Sunday, November 06, 2005

Book of Discipline Paragraph 214 and 225

Paragraph 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 (paragraph 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.

Paragraph 225 Transfer from Other Denominations -- A member in good standing in any Christian denomination who has been baptized and who desired to unite with The United Methodist Church may be received as either a baptized or professing member by a proper certificate of transfer from that person's former church.....

The vows:
On behalf of the whole church, I ask you:
Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedmess,
reject to evil powers of this world,
and repent of your sin?

Do you accept the freedome and power God gives you
to resist evil, injustice and oppression
in whatever forms they present themselves?

Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior,
put your whole trust in his grace,
and promise to serve him as your Lord,
in union with the church which Christ has opened
to people of all ages, nations and races?

According to the grace given to you,
will you remain faithful members of Christ's holy church
and serve as Christ's representatives in the world?

Then the Creed.

As members of Christ's universal church,
will you beloyal to The United Methodist Chruch
and do all in your power to strengthen its ministries?

As members of this congregation,
will you faithfully participate in its ministries
by your prayers, your presence,
your gifts and your service?


The issue: Earlier this summer a pastor denied membership to a homosexual person. I do not know the person; I do not know if he is practicing or is in a relationship. I know nothing about the person. The associate pastor was disturbed by this and charges were brought. The Judical council ruled in the Senior Pastor's favor and he was reinstated. The ruling was not unanimous. There are dissenting opinions being written. The Council of Bishops released a letter in which it was clear to me that they did not agree with this ruling. The internet is abuzz with a multitude of differing opinions, some of them rather heated. The ruling hinges on the word "may" in paragraph 25. One conference has called for a special meeting of general conference to deal with that little word "may."

I posted a few things, many of which I took down after I attracted some attention that I did not wish. Primarily two persons I have characterized as "trolls" -- not a loving attitude on my part and I apologize. These two persons posted many messages the gist of which were "death to all fags" and "death to all fag-lovers" along with "death to all women clergy." They then condemned myself and all fags and women clergy to hell and were very descriptive in their language about the tortures I would encounter in hell. Since then I took down several of the postings and all of remarks made by these two persons. Hence, my logic may have seemed choppy and at least two people have thought I was reacting to them -- an understandable mistake. I have been rather defensive the last few days and I apologize. I should not have used the word 'troll' so indiscrimately.

I have vowed to uphold the Discipline of the UMC. The language in the Discipline is clear and extremely open. There do not seem to be conditions to membership to this reader. I always understood membership in a church to be a means of grace -- as is reading the Bible, prayer and attending to the ordinances of God. We are not expected to be perfect before we join the church, but repentant. Who is to judge a person's repentance? If they continue in sin? What *is* sin? Why are some sins considered worse that others? I, personally, could be considered a glutton. I eat more that is required to sustain life. So when I eat a large meal, I am continuing in sin. I fall prey to the sin of covetousness. I regularly covet what belongs to my neighbors -- especially compter equipment. This is continuning in sin. I have gone to a resturant on Sundays -- and thus do not keep the Sabbath.

I end up, as usual, with more questions than answers. As a moderate who began life as an extreme conservative Calvinistic evangelical, I often wonder where we draw the line. And I realize that it's the wrong question -- it's not where *I* draw the line. It's more of Amos' plumb line -- and that we all fall short. But thanks to God, I don't have to make up the deficit alone. I can't make up that deficit alone. The question is "Do you Love me?" And I answer "Yes, Lord, I love You." "Feed my sheep." It's time for me -- for us -- to go and feed sheep. It's time for me to love my neighbor, even the trolls. It's time to pray. It's time to attend to the ordinaces of God -- even with those who don't look like me or act like me. It's time.

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