UM polity expert asks Council of Bishops to “stop the trials”

Thomas-Frank_sqWINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — In an “Open Letter to the Council of Bishops (COB)” released today, Wake Forest University professor and United Methodist polity expert the Rev. Dr. Thomas E. Frank asked the council “…for the sake of the unity of the church, to stop the trials.” “We need to engage our differences through “Christian conversation” within our conferences and particularly within our orders of elders. Church trials are “an expedient of last resort” and are not the way forward,” Frank wrote.

Frank is noted expert in United Methodist history and polity, and the author of Polity, Practice, and the Mission of The United Methodist Church, which is the standard textbook on United Methodist polity in many denominational seminaries. Frank is an elder in the Missouri Annual Conference, and the son of the late Bishop Eugene M. Frank.

Frank believes that the constitution of the United Methodist Book of Discipline empowers the bishops to act in opposition to the will of the General Conference in the face of peril to the denomination. He wrote:

Your servant leadership of the church does not and cannot mean that you are simply servile to the actions of General Conference. The 2012 session in Tampa failed to acknowledge our lack of consensus and refused a legislative path forward. The Council of Bishops now must act, and can do so under its constitutional powers. The episcopacy is established in our constitution as a constitutive body alongside the General Conference and the Judicial Council. When you as a Council see the unity of the church at risk, you have a constitutional duty to act.

Frank believes that it is within the power of the bishops to refrain from referring complaints to counsel for the church, and the subsequent church trials. “You have discretion as the chief pastors of the church over the manner, purpose, and conduct of any supervisory response and just resolution under ‘fair process.’”

Frank told The United Methodist Reporter that he is issuing this letter because the council is meeting this week and that he believes the church cannot afford to continue addressing this issue in a judicial process. Frank has been asked to consult in the upcoming trial of The Rev. Frank Schaefer in Pennsylvania, and he expressed concern about how that process is being handled. Those concerns led him to issue the Open Letter today. 

The Council of Bishops has been meeting all week in Lake Junaluska, N.C., and the issue of clergy and episcopal obedience in regards to the issue of homosexuality and same-sex marriage is assumed to be on the agenda of the bishops as they have met in executive session. The COB has been asked by at least one advocacy group to file a complaint against Bishop Melvin G. Talbert for his presiding at a same-sex celebration of union service in Alabama, and his ignoring requests from the area bishop and the COB Executive Committee to refrain from that action. Currently no time-line for when the bishops will respond to this request has been issued.

From his perspective, Frank believes that the judicial approach to dealing with this divisive issue is harmful to the mission and ministry of the Untied Methodist Church:

The continuation of church trials is a disgrace to our heritage. It is divisive, bringing interference from interest groups outside the annual conference and introducing the language of “prosecution,” “defense team,” “conviction,” “judge,” and “jury” to our church as if we were all players in “Law and Order.” We are not considering criminal acts; we are deliberating about pastoral judgment. Trials are an exorbitant expense for a process that does no good for our church. Of course, any member of our church has the constitutional right to request a trial. But at this moment, I do not see other circumstances under which our church should be conducting them.

The Council of Bishops meeting will be meeting until Friday, November 15

The full text of Frank’s letter is included below.

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE UNITED METHODIST COUNCIL OF BISHOPS

November 12, 2013

To our episcopal leaders:

I ask you, for the sake of the unity of the church, to stop the trials. We need to engage our differences through “Christian conversation” within our conferences and particularly within our orders of elders. Church trials are “an expedient of last resort” and are not the way forward.

The constitution of our church charges you as a Council with “general oversight and promotion of the temporal and spiritual interests of the entire Church.” The church over which you preside is deeply divided and these “interests” are now at stake. While you are also charged as a Council with “carrying into effect the rules, regulations, and responsibilities prescribed and enjoined by the General Conference,” clearly our church lacks consensus on our pastoral duties with gay and lesbian church members. This is no time to continue with church trials that only exacerbate our differences. If we are to find unity in our diversity, we must do so in conference and in our orders.

Your servant leadership of the church does not and cannot mean that you are simply servile to the actions of General Conference. The 2012 session in Tampa failed to acknowledge our lack of consensus and refused a legislative path forward. The Council of Bishops now must act, and can do so under its constitutional powers. The episcopacy is established in our constitution as a constitutive body alongside the General Conference and the Judicial Council. When you as a Council see the unity of the church at risk, you have a constitutional duty to act.

I am not asking you to change the church’s statements on homosexuality. Clearly that is not within the powers of the Council. I am asking you to acknowledge that a large number of faithful United Methodist ministers in good standing cannot in conscience restrict their pastoral duties to accord with these statements.

Nothing in the Book of Discipline requires that you refer complaints to counsel for the church and subsequent trial. You have discretion as the chief pastors of the church over the manner, purpose, and conduct of any supervisory response and just resolution under “fair process.” You also have discretion to assemble the pastors under your appointment to address issues that divide us. A church trial court is only a miniature annual conference of thirteen peers in any case. The church is better served by bringing the whole conference and order into conversation.

Many pastors across our church view the performance of same-sex wedding ceremonies as a pastoral duty, particularly with longtime church members. Far from “flaunting” church law, as a recent press headline put it, they are being pastors to their members. At the moment we have the prospect of church trials for at least two different ordained elders who performed such ceremonies for their own beloved children. Really? We have come to the point of trying our pastors for acts, even within their own families, that exemplify the love and ministries of the church?

The continuation of church trials is a disgrace to our heritage. It is divisive, bringing interference from interest groups outside the annual conference and introducing the language of “prosecution,” “defense team,” “conviction,” “judge,” and “jury” to our church as if we were all players in “Law and Order.” We are not considering criminal acts; we are deliberating about pastoral judgment. Trials are an exorbitant expense for a process that does no good for our church. Of course, any member of our church has the constitutional right to request a trial. But at this moment, I do not see other circumstances under which our church should be conducting them.

Our church is desperately in need of open conversation on these pastoral issues. We are retreating into our various camps and avoiding the hard work of engaging each other’s views. You as a Council and as individual bishops can set a new tone in which we can speak together openly and honestly, without fear of retribution. As Wesley’s Large Minutes began, “It is desired, that all things be considered as in the immediate presence of God; that every person speak freely whatever is in his heart.” This is the collective spirit in which the Holy Spirit is welcomed, and the conversation flourishes. Please lead us in that spirit.

Thank you for your consideration and for your faithful leadership of our church.

Thomas Edward Frank
University Professor
Wake Forest University

The Rev. Jay Voorhees is a Contributing Editor of The United Methodist Reporter and the Chief Creative Officer for CircuitWriter Media LLC which operates this site and MethoBlog.com. Jay also serves as the Sr. Pastor of the City Road United Methodist Church in Nashville, TN. Jay has written on life and the practice of faith in The United Methodist Church at Only Wonder Understands since 2003.

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  1. It would be so much more honest to acknowledge that this particular diversity does not have a unity.

  2. The problem is, the UM church has repeatedly address this particular issue. The conversations have been had over and over, and the General Conference has continued to take the same basic stand. This is not a suddenly occurring question that we have made a quick knee-jerk reaction to; the issue at hand and the present stance within the BoD has been repeatedly affirmed over the years on the topic of homosexuality broadly.

    We have as United Methodist Clergy made a voluntary agreement to perform our ministry by a particular covenant, and what is a flagrant disrespect for that agreement from multiple angles is a) a violation of agreement and thus b) a potential breach of trust in the process and Discipline. Thus, failing to perform a trial will create discontent, as will holding the trial.

    There is no way at this point that there will be unity regarding this issue at this point in the game. To hold more conversations and fail to take action will be seen as disregarding that agreement. To hold the church trials will be seen as an injustice, particularly if discipline is handed down. While unity at a denominational level still remains, discontent and fracture will occur no matter what option is selected as there is no unity on this circumstance. There is no set of actions the Council of Bishop, even holding a conversation at this point, that will not alienate a select group.

    But ultimately, the disunity has been created by the action different clergy have taken, not by trials, as they worked in a way contrary to the agreement set for; that by definition is to break the unity. But ultimately, trials by nature are used to hold together the unity people have when living under a particular law or discipline. Maybe that form of unity is unjust, but at that point there needs to be honesty on that point rather than (manipulatively) shifting responsibility for broaching of unity from the transgressors to the maintainers.

  3. Yes, they do 'flaunt church law' as the Discipline is the law of the church and when it is not followed it is flaunted. Spinning the talk does not change that.

  4. I remember a time in the past where the issue was divorce….the same rules can apply to this issue today. If it is not against the law in a particular state, then it should be left up to the Pastor whether he feels like he can marry two people of the same sex. Why does the church have to take a hard stance as we will all be judged on judgement day and not here on earth? When man-made laws get in the way of worship, it's time to reevaluate our religious practices.

    • So we let the secular state help determine the decisions of our pastors? Now, for these pastors who feel they can marry people of the same sex, please take us all the Books, Chapters, and Verses of the Bible that state or imply that same sex marriage is acceptable and should be viewed as equal to opposite sex marriages. In fact, this could be significantly valuable for those pastors contemplating the performance of same sex marriages in states where same sex marriage is lawful unless they are planning to simply let the state take the lead here over the church.

  5. Dr. Frank,

    I appreciate an appeal for unity, but I find your argument here unpersuasive.

    I’m afraid I don’t see any solutions based on your proposal. You say that church trials are a disgrace to our heritage, and I understand why you would say it, but I don’t see anything in your article about how a church preserves unity when its leaders are allowed to flagrantly defy its rules. Do you suggest another method for ensuring that church leaders who violate our constitution are removed from leadership? I get the sense that you are writing not just against the trials, but against removing these leaders from their positions. You claim that the Council of Bishops has a constitutional duty to act when unity is at risk, yet you disregard the terrible threat to unity that comes with anarchy.

    I agree that our Church needs to do the hard work of engaging each other’s views. If we haven’t made that a priority in the decades of conversation about this issue and the numerous General Conferences that have given it their primary attention, then shame on us. But engaging each other’s views must surely come alongside upholding our rules, not as a replacement for them. The case may be different if we were discussing an ambiguous and lightly discussed rule. You certainly can’t make the case that this issue has been lightly discussed, nor that our rules have been ambiguous — whether right or wrong — that clergy are prohibited from blessing or presiding over same-sex unions.

    I’d also be interested to know what you would say constitutes consensus. And whether every portion of the UMC’s constitution that lacks consensus may be disregarded.

    You have written this open letter as a way forward and a way toward preserving unity in the UMC, but I frankly don’t see how it amounts to more than turning a blind eye to flagrant violations of our church’s frequently voted position. If you want to threaten unity, take another step toward showing that we don’t uphold what we say.

  6. It seems to me that if you can't abide by the BoD then you should transfer your credentials out to a "progressive" denomination/organization that will allow you to function however you so desire.

  7. He asserts that the church is in desperate need of "open conversation" on this. Well, if he wants to drop a bomb on the church, then that would do it. The unity that he desires has long passed, and an "open conversation" on this matter will fully expose the disunity and drive an immovable wedge between the two sides. It would be ugly. At this point in the history of the church, a full blown "open conversation" will force those remaining to choose sides. And I say, those remaining, because, sadly, many will flee because they will not want to participate in such a "conversation". But those remaining will have no alternative but to decide which side to be on. Up until now, many conferences have avoided this dreaded "conversation". Call it denial, burying your head in the sand, or whatever, but it has maintained a peace with manageable tension in many conferences.

    The pro-gay agenda people have brought this to this point. It is on them. General Conference has spoken on this over and over. Yet, they refuse to abide. They push and push and push. They alone will be responsible for the outcome. If the church splits, it's on them. If the church remains one but shrinks into irrelevancy due to a mass exodus, it's on them. To envision the church accepting and adopting the gay movement demands while, at the same time, maintaining its membership and financial viability is an exercise in insanity.

    • General Conference 2012 did NOTHING on this issue. NOTHING. The only "actions" they took were to silence Mark Miller, one of the gentlest souls in the Church, when all he wanted was a motion to agree to disagree; he was called out of order and told to shut up. This by the same church leaders on the dais who allowed the Bishop from Africa to conflate LGBT with pedophilia and bestiality ON THE PLENARY FLOOR and the only person who said ANYTHING was the poor soul who had to translate the Bishop's hate speech into English.

      You can't say this is totally "on us" when the BOD continues to contain a glaring contradiction on the subject of homosexuality and the only people who can see it for what it is are LGBTs and our allies. If we are "persons of sacred worth" then everything about us is sacred including our sexuality, which isn't a choice, is not the result of childhood abuse, is not in any way an aberration, and hurts no one. In light of these facts the statement that "homosexual practice is incompatible with Christian teaching" is not only untrue, it is idiotic. Christian teaching is basically "Love God and Love one another." The expression of love is left to the individual. And Jesus never mentioned the subject of homosexuality at all.

      • I am sorry that you see this as a matter of unfairness to those who refuse to abide by Biblical standards. Homosexuality is not the choice. Sinning in the practice of it is the choice. Love in celibacy is quite acceptable, but not for those who insist on their own way. The "gentlest" of souls would submit to God and choose loving Him and his precepts above their own personal yearnings. Unless you could understand the language of our brother from Africa who spoke about sexual aberration at Conference, you cannot know what pain his sharing caused to him. There has indeed been an exchange here for the glory of the Creator for the glory of the creature. This grieves us with whom you disagree.

  8. MethodistPie says:

    I'm trying to imagine this "conversation," remembering the table talk at General Conference. We weren't minutes into the process, before someone's feelings were hurt, so next thing we knew, folks were "Standing With Mark." It's hard to imagine such conversation on a larger scale would do anything but create still more division and bitterness. If the Bishops and/or Judicial Council want to run the church by fiat, let's just declare that and save ourselves the cost of General Conference–and, for that matter, the cost of the Bishops and Councils. This is degenerating into farce.

  9. It should not be surprising that the Holy Spirit does not always act through 'official' channels, or that the Spirit works through biological and behavioral science to continue to reveal truths in the Gospel message. Just like issues of slavery, concubinage, and divorce (how many of those in opposition to gay marriage are divorced?), we are permitted to use our brains that God gave us and progress in our understanding of the very primary rule of love and the freedom that the Gospel gives us.

  10. Diane Hawk says:

    I have pledged to be loyal to The United Methodist Church and to uphold it's polity. I have tried to be faithful to my pledge for decades. If these flagrant violations are not dealt with, I will walk away. Unfortunately, as a clergywoman, I do not see another church/denomination that I would fit into. Most churches that ordain women, now also ordain homosexuals. (The Anglicans in my neighborhood do not accept the ordination of women.) I consider the ordination of homosexuals to be repugnant and contrary to Christian teaching, and I do not believe Christian pastors should bless or celebrate gay "marriages".

    So, unless these violations are dealt with, my plan is to walk away and dust off my feet. I will attempt to start an old-fashioned class meeting in my home with my Christian neighbors. I do not plan to join a splinter group. I will consider turning in my ordination credentials. I have treasured them, but they aren't worth much if elders are not held accountable.

    I know that there is an effort to write a new, global Book of Discipline, and that gives me some hope for the future of Wesleyan Christianity. But really, I think I'm done with American-style Methodism. We have failed to be an obedient church. Let's admit it and move on The world is our parish, and I still have a charge to keep.

    This is so sad.

    • Diane,

      So, so sad indeed. I pray that you'll find a way to stay and help fix our church. The gay agenda folks are always complaining about their hurt feelings. They seem to be oblivious to the hurt feelings of those who disagree with them and the pain they're inflicting on the church.

      • Shadowwalker says:

        I feel your pain; I share your pain. No one seems to care about our pain, just the pain of those who would destroy our church. They've done a good job of it. I was once told, "You have to believe the entire Bible, front to back, or none of it." I think that applies to obeying the Book of Discipline as well. Where do we stop? There are people who "love children" so will they be the next group that requires us to accept their behavior? There are people who feel drawn to incest. Should we accept that behavior. Where do we draw the line? It seems the homosexual group has drawn a line in the sand and said we either step over it or they will erase it/ignore it and we can't do anything about it. Please don't leave the Church until the next General Conference has a chance to right this wrong. Perhaps it is time for a divorce. I agree, it is so, so sad.

    • And it is frustrating to see female clergy deny the same inclusion to LGBT church members who follow Christ since the Bible has been interpreted to say that women should not be ordained.

      The world is our parish. Let us act accordingly and give up on dead-end punishment. What are we accomplishing through a trial? Nothing but divisiveness, and Rev. Dr. Frank is acknowledging this.

    • The Wesleyan Church has ordained women for decades before The [United] Methodist Church. Smaller and more conservative, but they also do not ordain practicing homosexuals.

    • Diane, I found your remarks about finding another denomination to be quite eye opening.

      You wrote: “Unfortunately, as a clergywoman, I do not see another church/denomination that I would fit into. Most churches that ordain women, now also ordain homosexuals. ”

      To use your own words, I suspect the members of those denominations that do not ordain women do so because they find the idea of a woman minister to be “repugnant and contrary to Christian teaching”.

  11. Paul Amara says:

    If people feel uncomfortable with upholding the Book of Discipline, and do not agree with the statements that guide and hold us together, I see no reason why they shouldn't be free to look for other avenues where they feel comfortable. At ordination, we commit ourselves to keep the faith and to obey the discipline of the United Methodist Church. It is hypocritical that we argue against what we entered into and what we pledged to uphold. It is also important to note that the United Methodist Church is a global denomination. The opinion of the General Conference which includes the Central conference/s is not in vain and should be respected. If there should be any change in the Book of Discipline or the way we do business, this should be decided by that body we call the General Conference. Anything other than that is a breach of our covenant and our commitment to Christ and our ministry as United Methodist.

  12. I love how Diane Hawk disobeys the scriptural commandment for women to be silent in church, yet finds the ordination of homosexuals "repugnant." This kind of cherry-picking of scripture and flagrant bigotry is what will lead to the schism many of you feel. I have mixed feelings. I do not want to be in connection with people like Diane Hawk. On the other hand, my family has a very long history in this country as Methodists and I want to honor that. In addition, my own church is completely accepting of God's diversity. I have no desire to leave my welcoming and reconciling congregation, but quite frankly I am tired of contributing money to an organization that practices discrimination and countenances bigotry.

  13. Jay has done exactly what he accused Diane of doing and accused her of cherry picking. When did standing up for the authority of scripture,tradition,and holding people to Biblical accountability become discrimination bigotry.

    and bigotry?

  14. Tom Griffith says:

    I have been the Defense Counsel in two trials in my Annual Conference, mercifully 26 years apart. I have been Counsel for the Church in three cases, in all of which we worked out a just resolution. All of this is within our existing polity.

    Comparing the two processes, I'd go for the former, every time. Trials are ugly, divisive, unpleasant, and seek to break us down from being the body of Christ. Trials only allow for "winners" and "losers" when often the issues are far more nuanced and are not that simplistic.

    I know that the Bishops have the job of "upholding the Discipline. However, I know from personal experience that seeking to develop a "just resolution," quietly, without all the publicity hoopla, without the political pressure from either side of those directly involved (including from a Bishop!) is a far better way to deal with such allegations. It is also far more in accord with the Scriptures, which give us a way the ancient Jews had to achieve true justice. Biblical justice is all about healing a broken community of faith, not about tearing it apart.

  15. Why doesn’t the UMC take a page out of industry and do what other churches have done to try and solve the problem equitably.

    Employees or agents charged with some offense such as Breach of Agency, Breach of Fiduciary Relationship, Insubordination, Dereliction of Duty etc. are given an option to resign with a severance package.

    To avoid trial, costs associated with a trial and to save face of the person accused, the employee is given the option..

    That is a form of equitable justice that gives the accused choice.

    Equitable separation or trial then rests in the hand of the accused.. Should the employee refuse the package offered severance is immediate and trials proceed .

    The accused in this case and all those that supported the bishop, who are in covenant leadership position, are by their own public admission guilty of all of the breaches listed above and more.

    The UMC damaged by deliberate attempt to force the hand of the Christian Church in the Court of Public opinion does harm to the church. Damage to the reputation of the church, monetary and other losses that burden the church cannot be recovered.

    For the UMC to offer severance by consent with a severance package would be seen as very generous by most and a gracious offer on their part by many.

  16. So in summary, Frank is saying:

    1. 2,000 years of consistent Christian teaching the voices of every major, faithful Christian leader over the centuries, and Jesus Christ's own clear understanding of the boundaries of marriage are not enough. No, what the church needs now is devoting even more attention to the one issue that we've talked about ad nauseum so that we have even less time or resources for any other important matter.

    2. It will somehow advance unity if bishops sacrifice what trust people still have in them to alienate the majority in order to pander to the liberal minority, even while that minority is now saying it will "divest" from and even stop praying for the UMC.

    3. Bishops "must" disregard and undermine the clearly, overwhelming, and repeatedly expressed will of General Conference.

  17. PS – and Frank really hurts is credibility when he claims accountability is somehow contrary to "our heritage." Anyone who knows much of anything about Methodist history (I understand that excludes most making pro-Talbert comments) knows that historically, we insisted on hard-core accountability, asking each other about our sins, and regularly kicking people out of classes for all sorts of moral offenses. A little historical honesty, please.

  18. The divide is clear. I see no possible third way. From either perspective, I think it is best to simply go our separate ways.

  19. It's discouraging to see how quickly the point of Rev. Dr. Frank is lost. As a UM polity expert, I doubt that he underestimates the need for order. However, he asks the essential question, "What's the point?"

    When there are plenty of UM churches to choose from, what's the point in putting people on trial for love? When plenty of wonderful, highly educated people have differing opinions on this issue, what's the point in discipline? Or declaring a winner or loser?

    Kyrie eleison.

  20. Shadowwalker says:

    You do not know the Bible as well as you claim to. Women were not forbidden to preach but rather to disrupt a particular church. I will not go further. I am sick and tired of the homosexual agenda trying to make women feel guilty. It's a manipulative way of trying to force women to be on their side. It doesn't work. God created women as women in God's image. I don't think anyone can show me where the Bible says, "God created homosexuals in God's image." So, leave the clergywomen out of your debate. We who are Wesleyan stand on the Word of God and obey the Book of Discipline. If the BOD is changed by General Conference some of us may leave, some may accept it. But until it is changed, the BOD is the law book of the church and we vowed to God at our ordination to support it. Those who are disobedient to the order and discipline of the Church either lied at their ordination or they think their vows didn't mean anything. The Council of Bishops must abide by it or their inept leadership will destroy the Church, which seem to me to be the agenda of the homosexual community.

  21. Its easy to continue to eat pork, get divorced and sell your children as a absolute interpretation of the Bible would give you but progressive Churches do not. Scripture changes with time and as science advances. If it can not and will not it will die.

    Sexuality is not a choice. Can you change your sexuality? Genatalia is no judge or accurate measure of how God Created all people. Yes there are many children born with both Male and Female Genatalia further these children are made in God's own image and are the children of God.

    The Church has found itself on the wrong side of History on Many occasions and has had to backtrack on something the Church said God demands and the Church enforces only to have to admit the Church was wrong and God changed his mind. Why does the Church have to be lead by those who constantly get Social Issues wrong. Why can't the church be lead by those who are spreading the message of Love thy Neighbor and Jesus. If you desire to spread the message of Christ the Church will have to accept Science and say Yes if God made all of us Science says Being Gay is not a choice. Moving a Church backward in time in not the way to the future.

  22. Tod Courtney says:

    I really appreciate Dr. Franks letter and his attempt to help us move forward on this difficult issue in a more constructive way than public trials. These public trials cause division within the global church and become public events that paint an nonflattering picture of the Methodist church to outsiders.

    I have read these comments and see the importance that many people are placing on following the man-made rules of the church as written in the Book of Discipline.

    I see an interesting analogy to that position. I am reminded of the stories about Jesus and the Pharisees who wanted to punish Jesus because he broke the rules of the Sabbath to heal people. Jesus clearly thought he did the right thing and that the Pharisees needed to stop letting the 'rules' get in the way of God's Love. Can't we learn from Jesus' example that there are times when our love and compassion for others is more important than following the rules?

    I have spent the past 3 months studying the Old Testament as part of a Disciple I class. While I have not read every verse, I have read and studied enough to realize that the Old Testament is not intended to be a definitive source of sexual morality, like I was raised to believe.

    The Old Testament it is not a very good source for promoting "conservative" ideas of sexual morality. It does not appear to encourage the idea of heterosexual marriage between one man and one woman as many conservatives like to believe. There are dozens of references to Old Testament "heroes" sleeping with multiple wives. The 12 tribes of Israel came from Jacob and at least four different mothers. Abraham had a child from Sarah and a child from Sarah's servant. David saw Bathsheba, decided he had to have her, slept with her and killed her husband. The spies that Joshua sent to Jerico slept with Rahab the prostitute while gaining access to the city, and strangely enough, a lady by the same name is listed in the lineage of Jesus in the first chapter of Matthew. Lot's two daughters slept with him in order to give him children and continue the family tree.

    Its well past time for us Christians to reconsider what the Bible really says about sexuality and Love. Jesus said the most important two commandments are to "Love God" and "Love one another". Why do we let ourselves dwell on misinterpreted bits and pieces of the Old Testament when all they do is cause hatred and pain and turn people away from the family of God?

    • After all that you said so well, you still did not to verify that the Bible condones in any way the PRACTICE of homosexual sex, or that the Bible condones in any way same sex marriage whether it be one man and one woman or Old Testament polygamy.

      • Tod Courtney says:

        WAD, in a way that was my point. I am pretty sure that none of the original Bible authors were trying to write a book on sexual morality. I believe their goal was to write about their understanding of God and his covenant with them. I am not sure the Bible authors really cared as much about rules about marriage as folks today seem to think they did. It definitely appears they had a different understanding of heterosexual marriage than we do today.

        And on top of that, so many aspects of their world no longer apply to us today. Most of us have no problem eating shellfish or pork, even though they outlawed it. Most of us have no problem wearing clothing made of two types of fabric, even though they outlawed it. Most of us tend to have a problem with polygamy, even though they apparently did not. We believe men and women are equal, they seemed to treat women as less than equal. They had male temple prostitutes. We do not.

        In any case, Jesus cleared it all up for us. There are two laws. "Love God". "Love one another". that works for me.

  23. Randy, when did referring to the ordination of homosexuals or blessing same-sex marriages as repugnant become an example of Christian love? When did ignoring the clear injunction against women speaking in Church while citing the few ambiguous scriptures that may (or may not) refer to homosexuality allow one to claim "Biblical accountability"? People with the very same mindset of Diane Hawk and Randy were the ones claiming Biblical authority to defend slavery and segregation and the prohibition of women clergy. Cherry-picking, indeed.

  24. Gatra Reid Mallard says:

    Thank you, thank you for this call to the Bishops! These "trials" are a mockery of what Christian love is all about and costing our church members and credibility EVERY day. Gatra Mallard

  25. We cannot have the Elders and Bishops being held to account. That would set a bad precedent. If the BOD's real purpose is control of the laity while ensuring a continual flow of money from them to the conferences at least admit it and end the charade.

  26. Communication on the subject should never end, obviously. Then there will be trouble.

  27. Hmm… so man-made laws get in the way of worship… and that means we should "reevaluate our religious practices?" Wow.

    I am so glad that Jesus didn't correct all those Pharisees for their man-made rules that got in the way of true worship. Wait… He did, didn't He?

    The church should be calling the world to repentance, because things of "the world" are usually held up in Scriptures as to be antithetical to the things of God. Please – when we start reevaluating the Scriptures, pretty soon we have no need of them. Let's just all do our own thing, or better yet, have the sinful gall to declare "The Holy Spirit is doing a new thing!"

    As if God, unchanging, ever contradicts Himself.

  28. Richard LeDuc says:

    You obviously missed the point of Dr. Frank's letter.

  29. 1. On either side, if the approach is. “There will be no unity…” then there will be no unity.
    2. Overtime the votes at General Conference have gotten closer to acceptance.
    3. Concerning the law i.e., the UM Discipline (of which only part of it is law), I remember a man a long time ago who questioned his religious authorities and disagreed with their interpretation of the law. He said, “If you love you have fulfilled the law and the prophets.” They had him killed for that.

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  1. […] just happened to have an actual complaint wrapped up in the middle.  If the Council of Bishops has “discretion as the chief pastors of the church over the manner, purpose, and conduct of any superv… then they have missed a golden opportunity to exercise that discretion – especially given the […]

  2. […] call for and end to church trials began with a letter written to the UM Council of Bishops during their meeting at Lake Junaluska this past November. In that letter, Frank said that he […]

  3. […] have huge financial and administrative costs for the Church and the pastors. Last November, he wrote an open letter to the Council of Bishops arguing that bishops have the power to forgo the judicial process. While […]

  4. […] Tom Frank, onetime professor at Candler, wrote an open letter to the bishops. In his letter his says that while the office of bishop is important, maybe the day has come when […]

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