Thursday, November 03, 2005

Council of Bishops - Folks Like Us

Our denomination's Council of Bishops has written this letter to the church. You can read the whole thing by clicking here. In the letter, they write, "While pastors have the responsibility to discern readiness for membership, homosexuality is not a barrier." And they quote our Social Principles, saying, "We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends." Of course, they are responding to this week's Judicial Council decision regarding Rev. Ed Johnson of South Hill UMC in Virginia.

There is a lot of blog chatter about this letter: some bloggers have criticized it; some have supported it; some have just posted it and let it be.

Thing is, my grandfather is a bishop. Monk Bryan, retired from the Nebraska conference and living now in Dallas and in Lake Junaluska, is my grandfather. When I read a letter from the bishops of my church, I am reading a letter from Daddy Monk. The man who loves nothing more than saddling a horse for a ride through the mountains. The man who has a fondness for peaches and vanilla ice cream. The man who taught me that a job is not done until the tools are cleaned and put away. The man who loves to hear me play hymns on the old piano in his living room. The man who loves the church of Jesus Christ more than anyone I have ever known.

Life is not a series of issues to be argued over until someone wins and someone loses. Life is people connecting to people, valuing one another, growing closer to God and neighbor, getting to know the faces of strangers. Sure, the Council of Bishops is a group of the most powerful, respected leaders of our denomination. But it is also Daddy Monk. And Fritz. And Ann. And Robert. And ...

Just a bunch of folks like us.


adam mustoe said...

Bishop Monk has bought me dinner multiple times. I can vouch for his high character. Kind of changes the perspective of things when you think of the Bishop's as actual people serving the same God as us. It's harder for me to refer to them collectively as "the man".

Stephen said...

I have a friend at seminary whose dad is a bishop currently. Everytime I see people blog about how evil, liberal, and no good the bishops are, I just cringe. That is his father they are talking about, not some headless monster. Too often it is easy to forget about bishops as just being regular people like you and me with families and loved ones.

Anonymous said...


BroChaz said...

I am somewhat perplexed about the recent pastoral letter released by the Council of Bishops in response to the Judicial Councils ruling of the Virginia pastor’s reinstatement. The letter calls into question the validity of the vows of church membership. The Council’s letter states that “While pastors have the responsibility to discern readiness for membership, homosexuality is not a barrier”.

I believe that Jesus Christ died for all mankind and that there is no one beyond God’s saving grace. I believe in everything that the Book of Discipline says and go along with our social principles. What I fail to understand is the logic behind the Council of Bishops statement that homosexuality is not a barrier to membership in the United Methodist Church.

Let’s forget the label “homosexuality” and just call it sin. The pastor in question in Virginia would not allow this sinner to join the local congregation because he was living in open sin. The pastor wanted this prospective member to go into counseling with him about this issue concerning the sin. This prospective member, as I understand, was unrepentant and did not agree that his lifestyle was sinful. If we look at the Baptismal Covenant I on page 33 of The United Methodist Hymnal, we find on page 34 the address of the pastor to the candidate(s) for membership:

On behalf of the whole church, I ask you:

Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness;
Reject the evil powers of this world,
And repent of your sin?

The candidates response printed in bold is “I do.”

If we are to be faithful to God and to our membership vows, how can any pastor allow anyone membership into a local congregation that is living in open sin? I am not talking just homosexuality; I am speaking of ANY sin whether it is adultery, fornication, etc. If our Baptismal/Membership covenant did not have this verbiage, this would not be such an issue. However the verbiage is there and it is rooted in sound Biblical theology. If homosexuality is not a barrier to membership in The United Methodist Church, is there any sin that is a barrier? Is it OK to live in unrepentant, open sin and still be a member in The United Methodist Church?

Andy B. said...

I don't know if anyone will read this or not, but brochaz is only partly right. The question he refers to is a question for baptism, not church membership per se. I think there is a difference.
- AB

Anonymous said...

Don't we all live in sin? I think that is one reason we choose to attend church, not because we are perfect and want to hang with a group of shiny people just like us, but perhaps because we are asking for guidance, forgiveness and grace.

It's possible that the gentleman in question did not repent his sin of homosexuality, because, he like ME, does not believe homosexuality is a sin, and that he is living "in open sin." It's not my job to judge others, but to love them. Leave the judgement up to the Highest Court. No membership dues at the door!