An Open Letter to Rev. Tom Lambrecht, member of the Commission on a Way Forward
An Open Letter
To: Rev. Tom Lambrecht, member of the Commission on a Way Forward
From: Elaine Stanovsky, bishop of the Greater Northwest Area of The United Methodist Church
My heart is not at war. I am not using clergy and staff appointments to undermine the unity of the Church or the work of the Commission on a Way Forward. My heart was at peace when I appointed Rev. Kathleen Weber to my cabinet. It was at peace when I approved hiring Rev. Brett Webb-Mitchell by the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference. These are two deeply faithful, highly qualified, effective leaders, well suited for the ministry contexts they are called to serve. They were not chosen for their sexual orientation. I did not disqualify them because they are honest about their relationships.
I’ll admit that I felt defensive when I read your article, “Northwest United Methodist Defiance.”[i] “Poke in the eye,” “overt defiance,” “callous disregard,” “double-barreled assault,” “escalation,” “in your face repudiation.” Why do you think you know my heart? We never had a conversation.
So, I returned to the The Anatomy of Peace,[ii] recommended by the Commission on a Way Forward and the Council of Bishops as a way to disarming ourselves for the difficult conversations the Church needs to have. I re-read the section called, “From War to Peace,” and practiced the steps for “getting out of the box” of self-justification and blaming:
- Look for the signs of self-justification and blaming. This was easy for me. You took two of my actions out of context, weaponized them with aggressive rhetoric, and lobbed them into the last meeting of the Commission. You misrepresented my motives. You never asked me what I believe, why I believe what I believe or why I lead the way I lead. And you didn’t even have the courtesy to send me your article. I first saw it when a friend forwarded it to me as an email distributed on March 16, 2018, three days before it was available publicly as a blog on the Good News Magazine You aren’t practicing the practices that the Commission recommends.
- Find an out–of-the box place. There was a time when a colleague lashed out at me in a meeting, accusing me of racism. I broke into tears and retreated from the meeting and the accusation. A friend sought me out, listened to my pain and invited me to be the whole and well person he knew that I could be. My heart returned to peace and I was able to approach the person I had offended, and begin a long slow journey to healing.
- Ponder the situation anew. What are this person’s challenges, trials, burdens and pains? How am I adding to them? Wow! I only know you as a guy who attacks from a safe distance rather than picking up the phone. Can I cultivate curiosity about what pain you bear? How are your opinions and actions shaped by your love of Jesus?
- Act upon what I have discovered; do what I think I should do. I think I should not strike back. I should respond with curiosity. Yet, I think I should not remain silent. I invite you to play fair. I invite you to disarm. Despite deep misgivings, I will give you the benefit of my doubt – that you might want our United Methodist Church to be strong into the future and faithful to God’s leading as much as I do. I hope and pray this is true. If it is true, and we are willing, God can teach each of us to love the other as we love ourselves. I invite you to talk with me before you write about me. I invite you to send me a copy of anything you write about me before you send it to your email distribution list or post it on the internet. I will commit to abiding by the same standard in the future.
You are meeting with the Commission on a Way Forward as I write. I pray for you, Tom, and for the work of the Commission. I pray for the future of our church, that we will find a way to continue to share the good news of Jesus Christ, even as we continue to seek to understand the fullness of God’s intention for humankind. I hope that, as a member of the Commission, you are leading us in the way the Commission said it would at the beginning. Do you remember?
The Commission will design a way for being church that maximizes the presence of a United Methodist witness in as many places in the world as possible, that allows for as much contextual differentiation as possible, and that balances an approach to different theological understandings of human sexuality with a desire for as much unity as possible. – Commission on a Way Forward: About Us
We need a Church that aspires to this vision: one church, a variety of expressions; one body, many parts. In the Northwest we’re cultivating this spirit, in support of the Commission’s work, as we send 50 trained leaders across the area to facilitate Table Talks about the Way Forward between now and June, and dedicate 4 ½ hours during our Annual Conference sessions to The Anatomy of Peace and small group conversations. God is at work when two or three gather. I’m expecting miracles.
The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.
Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky
[i] “Northwest United Methodist Defiance,” by Thomas Lambrecht, circulated by email from email@example.com on Friday, March 16, 2018, and posted as personal blog on Monday, March 19, http://tomlambrecht.goodnewsmag.org/northwest-united-methodist-defiance/.
[ii] The Anatomy of Peace, resolving the heart of conflict, The Arbinger Institute, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2006.
Thomas Martin (ret)
A person can claim “absolute truth” for Scripture but need to remember that to claim “absolute interpretation” of Scripture is to claim for oneself a status which I feel is gratuitous. I know of no one, extremely intelligent or extremely lacking in intelligence and anything in between, who deserves the title of “absolute Interpreter” of Scripture. I am very skeptical of those whose view of self is akin to God. To assume there is only one way to understand the whole of the Bible is to assert an arrogance far beyond the right of a creature of God’s making to do.
Every human being brings to the reading of Scripture their own unique history which influences their interpretation. I think we all have a contribution to offer to a full understanding of the God of Scripture without asserting absolute status to our own particular view/views. I for one am a retired gay Pastor whose life has been spirituality enriched by those who differ from me BUT who also welcome my insights and experiences. I have known the Bishop since she was in college and have appreciated watching her move up through the ranks of clergy to be our shepherd.
I consider myself to be as humble as any one else and have lived as upstanding a life (perhaps more) as those who assert absolute understanding.
Dear John: I enjoyed reading your comments. Yes, the Book of Discipline has changed over the years but I don’t believe we started practicing the changes before they were approved by the General Conference. That said I wish ALL United Methodist had a forum like this to express their views. I think it would help the entire body to hear different view points before the 2019 General Conference.
Thank you and very much agreed with your sentiment of open discussion. I am actually in the Western North Carolina Conference and our Bishop has established a specific date for initiating Healthy Conversations for all the church congregations. Some have already begun by having panel discussions with individuals from their own congregations to share how this whole matter has hurt and or hindered them from attaining their full potential in the service of the church. The program opens with clear focus on the BoD verbiage and how it began and evolved since it was written in then, the sharing of what The Way Forward is…I am absolutely amazed at how many have no clue of what the BoD says and what The Way Forward is or means. It is going to be quite a shock to some folks for the ‘reveal’ 2019 GC. The personal stories that have been shared are amazing and heart rending as individuals share their pain and fear of being ostracized along with their intense need and desire to have a place in the church where they are accepted like everyone else. These conversations have been quite eye opening for many people. The question and answer time at the end of the program allows for open questions of the individual panelists which makes it all very very real and important. We as incredibly flawed humans must absolutely stop the brutality that continues the condemnation and standing in place of God to judge HIS children. As stated before, the LGBTQ folks are God’s children not United Methodist denomination’s children…and are to be loved and accepted like everyone else. (Matthew 7:1-5 is tough for me to manage as well, but it is not an option).
How do you justify not upholding the book of Discipline? If you don’t believe in it find a denomination that you agree with. To many mainline churches today only want to talk about being all inclusive as if everything is OK, if that is true why did Christ die on the cross? Is there no such thing as sin anymore? In the near future I think we will be taking the name of United off of many of our churches. Thank you for your comments but I didn’t see anything written that would help our current problems.
Steve, you are exactly right. If one makes a vow to uphold the Discipline and then breaks that vow he is the one who should find another place that fits his belief. It is unconscionable to tear down what you vowed to uphold and build an unstable structure against Biblical teaching. Praying for our church and leaders. Betsy
So, I need some clarity on the dogmatic references throughout this Blog for adherence to the Book of Discipline and clergy commitment to uphold it. What I am trying to grasp is, how many times has the BoD been added to, edited, adjusted or taken away from, in various parts of the language that was not there prior to any change? Who wrote the BoD to begin with, the Wesley’s? And it has never ever been changed or modified since then? My point being, unless there is raised awareness of something not proper, archaic in belief or biblical understanding–now that we have far more educated and world wide scholars reviewing historical texts–aren’t there more clear views of how we should be as a denomination vs. stuck in intransigence? (I am lost on the desire to remain hard and fast on old beliefs when new things are revealed all the time and ignoring the simple one great commandment to love God and our neighbors as ourselves)
James Dwyer Ph.D.
In 2006 Michael van der Galien of the Netherlands posted the answer to your question on the website as he discussed Dr. Martin Luther King’s views on just and unjust laws. On the 50th anniversary of King’s assassination, let these two quotations from the Letter from Birmingham Jail help us in this conversation, which can be applied to the immediate questions of discrimination and inclusion in The United Methodist Church, I believe:
“A just law is a manmade code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law.“
“Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.”
This is only a snippet of that discussion, of course, but I hope it is helpful to some.
Let me start off by saying I am neither as highly educated or experienced in the ways of the world as you. I am not as well traveled to say the least, it seems you have had quite an interesting life around the world. I am also in no way attempting to condemn your personal choices or views; we are free here in the USA to believe as we choose and I fully support that right. I hope you understand my right to see things through the lens of my own life experiences… as limited as they might be.
I must ask some questions regarding some of the positions you (and others) have taken over the course of this discussion. You quote Dr. Martin Luther King’s views in your last full comment and I wanted to focus on something there for a moment. “Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.” Do you really believe that or is it just convenient for the argument your trying to make? I ask this because human behavior/personality is highly subjective; some people are attracted to animals, children, or even the dead. Is this not abnormal and immoral? Should there not be laws forbidding the expression and fulfillment of these personalities?
I am not equating two consenting adults of the same sex engaging in sexual activity to the behaviors mentioned above. I am merely attempting to illustrate that there should be a line that is clearly established regarding immoral and moral behavior by human beings and their personalities and that just/righteous laws have been established to deal with them. Is it preposterous to include willful behaviors such as homosexual acts or adultery as immoral? Neither should be outlawed by a Government because that violates personal rights, but the Church should not affirm either behavior simply because the personalities involved desired to engage in said behavior. The Church has established a line of moral integrity; our Bishop violated that.
Further in the very beginning of Dr. Kings quote it illustrates that a “just law is a manmade code that squares with the moral law or the law of God.” Is not the moral law of God illustrated in God’s creation of the first two human beings; a man and a woman? Is not his intent clear? Its reinforced time and again throughout the Bible in the relationships we see over and over. Men and Women joined together under God. Never two men, never two women.
Historically there were cultures of the times that practiced homosexuality and other ‘unclean’ acts according to the Bible. It wasn’t unheard of in these times; it’s not a modern ideal. God even commands some of these societies to be wiped out for their sexual immorality and perversions. I don’t believe it’s ever explicitly stated that Homosexuals were to be killed during the Old Testament, but it also doesn’t say they were not. This further demonstrates to me and others that God wishes humanity to follow the ‘natural’ order he established in the beginning with his creation of Adam and Eve.
Finally I ask if you truly believe Homosexuality isn’t a sin and is part of the natural order of things; why did God design us as a binary species? Its been pointed out during this conversation that “God doesn’t make mistakes” and yet in the same sentence as that one person states their ‘transgendered’ grandson is proof. Proof of what? If a person is born with the chromosomes and equipment of one sex, but believes they are the opposite despite physical and chemical proof to the contrary; how would that not be a ‘mistake’? How do the LGBTQ of faith rationalize God’s supposed decision to trap them in the physical body of the sex they don’t identify as or even be attracted to the same sex they are; never able to reproduce biologically with the ones they ‘love’. How can this be explained in your world view? I truly am interested to hear what you and others have to say and in no way am I attempting to be patronizing or rude. I will put forward some of my thoughts and ideas on the matter as well for discussion.
I contend that the LGBTQ phenomenon isn’t a mistake of God, but it is in fact a byproduct of Sin’s introduction to the world. In much the same way a person can be born without the right chemical make up to possess empathy (a sociopath), I believe it is possible (though not scientifically proven as of yet) for people to be born whom are attracted to the same sex or believe they are the opposite sex of their birth. This does not mean that we the Church must cater to the lowest common denominator and fundamentally shift what is moral and immoral (God is the authority here, not us), just that we acknowledge that these people are people and they think differently than the majority of human beings. They are still Human and deserving of basic respect and understanding.
As human beings, they are subject to the same rules that apply to the rest of us regarding the morality and order established by God and his design. We have free will, we choose to either follow God of our own volition or not. Some of us choose to drink too much alcohol, engage in drug use, abuse our spouses, commit adultery, or any number of sins available for our choosing instead. These are human failings, but engaging in them doesn’t make us bad people. Christ died for all of us, for every sin we ever committed or will commit. We can be redeemed from our sins through Christ, but we must first recognize our behavior as sinful. We do a disservice to the people of the Methodist Church and the world when we try to change the definitions of things to suit or societal standards and redefine what sin is. Sin is defiance of God.
From what little I know and have observed, I believe that sexual deviance from his original design is defiance of God. I look forward to openly discussing with all of you further on the subject.
James Dwyer Ph.D.
Dear Jeremy Hood,
Thank you for your willingness to share your views so openly and without guile here.
I would like to kindly suggest that you locate a partner for face-to-face conversation with whom you might openly discuss / debate these questions.
Despite sticking my neck out in this blog, I don’t find much time (or patience) for blogging and know that talking the issues through in this public forum would require much time and energy and that we would likely be distracted by extraneous additions to our discussion.
I do believe that any thorough reading of the Biblical narrative would convince us that norms we assume are drawn from the Bible were not universal and that Biblical “heroes,” if you may call them that, did not give us good examples! Cain killed his brother Abel. Jacob cheated his brother Esau. Abram impregnated his wife’s servant girl and then threw her out of the household. David loved Jonathan “more than any woman.” I could go on!
I hope you will find a well-versed person to continue with you in this conversation.
I do not presume to know what God in her / his wisdom may consider finally normative and I do not think the Bible was intended to tell us, but rather to tell us of God’s journey with humankind.
Peace be with you!
Thank you for your response. I understand what you mean when engaging in these sorts of discussions via the Internet. Indeed I would like to engage in a face to face discussion…no perhaps study of the Bible and life in general for a person who sees differently than I. I appreciate the open exchange we had, though it was breif. I can only hope that our conversation may be mirrored by those in charge and at the very least disagree kindly with one another.
James Dwyer Ph.D.
The website reference disappeared in posting. It was “TheModerateVoice.com”! Sorry.
Rev. Dr. Ben Vinluan
I want to thank James Dwyer for picking up on the direction of my comments in support of Bishop Stanovsky’s remarkable response to Brother Tom Lambrecht’s toxic rhetoric. Appreciate that Dr. Dwyer saw my typo between the words “past” and “fast”, which made better sense.
Anyway, I praise God for this mini-conversation as a result of Bishop Stanovsky’s open letter. This kind of conversation needs to be taking place across our connection. But it is sad to say, and I believe I represent a wide swath of the church when I say there is a feeling of being left out in the process, or perhaps even turned off. I applaud the efforts of some members of the Commission like Bishop Grant J. Hagiya of the Los Angeles Area, and others who are seeking to demythologize or perhaps simplify reports that come out of the commission, because reports posted on the United Methodist website are simply not sufficient to foster a broad understanding of the issues involved. And a lot is riding on this issue or these issues for all United Methodists.
That is why I found Bishop Stanovsky’s thoughtful and principled articulation of her response struck such a positive cord.
Rev. Dr Ben Vinluan, Elder, retired, CalPac AC
I simply do not see how anyone who accepts the sacred position of Bishop, DS, Pastor, or member in our beloved UMC can so easily and simply ignore what we promise when we are ordained or become a member in the UMC. It is theft for anyone who is not willing to uphold our Book of Discipline to accept compensation from our beloved UMC. It is untruthful for anyone to say they will abide by our beliefs and then do otherwise. I don’t hate anyone; I do not understand homosexuality. God made us male and female in His image. It is time for our beloved UMC to return to God’s Word for guidance in this issue, and it is time to get on with what our founder declared is our purpose, “Nothing but the saving of souls.” All persons are born with the inclination to sin (original sin) and all persons can overcome that inclination when they focus on living a righteous Christian life. If we turn to God to help us refrain from any sin, He will help us. When one’s soul is truly saved, the temptation to sin is much less. Let us focus on a closer walk with God and emphasize living like Jesus lived. Jesus would not approve of all this discussion. I pray the Holy Spirit will touch the hearts of every member of the Commission on a Way Forward and every delegate to the 2019 General Conference and that wholesome, sinless, righteous living will be emphasized in every UMC throughout our connection. If that cannot be the case, then it is TIME to get this behind us. If one cannot abide by what we stand for, then it is time for an “amicable separation.” Let us remember, “The world is our parish.” Thank you for reading this. Will you pray with me????
Larry, Thank you for praying with me. Yes, nothing but the saving of souls. A great harvest of LGBTQ+ souls is waiting for the Church. Where are the workers for the harvest? In Africa, foreign missionaries planted the seeds, but the great growth and harvest came only when Africans became leaders, lay speakers, and clergy who could put the truth of Jesus in language that audience could understand and accept. The same is true now. The LGBTQ+ harvest will come when LGBTQ+ leaders, lay speakers, and clergy again put the story in new language for a new audience. I’m trying to stay out of God’s way while this miracle is happening. Grace and peace. Jim
This string of posts clearly illustrates how deeply divided our United Methodist Church is over the issue of human sexuality. Opinions on both sides of the issue are firmly and rigidly held, just as were earlier Church positions on the ordination of women, divorce, and slavery. It is clear that we can cherry-pick Biblical passages to support either side of the issue of homosexuality, especially when we ignore the significance of context. Even further, we can ignore the differences between Scripture and the Book of Discipline, the latter which has been revised many times over the years. The bottom line appears to be that many of us hold fast to ideas and convictions we have held for years, often, I think, out of fear. Perhaps we could heed the warning of William Blake that “the man who never alters his opinion is like standing water, and breeds reptiles of the mind.” I hope and pray that the United Methodist Church will heed the admonition of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, to love one another.
As a Catholic i can only feel sorrow for the obvious self-interested nature of some of your leaders. Iam, at the same time, equally happy that the Catholic church has, at the moment a progressive leader. As difficult as it may be, perhaps it is time to move on and begin anew. Now is not the time to go back, now is the time to go forward,…to do as our creator demanded….love one another, completely, …and to accept and welcome all those from other lands as though they are family. Other lands, other religions, other beliefs, other life styles…..
Bishop Dwyer…I vigorously applaud you in your comments. I am so frustrated as a lay person over the vitriol that the staunch and ultra conservative members of our denomination, and other denominations, hold against LGBTQ persons. As we all know, Leviticus and the story of Sodom and Gomorrah are the beginning of this discriminatory use of the scriptures. Something for EVERYONE to think about…1. If the city was teeming with homosexuals wanting to sexually assault the male visitors, WHY was a virgin daughter sent out to them, who was then sexually assaulted to death? Homosexual men are certainly not interested in women except for hair, nails, make-up, shoes, wardrobe, etc. (and I say this to add a little honest levity). 2. There are three passages between the Old Testament and the New Testament that speaks absolutely clearly about what the sin of Sodom was…folks need to find those scriptures and read them. In all the translations I’ve read none of the three mention or event have the slightest hint about homosexual behavior or sexual deviancy.
CORRECTION, to my comment at 5:41 AM, the last line should read, “…slightest hint about homosexual behavior AS (not or) sexual deviancy.”
If this gets past the censor, I recommend that you read the Bible and find out the truth. Perhaps the Bishop will identify all of them for you. The UMC affirms that Holy Scripture contains all truth that is necessary and sufficient for salvation. This issue is about salvation of souls. This issue is about the veracity of the God-breathed Holy Scriptures and their place at the foundation of the UMC. Most Christians would not waste their time listening to a pastor or Bishop if they knew that the pastor or Bishop didn’t believe the word of God. I will post them again. Perhaps they’ll get a viewing this time.
James Dwyer Ph.D.
It has long been a significant part of Anglican and Methodist theology, drawn in part from John Wesley’s and other Anglican Divines’ reading of ancient church fathers and Greek Orthodox theologians that we believe in the Word of God made flesh in Jesus Christ (the Logos in John’s Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word”) and not in words or collective words (word = rhema) spoken or written as such without interpretation. Is is up to us to determine by referral to tradition, reason and our own experience the degree to which God’s spirit is speaking to us in Biblical passages and whether the same sense is found in them as in found in Jesus’ life and witness and the way Jesus dealt with persons considered outcast in his own day. It takes quite a bit of effort to deal with these issues!
James Dwyer Ph.D.
Thanks for the honorific elevation to Bishop — I always been “just” a pastor!
Michael J Hennessey
Bishop Elaine, your response gives me hope that conversation can take place and the church can move forward.
I Have no idea if I will still be a Methodist at the end but I know we can not keep skirting the issue.
God has blessed our United Methodist Church in having you serve as our Bishop.
Bishop Elaine, Thanks for your thoughtful and faithful response in our open letter and subsequent comments on directions we can all take as we strive to lead the United Methodist to fully include LGBTQ+ brothers an sisters within the United Methodist Church and beyond.
Rev. Charlotte Hendee
Thank you so much, Bishop Stanovsky. Your response is so thoughtful and Christian. His article is, I pray, one of the dying gasps of a church that has for too long hurt way too many faithful, committed UMs. It is beyond my comprehension how people who call themselves Christians cannot grasp the fact that God loves all equally, and that the backward policies in our Discipline are preventing the denomination I love from growing.
Rev. Charlotte Hendee, Retired, B-W Conference
Rev. Dr.Ben Vinluan
Bishop Stanovsky’s was a bold and principled action drawn, no doubt, from the prophets but specially from our Lord. As a United Methodist I’m one of those who applaud her. I see her in the line of the best traditions of our Church and of the Wesleyan core values. Tom Lambrecht’s incendiary language, I believe, represents the last gasp, or part of the last gasp of a time that is past waning. Those who stand with Bishop Stanovsky’s principled Christian stand need to see incendiary language like this as incidental to the ongoing battle to “proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed…” (Luke 4:18,ff.)
Rev. Dr. Ben Vinluan
Cal-Pac clergy member, (retired)
James Dwyer Ph.D.
Ben Vinluan wrote:
“Tom Lambrecht’s incendiary language, I believe, represents the last gasp, or part of the last gasp of a time that is past waning.” (I wish it were already “past” waning, perhaps it is only “fast” waning!)
I could not agree more. I have struggled with forces of the [so-called] Good News Movement, the [so-called] Mission Society for United Methodists (which no longer claims that name), and various “confessional” and “covenantal” groups of exclusivist and self-righteous tinge over 50 years in study and ministry in Indiana, Illinois, Texas, the Austria Annual Conference, two German Annual Conferences, and an assignment to the Western Jurisdiction, retiring finally to the relatively less impacted CalPac Annual Conference. As the insurance ads say, “we’ve seen a thing or two” and I can only hope that Lambrecht and associates can find their own home in a renewed and inclusive United Methodist Church and abandon their vitriol. But this may be too much hoped. If not, then may God guide them into that exclusivist place they would like to be and grant them contentment there.
I “came out” as gay in the lead-up to the 2016 GC (although not as “self-avowed practicing”) and recognize all too well that those #CalledOUT to ministry in recent years would never be willing ‚ nor should they be, to closet themselves for another generation or two until the Lambrechts of this age have become illuminated by the peace of God’s all-conquering love which comes at the end of this earthly struggle.
James Dwyer, Ph.D., Elder, ret., CalPac AC
Thank you so much for your clear and faithful response. Your leadership inspires courage within me. So grateful.
Rev. Terri Stewart
Thank you for this. This letter gives me more hope than I have felt in a long time for the future of our church.
Chad, I vigorously applaud your comment and clarity!! This topic is something I have struggled with for a very, very long time and raise questions as to how heterosexual couples can get by with this behavior and the willful blindness of the church and clergy…solely because of their heterosexuality. The opposite is, honest, faithful, committed, honorable same-gender couples are not only condemned for their God given orientation but futher blocked and chastised for their desire to live in a faithful, committed relationship. I am so frustrated with the UMC over this continued hypocrisy and condemnation. All of those who stand in condemnation need to 1. Find the verses where Jesus Christ himself passed judgement and condemnation on anyone homosexual or transgender…find the scriptures and then post them proudly and boldly. 2. Make Matthew 7:1-5 your daily devotional until you fully and wholly understand what those verses say. God help ‘my’ UMC to do the right thing and S_T_O_P chasing away and demonizing GOD’s children…remember they are GOD’s children not the UMC’s children!!!
I still have to wonder how folks object so strongly to people who love each other, live out that love and share that love. Selective objections make these conversations even more challenging and create tremendous moments of distrust of those who squeal the loudest. When will we let love be the guiding factor?
The United Methodist Church has a huge sexual immorality problem. Every reputable study done in the last decade concludes around 95% of unmarried adults are having sex. Maybe we should turn some of our attention to them. How often do UMC pastors refuse to marry straight couples engaging in pre-marital sex? How often do UMC pastors refuse to marry couples who live together? How often do we allow our churches to host weddings for non-members, non-believers, atheists, etc, just cuz some mother wants her daughter to have a church wedding? It’s easy to focus on what the Book of Discipline says about homosexuality, cuz let’s face it, it only affects a small number of Methodists. Wanna be bold, take on heterosexual fornication.
Chad, are your married? If so do you have children? If you are married and stayed celibate until marriage, that was your decision. If you have children and they are young, I assure you that when they are older, fall in love, but are in college or a time in their lives when marriage is unaffordable or impossible, they will have sex.
How do I know this? I am 81 years old, met my husband in high school. I went on to college to be a nurse, my husband went to college to become an engineer, we dated for five years and waited until we were finished college to marry. YES, Eric, we were sexually intimate for over four of those five years!
PS, we will celebrate our 59th anniversary in June.
James Dwyer Ph.D.
Sometimes this seems like “TMI”! Wishing you a happy 59th in June! My wife and I will only be 9 years behind you!
Dear Friends in Christ,
I am a bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. We dealt nine years ago with questions around same gender sexuality similar to what you in the UMC deal with today. Three things I learned from this work were, 1) Many of us feel strongly about such issues, but we rediscovered what we ‘already knew’ relative to the custody of our speech and respect for those who differ in opinion from ourselves. It is at the core of our Christian discipline. 2) We are people of a miraculous love, not words and rules. Lutherans love the Apostle Paul and Paul counsels us that the we are of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit. And 3) We could not avoid some division within our communion over this issue. Perhaps that was only our shortcoming.
I am privileged to have overlapping jurisdictions with Bp. Stanovsky, and the opportunity to work with both she and her staff. I hope you in the UMC value her Christian witness and integrity as much as I do.
Bp. Dave Brauer-Rieke
Oregon Synod – ELCA
James Dwyer Ph.D.
Thank you, Bishop Brauer-Rieke!
James Dwyer, Elder, ret., CalPac UMC
Resident with many Lutheran brothers and sisters at Pilgrim Place in Claremont (and many UCC, Presbyerian and others).
You wrote that he took your actions out of context and that he misrepresented your motives. What I believe you have failed to see, or simply refuse to acknowledge, is that the context and your motives are irrelevant in this situation. As a Bishop of The United Methodist Church, you are in a covenantal relationship in which you agreed to uphold the Discipline of The United Methodist Church. Your actions, regardless of your motives or context, were a complete betrayal of that covenant. I will grant you that his language was somewhat harsh and even belligerent at times; however, his sentiment was quite accurate.
Eric, Recognizing the signs of self-justification and blaming is the first step in moving from a “heart at war” toward a “heart at peace.” My comments about Tom taking my actions out of context and misrepresenting my motives were my confession that my first responses to Tom’s article were self-justifying and blaming. I was trying to show that these responses do not contribute to a helpful conversation, and then to show how, by following the next steps, I came to a new and different attitude. I did not share my reflection out of a spirit of self-righteousness, but as a glimpse into how I and maybe others can use the tools in The Anatomy of Peace to step out of self-justification and blaming, into an attitude that is more respectful, curious and interactive. Your comment helped me see how I might have been misunderstood. Thank you.
Thank you, Bishop, for acknowledging that Christ is love and acceptance, and the Book of Discipline is man”s feeble attempt at governing God’s holy places. God made me as I am and the Western District’s churches provide me with a place to regularly thank God. Your words provide comfort.
Thank you, Pat, yes, God made you as you are, and that is who you should never, ever be ashamed to be. As the very proud grandmother of a wonderful, articulate, compassionate, transgender grandson, I thank you and support your right to be the person you were always meant to be.
Please answer one question for me. What part of the Bible do you not believe? If ANY part of it is not believable , then none of it “could” be unbelievable ! I will go to my grave believing every word in the Bible , even though I might not be able to live up to those words perfectly. If you have decided in your heart that it is unbelievable , then how can you call yourself Christian? Feelings are not a part of accepting Christ -or accepting what he said. We all know what he said about homosexuality—some just refuse to accept His Words because they “feel” that He didn’t really say that?
Jim, I need help in finding the specific scriptures of what Christ said about homosexuality. I am struggling to find them. Thank you
Jim, “What part of the Bible don’t you believe?” misses the point. I accept the Bible as true, every word, every verse, every chapter, every book, both Testaments, and the whole together. It’s all true, and it’s all true _together_. Yet I as merely human see some apparent contradictions, particularly when Jesus said, “You have heard it was said … yet I say …”. All that proves is that I am not God. I don’t see God’s full truth together. So my challenge is to continue the search. How are Lev 18:22 and 1 Cor 12:21 both true at the same time? When in doubt, I lean to the New Testament and the words of Jesus.
Grace and peace,
The Book of Discipline was written by humans and it was written prior to 1976 when it was learned that anyone who is LBGTQ+ is so because of how they are born.
The BoD has been revised on numerous occasions, and it is past the time when it needs to be revised again. Our LBGTQ+ sisters and brothers are no more sinners than am I, a short old lady, who is over 80. I should be taller and should have died ten years ago. However, God made me short, and only God will know when it is time for me to let go of this earthly body.
Eric, the Bishop is trying to right the wrongs of the BoD. When rules are in error they must be rectified. If the rule of slavery had not be corrected, our African American sister and brothers would still be in chains. If those of us who were against segregation did not fight to change the rules, there would still be segregation. If we had not wanted to worship as we pleased and not what the king demanded we would still be British Subjects.
As a United Methodist, the bishop seems to be affirming with our Constitution, that “all persons are of sacred worth, created in the image of God, in need of the ministry of the Church, and eligible to attend our worship, receive our services and upon baptism and declaration of the Christian faith, to become members of our congregation.”, that “sexuality is God’s good gift to all persons, that basic human rights and civil liberties are due all persons and that we are committed to supporting these rights and liberties for all, regardless of sexual orientation. We support efforts to stop forms of coercion against all persons regardless of sexual orientation.”, and that we all have a right and responsibility “to dissent when acting under the constraint of conscience.” I believe it is a greater obedience to our covenant to obey our Constitution and Social Principles, than to enforce the subordinate Disciplinary statutes.
Bishop, you write a typical reply, right out of the progressive play book. 1. You try to shield yourself with emotion. Lots of “feel” and the story of you crying. 2. You hide behind the methodology and wordsmith of work that is not yours, Anatomy of Peace. 3. While Tom’s letter is not the most kind, your letter in response is full of self righteous, arrogance.
You are proactively promoting the progressive agenda. The same agenda that has tanked the Episcopal and Presbyterian Churches. You also provide leverage to organizations such as WCA and Good News who will run the tables in 2019 and 2020. Keep doing your progressive thing, please. You are a helpful player to the global UM conservative and evangelical partnerships.
As I read your comment, I’m really trying to inhabit the bishops’ good words, and the excellent advice she shared. “Progressive agenda” isn’t much different from “conservative takeover” in that each creates a convenient straw person one can then chose to ignore, a perspective I don’t have to hear. I need to work more on the log in my eye; perhaps we all have some work to do.
Does anyone really think that young people or well-educated people care if their friends, siblings, co-workers, doctors, nurses, clergy, or lawyers are LBGTQ+? I can tell you, as an educated 80+ woman, that they absolutely do not. Patrick, you and Tom are being discriminatory, just as your elders were in the 1950s and before, and up to the late 1960s when it came to their African American sisters and brothers.
Hi Carla, I’m not sure if we have ever met or had a conversation. I wanted to clarify for you that I do not find myself sharing very much ground with Rev. Lambrecht and appreciate Bishop Stanovsky’s decisions and open letter very much. Apologies if that wasn’t very clear to you. What I was trying to say is that people of all perspectives could benefit from checking their language, questioning the way they dismiss people they disagree with, and I might add listening and asking sincere questions. Peace be with you. Patrick.
I am sorry that I misunderstood you. My apologies, for not reading your piece with more discernment. I am a strong progressive and want the UMC to come kicking and screaming into the 21 st century.
Mr. Bond, I am a bit confused with the second paragraph of your statement. You say “The same agenda that has tanked the Episcopal and Presbyterian churches”. To my knowledge those denominations continue to exist in fact, I think in metropolitan area there are probably 50 – 100 churches of both denominations that are quite busy on Sundays and many days during the week. I am lost when you say “tanked’…give me some clarity on how they have tanked/dissolved…I don’t get it.
Thank you Bishop Elaine, for reminding of us of the fact that we are to be disciples of Christ, not disciples of Leviticus and/or Paul. Remembering our days together on the Rules Committee.
Elaine JW Stanovsky
Janet, it’s lovely to hear from you. Yes, we had some difficult conversations on the Rules Committee for General Conference back in the day. Grace and peace to you. Elaine
Thank you, Bishop Elaine, for showing us the way forward.
Thank you Bishop for standing true to your calling and for articulating such a well thought out response. We have no room for hateful rhetoric like that of Tom Lambrecht. It is no wonder so many onlookers wonder if there is really any room for Christ in our hearts. Blessings on your ministry.
It is clearly broken the rules. It doesnt care the feelings.
When bishops challenged the opposition to women clergy or the ownership of slaves….were they breaking the rules? Evangelical conservatives cannot have their beliefs both ways….you either want the entire payload dropped or only the safe parts you’ve cherry picked….which is it going to be? When will you ever let mercy, compassion and love rule?
Is it possible to champion unity and peace while breaking covenant with those who would sacrificially surrender their credentials before breaking their vows? You may be right that you should have been extended the courtesy from Mr. Lambrecht. But, how can you not know how hurtful your actions are to a brother who thinks it a great honor to be in covenant with you?
Thank you, Bishop, for modeling a way to have open, respectful conversation.
God has much for us to do and staying united allows great work to be accomplished with our many hands. How foolish to suggest dividing our United Methodist Church because we disagree on an issue. Our way forward is to agree to disagree, allow for each individual to make their own decision regarding
LGBTQ, and continue to work together for the glory of God.
Thank you for your Christ lead leadership. God Bless you
As an elder in the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference, I admire and stand with Bishop Elaine Stanovsky, who is a person of great faith and integrity.
Rev. Jay Roberts
Thank you Bishop! As a father of twin gay sons your response is loving and gentle characterizing the best of who we are as United Methodists and followers of Jesus.
Generous and kind comment, Bishop Elaine.
Judi Day, ORID Deaconess
Thank You, Bishop! So well said. Tom is not acting in the healthy manner of moving All of us Forward, whatsoever. His words are offensive to our LGBTQ folks, as well as our Bishop…and to my husband and I, on behalf of our gay son who is in U.M. youth ministry. May truth and kindness prevail.
Rev. Florante P. Tangonan
Thank you, Bishop Elaine, for bringing hope to the world and my world. I also thank my colleague and fellow alumni, Pastor Laura, who shared your message.
Retired UMC elder
Cal Nev Annual Conference
M Div, BUSth, Class of 2001
Thanks, Dad. 🙂
Thanks so much for what you’re doing & saying. I only wish central Texas had such a Bishop .
Bishop Elaine, thank you for modeling how we should react when so hurtfully attacked. Clearly, concisely, and quickly. Bless you for that!
Thank you Bishop for your leadership in appointing those who you feel will show us God’s way to bring about God’s Kin-dom, and for your thoughtful response. I pray for our church.
Bishop Elaine, thanks for your candor and compassion!
Thank you. Glad you are my Bishop.
So grateful, Bishop, for your wisdom and courage, leading us forward into God’s future with grace, love and peace – as Jesus and scripture faithfully call us to do at every step of the journey!
Deirdre J Good
Thank you a cogent, reconciling and honest response. May we learn from it.
Thank you, Bishop Elaine, for your gracious response to a very un-gracious attack. I applaud you for not avoiding the confrontation but for responding in a non-violent way. I’m proud to have you as my bishop.
I am convinced that the sin we are partaking in is not where we fall on the issue of same sex marriage and ordination but how we treat those created in the image of God with whom we disagree. The sin of the church is not how we interpret the Scriptures and are trying to be faithful to the understanding of Scripture that we have discerned but the love of our dogma and position over the love of God and each other. We have made idols out of our interpretation of Scripture and our doctrine, sacrificing each other to these lesser gods. May Christ be merciful.
Excellent interpretation, Leanne. I believe you have expressed these attitudes perfectly. God is love and Christ came to teach us that love. “Love, faith, hope abide, but the greatest of these is love.”
Leann, beautifully put! Several years ago, I came to believe that the Holy Spirit teaches each of us and leads each of us to understandings of Scripture which align with our individual experiences and capacities. I don’t know how theologically sound that is but I now fully believe it. Since reaching that conclusion I find that I rarely argue with others’ interpretations of their readings of Scripture (which has been tough for me because I love to argue!)
Bishop Elaine: I live in Indiana now but am so grateful you are leading our church in truth, courage and graciousness. My prayers and blessings!
Thank you for being faithful in love! There is a Light that overcomes all darkness and you are a conduit of that Light. Blessings!
A thoughtful, faithful and gracious statement. Thank you.
Tom’s statement is no surprise to me. True to form.
Thank you, Bishop Stanovsky, for modeling a faithful and remarkably graceful (compared to what I might have done) response to a communication style that offers only further hatred, harm, and dysfunction. Proud that you are my Bishop.
Oh my! I just read the message from Tom Lambrecht; I cannot believe that his attitude is so hateful. I have prayed that the United Methodist Church would remain one, however his words leave me disheartened. I hope your words will help change this bitter attitude that exists.
Where can I find Tom Lambrecht’s message?
Greater NW Communications
It’s linked to in the Bishop’s footnote.
I agree with Beverly, I am disheartened at any Christian that would disrespect, disparage or try to stop any other Christian from the same rights that they have. I am disappointed in Tom Lambrecht, and the Good News supporters, as all God’s Children are worthy of marriage to the person whom they love and also ordination if they have graduated a three to four year seminary. A person’s sexual orientation should have nothing to do with their competency, compassion, ability to pastor a church or be a loving partner.
Thank you, Bishop. Well said. And thank you for leading in the way that you do.
All praise to Christ!
A most gracious response. Thank you. You shine a bright star of hope into our present darkness.
Amen Elaine. Well said. We are to LOVE ONE ANOTHER!
James Dwyer Ph.D.
Dear Bishop Elaine,
I commend you for you response.
The Rev. Dr. James A. Dwyer
Retired Global Missionary
The United Methodist Church
Elder, ret., California-Pacific Annual Conference
787 Plymouth Road + Claremont, CA 91711.
I respectfully strongly disagree with your acts of schism and defiance to the Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church and call on you to either repent and change your actions or seperate from the church you claim to love and serve. Further, how you “feel” about your actions have absolutely no relevance to the acts of overt disobedience. Finally, since you “feel” you are leading our church to a new future, you should certainly be faithful to your calling. Seperate from the church with which you so rebelliously diasagee and pursue that call.
The Bishop clearly states her desire to keep the UMC together, and she does so with grace. Some of the comments against her sound like the pharisees attacking Jesus.
Which is the most Christ-like response?
Copies of the book Bishop Stanovsky mentions, “The Anatomy of Peace” might be a good read. Principles from it shape the Commission’s work and it is readily available online from Barnes & Noble for as little as $5.84; $9.69 if you are an Amazon shopper, or $9.99 if you are a faithful Cokesbury adherent.
But although a difference in opinions or modes of worship may prevent an entire external union, yet need it prevent our union in affection? Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may. Herein all the children of God may unite, notwithstanding these smaller differences. These remaining as they are, they may forward one another in love and in good works. – John Wesley Sermon 39
It seems unfortunate that Bishop Stanovsky and Tom Lambrecht are simply talking past each other. Tom’s rhetoric is harsh and uncompromising, and the Bishop’s is rather patronizing and dismissive. Wesley’s thoughts on “Catholic Spirit” continue to be misused by those who think the issue of human sexuality represents a “smaller difference” like opinions or modes of worship. Perhaps it is time to recognize that we really have two (or more) religions being practiced in the United Methodist Church, and that these differences we are arguing about truly strike at the root of Christianity.
Churches are dying and closing regardless of denomination, and this type of judgmental, outdated, and yes…sinful lack of Love and inclusion is antiChrist. Bishop Elaine is a prophet and leader who listens to God and follows Love where led.
Thank you for offering the simple truth that the message of exclusion and judgement is driving away many who might otherwise find a home in our Church. Humans put the words of condemnation into the Book of Discipline decades ago. It has taken nearly that long to recognize that how/why people choose to express love is based in the very nature of how they are created. I too thank our Bishop for her thoughtful leadership and grace-filled response. If our Church is to survive “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors!” must be more than just a slogan, and the vitriol must not poison the Way Forward.
I find it helpful to apply these four questions before sending an e-mail or a reply. First, is it loving? Is it truthful? Is it helpful? And lastly, is it necessary?
I hope that you will find these questions helpful in your correspondence too,
Grace and Peace, Ted