A Conversation with Good News’s Tom Lambrecht

A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose

A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose

Yesterday’s statement from Good News spurred lots of conversation on Facebook and on the UMR site. It also raised questions about Good News’s motivations and intentions for the future. Earlier today we reached out to the Rev. Tom Lambrecht, Vice President and General Manager of Good News to address some of these questions. Rev. Lambrecht has been a UM elder since 1982, and is a graduate of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. A long-time advocate for evangelical renewal in the UMC, Tom also served as the lead counsel for the church in the trial of the Rev. Amy DeLong and an assistant council for the church in the trial of the Rev. Frank Schaefer.  We appreciate Tom’s willingness to answer our questions:


 

Some would say that the bishops are exercising the discretion allowed them in the Book of Discipline to respond to charges in non-judicial ways. Obviously Good News sees that as a failure to uphold the Book of Discipline. How would you have preferred to see them respond?

When bishops declare that they will do everything possible to avoid more trials for those who defiantly break the Discipline’s requirements, they are not upholding the Book of Discipline.  When bishops do not discourage violations of the covenant and in fact even attend same-sex weddings, they are not upholding the Book of Discipline.  We would like to see bishops promote and defend the doctrines of The United Methodist Church, including its teachings on marriage and sexuality, as the Discipline requires them to do.  Where there is willful violation of our covenant, we would like to see meaningful consequences designed to bring about compliance, not more endless attempts to change the church’s teaching through controlled “dialog.”

 

There has been speculation that the language of the statement which talks about the unwillingness if the bishops to enforce the Book of Discipline and the “covenant we live by” is a setup toward a “breach of contract” argument for the courts as a possible path for allowing conservatives to leave while retaining their church property. Has Good News indeed considered a strategy based around the breach of contract argument?

We do not believe the preferred way forward is through the secular court system.  Instead, we will look to the General Conference to provide for an equitable resolution of this conflict.  Resorting to secular courts would be an extreme last resort.  We do, however, believe that the trust clause is designed to protect United Methodist doctrine, not simply maintain control of property.  Churches and clergy who abandon United Methodist doctrine are violating the trust clause just as much as congregations who leave the denomination.

 

There have been attempts at past General Conferences to formally acknowledge the divisions in the church (the Hamilton/Slaughter initiative was the latest) which have usually been rejected or dismissed by persons aligned with the Good News movement. Is this acknowledgement of division a change in your policy/strategy?

We believe that past attempts at General Conference to acknowledge differences of opinion were efforts to provide permission for people who disagree with the church’s teachings to act contrary to them.  Given the fact that actions contrary to church teaching are now occurring, we are looking to General Conference not just to acknowledge our differences but to provide a resolution for them.  We are in a different place now that demands a much stronger response

 

Isn’t withholding financial support of the denomination also a breaking of the covenant? 

We believe that the actions of dozens of clergy to perform same-sex unions without a corresponding accountability for those actions have already broken the covenant.  Some progressive groups have already pledged to not only withhold financial support but to disrupt church meetings and impose their agenda upon the church.  To the extent that the covenant is already broken from one side, we believe that to that extent those on the other side are not bound by it any longer.

 

In the past you have seemed to say that those who disagree with the current stance of the Book of Discipline should leave the church. This latest statement seems to suggest that biblically orthodox members and churches may be considering leaving instead. Is this a change from your original position. 

In terms of what might be proposed by biblically orthodox groups, a variety of options are on the table.  It makes the most sense that those who cannot live with the teachings of the church ought to be the ones to leave, and we would want to make that possible graciously and generously.  If that is not possible, a separation of the church into two new entities, one orthodox and the other progressive, might make the most sense.  We are not at this time advocating for biblically orthodox members and churches to leave the denomination, but that may become necessary in the future.

 

There are some who have said that the phrase “…those of us who are biblical Christians…” was condescending and suggests that you believe that anyone who disagrees with your positions is not biblical nor Christian. Isn’t the central issue that divides us a different way of approaching and interpreting the biblical text? Are you saying that those who disagree with your positions are non-biblical? Where is there room for disagreement on biblical interpretation?

Progressive groups have adopted the mantra “biblical obedience,” implying that those of us who support the church’s teaching are not obeying Scripture.  How is our statement any different?  We recognize that Christians of good will can disagree on matters of biblical interpretation.  However, the real division in our church today is not over issues of sexuality, but over our views on the inspiration and authority of Scripture.  There are many clergy and laity in our church today who reject the deity of Christ, the atonement, the bodily resurrection of Christ, and other cardinal doctrines of the faith based on the same approach to Scripture that leads them to reject the church’s teaching on human sexuality and marriage.  Those who adopt such an approach are not operating biblically.  Our statement does not claim that we are the only biblical Christians.  It says that “those of us who are biblical Christians AND who have agreed to live by The Book of Discipline” are needing to examine what options are available to us.

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. Gary Bebop says:

    This is the conversation we’ve been waiting for. Some will “diss” it, but these things have to be said out loud. The mechanisms intended to preserve and endow the church’s doctrinal mission have failed us.

  2. If the Good News gang is so hot on following the letter of the law–that they wrote into our Social Creed under the cover of night–why don’t they encourage UMC bishops to bring Good News pastors up on charges when they siphon off money from their apportionments and give it to the extra-legal (illegal) parallel Mission Board in Atlanta that supports the ultra-right-wing agenda mostly in Latin America and Africa? Those pastors should be, at the least, sent out into the pucker-bush to those churches that cannot afford to pay apportionments at all.

    • “Under cover of darkness”????? The provision prohibiting gay union ceremonies was from a local church following the legal petition process. They chose to submit it for the Social Principles, probably not the best place for a prohibition. It was not submitted by Good News. It was later moved to part of the Discipline dealing with clergy conduct. Nothing was done “under cover of darkness.” Delegates knew what they were voting for.

  3. If they are so hot on following the letter of the law–a law they snuck into our Social Creed under cover of darkness–why don’t they bring up on charges those pastors who have been siphoning off apportionment funds to give to the illegal Parallel Mission Board in Atlanta to fund ultra-conservative missionaries and their agendas, especially in Latin America and Africa? Such actions are clearly not allowed in the Discipline, but the Good News gang not only does it, but also promotes it. For shame!!!

    • Rev. Fred Morris: we have not met, to my knowledge. Your remarks are ill-informed for the following reasons: 1) the overwhelming number of pastors with affinity for Good News (like me) are faithful, obedient servants (as I am sure you believe yourself to be–I wouldn’t dare to argue because I do not know you personally). I have faithfully encouraged all my congregations to fully support the UMC apportionment system (even when I had grave misgivings about the use of said funds) because it is my covenant duty to do so. In addition, I have never wished to withhold vital funding from those in dire need on the mission field. 2) For many years, a number of the UMC general boards and agencies have spoken and acted with a defiant tone to the clearly stated intent of the General Conference. Most notably, the GBCS and GBGM have had periods of openly disobedient actions. Some of that has begun to subside (Praise The Lord!). Yet, in spite of that “in-your-face” attitude toward people of my ilk, I have remained within the connection believing that was best for the wider Kingdom. I must confess, that constant challenge and disregard is tiresome (I’m certain people in the pro-same gender camp feel much the same way toward the consistent actions of the General Conference). 3) The “illegal” Mission Board you mention is a likely reference to the Mission Society. In addition to fully paying apportionments through my local churches, I have been privileged to serve alongside deeply committed Christians through the work of the Mission Society. As a matter of interest, I have also helped other congregations raise millions of dollars for he I reached people of the world through Mission Society work. Not one penny of that money came from apportionments. I have also counseled number families who have responded to God’s call to serve on various mission fields. One of those families was displaced from service by the GBGM due to “internal politics.” Fortunately, the Mission Society was able to be a “safety net” and redirect this wonderful family’s ministry to an area if the world which is allowing them to meet vital human needs-both physically and spiritually. Our theological biases may be different, Rev. Morris, but I am sure you speaking from a place of deep conscience and faith. I, too, am speaking from a place of deep conscience and faith. I want you to be free to proclaim the Gospel and make disciples with the full support of your larger faith family. Sadly, I am not a part of that family. However, we are both a part of God’s family through our faith in Christ. I will be praying that God will enable our families to reconcile, express love and appreciation for one another and remIn faithful to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. If you ever desire to learn about the vital ministries of those of us in “the other side of the spectrum” I would welcome an opportunity to share wi you–no strings attached. Grace and peace to you.

      • Steve,
        I do not pretend to understand all the issues being discussed. I think your response and statements were very healing.

        My wife and I are struggling with what action to take. To agree to disagree is not a viable option. How can I continue to be a good disciple of Christ and witness to others if I am uneasy to bring that person to the denomination I belong to?

    • Apportionments have always been taxation without representation. umc $$$$ for many years have gone to support subversive causes–causes that seek to destroy this country. Progressives have gained the upper hand in the umc etc and the federal government by being loud and intrusive and seeing with only tunnel vision. The silent majority has been too soft spoken–perhaps way too long. The climb back out of the hole the church/country are in may, in deed, be an impossible task–or at least a decades long one–and for sure a climb that will only be accomplished by returning to the Providential roots of the Founding Fathers–of the church and of the country………………………………. II Chronicles 7: 14.

  4. The countdown has begun.

    • Yes, indeed…the countdown has begun. I think it was inevitable…and over such a stupid issue, too. Oh, well.

      • I agree. Very sad indeed that sodomy of all things is the issue that finally seems to be awakening us to the fact that our disagreements over Biblical authority are irreconcilable. For too long, we have ignored the truth that we have been proclaiming two very different gospels, following two very different christs, and worshipping two very different gods.

  5. I hate to be the heretic in the group … but the BoD is not the 67th book of the Bible. There is no Gospel of Wesley and yet we continue to dang near worship every jot and tittle.

  6. I think it is important to remind my friend Tom Lambrecht that the UMC’s teaching on human sexuality is not doctrine. Judicial Council decision 1027 makes it crystal clear that the statement “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” is not a doctrinal statement. It is an opinion of the General Conference, but it has never been included in the Articles of Religion, the Confession of Faith, or the General Rules of the Church. If we are going to insist on an orthodox Christianity and doctrinal fidelity, it is important that we are clear about what constitutes the doctrine of the church and what does not.

  7. How do we reconcile that the Bible often disagrees with itself, especially in the Pauline tradition? We managed to get over a few things to ordain women, didn’t we? For the glory of God we changed direction on that. The call is to love our neighbors, which our conservative brothers and sisters say that they’re doing, however, this has likely crossed the line into abuse of our LGBT siblings.

    • Elaine T says:

      When you take the totality of scripture what, or should I say who, did we manage to get over to ordain women? Was it Deborah or Huldah 2Kings 22:12-20 from the Old Testament? Or in the New Testament with Paul He called Phoebe a servant …a term he used to describe ministers of God’s word. Lets not forget Priscilla and Junia and then in Romans16 he commends the ministries of more women than men. Yes,. we are called to love. I love my drug dealer neighbor, the prostitute that stands outside the small motel down the street, the neighbor who loves to gossip, across the street there is the alcoholic who abuses her children, my kids teacher who verbally abuses the slow kids, and my favorite gay cousin. When did love get all changed around to mean that loving them means that I must approve of their behavior?

  8. Diane Hawk says:

    Sadly, I don’t think the folks in the Good News Organization (or anybody else for that matter) have the clout to initiate a church split. Perhaps the BEST way for a United Methodist Christian to maintain integrity is to disassociate from the church we have loved.

    As a retired pastor, I have stopped supporting the church I vowed to be loyal to. My grievance is primarily about our ineffective democratic structure. The chickens are coming home to roost as we see popular opinion and convenience alter the truth of the Gospel.

    Unfortunately, as a clergywoman, I see NO other church that feels like a comfortable fit theologically. I am waiting for God to do something NEW, so that I can be part of a faithful Christian Church and maintain my personal integrity.

    I like what Jimmy Carter said to Stephen Colbert a few days ago. When Colbert asked Carter if he would become Catholic, Carter replied, “Yes, if this pope stays in office and a woman priest invites me to join her church.”

  9. … “and in fact even attend same-sex weddings”… Seriously? Even just ATTENDING the celebration of two persons committing to a life-long relationship is beyond what Good News sees as acceptable? To me, this reveals the heart of the matter. Good News can say this isn’t really about LGBT issues but is about the authority of Scripture, but I don’t believe it. The unwillingness to acknowledge that it may be the most loving, Christ-like thing for a bishop (or anyone else, I assume) to stand beside those they love at a wedding indicates pretty clearly that this is really about being anti-gay. LGBT family members and church members apparently aren’t of sacred-enough worth to be acknowledged by a simple act of being present when they commit their love to another person.

    • Gary Bebop says:

      It’s astonishing that so many posters here that NO SERIOUS BREACH in the community has been created by overthrowing the historic ecumenical understanding of marriage (sanctioned by renegade bishops). Breathtaking!

  10. Gen X Pastor says:

    First they divided the college campus. Then the American family. Then the economy. Then the culture. Then the government. Now the church. The average age of a UMC member and leader is the average age of a Baby Boomer.

  11. The Bible is very clear on God’s will for us in how we led our sexual lives and the relationship between a man and his wife. Churches, of many denominations, have looked the other way on issues of adultery and divorce for many years, giving way to ‘societal norms’ over the clear commands of Jesus. Jesus was not ambiguous when he defined when divorce could occur and what constituted adultery, but we have people running around saying,” well, God wouldn’t want me to stay in a relationship where I’m not happy.” Where in Scripture does it say that God’s role is to make us happy? He, throughout the entire Bible, clearly demonstrates that His rules are designed to keep us safe, improve the chances for happiness on earth, and honor and worship Him by following his commands which include showing His love through our actions. He also clearly tells us to reject sinful behaviors.

    The liberals have decided that their role is life is to redefine God in their own image. They reject the Holy Bible as the authoritative word of God and they chose to replace it with what makes them feel good about the lifestyle they chose to live. Based on nothing more than their desire to live their lives as they see fit, they would deny the only written communication we have from God. The arrogance of their attitude is shameful.

    It is long past time for the feudal system of the UMC to end. There can be no communal relationship between those who chose to invent their own rules and those who chose to follow the Word of God. I do not want a penny of my money to support activities within the church that promotes abortion, meddles in secular politics, ignores God’s laws on sexual purity, and ignores the fact that their behaviors are responsible for the great demise of the UMC. The General Conference of the UMC is the official voice of the church yet many Bishops have decided that their will is higher than the General Conference. I have no respect and will not support a single Bishop who has that attitude.

    Let the church divide now and I’ll bet it will be the orthodox congregations that experience growth and the greatest renewal within God’s people.

    • AMEN. I have always felt that the church should take in all that wanted to come. However those that are continuing to live an abominal sin should be counciled and shown the errors of their ways. If over a period of time they refuse to repent of their sins and accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior then they should be put out of the church . The church then has done its best to educate them and to show them the errors of their ways and they have continued to resist. For those who disagree please read 1 Corinthians 5:9-13.

  12. Guaranteed appointments should be abolished. That is the root of the problem. People using the resources of the UMC to advance their own agendas are attracted to our denomination because of guaranteed appointments. Get rid of guaranteed appointments, and only those who are truly dedicated will stay with the church. The riff-raff will go elsewhere, and find other organizations to exploit for their own purposes. It is not necessary to split the church.

  13. preacherdb says:

    Is it a sin to say that we have indeed come to the place that necessitates amicable separation? Could that be simply an honest assessment of what already exists? Isn’t it more of a sin to continue to occupy so much time on the pain and disunity of this matter instead of all sides seeking to offer the kingdom of God as prayerfully as they can. At this point is it possible that our loving conduct in a fair separation would be more Christlike than a continuous bickering over a situation that 50 plus years says will not end in amicable unity?

  14. Wes Andrews says:

    The UMC, sad to say, is irreparably broken. Progressives spit on openly debated and commonly agreed upon rules. Progressives are bullies that claim to love free speech, but only if it is speech that agrees with them. Progressives will push their agenda, because honesty, honor, humility, following openly debated rules of community mean nothing to them. In the UMC progressives have spit of faithful and generous members, colleagues, and the church itself, all the while accepted the money from those entities for support. These progressives have dominated the Universities and Seminaries and have a stranglehold on the denomination itself. Our Council of Bishops should be fired, because they have FAILED to lead, and have FAILED to uphold the agreed upon doctrine of the church.

    Therefore, at the next General Conference, resolutions should be passed to entrust all local church property to each local church. If churches which reject the Scriptural definition of marriage choose to leave the UMC, then so be it. If churches which hold to the authority of Scripture choose to leave the UMC, then so be it. And yes, all this has come because progressives are focused on destroying most if not all social institutions that exist because of transcendent truth. Yes, the progressives will ultimately make this country weak and vulnerable, just as they have accomplished within the UMC.

    This was never about “love”. It was never about “open hearts, open minds.” It’s all about control.

    • Agree. With control they can dominate Scriptural interpretation on sexual morality, marriage, family, child rearing and all other matters of the church, so they believe. Therefore, they can more easily silence the orthodox-traditional forces by demonizing them into submission and complicity. With that, the debate over sin is ended on such matters as the practice of homosexuality or gay marriage. Thus, these things are no longer sins and, perhaps, even God has been won over.

  15. A church/country divided against itself cannot stand. For decades the liberal/progressives have had control of education–in the public sector AND in the church. Through the classroom they have ever so patiently, slowly, stealthily, and deliberately planted their “truth” into the minds of the children. Now, parents and grandparents who hold traditional and providential values are scratching their heads and wondering why.

    Only until the church/nation reclaim the educational system and restore right and correct history to public education and Christian education–the worshipers at the altars of political correctness and radical feminism will dictate the direction of the church and nation and loudly drive the direction of the country/church.

    The battle back will be long, hard, loud–it is a question as to whether those who seek change to the right have the tenacity, courage, and strong desire to see it come to pass.

    Keep looking up–signs and wonders are happening everyday………………

  16. Tim Schaefer says:

    I always make the mistake of reading the comments at the end of these UMR articles. The majority of you posting here are pastors who hold advanced college degrees, despite what many of your comments suggest. Most of these comments here are hurtful, vitriolic, or just paranoid conspiracy theories. If this is the level of discourse we can expect from our pastors, then the UMC has bigger problems than some gay people wanting to be in committed loving relationships.

    • Not all of the pastors who may have responded, liberal or conservative, would necessarily hold advanced degrees. Not all of the comments, from liberals or conservatives, were “hurtful, vitiolic, or just paranoid.” I, for one, am a pastor, conservative in nature, don’t hold a masters or a doctorate or any other advanced degree. I have spent 15 years in the pulpit trying to hold the church together from the onsluaght of the sectarian world. I don’t always agree with everything in the Discipline, but have decided to follow its guidance. We have been accused, as a denomination, of being intentionally hurtful to those who are gay, lesbian, transgender and so on. My question is this: how would anyone know what or how my church reacts to the presence of gays within the congregation? We don’t check IDs or sexual preferences at the door.

      If we are to split, then split and let us go our own way, with our own stuff.

      • Thank you, Mike, foar a great post. I am a layman, who is old, tired of the vitriol, does not understand nor espouse political correctness or radical feminism. These two factors have created more distrust and division in the Christian community as well as the USofA than almost anything else. We are a church divided. I pray the inevitable split will come much sooner than later. Keep looking up. Signs and wonders are happening every day,

  17. Why all the name calling ? A split would be sad and unnecessary. “O.Lord Jesus, cleanse my heart of any mean spirit or divisive attitude that would keep from loving my brother and sister in Christ who happens to disagree with me. Amen.”

  18. Funny, I thought the purpose of covenant was to keep your promises and commitment especially when, not if, the other party didn’t. Otherwise it’s just a flowery word for contract. I’m glad God abides by covenant rather than contract. Maybe we should do the same.

Your thoughts?

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
 

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