A CALL TO DISCOURSE

A CALL TO DISCOURSE

March 29, 2019 By

As a global church it is important that we listen intently to Christians throughout the world.  Often each of us can be insulated by our own cultural experience that we unconsciously, and sometimes with full awareness, see those of other cultures as not being as informed or aware.  In this thoughtful call to discourse based on the recent international experience of the United Methodist Church, Dr. J. Derek McNeil provides guidance for all of us as a part of the global church.

He says, in part:

“In the wake of the UMC vote on Human Sexuality, I’ve become increasingly concerned that we are losing the capacity to see relationally and to hear each other beyond social categories. I have noticed a familiar tendency, in what started as an international vote concerning a global denomination is turned into a particularly American discussion—universalizing themes and inflections that are firmly located in our national political, religious, and social discourse. This shortchanges our understanding of the complexity of our human discourse and limits our ability to listen deeply.

To raise this point is not to intellectually diminish the real rejection and pain felt across the UMC denomination. The voices in this discourse matter, and I pray that we continue listening to the stories and honor the tears of those who have felt harmed and isolated by this vote, who have experienced the last few weeks as the deepening of an old wound. And may we also remember that there are voices—beyond and within our borders—who do not easily fall into the familiar categories and talking points of our national discourse.

UMC Keeps Tradition’s Sexual Ethics

UMC Keeps Tradition’s Sexual Ethics

February 27, 2019 By

When Wesley looked for truth he went first to Scripture and then to Tradition, Reason and Experience.  In the February 26, 2019 vote of the United Methodist Church concerning the ordination and marriage of avowed homosexual and lesbian people, the majority of delegates voted in agreement with the almost 2000 years of Church tradition as well as the Wesleyan biblical interpretation and tradition in what was called the Traditional Plan.

One of the reasons the denomination stayed connected to the “traditional” theology and practice, passing by a small majority, was the presence of the global church and its delegates.  In this speech by the Rev. Dr. Jerry P. Kulah, Dean of Gbarnga School of Theology, United Methodist University in Liberia, he states in clear unequivoacal and civil manner that the church in Africa will stay true to historic Methodism and “not a culturally liberal, church elite, in the U.S.”

Dr. Kulah says in part:

“Another road invites us to reaffirm Christian teachings rooted in Scripture and the church’s rich traditions.

It says, “All persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God,” that “All persons need the ministry of the Church,” and that “We affirm that God’s grace is available to all.”

It grounds our sexual ethics in Scripture when it says, the UM Church does “not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers [it] incompatible with Christian teaching.”

While “we commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons,” we do not celebrate same-sex marriages or ordain for ministry people who self-avow as practicing homosexuals.

81 WORDS: HOW THE DESIGNATION OF HOMOSEXUALITY WAS REMOVED FROM THE DIAGNOSTIC STATISTICAL MANUAL

81 WORDS: HOW THE DESIGNATION OF HOMOSEXUALITY WAS REMOVED FROM THE DIAGNOSTIC STATISTICAL MANUAL

December 18, 2018 By

When you live through a seismic cultural change it often catches individuals and nations by surprise.  This occurred in 1973 when the American Psychiatric Association changed the defining of homosexuality from a disease to a dysphoria disorder which was then quietly removed in the succeeding years.  The circumstances surrounding the transition is a combination of activism and gay psychiatrists within the APA rising to the highest and most strategic positions.  In this American Life the granddaughter of the gay psychiatrist who was president-elect of the APA when the change was made explores the personal, political and cultural dynamics which brought about the change.  Although we like to think it was the science that led to the removal of the designation of homosexuality as a DSM disorder it was not.

The story begins with our author, Alix Spiegel, explaining first in 2002 and recently repeated on This American Life on December 16, 2018:

“Alix Spiegel

This is the story of a definition, three single sentences composed of 81 words. It’s the story of how this particular definition became another definition, nine sentences, composed of 237 words.

Now according to some parties, this change from 81 words to 237 words liberated an entire category of humanity. According to other parties, it undermined the basic family unit, compromised the scientific authority of psychiatry, and quote, “tampered with the basic code and concept of life.”

Now,

TRANSGENDER SURGERIES

TRANSGENDER SURGERIES

December 17, 2018 By

Perhaps for political reasons, Gender Dysphoria has been grouped together with sexual preference under the label of Transgender.  However, most professionals recognize this DSMV designation found in 0.005% to 0.014% of the population as being of a different nature from that of same-sex or bisexual desire.  The research has been exploring how best to care for persons who experience this with one of the possible solutions being a sex change surgery.   In 2004 the Guardian studied this and found that:

“There is no conclusive evidence that sex change operations improve the lives of transsexuals, with many people remaining severely distressed and even suicidal after the operation, according to a medical review conducted exclusively for Guardian Weekend tomorrow. The review of more than 100 international medical studies of post-operative transsexuals by the University of Birmingham’s aggressive research intelligence facility (Arif) found no robust scientific evidence that gender reassignment surgery is clinically effective.  

The Guardian asked Arif to conduct the review after speaking to several people who regret changing gender or believe that the medical care they received failed to prepare them for their new lives. They explain why they are unhappy with their sex change and how they cope with the consequences in the Weekend magazine tomorrow (July 31).

Chris Hyde, the director of Arif, said: “There is a huge uncertainty over whether changing someone’s sex is a good or a bad thing. While no doubt great care is taken to ensure that appropriate patients undergo gender reassignment,

RACE AND IDENTITY

RACE AND IDENTITY

November 6, 2018 By

Fuller Theological Seminary presents this video symposium to help us understand the deeper and larger issues of race as experienced within the fusion of Christianity and Whiteness.  Whiteness is not about the color of a person’s skin, but the defining of salvation in ways that both distort and import other values thank those of Jesus Christ.  These are two lectures that help us begin this dialogue within the church..  The first is by Dr. Willie Jennings and expands both our minds and our hearts to understand how most of the world experiences the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in this post colonial world.  The second is the response by Dr. Mark Labberton, the president of Fuller.  Together this will take about an hour and is extremely valuable to the Free Methodist Church as we continue to be transformed into followers of Jesus Christ.

FULLER dialogues: Race and Identity

Response | Mark Labberton

EVANGELICAL, WESLEYAN, EGALITARIAN

EVANGELICAL, WESLEYAN, EGALITARIAN

November 1, 2018 By

Our Wesleyan heritage has been supportive of women in leadership throughout our tradition.  Though not always lived out, here is a good article explaining this history.  Written by Craig L. Adams you can read the entire article here.

In part he says:

“I guess it is a paradigm shift for a lot of people but, the fact is that the Methodist acceptance of women in ministry was well ahead of the modern, secular feminist movement — and is, in that sense, unrelated to it! The more radical, Bible-thumping, revivalistic branches of the Wesleyan movement accepted the idea of women in ministry long before the official acceptance of this by the United Methodist Church.

As proof I offer this passage from Binney’s Theological Compend Improved (1874): “Woman’s Sphere in the Church.”

This early egalitarian attitude toward gender & women in ministry is characteristic of the Wesleyan tradition and should be seen as part of the fruit of a progressive-revelation perspective on the Scriptures. The rejection of the practice of slavery by John Wesley and the earliest Methodists is another.

There is really a difference in how Scripture functions in Wesleyan theology as contrasted with other perspectives.

In a recent article on the Church of the Nazarene’s Holiness Today site, Al Truesdale (emeritus professor of philosophy of religion and Christian ethics at Nazarene Theological Seminary) writes about “Why Wesleyans Aren’t Fundamentalists.” He says that the fundamentalist approach is to see the content Scripture’s revelation as divinely revealed information: thus,

RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN CHURCH AND STATE

RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN CHURCH AND STATE

October 15, 2018 By

SCOD 2018
Supt. Bruce N. G. Cromwell, Ph.D.

The 2015 FMC-USA General Conference directed the SCOD to research things that make for peace, the use of force or violence, and the concept of a just war. As I began to study this topic and research these issues,1 eventually resulting in a paper on capital punishment for the SCOD,2 it was suggested that the broader and yet more foundational issue which must be addressed is the relationship between the Church and the State. Such interchange is rife with challenges and opportunities. History has found the dizzying dance between the city of God and the city of humans to often have the respective partners switching the lead, or at least attempting to each guide the relationship. But the two-steps and dips and twirls and spins that Church-State relations seem to currently be engaged in have led to increased questions about what a Christian should do in our complicated and confusing political reality.

When looking at the issues facing our societies and the best ways for peoples and nations to address such societal concerns it is important to ask what the proper place and role of the Church is alongside of political entities. How much should one influence the other, or even relate to the other? The words “separation of Church and State” are frequently thrown about in such discussions, though they are often used in a manner not intended by Thomas Jefferson,

ABUSE, ABANDONMENT, ADULTERY

ABUSE, ABANDONMENT, ADULTERY

October 1, 2018 By

Free Methodist clergy recognize that marriage is a covenant that is not meant to be broken.  We also recognize, along with Jesus and Paul that there are circumstances from a “hardness of heart” that make a marriage abusive.  To require a person to stay in such a marriage would be contrary to the intent of Scripture.  Thus Free Methodist clergy also recognize that with the biblical explanation of abandonment and adultery destroying the covenant of marriage so does abuse.  In this writing by Herb Vander Lugt with editor Martin R. De Haan II we are provided a detailed study of Scripture in support of this understanding.  

In part De Haan says:

THE LAW OF MOSES

The apostle Paul reminds us that all

Scripture is inspired by God and full of wisdom for living in a fallen world (2 Tim. 3:16). With this reminder, let’s review some often-overlooked provisions in the law of Moses. While Jewish rabbis have seen significance in these passages, the church has often focused on the marital ideal rather than those conditions which, according to Moses, required protection for even the most weak and vulnerable women in Israel….

God’s ideal and intent formarriage has never changed.  What has changed, however, are the conditions that occur when hard- hearted people break and are broken by the timeless principles of God. The same law that offers penalties for murder, theft, perjury, and adultery also provides consequences when the purpose and covenant of marriage are broken by contempt and abuse.

JUSTICE PILGRIMAGE

JUSTICE PILGRIMAGE

September 7, 2018 By

The Wesleyan theological method is to evaluate truth from four sources: Scripture as our primary source, and Reason, Tradition and Experience as resources.  Thus our theological education involves the study of Scripture, the study of the sciences and philosophy, the study of history and the exposure to experiences.  It is molding all four into a single educational experience that is difficult. Greenville University has accomplished this rare feat in their Justice Ministry pilgrimage program.

Here Helen Kaufman, one of the leaders in the FMC for decades in Civil Rights shares her experience in this “embodied learning.”  The article begins with:

“Helen Kaufmann ’56 had studied Civil Rights issues for decades. She was no stranger to good research habits, and years of teaching at Parkland College (Champaign, Illinois) honed her ability to engage deeply with material.

Yet a different kind of “learning” emerged when Kaufmann laid her hand across the stone slabs that bore the names of 4,400 lynching victims at the Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama. The horrors of lynching hit home afresh as she viewed “row upon row” of jars holding soil from lynching sites, a stark symbol of the prevalence of that practice mere decades ago.

She slept in a motel built on the onetime site of a slave warehouse, where slaves spent their own fitful nights many years ago. She saw the former Lorraine Motel in Memphis where Martin Luther King,

THE DANGER OF CIVILITY

THE DANGER OF CIVILITY

August 28, 2018 By

Rev. Dr. Laura J. Hunt:

One of the most sobering experiences I have had recently was when I attended an African-American Conference and after a sharing session, when people had been invited to tell their stories of being marginalized, two different people felt the need to come to my husband and I (who are both white and newcomers to the group) to make sure that we understood that they were not angry black people. This seemed worse than any of stories we heard that day. It was direct evidence of how often white people have failed to listen, failed to have compassion, and have chosen to blame the survivors instead.

As a woman in ministry, I recognize that our frustrations, too, are often dismissed if they are not packaged in ways leadership (particularly but not exclusively male leadership) finds appropriate. I do believe that each of us is responsible for handling our anger in a godly way. But it is also important to listen to people delivering news we don’t want to hear, even if they are, or we perceive them to be, angry. In this video, Christena Cleveland does an admirable job of pointing out this phenomenon, relevant for both race and gender discussions, although she frames it primarily in the context of race.

Christena Cleveland, PhD, is a social psychologist, public theologian, author and professor. She is an Associate Professor of the Practice of Organizational Studies at Duke University’s Divinity School and the author of Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces that Keep Us Apart.