Facing Accountability Issues
May 29, 2014
By Johnna Bain
A Response to Adam Hamilton’s 3-Buckets Approach to Scripture – by Ben Witherington
Adam Hamilton’s View on, “A Way Forward for a United Methodist Church.”
Rob Renfroe’s Critique of “A Way Forward”
Dear Mt. Bethel Members,
The possibility of the United Methodist denomination splitting is, perhaps, more likely today than any time since 1968. The Book of Discipline, which every ordained minister has vowed to uphold, and which is democratically reviewed and rewritten every four years, is blatantly being disobeyed by bishops and ministers in several Annual Conferences. This disobedience is not being challenged in several Conferences and is, in fact, being encouraged by some bishops. Today, the United Methodist Church is faced with accountability issues.
During the past eight weeks, scores of leading United Methodist theologians and ministers have met to challenge the disobedience occurring within the denomination. We are facing a crisis of covenant, where numerous pastors have violated or have stated their willingness to violate our Book of Discipline. This crisis involves the inspiration and authority of the Scriptures, including the relevancy of Jesus Christ being the only “Lord and Savior” regarding salvation.
Many feel that traditionalists and progressives (liberals) are pursuing divergent paths as we try to follow Christ and be faithful to what we understand to be the Gospel. The basic issue is the authority of Scripture.
The basic difference between the two groups:
Traditionalists are convinced that God’s will is for sexual relations to be experienced exclusively within the bounds of heterosexual marriage, while Progressives believe sexual relations within a covenanted relationship, heterosexual or homosexual, are pleasing to God and should be affirmed by the Church.
While Traditionalists affirm the sacred worth of all persons, they also believe the Scriptures are clear in prohibiting same-sex relations. Adopting any other view would require their being unfaithful to the Bible as the ultimate authority for determining spiritual and moral truth. Progressives believe that the Scriptures are compatible with their views. They believe the full inclusion of homosexuals, in all areas of the church, is a matter of God’s love and justice. The Progressives intend that all United Methodist pastors to preside at same-sex weddings, and practicing homosexuals are fully accepted in ordained ministry.
Simply stated, that’s where we are as a denomination. This debate has been continuous for 42 years. Every four years our General Conference has upheld the Traditionalist’s views. The Progressives have given up trying to change the position of the denomination through General Conference voting. Instead, they have simply violated the Church’s Book of Discipline which threatens accountability within the denomination.
Mt. Bethel will post the views of each group, as they are released, on its website. The final decision on this issue of a split within the denomination will be determined by each and every individual United Methodist. Individually, we will vote as to whether we remain United, Split into Traditional or Progressive Churches, or become an independent church. This issue has already split every mainline denomination. May God help us and guide us as we decide.