Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
January 16th, 2015 by Joel Watts

No clergy at Mt. Bethel #UMC should be paid, starting now.

umc logoGood News magazine is reporting that Mt. Bethel UMC is withholding their apportionments…

Its administrative council voted to place its apportioned funds in an escrow account until the Council of Bishops (COB) fulfills the requests made in the “Integrity and Unity Statement” published by over 120 leading pastors and theologians, and endorsed by nearly 8,500 clergy and laity across the UM connection. All bishops received a copy of the statement in July 2014 and it was formally presented to the council at its November 2014 meeting in Oklahoma City.

via Mt. Bethel UM Church Withholds Apportionments.

Guess what? According to the Book of Discipline they claim to uphold, none of their clergy should be receiving a paycheck.

¶ 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).

By the way, this is the same UMC church who attempted to do this before. Randy Mickler, the pastor at Mt. Bethel UMC is not known for being an overly…non-hyperbolic person.

Note, they are attempting to force the CoB to adopt a resolution from an outside group that is from outside the General Conference. The General Conference, and only the General Conference, speaks for the Church — not a petition.

If Mickler and Mt. Bethel UMC are truly dedicated to the Book of Discipline — and I hope they are — then I know they are no longer being paid.

Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Comments

39 Responses to “No clergy at Mt. Bethel #UMC should be paid, starting now.”
  1. Supposedly the Supreme Court will decide on gay marriage around June of this year. Since UMC will want to obey the law, I suggest two possible compromises:
    1) If the Supreme Court decides gay marriage is the law of the land, then UMC accepts it. If the Supreme Court decides it is up to the individual states, then UMC follows the law in each individual state that they reside in.
    2) If this is unacceptable to individual members because of belief in specific texts in the bible, then those members should follow Mark’s advice as good disciples, “Mark 16:17-18…And these signs shall accompany them that believe…
    and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall in no wise hurt them;”… Problem solved.

    • So, in your opinion, if Christians hold to the Biblical teachings on marriage they should drink poison???? Why is it acceptable for you to suggest such a thing because you disagree with someone’s opinion but if I express disagreement with YOUR opinion I am the one that is being HATEFUL, UNLOVING, and UNCHRISTIAN. I am confused.

      • just to note, that text in Mark is not original.

      • Tongue in cheek. If you believe and follow one text from two thousand years ago, why not believe and follow another text from Jesus via Mark? Of course, the answer is: use your common sense, and don’t follow questionable texts from two thousand years ago, without at least using your own intelligence.

    • Claire Miller says

      The Supreme Court decision will determine the legality of marriage as a CIVIL union only. The Court cannot make a law requiring any religion to consecrate gay marriage. Where gay marriage is legal, then civil officiants can perfect the unions and allow the couple to participate in all the civil benefits of marriage. It still doesn’t mean the church has to celebrate a union which is in contravention of its beliefs.

      All sinners are welcome in the church, and everyone in the church is convicted of some sin. No sin is “worse” than another. But it’s not the place of the church to celebrate or consecrate sin.

      • Claire, is there room for the Church to reconsider what action is a sin? Perhaps we are wrong on a few things? Note, I am not saying Scripture is, but that we are.

        • Claire Miller says

          Ah, so you’re saying that the scripture is not clear on prohibiting homosexuality (and fornication, and incest, etc.,, etc.)? What’s your rationale for saying that?

          • Claire, let’s not put words in my mouth and let’s be honest about the perspicuity of scripture.

            What I am saying is that our modern understanding of homosexuality is divorced from the ancient world by a lot of cultural prejudice. For instance, the Greco-Roman view of man-man relationships were often more nuanced than we see today. It wasn’t about love, because love was only for one thing – marriage and the furthering of the household. Woman-woman physical intimacy was not even considered sex because there was no penetration so when we see prohibitions against “homosexuality” more often than not, it did not include lesbianism because the ancients did not understand such a thing!

            Further, you throw in the mix of the use of sex as a religious rite (sacred prostitution) and suddenly Scriptural prohibitions take on a different angle.

            I could go further, but I want to remind you that for 2000 years, the bible has always been completely clear until a group challenged it and then it wasn’t. For instance women in ministry, the papacy, and the like.

  2. The actions of Bishop Talbot and the lack of action by the Council of Bishops has suspended the Discipline and rendered it not active and it now becomes a merely historical document.

  3. Joel, either we follow it or we don’t. If bishops and pastors can just ignore it, what makes randy wrong for doing the same?

    • what makes them wrong for breaking it?

    • Scott Fritzsche says

      I am probably going to end up being a bit snippy here and I am sorry in advance. I will make an attempt not to be. If all of your friends ran off a cliff would you follow them? We say this to young children to try to illustrate that wrong action done by them can not and should not be justified by the everyone is doing it defense.What makes it wrong, at least in the eyes of the church, is that it is against the BoD. It does not matter who else does, can, or chooses to break the BoD, it will still be wrong. It is embarrassing to me that the best defense that my fellow evangelics can come up with for this is either A. Well they can do it so why can’t I? or B. It’s all about money and this is how we will get our way. Wrong is wrong no matter who does it no matter the situation.
      What makes it wrong is that the purpose of with holding the money is an attempt to get the attention of the Council of Bishops through monetary blackmail. If this is the best that we evangelic leaning folks have, then we need to rethink our ways. We follow the steps of Christ, not Don Corleone. We sure do like to think that we have the moral high ground, but let me say this. I genuinely believe that the majority of those advocating for full inclusion are at the very least examining scripture and looking for answers. I disagree with their answers, but they are at least looking for them. We are just ranting about with holding money. I have engaged several people in conversation on this subject and have yet to read a biblical principle or argument in favor of with holding money from the church uppity ups.
      Finally what makes it wrong is that if you had a group of people coming into a church that you were preaching in and telling them not to give if they did not agree with everything, they would be handled in short order. Our system is broken and needs reformed to be sure, but it is what we have at the moment and we need to follow it. If any church is going to voluntarily withhold money from the denomination then they damn well better not pass a plate in their church. For the love of all that is Holy we are called to be men of God, and if the best we can do is be men of gold, then we need to stop all action and argument and get ourselves right with the Creator before we harm ourselves or anyone else more. I tried to clean up my language, if I missed some I am sorry.

  4. Seems to me until the leaders of the denomination follow the “law” then everyone else is also exempt from it. The connection is broken

    • The connection isn’t between the Bishops and the Laity, but between the UMC universal and each other. This is the same as saying that if one person in the congregation doesn’t follow the BoD then it is broken. Makes no sense.

      http://www.allanbevere.com/2014/04/the-connection-yeah-its-important.html

    • Scott Fritzsche says

      John, I would say that the leaders are following the BoD, the people with titles are not is all. Make no mistake, there is a difference on the ground level where the work of ministry is done. That being said, we all sin and all have sinned so are we exempt from holy living because we sin? Of course not. Same with the BoD. It has been violated in several ways, most of them not dealing with same sex relationships at all. The failings of others are never an excuse for us to fail as well.

      • When the leadership publicly defies the bod that is completely different territory. You talk about sin… and forgiveness. Forgiveness requires repentance. Hard to lump that together for me. This is outright defiance. It is time for our denomination to decide if we want to follow our own rules. We meet every 4 years to revise said rules. Seems to me it should be possible for adults to follow their own rules for four years. If you cannot follow them an adult should be responsible enough to move on.

  5. This statement caughtt my attention… “The General Conference, and only the General Conference, speaks for the Church.” In theory this might be accurate, but… having recently been a delegate to GC… this is no where near reality. On a very practical level, and by design, the committee that deals with the agenda and the calendar as well as the Judicial Council actually speak for the church.

    • Mark, the reality is often not the same as the legal fiction we suggest. We see this in the way many treat the certain prohibitions. Yet, if we are to demand BoD accountability from others, we need to start here with ourselves.

      • Agreed! There are a number of elements of the BoD that I do not resonate with, but that does not distract me from taking my ordination vow to uphold the discipline seriously. The BoD is in place and it is what it is. I personally would never advocate for the withholding of anything from the conference that was tied to the BoD through my obligation and commitment. One of the things that makes my job as a jurisdictional episcopacy committee member difficult is renegade Bishops that act oustide of what they have commited to uphold through their ordination and consecration… Accountability does not appear to be an option within our current system.

        • Mark, how do we change that? Tom L. had some good ideas. Not all of them I agree with. David Watson does too. What we need is episcopal accountability.

  6. Scott Fritzsche says

    The pastors at Bethel should be held accountable for their actions the same as any other pastor and should under go the same process. It is a deeply flawed process but the only one that we have. And since I have not commented for a bit…it is good to see Gary being…well…Gary.

    • I am glad you are commenting. However, it seems like the more I read blogs, the more I realize all this has been discussed before.

    • And no matter what you or I say, no one will change their minds. So, we are effectively venting, but nothing more.

  7. John Meunier says

    My understanding is that the $200,000 is far from their full apportionment, so they may be still paying the parts of that required for pensions and episcopal fund.

  8. Did the pastor tell the Administrative Council to withhold the apportionments? If not, (and there is no real evidence that the pastor pushed the church to do this), then what difference is there between Mt. Bethel and the thousands of other churches that do not pay their apportionments while paying their pastors?

    The Western Jurisdiction pays the lowest percentage of their apportionments of any jurisdiction. Meanwhile, many of the conferences pay more to The Advance than their shortfall in apportionments. So, it certainly isn’t a question of lacking resources but instead of deciding to put second mile first. Or, doing what is right in their eyes.

    Additionally, they do this while demanding that the rest of us subsidize their bishops and pay in full for their retired bishops like Bishop Talbert.

    I have missed your posts of outrage about that injustice.

    I think everyone ought to pay their full apportionments. But, I am no longer surprised when people feel that the leadership of The UMC is not attentive to the wishes of the laity who actually pay all of the bills. After a while, the connection gets very frayed. Leadership has to decide if they want to mend it or just continue to do what they want to do.

    • 1.) The BoD doesn’t say the “pastor has to do this” but simply says what happens if it does.

      2.) Failure to pay and refusing to pay = two different things.

      3.) Injustice? Trying to speak better, Creed. I have called for and pointed out when the “left” have broken the BoD and suggested they be punished accordingly. Either read more, or read better.

      • When have you suggested that pastors in the Western Jurisdiction shouldn’t be paid because their churches aren’t paying their apportionments?

        Your #1 and #2 are contradictory. If you believe the provision should be invoked whenever Clergy Support is not paid, then the reason for the lack of payment is irrelevant.

        What do you believe should have happened to Bishop Talbert?

        • No, it is not contradictory. One is graceful and the other is instructive. Granted, some may not be able to pay due to overpaying their pastors…

          If any congregation REFUSES to pay apportionments, they should likewise receive the same paycut.

          I believe, in this instance, the BoD was followed. As I wrote previously, Tom L.’s suggestions on strengthening the Just Resolution language is the way to go. As the process stands now, it encourages “it is better to ask forgiveness than permission.” Ideally, the Bishop should faced trial. Instead, the current process simply removed the grieved party and replaces it with someone who isn’t. The process does not work.

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