Current Issues

Press Statement: Integrity and Unity

A group of leading United Methodist pastors and theologians released
a statement calling for the Council of Bishops to restore the unity of the
church and the integrity of the covenant that United Methodist pastors
have vowed to keep. Representing all five jurisdictions, more than 100
clergy and laity gathered in Atlanta on Friday, July 18, 2014, to discuss
the future of the church and issue a plea for United Methodist bishops to
“exercise their spiritual and moral authority by teaching and upholding
corporately and individually our United Methodist doctrine of human
sexuality as expressed in the Discipline.”

The group emailed their statement to the members of the Council of
Bishops and launched the website MethodistCrossroads.org in order to
garner lay and clergy support for their endeavor.

“There are several plans being floated across the church that are
designed to lead United Methodism out of the chaos we are now in,” said
the Rev. Rob Renfroe, president and publisher of Good News. “Those
who gathered in Atlanta made it clear that the best step to a faithful
future is for our United Methodist bishops to teach and lead in
accordance with the will of the General Conference and the Book of
Discipline
.”

The group in Atlanta released an 850‐word document in which it
expressed gratitude for bishops who uphold the Book of Discipline and
the clergy covenant, grieved the fragmentation of the church, and called
upon the Council of Bishops to issue a public statement “to restore the
unity of the church and the integrity of our life together.”

“We need our bishops to uphold the clear biblically based teachings of
The United Methodist Church that marriage is between one man and
one woman,” said the Rev. Kenneth Levingston, pastor of The Higher Way
Church: Jones Memorial United Methodist in Houston, Texas. “For more
than 2,000 years the Christian church has consistently upheld the
sacred covenant between man and woman as the standard for marriage.
We are pleading with our bishops to uphold scripture, our shared
covenant, doctrine, and tradition.”

Because of several recent examples of what appeared to be the
circumventing of the Discipline’s teaching regarding same sex unions,
the group’s statement called on the bishops to “fully enforce the
Discipline with respect to those clergy members who disregard church
teaching and choose to preside at same sex services. The statement
asks the council to censure “those bishops who have stated they will use
their influence to prevent trials as a means of just resolution for clergy
who preside at same sex services.”

“The Call to Action survey a few years ago reported that there was a
very serious trust gap between the people in the pews and the
leadership of the denomination,” said the Rev. Scott Field, pastor of First
United Methodist Church in Crystal Lake, Illinois. “It is discouraging to
clergy and laity alike when it appears that bishops do not take seriously
the will of the General Conference and the clarity of the Discipline when
dealing with clergy who break covenant with the denomination by
performing same sex unions.”

To address this “trust gap,” the statement asks that when trials are
necessary, bishops commit to “appoint as counsel for the church
individuals fully supportive of both the church’s teachings and the
necessity for organizational accountability.”

“It is nonsensical for some bishops to appoint clergy who are opposed
to the Discipline’s requirements to ensure that the Discipline’s
requirements are enforced through the judicial process, which at least
two of our bishops have done,” said the Rev. Tom Harrison, pastor of
Asbury United Methodist Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. “Such a moral
conflict of interest creates the impression that those bishops are not
serious about maintaining and upholding United Methodist doctrine and
discipline.”

At the gathering in Atlanta, the leaders spoke openly and frankly
about legislative solutions, the role of the United Methodist bishops in
helping restore unity, and the possibility of amicable separation if the
bishops are unable or unwilling to restore unity.

“The group believed that with the widespread upheaval within the
denomination, the preferred step would be to have the bishops issue a
clarifying statement after their November gathering,” said the Rev.
Randy Mickler, pastor of Mount Bethel United Methodist
in Marietta, Georgia.

“We have arrived at the moment when the future of our
denomination is being determined,” the group concluded. “Our prayer is
that the Council of Bishops will act to restore our covenant and make
true unity possible.”

(Click on the following link to sign the Integrity and Unity statement)

–Methodist Crossroads (http://www.methodistcrossroads.org/).