Crisis in the United Methodist Church

by Rev. Joe Hoover

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Finally, members of a Sacramento area church have filed 184 formal complaints against 92 Methodist ministers who performed a controversial holy union ceremony for a lesbian couple this year. The complaints, lodged by the Rev. Mike Goodyear and members of his FUMC in Orangevale, California, stem from a highly publicized January 16th ceremony at the Sacramento Convention Center where 92 dissident ministers blessed the relationship of a Folsom couple: Jeanne Barnette and Ellie Charlton.

In spite of a unanimous, joint statement issued in 1998 that the Discipline would be upheld, it doesn't seem that any of the bishops of the UMC will take a stand, especially the bishop of the California/Nevada conference where this union took place. The bishop there, Bishop Melvin Talbert, says he supports such unions but will uphold the Discipline of the UMC. Yet, to date, he has not done anything towards the ministers who violated church law. Now that charges have been brought by a local church of the same conference we hope that something will be done.

There is a deep division in the church over gay rights and a larger battle between liberal and evangelical interpretations of the Bible in the United Methodist denomination. There is little question whether the dissident ministers violated a 1996 church law which states that "ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers." Actions against the dissident pastors could include censure, suspension, or removal from the pastoral office. Bishop Talbert's aids in the denomination's Sacramento and San Francisco district offices have already conducted interviews with the dissident ministers. The reaction to these interviews was not surprising, but called to attention to the reality that our bond as UM ministers to uphold the Discipline is falling apart.

"We were given the opportunity to recant, but I don't think that anyone did" said the Rev. Charles Lerrigo of Oakland, one of the participating ministers.

Not only will we be awaiting what happens with these charges, this is also a call for all Methodist conferences to be preparing for the next General Conference. If we send representative from our conferences who will not make a stand, there will be a door left open for the division of the UMC. I challenge both United Methodist clergy and laity to start working now to send the representatives to General Conference in the year 2000 who will support the authority of the Holy Scriptures and the historic stance of the Methodist churches. We'll be electing these representatives, both lay and clergy, during the 1999 Annual Conferences. For his part, Bishop Talbert has already convinced the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society to send a recommendation to the coming General Conference to strike opposition to homosexual practice from the United Methodist Discipline! Do your homework and elect representatives who will be faithful to Christ and His Word.

(Rev. Joe Hoover pastors the United Methodist Churches in Ringgold and Castor, Louisiana. )

The Confessing Movement in the United Methodist Church represents 2,390 United Methodist pastors, 1,210 member churches, and 528,000 individual members to date.

You may also wish to visit the following web sites:The unofficial Confessing Movement, Concerned Methodists, and The United Methodist web site and news service.

First printed in The American Night Watch Newsletter, Volume VII, Part 3, March 1999.

Copyright 1999 Joe Hoover. All Rights Reserved.

The American Night Watch is a trademark of the Christian ministry of Sterling M. Durgy.

Permission is granted to reprint this article as long as the copyright is included, this statement is included, and the article is not sold to the recipients.

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This page was last updated October 22, 1999.