Bishop Sally Dyck’s Call for United Methodist’s to Do the Right Thing!

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Because I know many folks are following the painful journey United Methodist’s are on right now, I am posting Bishop Sally Dyck’s open letter to those in the Northern Illinois Conference (where we lived and taught for 17 years!). While I grieve the terrible pain this journey is causing so many faithful Christians, I do believe that the tide is turning and that we will (finally!) do the right thing so we can once again be about addressing the deep needs in the world and sharing the good news of God’s compassion, justice and hope in our hurting and hurtful world. — ljv

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Open Letter to the Northern Illinois Conference
November 19, 2013

sally dyck
Bishop Sally Dyck
The action and responses to the Council of Bishop’s statement regarding Bishop Mel Talbert’s celebration of a marriage between Joe Openshaw and Bobby Prince in Alabama have been like the other Sunday afternoon when turbulent weather swirled across the state of Illinois. While the literal storms have subsided, the spiritual, ecclesial, theological, and relational storms caused by the statement of the Council of Bishops continue within each of us, between us, and around us as people called United Methodist in the Northern Illinois Conference and across the church.

The storms brewed up for me at the Council of Bishops. There was a strong, but not unanimous, belief that Bishop Talbert’s actions necessitated their response because he went into another bishop’s territory after the expressed wish that he not do so. This became the dominant topic of discussion. But some voted against the statement, including myself, because it keeps making less and less space to be faithful followers of Jesus and loving family members, friends, pastoral leaders, and yes, even bishops.

As I have already stated publicly, the good thing about the COB’s statement is that it finally recognizes that we are not of one mind on human sexuality. This is a long overdue statement. But in making this statement, there needs to be space for people to exist, live, thrive, grow, and fulfill their calling as laity and clergy within the church. If it was just a handful of dissidents in the church who disagreed with the Book of Discipline, that would be one thing. But those of us who need space comprise at least, if not more than, half the American population and increasingly more and more people within and throughout the church. 

Not allowing space for people who long for an open church is counter-productive to fulfilling our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ. The church and its leaders long for “more people, younger people, and more diverse people.” But with “more people, younger people (and not so young), and more diverse people” come people for whom the matters of human sexuality aren’t a stumbling block in faith but quite the contrary. When we aren’t open and welcoming of all people, our statements on human sexuality are an impediment, causing many within the church to become disappointed in the UMC and to feel that we are being hypocritical in what Jesus would have us be and do. We need space so we can grow and be vital.

I also understand that there are some in the Northern Illinois Annual Conference who believe that the Council of Bishops acted appropriately, based on deeply held convictions. While there are some of you who don’t want the church to budge an inch, I also know there are others of you who are weary of this longtime, ongoing division.

Instead of framing this as an either-or position that necessitates either-or responses, can we reframe it?  Can we figure out how to negotiate space for all to exist in the church for the purpose of fulfilling our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ? 

In Acts 15, the early church found itself in a conflict over the law as well as accepted and deeply held  assumptions and traditions about who people are (circumcised or uncircumcised). It was a visceral reaction by some against Paul and others who were reaching out to the (uncircumcised) Gentiles. They stood on the side of the law but the church found a way to be together that seemed to work. I don’t think it changed all the hearts and minds of the Jewish Christians but at least it wasn’t impeding the outreach to the Gentiles. (Please read the chapter to see what they did and how they did it.)

I love this annual conference. But I don’t want our annual conference, which is made up of diverse but divided beliefs on human sexuality, to exhaust our resources of time, focus, energy and money (up to $100,000 if it goes to a trial) on filing complaints against clergy who are following their conscience. Frankly, I don’t want my resources of energy and focus to be exhausted by people filing complaints against each other or me. I will be announcing in the near future some evening, open gatherings where we can discuss how we can reframe this conversation, based on Acts 15.

I want us to find a negotiated way forward so that we can love our neighbors as ourselves. In addition to my concern and care for the inclusiveness of the church in terms of human sexuality, I also want the Northern Illinois Conference to love our neighbors who are immigrants as we become more immigrant-friendly. I want us to love our neighbors by engaging our communities which are gripped by poverty whether it’s in the city of Chicago or the most rural church in the conference. I want us to spend our time and energy to start new churches, including people who are already open and welcoming to LGBTQ people or are so designated themselves and desire the love and grace of Jesus Christ just as we do. I want us to love our neighbors by eliminating deaths from malaria. I want us to focus our time, energy and money as an annual conference in reaching out, loving our neighbor, and fulfilling our mission.

For the six times it mentions homosexuality in the scriptures, repeatedly Jesus called us to love one another and Paul admonished the early church to be as one (in the New Testament alone the word love appears over 200 times). When he mentioned being of the same mind, I don’t think he meant being of the same mind on any particular topic, including human sexuality; I think he meant being of the same mind in following Jesus, loving our neighbor and caring for one another.

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 2:1-5)

~Bishop Sally Dyck

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Gay Marriage (part 2) after Pastor Frank’s Trial

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We are posting this open letter to United Methodists from Bishop Joseph Sprague, formerly bishop in Northern Illinois where Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary where we taught is located. He is one more prophetic bishop who was also a strong supporter of the Civil Rights movement earlier.

The prosecution (horrible term for church folks dealing with church folks!) proclaimed that the penalty imposed on the Pennsylvania pastor who married his gay son in a family celebration needed to be severe enough “to deter others from performing such services.”

Our sense is, however, that the severe and unreasonable penalty which will no doubt cost this faithful pastor his orders will have the opposite effect. We will do weddings for all–using the same criteria for persons whether they are heterosexual or homosexual. Christian weddings are about committed and faithful love and a desire to be a family together!

We stand with all reconciling United Methodists and with Bishop Talbert by asserting that we believe being Biblically Obedient on this GLBTQ issue in our denomination means that we must be ecclesially disobedient even as we work to change the rules in the current Discipline.

Here is Bishop Sprague’s letter:

NOVEMBER 22, 2013

Bishop C. Joseph Sprague: An Open Letter to the People Called United Methodists

Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

SpragueCJosephStanding outside the Statement of the Council of Bishops [COB] regarding Bishop Talbert’s celebration of the marriage of two gay United Methodist men, whose baptismal names are Bobby and Joe, I embrace the words of Christian mystic, Meister Eckhardt, “People ought not to consider so much what they are to do as what they are; let them be good and their ways and deeds will shine brightly. If you are just, your actions will be just too.”

The issue before us is not Bishop Talbert’s “undermining the ministry of a colleague”, as the COB’s Statement asserts. Rather, it is our church’s failure to follow Jesus in being just and thus doing justice with minorities, in this case gay and lesbian human beings, too often marginalized by the majority’s fear and insensitivity. The Statement’s call for another study of homosexuality and its generic reference to real pain are evidence of institutional protectionism and insensitive duplicity, co-mingled with the privilege of the majority. None of this constitutes either a guidepost for a saintly church, or a pathway for a visionary COB that is called in Eckhardt’s words, to “shine brightly.”

Therefore, this Open Letter respectfully suggests:

  • That, should any Complaint be filed against Bishop Talbert, the Western College of Bishops take no action on it;
  • That bishops, who are so persuaded by their considered application of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, stand in solidarity with clergy colleagues who celebrate weddings of lesbian and gay couples, when such couples meet the same pastoral requirements for a Christian wedding as do their heterosexual counterparts;
  • That all United Methodists dedicate ourselves anew to following Jesus by freeing children from poverty, liberating the captives, and working to eliminate violence, mayhem, and war; and,
  • That, rather than continuing to waste invaluable resources and hurting each other and the church we love, the people called United Methodists confess we are not of one mind and heart on this entire matter and, therefore, entrust to annual conferences, congregations, laity, and clergy the gift of being in such relationship with lesbian and gay sisters and brothers as the vital and dynamic experience of the means of grace determines and dictates.

May we proceed graciously knowing that what is required is “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” [Micah 6:8b]

Grace and Peace,

Bishop C. Joseph Sprague

November 19, 2013

Posted at 02:12 PM in Biblical ObedienceBirmingham weddingMarriage | Permalink

 

THE OCEAN IS CRYING

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Linda’s November Blog—The Ocean is Crying

Actually, the ocean is dying! Or, more accurately, we are killing the ocean. One only needs to Google something like “Pacific Trash Island” to find many more articles and photos and You Tube videos like the five I list below:

http://education.nationalgeographic.com/education/encyclopedia/great-pacific-garbage-patch/?ar_a=1

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1qT-rOXB6NI

http://blog.ted.com/2009/02/24/capt_charles_mo/

http://www.ted.com/talks/capt_charles_moore_on_the_seas_of_plastic.html

https://www.google.com/search?q=nasa+pacific+garbage+patch&oq=NASA+pacific+g&aqs=chrome.1.69i57j0l3.16484j0j4&sourceid=chrome&espv=210&es_sm=93&ie=UTF-8

I’ve known about this for several years but this short article below from The Week based on Greg Ray’s article in the Newcastle Herald (Wales) brought me up short:

Humans have wrecked the ocean, said Greg Ray, Newcastle yachtsman Ivan Macladyen just got back from a sailing trip from Melbourne to Osaka, Japan, and then on to Hawaii and San Francisco. On the same route a decade ago, flocks of birds wheeled around the boat, and fish and whales were plentiful. But in the 10 intervening years, humans have denuded the sea of life. Much of the journey passed through a dead zone: “No fish. No birds. Hardly a sign of life at all” for nearly 3,000 nautical miles. The only living things were fishermen aboard massive trawlers who were stripping a reef of every fish and keeping only the tuna, killing and dumping everything else. “In place of the missing life was garbage in astounding volumes,” some of it—but not all—debris from the 2011 tsunami, including telephone poles, trucks, factory chimneys, and all kinds of plastic. There were miles upon miles of tangled junk, some of it bobbing, some sunk below the surface. When winds were calm, the yacht couldn’t start its motor “for fear of entangling the propeller in the mass of pieces of rope and cable.” Macfadyen is frightened by what he saw. Shaking his head “in stunned disbelief,” he has concluded that “the ocean is broken.”       The Week, (November 1, 2013, Vol 13, Issue 641, p. 13)

Granted, the tsunami was an act of nature. But any who will look at the data (including the 5 websites listed above) must take seriously the fact that we are creating trash islands twice the size of Texas in the Pacific Ocean. Taken with the increasing rise in the ocean’s temperatures (and therefore of the ocean’s increasing encroachment on shorelines as more of our ice at the poles and glaciers melt), we may be about to see something that makes the tsunami look like a tiny blip. Our rivers are polluted, our lakes are at serious risk around the globe, and the oceans are very broken!

What must we do right now?

STOP USING PLASTIC BAGS AND BOTTLES. JUST STOP! I carry reusable bags in the car. Too often I forget to take them into the store with me. But I don’t let myself off the hook. I go back to the car to get them! NO PLASTIC!

Become active politically to BLOCK THE TAR SANDS PIPELINE! Transporting dirty oil over water tables and farm land is a disaster waiting to happen (and it will happen!). We must work to support renewable energy sources and to stop using fossil fuels.

We must EDUCATE OURSELVES, OUR CHILDREN, OUR STUDENTS AND OUR NEIGHBORS AND FRIENDS! And then we must ACT ON WHAT WE KNOW!

Not only our water, but our air and our land must be protected!

From Genesis 1: 20-23

God then said, “Waters, swarm with an abundance of living beimgs! Birds: fly above the earth in the open expanse of the sky!” And so it was. God created great sea monsters and all sorts of swimming creatures with which the waters are filled, and all kinds of birds. God saw that this was good and blessed them, saying, “Bear fruit, increase your numbers ad fill the waters of the seas!  Birds, abound on the earth!” Evening came, and morning followed—the fifth day.

Glacier Bay, Alaska 2011

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Oregon Coast

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Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

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Gay Marriage and Faith

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Linda’s Reflections on Gay Marriage and Faith                                                         October, 2013

The United Methodist Church’s Discipline (the denomination’s official book of social principles and governing policies which is adopted—and can be revised—by the General Conference every four years) has since 1972 included judgmental and hurtful language about gay and lesbian persons.

The following information is from this website:

http://archives.umc.org/interior.asp?mid=1324 What is the denomination’s position on homosexuality?

“Only the General Conference speaks for The United Methodist Church. When the lay and clergy delegates to General Conference approve a statement, it is published in the Book of Discipline and/or the Book of Resolutions. These words come from the people of The United Methodist Church. From the Social Principles • Human Sexuality • Equal Rights Regardless of Sexual Orientation • Marriage Other related statements include: Regarding church membership

4. Article IV. Inclusiveness of the Church The United Methodist Church is a part of the church universal, which is one Body in Christ. The United Methodist Church acknowledges that all persons are of sacred worth. All persons without regard to race, color, national origin, status,4 or economic condition, shall be eligible to attend its worship services, participate in its programs, receive the sacraments, upon baptism be admitted as baptized members, and upon taking vows declaring the Christian faith, become professing members in any local church in the connection.

5 In The United Methodist Church no conference or other organizational unit of the Church shall be structured so as to exclude any member or any constituent body of the Church because of race, color, national origin, status or economic condition.6 4. Amended 1992. 5. Amended 2000.

6. See Judicial Council Decisions 242, 246, 340, 351, 362, 377, 398, 594, 601, and Decisions 4 and 5, Interim Judicial Council.

214. Eligibility The United Methodist Church is a part of the holy catholic (universal) church, as we confess in the Apostles’ Creed. In the church, Jesus Christ is proclaimed and professed as Lord and Savior. All people may attend its worship services, participate in its programs, receive the sacraments and become members in any local church in the connection

4). In the case of persons whose disabilities prevent them from reciting the vows, their legal guardian[s], themselves members in full covenant relationship with God and the Church, the community of faith, may recite the appropriate vows on their behalf.

Regarding clergy

304.3 While persons set apart by the Church for ordained ministry are subject to all the frailties of the human condition and the pressures of society, they are required to maintain the highest standards of holy living in the world. The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals1 are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.

2 1. “Self-avowed practicing homosexual” is understood to mean that a person openly acknowledges to a bishop, district superintendent, district committee of ordained ministry, board of ordained ministry, or clergy session that the person is a practicing homosexual. See Judicial Council Decisions 702, 708, 722, 725, 764, 844, 984.

2. See Judicial Council Decisions 984, 985.341.6 Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.”  [end of quote from The Discipline]

I will not go into the reasons why it appears that we will not be able to change the language in our Discipline in the near future except to say that because the ratio of members to our General Conference (in the guise of claiming that we are a global church) will continue to have an increasing number of delegates from countries beyond the United States where opposition to homosexuality in their contexts is very strong (these delegates from across the globe can vote on our Discipline while U.S. members cannot vote on their governing policies).

Not unlike the Civil Rights’ movement when many United Methodist clergy and laity stepped up as leaders in that struggle while the official position and the actions of the denomination were slower to respond, there are many congregations, church leaders (bishops, clergy and laity) who have responded by following the outstanding leadership of Bishop Melvin Talbert by proclaiming that we choose to be “biblically obedient” which, in this case, causes us to be “ecclesially disobedient.” To understand more about this call to bibilical obedience, see Bishop Talbert’s message at:

My own United Methodist congregation (Claremont United Methodist Church in Claremont, California) celebrated its 20th anniversary as a “reconciling congregation” (publicly stating that we accept all GLBTQ persons into all aspects of our congregation’s life) in May, 2013. We are clear that the Discipline is wrong when it denies called persons to be ordained because they are gay or lesbian and when it forbids pastors and congregations to perform or hold gay marriages. We love the United Methodist Church and we claim our Wesleyan heritage to embody the Gospel by affirming loudly and clearly that ALL MEANS ALL! We will follow Jesus by loving and by celebrating the love of any and all who choose to enter into the covenant of marriage. We will also continue to work to change our Discipline in regard to its homophobia and inhospitality to GLBTQ persons, but in the meantime, we will do what is right and just, because that is what Jesus calls us to do!

And so it is that on October 12, 2013, Michael and Cameron were married in a service that had so much depth and integrity that it moved me to tears! These young men are active members of our congregation. They are searching and growing in faith and in love. They know that they are loved and valued as members of the Body of Christ with us!

It is a wonderful and joyous thing to do what is right and good! All persons who choose to marry in California are able to do so. Our congregation is blessed as we baptize and celebrate marriages for all of our members. We seek to “do justice and to love mercy and to walk humbly with God” (see Micah 6:8) as we work to feed the hungry, to offer legal aid to immigrants, to house families in our sanctuary house, to visit and work with prisoners and with women who have been released after years of incarceration, to engage in creative peace-making, to offer the use of our land for “Uncommon Good” (www.uncommongood.org) to build the first public “whole earth building”, and to work in many ways to care for the earth and to foster sustainable living. It grieves us that our denomination has yet to understand that homophobia and heterosexism is one more “ism” that must be destroyed (like racism, ageism, sexism and more). Because we love the United Methodist Church, we must make this choice to do the right thing. We pray that our witness will empower others to “open their hearts, their minds and their doors” to all!

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Cameron and Michael share Wedding Vows

The mission statement of Claremont United Methodist Church is:

As followers of Jesus Christ, we are an inclusive community responding to God’s love and grace.

➢ We nurture one another on our spiritual journeys

➢ We work for peace and justice

➢ We serve others and God’s creation Together, we seek God’s creatie transformation of the world and of individual hearts.

[Adopted by the Church Council, September, 2009]