A Way Forward…

Written by Bishop Grant. Posted in Bishop's Blog, Leadership, Mission

Bishop-Hagiya-018It is a little obvious, but The United Methodist Church is in the midst of some major transition challenges. As the church and society reacts to the Frank Schaefer trial and Bishop Melvin Talbert’s blessing of a same gender wedding in another Bishop’s area, the tensions from within and outside the church heighten our cultural conflicts.

Recently, our Council of Bishops had to deal squarely with this issue, as Bishop Talbert disregarded the request of the Resident Bishop of North Alabama, Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett, and went ahead to perform a blessing of the wedding of Bobby Prince and Joe Openshaw. I know both of these Bishops personally, and I have the utmost respect for the integrity of both of them.

Our Council of Bishop’s Executive Team asked Bishop Talbert not to be involved in this same gender blessing, but Bishop Talbert, acting out of his personal convictions, went ahead with the blessing. It was an action that the Council of Bishops could not ignore, and we dealt with it extensively in Executive Session (closed session). I am bound by the confidentiality of our covenant as Bishops, so the details of our discussions cannot be shared in public.

However, I believe I can share that there were two issues at stake for the Council of Bishops: One is the issue of our covenant with each other, as what does it mean for a retired Bishop to disregard the request of an active Bishop in whose area of responsibility an action is taken. The second issue is the Council of Bishop’s action when a Bishop commits an act of ecclesial disobedience. I believe the former was more important to the Council of Bishops than the latter.

It is a matter of public record, and was expressed a number of times, that there have been examples of historical precedence of United Methodist Bishops disregarding the request of fellow residential Bishops by coming to their area to protest racial civil rights violations. This happened during the height of the civil rights movement in our country, and out of personal convictions, some of our UMC Bishops traveled to another Bishop’s area to stand in solidarity with those fighting for the civil rights of African Americans. History has proven that such violations of the covenant were acceptable and right.

I am of the opinion that we face a similar situation when it comes the rights of LGBTQ persons currently. Only the passing of time will tell if we are right in this conviction, but I believe we are witnessing the same situation of equal justice for all. It was for this reason that I stood outside the majority vote of the Council of Bishops on the questions of whether Bishop Talbert should be charged for his actions.

As I have stated many times in the past, I acknowledge my human sinfulness, and do not presume to believe that my position is the unequivocal truth. I cannot know God’s Truth on this issue, and can only stand on my limited conviction of what I believe. I will not force my convictions on those who believe the opposite. Like all of you, I only know what I believe is right, and I need to be in constant prayer and discernment.

Our United Methodist Church is in for some tough sledding now and in the future, but I believe that there is a way forward for our church. It must begin with our return to prayer, study, and deep discernment. Only in this deep place of spiritual depth will we find a way forward. We cannot resort to beating each other up because we are on opposite sides of this issue. We need to model the unconditional love of God in Jesus Christ in our relationships. This means we need to do the hard work of sharing openly how we disagree, not to try to convert the other, but to work to a greater understanding and acceptance of our differences. This is what it means to be unified in Christ Jesus: It is not a bland acceptance of everything, but to hold together even when we vehemently disagree with each other.

This is what I am asking of all of us. Let us be open to really hear each other, not attempt to destroy the convictions that are opposite to our own, and finally come to an acceptance of each other, even when we disagree with each other. It is hard, hard work that I am asking of us, but God never promised that it would be easy for us as Christians. In fact, Jesus told us that it was going to be the most difficult work we have ever done. This is the cost of discipleship, and the reason that I am a Christian. For in going through the fire, we will find a greater truth, and in the end, God will be waiting for us.

Be the Hope,

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Bishop Grant J. Hagiya

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Comments (86)

  • Lee Leinweber

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    Bishop. I respect your position and agree with it. I believe that in time our fellow Christians will come to see the rights of these brothers and sisters as valid. I do not believe that “God makes junk.” I think these brothers and sisters do have a different brain wiring from most of us, but that should not condemn them to bigoted treatment. They are fellow human beings and I think they are loved by God just as much as any of the rest of us in the human race.

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  • Tom Tucker

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    Bishop: Thank you for your witness and leadership. I appreciate your spirit in helping lead us all through these issues. Justice seems to take a long time in coming, but justice is the public face of love. Some of us are old enough to remember the civil rights struggle in the darkest hours of that long march to freedom; some us remember the debates over the full inclusion of women in the clergy; and now we walk hand in hand with our GBLT friends and family. It is hard to love a church that has resisted justice for so long.

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    • Rick Cook

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      Thank you Tom and I applaud my Bishop for his message of hope. As one of those among the retired and not in the position as Mel Talbert is, I would act prayerfully and with that message of hope, willing to surrender my credentials if necessary, to a hurting and hopeful community that can live that Christ like vision He brought to us all.

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  • Morie Adams-Griffin

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    Time has already told us what is right and just and our divine calling. It is too bad that we are letting ecclesial law attempt to slow down the inevitable kingdom of God being built right now. Although I support Bishop Talbert’s decision to do the right thing, I have to wonder why so many wait until they retire to do it.

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  • D T

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    Bishop,
    The Church should respond with love and grace, but put forth a message that we are called to be holy. We are to honor God with our bodies. Yes, God calls us as we are, but loves us too much to leave us there. To leave us there is to leave us in our sin, apart from his Grace. By his grace, we show our gratitude by trying to live within his guidelines as set forth by Scripture. Our own convictions are invalid if they run contrary to the written Word before us. To compare sexual activity to race is no comparison. Granted we may not be able to help who we are attracted to, but we can choose whether or not we act upon that attraction, or honor God with our bodies. Race, we cannot change, nor does race play a role in our sexual actions. When we look back, offering people grace without calling them to holiness is not offering them the best God has for them. It is telling them that God’s love is not enough, so why bother trying to show your love for him by obeying his commands. We as people must know better than God, because we condone and accept sinful lifestyles, so our love must be greater than his…NOT! God calls us to live lives as a forgiven people not as an iniquitous people.. The LGBT has an agenda even for the church, and offer workshops on it at annual meetings. Look at the workshops offered at their “Creating Change” conference to be held in Houston. Perhaps then, you will see a different perspective on what their hopes are for the “Church” and for society. Not all persons who live a gay or lesbian lifestyle desire for this, but many support the change they ask for. Bishops playing politics with their convictions fall right into their plans.
    We offer the love of Christ, we share the Grace of God, but we also call to live a life that honors God. In our moving toward sanctification, there are none of us perfect. We acknowledge our own sin nature and realize that all sin separates us from God, but only the blood of Christ can wash over that sin. However, we do not put our sinful desires above that and say that is just who we are. We try to change ourselves so that we desire what God wants, and not try to convince others that God approves of our desires that run contrary to what we know about him.
    I know we say we love the sinner and hate the sin, but we are trying to be persuaded that the person and the sin are one in the same in this lifestyle choice.
    I am not trying to convince you to change your opinion or your convictions, but when any bishop
    (pastor, or church leader) acts on their convictions that run contrary to Scripture, they should step down.

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    • Charlene Scammon

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      It has been said that “we can choose whether or not we act upon that attraction” but I just heard an interesting comment that seems to me to apply. In a discussion about “choice,” one person asked the other “How old were you when you decided you prefer the opposite sex instead of people of your own gender?” As I understand it, most of us do not make such a decision. Rather, we simply find ourselves attracted to one person and not another, and eventually realize that gender is a deciding factor in that attraction. If “choice” is involved, rather than “gay or straight,” the choice must be “sexually active” or “not.” I can’t belleve that God would create anyone with this as a part of the person intending the person would have to decide not to respect the himself or herself as God had created him or her.

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      • Diane Hawk

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        As a single, celibate, heterosexual clergywoman, I have made the choice to NOT engage in sexual activity until I marry. For me this IS a matter of self-respect and faithfulness to the Gospel. Choosing whether to engage in sexual activity is an important issue for every human being. Although we all experience sexual temptations, as responsible Christians most of the time we are called to resist these temptations. The ONLY time Christians may rightly say yes is in the context of marriage with a person of the opposite sex.

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        • Douglas Asbury

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          Diane,
          As a single, celibate, gay clergyman, I have made the choice NOT to engage in sexual activity until I marry. Will you allow me to marry the man of my choice? If not, then you are reading into the Bible a restriction about which the Bible says nothing. In the Bible, marriage “happens” when two persons engage in sexual relations with one another (cf. Genesis 24.67, Genesis 29.21-25). The so-called “clobber passages” stand in condemnation only of abusive and loveless behavior between persons of the same sex and do not at all address loving, faithful monogamous relations between partners of the same sex. Though marriage CAN have procreation as one of its purposes, people who marry are not required to procreate, and some cannot, even though in opposite-sex relationships. Marriage is also for the companionship and mutual care of the partners and is meant to model the faithful relationship between Christ and the Church. Same-sex relationships have just as much possibility of fulfilling those two purposes of marriage as opposite-sex relationships, and same-sex couples can make use of the various reproductive technologies that are available to barren opposite-sex couples in order to produce children. To someone with a heart that expresses the compassion of Jesus, all objections to same-sex marriage fall away, and a warmth of support for same-sex couples who want to be faithful in following Christ through marrying each other is able to come forth. May the Church model the love and compassion of Christ more than the narrow reading of the law as done by the Pharisees, whom he so frequently criticized.

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          • Starr Weaver

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            Rev. Asbury, thank you for expressing what I have felt for many years. I am a white, heterosexual female, married, divorced, married, two children, lay speaker. The more I study the Bible and the ways in which it has been translated in addition to the culture and history of the people and time it was written, the more I feel that God and Jesus are more about caring and taking care of each other than anything. I think he is more concerned about morality and faithfulness. I worked for a divorce a attorney – I fail to see how a couple, both of whom have been married and divorced numerous times, can have a “marriage” that is blessed by the church but two same-sex people who are committed and faithful to each other can be wrong. We seem to forget that the culture at that time was structured around family because they needed many children to survive. Hence the reason for men being allowed many partners. In addition, woman had no ownership of their own sexuality, men were to be dominate. Our concept of society and marriage is so totally different than that of both old and new testaments we really need to delve deep to understand. As I understand, there is no word in Biblical Hebrew for husband or wife or even marriage as we understand it. Marriage was more like a political treaty. Also, I can’t remember the exact date but I think it was in the 1960’s, we decided that we had better take a stand against homosexuality or we would lose too many members to the Southern Baptist. I have the exact info but not with me right now. I wish the Bible that are so fond of quoting Leviticus and Romans would go back and delve a little deeper. As for our Discipline, it was changed when we added that language, it has been changed before, it is not written in stone.

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    • Charlene Scammon

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      There are churches that suggest true believers should not be married but stay single (so they can give all their love to God?). I guess you are suggesting that heterosexuals can marry but still love God, but homosexuals don’t qualify? Jesus accepted everyone; why wouldn’t God? Why shouldn’t we?

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      • Diane Hawk

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        Jesus calls his followers to live by a higher standard than even the teachers of the law lived by. He had compassion toward all, but he would never condone sin or suggest that sinners should embrace their sin and hold onto it. And no, homosexuals do NOT meet the qualifications for Christian marriage. If the secular state wants to change the necessary qualifications for a “legal” marriage, that does not mean that the church should also change it’s standards for a Christian marriage.

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        • Precie

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          Well said, Diane.

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    • Michael D

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      DT, I agree with your stated position based on scripture. I’m still waiting for ANYONE to show me ONE instance where God ever blessed a same sex union, or ordained a homosexual to the priesthood in the scriptures. Yes, we are to love the sinner and hate the sin (all sin). But we as individuals, whether clergy or parishioners do not have the right to call holy what God calls sin. American Christians seem to confuse the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights with God’s scriptures. God’s Word trumps the Constitution. The Civil Courts can make gay marriage legal, but they cannot make it HOLY.
      This issue is going to split the Methodist Church, we’re already losing members by the hundreds of thousands. The church is supposed to influence society, but it appears that we have let society dictate what the Word of God should be. God’s Word tells us to “come out” and be separate from the world system. God’s grace abounds and so does His judgement. God help us, or this issue will destroy our church and Satan will dance a victory dance around the fires of hell. God is light and in Him there is NO darkness. Let us remember to whom we belong. We are children of the resurrection, not children of darkness.

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  • Fred Guyer

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    A person that refuses to follow the laws and rules of the organization of which they are members should leave. They have no integrity!
    That includes a UMC bishop that lobbies the state legislature to pass laws authorizing same sex marriages.

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    • Randall Wallace

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      This logic requires that “the laws and rules of the organization” must be assumed to be perfect and not in need of change.
      The philosophy of “Love It or Leave It” has often proven to be wrong in retrospect.
      Demanding adherence to all things corporate, we simply remain static and move nowhere. This is not where I live in my faith and I intend to stay here.
      Though change is hard, it does not mean that it is wrong.
      The estimated $100,000 spent on the Schaefer trial would have been better utilized by UMCOR or Christian education. The events leading up to Rev. Schaefer’s charges nearly 5 years after the act also deserve examination.

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    • Douglas Asbury

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      Maybe the problem is that they have too much integrity, so they cannot bear to see an organization of which they are a part commit injustice without being challenged for doing so.

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  • *

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    “I cannot know God’s Truth on this issue, and can only stand on my limited conviction of what I believe.” God’s Truth on the issue is clearly stated in Scripture. If we can hope for “our return to prayer, study, and deep discernment.” we have to elevate our view of Scripture above the influences of our culture and even above what you choose to believe. Scripture is clear about sin and our desperate need for the Savior, we cannot justify any sin but rely upon the One who can cleanse us of it and transform us through His Spirit.

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  • Eve Carty

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    I am very proud of your actions! If people never challenged the laws and rules of organizations or countries neither African Americans or women would have the right to vote!

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  • Maxine (Miki) Craighead

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    Thank you, Bishop Hagiya, for your heartfelt blog. I am a part of our congregation that wants a reconciling church. However, I think the better way at this moment is to, as you say, agree to disagree with those who believe otherwise on this issue. I choose to show love and acceptance unconditionally to all of God’s people in hopes that in the not too far future, we can all stand together in this matter. In the meantime, my wish for our church is to open up venues where we can talk openly and honestly about this matter.

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    • John

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      Thank you for this comment. I think this is what the Bishop is saying. Although I probably would be one of those who would disagree with you at your church, I can commit to loving each other, upholding our covenant and continuing the discussion, knowing that God will bring us to full understanding.

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  • Wendy Saatjian

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    What a wonderful sentiment Bishop. I have to remind myself to act accordingly to the love of all Gods Children, even when I think they are being bigoted. As much as we argue about the Scripture & if it’s really black & white, while putting everything else to the side. I prayerfully hope we all follow our Methodism the way that this wonderful, at the time progressive church started by the Wesleyan Quadrilateral with all four elements Scripture -Tradition- Reason- & Experience. I really to think this will lead us all on the right path.

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  • Jim Frisbie

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    Bishop Hagiya,
    Thank you for taking a stand. I appreciate your note of the historical precedent. As it is, we claim that LGBTQ people are “persons of sacred worth” yet they are the only group of which we demand celibacy in order to be fully included in the life and ministry of the church.

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  • Rev. Jim Davis

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    Thank you, bishop, for your most thoughtful expression of your faith and compassion, conviction and witness, to a pathway for moving forward with love for those who are hurt most by our church’s painful differences between holding forth on observance of current church law and Jesus’
    call to love all persons. As we move forward we must focus upon the love of God and God’s call to us to be faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

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  • Bob Shimer

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    Since we know that being straight or gay is biological, that is by God we are born that way, the question is whether we follow man-made church laws of God’s law. Is “Open hearts, Open minds, Open doors” just a cute gimmick or is it really what we are?

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    • Leland Collins

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      We do not KNOW that being Gay or straight is biological. In fact, most of the research confirms that the preference is mainly determined by environment.
      There are two real issues here that many are overlooking. If we confirm these two items we will see the controversy which has torn our denomination for decades in light of truth rather than hype:
      1.The root of the issue is whether we consider the Scriptures as the authority for determining our Doctrine and Polity as did Wesley. I support the present stance of our church because it is consistent with scripture.
      2. It is the Gay lobby which precipitated this fight and continues to stir the pot continually. Every General Conference since 1972 they have become progressively more militant and belligerent in their demands that everyone buckle under to their viewpoint. Those who favor the current stance of the church because we think it is right and consistent with Scripture, Reason, Experience and 2100 years of church Tradition have not been the of mentors of turmoil, intolerance, and divisiveness. I am willing to stand in fellowship with persons who are Gay, but am unwilling to endorse their lifestyle. I rarely see this willingness to stand in fellowship despite our differences from the “leaders” of the Gay movement.

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      • Roy Hilburn

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        TRUE

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      • Douglas Asbury

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        The Scriptures have been misinterpreted regarding homosexuality, since the passages that some claim condemns all same-sex sexual activity actually deal only with abusive or unloving behavior, not with loving behavior in the context of a faithful, monogamous relationship. That you hold to “the present stance of the church” indicates only that you have bought into this misinterpretation, not that the stance itself is correct. By the middle of the 21st century, if not sooner, the vast majority of Christians will affirm faithfulness in both gay and straight marriage relationships and will be more effective in supporting them, so that fewer marriages will end in divorce, and more marriages will be filled with godly joy. Your comment about not being willing to endorse the gay “lifestyle” suggests you don’t know any gay persons who are Christian and who are seeking to follow the Lord. Even though many gay persons have rejected the Church because of the offensive witness of some Christians, many have stayed in the Church and are living exemplary “lifestyles” of grace and faithfulness, including many in devoted marriages. I pray that some day you will get to know such persons and come to recognize the error in your thinking that is based more on ideology and limited knowledge than on the fullness of Christian witness.

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      • Starr Weaver

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        If preference is mainly determined by environment, then what was wrong the with the environment the Bishop provided that caused his son(s) to become gay? I do not think your statement is scientifically accurate. You are in effect calling all the people who say they have known since they were little what their gender is liars. That would include those of us who are heterosexual also.

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  • Rev. Richard H. Overman

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    Looking back at the several generations in the 16th-17th centuries that brought forth the final split between the Catholic and Protestant churches, I will not be surprised if the long-term outcome of the present conflict between the quite irreconcilable pro-gay and traditional forms of Methodism is two quite different religious organizations. One will be the gay Methodists, the other the traditional Methodists, and our present laity and hierarchy will divide themselves accordingly. Probably only one of these organizations will continue to use the name ‘Methodist,’ and (as in earlier centuries), the ‘reformers’ are most likely to be the ones who end up with a new name. What do you suppose it will be? Will there emerge a new ‘Queer Christian’ denomination?

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    • Karla Fredericksen

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      Richard O. – I hate to be the bearer of obvious news, but neither of your titles would be anywhere near appropriate – on more than one level. First of all, I think that those of us who believe in absolute inclusion of ALL God’s people likely fall closer to the heart of the Wesleys and there is no reason why we could not use the name Methodist (likely with some descriptive word to distinguish). 2 – There are a far cry more “straight” among the group than LGBT or queer. Many allies are contemplating leaving, too! And 3 – the reasons causing BOTH sides to contemplate a departure of ways are much deeper than just one issue. There is a deep divide theologically between what you call “traditional” and the progressive church. We still see women treated differently, a discrepancy in pay and treatment toward ordination based on race, gender, immigration status and so on – these things deeply ingrained in the church. Even in the tenets of theology that are basic to our belief systems – such as atonement theory, Christology, and the place of, use, and abuse of scripture. Let’s not simplify all this down to one hot button, there’s are lots bigger seismic plates below the surface ready to cause this quake, than one little shake reveals.

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  • Tracy Merrick

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    Bishop Hagiya,

    Thank you so much for this message! I agree wholeheartedly!

    From 2000 to 2008, I was a member of a dialogue team that focused its attention on LGBTQ issues in The UMC. The first year or so was incredibly painful as we squabbed and criticized each other. It was so bad that almost quit!

    Then one day, we began to look at our common ground and decided to ask a consultant to teach us authentic dialogue! She taught us to listen to others! We learned to allow each side to present its views uninterupted, to ask questions of clarification without being argumentative, to identify where we agreed and disagreed, to ask if there was a way to narrow our differences, and to see how we could work together in the midst of our disagreements. In the process, many misconceptions were discussed and set aside.

    We prayed that God would use our efforts in ways immeasurably greater than we could think or imagine! And, it happened. We actually came to understand that we weren’t at the table to convince anyone that they were right or wrong. I believe that God brought us together to learn to love and respect those with differing perspectives and to figure out ways to work together!

    Today, I am convinced that God wants to teach United Methodists that we can love and respect others, even in the midst of our differences! Can we imagine the powerful effect such a witness might have on the world about us?

    Shalom!

    Tracy Merrick

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  • John W. Martin

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    I am a retired Elder from the PNW Conf. living in Tucson, AZ, We have been participating in a UMC that is struggling to survive in an area with a high rate of unemployment. The present pastor speaks often about a split developing in the UMC in tones of doom with no room for reconciliation. We have moved to First UMC of Tucson, a reconciling congregation who have a rainbow statue in front of the church building.. Each Third Sunday of the month the congregation wears a “Reconciling Stole” at worship. I was quite taken with the final paragraph of your statement, A WAY FORWARD. The lines that stood out to me were; “.We cannot resort to beating each other up because we are on opposite sides of this issue. We need to model the unconditional love of God in Jesus Christ in our relationships This means we need to do the hard work of sharing openly how we disagree, not to try to convert the other, but to work to a greater understanding and accepting of our differences.”
    Thank you for this message.

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  • J. Little

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    How very sad that a person in a position of spiritual leadership should go so far off track and instead of being :transformed” by the word of God is being “conformed” to the world. I say in love Bishop, you are in the wrong profession….please rightly divide the word of truth…read again about what God says about loving the sinner,but hating the sin. I will pray for you and the Methodist Church…as the saying goes: John Wesley would turn over in his grave! It is a huge stretch to compare the civil rights struggle with the abnormal acts and lifestyle of homosexuality.

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    • Randall Wallace

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      Christ did not say anything about “loving the sinner but hating the sin.” This is another example of trying to put our words in God’s mouth.The saying is credited to St. Augustine after the Bible was written. (see below*)
      Christ said ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” (Mark 12:31 NIV)
      I commend our Bishop for not leaving, but instead opening a dialogue that is dearly needed and past due.
      I hope you will continue to pray for our Bishop and the Methodist Church. We will need everyone’s prayers to get through this together.

      *It’s from St. Augustine. His Letter 211 (c. 424) contains the phrase Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum, which translates roughly to “With love for mankind and hatred of sins.” The phrase has become more famous as “love the sinner but hate the sin” or “hate the sin and not the sinner” (the latter form appearing in Mohandas Gandhi’s 1929 autobiography).
      Answered by: Fr. Vincent Serpa O.P.

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      • Alan Kemling

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        Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good;
        – Romans 12:9 [NRSV]

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    • Douglas Asbury

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      That you write about “abnormal acts and lifestyle of homosexuality” suggests that you do not really know any gay persons well. You are operating from what you have been told by others and on the basis of stereotypes, which is not the way persons who obey Jesus’ command to “love your neighbor as yourself” are meant to behave. I encourage you to give this some thought and prayer. Read Andrew Marin’s book, “Love Is an Orientation” for some guidance on this.

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  • Bruce Allen

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    As a gay man having struggled with this issue my entire life ( I am 73) and believing that God made a mistake when he made me I have come to believe that God doesn’t make mistakes and he put me here for a reason. That reason is to help people understand as a Christian of strong faith I am here to help people understand we are all different and to help each other work together to create a world in which all people can live together in harmony without judgement. As Pope Francis said ” I am not here to judge”. That is God’s job and I believe that God loves me just much as any one else on the planet.

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  • John Peek

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    Yes, we do need to see a way forward, and I agree with your thoughtful and insightful remarks.

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  • Timothy Winslea

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    Bishop –
    Others have spoken more eloquently than I might to the issues at hand. I only wish to commend you on your clear, compassionate and prophetic statement. You have acted and spoken from the truth of our tradition and I am proud to serve under your leadership. I would especially like to echo your call for peace: “Let us be open to really hear each other, not attempt to destroy the convictions that are opposite to our own, and finally come to an acceptance of each other, even when we disagree with each other.”

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  • J. Little

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    Bruce I praise God that you believe in God and it is my hope you believe His Son died for you. It says in James 2:19 “The demons also believe and tremble.” Just believing in God won’t give you eternal life. Only when you put your faith in Christ do you becoma a Christian. That is the proof that God loves you. he sent His Son to die for you. Just as sitting in a Methodist church and believing there is a God doesn’t make you a Christian…much like sitting in a garage doesn’t mean you’re a car! I believe the Bible says homosexuality is a sin. I do have an all encompassing love for sinners and I would gladly welcome a homosexual into my church pew…and what sex acts are performed in private are no business of mine, but when the church condones a same sex marriage it is apparent the church is reading a different Bible than the one I read daily? And as Christians we do have the right to judge sin in accordance with the wonderful book of guidance God has given us.

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  • Roger Warren

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    Thanks for these comments; I enjoyed reading them all.

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  • Gin Sawin

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    Bishop, I appreciate that you are willing to put yourself out there on the issue of LGBT rights in the church. I also believe it is long past time for us all to agree that this is an issue the UMC will never agree on. Unfortunately, it was made plainly clear at the last GC that as a whole, the UMC cannot agree to disagree. The time is long past for continued studying, discernment, and prayer. For too long people like me have stayed in the closet in the UMC because of it’s stance that while LGBT are people of sacred worth, we are not treated that way. When I started attending a Reconciling Congregation when I came out, I did not come out there as someone who is called and has attempted the process towards ordination. I still cannot be both called and queer in the UMC. The looks of pity that I received from the extremely small amount of people I mentioned my call to there were as difficult as the outright heterosexism I’ve experienced in non-reconciling congregation.
    For true discernment, those of us who are out, proud, and willing to, we need to be heard. OUR voices need to be raised. OUR voices need to be allowed. When we see people like Rev. Schafer and Bishop Talbert, Rev. Olgetree, Jimmy Creech, Rev. Delong tried because of who they are and what they are willing to do to support LGBT – we see what is in store for us. Shunning. Hatred. Revulsion. Leviticus quoted out the yin yang.
    I sadly believe those who say the only way this will be resolved is with a split are right. The divide is there and has been widening and continues to widen. How many congregations left the UMC during the Civil Rights era? During the fight to end slavery? During Prohibition? How many allies and LGBT have already left the church because we cannot find acceptance as whole people within the church? The church should be a place of safety for all regardless of real or perceived differences. There is no safety for me any more in the UMC. Even if I were to have gotten ordained, I would have always and continually been looking over my shoulder for fear I would piss off the one wrong person who would bring charges against me because I’m as God made me. Queer. I can’t change that any more than I can change that I’m Anglo-Saxon.
    My prayers are with those who don’t understand the damage being done, and with those who do see it and are trying to rectify it.

    Reply

  • J. Little

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    It saddens me to realize the pain this issue of homosexuality causes to not only individuals but to society and especially the church. The church takes a stand against alcoholism, gambling and spousal abuse, etc. which causes division in the lifes of humans, but the church will not take a stand against a life style and perversion that clearly is stated in the Bible is a sin…Christians you cannot take only the parts of scripture that make you comfortable. Please think about the horrible act of homosexuality itself, do not gloss it ove,r it is an abomination, a sin against the body itself…the body of Christ contains no deviation, no imperfection..enough said, I fear we as a church and nation await judgement.

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  • Diane Hawk

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    I believe it is time to admit that we have failed to be an obedient church. This institution we created in 1968 has done a great deal of good, that we may celebrate. However, it is time to admit that a church polity modeled on the US government is inherently dysfunctional. Any church that adopts doctrine based on a majority vote is fatally flawed. Voting is not a Biblical method of decision-making; and voting naturally creates division and party spirit. I believe it is time to admit that we have failed to be the church God wants us to be.

    Fortunately, GC2012 DID accomplish one thing. It recognized the need for a new, global Book of Discipline; and assigned The Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters the task of working on such a document. They have begun their work. I hope that American Methodists will become so frustrated with our current situation, that we will willingly decide to die as an American church, so we might find our identity in a larger GLOBAL church. Frankly, I really don’t want to stay stuck in such a dysfunctional organization. Let’s move on to become the church God wants us to be.

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  • Charlene Scammon

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    I think the critical point I would disagree with here is “sin.” I haven’t found anywhere in the Bible that tells me it is sinful for two people to love one another because they are the same gender. Oh, yes, there are passages in which different people insist that it is, but as a shrimp-eating, divorced woman who doesn’t usually spend all day on Sunday either in church or in prayer, I recognize that the Bible was written by men (yes, only men) in another day in another society where there were many reasons, liegitimate or not, often just customs, why such things would be forbidden. Likewise, it is quite rare today for a man to sacricfice his beloved sun on an altar as an offering to God or for a King to order the death of many, many people, men, women, and children and be obeyed without question. “It is in the Bible!” simply isn’t the end of the discussion for me.

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    • Starr Weaver

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      Charlene, thank you so much for your post. Most of us don’t really even know what is “in the Bible” because we do not understand the culture and the people who wrote it. There is no word in Biblical Hebrew for husband or wife – there concept of marriage was totally different from ours. Men were encouraged to have many partners in order to father many children so some would grow to adulthood. Women did not even own their own sexuality. If you try hard enough, you can use “it is in the Bible’ to justify almost anything.

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  • Alan Kemling

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    I think Christ’s yolk will become lighter once those leading the United Methodist Church remember the truth of their Holy Scripture and remember that they are God’s servants not God’s advisers. I find it odd that, among UMC leaders, loyalty to one’s peers is given higher priority than loyalty to God and his written word.

    1. Leviticus 18.22, 30;
    2. Matthew 19:4-6;
    3. Mark 10:5-12;
    4. 1 Corinthians 6.9-11;
    5. 1 Timothy 1.8-11;
    6. Romans 1.24-32, and
    7. Jude 4-8.

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    • Roy Hilburn

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      AMEN

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  • J. Little

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    I hesitate to say what I’m about to say, but I feel it is necessry in this debate. I do not feel it is a sin for two people of the same sex to love one another. It should not be a sin to live with one another….what we seem to overlook is it does say in the Bible it is a sin for a Christian to join his/her body with a prostitute. That is a sin against a person’s own body. The actual sex act between two people of the same sex involves a man;s penis used with another man’s anus or fellatio and between two women cunnilingus. These are acts that are not only unatural because of the physical differences but mostly distasteful to the majority of human beings. Let’s continue to pray for solution to this debate.

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  • Alan Kemling

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    I hope this makes it to post intact! As it now stands, the message bearing my name above was edited and needs clarification. This message is intended for my peer group – United Methodists who have knowledge of the Bible.

    Please be certain that I approve of any effort to remove a pastor, bishop, or other person from their positions of spiritual leadership within the UMC should their actions disregard Holy Scripture or the Book of Discipline as it applies to the homosexual agenda. Why? Because on this matter, Scripture seems clear and the UMC Book of Discipline seems to accurately reflect Scripture. (To assuage reemployment concerns, my Anglican friends point out that the Episcopal Church will likely receive Methodist clergy who are removed from spiritual leadership. The homosexual agenda split that Church Tradition in two.)

    In my view, if one desires to understand that which God wishes humans to know of His will – one must read the Bible. Society will do what it will do. The Church-person needs to do God’s will.

    Please avoid slavery analogies. Slavery was never a sin. I believe you can easily discover that the usual rhetoric related to slavery actually mischaracterizes what the Bible says. Further, you imply that you do not believe Holy Scripture. In a Tradition whose birthing cry was Sola Scriptura! (Scripture alone!) you tread on dangerous ground and, in essence, struggle to turn our Tradition into a social club of god/goddess crafts-persons.

    Please don’t claim that hate is behind Holy Scripture when it quotes Christ Jesus stating that marriage is divinely created as a life-long covenant between one man and one woman [Matthew 19:4-6 & Mark 10:5-12] or that same gender sexual activity is sinful [Jude 4-8; Romans 1.24-32; 1 Timothy 1.8-11; 1 Corinthians 6.9-11; & Leviticus 18.22, 30.]

    Please read the Bible, it is good for the soul. I would be happy to send you the Scripture that the editor chose not to show you.

    Please don’t confuse love with sex.

    While some in so-called “reconciling” churches seem not to believe that same-gender sexual activity is sin, be advised that Biblical “reconciliation” [Colossians 1:20] denotes Grace-delivered peace with God. God offers his gift of Grace. We must repent of our sins and accept Christ/salvation. Once we accept it, Grace is the conduit that brings change and renewal to us. The practice of sin (intentional repeated sin) ends. Good works and fruit of the spirit flow forth as God’s light shines through us to the world. Eventually, sin is found in us less often as God sanctifies us. If sexual sin doesn’t end, faith should be examined with haste. Eternity can be tragically finalized in a heartbeat for the faithless.

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  • Rev. Dr. Wilfredo Baez

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    This is a difficult discussion that there is no easy way out of. I stand on the liberal side on this but respect the conservative side. I cannot say that I am right and they are wrong and refuse to do so. I think that going forward we need to respect each others convictions as we move forward in dialogue. I am sure that the solution will come as we faithfully and responsibly engage the question. I believe that the best way forward is to remove the incompatibility language from our discipline and allow our clergy and churches to follow their consciences in choosing to marry same sex couples. In the case that a UM church or pastor could not in good conscience marry a GLBT person they could refer to one who could. Perhaps appointments would be made, for the time being, with this as a consideration. Or if a pastor appointed to a church which wanted to allow same sex marriages, that pastor could invite another to perform it. There are a variety of permutations of the same theme that could be considered. The reality is that despite our voted upon stance, we are divided on this issue, just as our country and world is. In all good conscience I say, declare that we are divided and allow for that division rather than compel conformity to church law. In this case, we can add grace to God’s law. To be honest, we are already agreeing to disagree. We however have ignored thew subject. We no longer can. If we desire unity we need to live with disagreement. There is no winning this argument. To argue that the issue has to do with Biblical Authority belies disagreement about whose interpretation of scripture is correct.
    I, myself, am not called to be an activist about this issue, at this point, but believe that it is in all our interest and is all our responsibility to engage in prayerful, civil, meaningful dialogue about the question and wait on God to empower us to discern the solution God desires of us, whether we are liberal or conservative about this issue.

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    • Douglas Asbury

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      Brother Baez, I appreciate your compassionate and reasonable position. I cannot, however, join you in saying that I “respect the conservative side.” As is exemplified in several posts on this thread, too many on the conservative side continue to bear false witness against their gay neighbors. One person to whom I responded above held up his/her objections to the specific things gay people do with their body parts, not acknowledging that many straight people do exactly the same things. Once many years ago, an attempt was made to describe practices that were to be prohibited to Methodists, but the Judicial Council ruled that the Book of Discipline could not get into the enumeration of prohibited practices, so the language was changed to “fidelity in marriage and celibacy in singleness.” People on the conservative side use the term “homosexual lifestyle,” as though all gay persons acted the same way – and behind that catch-all term, they mean to imply that all gay persons “can’t reproduce, so they must recruit;” that we knowingly and willfully spread disease through unprotected sex with multiple partners, many of them anonymous and numbering in the hundreds over a lifetime; that we cannot sustain long-term relationships, and the ones in which we do engage are inevitably marked with infidelity; that we target the young and vulnerable for abuse; and that we die at a much younger age than the norm in the general population due to the STDs we have and spread, among other things. Too many on the conservative side spread these lies and misconceptions for me to respect them as a group, although there are some among them who are responsible and who join me in criticizing those kinds of abuses while still holding conscientiously to their position with which I disagree. If more of those on the conservative side were to stop slandering LGBTQ persons, I would be much more agreeable to carrying on civil dialogue with them; but for a lack of willingness on the part of so many of them to be challenged on their bearing false witness, I see little reason to engage in any kind of dialogue with most of them, since such as they would rather look at the mote in their sister’s or brother’s eye than to look at the plank in their own.

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      • Rev. Dr. Wilfredo Baez

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        Douglas,

        I have affinity with your position. I tire when faced with what you describe. Yet I don’t want to relent in speaking my position. Our “liberal-conservative” dialogue is not being done in the true spirit of Christian-conferencing. Of course, history shows us that Church Councils were not usually just and certainly did not treat disagreement justly. Somehow though, I feel like I have to stand my ground and maintain civility in the face of what is emotional and irrational. If only we were able to read the scripture through a historical-critical lense when it comes to these kind of issues. It is so easy to read back and confirm our own beliefs about what is natural and ascribe that to God.

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  • John H

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    It is tragic that a church that has as much trouble making disciples as our United Methodist Church has decided to focus on dividing itself over the homosexual agenda. A look at church membership figures shows that the only thing that reduces church membership faster than fighting over the homosexual agenda, is affirming it. We have been praying, studying, and discerning on the homosexual agenda for 30 years and, so far as I can tell, it has only led to greater dissension. While our leaders are busy deciding whether to engage in civil disobedience and whether to conduct church trials, there are millions of people who need to hear the good news of Jesus Christ. Why do we continue to major in the minors, fight with each other, drive people who disagree out of the church, and ignore the fields ripe for harvest.

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    • Gin Sawin

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      Out of curiosity John, what do you feel the “homosexual agenda” is exactly?
      My “homosexual agenda” is to be treated with the same level of trust, love, and compassion as my straight Brothers and Sisters are in the church. For me, it means being able to go to my pastor and ask him/her to bless my relationship in a formal church setting – just like my sister and two brothers have been able to do. It means not having to think about where I’m attending church on a Sunday morning – whether or not the nearest UM congregation will quote the bully scriptures at me or if they will simply welcome me as they would any other stranger. Will they be the Good Samaritan or will they be the Pharisee to me? Will I be viewed as a friendly, God loving person or Satan’s spawn?
      You speak of “fields ripe for harvest” – so many young people who are questioning their orientation are hearing – verbally and by action – that they are not truly created in the image of God in so many churches that they are considering suicide. They feel unwelcomed, unloved, and simply ignored by the people who are sitting in the pews around them. While I have never considered suicide, these are all things I felt growing up in the UMC, and felt well into adulthood. I have missed so much by staying in the closet because my denomination deemed me “incompatible with Christian teaching”….I hid a major part of who I am – the part who wants to settle down and grow old with that special someone….all in an effort to be accepted and not to be turned away like a leper in a church that taught me that I am created in God’s image, loved by God and that He wants me to worship Him, living by the example of His Son Jesus Christ,. At the same time I was taught by action and word that I am “incompatible” with that same teaching – simply because I am hardwired with a same sex attraction that I cannot change.
      My agenda John, as a gay Christian – to love all equally regardless of any real or perceived difference. Just as Jesus loved all regardless of any real or perceived differences. And to maybe, just maybe, ease some of the pain, confusion, hurt, anger, and distrust that others who have felt simply because their congregation/church views them as 2nd class over a God given trait that cannot be changed come hell or high water.

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  • John Shukle

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    Thank you Bishop Hagiya for your input and wisdom in this matter. As a person having a voice in this matter, I do not agree with same sex marriage. My convictions are that the covenant of marriage exist between a male and female. This conviction has come with lots of prayerful study of scripture, where this union is clearly addressed.

    I believe we need to get back to the basics of scripture, reading the word and understanding it the way God intended. I believe another plague that is running wild in our church (not only the UMC but other denominations as well) is we, people, are attempting to make the scriptures fit our lifestyles. This way, people don’t need to change and turn away from their sinful nature after they have repented. They can continue living the same sinful way they did before. I remember Jesus telling the crowd “let he who is without sin, cast the first stone.” The most important part of that message was that after the crowd left, he told the women to “Go and sin no more.” We should be changing our lifestyles to resemble the scriptures. I get why we don’t want to change, it’s hard and it’s scary. People will mock us and say all kinds of bad things. But, I remember the Beatitudes and that they are promises God made with us so when we do suffer these things, we will have many blessings.

    There is a stigma in place that says “If you do not agree with me, then you hate me!” I see this from both sides of this sensitive topic of same sex marriages. We are told to Love our neighbor as ourselves But if we say we don’t agree with the same sex issue, then we must hate all Gays and Lesbians. That is simply not true and shame on those who spread that kind of hate!

    I know that I was a sinner and I don’t want to send a message that I am above anyone else because…I’m still a sinner. I have been bought with the blood of Jesus and I know I am his now, but I still have to battle with temptation every day. I say this to say that I am no greater than any of my brothers or sisters. I want to Love everyone and just because I do not agree with someone on a topic does not mean that I hate them.

    Another concern I have is the Universalism Theology that is becoming more and more prevalent in some of our churches (again, not only some UMC’s but other denominations as well). People are being taught that “Everyone” will end up in heaven. Be very careful with this type of thinking and preaching. Read Galatians 1:6-24. I don’t want to go off topic, but I want people to understand that this may be affecting some convictions and decisions about same sex marriages.

    My convictions will not allow me to perform a same sex marriage, even if it were ok in the eyes of the UMC’s BOD. However, I will love my fellow man, everyone is welcome in our church and I will strive daily to remove the plank from my own eye before trying to remove a speck of dust from my brothers eye.
    Blessings to all,

    John

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  • Phil Betsch

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    I concur with Bishop Grant. There is a very simple solution. LGBT community and its community sympathizers should simply exit the UMC and start their own faith community. First, ample historic precedence exists for such an action and it would NOT force LGBT community beliefs on those of us who elect to remain faithful to UMC current Book of Discipline.

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  • Lee Greenawalt

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    Bishop Hagiya compares the present struggles with the racial conflict, but leaves out the difference in battlefields. Civil rights equality is agreed. Preachers made public displays, but did not take over local churches for services banned by the General Conference. For a person who receives support financed by people who expect their church to follow its own rules, is a violation of oath and ethics. Every Methodist has the right of protest, but no person should be able to use his/her official position to undermine the organization.

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  • Rev. Dr. Wilfredo Baez

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    I serve a church where a pastor preached a sermon against slavery when the Methodists forbade preaching on the topic. That pastor and a pastor of another church were suspended as the result. BT Roberts was a member of my congregation. He walked out and was involved in the startup of the Free Methodists and the establishment of Roberts Wesleyan College.

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  • Amy Kleiman

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    I was raised in the United Methodist Church, baptized as a baby at the same church both my parents attended and raised there. I attended Sunday School, VBS, and Youth Groups. I was in children’s choir and bell choir. I went on mission trips. I wanted to be a youth pastor when I was younger. Then I heard fellow church members discussing how homosexuality was a sin. My youth pastor of the time made no comment about whether they were right or wrong in their statement. I saw church members statuses on Facebook, condemning gay marriage. And so I left. The place I had felt safe and welcome my entire life, wasn’t safe anymore. I didn’t choose to be gay. Many of you who have made comments have claimed that it was a choice, but if I could be straight, I would be. Do you know how much easier life would be if people didn’t hate me for something I can’t change? I am a sinner, but loving someone of the same gender is not sin. The world is learning this, and is changing how it treats LGBTA persons. We deserve respect, and the same rights as all other Americans. I still consider myself a Methodist, but I haven’t felt welcome in a Methodist church in 8 years. I hope our church and it’s congregation can practice what it preaches, love and kindness, and learn to accept everyone, no matter their sexual orientation.

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    • Virginia Sawin

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      Amy—I grew up Methodist too, our stories are similar – for a long time I dreamed of becoming a UM clergy person. And I would not choose to be gay any more than you would. . . . we both know it’s not a choice, and that God made us this way. RUN to a United Church of Christ. It’s not our Methodist church, but I have found them to be more understanding, supportive, and affirming in the short time I have been attending the one in my area. The hymns, the theology, are very similar. More importantly – we are safe within their walls in ways I never felt totally safe in the UMC – even in the most reconciling of congregations.

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  • Rev. Dr. Wilfredo Baez

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    Amy,

    Thank you for sharing what you did. You are welcome in my church any time and in churches that are more open than mine, I am sure. “Do no Harm” is a principal that is important to United Methodists. This means to me, “Do no harm” to those whose choices we do not understand or agree with. We cannot correct doctrine our way to salvation or the establishment of God’s reign. we can only listen, listen, love, love, learn, learn and grow, grow. It’s time to let the sun shine and rains fall on the entire crop. What some see as weeds now may be shown to be wheat. I’m not sure that any of us is qualified to judge what only Christ or God can judge. But for the meantime we need to be honest to God, ourselves and to each other. That is a corollary of love God and neighbor as ourselves, with all our hearts, minds and wills. To claim that this is an issue of biblical authority is to privilege a particular group’s interpretation of what the Bible says as superior to others and ignores all of the historical-critical training that is available to us. I have an opinion and believe that it is right, but I don’t know that it is right, nor do I assume that it is right. And might, whether it be physical or theological does not make right. Can we be a little humble? Can we set aside power and privilege to seek to understand a group that has historically lacked power and privilege? We have not been doing this with any group, but we have progressed. There is no winner takes all regarding this issue. We disobey Christ and disregard his prayer that we be united and find common ground. How do both sides win? How does the church win? How do we become a true community of disciples? Listen, listen, love, love, learn, learn, grow, grow. The issue is a challenge and it is an opportunity. Thus far we have not been responsible about it and about finding a solution and way forward. We are too concerned with being right. We are too concerned with our side winning. This is not about that. It is about discerning God’s will. Our aim should be to help each disciple to be responsible for their lives; to empower each to move forward. We cannot assume responsibility for their lives and decisions. That is over-reaching our responsibility and impinging on theirs. God has given us free will and the power to choose. And God has given us the Holy Spirit to convict and convert. That is not our job. When we assume that it is we are playing by worldly rules of domination rather than reign of God rules of collaboration and mutual service.

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  • Rick Cook

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    You said it right. The issue is both a challenge and an opportunity. I pray for a win-win together with the discernment of God’s will. There has been too much finger pointing and personal judgments. Let’s all of us on both sides or in the middle take a step back and listen to those hurting and wanting the love of God in humankind.

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  • Dean

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    “I cannot know God’s Truth on this issue, and can only stand on my limited conviction of what I believe. I will not force my convictions on those who believe the opposite. Like all of you, I only know what I believe is right, and I need to be in constant prayer and discernment.”

    With all respect, we can know God’s Truth. It is in our Scriptures. That truth is reflected in our Discipline. I worry when we deny the sinfulness of our conduct. That is tantamount to saying we don’t need God’s grace, for if we are not sinning, no grace is needed.

    As long as UMC Bishops refuse to enforce our Discipline, we might as well admit that we are a very broken church. With respect, I do not see a way forward as long as Scripture is so easily disregarded.

    And that is truly sad.

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  • Charlene Scammon

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    Check out the “Reconciling Congregations.” These are churches that have chosen to say “We welcome all worshippers; their sexuality doesn’t matter to us. Come and worship with us.” My own church, Des Moines United Methodist in Des Moines, WA is one such. Sadly, we did lose a few members when we made that choice, but we stuck with it and do not regret it. Those who left have mostly gone to other churches, but they will likely find that their new church is also considering joining RC; quite a few are.

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  • jeff

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    Thank you, Bishop. I appreciate your upholding the relatively light sentence for the pastors who married the same gender couple. Now we need a moratorium on all prosecution of anti gay laws from the Council of Bishops.

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  • A Response to Bishop Hagiya - UMR

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    […] Grant J. Hagiya of the Greater Northwest Episcopal Area published a post on his blog titled “A Way Forward,” in which Bishop Hagiya reflected on the actions of Bishop Melvin Talbert and the ongoing […]

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  • Henry

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    Well, I believe it is time to burn the Book of Discipline and the Book of Resolutions. I know that sounds like World War II, but it is only because if one section can be ignored so can others of both these books.
    Our church states that the LBG&Ts are worthy of God’s love but live a life not compatible with the Christian life. Just as we share with other sins of the flesh described in God’s Book of Life. (This in its self is a major issue in the world we live in.)
    How will we respond when our churches begin to ignore the “Trust Clause” because they want to leave the UMC. What will we say to the local church when they respond we don’t need you to come to our church and tell us we can or can not build, buy or sale property. This is only a couple of kickbacks from the example being set by our retired bishops. (That’s what they need to be is retired and returned to the order of Elders and no longer be elected as bishops for life.)
    The Leadership of our General Conference has spoken on this issue for the past 40 years and it is continued to be ignored by those who break their vows.
    YEP!! Our precious church is headed for a major battle that all will not agree upon.
    A few General Conferences back one of the greatest contemporary leaders of the United Methodist Church brought a resolution to General Conference asking the United Methodist Church to accept there is no solution in our denomination on this is and to move forward with a separation based on those for and those against.
    God Bless Is All!!!

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  • Jack and Vonnie Pea

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    Whether we like it or not the line is drawn and it will never be a bridge. I received a belt buckle for Christmas 20 years ago. It was supposed to say United Methodist but instead it was accidentally (maybe prophetically) spelled Untied Methodist. I became a United Methodist gladly believing it has a good solid doctrine and still does. When this is ignored with an “in your face” attitude then (at least in PNWC), Untied really was the right spelling. We can roar like a lion with opinions but what are we going to say to God when we are called to accountability for not warning people when they embrace sin (no matter what that sin is) and call it good. The practice of homosexuality is not compatible with scripture. That’s it folks the final answer is we will answer to God and not to the same kind of roaring crowd mentality that screamed “crucify him”. We are saddened but not caught unaware.

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  • Jack and Vonnie Pea

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    Why was our post removed? Hmmmmmmmmmm

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  • Jack And Vonnie Pea

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    Does that mean altered?

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  • Babs Eggleston

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    Re Bishop Talbert. There comes a time when one must act as Jesus called us to act and not infrequently that lies outside the man-made rules of organized religion, i.e., the UMC. Hoorah for Bishop Talbert! May we all have the courage and the ability to act as faithly as he.

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  • Jack Pea

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    What does awaiting moderation mean?

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    • Douglas Asbury

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      Jack, it means that someone – possibly Bishop Hagiya himself, or someone who assists him, reserves the right to look over the various comments that people submit to his blog to see if they meet the bishop’s standards of civil discourse, whatever those standards might be. Very possibly, the comments are judged according to the “Guidelines for Civility” developed by the General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns, which can be found via this link: http://archives.umc.org/interior.asp?ptid=1&mid=3752

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  • Jack and Vonnie Pea

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    Our comments were removed from this discussion. l wonder why! We certainly were not as straight forward as some or even as caustic. We have a grandson who announced on facebook that he was thrilled about the same sex marriage decision in Washinton State and then went on to ask for comment. We replied “we agree with God that the practice of homosexauity is sin just read the Bible”. The next thing we are accused of is sowing discord in the family because this lad is gay, didn’t you know? Our answer is NO! We called him assuring him of our love but also told him that we loved him enough to say the decision was wrong. He took it like a man and the door is still open for us to reach out to him. The LBGT issue is not even on the same page as racism and to attempt to do so is the lowest form of racism. Please God have your way in all of this and bring deliverance to the PNWC and up out of Sodom and Gommorah.

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    • Douglas Asbury

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      Jack and Vonnie, I encourage you to get two books and to read them for the sake of your grandson and your relationship with him. The first is by Andrew Marin, entitled “Love Is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community.” The second is by the Rev. Jack Rogers: “Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church.” Both of these individuals began their journey very much with the mindset as you have and they ended up moving to a different place. I think you’ll find you resonate with the Marin book better at the outset than with the Rogers book; but I encourage you to read Rogers’ personal story of growing up in Nebraska, becoming part of a conservative Presbyterian denomination, and teaching at Fuller Theological Seminary, a conservative evangelical seminary in Pasadena, CA; and where he went from there. If you value your grandson and your relationship with him – which your post suggests you do – you will not neglect to seek wisdom from such deeply thoughtful commentators as these.

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  • Babs Eggleston

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    I’ve always that what Jesus said about homosexuals set the standard for all of us. I’m at a bit of a loss why so many people can’t follow his example.

    Thanks for your words, Bishop.

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  • chuck rice

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    Some time ago I looked in my 1976 Webster’s dictionary at the word marriage. The definition was simple – Marriage is between a Man and a Woman. Tactics are many and change a plenty, principles are few and never do. I appreciate that homosexuality exists in our society. In the Secular world, there is a legal system that allows for civil unions between homosexuals. Allow all that live inside a civil union, homosexual or heterosexual all the legal and tax benefits of a married couple. Most of the time it is about the money. Simple answer. In a Judeo-Christian world, marriage is by and between a man and a woman as noted in the 1976 Webster’s Dictionary. Nothing has changed. Doesn’t matter what homosexuals and their supporters say. There are many homosexuals that I Love, Know and Admire. So please do not think poorly of me. As the good Bishop Grant mentioned in his many paragraphs above: ” Let us be open to really hear each other, not attempt to destroy the convictions that are opposite to our own, and finally come to an acceptance of each other, even when we disagree with each other. Let us be open to really hear each other, not attempt to destroy the convictions that are opposite to our own, and finally come to an acceptance of each other, even when we disagree with each other.” I am there. So please accept the fact most in the UMC believe as do I and lets get over this consternation. If in fact the homosexual members of the UMC want something different, then my support is fully behind them to do what John and Charles Wesley did many years ago, start a new “church” or “denomination.” When the Baptists disagree, you get a new Baptist church. Simple. As the good Bishop Grant noted above, he has his opinion and belief on homosexuality. Imposing ones opinion and belief that is not in alignment with the covenant one has taken, and whereby the majority of the members are not of the covenant breaking opinion and belief, is somewhat contrary to the letter written by the good Bishop Grant. Then again, I am just a simple lay person. Finally I have to go back to the money. If there is such a strong desire for marriage to be the deciding issue/item/ministry/sacrament for clergy to be in a Covenant relationship with each other and their church and its members, then come together and form your own church. The United Methodist GLBT Church. Start it, grow it and you will do well as committed Christians who believe differently on marriage than myself and most United Methodists. This is called creative chaos and usually has positive results. I am not “homophobic.” The challenge is simple: There is a risk in starting something new. Are the homosexuals that want to “change” the UMC willing to step out and take the risk of becoming their own church? It is much “safer” financially to break a covenant and work to change the UMC for the secular world than it is to take a risk such as John and Charles took years ago, express your opinion and belief while worshiping the father,son and holy ghost.

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    • Gin Sawin

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      We don’t leave to start our own churches because we would not be allowed to take the buildings and funds we have lovingly cared for in the current system. Why should we give up what we have worked hard ON and FOR in caring for our church? Why should I, a lesbian, give up what I have invested as much energy in as you have? Why can’t the straight people who think homosexuals are wrong for trying to be fully included in the life of the church be the ones to leave and start their own churches?

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    • Douglas Asbury

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      Chuck Rice, since you posted your response on this website, I assume you at least have access to the Internet, and yet you turn to a 1976 edition of a hard-copy Webster’s dictionary to undergird your prejudice by citing a definition for “marriage” that is, literally, from the cultural Dark Ages. Here is a definition of marriage from Wikipedia.com that is current in our culture and that completely overrides Webster through including it in a more current definition: “Marriage (also called matrimony or wedlock) is a socially or ritually recognized union or legal contract between spouses that establishes rights and obligations between them, between them and their children, and between them and their in-laws. The definition of marriage varies according to different cultures, but it is principally an institution in which interpersonal relationships, usually intimate and sexual, are acknowledged. In some cultures, marriage is recommended or considered to be compulsory before pursuing any sexual activity. When defined broadly, marriage is considered a cultural universal.”
      You say that “there is a legal system that allows for civil unions between homosexuals.” You sound like Rip Van Winkle, who had been in a coma for 20 years and was surprised to learn, when he woke up, that America was a free country and not a set of British colonies, and that many other things had moved on while he slept. Currently, 17 states have legal marriage for gay and lesbian persons, and forces are moving in the other 33 states to repeal bans on gay marriage and to make it legal there. Why should the Church – any UMC church or pastor – that wants to solemnize such legal marriages between loving parishioners be banned from doing so by the UM Book of Discipline? It’s perverse, Chuck. If I can do a blessing of people’s pets and a blessing of their homes, why can I not do a blessing of their loving unions? You say that “in a Judeo-Christian world, marriage is by and between a man and a woman,” but that is simply a lie that you choose to believe, Chuck. It does not comport with reality. You say, “Nothing has changed,” and yet everything has changed, Chuck. Things may not have changed in your own mind and heart, but, as the Rev. Dr. Wilfredo Baez states in his excellent response, things have changed regarding the Methodist understanding of slavery, women in the pulpit, civil rights, inclusion of African Americans and other ethnic and racial minorities in the itinerant system and many other cultural standards that for too long have hindered the UMC’s ministry to the world. You claim that “there are many homosexuals that I Love, Know and Admire;” but I don’t believe that, Chuck. If you truly “loved” any of those “homosexuals,” you would want what is best for them, and you would want your church to provide that which was best for them, including pronouncing God’s blessing on their loving unions as a way of affirming that, for those who are same-sex attracted as much as for those who are opposite-sex attracted, God says that “it is not good that the person should be alone; I will make this person a partner as a helper” and has, indeed, made a partner for each person who is God’s chosen one for that person, according to their God-ordained sexuality. No, Chuck, you do not “love” your “homosexual” sisters and brothers who want to be partnered and who want the Church’s help in maintaining a loving marriage through thick and thin. It is almost as if you want their marriages to fail, so that it proves your point that marriage is “God-ordained for limitation to being between a man and a woman.” You hate your homosexual sisters and brothers, Chuck, insofar as you want to withhold the church’s blessing from their loving unions. Confess it, Chuck. We all see it. Someday, you will, too. You say you are “there” when it comes to hearing others, not trying to destroy the convictions of others, accepting others who differ from you,” but through your argumentation, it is clear you don’t accept those who differ from you, and you want them our of “your” church. “Go somewhere else and preach your abominable gospel, not here in ‘my’ pure and undefiled United Methodist Church.” Sorry, Chuck, your cover is blown. All your reasonable rhetoric is seen for what it is: a thin veneer of sweetness that hides a deep well of disgust for your gay and lesbian sisters and brothers whom the “secular world” and many UM clergy have declared are worthy of being married but whom you think are vile and perverse and destined for destruction – to the possibility of which you all to willingly contribute. No, Chuck, you are no lover in the image of Christ, but you are a pharisee who insists on the letter of a limited, human-shaped law being obeyed rather than following the life-giving and -restoring law of Love. I pray for you and those like you, Chuck, that you find out how much God loves your lesbian and gay sisters and brothers before you die and before you go to face God at the judgment throne; because one of the first questions God is likely to ask you is, “Chuck, what was wrong with MY UMC marrying MY lesbian and gay sons and daughters, when I clearly established marriage to provide support for ALL my children in the world, no matter what their sexual orientation?” And then, what will you respond, Chuck? Because through the very phraseology of the question, God will make clear that you made the wrong intellectual choice, and you operated in opposition to God’s purpose for marriage in the world. I hope, Chuck, you will join Job in replying, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

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  • dan

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    Bishop, in your article you said, “this is what it means to be unified in Christ Jesus: It is not a bland acceptance of everything, but to hold together even when we vehemently disagree with each other.” Unless you are calling us to be independent Christians outside of this denomination, which I trust you are not, our question is how are we in the UMC to live together in disagreement? I agree with you on this but would ask how can a denomination “hold together” when there is a continuous and clear violation of the covenant (BOD and GC) that we all agree to hold? The GC and many other bodies have had clear and plentiful discussions on this matter for 50 years and both the letter and spirit of the law has been made clearly known. You are right to remind us that “we can all treat each other with respect even as we disagree” , but it must also be mentioned that a large part of that respect is to show respect for the existing covenant (BOD) that was reached also through prayer and much discussions at GC. Mutual respect also demands that leadership, true to their vows, show consistent and predictable responsiveness in support of all of the existing covenant even as much prayer and many discussions continue. If such mutual respect for the covenant continues to be violated how are we to remain a denomination?

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  • Rev. Dr. Wilfredo Baez

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    Once upon a time, the United Methodist Church had a covenant: for It’s clergy to not speak against slavery. A pastor spoke against slavery in my church in Rochester, NY and a church in Albion, NY. They were sanctioned for breaking the “covenant.” B. P. Roberts walked out of the church with others and met to organize the Free Methodist Church. We also had a covenant to place all African American Churches into a central jurisdiction. We also had a covenant to bar African-Americans from the altar area leading the formation of the AME churches. All clergy have a covenant to be of good conscience. Sometimes one part of the discipline conflicts with another. I believe that the addition of the ban of ordination and marriage of GLBTQ persons in the Social principles (which are not binding) is in direct violation with prior understandings of the discipline, including the necessity to accept and agree with church law and obey conscience. In case of war by the US government we even have provision for conscientious objection. Can new laws and expectations be made ex post facto after someone is ordained? Can we go back like the Southern Baptists and take away women’s right to be ordained? Can a later provision in the discipline overrule earlier provisions without clearly saying it is doing so? Has the church ever changed its rules after many years of discussion like about slavery, civil rights, woman’s ordination, ordination of blacks?

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  • Rev. Dr. Wilfredo Baez

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    I agree with Douglas Asbury’s advocacy for persons with GLBTQ or sexual orientations and for his call for a change in our BOD. However, I do not agree with his treatment of Chuck Rice. I don’t think that it is appropriate to put words in Chuck’s mouth, frame him as evil or call him names like a Pharisee or even to denigrate his use of of an old Bible or his opinions as from the Dark Ages. I wish that we all can be more civil to another and listen to one another rather than vilify one another. Maybe then we could make inroads on this very difficult problem. I respect Church’s conscience as much as I disagree with his stand and I will continue to speak my conscience.

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