Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
April 19th, 2017 by Joel Watts

Ough’s coming assualt on the #UMC

Rev. Ough, the current episcopal leader in Minnesota, is infamous for letting arch-heretic Sprague off. He is getting ready to do the same, using the same weasley words and nuances he did then.

He has issued a press release. In it are a few statements necessary for more to see.

For instance, this one.

There are several authorized bodies in The United Methodist Church that express the will of our denomination. The General Conference speaks for the church. The Council of Bishops exercises oversight and support of the church’s mission. The Judicial Council determines the constitutionality and legality of actions taken by individuals or constituted entities of the church, in this instance, the action taken by a jurisdictional conference. At times these bodies collaborate, and at other times this work is done independently. The Judicial Council will express its own perspective and give its own rationale for its decision.

Do you see what he is saying? He is ready to cause a constitutional crisis — even more than the one created by those in the West who sought to break the UMC in electing Oliveto.

If the Judicial Council decides to rule against allowing self-avowed homosexuals to even be candidates, it appears Ough will take the Erdogan route and simply void the decision. He’ll do it in the name of the commission or some other farcical notion.

If he does this, the UMC is done.

So be it.

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

16 Responses to “Ough’s coming assualt on the #UMC”
  1. Taylor W. Burton-Edwards says

    I have no idea how you reach that conclusion from this quote, Joel.

    Care to “show your work”?

    • Is this a math problem?

    • Maybe you can help me. I have studied this nuanced statement since its release and can’t come up with but one reading: A JC decision is one opinion from one of many perspectives in a church with many sources of authority that express the will of the church. Can you make any other sense of it? He definitely does not say a JC decision is binding. I don’t see how these words can be arranged to draw that inference.

      • bjohnmasters says

        It is my opinion that this is a classic statement from a UMC Bishop…basically a lot of words that manage to take no substantive position one way or another on anything. I believe that one can only find the meaning Joel found if one is looking for something to complain about.

    • Joel didn’t write QED at his post’s end, Taylor. Therefore, we may not ask for a rigorous proof. Bishop Ough’s nebulosity is open to many interpretations of which Joel’s is one. As Rev. Sweat says above the Bishop does not say the JC decision is binding.

  2. Keith Caldwell says

    John Wesley was a man of one book the bible. He gave no authority to anyone other than God, Christ and the Bible.
    Christianity is not a democracy, nor is it a political arena. The work of the Church (Christ’s Bride) is not to divide, but to make disciple of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world! ¶ 120 BOD. To do this it must be our life, both the way we live and the words we speak. Rev. Ough makes the UMC a social group in his writing, and gives no credit to God, Christ or The Holy Bible in his epistle.
    Christ gave love to everyone, God’s love. He gave us warnings because of His love, He did not come to condemn us but to give us new life by following Him and changing our lives.
    John 8:10-11 NIV. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
    11 “No one, sir,” she said.
    “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

    If the UMC is Christ’s Bride is she about to divorce Him?

  3. Thomas McCann says

    I guess I don’t see it either. I don’t see any wording that indicates the Bishops can, or would, attempt to ‘invalidate’ a JC decision. If the JC rules against the West, I think Oliveto is gone… Or whatever other remedy they might render.
    If you want to worry about something, worry about the JC doing something indecisive, with no new clarity. They don’t want this hot potato any more than Congress wants to vote on a war authorization.

  4. I take it to mean, we (Bishops) are going to do what we are tasked to do. They (JC) are going to do what they are tasked to do. With the telling phrase, “The Judicial Council’s actions are always specific to particular circumstances.”

    Which I take to mean he expects a JC decision will only affect the participants named, not a global decision that impacts beyond those individuals.

    I would assume this means he thinks a Bishops’ “Way Forward” (global impact decision) will not be affected either way by the JC decision. And vice versa. Did I write “vice”?…just a coincident.

    • That is a point made elsewhere in the statement and almost as plainly as you did. The point is evident without this paragraph. I can yield to that understanding if we conclude that these are extraneous remarks borne from an inclination to use too many words and a reluctance to speak plainly. Strike the passage and the statement remains in tact. The Bishop could use you as a copy editor.
      But, this is a separate bullet point. Important enough to be his first, so I doubt it is extraneous. It begins by asserting there are several authoritative bodies that express the will of the church and concludes by saying the Judicial Council will express its own perspective. I can detail the grave implications of those statements if anyone still needs, but I have consumed enouh text space for a single reply.

      • Actually, it would be good if you did elaborate. I really am in a cloud as far as what significance the Bishop’s “Way Forward” will have. I have always understood the Bishops as advisory status only. So if they come up with an “off-the-wall” position on the “Way Forward”, it would ultimately be rejected by a Conference, and then… actually, I don’t know what happens then. Is there an “impeachment process” for Bishops. Or, does the Judicial Council have authority to reject the Bishop’s “Way Forward”, if found to be objectionable to either them, or the Conference itself. Thenthe JC becomes a global decision, instead of a directed, limited decision? All of this is rather confusing. All I can say is that lawyers and religion doesn’t mix. Brings to mind Pharisees, on both sides.

        • 1st: Love your last two sentences. Agreed. Church ought to be governed by covenant not contract law.
          2nd: The importance of this paragraph is not in its relation to the “Way Forward” but in its implication that we acknowledge multiple church polities rather than a single church polity.
          The press release states a fact that is irrelevant unless he is applying it in some novel way to the subject of the letter. It is true in a sense that other bodies express the will of the church. Every pastor does, and in the same sense so does every member, but not in the same sense as General Conference or the Judicial Council. He could have said that Revsweat expresses the will of the church and stated a fact that has no relevance to the question unless he intends my opinion to be equal to the Judicial Council.
          Only GC expresses the will of the Church authoritatively. Administrative bodies (CoB included) implement the will of the church between sessions of GC. Only the JC can authoritatively clarifiy any apparent conflict between expressed will and implementation. Its decisions are binding upon the whole church…all other expressions of the will of the church by other bodies (including Revsweat) being irrelevant.
          It serves no purpose to introduce the opinions of “several bodies” except to elevate their authority in this matter in a novel way. It serves no purpose to refer to a Judicial Council decision as an expression of its own perspective (a phrasing heretofore unknown) except to diminish its authoriry as one perspective among many.
          This phrasing appears to be for a church where some administrative bodies may adhere to a Judicial Council decision and others may follow a body which has a different expression of the will of the church.

          • I just got this. To be honest, I haven’t read it in detail yet. Only recognized the “Not everyone will agree” part.

            I think I am not in the same category as most of you. I don’t necessarily have a lifetime vested in any particular church. Although interested in doctrine, I don’t view it as a make or break deal for me. I am more interested in the people and minister I see each week on my corner church. The National and International politics is pretty much irrelevant to me. I just hope all this stuff gets settled quickly. I know people talk about decreasing numbers in each congregation. But there seems to be a church on every street corner were I live, with new startups happening all the time, even though total numbers might be decreasing. So, like coffee shops, if I feel uncomfortable with the one-on-one interface I meet on a daily basis, there are plenty of coffee elsewhere, some good, some bad.

            http://files.constantcontact.com/51a60283301/c7b1141c-b93e-48d3-8af5-fbc9f4b9dfcf.pdf

  5. brentwhite says

    We’ll know soon enough. But like Thomas McCann, I fear that the JC will punt. Don’t ask me how—I slept through polity class, and even if I didn’t, I went to Candler. But something related to “standing,” maybe? “As much as we’d love to rule on the question, we can’t because [insert weaselly lawyer words here].”

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