prayers is for world peace, responded: “We love one another. We communicate with the heart.”
That is leadership! That is love! Loving one another and communicating with the heart! That is the way forward for a denomination that claims as its mission “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
 Albert C. Outler, editor, The Works of John Wesley, Vol. 3(Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1986), p. 64.
Ken, Please share this w Bishop Ough and the Council of Bishops – as reflection prior to our fall meeting. A failure of Love – – that is exactly what is happening in our beloved UMC. Blessings and love to you and Linda
Thank you, Charlene.
Ditto, Charlene!!! Ken, I just read your amazing blog, and my heart is soaring! Thank you for so well naming the bedrock issue that threatens to undermine the message Christ’s Church is to offer: God’s Love IS big enough to claim our whole human family!!! I trust both of you know how grateful I am for the ways each of you has formed my heart for ministry.
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Thank you, Joy!
Bishop, we’re singing the same song! With your permission, I’m reposting this excellent essay on United Methodist Insight. Blessings to you!
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By all means use the piece as you deem appropriate!
Bravo! A timely message for all.
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Fiercely faithful and beautiful word. Whatever else we are, may we always be one. Nothing bears witness to the power of God than this. Your image of your place of service as Pentecost is inspired. Bless you as you bless the church.
Thanks, Greg! I am deeply concerned about our church!
Thank you for this. I contrast the state of our denomination with the end of my marriage when my ex-wife realized her lesbian orientation. I am convinced, in part because of the decades of difficult and intimate work we had done on our relationship, that ending the marriage as we did, with mutual respect and compassion, and profound parental care for our sons, was the path of love. There was not room in our relationship for us both to grow and still be able to fulfill God’s call to love one another as husband and wife. In contrast, The United Methodist Church is tempted with schism while the room for all to share in the creation of disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world is self-evident.
Rev. Carter Cortelyou
elder, Detroit Annual Conference
Thank you very much for this very poignant posting which really resonates with me today! The notion of a split within The UMC does seem like a major failure of leadership!
This morning’s meditation by Richard Rohr included a helpful perspective! In the 13th century, the Franciscans held many theological views which the dominant leadership of the church opposed. Nevertheless, the Franciscans remained as a significant and influential faction in the church, continued to dialogue with those of differing perspectives, and as a result enriched the traditions and teachings of the Church.
In my opinion, there is plenty of room for diversity of thought and practice in the church and denominational leadership needs to cultivate the value of diverse perspectives within the Body, instead of treading down the perilous path of “unity equates to uniformity”!
Thank you for this very helpful response. I appreciate the comments by Richard Rohr. Certainly, to love as Christ loves, which is our calling as church, does not mean uniformity of thought or practice!
You, like so many others, criticize, but do not provide an answer beyond loving more. Are you saying that during the Civil War, they should have been able to love more while retaining slavery? Today, shall the church continue to discriminate against people over gender issues, but just love more? How does that work? Who needs to love more? How do we love more?
I agree with your statements, but provide an answer. The Confessing Movement insists that they are perfectly loving, but the problem is with those sinful homosexuals and the people who do not want to discriminate against them. The UMC has been stuck in the same place for many years. Apparently, we all think we are loving, but maybe the most loving thing would be to split up.
Thank you for your comments. I realize the matter is very complex and merits additional reflection, including potential solutions. I welcome the conversation and hope we together can find alternatives to splitting. The immediate challenge is to define more precisely what love means when we are commanded to love as Christ loves us. I do not understand agape to be an emotion but a commitment to seek the wholeness and well being of the other regardless of differences. Further, at the hear of agape is justice and reconciliation. My plea is that as a denomination let us struggle together for a way forward that does bears witness to the oneness of the human family already made possible in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. How do we live into that already won victory? Again, thank you for your thoughtful and challenging response.
One thing that “loving” means is “being truthful” (cf. 1 Cor. 13.6). When those with one view of the issue of same-sex loving people continue to lie about those with a different view, and when the denomination does not confront the lies, then we are at an impasse.
In 2000, when I felt God calling me to be open with the Church about my homosexuality (I was then and am still an ordained United Methodist elder), I felt the need to study the scriptures, church doctrine and history, whatever material I could find on homosexuality, and anything else that would help me know with some certainty whether God was calling me to reject my same-sex loving desires and to seek to change, or whether God was calling me to be true to myself and to become part of the movement in the Church (and, particularly, the United Methodist Church) to bring about the acceptance of same-sex loving as one of the many sexualities created by God for the purpose of showing the divine love for creation and for humanity in all its varieties.
Before I continue, I wish to say that after many years of study and introspection, I found the latter to be the case rather than the former. I also recognized that, although all good gifts of God can be used in a corrupt and self-centered manner, sexuality among them, it is also possible to express one’s sexuality in God-honoring ways. While the Church had long sought to provide models for heterosexuals to live lovingly and responsibly, it had not provided similar models for same-sex loving persons who, to find models for relating to others like themselves, have often had to turn elsewhere than the Church to find them, the heterosexual models not speaking adequate truth to same-sex loving persons due, for the most part, to the Church’s condemnation of same-sex loving relationships. This fact is at the root of the current problem surrounding LGBTQ acceptance or rejection by the Church.
Again in 2000, in addition to entering into a counseling relationship with a licensed therapist who had a background in evangelical theology in the Reformed tradition, I sought all the materials I could find from the variety of perspectives in the Church. Among other items, I acquired a video (on tape at that time) from the American Family Association, which the Rev. Donald E. Wildmon, an ordained United Methodist elder in the Mississippi Annual Conference, had founded and of which he was the president and, later, chairman. The video was titled “It’s Not Gay.”
The video focused in particular on the story of Michael Johnston; but the content and trajectory of the story is common to many of the materials produced by organizations who wish to argue against the acceptance of same-sex loving persons as having the potential for being expressive of what they perceive to be their God-given sexuality and, at the same time, being faithful Christians. That is, Johnston’s story tells of a young man who had discovered himself to be sexually attracted to men rather than to women. Since he wished to fulfill his sexual desires, and since the only way he saw to do so in his cultural surroundings was to become part of the so-called “gay community,” he frequented places where he knew he could meet other gay men, typically bars or bathhouses; and he engaged in sexual activities with a variety of other men, apparently never finding one particular man with whom to partner, especially since that was not the normal pattern among gay men in his community. As a result of struggling to remain acceptable in the straight culture while being active in the gay culture, he experienced depression and contemplated committing suicide.
Eventually, however, the video tells of his hearing and responding to a presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and deciding to “leave the gay lifestyle” and of his commiting himself to becoming a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ. He also underwent therapy to rid himself of his same-sex desires, though the video did not indicate whether he succeeded in developing heterosexual desires or whether he chose to marry heterosexually. (As an article from 2007 that can be found using the following link (http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/2007/01/20/183) indicates, Johnston founded an ex-gay ministry and gained some prominence among organizations and persons who were involved with the work of persuading gay men and lesbians to “leave the homosexual lifestyle.”)
As I watched AFA’s “It’s Not Gay”, I recognized that I, as a gay man, did not identify at all with Johnston’s story. Though I knew other gay men, and I knew of various sexual activities of “the gay community,” to the degree I was friends with other gay men and socialized with them, I did not frequent many of the places some of them – by no means all – frequented; and though I heard their stories in which they described their “dates,” they were stories much like I would hear from straight men and women. (In fact, watching the video, I thought of the many heterosexual persons who made lifestyle choices very much like those Johnston was shown to be making, with similar outcomes, realizing that “It’s Not Gay” should have been titled “It’s Not a Joy for Gay or Straight.”) I even knew partnered gay men who were determined to be faithful to their partners, even though at that time (late ‘70s, early ‘80s) the broader society provided little enough support for heterosexual marriage, and almost none for faithfulness in same-sex relationships.
In short, it was clear to me that the AFA video was more of a propaganda piece, drawing whatever anti-gay data it could from whatever sources it could find, that determinedly avoided presenting any counter-information, even so as to be somewhat more truthful by stating, “Of course, not all gay people follow the lifestyle Johnston followed before devoting his life to Christ; and many straight people make the same choices as Johnston was making before coming to know Christ.” No, it was a blanket condemnation of all gay men and lesbians and an intentional ignoring of similar practices within the straight community. Since having seen that, I have noted that nearly every anti-gay piece in whatever medium produced by the AFA, the so-called Family Research Council, the Traditional Values Coalition, Focus on the Family, and other allegedly “Christian” organizations with an anti-gay bias features this kind of blanket condemnation and partial-truth telling that have the cumulative effect of such egregious misrepresentation of the lives of many gay men and lesbians, but particularly of gay and lesbian Christians, that it has become a lie that members of those groups have come to believe is “the Truth,” in spite of the fact that the message delivered clearly ignores the great amount of evidence that contradicts their claims.
My own claim is that the leaders of these organizations, many of them ordained clergy, know they are lying about fellow children of God; but they want to “win” the argument, as if some worldly achievement was worth losing their souls. They are unwilling to change their message, even as evidence to the contrary continues to mount, as faithful gay and lesbian couples not only come out after having been together for decades, but also, with same-sex marriage being legal across the country, now that so many same-sex partners are coming forward to make public their mutual commitments to one another – and some are asking the Church not only to affirm their relationships through conducting Christian marriages but also, by implication, to provide their marriages with both support and accountability in ways similar to those they provide the same for heterosexual marriages. (The widespread ignoring on the part of local churches and annual conferences of materials produced by the denomination, such as “The Church Studies Homosexuality” (1994) and “Can We Talk? Christian Conversations about Homosexuality” (compiled by the GCCUIC) are more evidence that those in the UMC who are anti-gay don’t want to consider anything that might give insight into the larger picture or might even change people’s minds about how the Church should address the stated concerns.)
So, until this insistence on lying on the part of the anti-gay faction within the UMC is confronted by the Church and ended by those who have practiced it with impunity for years, if not decades, unchallenged and have misled many in the Church by doing so, we will never have unity in the Church. I fear that the likelihood is that those who are habitual liars will be the ones who actually leave rather than giving up their addiction to falsehood. I don’t see much hope of unity being achieved rather than division, because addictions are impossible to break if the addict refuses to acknowledge the addiction.
Christ also said, “Judge not lest years be judged and even more harshly.” Then Paul said do Not allow immoral people into you’re Church, but judge those outside the Church? Please explain the contrasting views.
Mr Carder seems to take the default position of thinking the problems are a result of lack of love. However, if a pastor takes position A and a parishioner takes position B. After a season of prayer and discussion with the pastor, the parishioner may leave that congregation while continuing to have love and respect for the pastor. Or the parishioner can stay in the congregation and feel frustration and dissatisfaction. The second option is surely not the solution.
My grandfather was a straight ticket Republican; my father is a Democrat. Yet we managed to sit around the same table on a regular basis by allowing each to have their perspective (vote, news media etc.) while focusing at the table on that which drew them together (family, love, etc). Too many families, including the church family, split instead of focusing on providing room for differences and focus on that which unites. Ephesians 4 tells us that we are called to unity and that we build up that unity through love. Perhaps we can split lovingly in a social way of understanding love. But in a Biblical sense, love leads to unity as well as truth. We need one another.
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Thank you! You state it very well!
So, are you suggesting that God does not use ongoing discomfort to cause a person to grow spiritually, and that by avoiding that discomfort and failing to grow spiritually, the person is actually following the will of God for them? What of 1 Corinthians 13: “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends”? I note, especially, that love “does not insist on its own way,” and that it “endures all things,” even, apparently, a pastor who does not agree with one’s own position on a particular subject – or, if you will, a gay person who believes that’s the way God created them, while the Church tries to tell them differently, but the gay person stays devoted to the Church anyway, and simply seeks to honor God in loving others as Christ loves her, and loving her partner with the same devotion as Christ loves the Church.
Bishop Carder, You continue to teach me. Thank you. I’ll be sharing this with my district.
Brookhaven DS, Mississippi Conference
Thank you, Heather. I hope you are doing well!
Thank you for this good word.
Victoria Sizemore Baldwin
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Reblogged this on ReEmergent Church and commented:
A profound word from our bishop here in Florida about the kind of model of unity the church of Jesus Christ has the opportunity to be for our increasingly divided world.
You have made a common error in confusing me with my friend, Bishop Ken CarTer in Florida. Please note the difference in spelling of the last name. Mine is spelled with a D-Carder while his is with t-Carter. I appreciate you kind words about the blog.
What will be intetesting to observe when or if schism comes is the degree to which the two (or more) bodies find ways to share a common witness. This will say more to the world about the manifestation of Christ’s love in the flesh of Christ’s body. Even now, what is more beautiful, more holy, more truth-speaking than what goes on in those places where Methodists and Episcopalians and Presbyterians and assorted strips of disciples find ways to pray and love together? Structural unity: That’s cool. Unity in love: That’s priceless That’s a cross lifted high.
Thank you for your thoughtful comments.
Bishop, your proposed solution to our problem strikes me as a parallel to the Rodney King solution to the problem of race–Why can’t we all just get along? I think we need more particulars than you’ve provided here. This comes across to me as a bit more of a sermon than it does a real formula for getting past our impasse.
Thank you, Lonnie, for your response. You seem to miss the radical nature of what it means to love as Christ loves us. It is far more than “getting along.” I fully agree that the blog does not offer sufficient particulars; however, I hope you will not dismiss the implications by labeling my comments as “a bit more of a sermon “than . . . a real formula for getting past our impasse.” Regrettably, we are reaping the harvest of our idolatrous reliance on legislation and juridical processes as more authoritative than our theology and liturgy. A first step toward “getting past our impasse” is authentic repentance for our reliance on legislation, juridical processes, and political maneuvering rather than the power of grace at work in community. A second step forward is for all sides to commit to stay together as a witness to a broken and fractured world and find ways of struggling together with identified issues such as authority of Scripture and human sexuality. By struggling together we will more effectively bear witness to the reconciliation wrought in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Let us join together in living now in light of the victory already won in Jesus Christ.
What a beautiful and powerful witness to love. Thank you, Bishop Carder. May we all communicate with the heart as we move together through the storm. May we avoid the seduction of “homogenous ecclesiastical enclaves.”
Pastor, Parkway Hills UMC
Thank you, Bruce, for your kind words and for your faithful and fruitful ministry!
Dear Bishop Carder,
Thank you very much for your courageous and loving expression of hope for our church. Your challenge to us is urgent, clear and compelling. I join you (and Jesus) in praying that we may all be one.
In John Wesley’s “Cautions and Directions” the case is made that the last two cautions concerning “desiring anything but God” and schism are actually the sins of heart and life against the sanctifying grace of Jesus Christ. The purpose of sanctifying grace is our going on to perfection in love! (Matthew 5:48)
Interesting thoughts. 3 points though:
1. The issue is not about interpretation of Scriptures. The issue is authority of scriptures for life, order and faith. If we are free to pick and choose which scriptures we like, does that not lead to more division and ecclesial anarchy?
2. Why does it mean that in order to show love you must accept the other person’s viewpoint? Failure to accept the progressive viewpoint is called a lack of love? Then the bigot and racist viewpoint must be accepted in order to love as Jesus says we should do.
3. Was Ezekiel wrong when he challenged Israel to choose which “god” they would serve?
You raise important questions that merit discussion together as a denomination. Defining “authority of Scripture” is one of the pressing issues as well as the principles by which we interpret Scripture. A step forward is avoidance of labels, including “progressive” and “conservative.” The issues are multiple and complex but schism is not the solution and only further weakens the witness of the church.
You response on #1 is being done already. Do we follow the law about slaves, divorce or women being silent in worship. Not choosing to follow the ban on homosexuality is the same thing. What makes it wrong and the other things we don’t follow right?
Concerning laws on slavery–God provided laws, not endorsing slavery because slavery is one of the results of the Fall–but how do God’s people respond to the unjust system that resulted from the fall. Concerning divorce–God’s Intended Design never allowed for divorce, but as a result of the Fall divorce happens–but God offers grace for all sin, and our response is to stop sinning–meaning we stop choosing divorce. Women silent in church?–another misapplication of what Paul was writing–and a failure to take the whole of Paul’s writings.
What makes homosexuality wrong is that it is a sexual expression outside of God’s intended design. A feeling or belief is being used to override what God designed and intended before the Fall.
“Picking and choosing” and “interpretation” are two distinct activities. “Picking and choosing” is an effort to control what Scripture can say to us. “Interpretation” is an effort to find out what Scripture is meant to say to us. There are multiple honest interpretations of various Scripture passages. Until we stop assuming that anyone who disagrees with our favored interpretation is rebelling against God, hasn’t read the Bible, loves sin, et cetera, we will not progress in any way. We will only do harm.
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A Methodist minister from my youth used to quote Edwin Markham:
“He drew a circle that shut me out —
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in.”
Your words reminded of the poem and my old minister.
I am in my 80s and support Reconciling Ministries and my LGBT friends, but I would not draw brother and sister United Methodists who disagree with me outside the circle of God’s love.
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This issue has been unresolved for 45 years. Ample time for love to prevail. Compromise has not been tried out of a stubborn insistence that we are not divided. Education and research was tried and the recommendations rejected. LGBTQI people and their supporters finalky have sufficiently organized enough to compel church
leadership to stop kicking the problem down the
road for another 4 years.
It is wrong to make false equivalencies as though both sides are equally responsible for gridlock and the rising protest against the discriminatory policies the majority hold dear. LGBTQI people have endured this condition long enough. Their sacrifice of personal integrity and self respect and sense of security for the sake of institionsal
unity has not been matched by a willingness to
find compromise by tho other side.
In abusive marriages it is often the case that no change occurs until the victim moves out. We are
at a similar place as a denomination. Parts of the
denomination have already decided that they will
no longer be party to an abusive policy. Thati s an
act of love…long overdue…toward LGBTQI United
Methodists who have not been included or heard
from in these debates about their place in the
church. This decision not to obey sbusive policies
is also an act of love dirercted to those who have
refused to acknowledge the full humanity of gay
people and accept with humility that their
conscientiouly held opinions are nonetheless are
not infallible expressions of the mind of God
which can be imposed on others without their
consent.. Dr.MartinLuther King spoke to this in saying that nonviolent civil disobedience compells the oppressir to face up to the problems they have created and are avoiding. So now at long
last we are at the point of deciding what kind of church the UMC is going to be. Let not more indefinite tslk of libing one another deter us from making the hard decisions before us. We rither eill be one church that allows for those eho believe in LGBTQI equality to practce that conviction in our congregations and conferences, or we will be two churches with different policies about incluson.
Your words about the importance of love and mutual respect in relstionships as the better path than resorting to leglstion and church trials sound good, but what there hss been of that has been too little and now too late. The time to decide has come at long last and spoeals ti postpone it further while preserving an unjust system is not sustainable.
This commentary lacks reason and logic. It gives the same old moral equivocation argument between two sides. How can this be? One side practices and encourages the breaking of the Covenant and the Discipline and the decisions of the general conference. The other side encourages honoring the Covenant, the Discipline and the decisions of the general conference. The ” struggle” to listen to one another has gone on for 40 years. Now that has come to an end by those who break the Covenant and the system that has governed The United Methodist Church since its Inception. To call this a failure of love is well, inadequate at best.
What always mystifies me is this attempt to say two sides are both equally wrong? Why is that? Why can we not have a simple evaluation of things as they are based on the facts? Why do we always have to pretend that one side is as wrong as another? Why must we never come to a conclusion about what must be done based on the clear facts? Why must we always spend decades “struggling” and “wrestling” with issues that are not very tricky to decide. It is as if we always want to call everything complex when it really is pretty simple just so we don’t have to render the final decision.
I appreciate your perspective and share much of the frustration reflected in your comments. I certainly don’t have sufficient answers but please do not dismiss my comments as lacking reason and logic. To love as Christ loves us demands tough mindedness and boundless compassion. I encourage you to read Goen’s book, Broken Churches, Broken Nation, especially the chapter “A Failure of Leadership,”
Does Truth have any role to play, or is Love the only card in the deck? The reason I ask is because I’m hearing calls for “loving” dialog, etc., but I never hear any cite “speak the truth in love” when it comes to these dialogues. I don’t think that I am wrong is seeing love as the manner in which truth is to be conveyed, but today’s dialogues are more about lovingly accepting everybody else’s “truths”.
Maybe we are so focused on wanting to sing Kumbayah that we have lost sight of why we’re even gathering to sing. Isn’t it just possible that schism can be seen as a success for Truth instead of a failure of Love?
Schism is borne by those rebellious to the word of God as given in the entire Bible, not just isolated words out of context. Although I know I echo the comments of the multitude, I find a parallel to one asking to be ordained who is an alcoholic, or a sexual molester, or (fill-in-the-blank). Folks such as these may very well hunger for salvation as do many Christians, and may well receive salvation. Scripture is clear about the moral and ethical heart needed for those wishing to serve a higher calling.
Through heroic acts of love and self sscrifice on behalf of the least respected minority among United Methodists we have come to the point of having to decide how we might live together as a church with radically different views about homosrxuslity. Were it not for these disruotive acts of disiobedience i am reasonably sure that the issue would continue to be kicked down the
rosd indefinitely. That may be considered an act
of love by those seeking to avoid the risks
involved to the institution, but it definiely would
not be seen that way to those most adversely
affected by thr present anti-gay policies of the
UMC. If your remsrks are intended as a
postponement. Bishop, i would have to disagree
with thst intention. We must decide now to be a
church that honors BOTH sides as having
contientioslly held cionvictions that can be
practiced in different congregations or annual
conferences without penaty, or we must decide
how we can separate peacefully with the least
amount of collateral damage to one another. This is the loving thing to do. There cannot be a return
to the clloset while others decide what is to be
done about gsy Methodists. Future talks must be
with those mist affected by the decisions made
. In this respect the Bishops Commission must
include LGBTQI repesentatives as a mattrr of
It does seem to me that at least a temporary separation or mortorium will be required so that there is a cooling off period if any talks are to
continue. What is abundantly clear is that
attempting to stall for more time to talk this over
will lead to shipwreck.. We have run out the clock on that. 45 years is the longest overtime imaginable! So we couldnt work it out in 45 years. Big deal! After 45 years of seoaration i suspect our grandchildren will be able to reunite withiut much difficulty.
Thank you for your very thoughtful and sensitive response. Please be assured that my comments are not intended to postpone needed action. I fully agree that we must honor both sides and work toward a resolution that reflects the reconciliation already wrought in Jesus Christ. Neither am I calling for a superficial “let’s just get along” approach that turns blind eyes to injustice. Regrettably, we are reaping the consequence of an idolatrous reliance on legislation and juridical processes to resolve issues that are to be dealt with through persuasion within community. A first step in a way forward is genuine repentance for our reliance on legislation and juridical processes. We also need to spend time discerning what it means to love as Christ loves us. That is the radical action needed. While I am deeply concerned, I do not despair. The decisive victory has already been won in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. Our challenge is to live now in the light of that victory and to embody it in our life together. Again, thank you for your thoughtful response. May God grant us the wisdom and courage to embody reconciliation already won in Christ.
“A failure of love” is an argument that implies one side is not loving the other or that by loving one another better we could resolve the impasse. I’ve not questioned nor made a judgment about whether someone is loving. How can I know the heart? Wesley could conceive of a follower of Christ reading the plain text of Scripture and denying it, but I don’t imagine he could have conceived of it as it regards the plain teaching of Scripture on sexuality.
I do believe it is a failure of love in the sense that our first love according to the Scripture is the Lord. I’m not unloving when I abide by the Scripture that has been the basis for nearly 2,000 years of Christian theology in the area of sexuality. To love the Lord means taking a stand when there is a falling away from sound doctrine and biblical theology. The New Testament is replete with warnings and evidence of false teachers who lead others astray. Wesley also warned of this.
The failure is a failure of moral integrity to abide by our ordination vows and to enforce the common covenant we have agreed to. The failure is a failure to repent of sin or even acknowledge sinning against the Lord and all of us have sinned and fallen short. Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit and the position of the UMC, based on Scripture, reason, tradition and experience, is celibacy in singleness and fidelity in marriage. Biblical marriage is one man and one woman. The failure is not about loving one another while in disagreement, but about loving God by obedience to His Word.
Grace and Peace to you
Thank you for sharing your perspective. We have all failed to love one another as Christ loves us.
I agree with you completely. Also, when people start judging another’s love capacity, is he not the one who is judging? Further, when I joined the UMC, I joined (one reason) because the Discipline was in sync with what the bible teaches. Who, in the UMC, is responsible for enforcing those rules? I am saddened and disappointed in the UMC for misrepresenting who they are. Isn’t that hypocritical? Have they not betrayed me and thousands of others who entrusted them to say what they mean and mean what they say? I fail to see any love generated when the Discipline was ignored. Those who chose to disobey it to satisfy their own selfish desires didn’t care who or how many people were hurt over it. If they loved the church the way Jesus loved it, they couldn’t have done it. The bible warns us not to have fellowship or support those who are not proponents of truth or we shall be considered partakers with them in their deeds.
With all due respect Bishop, the state of the church is solely from an abject lack of episcopal leadership. All clergy vow to uphold the Discipline. Many, if not most, bishops have not honored this vow.
The UMC stance on human sexuality has been upheld at the general conferences which we hold to be “holy conferencing” repeatedly. If it is really holy conferencing then why are we do some continue to reject the church’s position?
Real love calls people out of an unhealthy and destructive homosexual lifestyle.
This is not a failure of love so please do not project the narrative that I do not love on me. The church is in the state it is in purely because of a lack of episcopal leadership and failure to honor the vow to uphold the Discipline of the church.
Please do not easily dismiss the call to love as Christ loves as limited to a failure of leadership by one particular group. We ALL have failed and continue to do so. We are reaping the harvest of our idolatrous reliance on legislation and juridical processes to resolve our differences rather than the power of radical grace lived in community. Repentance of our continuing idolatry is an initial step.
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My dear pastor, friend, mentor and former Bishop, oh, how the church misses your active daily leadership and witness!! You speak so eloquently the words my heart wants to shout. One of the great reasons I’ve enjoyed being a “United Methodist” is because we have been “United” and because of what people once said of us: “See how they love one another.” To see that core quality in jeopardy is very unnerving. Thank you for speaking directly to us … and calling us back to the way of our Lord. Your illustration is so poignant in that so much of our facades hide a profoundly deep longing for community, unity and gracious love. So, which is the greatest of these: truth, orthodoxy or prophetic stances??? Was St. Paul wrong when he declared, “but the greatest of these is love.” Thank you for loving God, for serving Jesus and standing firm for the unity of God’s people. You have always been willing to speak the truth in love, and I miss your voice and rejoice in hearing from you today!
You have written the plain and simple truth. I have been reacquainted with several of Wesley’s sermons lately and been amazed to rediscover the breadth and depth of his catholic spirit. Odd how we can so easily bypass the prayer that Jesus prayed for the unity of the Church and focus our attention not on the love that binds us together, but on the issues on which we differ. May God forgive us all our impiety and partisan spirits. Thank you.
Thank you! I strongly agree that we have easily bypassed the prayer of Jesus. We have also failed to embrace the implications of the command to love one another as Christ loves us.
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On one account I will applaud you, the reference to Wesley’s sermon: On Schism. I would ask all that have read your blog to read the sermon. On these accounts I challenge you. First, you missed the initial point Wesley was making about defining what “schism” is. Second, you missed the clear evidence, later in the sermon where Wesley indicates (my paraphrase) the bogus and righteous reasons to separate, to come out of a church. You have taken Wesley completely out of context.
Thank you for responding and I appreciate your concern that I have taken Wesley out of context. I take your concern seriously. I have read the sermon several times as well as his sermons on “Catholic Spirit,” “Caution against Bigotry” and most all his written sermons in the four volumes of sermons published in The Works of John Wesley, edited by Albert Outler. While I do not consider myself a Wesley scholar, I have been a serious student of Wesley for more than thirty years. At the heart of Wesley’s theology and practice is the theme of holiness of heart and life or “the entire love of God shed abroad in our hearts.” The quote I lifted from the sermon is, I believe, congruent with the overall theology of Wesley as expressed in his sermons and other writings. But my overarching point is not derived from Wesley but from Jesus’ prayer that we are to be one and his command that we are to love one another as Christ loves us. What does it mean to love one another as Christ loves us? How can we best express in our life together the oneness, the reconciliation, already wrought in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ? I would like to see our denomination ponder more deeply the implications of both Wesley’s “catholic spirit” and Jesus’ prayer and command.
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As I realized this seems to be the nature of things, regardless of our Book of Discipline, an amazing transformation happens to everyone I know working in past life regression therapy. We loose fear, and we gain an expanded capacity to see with a loving heart.
Here’s what past life regression practitioners all seem to experience:
Consciousness apparently doesn’t end at death. We judge ourselves in the afterlife, we are not judged by others. We are granted access to whatever truth and research we seek. Nearly everything is available to each soul for the purpose of personal growth. In the after life we gain clear insights we did not have in life. We see how what we say and do impacts others through their eyes. We are allowed to feel their joy and their anguish. We see how all things are connected in the One. We each do our own life review, frame by frame if we choose. We are not judged. We judge ourselves. What we get wrong we do again through reincarnation until higher authority moves us onward in partnership with ourself. This is the nature of things apparently. It is what I watch and hear with my own eyes and ears in a spiritually motivated search for truth picked up in my avocation of past life regression hypnosis.
When we are ready in the between life state, we then pick the area of ourselves we want to improve in the next incarnation. We go before a council of loving elder souls for new assignment and present our plan. When they approve, we reincarnate…sometimes here, sometimes on other worlds, but usually with the same family members. We live as both sexes. We reverse roles. All this is the nature of soul growth. We are helped in these tasks by our volunteer angels, guides, and council members and feel their love and presence. This happens to believers and to non believers. It happens to people of all faiths.
My 12-year study in the search for truth, creates a whole new perspective to forgive both sides in this nonviolent schism my church has been brought to. And above all else a church is our feeble attempt to act in accordance with divine sense of love, compassion, and forgiveness. Peace depends on forgiveness and asking for help from a higher authority. http://tinyurl.com/zurj57p
Excellent message. May we all take it to heart.
Thank you Bishop Carder and all the beloved United Methodists who responded and shared diverse and inspiring views. It is encouraging that there are United Methodists who are reflecting on these challenges with all their hearts, minds and soul. I am hopeful that God will lead us well to find a solution which will keep us united as much as we acknowledge our differences .
Thank you, Bishop Nhiwatiwa! We shall continue to pray for a way forward that reflects the love of Christ!
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I resent the continuing failure by writers such as Bishop Carder to to consider the objection of traditional Christians to homosexual clergy. I feel no hatred of those who have chosen or been burdened with this sexual identification. However, I have no interest in having anyone denying the truth of the Bible as a leader in the church. How can we look to those in denial of God’s teachings as our moral leaders?
I am very suspicious of policies and pronouncements coming from the top of the Methodist church which seem to mirror, sometimes almost simultaneously, those coming from the Democratic party. Are we now an arm of that organization of humanists and socialists?
You missed my point!
I need to interject a few comments here. We who identify as non-straight have not “chosen”, nor are we “burdened with this sexual identification.” God made us this way, and we struggle against persons such as yourself and others within the Church who refuse to accept that a sovereign God can create as God will create, and our job as sexual beings, whether we identify as straight or LGBTQ, is to figure out how to live out our lives in a way that both honors God and honors the image of God in which we and others were created, with our sexual identification being one of the factors in our living. Just as left-handed people once were thought to be “of the devil,” thus, the word “sinister,” which comes from the Latin root for “left”, having the meaning of “bad, evil, base, wicked,” being applied to all left-handed people, so, also, the term “sodomite” has been applied, especially, to gay men, when, in fact, those who were threatening Lot’s guests in Sodom were “all the men of Sodom,” who, clearly, were heterosexual, because the two men of Sodom who were to marry Lot’s daughters were representative of the men of the whole town. So, the limitation of the term “sodomite” to gay men who have anal intercourse is a misapplication of the term; because the issue in Sodom was the abuse of strangers, whom the law of Moses later said were to be treated with the respect and hospitality with which one would treat a fellow Israelite, and not with abuse. So, the thing which we have “chosen” is to be open about the way God has created us to relate to other persons sexually; and the primary thing with which we are “burdened” is the abuse we receive from persons such as yourself, who claim “not to hate” us, but who simply refuse to accept us as “persons of sacred worth,” having a sexuality that is “a good gift of God” (as our Book of Discipline claims), and as person who, like you, are seeking to live the life God has designed for us in truth and righteousness. So, the answer to the question of “who are the real ‘sodomites’ in this situation” presents itself: those who are relating to others in the way God created them to relate, or those who abuse them? Just because people such as yourself don’t agree that we can relate to others intimately in a way that is acceptable to you and others like you – and you claim to know the mind of God better than we, even though your “interpretation of scripture” is based on your heterosexual preference, which biases you to see it as the only sexuality that is acceptable to God due to your and other heterosexuals’ biased way of reading the scriptures, and you do not allow that we, being as devoted to knowing and acting out God’s will for us, might have a different reading on account of our sexuality that is no less acceptable to God, even if it is not acceptable to you and others – it doesn’t mean that we are wrong and you are right. It means that you do not allow for the fact that, as the Apostle Paul states in 1 Corinthians 13, our knowledge – that is, mine as well as yours – is only partial, and our ability to prophesy (that is, to speak the word of God to others) is only partial, but that love is the paramount action that we are to take toward one another; and I and others such as I simply don’t accept your kind of condemnatory attitude, language, and political action in and through the church to be that of “loving” persons. We are also told by Paul in Philippians 2.5-11 to have “the mind of Christ” in us, not considering anything about us to place us over others, but to take on the role of a servant to others, thereby “walking humbly with our God”, as Micah urges us to do. So, if by being and saying the things you are and do, you expect to “lead me and others like me to Christ,” I can tell you that you are failing in realizing your intent; and not only you, but literally millions of United Methodists and other Christians who establish their own heterosexuality as the litmus test for all sexual beings, refusing to allow God to be sovereign, and claiming to know God’s mind better than anyone who is not like them.
AMEN from one who has too many LGBTQ friends to count who have shown themselves to be committed and more loving than many of my heterosexual friends. I am so very tired of scripture being used as a weapon rather than a message of love. When Jesus said love your neighbor as yourself, he meant it. None of us would condemn ourselves or treat ourselves as we are treating the LGBTQ community. How then can we call ourselves followers of Jesus when we are so unloving and judgmental?
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Many, possibly most who post comments similar to those of Sheri Graeber seem to think those who desire God’s Word to be followed faithfully are “unloving and judgmental”. I have read a multitude of comments and articles concerning the wisdom of allowing or not allowing avowed homosexuals, et.al, into the clergy. I don’t recall any expressing ‘unlove’. I have read or heard folks say that they want no part of a Jesus who “hates” homosexuals. These kind of buzz-words are what feeds that attitude among others. Seek Jesus – not universalism.