Foreword

Acknowledgements

Julie

Visible Problem Indicators

Stewardship

Agents of Change - Issues

Institutional Dynamics

The Institutional and the Local Church

Operative Theology

Prognosis for the Future

Revival - What is Needed?

Closing Remarks

Chapter Four
Agents of Change - Issues

"It is important to recognize the linkages among the component parts of the sexual revolution. Permissive abortion, widespread adultery, easy divorce, radical feminism, and the gay and lesbian movement have not by accident appeared at the same historical moment. They have in common a declared desire for liberation from constraint - especially constraints associated with an allegedly oppressive culture and religious tradition."
- The Ramsey Colloquium+ (1)

If we are to examine "flag" issues in our denomination today, they range from secular sociopolitical advocacy and "Re-Imagining" Theologies to moral areas such as homosexuality and abortion.

Sociopolitical Causes*

During the 1972 - 1980 time period, a program was initiated that resulted in a document called "The Bishops' Call for Peace and the Self-Development of Peoples," which was presented in 1972 by Bishop A. James Armstrong. This document called for developing programs based on global internationalism and for greater utilization of the United Nations as opposed to national self-determination. The report to the 1976 General Conference clarified the Bishops' Call: "To be frank about it, the church has to take responsibility for the political education of its constituency...."(2) This reflects the philosophy espoused by bishops C. P. Minnick, Jr., Ernest T. Dixon, Jr., and Kenneth W. Hicks. They stated, "As Christian peacemakers we must use our skills of international diplomacy..."(3) As one who has studied, worked, and lived in the international environment for forty-three years, I cannot help but ask, "What skills?" This same perspective was observed by Dr. John Silber, then president of Boston University, the largest UM-related university: "The bishops have not demonstrated either the historical and contemporary knowledge or the diplomatic and military experience necessary to speak with authority on the Nicaraguan question or the intricate question of disarmament."(4) The 1989 study by Concerned Methodists of the bishops' pronouncements on Nicaragua (Appendix C) offers additional background. Their conclusions were at variance with reality and what subsequently happened in the Sandinistas being ousted by the nationalist Violeta Chamorro. Two similar views are those of Phil Shriver ("The Methodist Syndrome" at Appendix B) and Rev. Max Borah ("Missionary Orientation" at Appendix I). One can read other examples in the books Biases and Blind Spots and The Betrayal of the Church, which can be found on the Concerned Methodists' website.

A national publication reviewed this same perspective in the National Council of Churches (WCC): "A number of NCC (i.e., National Council of Churches) executives feel a just society is impossible under capitalism. In 1975, an Ecumenical Consultation on Domestic Hunger sponsored by the NCC passed a statement that said there was a basic contradiction between capitalism 'and biblical justice, mercy, stewardship, service, community and self-giving love.' Similar antagonistic views toward the American economic system are evident in the publications of the NCC's Friendship Press and in NCC-sponsored films."(5)

Finally, we question when church personnel and resources are used to lobby for political positions that are contrary to those of a significant number of UMC members.

"Re-Imagining" and "goddess" Theologies*

A nascent radical feminist theology has sought to replace Jesus Christ as the object of worship with female deities. The Re-Imagining Conference (see Appendix D) occurred over six years ago but continues to have repercussions to this day. After it happened, objections to what transpired at this event were met with untruths or spins. Sadly, George Jones, who was pastor of my own Camp Ground UMC at the time, used some of them at a March 6, 1994 Council on Ministries meeting.

Spin: "This was a one time event. It's a dead issue."
Truth: The Sophia/goddess timeline at Appendix D belies this argument.

Spin: "Goddess worship did not actually occur."
Truth: Terminology and the liturgy used testify that in fact this did happen: "Our maker, Sophia, we are women in your image...," "Sophia, we celebrate your life-giving energy which pulses through our veins..." (from the "Re-Imagining handbook)

Spin: "It's not a problem; only 391 United Methodist women attended."
Truth: Whether or not it is perceived as a "problem" depends on the reality of the person and work of Jesus Christ, Who affirms the atonement, salvation, and spiritual lostness.

Spin: "Methodists did not support this conference."
Truth: In addition to the planning, $37,581 was paid for 36 directors, 9 staff and 11 UMW conference VPs to attend.

Spin: "How do you know this this was a problem? You weren't there."
Truth: Neither were we in the Nazi holocaust, World War II, and the Korean War, but we're pretty sure of what happened during each of those events.

Homosexuality*

Have you ever watched a sand castle begin its crumble as the tide advances? It's a study in erosion. First, the foundation is undermined. Then the walls begin to sag. Finally the entire structure comes crashing down. Erosion is like that...even in the Christian life. A habit that you once considered unthinkable is grudgingly tolerated. And what you tolerate is all too soon condoned...then endorsed...then openly promoted as acceptable in God's eyes.(6)

In order to promote homosexuality, one must discount the biblical view that God's standard for us in terms of sexuality is between husband and wife within the context of marriage. A review of past decisions and actions leading up to the present is found in "Historical Homosexual Highlights" at Appendix E. The note on Bishop C. P. Minnick's letterhead urging UM pastors in the North Carolina Conference to attend a two day seminar sponsored by a homosexual advocacy group is at Appendix F. The news release of the "Denver 15" bishops themselves is found at Appendix G. Information on this lifestyle has been provided in "A Snapshot of the Gay Lifestyle" at Appendix H.

Abortion*

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. - Hosea 4:6

Regarding the subject of abortion, we simply ask that you look at two of the most compelling verses found in the Bible at Psalm 139:13-16; and Jeremiah 1:5; and read the experiences of a lady, Ms. Judy Mamou, who underwent this procedure:

"It's been a long time since the lights went out and the doctors went home. But the memory of the few hours I spent in an abortion clinic will be with me to my grave.

I remember the fear I felt lying in the cold white room surrounded by men and women in clean white uniforms. I remember the cold metal stirrups I was told to put my feet in and the cold metal instrument that was inserted into my body to open me up. Most of all I remember the suction machine sucking the life of the baby from within me. The sound of the baby being vacuumed out never goes away.

The doctor may act very kindly and assure you that it will all be over in a few minutes. But how can it be, when you later discover or realize that they lied when they told you it wasn't a person inside you?

Where is the doctor now as I lie here in the still of the night hearing the noise of the vacuum, feeling the cold metal and seeing in my mind's eye the bits and pieces of my baby being sucked through the tube of the suction machine? Where was the doctor all those years that I woke up screaming, hearing babies crying in the night?

The sound of the suction machine haunts me to this day. I cannot vacuum a floor without thinking of my abortion.

I never look at a child and not wonder: was mine a boy or a girl; blond or brunette; my baby would be that age if only....

I have been raped, beaten, a victim of incest and many other things in life but the thing that haunts me most is I let people kill a child of mine. I didn't know at the time that it was a life. I was told it was a blob, matter, nothing, like a tumor to be removed. One day it hits you: it was not a blob or a mass of tissue. It was a BABY!

I can never undo what I allowed to happen but with the forgiveness I have from Jesus I can live with it and do my part to help others not to make the same mistake I did."(7)

Each of these areas represent troubling issue, but are in reality just the symptoms of deeper, more fundamental problems in our church.

+ The Ramsey Colloquium is sponsored by the Institute on Religion and Public Life. The Colloquium is a group of Jewish and Christian theologians, ethicists, philosophers, and scholars who meet periodically to consider questions on morality, religion, and public life. It is named after Paul Ramsey (1913 - 1988), the distinguished Methodist ethicist.

Notes:

  1. The Ramsey Colloquium,+ as quoted in First Things, editor: Father Richard John Neuhaus; March, 1994, p. 17.
  2. Biases and Blind Spots, by the late Dr. Robert L. Wilson, Bristol House Ltd., P.O. Box 4020, Anderson, IN 46013; 1991, pp. 63 - 64.}
  3. From a brochure entitled "Report of the Council of Bishops on the Mission of Peace to Nicaragua," dated May 1, 1985, p. 16.
  4. "University president indicts UM theology, politics," The United Methodist Reporter, June 10, 1988; p. 3.
  5. "Do You Know Where Your Church Offerings Go?"; Reader's Digest, January 1983.
  6. The Daily Walk, published by The Navigators, P.O. Box 6000, Colorado Springs, Colorado 80934; August 1, 1993.
  7. "The Fear I Felt" by Judy Mamou, by Life Cycle Books, P. O. Box 420, Lewiston, NY 19092-0420. Permission to reprint granted.
* A more detailed description of UM involvement in this area can be found on the UM website.


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