Truth or Consequences UM

truth or consequenceOf course all of the uproar over the last few days has been about Ginny Mikita, and her removal as a candidate for ordination and her being removed from membership in the UMC. As is often my habit, I am slow to comment in full on this due to taking the time to attempt to understand the full situation and what occurred. There was, of course, the expected vitriol from RMN and of course from Jeremy Smith who as of late has specialized in seeing and assuming the absolute worst in everyone and everything not “progressive, as was to be expected, they praised the “victim” and condemned those “victimizing” them. This is to be expected. I want to add my thoughts to the plethora of other thoughts out there and choose to do so in this form so that they are in one place and not spread all over various forums. Before that however, I want to make clear that I support the actions taken by the three pastors who wrote the letter that some have attributed this whole thing to. As we contemplate this and what is undoubtedly to come, keep in mind that these three did not make the rules that exist, they only chose to uphold them. Before you vilify them, remember that they are the ones who are holding true to their word and their vow. they are the ones who have taken seriously the call to let their yes be yes and their no be no. They are the ones who have called for order in an increasingly chaotic situation. On a personal note, thank you three should you happen to read this. You may not always be the type of leaders that we want, but you have demonstrated that you are the type of leaders that we need. Now, on with the show so to speak…

First, it appears to me that Ms. Mikita made a mockery of the ordination process. I am probably naive in this thinking, but I still do believe that being a pastor is a sacred calling, not a free online ordination. I do recognize the difference between someone who gets a free ordination to marry their friends etc., but there is little doubt here that this was a religious ceremony, not a civil change in tax status. Even so, the rule that resulted in her removal from the membership roles applies the same to all. Take that in or a second…the rule applies to all. This is not an ‘unfair’ or ‘unjust’ rule. It is a standard that the church has set that applies to every member, clergy or laity, equally. You do not have to like the rule, you can work to change the rule, or you may have been like me and not even known that the rule existed, but none of those things excuses you from the consequences of the action that you took. There is a larger problem at work here though…a much larger problem.

Ms. Mikita chose to be ordained through the Universal Life Church. Now I may be mistaken here, if so, hopefully someone with more knowledge of UMC policy will read and correct me, but when you accept ordination as a UMC pastor, you have accepted the rule and authority of the church. A pastor performs the rite of marriage with the authority of God, as understood by their particular denomination. The right of marriage is performed by the authority of the state. For a pastor however, both of these things, the rite and the right, are performed in conjunction with one another and can not be separated. Again, this points to the religious nature of the ceremony. Those who seek to defend Ms. Mikita insist that she obtained this online ordination for the specific reason of performing the marriage. As a candidate for ministry I trust that she understood that she was not only performing a right conferred by the state, but also a rite under the authority of the sanctioning body, in this case, the Universal Life Church. It becomes important I feel to examine then what the beliefs of said church are as that is the authority that she chose to invoke. This is a link to the organization that provided Ms. Mikita with her credentials.

First, it should be noted that the church in question is universalist in it’s orientation. It believes that all religions, including atheism, are of equal value and truth. This is, contrary to the beliefs of some, not compatible with our articles of religion in the UMC. Secondly, the organization does not recognize any authority by the church. As they say “Unlike other international churches our size, we will never ask our ULC ministers or congregants to bow before us or kiss our rings and we steadfastly reject the idea that a church’s members should be made to obey the commands of any central leadership structure — we are all equal.” When you combine this with other statements that they make such as “We have made it our mission to actualize these tenets in the world by empowering millions of ministers, whether they come to us from a Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish, Catholic, Shinto, Agnostic, Atheist, Pagan, Wiccan, or Druid tradition, to speak their own truth to power.” So, no central authority or accountability, and the goal is for each individual to speak their own truth. This is not a faith concerned with the unchanging truth of God, and is instead only concerned with the ever changing truth of men. It is little more than claiming authority that is rightly God’s. Seems that there is a commandment about that. This in no way resembles anything near Christianity, yet this is the authority that Ms. Mikita claimed when she chose to be ordained by them, and also the same authority that was called upon to perform the marriage rite.

It all ends up boiling down to this…we have an authority problem. Somehow we have not yet grown out of our rebellious teenage stage and insist on rejecting any and every authority that we can. We can have membership in the UMC, but without respect for it’s authority, we may as well sign up with the Universal Life Church as that is what we are acting like. When we reject the authority of the church we rely instead on our own authority. Yes, I know, God is the ultimate authority and rightly so, but the church is the way in which His authority is expressed today. It is not perfect, it has been wrong, and it probably will be wrong again before the second coming of Christ, but that does not negate the reality that if we reject the authority and teachings of the church, we are setting ourselves up as a religion of one. Obviously Ms. Mikita does not agree with the UMC position on same sex marriage, and that is her right. I imagine that she would have done what she could to try and change it, and that is also her right, as it is the right of all of us to try and bring about changes through the process that is in place. What concerns me is the stunning lack of willingness to submit to any form of authority and somehow to expect to be able to do that with out consequence. I do not think that Ms. Mikita paid a lot of attention to what the Universal Life church believed when she received her ordination through them. I don’t even think that she thought about the reality that by accepting their ordination, she was acting with their authority. (I am freely admitting to making an assumption here.) That is ultimately what concerns me. The authority that she accepted (knowingly or not) was decidedly not inline with the beliefs of the church that she claimed membership in, yet she was stunned to find out that accepting religious authority outside of the church in an official capacity would result in her (knowingly or not) forfeiting her membership. Our issues, and the inability to solve them, results not from differing opinions or theologies, but from a lack of understanding and respect for authority. If this incident has anything to teach us, it is that.


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24 Replies to “Truth or Consequences UM”

  1. Universal Life Church:
    “It believes that all religions, including atheism, are of equal value and truth”
    “not compatible with our articles of religion in the UMC”
    “the organization does not recognize any authority by the church”
    “by empowering millions of ministers, whether they come to us from a Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish, Catholic, Shinto, Agnostic, Atheist, Pagan, Wiccan, or Druid tradition, to speak their own truth to power”
    “This is not a faith concerned with the unchanging truth of God, and is instead only concerned with the ever changing truth of men”
    “This in no way resembles anything near Christianity”
    “that accepting religious authority outside of the church in an official capacity would result in her (knowingly or not) forfeiting her membership”

    So, my conclusion, Universal Life Church sounds more secular than church. Everyone welcome, accepts no authority of church.

    Sounds like a mail order church that my old supervisor once signed up for, as a joke, to get a certificate to marry people.

    Since the person was not a UMC minister, the question becomes, “as a UMC member only, can they join a secular organization that claims the right to marry?” There is no doctrine in the Universal Life Church, and the UMC member does not claim authority under the UMC church to marry someone. So is this a violation of UMC rules? I don’t know. Just asking. I don’t view it a big deal one way or the other. If she gets kicked out of UMC, then just join another church. I don’t view UMC the end-all, ultimate, one-and-only, church. If they don’t want me, adios. But I’ve been re-tread through other churches. So not a big deal. But I suppose this gal has a stronger connection to UMC. But I would say, it is not worth fighting over for her. Doesn’t pay to be somewhere where you are not wanted. It goes both ways.

    1. I am unaware of any secular organization that does that. If there were, possibly.That would be for the Judicial council to decide.
      It is a violation of the UMC rules to maintain a dual membership. You can not be a member of the UMC and the Catholic church for example. If you join another church, which ordination counts as, then it is, by rule, considered to be a voluntary withdrawal of your UMC membership. The young woman in question was a candidate for ordination, so her intention was to become a pastor. She, better than most of us, should understand the importance of ordination and that it should not be a casual undertaking.

      1. “which ordination counts as”…
        I didn’t see any reference to her trying to be a minister. I must have missed that. However, if just an ordinary member, I would stand by what I said. I have seen these mail-order minister certificates that are totally secular. But as I said, I would not want to be anywhere that I was not wanted. I would simply leave and find another church, if I were her. Oh… Even Jesus said, shake the dust off you shoes, and adios.

      2. And just as a note…the UMC I go to must either ignore all this stuff, or just don’t care. I haven’t heard anything regarding gay marriage, people being excommunicated, etc. I really wonder how many people in UMC are really activists, either on the left or right. I suspect the majority want to close their ears, and want everyone to go away, if there are any controversies to discuss.

        1. No one has been excommunicated in the UMC in recent memory. The word is being used only to drum up images of the inquisition etc.

          1. I only used the word because I read it used in one of the links. I thought it was rather misplaced, but what the heck…I have never heard anything about this story until I read this article. You guys (the generic term, not you specifically) seem to come up with all these stories about absolute unrest, and total instability in the UMC. Yet I am oblivious to all this stuff going to the UMC I attend. I never hear anyone talking about this stuff. Seems like McCarthism might be a right term. There’s a Communist under everyone’s bed, and a liberal gay guy sitting behind every pew.

  2. Jeremy Smith’s assholery isn’t of late. He has for the past few years made it his point to concoct grand conspiracies of money laundering… he’s worse at the “seems to me” than the History Channel. He should be brought up on charges.

    1. Assholery?! Really? That is not how I would describe disagreeing with another person’s stance or view on things. You don’t agree with him so he’s an asshole that should be brought up on charges? Wow. I’ve been a United Methodist my entire life and grew up in a farely conservative church. I don’t see chargable offenses in the blog posts and I’m disappointed to say the least at your harsh reference to another clergy’s personhood and career.

      1. Hey kelly. Why don’t you look back over the entire thing and then maybe you can speak.

        It’s not simply that I disagree with jeremy – but that his only pattern is conspiracy, lies, and leftist red meat. He slanders everyone who disagrees with him, takes situations – such as this one – and completed misconstrues it.

        Someone with a degree in this area may intact call this behavior sociopathic

        1. Joel,
          I have read the whole blog and respectfully disagree. I remain disappointed in your continued name calling. He’s a sociopath now? I’ll leave the irony that I HAVE a degree in this area to you. Don’t worry about any more responses from me.

      2. Kelly, first, I am the one who wrote this particular piece, just so that is out of the way.
        There are chargeable offenses on many of his blog posts. He has endorsed teachings that are contrary to UMC standards and doctrine as an example. That is chargeable.
        It is not a difference in opinion that bothers me about Mr. Smith, it is that he is given free reign to insult anyone and everyone that he chooses without consequence. He makes claims about VMM that he can not back up with anything other than supposition, and in fact brings the group of bloggers into this when it has nothing to do with anything. I blog at unsettled Christianity. If I send a letter with my name on it, it certainly is not representative of this blog site, it is representative of me. He claims that this is an excommunication either without understanding of what that word means (I find that unlikely) or with the intent of stirring the pot further and to invoke images of every negative thought about the Catholic church’s inquisition.
        He shows a drastic misunderstanding of the membership of the young woman in question. Her membership was not removed. She, by her actions, chose to forfeit her membership in the UMC. Again, either he does not know what the policy of the church is, and therefor is making inflammatory statements out of ignorance, or he does know and is again simply stirring the pot and trying to change the situation from a simple cause and effect situation (I chose to do this, and this is the result) into a witch hunt because that is good for some reason to him. Neither option is good, and is certainly not reflective of a pastor in the UMC.
        The problem is not about disagreeing on any particular topic, it is about disagreeing on the Christian faith in general to the point that we are essentially two different religions. I do not know what word you would choose for an individual that regularly insults his colleagues, regularly insults anyone who happens to be a traditionalist, conservative, or orthodox Christian, regularly make inflammatory comments that have little, if any basis in fact and that he can not back up with evidence, and regularly makes statements about individuals that contradict what the individuals themselves have stated with no evidence (of action by them or conflicting statements by them). Pardon my language here, but using the urban dictionary (a common source for slang), we find this as the definition for “asshole” ‘someone being arrogant, rude, obnoxious’. It is an appropriate description for his continued actions. For me personally, I prefer the descriptor ‘asshat’ (A person, of either gender, whose behavior displays such ignorance/obnoxiousness that you would like to make them wear their own ass as a hat.) to properly express my feelings to ward Mr. Smith. Thanks for reading. Sorry that you did not enjoy your experience here.

        1. Scott,
          I’m sorry if I have confused you and Joel on what blog I was referring to in my previous statement. I am aware that you wrote this blog entry. The blog I was referring to was Rev. Smith’s blog. I have read all of the blog/posts in Hacking Christianity. I continue to disagree, respectfully, with your opinions on chargable offenses. It’s interesting though, Rev Smith has not once, ever, called anyone an asshole, or asshat in his blog posts. I believe I will continue reading Rev Smith’s take on things in the UMC. Blessings to you both.

  3. I, too, feel that the on-line “churches” are in name only. There is no dogma, no worship with other people, no meeting of anyone else even. Nobody I know says that these are at all equal to a seminary pastor. It seems as if these are for people whom want to marry friends that are not marring in a church, and would rather have someone they know, rather than a JOP do it. The certificate is worth as much as you pay for it. People are getting their underwear in a bunch over BS.

    1. So a question if you will. Do you then think that it is fine for a member of the church to conduct a religious wedding ceremony using an online certificate then?

  4. I always thought ordination was becoming a minister, not a member. Actually, I have never heard the term “ordination” being used in conjunction with just becoming a church member. Which is what I thought she was doing. But I missed that. Since I didn’t read the linked stuff originally. In the original post nothing was mentioned about the gal trying to become a UMC minister. Only an “on-line” minister, which I don’t consider an ordination. So I missed the other references to her trying to become a UMC minister. However, I consider her getting an on-line bogus minister certificate, which has nothing to do with UMC, is her business, and no one else’s business. As if becoming a UMC minister requires full disclosure of all past events in you life, much like Communist head-hunting in the 50’s by Joe McCarthy.

    1. Gary, in the UMC, you must be a member to be ordained. You could not be ordained as a UMC pastor if you are not a member of the UMC. It also recognizes, that ordination by a body means membership in the body. A Lutheran pastor is a Lutheran, a Catholic Priest is a priest, etc. That is why ordination=membership (to the UMC anyway). The UMC also has a high view of ordination. Anyone can attend church, there is a higher expectation of those who are members, and an even higher expectation of those ordained. Whether or not a different group believes that is another matter. The UMC does not believe that you can be a member of two differing denominations and fulfill the obligations to both, let alone receive an ordination an be a member.
      The ULC claims to be a religious organizations and files taxes accordingly. They offer to provide sermons, Christian ceremonies, etc. Their goal is to empower individuals to “speak their own truth to power”. If nothing else is objectionable, this should be as we are a denomination that seeks to speak God’s truth, not our own.

      1. Clergy are members, and ordained. Members are not clergy, nor are they ordained.

        Like I said, I mistakenly thought the gal was a member, not trying out for the Olympics (clergy).
        With all due respect, what a member does is their own business. After they become clergy, that may be a different story. But let me put it bluntly…ain’t no clergy going to tell me what I can, or cannot do. They can advise me if I ask. But if I don’t ask, they mind their own business. I didn’t live for 67 years, to be told by some young pipsqueak what I should or should not do, clergy or not.
        Again, with all due respect. If I were the gal, I’d find another church, happily!

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