Tuesday, July 26, 2016
“O Israel and Judah, what should I do with you?” asks the Lord. “For your love vanishes like the morning mist and disappears like dew in the sunlight. I sent my prophets to cut you to pieces—to slaughter you with my words, with judgments as inescapable as light. I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings. But like Adam, you broke my covenant and betrayed my trust. Hosea 6:4-7(NLT)
This year has been particularly disturbing in the denomination to which I belong. Officially the church has orthodox (traditional) doctrine and polity. Recently that has meant nothing to a segment of leaders within the denomination. Preacher groups on Facebook, as well as watchdog parachurch organizations have just blown-up with outrage over flagrant violations of our Book of Discipline (the rules, bylaws that govern behavior and consequences of members and clergy alike).
Here’s the most recent straw threatening to break the camel’s back: A few weeks ago the Western Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church elected as a new bishop a clergywoman, Dr. Karen Oliveto, a practicing lesbian, and married for more than two years to another woman.[ii]
Now, the first question many would ask is, why would the church do that? Well, the reality is the church didn’t do that. It was a small, tightly-run group of activists engineering an election outcome to push the door open on this Pandora’s Box of legitimizing homosexuality. The other bishops are largely powerless to address the issue, at least formally.
Some complaints have already been filed, and it will be up to the denomination’s Judicial Council (the United Methodist version of a Supreme Court) to decide on the validity of this new “bishop’s” election. That will take some time.
In the meantime a small percentage of UMC clergy have been performing same-sex marriage ceremonies (also strictly forbidden by church policy) and relatively little is being done to remedy this renegade heresy.
Most of those who are participating in this practice have flatly stated they will continue to do so, despite the vows they took to uphold our covenantal relationship of a connection in Christ.
To say this flaunts the very limits of ethical behavior would be akin to suggesting that the Pope may be slightly Catholic. It is, as God laments through the prophet Hosea, a breaking of covenant and betrayal of trust.
One UMC Preacher (who recently ran for bishop in that same election process) posted a treatise on how the church needs to stay together; a posted response to that idea was something like this:
Suppose you are married, and your husband cheats? Then he cheats again. The two of you go to counselling to see about fixing this rift and he offers no remorse, no apology, and flatly states that he will continue to jump into bed with others at his own discretion. He doesn’t care what vows you made together when you got married. This feels right, so he will do it.
That is broken covenant. It is spiritual adultery. It is the same kind of thing Israel and Judah did when they ignored their God and did their own thing. In reading Israel’s history you would have to admit, God was not pleased…and Israel suffered because of God’s judgment.
UMC leaders would do well to go back to seminary and learn this basic lesson of obedience.
In light of my airing the dirty laundry of my denomination here, it seems this would be a good day to take a good look at those areas of our own lives that may need a rinse-out!
You chew on that as you hit the Rocky Road today…have a blessed day!
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[i] Title Image: By Pink Sherbet Photography from Utah, USA, via Wikimedia Commons