Expensive Lies

John Wesley, in Sermon 90, classifies three types of lies: malicious, harmless, and officious. In regards to the latter, he writes,

lies, lies, and more lies
“Lie if you think it’ll accomplish things” – said no Christian ever.

Concerning officious lies, those that are spoken with a design to do good, there have been numerous controversies in the Christian Church. Abundance of writers, and those men of renown, for piety as well as learning, have published whole volumes upon the subject, and, in despite of all opposers, not only maintained them to be innocent, but commended them as meritorious. But what saith the Scripture One passage is so express that there does not need any other. It occurs in the third chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, where the very words of the Apostle are: (Rom. 3: 7-8,) …
Here the Apostle plainly declares,

(1.) That the good effect of a lie is no excuse for it.
(2.) That it is a mere slander upon Christians to say, “They teach men to do evil that good may come.”
(3.) That if any, in fact, do this; either teach men to do evil that good may come, or do so themselves; their damnation is just.

This is peculiarly applicable to those who tell lies in order to do good thereby. It follows, that officious lies, as well as all others, are an abomination to the God of truth.

Therefore, there is no absurdity, however strange it may sound, in that saying of the ancient Father, “I would not tell a wilful lie, to save the souls of the whole world.”

Wherein The United Methodist Church once opposed lying, even for the so-called good, we now openly condone it, even request it from those with sacred trust. We then wonder why some people have an issue with trust in this denomination.

A resolution was passed at the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference requesting that the CFA of the Annual Conference:

“state that there are no funds available for initiating and processing of complaints and initiating of investigations and trials based upon the sexual orientation or marital status of faith United Methodists or involving clergy for conducting same-sex weddings.” (here)

173b9ddb84a48f8b586c28baf56322b9Rightly so, this was immediately called out, on the floor by a delegate, as a lie. The NEJ is requesting that the ones who makes sure all of our money is safe and used in accordance with the Book of Discipline lie. When I recommend you stop paying apportionments, it is in part because you cannot trust what is being done with the money.

Consider what is found in  ¶ 611‐628 of the Discipline. These paragraphs call for reporting to the Annual Conference and accurate budget, with measures for auditing, bonding, and the such. If the council presents a budget to the Annual Conference that is intentionally inaccurate, then they are indeed lying.

But, there are more lies.

I have to echo Maria Dixon Hill’s comments,

  • Do you know the General Rules of our Church?
  • Will you keep them?
  • Have you studied the doctrines of The United Methodist Church?
  • After full examination, do you believe that our doctrines are in harmony with the Holy Scriptures?
  • Will you preach and maintain them?
  • Have you studied our form of Church discipline and polity?
  • Do you approve our Church government and polity?
  • Will you support and maintain them?

And if you said yes: Did you mean it or were your fingers crossed?

While Rev. Karen Oliveto had to reaffirm her ordination vows, there is more. I’ve covered the vows made by a bishop before. Is she going to guard the doctrine and discipline of The United Methodist Church? She can’t, at least the way it is written now — but she said she would.

There is now a bishop that took these vows that, and by her very presence as a bishop has broken several of those vows to God already. She took those vows, in the presence of many others, knowing she would have to break them. And why is this acceptable? How can their be trust and unity when there is no discipline?

Tell me, friend, what have these lies cost us? These lies are not part of our collective body, with two jurisdictions forcing upon the rest of The United Methodist Church, a system of distrust.

I am thankful that several bishops — even those who want to see the Discipline changed — have spoken out against this act of distrust and disunion. They do restore some sense of trust, and I hope it is enough to get us through the next few months.

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9 Replies to “Expensive Lies”

  1. so lies are always wrong in order to save others? interesting.

    “The Christian then, it would seem, should not lie.

    The German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer disagrees.

    Bonhoeffer thinks God’s standard of truth entails more than merely “not lying.” Rather, to be true to God in the deepest way means being obedient to God, not merely conforming to “rules”—a kind of blind legalism. He believes there are situations where it is not only morally permissible to lie, but obedience to God requires it. And so he lied, involving himself in deception after deception as he conspired against Hitler and the Nazi’s in WWII. (For an excellent book on the life of Bonhoeffer, see here; for an exploration of the implications of Bonhoeffer’s theological convictions for our culture, see here).

    Many agree that Bonhoeffer was right to lie, given the circumstances. Our intuition is that it is morally permissible to lie in order to save an innocent life. But, how do we make sense of this ethically? Does this mean all moral judgments are relative?

    I don’t think so. Rather, we need to realize that there is a hierarchy of values that is relevant to moral decision-making. Truth telling is a high value, a value that entails we ought not to lie. Unless a higher value trumps it. And in Bonhoeffer’s case, there was a higher value: saving innocent lives. Thus, lying was morally permissible for Bonhoeffer. And in following God’s call, it was a mark of his obedience to a God who cares for the well-being of all.”

    taken from http://www.paul-gould.com/2013/10/16/is-it-every-ok-to-lie-bonhoeffer-on-truth-telling-and-deception/

    When we lie to protect humans from church discipline that is harmful and unaffirming, it does not mean we do not uphold church discipline or law as good, but that we agree that not even church law and discipline are more important in the hierarchy of values than human rights.

    1. Taliesin,
      The quote you share regarding Bonhoeffer says, “we need to realize that there is a hierarchy of values that is relevant to moral decision-making. Truth telling is a high value, a value that entails we ought not to lie. Unless a higher value trumps it.”
      In my opinion, Karen Oliveto’s self-interest, lying when taking vows at licensing and at ordination, long before “consecration” to the episcopacy, does not trump the value of honesty.

      1. Especially since she had numerous other options. One is that she could have affiliated with the ECUSA. (If course they now have more clergy than churches and almost as many bishops). Point is there is more than one way she and similar clergy could follow their “calling” without lying . No one was saying anything like ,”Tell us where the Jews are so we can kill them.” If they think the UMC is the equivalent of the Nazi party then they should at least terminate their voluntary association and support.

  2. You raise two separate issues here. The first, from the NEJ:
    “state that there are no funds available for initiating and processing of complaints and initiating of investigations and trials based upon the sexual orientation or marital status of faith United Methodists or involving clergy for conducting same-sex weddings.”

    That’s a figure of speech that I have no problem with. As a matter of fact, I used it myself recently. A mentee of mine was going to get an apartment with his girlfriend, and wanted to see if I could help them with some money for furniture. I replied that I didn’t have any money available for that purpose, and then explained why.
    It’s one thing to say ‘I have no money”. It’s another thing altogether to say “I have no money for (an explicit purpose). The first is quite possibly lie. The second is a legitimate way to express your disapproval of something.

  3. Regarding Bishop Oliveti, she needs to, and will, I believe, submit to the discipline of the United Methodist Church. That is the requirement laid out by the Book of Discipline. It is the same for any perceived transgression of the BoD, including something like failing to support the UMC by calling for separation.
    Others may have to face the music with her. For example, the Bishop(s) who led the consecration ceremony. That is all well and good. The individuals involved will get a chance to explain themselves, while some other advocate will represent the rules of the UMC. Whoever ends up with the unenviable task of adjudicating this thing will then make a ruling, hopefully based on extensive prayer.

    There’s lots of ways to fall afoul of the BoD. Many of them are intentional, others are not. In any case, the final recourse is to the discipline of the church. Let it be so. We, laymen, are not charged with that responsibility.

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