Recently Read: An open letter to moderate/centrist delegates to GC2016

copenhaverPhoto courtesy of John Copenhaver

The Rev. John Copenhaver presides at the same-sex wedding of two friends in 2015.

Recently ReadDr. John D. Copenhaver, Jr., Professor Emeritus of Religion and Philosophy at Shenandoah University and a member of The Clergy Letter Project, published an open letter to moderate and centrist delegates to the 2016 United Methodist General Conference on the Huffington Post today. Copenhaver, a retired United Methodist elder in the Virginia Annual Conference, was suspended from ministry for 3 months in 2015 for officiating at a same-sex wedding of two friends.

In his letter, Copenhaver acknowledges the many voices that have been seeking the support of delegates related to issues on human sexuality:

As you begin General Conference, I know your head is likely spinning from reading resolutions and proposals regarding human sexuality, as well as keeping up with the United Methodist blogosphere. My thoughts are directed to you because I believe your votes will make the difference in the outcome…

No doubt you will be courted/cajoled/harangued by one or more of [the various] camps to adopt their agenda. So, as you consult your conscience and prayerfully consider the various proposals, I humbly ask you to consider this plea to choose the Wesleyan path of grace and inclusiveness.

Copenhaver, as others have likewise suggested, uses the example of the struggle for Civil Rights as an example of how the desire for unity has the possibility of getting in the way of justice:

In my course on the Philosophy of Nonviolence at Shenandoah University, I used King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” as the centerpiece of that course, but it wasn’t until the second time teaching the course that I noticed a shocking footnote. The footnote revealed that among the eight clergy who wrote King telling him that his action in Birmingham was “unwise and untimely” was Bishop Nolan B. Harmon. Bishop Harmon was a hero to me and to my family! My family knew him personally and he was the general editor of the Interpreter’s Bible as well as the author of Ministerial Ethics and Etiquette. How could Bishop Nolan B. Harmon, our hero, be so wrong about King’s nonviolent struggle for civil rights? Perhaps Bishop Harmon saw himself as a moderating influence. He suggested, along with the other clergy signing the letter, that the “Negro community . . . should press its cause in the courts and not in the streets.” They urged the “Negro community to withdraw support for these demonstrations and unite locally in working peacefully for a better Birmingham.” These leaders were not opposed to integration, but they did not feel the same urgency as those suffering the effects of segregation and Jim Crow laws. Bishop Harmon’s action illustrates that Christians, even noble ones, can become an obstacle to God’s unsettling but reconciling work.

Click here to read Copenhaver’s full letter at The Huffington Post.

Recently Read

Recently Read

Recently Read posts are stories the editors of The United Methodist Reporter have found interesting from other sites and wanted to share with our readers. The editors do not necessarily endorse the opinions shared in these stories, and referral here should not imply endorsement of that content.

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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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Richard F Hicks
Richard F Hicks

To include some means that some with excluded. The quickly sinking UMC boat has less and less room for survivors. So, who lives? Who survives? Who gets thrown over board? The perfect is the enemy of the good. The good is the enemy of the good enough. Thank you, Richard F Hicks, OKC

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