WHO I AM
I am a United Methodist Christian, classic and orthodox in doctrine. I affirm the Christian faith as expressed in the United Methodist Doctrinal Standards , and the Nicene and Apostles Creeds. I am politically progressive but theologically orthodox. My mind is Protestant, and Wesleyan. My heart is Catholic. It is with that self understanding, not only in my theology but in my spirituality, that I am unable to support the Traditional Plan as adopted by General Conference 2019. My reasons are found in the Wesleyan Quadrilateral.
The Traditional Plan is scripturally selective. It isolates one issue and ignores others that deserve as much or more scriptural attention. For instance, to be consistent with the prohibitions against full inclusion of LGBTQIA person through ordination and marriage, the church should prohibit remarriage of divorced persons and leadership of women in the church. The Roman and Orthodox Catholic Churches are consistent; denying ordination to gay men, marriage of same gender persons, remarriage of previously divorced persons, and ordination of women. For United Methodist Church with what I believe to be a more mature understanding of how scripture shall be understood, all these other ships have sailed, leaving only the isolated rejection of LGBTQIA persons.
Throughout the United Methodist Connection, recognized biblical scholars repudiate the selective scriptural support for the Traditional Plan. These include Dean Emeritus Bruce Birch of Wesley Theological Seminary and Steven Tuell, James Kelso
Professor of Hebrew and Old Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. (Whom I ordained)
According to Mark’s gospel, [Mark 12: 28-31] when Jesus was asked what are the greatest of the commandments, after quoting Deuteronomy [Deuteronomy 6:4 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind and with all your strength] he ignored the “abomination” texts in Leviticus and chose “You shall love your neighbor as yourself“ [ Leviticus 19:18]. And he added “There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Tradition is the life and teaching of the Church from the days of the Apostles and the adoption of the canon of the New Testament until the present time.
Clearly until recently, Tradition has seen homosexual practice as sinful. But Tradition is not static and fixed; it is dynamic and ever changing. Luther added to, and transformed Tradition as did Wesley, when he ordained Asbury and Coke for supervision of the Wesleyan mission in North America. The Methodist Church added to and transformed Tradition when it approved the ordination of women in 1956. Who among us would reverse that change of Tradition by asking ordained women to surrender their credentials because once upon a time Tradition did not approve of the ordination of women?
What does our experience teach us about same gender attraction? What do we know that those of Biblical times did not know? Our experience has taught us that people do not choose homosexuality; it chooses them. Our experience teaches us that two persons of the same gender can have a lifelong faithful, committed loving relationship. There is not total agreement among social scientists as to what causes homosexuality. But there is broad consensus that it is not chosen it is given.
This understanding, born of experience, was unknown to Biblical writers.
Wesleyan understanding of scripture is not superficial or selective. Again, quoting Deuteronomy and Jesus, we are called to “Love the Lord our God with our…minds.” To love God with our minds commands us to study scripture deeply, and to examine it in relation to Tradition and Experience. As my greatest teacher Carl Michelson Professor of Theology at Drew Theological Seminary told us many times, “To take the Bible literally is not to take it seriously.”
WHAT TO DO NOW
I believe that I/we are called to abide, to pray, to resist and to trust. I have not and will not violate my ordination and consecration promises and I urge my ordained and consecrated colleagues not to do so. We are not prisoners within this church. There are other options. If I could not be faithful to my promises I would leave and be part of another church, compatible with my views. But with fidelity to our vows, we should do all we can to lead our church to a new place. And I believe it is only a matter of time. Out of 860 delegates, if 28 had voted differently, we would have the One Church Plan. And much of the Traditional Plan will be found unconstitutional.
Meanwhile, I claim the assurance of Julian of Norwich. “All will be well, and all will be well and all things will be well.”