What does Good News Magazine have against the #UMC? An insider’s look

umc logoThis comes from a friend I’ve met online, with a shared love of Christian Tradition, Theology, and the traditional United Methodist Church’s polity. I caught him tweeting something on Sunday and thought I would ask for an interview. So granted, what follows is that interview.

Tell us about what happened:

My UMC church was recently visited by Mr. Walter Fenton, an employee of the magazine known as “Good News”. He came to share with any in the congregation who wished to attend, his vision of the future of The United Methodist Church. What it really boiled down to was the reasoning behind my current churches decision to withhold apportionments while also calling all members of the congregation to encourage similar action from fellow UMC churches. 

I note this was not a mandatory meeting. How many people attended this meeting?

There were approximately 300 people who attended his information session. 99% were already on-board with his (aka the conservative) position, so he didn’t have to try very hard to earn the hearts and minds of the attendees.

Was there opportunity to ask questions?

Any attempt or chance for dialogue was quickly squelched when the very first person up to ask a question was an aggressive affirming gentlemen who appealed to nothing other than emotion. Like I stated previously, the room that day was 99% of the same anti-SSM mindset. The one thing you don’t do when 300 non-affirming folks (not to mention the headliner who has been trained specifically how to handle the “emotional” / Jesus loved everyone card) is lead with an aggressive, ranting diatribe. Needless to say, it fell on deaf ears and any chance of a civil question and answer session died on the table. 

Mr. Fenton quickly responded. His response left me with chills, and still does. With an air of calmness, he referenced 1 Corinthians and Peter to tell how these accounts contradicted Jesus’s command to “Judge not”. He seemed to be encouraging judgement from not only this group, but all groups of Christians like “us”. I was shocked.

(Dear reader, note Felton’s remark.)

Were there any other questions asked that challenged Mr. Felton’s position?

There was one last question that seemed to challenge Mr. Felton. It was something like, “Is it true that the BoD states that any UMC church who withholds apportionments shall also not pay their clergy? And if that is true, how are you going to convince more churches to do the same?”  When asked about the BoD reference to withholding churches and the salary of clergy, he seemed to deflect and instead focused his response on the bishops. If the bishops openly encouraged such behavior, THEY would be the ones to suffer the consequences, not the clergy or ministers in the disobedient church. He trailed off towards the end with something about the possibilities where churches might be reprimanded in some way. But by that point,the time was almost up.

This, of course, is not what the Book of Discipline actually says. Rather, the BoD says the churches failing to pay will have their clergy salaries cut by how much they failed to pay. Further, the Bishops, Superintendents, etc… who fail to uphold this could be charged for failing to uphold the Order and Discipline of the United Methodist Church. Thus far, I have not see this enforced. It is worrisome that conservatives, the ones who control the voice of the Book of Discipline and the ones working to make sure it is enforced, care little for it when it comes to something they desire to break.

Go on:

Mr. Walter Fenton was well composed and ready to present his case for a traditionalist view through his extremely well-prepared speech. While he stayed respectful to opposing viewpoints throughout, he used what some might consider scare tactics of a “shrinking church” and an “imminent progressive threat” that needed to be addressed by the conservative branch of the UMC. 

How would he address this threat?

He encouraged schism with no sense of regret. He shared that the only way to prevent the dwindling of the UMC to oblivion is through a separation like that between Paul and Barnabas. Apparently, the unyielding position of Mr. Fenton and what I can only assume is that of his employer, Good News, is that compromise is not an option and the UMC has no option but to split.  I find that incredibly unfortunate. 

Why are you bringing this to light?

The point of this post is not to argue the tenets of an affirming vs non affirming point of view. My point is to help shed light on the hypocrisy of the conservative side of the UMC who might choose to withhold apportionments in the future without also following the BoD, while also promoting, with no sense of remorse, the necessity of schism within the Body of Christ. 

Thanks, friend.

There is a certain degree of anonymity needed and granted. I would hate to see Fenton contradict Jesus’s commands on loving brothers and enemies.

I almost hate to write something like this, as I am sure the progressives will pick up on this and rush to attack. The problem is, both extremes are complicit in pushing for schism. One, the extreme right, is actively using the word. The other, the progressives, are speaking of winnowing the conservatives and orthodox out while doing their best to make sure the atmosphere of the UMC is unhealthy. They aren’t saying schism, but their actions are thundering schism across the jurisdictions. Both sides are congregationalist. Both sides are working towards the same goal. And here I am, stuck in the middle with you.

There are good things these caucus groups can do, but their goals seem to be nothing short of a fractured UMC.

And why, if the BoD is not likely to be changed any time in the future, do the conservatives insist on running away? The one thing the progs have that the conservatives don’t is a backbone. If the orthodox, evangelical, and conservative wings (independent but not mutually exclusive groups) had the backbone the progs have, we might actually see what the real issue here is.

In my opinion, we are disconnected because of doctrine and polity. In this, both the progs and the conservatives are aligned. They are Congregationalists. Doctrine is limited. The traditionalists and the orthodox are episcopal and creedal.

Anyway, I digress. Look at this interview. Why do we allow caucus groups to force schism?

@Indiana new legislation “protecting businesses”.

(Someone asked me if I can’t just be foolish on Facebook… Well, hell, NO! I will be foolish here as well:)

1 – The State of Indiana passing laws that are to allow business to reject service to gays: WRONG. Even with the argument that it is to protect businesses from the heavy lawsuits gay people file against business. We should not respond with legislation against others whereas saying that we don’t like “legislation” which is against us

UPDATE: Please read a clarification in the comments.                               UPDATE #2 – Please read how CNN “headlines” the matter here

2 – Gay people closing otherwise good business by suing them because they cannot bake a cake for themselves, or arrange flowers by themselves (what kind of gay people are they?): WRONG
3 – Gay people in business, hypothetically, refusing to provide services for the KKK and the Westboro (more like West Burro) Baptist Church in a anti-gay regalia: WRONG.
So, in whatever case, it is all wrong! The fact is that no one wants to live together with those with whom they disagree. The fact remains that TOLERANCE is something you give, not something you DEMAND! The one demanding TOLERANCE and rights should be the first one READY TO GIVE IT!
I have repeated this often, including in “diversity” courses: Tolerance demanded is in and of itself INTOLERANCE! Especially when it is in detriment of others.
If it matters, before you call me names, read this: I do business with gays although I respect those who do not!
Now you can call me names …
A Civil War “of sorts”?
WE ARE IN A CIVIL WAR,
If:
  1.  We can’t live without legislating against those whose live styles or opinions we despise;
  2.  We can’t live without involving the courts against those whose life styles and opinions we despise;
  3. We can’t live without involving the GOVERNMENT against those whose life styles and opinions we despise:
THEN, we are already amid a CIVIL WAR; a bloodless one indeed, but perhaps just as dividing of a society as a full blown CIVIL WAR!!!!

In the (e)mail from @AccordanceBible, @ivpacademic’s “Ancient Christian Doctrine (5 Volumes)”

NA28 on AccordanceThanks to H at Accordance for this!

From the Accordance Website:

This exciting five-volume series follows up on the acclaimed Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture to provide patristic commentary on the Nicene Creed. The series renders primary Greek, Latin, Coptic and Syriac source material from the church fathers in lucid English translation (some here for the first time) and gives readers unparalleled insight into the history and substance of what the early church believed.

Including biographical sketches, a timeline of ancient Christian sources, indexes, bibliographies and keys to original language sources as well as the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed in Greek, Latin and English (ICET version), this series illuminates key theological essentials in the light of classic and consensual Christian faith and makes an excellent resource for preaching and teaching.

This module includes the following five volumes:

  • Volume 1 – We Believe in One God (Edited by Gerald L. Bray)
  • Volume 2 – We Believe in One Lord Jesus Christ (Edited by John Anthony Mcguckin)
  • Volume 3 – We Believe in the Crucified and Risen Lord (Edited by Mark J. Edwards)
  • Volume 4 – We Believe in the Holy Spirit (Edited by Joel C. Elowsky)
  • Volume 5 – We Believe in One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church (Edited by Angelo DiBerardino)

You may also be interested in the 29-volume Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (ACCS Complete) and the 3-volume Ancient Christian Devotional (Ancient Devotional).

BTW, as of today, there is a 20% discount storewide.

This is what it looks like on my Mac:

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 9.26.04 AM

 

This is what it looks like on my iPad with 2.0 Accordance App:

  

  

I mean… how awesome is that!

on Christian Unity (webcast with @Enegerion)

Introduction:

Christian Unity Party
Christian Unity Party (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I made the announcement earlier, but tonight I will be on a webcast discussing/debating/trashing my opponent regarding Christianity Unity. You should be able to access it directly here or via Youtube (see the bottom of this post).

But for now, I wanted to lay out my reasons/goals/inerrant understanding of why I believe in ChristiaUnity (see what I did there) and then I will lay out how I envision this. This is only a brief summation of both precepts.

Theological Reasons:

I draw my desire/need/wish for ultimate Christian unity from three specific passages:

  • John 17. That is easy enough. This is the Johannine Community’s admonition to the early Church (including some (little g)nostic elements) to strive for Unity. I’ve lost about half of you right now. Let me put it another way. This is Jesus’s prophetic call for the future of the Church, Jews such as Ebonites and Gentiles such as Platonists to come together to understand more fully who He really is.
  • Ephesians 4–5.21. This is not so easy. This is Deutero-Paul speaking in hope to a wider Church. Indeed, most of Ephesians can be read in the light of a Church universal. Ephesians 4.12–14 deals with the goal of Church unity, that of living into who Christ really is. You should notice a theme here. Both John 17 and Ephesians 4 calls us to be unified in order to understand just who Jesus Christ is. I think when the Church was unified at the Councils, we grasped this.
  • 2 Peter 3.10–15. These remonstrances and remembrances tell us that we can hasten the Day of God/Lord with our unity.

I believe Scripture leads us to an orthodoxy. Indeed, the canon itself comes about because of orthodoxy, with the NT developed by and developing orthodoxy. In other words, we do not have the NT unless we have the early creedal/baptismal formulas. We have the later creeds because of the NT.

Caveat: I believe orthodoxy is a tenet of Christianity, but does not make one a Christian. I believe orthodoxy and doctrinal unity serves as a guide to strengthen us as believers in Christ and shows us to a better understanding, a fuller understanding, of who Jesus is. Because that seems to be our ultimate goal (a union with Jesus), then a guide is needed. 

Eschatological Vision:

  • Christianity unity is not about one Church ruling everyone. It is about one body working together. I believe we can see how well it has worked in the West with pretending the Creeds could serve as a way to keep us unified in mission. We have Anabaptists and others who eschew the Creeds while many in the progressive side cast out wholesale Church History has some giant secret Roman society conspiracy theory. Many on the right do the same, trying to rely only on Scripture as if it is a biblical precept. This is not about the World Council of Churches, either. This polity would take the framework offered by Rome and the East and make use of that, significantly.
  • The goal is doctrinal in nature, but with a generous orthodoxy. Look at John and the Synoptics. While they are similar, they are just as different as they are similar. This should allow for a generous approach to a few things. Look at Paul. He has different arguments, even with himself! Again, a generous orthodoxy, built on the Creeds. As it shows in John 17 and Ephesians 4, our unity is meant to bring us closer to God and to the knowledge of who Jesus Christ really is.
  • I look at the Catholic Church with its various orders. I look at Orthodoxy with its various ethnic rites. They share a common creed and goal, but approach it differently and even, at times, understand things differently. Yet, they exist as one. Can we have more (g)nostic elements? Sure. There are many mystical elements/orders in the Catholic Church. Can we have more rational elements? Sure, look East.
  • A united Christianity is a missional Christianity. Right now, so many of us are concerned with “church growth” (i.e., congregational quantity) that we are no longer looking outward. In the United States, denominations are growing by stealing members from other denominations, all the while, Christianity as a whole in the US is shrinking. A united Christianity provides us with more than enough evangelistic traditions to actually go and do and go and preach and go and serve. Together.

That should be enough for now. I’ll see you tonight. By the way, for the live webcast, you can ask questions.

This will be the direct video link:

Why we can’t have nice things in the #UMC…Show me the mammon part 2.

This is Part II. Part I can be found here.

Gift-moneyAgain, the same disclaimer as before. This is not a value statement on the beliefs of any group, but it is a statement on how groups choose to represent those values, and how it impacts the UMC. How we do things are just as important as why we do them. This part will focus on groups operating within the UMC, primarily on Good News and Reconciling Ministries Network.

I want to start with Good News. There website can be found here.  I contacted Good News about their financial donations and received the following as a reply:  “Good News has received money from some personal foundations who are established or run by United Methodist individuals.  As far as I know, we have received no funds from any secular foundations or other funding sources that are unconnected to the UM Church.  Some former UM members do continue to support Good News.  Let me know if you have any further questions on this.  It is a very important topic, in our estimation.”  (Rev. Thomas Lambrecht is who sent the reply. He is Vice President and General Manager of Good News. As a side note he apologized that it took some days to reply as he was in board meetings. I always find politeness to be in vogue.) It is a fairly simple and straight forward statement. I was particularly appreciative of him stating that where the money comes from matters to them as it obviously does to me as well. I don’t have much else to say as the money trail for Good News ends with those affiliated with the UMC. It appears that whatever outside influence there might be is incidental and unintentional. Good News is a conservative group that is often seen as the opposite of Reconciling Ministries but has other issues that it comments on and prays for regularly.

Reconciling Ministries Network is the other group I wish to address here. Their website can be found here.  I contacted RMN with two questions. (The reply came from Rev. Andy Oliver Director of Communications Elder appointed to RMN from the Florida Conference. I don’t know what elder appointed to RMN from Florida conference means…I did not know that we were, as a denomination appointing elders to RMN. It is possible and even likely that I just am misunderstanding the title. He was very prompt and polite in addressing my email. Again I always find politeness to be in vogue.) I will, for the sake of completeness put the exchange here: My initial email read as follows: “I was wondering why it is that you accept donations from secular groups that have little or no interest in Christianity as a whole outside of their stated goal and if you were concerned that those donations cause a conflict of interests? I was also interested in if your grant from ARCUS (it is earmarked for this on their website) is what has been used in your recent decision to provide compensation for a Virginia pastor who was suspended for performing a same sex union. Thank you in advance for your reply.”

The reply that I received is here:

Hi Scott,

Thank you for your question. As stated in our press release, Rev. Garber’s check was paid from contributions from individual United Methodists around the world for the specific purpose of supporting clergy who are targeted for their sexual orientation, gender identity, or their commitment to offer the ministry of the church to all people (in keeping with the fullness BOD). You can learn more or give to the fund yourself here: http://bit.ly/1vFeH9P. The IRD article was incorrect in many of its inferences.

I read everything you write. If you are ever in Chicago or Tampa and want to meet up, my cell is

Peace,
Andy

Rev. Andy Oliver
Director of Communications
Elder appointed to RMN from the Florida Conference
(I chose to delete this as it seemed rather rude to publish a cell number. That is the only alteration made.)

My follow up can be found here:

Thank you for your prompt reply and the offer to connect. Should I find myself in either of those areas I will be sure to take you up on it. I have contacted Good News as well about their acceptance of money from outside the UMC and intend to include whatever responses or non responses as are appropriate. If there is anything that you would like included about the fiances beyond what you have told me, I will be happy to do so and attribute that statement to you if that is acceptable. If you are able could you address what the outside money that you have accepted goes for if indeed you have accepted any? Again thank you for your prompt reply and graciousness in answering. Peace. Scott

As of yet I have not received a reply. I believe this to be the IRD article he was referring to.  I asked specifically about funds from ARCUS and about money from outside in general and those questions were largely ignored so I am left to outside sources. I want to make the fact that RMN has said, and stands by their statement that the money paid to Rev. Garber was from individual donations of United Methodists and I have no reason to doubt that statement. I think that should provide the background needed to proceed forward.

RMN has in the past (I do not know if they are currently accepting) monies from the following groups: Arcus Foundation, and the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund. I discovered that with just these two outside groups (there may be more I am not certain) between 2009 and 2014 there was over 1 million dollars given in grants to RMN from sources not only outside the UMC but that are primarily secular in origin. Now remember, RMN has the stated goal of affecting change in the UMC. Whatever you believe about that goal shouldn’t that change, if necessary, actually come from the UMC and not those on the outside that would pump money into it? If you go to the links provided, you will find the ability to search grants and their purposes as well.

The one that is most disturbing is an ARCUS grant from 2014 which is for the express purpose of “One year of support for clergy who engage in acts of ecclesial disobedience in the name of LGBTQ justice and work with coalitions for policy change within the United Methodist Church.” (from the ACUS website).  Again, I do not doubt the statement given me by RMN about the  Rev. Garber, but I am a little worried that Rev Garber was in effect an employee of RMN for a month and worry more about wether or not any UMC clergy have effectively become employees of ARGUS or any other group outside of the UMC.

I believe that we all want what is best for our church. I believe that we are all struggling to find ways forward and solutions to the issues that we have, but if we need guidance from any external source shouldn’t it be the Triune God and not some grant producing machine who does not have the interests of Christ as their purpose? Shouldn’t we be seeking the influence of the Holy Spirit and not the influence of political action groups? No caucus can serve two masters after all, and if we follow the mammon we can see who is serving who.

One blog to rule them all, One blog to find them, One blog to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.

%d bloggers like this: