Archive for February, 2011

Common Witness Coalition responds to Bishops’ “Statement of Counsel”

Friday, February 25th, 2011

The Common Witness Coalition’s Response to “A Statement of Counsel to the Church – 2011”:

We do hope that the Bishops' call through “A Statement of Counsel to the Church – 2011” becomes a catalyst for a new “watershed moment” in the life of the United Methodist Church!  We have over our history as Methodists a tradition of listening to the Spirit’s call to be a part of the movement of God’s grace and love and being led to move to greater and deeper understandings of what it means to be faithful disciples in the face of the cultural realities in which we live.

Often this Calling and Movement has caused us to look at the way we have been hearing God’s Word in and through the Holy Scriptures and see that we have been mistaken in our understandings of what God’s transforming love is calling us to do. The Bible has historically been used as a tool of both oppression and liberation, exclusion and hospitality.  It has been quoted to relegate women to a place of servitude and to even support the role of slavery and segregation in our own cultural history.  It was only when we realized our legalistic misuse of Scripture that we were able to allow God to work on behalf of Methodism through the gifts and graces of those formerly excluded. 

Professor Cheryl B. Anderson of Garrett-Evangelical Seminary (author of the newly released: “Ancient Laws & Contemporary Controversies“) cites Howard Thurman and the story of his grandmother: “During the days of slavery,” she said, “the master’s minister would occasionally hold services for the slaves… Always the white minister used as his text something from Paul. At least three or four times a year he used as a text ‘Slaves be obedient to them that are your masters… as unto Christ.’ Then he would go on to show how, if we were good and happy slaves, God would bless us.” Dr. Anderson goes on to cite Brian Blaunt (African American New Testament scholar): “This doesn’t mean that the New Testament lost its sense of authority for the slaves.  But it does mean that their perception of God in their midst was more authoritative.”  

When asked about the greatness and authority of the rules and laws of scripture, Jesus reminded the Hebrew people: “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets (Matthew 22:34-40).” Jesus was speaking then as he is now, reminding us that the standard of interpreting and understanding scripture is always found, first and foremost, in the consequences it has for our complete giving of ourselves to God, and, “like it,” how it expresses that complete love of God in our love for others and self. “Jesus and Paul show us in scripture that ‘A law can be modified, amended, or rejected if it negatively impacts the marginalized and if the new approach is grounded in the biblical tradition, is consistent with the absolute requirement of God (the law of love), and works to include the excluded’ (Dr. Cheryl B. Anderson, Chapter 4, Ancient Laws & Contemporary Controversies).” The Common Witness Coalition firmly believes that these biblical standards have been met. Dr. Anderson reminds us, “that those who would hold to the traditions of the Church and Scripture, without paying attention to the consequences that has for our relationship with God and others, are committing the same injustice that the Pharisees (as described in the Gospels) committed.”

You ask those who are committed to a fully inclusive Church within our very own Wesleyan and United Methodist tradition, “how do you respond to the 'Statement of Counsel to the Church -2011' now signed by 36 retired Bishops and Episcopal leaders?” There is only one faithful way the Common Witness Coalition can respond… Amen and Amen!

Common Witness Coalition

Affirmation
Methodist Federation for Social Action
Reconciling Ministries Network

Encourage your Bishop to sign the Statement of Counsel

Monday, February 21st, 2011

On January 31, 2011, a group of retired bishops released a statement calling for the removal of language from the United Methodist Book of Discipline that states, "homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching."  In all, 36 retired bishops have signed onto this statement.  You can read MFSA's press release and response to the statement here

Last week, the Reconciling Ministries Network began collecting clergy and lay signatures in support of the retired bishops' "Statement of Counsel."  In addition to signing the statement yourself, you can encourage your bishop to do so as well.  Take action by emailing your bishop and signing the statement today!

MFSA responds to “Day of Departure” in Egypt

Friday, February 4th, 2011

The Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA) joins with peace and justice seekers around the world in standing with the people of Egypt as they nonviolently demand rights and democracy.

MFSA condemns the violence committed against non-violent protesters and journalists and urges the Mubarak regime to respond to the demands of the Egyptian people by stepping down on this “Day of Departure.”

MFSA is deeply concerned about reports coming from groups such as Amnesty International, which indicate that journalists and human rights monitors are being detained and removed to undisclosed locations.

MFSA is committed to demanding justice for those who are most vulnerable and to protecting human rights and civil liberties. Thus, we encourage MFSA members and friends to participate in the below action alerts of our partner organizations, calling upon the US government to demand Mubarak’s immediate resignation and the establishment of free and fair elections.

Sojourners: http://bit.ly/fedEzN

United for Peace with Justice: http://bit.ly/ex0GeN

We continue to hold the people of Egypt in our prayers and encourage MFSA members and friends to join in peaceful demonstrations of solidarity. A list of known demonstrations for Feb., 5, 2011 is included below.

Boston, MA
Saturday, February 5, 2011
12:00 noon
Location: Copley Square
Info: 857-334-5084

Columbus, OH
Saturday, February 5, 2011
2:30 pm
Wexner Center for the Arts @ Ohio State University
(16th & High Street on campus)

Hartford, CT
Saturday, February 5, 2011
1-3pm
State Capitol Building
210 Capitol Ave.

Los Angeles, CA

Saturday, February 5, 2011
11:30 am
Westwood Federal Building
11000 Wilshire Blvd.

New York City
Saturday, February 5, 2011

1pm-4pm
United Nations (1st Ave & 47th Street)

San Francisco

Saturday, February 5, 2011
1:00 pm
UN Plaza, Market & 8th

Washington, DC
Saturday, February 5, 2011

Gather at 12 noon at the Egyptian Embassy
3521 International Court NW
(off Van Ness between Connecticut and Reno)

March to White House

Washington, DC
Saturday, February 5, 2011
Gather at 2 pm in front of White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

Bishops’ Statement of Counsel: January 31, 2011

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

On January 31, 2011, a group of retired bishops sent the following statement in an email letter to their retired colleague members of the Council of Bishops. It contains “A Statement of Counsel to the Church – 2011” signed by 33 of the retired bishops of the Council.  Later, 3 other bishops signed on.  Their names have been added to the list below.

Click here to read MFSA's response to the statement.

A Statement of Counsel to the Church – 2011

Out of concern for the welfare of all God's people, and, out of special concern for the people of The United Methodist Church, we, United Methodist Bishops – retired, believe The United Methodist Church should remove the following statement from The Book of Discipline (2008):

“…The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.” ¶304.3

Our lives and ministries over the years have included prayerful, thoughtful consideration of our Holy Bible, our Wesleyan heritage, reflection on our experience of the church and world, and our conviction of God’s intention for a world transformed.

With this statement of conviction and counsel we seek:

  • To affirm that the historic tests of “gifts and evidence of God’s grace” for ordained ministry override any past or present temporal restrictions such as race, gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.
  • To urge the Church, ecumenical and denominational, to change the manner in which it relates to gay, lesbian and transgendered persons in official statements, judicial proceedings, and in congregational life.
  • To declare our conviction that the current disciplinary position of The United Methodist Church, a part of our historical development, need not, and should not, be embraced as the faithful position for the future.
  • To make known our names and shared personal conviction on this matter and to encourage other church and Episcopal leaders to do the same.

With increasing frequency we observe and experience the following disturbing realities and know them to be detrimental to the mission of a Church of Jesus Christ:

  • Laity and clergy, gay and straight, withdrawing membership or absenting themselves from the support of congregational and denominational Church life in order to maintain personal integrity.
  • Young adults, especially, embarrassed to invite friends and expressing dismay at the unwillingness of our United Methodist Church to alter its 39-year exclusionary stance.
  • Closeted pastors, currently called and ordained in our church, living divided lives while offering effective appreciated ministry.
  • Bishops being drained of energy by upholding Church Discipline while regarding it as contrary to their convictions.
  • Bishops caught between care for the Church by reappointing an effective gay or lesbian pastor and care for the Discipline by charging them under current legislation.
  • Seminary leaders desiring greater flexibility and openness from the church in order to advance their mission of identifying, recruiting, enrolling, educating and spiritually forming Christian leaders
  • Christian gay men and women understanding themselves called of God to seek ministry opportunities within their United Methodist family Church home, but having to decide between:
    • leaving to go to accepting denominations, or
    • staying and praying for change, or
    • challenging Church law and accepting punitive actions.

 

Our United Methodist Church, ashamed and repentant in the past, ended official and unofficial restrictions on candidacy, ordination and appointment for reason of race, gender and ethnicity. We believe the God we know in Jesus is leading us to issue this counsel and call – a call to transform our church life and our world.

United Methodist Episcopal Leaders-Retired

  • Sharon Z. Rader
  • Donald A. Ott
  • Beverly Shamana
  • C. Joseph Sprague
  • Melvin G. Talbert
  • S. Clifton Ives
  • Joe A. Wilson
  • William Lewis
  • Forrest Stith
  • Susan Morrison
  • Susan Hassinger
  • Judy Craig
  • Dale White
  • William Boyd Grove
  • C. P. Minnick
  • Kenneth L. Carder
  • Roy I. Sano
  • Joe Yeakel
  • Kenneth Hicks
  • Joseph Humper
  • Monk Bryan
  • Jesse DeWitt
  • Jack Tuell
  • J. Lloyd Knox
  • Charles W. Jordan
  • J. Lawrence McCleskey
  • Marshall L. Meadors, Jr.
  • Franz Schafer
  • Sheldon Duecker
  • Fritz Mutti
  • Cal McConnell
  • Leontine T. C. Kelly
  • Robert C. Morgan
  • Daniel Arichea
  • Alfred Johnson
  • Richard B. Wilke
National Office:212 East Capitol St., NE,Washington, DC 20003 * tel: 202.546.8806 *email: mfsa@mfsaweb.org