Hearts on Fire

To: MELRICHEY@aol.com
Sent: Tuesday, August 16, 2005 9:19 PM
Subject: Letter to North Carolina Advocate

June 8, 2005

NC Christian Advocate
Box 508
Greensboro, NC  27402

I am writing to express my concern regarding an event scheduled for the Lake Junaluska facilities on Labor Day weekend of this year.  At that time a national Reconciling Ministries convocation is supposed to occur which will bring to our Southeastern Jurisdiction individuals from all over the country who are openly opposed to the Discipline's stand on homosexuality and who are supportive of gay unions, ordination of homosexuals, and full inclusion of gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender persons into every aspect of church life.  Seven United Methodist Bishops supposedly have agreed to come and be a part of the program including bishops Richard Wilke, Minerva Carcano, Susan Morrison and Melvin Talbert, along with Karen Oliveto and Beth Stroud, both of whom, are self-avowed practicing homosexual clergy in the United Methodist Church.  If this event is allowed to occur, it is my personal opinion that we will have taken a giant leap backward in representing that which is holy and righteous in the eyes of God.

I am sure that the immediate response by some to what I have just said will be taken as being mean-spirited, divisive, or even self-righteous.  These are the usual rhetorical terms that are used when one speaks out against the homosexual lifestyle and the detrimental effect it surely has on the church.  However, the issue here is not homosexuality--the issue is sin.  Whether individuals in the church refuse to accept it or believe it does not change the truth.  Scripture clearly and distinctly defines the practice of homosexuality as sin, and the Discipline of the United Methodist Church defines homosexuality as "being incompatible with Christian teaching." (Par. 161 G, 2004 Discipline)

Furthermore, it is not my purpose in writing to insinuate that heterosexual persons are better loved more by God than homosexual persons.  As the Discipline also states in paragraph 161 G, all persons are of sacred worth and God is certainly no respecter of one person over another.  However, does this mean that the church should endorse or condone a lifestyle that both Scripture and the law of the church have defined as sin?

The Reconciling Ministries Network has a perfect right to voice their opinion and have a convocation.  But is it right to allow this to occur at Lake Junaluska?  For decades, thousands of brothers and sisters in Christ have been called to this beautiful place to worship and praise the Lord.  There we have all been challenged to "go onto perfection"--to live holy and righteous lives in obedience to our Heavenly Father and His Son.  How then can we offer a forum to any group or organization which espouses a doctrine or theology which is contradictory to orthodox Christian teaching?  Our church has had a long record of opposing the use of alcoholic beverages (Par. 162 J, 2004 Discipline).  What if the distilleries or breweries of America should contact Lake Junaluska and ask the use of the facility for their national convention.  Would we allow them to come in the name of Jesus?  I think not.

I have had the personal privilege to represent our conference as a lay delegate to both the 2000 and 2004 General Conferences.  Legislation proposed and affirmed during these meetings in reference to the fiscal responsibilities of the General Council on Finance and Administration read as follows in the 2004 Discipline:  The General Council on Finance and Administration shall be responsible for ensuring that no board, agency, committee, commission, or council shall give United Methodist funds to any gay caucus or group, or otherwise use such funds to promote the acceptance of homosexuality.  (Par. 806.9, Emphasis added)

And yet, if one looks at Volume 1, page 309 of the 2004 Western North Carolina Conference Journal, you can read this comment from Jimmy Carr, Executive Director of the Southeastern Jurisdictional Administrative Council:  "As we finish this quadrennium, I want to thank the Western North Carolina Conference for all your support.  Your help provided 15% of our total budget through your apportionments."  (emphasis added)

Also, if one looks in the same volume of page 238, you will see that the proposed budgetary request for the Western North Carolina Conference to support the 2005 Jurisdictional Administration Fund (line item 514) is $225, 370.00.  It seems unconscionable to me that in a day and time when it is extremely difficult for many of our churches in the conference to even pay their apportionment that we would ask them to provide a quarter of a million dollars to support an agenda that is contrary to the wishes of the vast majority of people who call themselves United Methodists.

In the 19th chapter of Luke we find the wonderful story of the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.  His followers were praising God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen.  Some of the Pharisees came to Jesus and demanded that he tell them to keep quiet.  Jesus responded, "if they keep quiet, the stones themselves will cry out."  Brothers and Sisters of the Western North Carolina Conference, the stones of Lake Junaluska are crying out.

Les Fowler 

Asheboro, North Carolina