Last night, by acclamation, the Western Jurisdiction elected as bishop a person who is unqualified according to the Book of Discipline (at least how many of us read it). It is directly against the wishes of General Conference and the remaining 98% of The United Methodist Church.
Here are some responses I thought I’d share.
First, on Monday, the college of bishops in the Southeastern Jurisdiction, issued this letter:
We, the Southeastern Jurisdictional College of Bishops, grieve over the deep divisions in our beloved United Methodist Church. We recognize the pain felt both by those advocating for and those opposing change. We also view the acts of nonconformity as a violation of our covenant and as divisive and disruptive.
From our Council of Bishops issued this last night,
The Council of Bishops is monitoring this situation very closely. The Council does not have constitutional authority to intervene in the election or supervisory processes at either the annual conference, jurisdictional or central conference levels. And, we are careful to not jeopardize any clergy or lay person’s due process by ill-advised comments.
Rob Renfroe, pastor and president of Good News, says,
“It is deplorable that the Western Jurisdiction, along with many annual conferences, has ignored the Council of Bishop’s proposal, ratified by the General Conference, for a ‘pause for prayer – to step back from attempts at legislative solutions and to intentionally seek God’s will for the future,’”
The IRD weighed in as well.
This is a fundamentally schismatic action of the Western Jurisdiction declaring it no longer wants to live in unity with the rest of our denomination. Now some United Methodists in the rest of the country will likely want to stop paying the denominational apportionments which heavily subsidize the six-figure salaries of Oliveto and other bishops in the Western Jurisdiction – the only U.S. Jurisdiction rewarded with more bishops than they pay for themselves.
The IRD also has a theological biography of the improperly made bishop.
The Confessing Church has issued a statement as well:
These actions come as no surprise as the LGBTQ advocates even before General Conference indicated they intended to close down the church if their demands were not met.
In light of these actions numbers of persons and churches have asked what The Confessing Movement, as well as other renewal groups, will do now. Many have urged that we simply declare United Methodist apostate and start a new denomination. Others have urged that there be a withholding of apportionment money. There is the sense that our covenantal relationships have been betrayed.
For the moment we urge patience. We are not yet giving up on The United Methodist Church. But we ask for some time to discern God’s will and to engage in Holy Conferencing. With that in mind we offer these statements at the moment:
As I am in WV, I am going to focus on the statement by Bishop Steiner-Ball,
Having said that, I would request that you not become distracted from this mission by the Western Jurisdiction’s election of an openly gay bishop. The decision of the Western Jurisdiction is the decision of that particular Jurisdiction and can only impact the mission and ministry of our local congregations and the West Virginia Conference if we allow that decision to become the primary concern in our churches. I would argue that Christ would not want us to allow this incident to become the primary concern nor would Christ want this to distract us from our compassionate, loving care for all people or from our responsibility to reach all people for Christ.
Additionally, let me remind you that the action of the Western Jurisdiction does not change our polity or The Discipline. Jurisdictional Conferences and Annual Conferences do not have the authority to change The Discipline. Only the General Conference has the ability to change disciplinary statements and positions.
Fortunately, the SCJ asked for a declaratory judgment.
Is the nomination, election, consecration, and/or assignment as a bishop of The United Methodist Church of a person who claims to be a “self-avowed practicing homosexual” or is a spouse in a same-sex marriage lawful under The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church.
The Judicial Council will rule and will have to rule against the “election.” The WJ would have 90 days or so to hold a new jurisdictional conference and elect a new bishop that would not cause an episcopal crisis. If the WJ refuses, then they may lose all status with the UMC, lose funding, and so on. As this is a schismatic act, the WJ would then have to withdraw — but only those churches that want to – and form their own denomination in order to keep their improperly made bishop.
In the meantime, what should we do until this is resolved properly?
- Stop paying apportionments if you are able, or tithes and offerings if you are not. Put the money in escrow until such a time as the proper course of action is decided. Some will have an issue with this. But, what do you think will happen to those apportionments if the UMC breaks up? Are you still going to pay it elsewhere? The schismatic elements care about one thing: Money. We use money to further the Gospel and only to further the Gospel. By the way, those paying tithes and offerings and select where the money goes. That means you can explicitly decide to pay the local church, but tell them they cannot use it for apportionments.
- Look at the Wesleyan Covenant Association and join them 7 Oct. There are a few kinks to work out, but we can do this.
- Be patient. You have to make up your mind what to do, but for now, be patient.
For me, I will not participate in any sacramental offering in the local church. If the polity is not working, then that means the congregation is not a Church and I believe only the sacraments can be offered in a Church. I’m not recommending this action for anyone, but it is my personal conviction — and one I feel I need in order to discern my next few steps. I’ve covered this theology before in preparation for this. But, I have to give the processes time to work itself out.
Yes, we have a process because everyone knows you will need it eventually. Now we do. So, let it work.
Separation is not inevitable, but if the WJ persists, then they will schism from the rest of The United Methodist Church. They now have a bishop. Let them form their own denomination.