The Monthly Update

April 2004 Update

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

This Monthly Update contains information of what is happening surrounding the case involving Karen Damman, the United Methodist preacher who has admitted to being involved in a lesbian relationship; was tried by a church court; and acquitted by a jury of her peers. This presents a problem for our denomination. If the General Conference is not able to resolve this impasse, it will effectively break the connection in our church.

The Book of Discipline clearly states in several different places that self-avowed practicing homosexuals are prohibited from ordination and appointment as United Methodist clergy. In another section, The Book of Discipline states, "Although we do not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian teaching, we affirm that God's grace is available to all. We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn their lesbian and gay members and friends. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all people"   (161.G).

Yet this "show trial" in Washington state rendered a very flawed decision:

"How can there be a not guilty verdict when what she's done is public and she has confessed it?" Asbury Theological Seminary president Maxie Dunnam told The New York Times. "I'm very surprised and I'm very disappointed because it's another sign of anarchy in the church. We can't continue to live with a whole segment of the church that is deliberately disobeying the church's law."

A commentary written by a pastor highly supportive of homosexual/lesbian practice wrote in a commentary that in effect she envisions this as becoming practice in the church  “…through the actions of United Methodists who are simply unwilling to ignore God's new thing.” (United Methodist News Service release 04129)

Might I suggest that she makes a fundamental error? She describes as God’s “new thing” what is in reality man’s “old practice” of doing “what is right in his own eyes” – sin. One treads on dangerous ground when she ascribes to God what is abomination.

May we ask that you continue to pray for our United Methodist Church, and also that you would continue to remember us in your prayers as we prepare for General Conference?

In His service,



Allen O. Morris,
Executive Director

April 2004 Update

 Bits and Pieces from across the United Methodist Church

To play it safe is not to play.  - Robert Altman

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Of Interest.

+ Sunday's Comin'

It's Friday. Jesus is on the cross. He has been killed by his enemies; he is off the scene. But that's because it's Friday.
Sunday's comin'!

It's Friday. Mary is weeping in bitter grief; the disciples are fleeing in all directions, confused and afraid. But that's because it's Friday. Sunday's comin'!

It's Friday. Pilate is washing his hands; the Pharisees are calling the shots; the Roman soldiers are strutting around with their spears. But that's because it's Friday. Sunday's comin'!

It's Friday. The forces that oppress the poor and abandon the lowly and trample upon the rights of the weak, making them
suffer and robbing them of hope, are in control. But that's because it's Friday. Sunday's comin'!

It's Friday. Satan is doing his dance, and he thinks he rules the world. Governments do his bidding, and businesses do his
work, and institutions are at his command. But that's because it's Friday. Sunday's comin'!

It's Friday. Abortionists continue their work 4000 times a day, tearing off the arms and legs of little babies and crushing their heads. But that's because it's Friday. Sunday's comin'!

It's Friday. Pro-abortion groups put out their hands and receive blood money from billionaires who are as deceived as they
are. But that's because it's Friday. Sunday's comin'!

It's Friday. Liars attempt to speak for all women and hide the pain of abortion, and ignore the evidence of how it harms
women, and call abortion a blessing. But that's because it's Friday. Sunday's comin'!

It's Friday. Judicial activists have their way, writing the law instead of applying it, ignoring the will of the American people and even allowing partial-birth abortion to continue. But that's because it's Friday. Sunday's comin'!

It's Friday. Men who distort the Gospel find judges who will approve of sodomy and attempt to re-define marriage itself. But that's because it's Friday. Sunday's comin'!

It's Friday. Those who refuse to acknowledge God remove from the bench men of God just because they post his
commandments in the courthouse. But that's because it's Friday. Sunday's comin'!

It's Friday. Many preachers of God's word are silent in the face of all these evils, as they spend more energy calculating how to keep safe from lawyers than how to keep safe from the wrath of God. But that's because it's Friday.

Sunday's comin'!

People of God, hope does not mean that we ignore or minimize the evils around us. It means, rather, that we see the whole picture, which is that evil is conquered because of what happened one Sunday morning. The power of sin and death has been broken by the Resurrection of Christ. We are called to proclaim, celebrate, and serve that victory, waiting in joyful hope for Christ's return and the full flowering of the Culture of Life! Indeed, Sunday's comin'!

 - Received by E-mail us at, by Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director, Priests for Life; March 8, 2004.


+ Texas MegaChurch Feeds Multitudes With Gospel Message

The pastor of the largest church in America says "where there's life, victory, and God's blessings, you're going to have crowds." On a typical weekend, 25,000 to 30,000 people show up to attend one of four services at Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. Although critics argue that megachurches like Lakewood often water down the gospel and seek to entertain, Pastor Joel Osteen says his ministry is all about the gospel -- and about making lives better. "You know, I believe it's just God's favor," Osteen says. "We've been focusing on the fact that God is a good God, and we just have a time of celebration and build people up. And I think when people get their needs met, they come out." And although they are coming out to Lakewood in droves, the pastor says even if the church's services only attracted 100 people each weekend, his preaching would not change. Osteen, who calls his church a "charismatic-evangelical mix," attributes its large following to its television ministry and strong discipleship programs, which help individuals maximize their personal growth. "One of the main things is you've just got to keep feeding the people good food. It's like a good restaurant -- people keep coming back," he says. "And so we just try to pray and seek the Lord and share exactly what the people need to hear that week."

Yet some question whether the ministry at Lakewood may be emphasizing the good news of the gospel while downplaying the less palatable bad news about man's fallen condition. A recent article stated that Osteen does not preach on sin. However, Lakewood's pastor insists that is not the case, and says he has never for a minute watered down the gospel message. He says people leave Lakewood feeling happy because they're taught how they can reach their full potential. "My goal is always to give them something they can walk away with that they can apply to their practical lives every day. I think that's really helping," Osteen says.

Joel Osteen became senior pastor of Lakewood Church in 1999, after having served alongside his father, founding pastor John Osteen, for 17 years. Founded in 1959, Lakewood Church today has some 25,000 to 30,000 adults in weekly attendance and more than 2,500 children participating in weekly children's programs, while its weekly television programs can now be seen more than 100 million households in the U.S., Canada, and around the world.

- By Jim Brown; AgapePress; March 5, 2004.

Abortion.  [An] alliance…has been struck between the Girl Scouts and Planned Parenthood in Texas. Parents there were so upset that many girls were pulled out of their troops, and one Brownie troop was completely dismantled. Now those parents, and many others, are turning to a new organization, American Heritage Girls (AHG). AHG was a small, Ohio-based organization just a few years ago, but since then it has spread to 22 states and it now serves 2,800 young girls. This organization actually does what many parents thought the Girl Scouts were supposed to do - teach girls lessons about leadership, character, and love of country from a Christian perspective. If your daughter is currently enrolled in Girl Scouts, consider sending her to American Heritage Girls instead: American Heritage Girls, Inc., 130 Tri-County Parkway, Suite 202, Cincinnati, Ohio 45246; Telephone: 513/771-2025; E-mail:


(UM) General Conference.  Petitions pile up for 2004 General Conference

When United Methodists meet they will have to sort through approximately 1,500 to 1,600 petitions submitted by church agencies, regional conferences and other groups and individuals. The total number of petitions for the 2004 General Conference - which cover everything from topics like homosexuality and abortion to concerns over church structure and pension plans to procedural issues such as selection of future General Conference delegates - will be down slightly from the 2000 meeting, according to the Rev. Gary Graves, General Conference petitions secretary. "This was a year of transition for us because we were developing and using, for the first time, the new computer system." 


According to Graves, there was no particular issue that dominated the majority of petitions. As in past quadrennial meetings, a "good bit" of legislation was submitted relating to the issues of homosexuality and abortion, as well as the issue of same-sex unions. The legislation ranges from maintaining the denomination's current positions on those topics to altering the positions in a number of ways. Spurring the debate on homosexuality - a controversial issue for every General Conference since 1972 - will be the recent election of an openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church and a United Methodist Judicial Council decision regarding an openly gay clergywoman in the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference: Karen Dammann.


The General Council on Finance and Administration recommends a general funds budget of $585.7 million for the next four-year period, which reflects a 7.3 percent increase. That proposal does not include funds for Igniting Ministry or some other special mission initiatives. As a cost-cutting measure, the council also is recommending disciplinary changes that would reduce the number of bishops eligible for election in the United States. To continue Igniting Ministry, its churchwide advertising campaign, the United Methodist Commission on Communication is requesting $33.5 million to continue its core program and $5.4 million for a new youth component of the program. Other mission initiatives seeking approval and funding include a global education fund, a new division on ministries with young people in the denomination's Board of Discipleship, continuing programs for various ethnic ministries and new emphases on mission in Africa and Latin America. Task forces and study committees mandated by the 2000 General Conference will present reports on Holy Communion, bioethics and the relationship of science and theology. Among a variety of other issues covered by petitions are the death penalty, separation of church and state, terrorism, ratification of U.N. treaties and humanitarian intervention.

- By Linda Bloom; United Methodist News Service (UMNS); New York {04032}; Feb. 3, 2004.



+ UMC Acquits Lesbian Pastor; Divisive Result Garners Diverse Reaction

Conservative Methodists are using terms like "heartbroken" and "anarchy" to describe the shocking results of a church trial in Washington State over the weekend, in which a United Methodist pastor who openly admits that she is a practicing lesbian was found not guilty of violating church teachings. For years Pastor Karen Dammann has made no secret of the fact that she is a practicing lesbian. Traditionalists contend that this puts her in direct conflict with stated United Methodist Church standards prohibiting "self-avowed practicing homosexuals" from ministry and declare homosexuality to be "incompatible with Christian teaching." But when the jury of 13 Methodist pastors rendered its decision, it had voted Dammann not guilty, with eleven jurors voting to find the pastor not guilty and two undecided. In a statement, the jury said the church "did not present clear and convincing evidence to sustain the charge." Furthermore, even the pastor who served as the prosecutor in the case, James Finkbeiner, and the bishop who filed the initial complaint against Dammann said they were pleased with the verdict. Associated Press quotes Finkbeiner as saying that although the jury overstepped the bounds of church law, he does not "feel bad about that," going on to say that "I'm glad I lost."

The jury's decision is drawing mixed reactions across the denomination. Not surprisingly, in a church whose denominational social principles support homosexual rights -- and with Dammann's trial taking place in the very liberal Pacific Northwest Conference -- the homosexual pastor had numerous supporters. And according to Associated Press reports, the Sunday after the verdict was announced, her acquittal was celebrated by many at the United Methodist church where she used to preach in Ellensburg, Washington. At the same time, Patricia Miller, head of the UMC's conservative Confessing Movement, told AP she is heartbroken that some Methodists have "decided to go the way of the world, as opposed to being faithful to and abiding by church law." And Dr. Maxie Dunnam, president of Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky, calls the acquittal a sign of anarchy in the church and predicts that it could well result in denominational schism.

Church Law on Trial In a New York Times article, Dunnam was quoted as saying he was very surprised and disappointed by the verdict, and wondering, "How can there be a not guilty verdict when what she's done is public and she has confessed it?" Dammann had disclosed to her regional bishop in a 2001 letter that she was living in a "partnered, convenanted, homosexual relationship." She is also raising a five-year-old boy with her live-in partner, who gave birth to the child. The Times noted that while homosexual ministers are not uncommon in the United Methodist Church, self-disclosure by homosexual clergy is uncommon. Dammann's supervising bishop testified that the pastor appeared to be "trying to test" church law by wording her letter as she had done. However, in the trial an expert on church law argued that both the Bible and the denomination's Book of Discipline contain unclear and contradictory passages about homosexual relationships, and that the discipline fails to articulate clearly a prohibition against homosexuality. The majority of the jurors were convinced by this argument; and despite the fact that the court was confronted with passages referring to homosexuality as incompatible with Christian teaching, one juror said, "we did not find that any of them constitute a declaration."  

Dr. Dunnam feels the verdict in Dammann's case, which cannot be appealed, will have an inevitably divisive effect on the United Methodist Church. "We can't continue to live with a whole segment of the church that is deliberately disobeying the church's law," he says. The extent of the already existing division within the United Methodist Church over issues of homosexuality will doubtless be exposed next month [at the] UMC General Conference.

- By Fred Jackson and Jenni Parker; AgapePress; March 24, 2004.

+ Individual bishops voice disappointment at verdict

Bishops from around the United Methodist Church are stepping forward to reaffirm their support for the denomination's  book of laws following the controversial acquittal of a lesbian pastor during a clergy trial. In individual statements, many bishops are also emphasizing to church members in their areas that the United Methodist positions on homosexuality have not changed. The executive committee of the church's Council of Bishops is expected to issue a more collective statement about the verdict March 26. After [Karen Dammann’s] verdict was announced, U.S. bishops from coast to coast addressed their parishioners who, like them, were experiencing a multitude of emotions: anger, disappointment, betrayal, celebration, joy, denial and confusion.

The verdict was the action of one group in one place at one specific time, and it did not represent the position of the church as a whole, several bishops wrote. "I believe it is essential that in the midst of such reactions, the United Methodist Church must remain steadfast and faithful to scriptural and theological grounding," said Indiana Bishop Woodie White to the state's United Methodists.  In a statement to Alabama-West Florida United Methodists, Bishop Larry Goodpaster noted that although a contingent in the denomination would like to change some of the church's proscriptions against homosexuality, "that does not mean that anyone can set the Discipline aside in favor of their own preferences." White and Michigan Area Bishop Linda Lee said the verdict shows that United Methodists are not of one mind in understanding the complexities surrounding homosexuality and the theological grounding of the church. In a joint statement, Georgia Bishops Lindsey Davis and Mike Watson expressed support for the Book of Discipline and disappointment in the acquittal.  "It is a clear sign of rebellion when a group chooses to flagrantly ignore the Discipline, substituting their own perspective for the corporate wisdom of the General Conference," they said. North Carolina Bishop Marion Edwards agreed, saying he "finds it incomprehensible that a clergy jury can place itself above the law of the church." The decision suggests that the trial court "may have been trying the position of the church and not the pastor charged," said Central Pennsylvania Bishop Neil Irons. He wrote that if his interpretation is accurate, the court failed to abide by the Book of Discipline and the verdict represents "a serious challenge to the order of the church, which every ordained United Methodist pastor has agreed to uphold."

Davis, Watson, Virginia Bishop Joe Pennel and Tennessee Bishop William Morris are calling upon the delegates to the 2004 General Conference to arrive in Pittsburgh ready to discuss the verdict and consider a response supporting the connectional covenant. The assembly, which gathers every four years, will meet April 27-May 7. "It is my persistent and fervent prayer that the lay and clergy delegates to the upcoming General Conference will find a way to be redemptive while holding steadfast to that which affirms the highest standards of sexual expression," Pennel said. He also said he hopes General Conference finds a way to "hold this jury accountable for its misinterpretation of our Book of Discipline."

The verdict is testing the unity of the church in a new way, said Florida Bishop Timothy Whitaker. A breach of the connectional covenant by one part of the church does not destroy it for the entire church, but it could have repercussions, he said. One violation of the covenant does not amount to schism in the church, nor should schism be a serious danger at this time, he wrote. Nevertheless, the breach "does create anxiety among United Methodists that in the future there could be a breakdown of the order and discipline of the United Methodist Church, which might result in a schism of the visible and physical unity of the church."

Northwest Texas Bishop Max Whitfield said his initial reaction to the verdict was a "less-than-complimentary" emotional explosion, but he also noted that the United Methodist Church is still in place and he remains confident about the church's future. God's spirit will guide and direct those elected from around the world to appropriately respond, Whitfield said. "Speculating on what that guidance and response is does not advance the kingdom of God," he said. "However, I remain confident God works in our lives and in the church. I wait with anticipation for God's gift prepared for us at General Conference."   [Note: One cannot but help be concerned over the ability of those involved in the trial to rationalize their decision over against the Bible and the Book of Discipline. Those engaged in defining their own morality can justify their actions using the most tenuous arguments. This has the potential to divide our church.]

- By Linda Green; UMNS ; Nashville {04132}; Mar. 26, 2004.


+ Senators Hear from Marriage Amendment Supporters
A Senate panel has heard warnings about what legalized homosexual "marriages" could mean for Bible-believing churches. But one Democrat on the subcommittee hosting the hearing says the contention that traditional marriage is under attack is false. For the first time since President Bush voiced his support for a constitutional amendment that would limit marriage to one man and one woman -- and since local mayors in various locales around the country began issuing same-sex "marriage" licenses -- a Senate panel listened to arguments from both sides of the controversy. One of those who spoke was Maggie Gallagher, president of the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy. Gallagher told the hearing that the legalization of homosexual marriages holds a particular threat for churches who preach that homosexuality is a sin. "Your tax-exempt status will be threatened if you continue to hold to 'bigoted, discriminatory' ideas -- like children need mothers and fathers, and marriage has something important to do with getting children this need," she said

Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn echoed those concerns to the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Property Rights. He noted the words of the Massachusetts justices who have ordered the state to start performing homosexual marriages, effective the middle of May. "Four judges in Massachusetts concluded that 'deep-seated religious, moral, and ethical convictions' underlying traditional marriage are no rational reason for the institution's continued existence," the subcommittee chairman stated. "They contended that traditional marriage is rooted in persistent prejudice and invidious discrimination -- and is not in the best interest of children." Cornyn read from a list of churches and faith-based groups that support amending the Constitution to ban homosexual marriage. That list includes the National Conference of Catholic Bishops; the Southern Baptist Convention; the United Methodist Action for Faith, Freedom and Family; the Islamic Society of North America; the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America; the National Association of Evangelicals; and Campus Crusade for Christ.

- By Jody Brown and Fred Jackson; AgapePress; March 4, 2004

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When your work speaks for itself, don’t interrupt. – The Daily Walk, December 23, 1992.


Global Outlook

 “Pray” is a four-letter word you can say anywhere. – As quoted in LoveLights newsletter, November 2001.

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China. An international ministry to the suffering Church has obtained shocking videotape that proves the persecution of unregistered churches and house church Christians in China continues. Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) has received a videotape of an unregistered Chinese church being destroyed. The incident was secretly videotaped by a Chinese Christian and the tape was smuggled out of the country, providing evidence of government oppression of Christian churches that resist government control. "In our 36 years of ministry, we've never had a video tape like this," says Tom White, VOM's USA director. "This tape shows how the Chinese government treats Christian groups that refuse to register." Last June 26, the police arrived at the Tu Du Sha Church at Xiaoshan District of Hangzhou City, Zhejiang Province before 4 a.m., expecting the sanctuary to be empty. Instead they found 300 believers there praying. The police returned a few hours later with 200 military policemen and more than 40 vehicles and, despite members' protests, bulldozed the church to rubble. The Tu Du Sha Church was started around 1930 by missionary Hudson Taylor's group, China Inland Mission. Over the years the congregation had grown in size to a weekly attendance of 1,500 members. VOM spokesman Todd Nettleton says the Chinese government wants complete control of all churches in the nation. Since seizing power in 1949, that Communist government has required all Christians in China to join registered, government-sponsored churches. Nettleton says in America, believers may think of their churches as being registered with the government, but he doubts that most have any clear concept of what that means in a Communist regime. Since the U.S. government recognizes religious establishments and confers certain benefits upon them, Nettleton supposes most Americans church members figure, "We get a tax exemption, so isn't it the same thing?" But he says that is a far cry from the kind of government control faced by the Church in China. "The reality is to register with the Chinese government means the government signs off on when you meet, where you meet, who can come to your meetings, and what can be discussed there," Nettleton notes. "And one of the stipulations is that the gospel should not be shared with anyone under the age of 18." He says those officials do not want Chinese children exposed to Christian beliefs that might "cloud their young minds while they're forming their opinions about Communism and about philosophy and about the way the world works." But VOM's spokesman says ministry goes on in China's unregistered churches, despite persecution and government restrictions. And as for the Tu Du Sha congregation, even though their church building was destroyed, Nettleton says the believers are still worshipping. Officials with the Communist Chinese government claim religious freedom is flourishing in China. However, the videotape of one church's destruction and numerous reports from members of the Christian movement in China indicate otherwise.                                                              - By Allie Martin & Jenni Parker; AgapePress; February 24, 2004.

The Episcopal Church.  Episcopal Modes of Protest: Finances and Feet

A conservative Episcopal theologian says there has been extensive fallout from his denomination's decision to approve an openly homosexual bishop at its August general convention in Minneapolis. Dr. Kendall Harmon says the approval of New Hampshire Bishop Vicki Gene Robinson -- an Episcopal priest who divorced his wife in the 1980s and has lived with a male "partner" for years -- has prompted orthodox Episcopalians to vote with their pocketbooks by withholding funds to the Episcopal Church USA. "People feel like this is a church that's turned its back on God, so they're channeling their financial resources elsewhere," Harmon says. "It's not that they're not tithing -- they're giving to the Lord; but they simply can't in any way give to the national Episcopal Church anymore because they feel like it's promoting a behavior which is against God's will." For example, Associated Press reports that Alabama Episcopalians have rejected their denomination's approval of Robinson, and some congregations have cut contributions to church headquarters. Officials at a special state diocese meeting adopted a resolution over the weekend declaring that "blessings of same-sex unions and ordinations of non-celibate unmarried persons are not part of the common life of this diocese." The bishop for the Alabama diocese says the vote "expresses disagreement, but not division" over Robinson's appointment, adding that there are not any plans to split from the church's New York headquarters. In addition to directing their support elsewhere, Harmon says others in the ECUSA are voting with their feet by leaving the denomination. "We have a lot of people going, for example, to Eastern orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, or the charismatic Episcopal Church," he explains, "and part of the problem with that is these are people who are in a church where they feel that what happened in Minneapolis is either being embraced or it's not being stood against." Still others, he says, are leaving their parishes and starting new worship communities that are not even fully affiliated with Anglicanism.       - By Jim & Jody Brown; AgapePress; March 2, 2004

Uganda.  Africa Inland Mission Mourns Slain Missionary Couple

Coworkers, friends, and relatives of two missionaries killed last week in Uganda are relying on prayer, God's strength, and His grace to see them through a tragic time. Last Thursday Warren and Donna Pett, both age 49, were shot to death along with a Ugandan student when seven armed men raided the college where the missionaries taught in Kampala. The Petts served with Africa Inland Mission (AIM) and, according to Associated Press, had lived and taught at the Esther Evangelical School of Technology for the past year. Ugandan police picked up a suspect in the shooting last Saturday, but another half dozen suspects remain at large. Although a clear motive for the shooting has not been determined, the police noted that there was local opposition to Christian schools in the predominantly Muslim region. Mission representative Paul Gazan says the Petts had worked with AIM since 1997, and he at one time served on the mission field with them. "We had served together in Nairobi for about four years, until our family came back to the states. They were very good servants of the Lord, great folks, who loved the Lord and loved people," he says. Africa Inland Mission's spokesman says the Petts had effective ministries during the time he worked with them in Nairobi, and he has no doubt they would have continued to have a positive impact in Uganda, as they had for the past year. Before entering the mission field seven years ago, the Petts were dairy farmers in Wisconsin, where their three children and two grandchildren still live. The family has asked that any memorials in honor of the couple be designated for Africa Inland Mission, or for Elmbrook Church.

- By Allie Martin; AgapePress; March 24, 2004.

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Minds are like parachutes…they only function when they are open. - Thomas Dewar