The Christian Methodist Newsletter


Volume 15, Number 3                                                 September 2005

Current Issues

UM Pastor in Virginia forced out of pulpit for asking a man to stop homosexual practice before joining the church

The minister of the South Hill United Methodist church has been placed on an [unpaid] involuntarily leave of absence after he allegedly told a local gay man that he was not eligible to join the congregation. A source close to the circumstances said the homosexual man was told he could join the congregation if he quit practicing the act, but that the man refused to repent of his homosexuality and refused to quit having sex. The source said the man's refusal to change his lifestyle is why the Rev. Ed Johnson would not welcome him and why Johnson was ultimately forced to leave the church by his superiors. Church officials either refused to comment or said that Johnson was forced to leave temporarily because he would not follow the orders of higher-ups in the church. According to District Superintendent William Anthony Layman, who presides over the Petersburg district to which South Hill belongs, Johnson was instructed last week at the annual Conference for the Virginia United Methodist Association that he would no longer be the minister of the South Hill church. [Layman refused] to comment on the situation further. Layman said Johnson is taking the leave of absence "for one year" and that "it may be more.

The source – who asked for anonymity for fear of causing more trouble among those close to himself said Johnson was forced to take the involuntary leave of absence because he refused to allow a "non-penitent" homosexual join the church. The source sided with the embattled minister in the dispute. "The church that is opposing Ed believes it is a rights issue, that this person has a right to become a member given the [United Methodist] Book of Discipline and the rules they maintain according to [Methodist] rules, anyone willing to come to the church and who is willing to take our vows can join," said the source, who is versed in Methodist practices. "The vows state that one will renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of the world, and repent of their sin."

The source said he is sympathetic to John's struggle. Ed's thinking if someone who is not recognizing that it is a sin, how can they engage and take the first vow? The source said Johnson did not feel it was a rights issue, but instead a moral one. Johnson didn't flatly refuse membership to the gay man, the source said "He postponed membership with the statement that he was open to wanting to talk further with him. If [the gay man] moved towards repentance, the membership would be on the table." "Very early on, back in February, a statement was made that Ed was refusing to accept a gay man. He is not on a crusade against homosexuals. [The man] was an impenitently practicing homosexual. He is a person who engages in it without a sense of contrition."

But Virginia United Methodist Bishop Charlene Kammerer countered that no Methodist minister, including Rev. Johnson, has the authority to exclude anyone from joining the church. "For Rev. Johnson, it's a matter of conviction that gay persons who are still living in a homosexual relationship are not eligible to join a Christian church. I believe our Book of Discipline has a different interpretation." Said Kammerer. She said the church bars practicing gays from the clergy, but not from the laity (The church also prohibits same-sex unions.) "Rev. Johnson would disagree with that interpretation of that Discipline and I believe he would do so [based] on his Biblical understanding," said Kammerer.

According to the 1984 Discipline of the United Methodist Church, the church believes that "homosexual persons, no less than heterosexual persons, are individuals of sacred worth and that all persons need the ministry and guidance of the church in their struggles for human fulfillment, as well as the spiritual and emotional care of a fellowship that enables reconciling relationships with God, with other and with self."

According to the source, at the beginning of the year, Associate Pastor Lee Warren, second in command at South Hill United Methodist, filed a complaint about the situation to Layman. Warren and Layman then counseled Rev. Johnson for several months but could not get him to change his mind. Layman then submitted a complaint to Bishop Kammerer, who submitted it to the board of ordained ministry. Meanwhile the church – filled with community leaders and business people – is hurting from the rift and the volatile differences of opinion. Said one member who supports Johnson, "heavens, no, I won't leave, not at this point. If I don't hang in there and try to correct what I feel is an error then I have no right to be involved in it." The woman asked not to have her name printed.

Warren, the associate pastor, is in the pulpit in Johnson's absence.

The fracas at the South Hill church is a microcosm of what's happening on the national and international level in nearly every mainline Protestant denomination in the past decade, Baptists, Presbyterians, Lutherans and Episcopalians have also wrestled with the issue of homosexuality and how much to condone – condemn – the practice.

Ironically, it was the United Methodists who just a few years ago began using the catchphrase "Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors," as part of their national advertising strategy. Some saw this as a nod to inclusivity, including gays.

- Source: E-mail. Steve Beard; Good News; Robbie McMillian; Meckelnburg Sun; July 2005; Letter from Rev. Karen Booth

[Editorial note: The phrase "Open Hearts, Open Doors, Open Minds" is similar to what we saw at the 1996 General Conference in Denver when pro-gay activists initiated their "open doors" campaign to push for their agenda there. It is ironic that church officials work so hard to "open the doors" for the pro-gay folks but are relentless in trying to exclude those of us who work for revival in the United Methodist Church, and support the orthodox Christian faith, morality, and the Book of Discipline's teachings within our denomination.]

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This presents an issue that has recently happened in the western part of North Carolina. Read and think about it. These actions have far-reaching implications. - Editor

From: American Family Association
To: Kathy Alexander
Sent: 8/9/2005 3:12:07 AM
Subject: Share This With A Methodist Friend

Please forward this e-mail message to your family and friends!

Share This With A Methodist Friend

Dear Kathy,

I ask a personal favor of you. If you are not a member of the United Methodist Church, would you please forward this to your United Methodist friends. It is very likely that the event will not be publicized in UM publications. If you are a member of the United Methodist Church, please read the article below carefully. Print it out and share it with other United Methodists. See what seven UM bishops are planning and supporting at your Lake Junaluska Conference Center in North Carolina.

For United Methodists who want to do something about this, speak with your minister about it. Then speak with your District Superintendent and your Bishop. Ask your District Superintendent to come to your church and explain the reason Lake Junaluska is hosting this event and why your church should provide funds to support Lake Junaluska. Ask your Bishop to come to your church and give an explanation.

Every local UM church is asked to financially support Lake Junaluska. The most effective way to make your voice heard is to withhold the fund listed as Jurisdictional Administrative Fund found in your conference askings.

As long as local churches continue to send money to Lake Junaluska, Lake Junaluska will be more than happy to continue hosting such an event as Hearts on Fire.

Sincerely,

Donald E. Wildmon, Founder and Chairman
American Family Association
Retired United Methodist minister

P.S. Please forward this to all your United Methodist friends.

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Lake Junaluska to Host Pro-Homosexuality Rally

by Mark Tooley

Some United Methodists are distressed that the official conference center of the United Methodist Church's relatively conservative Southeast Jurisdiction will be hosting a four-day pro-homosexuality rally in September. Called "Hearts on Fire," the convocation is organized by Reconciling Congregations, the main pro-homosexuality lobby group attempting to overturn the United Methodist Church's teachings on marriage and sexual ethics. According to the Reconciling website's description of "Hearts on Fire," it will convene "United Methodists of all sexual orientations and gender identities that are called in faith to celebrate, ignite and empower the inclusive church of Jesus Christ!" Reconciling hopes to attract 400 United Methodists to the convocation, located in western North Carolina. Participants will include 7 bishops: Susan Morrison, Melvin Talbert, Joseph Sprague, Sally Dyck, John Schol, Minerva Carcano and Bishop Richard Wilke. Speakers will include openly lesbian United Methodist minister Beth Stroud, same-sex union convenor Karen Oliveto, and Erin Swenson, a male Presbyterian minister who had a sex-change operation and now professes to be female. Reconciling has declared that "Hearts on Fire" will include a "rainbow community of faithful lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and heterosexual disciples committed to justice!"

Joetta Rinehart, a spokesperson for the Lake Junaluska Retreat Center, said the center occasionally rents to secular organizations but has refused the center to groups deemed to be at odds with the United Methodist "mission." According to Lake Junaluska guidelines, "Groups using our facilities should have a mission compatible with Lake Junaluska Assembly and The United Methodist Church, its Discipline and Social Principles." In response to a request for comment, Rinehart said, "We believe we are within the Disciplinary guidelines as referenced in Para.161g, 162h and s and 806.9 and 304.3. We believe our vision and mission encourage us to join the total church in opening our hearts, our minds, and our doors."

The Book of Discipline references cited by Rinehart affirm God's love for homosexuals but call homosexual practice "incompatible with Christian teaching." Human rights for homosexuals are supported, but the church denies ordination to practicing homosexuals, refuses funding for pro-homosexuality advocacy, and will not allow same-sex unions. According to the church's Social Principles, "sexual relations are only clearly affirmed in the marriage bond," a stance with which Reconciling is decidedly in disagreement.

Reconciling Ministries, the host of "Hearts of Fire," decidedly believes homosexual practice is compatible with Christian teaching and supports the ordination of active homosexuals and church "weddings" for same-sex couples.

Beyond advocacy of homosexuality, "Hearts on Fire" will "explore the development of transgender and gender queer spirituality," among other exotic forms of sexual expression, according to its brochure. Musical entertainment for "Hearts on Fire" will be Jason Warner and deMarco DeCiccio, two male Christian singers who "fell in love with each other" and formed the group "Jason and deMarco."

Rinehart pointed out that Lake Junaluska is renting the facility to Reconciling, not subsidizing "Hearts on Fire." She said The General Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA) had been consulted; [it] agreed that the prohibition against funding of pro-homosexuality advocacy is not being violated. But Rinehart did not explain how Lake Junaluska's policy of renting only to groups whose mission is compatible with the United Methodist Discipline could be reconciled with renting to "Hearts on Fire." According to Rinehart, "Our working policy of renting space to groups is interpreted more as organizations or groups that are not in opposition to our mission of making disciples for Jesus Christ."

Lake Junaluska's executive director is Jimmy Carr, who made the decision to rent the facility to "Hearts on Fire," despite its theme of opposing United Methodist teachings on marriage and sexual ethics. The Southeast Jurisdiction's Connectional Table, chaired by Bishop Charlene Kammerer of Virginia, governs the Lake Junaluska facility.

E-mail received from one of our associates.

Mark Tooley provided additional commentary on the Junaluska situation in AgapePress:

The Labor Day weekend conference at Lake Junaluska in North Carolina will focus on how to lobby to overturn the church's teachings on marriage and sex, and lobby for the acceptance of same-sex "marriage" and practicing homosexual clergy. Called "Hearts of Fire," the conference is being organized by the pro-homosexual Methodist group Reconciling Congregations. According to that group's website, one forum will "explore the development of transgender and gender queer spirituality" as well as the "sources of gendering." Participants are encouraged to "come with a robust interest in all things gender, whether or not they themselves are gender non-normative."

Mark Tooley directs the United Methodist Action program at the Institute on Religion and Democracy in Washington, DC. He believes Lake Junaluska should not be renting the facility to Reconciling Congregations, which he describes as one of the UMC's most vocal critics on marriage and sexual ethics. "Obviously this is very disturbing to a lot of United Methodists, in that Lake Junaluska is owned by what is probably the most conservative and most theologically orthodox part of the church," Tooley observes. He says Lake Junaluska itself has its own internal standards that say it will not rent a facility to groups that do not support basic church teachings. "It seems highly inappropriate to rent those facilities for a rally for same-sex 'marriage,' homosexual clergy, and various exotic forms of sexual expression," he adds. But Joetta Rinehart, a spokeswoman for the retreat and convention center, says she believes the mission of Reconciling Congregations is compatible with the denomination's Book of Discipline. That book of law for the UMC affirms God's love for homosexuals, but calls homosexual practice "incompatible with Christian teaching."

The IRD spokesman supposes that should a group from the gaming or tobacco-growing industry wish to rent the facility, it would be turned away in deference to the UMC's beliefs regarding gambling and smoking. "But for some reason," he notes, "opposition to the United Methodist teachings on one of the foremost issues confronting our culture today -- the definition of marriage -- did not disqualify [this] event."

Tooley is urging United Methodists -- especially those in the Southeast -- to express their displeasure with the retreat center. "I would challenge Lake Junaluska to remain faithful to the church of which it is a central part, to carry out and be faithful to its own internal standards, and not to rent its facility to a group that is dramatically and very publicly opposed to the church's teachings on issues that are very important to both the Church and society right now," he says.

Among the seven liberal bishops scheduled to speak at the event is Joe Sprague of Illinois, who has publicly denied the virgin birth, blood atonement, and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. Also expected to speak is Beth Stroud, an openly lesbian Methodist minister from Philadelphia who was recently defrocked. Musical entertainment on the last evening of the four-day rally is to be provided by Jason & deMar.

- AgapePress, as received by e-mail from one of our associates.

Muzorewa Evangelism Foundation in Zimbabwe

Bishop Abel T. Muzorewa wants Christians to "climb out of their comfort zones" and bring people to Christ. His message was loud and clear on July 23, a day that brought together people from all over Africa and the world to celebrate his 60 years of ministry. The celebration at the Old Mutare Mission in Zimbabwe also marked the launching of the Bishop A.T. Muzorewa Evangelism Foundation. "Why an evangelism foundation? Because the world is ripe for harvest," he said. The celebration brought hundreds of pastors, bishops, choirs and people whose lives he has touched. [Note: UM Bishop Muzorewa, a Spirit-filled Christian, was one of the candidates for president of Zimbabwe when it gained its independence.

- United Methodist News Service (UMNS) News in Brief, 8/19/2005

Tree of Life Ministry

After Jessica Ostrawski of Deerwood, Minn., had her first mission experience with Tree of Life Ministry on Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota, she became a convert to the outreach program. "Within probably two days of being there (at Rosebud), I fell in love," Ostrawski said. She went on to organize follow-up trips for members of her congregation at Cascade United Methodist Church and other churches. Tree of Life is a ministry of the United Methodist Church's Dakotas Annual (regional) Conference to the people of four Dakota reservations. It began in 1990 on Rosebud Reservation, and it hosts Volunteer in Mission groups from across the United States. Over the years, it has grown to serve Crow Creek and Lower Brule reservations in South Dakota, and Spirit Lake Nation near Devil's Lake, N.D

- UMNS News in Brief, August 19, 2005

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Upholds Traditional Teaching on Same-Sex Unions, Ordination

On Friday, August 12, at its biennial Churchwide Assembly, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) voted to uphold traditional practices on the blessing of same-sex unions and the ordination of practicing homosexuals. "We are grateful that the forces that would overturn biblical and traditional

Christian teachings on marriage and sexuality have been rebuffed once again—even if the result was less definitive and overwhelming than we would have preferred," said IRD interim president Alan Wisdom. "The ELCA has decided, at least for the next two years, that it will not follow the Episcopal Church USA and the United Church of Christ down the road to normalizing sexual relationships outside of marriage." Meeting in Orlando, Florida, the assembly defeated a recommendation from the ELCA Church Council that would have allowed for the ordination of individuals in monogamous same-sex relationships in exceptional circumstances. Needing a two-thirds majority for adoption, the recommendation failed to receive even a majority of the vote.

- Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) News Release, August 16, 2005.

Many United Methodist communicators in Africa work without access to a working landline phone, Internet, transportation and, in some cases, reliable electricity. Identifying communications challenges and solutions was the subject of a two-day consultation held July 20-21 at United Methodist-related Africa University in Mutare, Zimbabwe.

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To all people who care about the future of our United Methodist Church, I recommend that you inform yourselves of this issue - and then get involved. The "sexuality" issue is just a visible indicator of one’s view of truth - whether biblical or secular-humanistic. On this rest the other issues that are foundational to our church: absolute truth, biblical authority, and the essentials of Christian doctrine.

I need to interject at this point that those of us in Concerned Methodists, as assuredly I, do not "hate gays" nor engage in so-called "gay bashing." These are charges that are sometimes levied against those of us who oppose the practice of un-Christian actions within our United Methodist Church and serve as a smoke-screen that hides the real agenda of those pushing this issue. Data that we have here in the files of Concerned Methodists show that this is not a good lifestyle with physical, emotional, and sociological consequences. This is a practice incompatible with traditional Christian teaching, the Bible, and the official position of our denomination. Finally, the approximately 8.2 million United Methodists, most of whom are lay people, overwhelmingly reject this. On a personal note, I have an "adopted" sister in this activity whom I love dearly and to whom I dedicated one of the books I have written.

May I ask you some questions? "How many of you heard anything about the Lake Junaluska situation from your pastor?" "How many of you heard anything about this from the lay leaders in your local church?" "How many of you heard anything about this from the leaders in your district?" "How many of you heard anything about this from the leaders in your conference?" "How many of you read anything about this in your church newspaper/newsletters?"

One of the reasons for our ministry in Concerned Methodists is because much important information is not passed on to the laity - information affecting their own welfare, their own local church, and that of the church at large. You need to know what is going on.

If you wish to register your concern about the Lake Junaluska event, please contact:

  1. Mr. Jimmy Carr, Executive Dir. of Lake Junaluska, P. O. Box 67, Lake Junaluska, NC 28745.
    Telephone: 828/452-2881, extension 701.

  2. Ms. Joetta Rinehart, P. O. Box 67, Lake Junaluska, NC 28745-0067.
    Telephone: 828/452-2881, extension 743. E-mail: jrinehart@sejumc.org

  3. Bishop Charlene Kammerer, SEJ Connectional Table, P.O. Box 1719, Glen Allen, VA 23060.
    Telephone: 804/521-1100, extension 102. FAX: 804/521-1171. E-mail: bishopk@vaumc.org

If you do contact these people to register your objection to this event, please be courteous and state your position with clarity and tact. Then ask the person what specific action will he/she take? Then I recommend that you let your opinion be heard in a firm, effective manner. After all, as the laity, your money supports what is happening in the United Methodist Church – for good or bad.

If you first learned about this in reading The Christian Methodist Newsletter, I urge you to ask yourself two very important questions: "Why didn’t you learn this from your leaders?" "What will you do about this?" You have a right to know the truth.

I recommend that you act in a gracious, Christian manner - but that you do act.

- Allen O. Morris, editor, The Christian Methodist Newsletter

Those seeking more information may go to these internet websites:

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The Good Stuff

The soul attracts that which it secretly harbors; that which it loves, and also that which it fears; it reaches the height of its cherished aspirations; it falls to the level of its unchastened desires. Every thought-seed sown or allowed to fall into the mind, and to take root there, produces its own, blossoming sooner or later into act, and bearing its own furtive of opportunity and circumstance. Good thoughts bear good fruit; bad thought, bad fruit. --James Allen

Readers are plentiful; thinkers are rare.

-Harriet Martineau

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Published by Concerned Methodists, P.O. Box 2864, Fayetteville, NC 28302. Tel. 910/488-4379; FAX: 910/488-5090

Website: http://www:cmpage.org   E-mail: office@cmpage.org