– One, a temptation to hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, (the letter) and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, by the God of surprises, (the spirit); within the law, within the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve. From the time of Christ, it is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and of the so-called – today – “traditionalists” and also of the intellectuals.
– The temptation to a destructive tendency to goodness [it. buonismo], that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots. It is the temptation of the “do-gooders,” of the fearful, and also of the so-called “progressives and liberals.”
And the middle, of course. Doesn’t this sound familiar? I mean, to those following UMC politics (I hate that) and the lead up to the General Conference in 2016, this above statement by Pope Francis as he closed the first portion of the Synod on the Family is familiar. It is exactly what is going on in the UMC.
This is simple and perhaps even simplistic, I admit, but, I guarantee you it is at least one first step to avoid legal problems, that is, if you object to performing gay marriages.
(Disclaimer: I have voiced my opinion as to gay marriage plenty of times in different ways with the same main thrust, so, this is not an opinion on gay marriage but an advice to Churches that want to avoid the nightmare of lawsuits.)
Many Protestant churches reject the idea of marriages as a sacrament. Too bad that they perform and require that marriages be performed by their ministers as if it were a sacrament. However, many of these Churches use wedding ceremonies as a revenue generator for the Church and even rent their facilities for other ministers to perform marriages of people outside of the host Church membership. Well, that was fine and dandy up until now, but, unless Churches find a way not to “have it both ways” or, a quasi sacrament, whereas saying is not one, which they charge everyone to offer, and even offer it to people whose spiritual life they do not oversee, Churches will be open for all kinds of lawsuits because now we have a different, uncommon before, group of people who feel that, in spite of the fact that they never cared for that church facility in their neighborhood, and even when it is not in their neighborhood, they want to challenge that Church by wanting to have their gay marriage in that specific facility. In my not expert opinion, as it is plain to see, and as I consult friends of mine who are attorneys, it will be hard for that Church ministers to deny their facilities to perform a gay marriage on the basis of religion, since they only have an “expectancy” that the people whose weddings are performed in there are indeed religious people. My discussion here is not whether it is right to sue a Church for that or not, my discussion is that it will be hard for a Church to prove that they are not discriminating!
What then can be done?
Number one, from start, Churches should get out of the business of performing marriages. By that I mean, they should not charge for that which they believe to be a function of the Church. Otherwise they have to deny that such ceremonies are relevant and the function of the Church. They can’t have it both ways. They cannot charge; perhaps a nominal fee is fine for “maintenance” purposes, such as removal of flowers, or things of this nature, or cleaning the “social hall”, if the reception is also carried in its facilities, but charging a fee for the marriage itself, should be a “no, no”.
Then, not only should Churches not use weddings for a revenue generator by charging wedding fees, but also they should perform, or bless marriages of members of their congregations only, or the people whom the Ministers of that Church oversee spiritually. That means that they would not rent their facilities for marriages of people outside those who are under spiritual supervision of the ministers of that Church, whom they know, counsel, pray with, and to whom they offer communion regularly. I know that this will hurt churches financially, but it will hurt even more to have a lawyer in their payroll or to pay expensive legal fees to dispute lawsuits. All that is happening may be a Sovereign act of God in turning Churches more like the Body of Christ, and turn to their main purpose here on earth than to simply “server” the community as a venue for community indiscriminant celebrations.
In fact, Churches who want to avoid lawsuits, as long as it is legal to present issues (which is about to be legally debated in America) to your members, you should have a formal teaching plan where you teach your members about sin, sexuality, marriage, along with all your doctrinal foundations such as justification, the Trinity, etc. That alone will prevent anyone who disagrees with you from even the desire to be in your zip code, let alone get married in your Church!
Lastly, Churches should write all the above in their Constitution and By-Laws and ensure, assure and reassure that such is being followed to the letter!
How can this protect a Church?
Some may ask how these measures will help a Church avoid lawsuits; let me ask them that if you want to fly shirtless in an airplane there will always be a hard nose flight attendant, or steward, whatever they call it nowadays, to tell you that “it is not the company policy that people fly shirtless”. Churches need to know what their policy is. Whether they choose to perform gay marriage or not, they have to enact a policy that is understood by the community so as not to invite anyone even to consider attempting to violate such policy. That, added to the Constitutional provisions will aid a Church to be protected against most of the lawsuits and local ordinances that ultimately violate the Constitution right to assemble, which may be interpreted with “right to associate with likeminded folks”, freedom of speech, or religion and freedom to worship as one desires.
The advantages of a well established policy in their Statutes and By-Laws will be that Churches will get out of the “wedding business”, will be able to bless only the marriages of whom they oversee whereas being kindly and legally able to sustain a claim that any rejection of weddings of the general public within their walls is not discrimination.
The time has come, and again, I think by God’s Sovereign Act of disciplining the Body of Christ, that His Churches function more as the “assembly of those who worship God” and are under the supervision of a duly established Pastor or Bishop (the overseer) and not a community pleasing organization in the sense that, instead of “Christianizing the community, they are allowing the community to worldanize the church.”
Whatever has befallen to some Churches and Ministers in facing lawsuits from gay activists because of denial of facilities and ministerial blessing of a gay wedding (if such lawsuits are still in vogue…) is often the Churche’s fault for not safeguarding the mission that God commanded them to fulfill. Now a couple, from that church or not, can walk up to a minister, “rent” the church facilities for the wedding, either pay the minister of that Church for the wedding or bring their own minister and all is good. How is that not a fertile ground for all kinds of legal problems, including discrimination, if these same Churches deny the same facility and ministerial blessing to anyone? How is that not transforming a religious act, or a quasi sacrament for some, and a real sacrament for others, into a business? Want to keep your wedding revenues coming? If they do, save them because you will have to spend it all in lawyers and lawsuits and it will be your fault; you will lose! Sadly, the only way to avoid discrimination lawsuits is to discriminate by performing ONLY marriages of people within your Ministerial Oversight, or, the members of your congregation who agree to your definition of sin, marriage, sexuality, etc.
Christianity is a faith with no temple made by man’s hands; however this cannot be an excuse to consider a place of worship a “party hall” for the community and not even the “favorite wedding chapel” of the community. Without transforming church buildings in shrines, Churches must understand the difference between an exclusive worship place and the “community center”. This is old fashion but efficacious in swatting away lawsuit bugs. That can be achieved starting by ending the urge to generate revenues by providing a venue for non-member weddings.
You wouldn’t believe the people who hated my via media. Stripped image of John Wesley (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There is some confusion as to exactly what a Via Media Methodist is. In fact, not a single one of us will usually capitalize v or m when speaking about this topic. As many people know, when discussing anything, it is best if you engage the other person in the same language. For instance, if I wanted to argue about the failure of democracy in the United States, I would need to clarify democracy, failure, and to point to the specific entity known as the United States. To facilitate this discussion about VMM, I thought a short primer would be helpful.
These are some of the words I have found misused:
Progressive Methodist: (v) 1.) a member of the United Methodist Church who is affirming. 2.) a member of the United Methodist Church who believes creeds and a general attention to orthodoxy is restrictive to “Christianity.” 3.) a member of the United Methodist Church who believes “experience” is the individual experience in life or a group’s experience in history rather than the experience of Christian salvation. Likewise, this person tends to generally elevate “experience” above the other two legs of the Wesley Quad and makes it equal with Scripture whereas Scripture must agree with our “experience” or we must seek to change or otherwise ignore its implications. 4.) a member of the United Methodist Church who sees the Book of Discipline as a power play for white privilege
Evangelical Methodist: (v) 1.) a member of the United Methodist Church who holds to traditional Western views of Christian marriage, so that marriage exists between one man and one woman (at a time). 2.) a member of the United Methodist Church who sees little or no value in Tradition and Reason in reading Scripture and thus tend to hold to inerrancy and/or infallibility. They also tend to track 20th century American evangelical and are usually congregational in their approach to church polity. 3.) a member of the United Methodist Church who sees the Book of Discipline as unchanging and demands it be followed, except for itinerancy, doctrinal standards, and other non-sexual ordinances.
Third Way: (n) 1.) a political term used to describe the moderate or middle of the road synthesis that occurs between political agendas. Thus, the “third way” is an evolution out of the left and the right wings of political parties. It does not preexist those groups, but attempts to salvage a middle by mixing various elements acceptable to the majority. 2.) a term used to denote Christians who welcome in LGBT people but do not challenge denominational barriers. In this case, homosexuality is demoted to a non-essential. This is often used on congregational denominations.
Via Media Methodist (alt. 1, traditionalist; atl. 2, institutionalist): (n) 1.) a member of the United Methodist Church who does not align itself with either the progressive or evangelical wings (see above). Many hold diverse views on inclusion, but are unified on their desire to see the UMC remain unified, believing that the Church faces many issues and is a stronger-together force for good than if a splintering would occur. Via media is not a “third way” (see above) as it does not pretend to move forward or retreat backwards nor does it suggest a compromise between the two sides. Further, as via media pre-exists both the left and the right, it is impossible for it to be a “third way.” Rather, it is the way most likely to align with both Christian and historic Wesleyan orthodoxy. Thus, it is the way, rather than a wing or a “third way.” It is no more appropriate to call via media the “third way” than it is to suggest the Catholic Church was the third way in Reformation between the Anabaptists (Radical Reformers) and the Protestants (Reformers). Whereas the left has decided the Gospel is about situational and privileged justice via bullying and the right has idolized “the bible” as a rule book, via media maintains the Gospel is about Christ only. While the left has closed the conversation to sin, the right focuses on one viewpoint on the matter, via media remains upon to God’s further correction upon our understanding of holiness. Both the left and right see ethics and morality as doctrine, while via media sees doctrine and then ethics. Further, via media continues to have faith in the Church rather than American political systems and the dichotomy of politicized sides and their agendas. 2.) All of the above, but inclusive of a generous orthodoxy with members holding various opinions on the atonement and other theological aspects not established in the creeds.
Dude bro (alt. dudebro): (n) 1.) White suburban males, usually 16-25 years of age, hailing from anywhere, USA. Characterized by their love of College football, pickup trucks/SUVs, beer,cut off khaki cargo shorts, light pink polo brand shirts (with collar “popped”), abercrombie & fitch, hollister gear, and trucker hats. Favorite bands include, but are not limited to, O.A.R., Jack Johnson, Dave Matthews Band, Avengened Sevenfold, The Fray, and often crappy radio rap (i.e. Nelly, Dem Franchize Boyz, D4L, etc.). Dude bro’s are incredibly insecure in their manhood, which makes them: insanely jealous of their girl friends, overly macho, and laughably homophobic. currently, there is no cure for being a dude bro. (Source: Urban Dictionary)
Brogressive: (n) 1.) Politically liberal or left-leaning person who routinely downplays injustices against women and other marginalized groups in favor of some cause they deem more important. (Source: Urban Dictionary)
By the way, since there is no caucus group or committee governing via media Methodists, this remains unofficial
This research considers people who live in the so called Bible Belt as “Conservative Christians” and also “implies” that anyone who identifies themselves as Religious Conservative, really is any or both… So, if I live near gold mines on in a gold mining area, that makes me a nugget!
How different are these researchers from ISIS when they say that everyone who lives in America, or every American, just by living in America or being in American, or just by living in the West, is an enemy of Islam?
Now, the reason men may resort to internet porn in the Bible Belt is perhaps because there are less whores and promiscuous women there… So, I can also draw unreasonable conclusions judging by the way a geographical area is identified.
Aware that I am disseminating sheer stupidity, and an uncontrollable urge to scorn those who are genuinely Christians, read here
“The hypocrisy common across the conservatives parties and movements is that while demanding the the government stay out of your hospital and your gun cabinet, they are forcing the government into your bedroom.”
Yeah, the hypocrisy, unfortunately, is of the non-conservatives who do not want conservative governments in their bedroom but want conservative governments and everyone else to pay for aids that they use mainly when they are having sex in their bedroom, thus inviting ALL to their bedroom while saying they wish not them to be there… Oh, I forgot, non-conservatives don’t have sex in bedrooms…
Yes, there’s chaos, but this too shall pass. Ignore the alarmists. Anyone who disrupts a Christ-centered peace is doing someone else’s work, not Christ’s. Read Church history. We have always been a rather muddled mess. That’s what proves the Church is divinely instituted. No merely human institution could withstand humanity and all its foibles as long as the Church has.
Only Group B responded to the section of the report on homosexuals. It notes that the church “must continue to promote the revealed nature of marriage as always between one man and one woman united in lifelong, life-giving, and faithful communion.” Gay people should find within the church “a home where, with everyone else, they hear the call of Jesus to follow him in fidelity to the truth, to receive his grace to do so, and his mercy when they fail.”
Reporters at the synod were thrown into confusion when the English translation of the relatiowas changed from “welcoming” homosexuals to “providing for” them. No explanation was given for this change that clearly was not an accurate translation of “accogliere“ in the official Italian. It appears that some of the English-speaking bishops got the secretariat of the synod to change the translation.
You can read more about the various proposals by English-speaking groups here.
Now, for Protestants who have no clue about the formation of Catholic moral law, how synods work, or pretty much how theology and doctrine work, well… they can go kiss the back of the Amblyopsis hoosieri‘s head.
By the way, the Cardinal that started this bit and the one who first clashed, heavily with Cardinal Kasper and through Kasper Pope Francis has been ousted.
You wanna hurt the global mission of the United Methodist Church? Bring.it.On. English: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There is a move, a threat, something akin to civil disobedience (if we must bring secular methods into the sectarian realm), unfolding before us. Various pastors, leaders of the fringes, have threatened to withhold apportionments if the United Methodist Church does not turn, or return, their way.
There are three particular paragraphs I want to call your attention to:
¶ 622. When the apportionments for bishops, district superintendents, conference claimants, and the Equitable Compensation Fund for the several districts and charges have been determined, payments made to the same in each pastoral charge shall be exactly proportional to the amount paid on the clergy base compensation (¶ 818.3). The treasurer or treasurers of each pastoral charge shall accordingly make proportional distribution of the funds raised in that charge for the support of the ordained ministry and shall remit monthly if practicable and quarterly at the latest the items for bishops, district superintendents, conference claimants, and the Equitable Compensation Fund to the proper treasurer or treasurers.
¶ 639.4. Proportional Payment—The board shall compare the records of the amounts paid by each pastoral charge for the support of pastors and for pension and benefit programs, computing the proportional distribution thereof and keeping a permanent record of defaults of the churches of the conference that have failed to observe the following provisions pertaining to proportional payment, and shall render annually to each church that is in default a statement of the amounts in default for that and preceding years.
a) When the apportionment to the pastoral charges for the pension and benefit program of the annual conference has been determined, payments made thereon by each pastoral charge shall be exactly proportionate to payments made on the salary or salaries of the ordained minister or clergy serving it.
¶ 818.3. Proportionality—The amount apportioned to a charge for the Episcopal Fund shall be paid in the same proportion as the charge pays its pastor (see also ¶ 622).
To sum, I quote the Oklahoma Annual Conference, which places on their budget this statement:
Items must be paid in an amount proportional to the amount paid on the pastor’s support, as required in Paragraphs 622, 639.4, and 818.3 of the 2012 Discipline. If the pastor is paid 100% of salary and support, then these items must be paid 100%.
In other words, if the apportionment is paid 70%, then the pastor can only receive 70% of his or her salary/support. If the apportionment is withheld completely, then pastors are going to work for free. This is a penalty of sorts imposed by the Book of Discipline. This should not even need a trial.
For examples of those withholding, or threatening to withhold apportionments, see here, here, here,here, and here. Others have graciously addressed the folly of such a move. Some don’t quite get who should pay, but they don’t get a lot as it were. Others, who I refuse to link to because of their habit of misappropriating narratives and abusing others, criticize the move, but fail to note the penalty. I don’t find this particularly ironic given their sense of justice is usually some form of white savior universalism.
Granted, others may have noted it – and I may have missed it. If I have, then I guess we’ll just restart the conversation.
But, I want to call attention to the penalty of withholding the apportionment, especially as we move into 2016. Pastors who withhold apportionments should have, if they are serious about following the Book of Discipline — and likewise, if we are intent on enforcing it — have their salaries likewise withheld.1 I propose that we begin to enforce this part of the Book of Discipline now. .
Perhaps, we can look at those who repeatedly miss these covenantal responsibilities, examine their expenditures and consider how seriously we want to enforce the Book of Discipline.
What sayeth ye? Do we enforce the Book of Discipline or not?
I define “withhold” as purposely not paying apportionment as a sign of protest, not because you failed to meet it due to budgetary issues. ↩
“…transgenderism is a “mental disorder” that merits treatment, that sex change is “biologically impossible,” and that people who promote sexual reassignment surgery are collaborating with and promoting a mental disorder.”
(Former psychiatrist-in-chief for Johns Hopkins Hospital and its current Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry)
Well, this guy is a doctor on the subject… So, don’t kill the messenger!
I told them I would remain with them as long as they remained with the Church of England but should they ever turn their back on the Church they turn their back on me.
In many places, C. Wesley sought to defend the Methodist societies not as an order distinct from the Church of England, but as an order of worshippers within the Church of England, complete with the loyalties therewith.
I rode to Wakefield, and at eleven waited upon Justice Burton at his inn, with two other Justices, Sir Rowland Wynn, and the Rev. Mr. Zouch. I told him, I had seen a warrant of his, to summon witnesses to some treasonable words, “said to be spoken by one Westley;” that I had put off my journey to London to wait upon him, and answer whatever should be laid to my charge.
He answered, he had nothing to say against me, and I might depart. I replied, that was not sufficient, without clearing my character, and that of many innocent people, whom their enemies were pleased to call Methodists. “Vindicate them!” said my brother Clergyman: “that you will find a very hard task.” I answered, “As hard as you may think it, I will engage to prove that they all, to a man, are true members of the Church of England, and loyal subjects of His Majesty King George.” I then desired they would administer to me the oaths, and added, “If it was not too much trouble, I could wish, gentlemen, you would send for every Methodist in England, and give them the same opportunity you do me, of declaring their loyalty upon oath.”
Justice Burton said, he was informed that we constantly prayed for the Pretender in all our Societies, or nocturnal meetings, as Mr. Zouch called them. I answered, “The very reverse is true. We constantly pray for His Majesty King George by name. These are such hymns as we sing in our Societies, a sermon I preached before the University, another my brother preached there, his Appeals, and a few more treatises, containing our principles and practice.” Here I gave them our books, and was bold to say, “I am as true a Church-of-England man, and as loyal a subject, as any man in the kingdom.” “That is impossible,” they cried all; but as it was not my business to dispute, and as I could not answer till the witnesses appeared, I withdrew without farther reply…[.1 Charles Wesley, The Journal of the Rev. Charles Wesley (ed. Thomas Jackson; vol. 1; London: John Mason, 1849), 358. Every quote herein pertaineth to this series.]
On 23 June 1746, C. Wesley preached on Jeremiah 31, noting the desolute-ness of the Church of England. Here, he used the Methodist focus on prayer (“the Spirit…came down”) to pray that all who had left the Church of England return.
Still yet on 17 September 1756 he writes,
At seven I left Bristol, with John Downes, and came to Walbridge by two. In the evening several attended the word, and seemed stirred up to watch and pray. I spake to each of the little steady Society. Forty-three have kept together for years, under the care of our brother Watts. There are no disputes or disorders among them. I added a few words, exhorting them to continue steadfast in the communion of the Church of England. We were much refreshed, and parted in great love.
A day later, C. Wesley remarks, “I did not forget to confirm the brethren in their calling; that is, to live and die in the Church of England.”
I suspect, heavily, that if John and Charles were alive today, we in the United Methodist Church would be out of connexion and out of communion with them. Yes, there was a time to do what Fr. John did, to ordain in the emergency, men of Christian character to carry out the witness of the Gospel. Yet, John and especially the brother with the more rational deportment, did not ordain schism.
Perhaps, if we are honest with ourselves, the United Methodist Church would rather dispose of John Wesley, perhaps having him as something of a figure head. If this is the case, then the United Methodist Church would likely insist Charles Wesley was a myth created in the wake of Fr. John’s kerygma so as to produce a certain amount of fear and constriction in the new free-from-orthodoxy societies on the American frontier.
Are Methodists, as they were originally, still members of the Church of England (or the wider Anglican Communion)? Of course not. Should they be, however? Perhaps that is the better question.
“Wait, I wrote that? Heck yeah I did. But you Methodists don’t sing it do you? Did it get lost on the way to the publisher?” English: Charles Wesley (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
FOR THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND
1 TILL then preserve the faithful seed,
The remnant left in Britain’s land,
The desolate Church, whose cause we plead,
In whose defence we firmly stand,
Her breaches mourn, her burdens bear
In all the agony of prayer.
2 Jesus, her ruinous walls rebuild,
And let them with Thy praise resound;
With peace her palaces be fill’d,
Plenty be in her temples found,
Plenty of unbought milk and wine,
Fulness of living Bread Divine.
3 Her slumbering guides and watchmen rouse,
And on her rising ramparts place;
Give them a voice to shake Thy house,
The rocks to break, the dead to raise,
To bring them up from nature’s grave,
And the whole house of Israel save.
4 For this Thou hear’st Thy Spirit groan,
O that Thou wouldst Thy power display,
Divide the heavens, and come down,
Convert our nation in a day,
And spread our faith through earth abroad,
And fill the universe with God!
John Wesley and Charles Wesley, The Poetical Works of John and Charles Wesley (ed. G. Osborn; vol. 6; London: Wesleyan-Methodist Conference Office, 1870), 114.
In one of the UMC fb groups, someone asked a question about how we can handle now-legal marriages that are forbidden by the Book of Discipline. Indeed, the UMC prevents clergy from officiating these (gay) marriages (although there is a proposed, sort of, plan to deal with that) and our BoD equally states that such things are against Christian teaching, although we affirm the sacred worth of these individuals.
But, gay marriage is growing. It is a reality. And, these couples may even want to attend a United Methodist church. So, how do we handle this?
As much as it galls me to say this, maybe John Piper (shudder) has something to teach those who are wondering what to do with these cultural and now legal marriages not recognized by the BoD.
So I think you shouldn’t be married to two women today, or a woman to two men. And yet there are cultures that do it. And so you want to go evangelize those cultures. And you win them to Christ and now they have two wives.
I might say, “OK, those who have two wives, be faithful to both of them until the next generation, or until one of them dies. But never do this again.”
More than 100 for-profit colleges are so dependent on taxpayer money that they would be violating a law designed to prevent profiteering if not for a loophole that excludes GI Bill funds and Department of Defense tuition assistance to active duty military.