“So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by our letter.” -2 Thessalonians 2:15 (NRSV)
The United Methodist Church has a great spiritual heritage, and continues to be used powerfully by God around the world to build His kingdom. Consistent with the clear witness of Scripture and 2,000 years of consistent ecumenical Christian tradition, the UMC officially teaches that sex is God’s good gift given only for the holy covenant of marriage between man and woman, and so forbids the ordination of anyone sexually active outside of these boundaries.
Our denomination’s faithfulness and unity have been painfully challenged by United Methodist leaders in a few regions defying the biblical standards on marriage that all United Methodist clergy, at their ordinations, vow to uphold. These tensions reached an unprecedented level on July 15, 2016, when the U.S. Western Jurisdiction elected Dr. Karen Oliveto, an openly partnered lesbian activist who promotes a rather radical theology, as bishop.
NOW is a time for faithful United Methodists to follow the repeated New Testament mandate “stand firm” in the biblical faith handed down to us from Jesus Christ and His apostles.
We invite all faithful United Methodists to stand together with this commitment to stand firm, which was endorsed on July 22 by the UM Action Steering Committee and Advisory Board, the devoted United Methodists to whom the renewal ministry of UM Action is accountable:
The election of Karen Oliveto of San Francisco, who openly defies The United Methodist Discipline she vowed to uphold, as bishop is illegitimate and cannot stand. We will prayerfully wait on the Judicial Council’s declaratory decision, which we hope will make this election null and void.
Let us not lose perspective. Representing just two percent of United Methodism, the fast-declining Western Jurisdiction that elected Dr. Oliveto on its own does not represent the present or future of our church. Let us not forget the many great accomplishments of last May’s General Conference, at which liberal delegates once again gave up even trying to remove our denomination’s ban on same-sex unions and it became abundantly clear that the momentum in our denomination is decisively with the growing orthodox majority.
Now is not the time for rash reactions to this very upsetting provocation. Once again, we urge fellow United Methodists upset by this news to not abandon our local churches, but rather stay and insist on accountability, remind others that this election is being challenged, share their concerns with their pastors, and to remember that this increasingly shrill minority is not nearly as powerful as it is sometimes made out to be. We urge United Methodists to support the work of UM Action and others working for accountability. For such a time as this, a new level of public leadership is especially needed from our orthodox bishops.
For our part, we will NOT let the unfaithful antics of a covenant-breaking minority intimidate us into surrendering our entire denomination or into resigned acceptance of the harm they are doing to the church we so deeply love.
We are committed to loving ministry with ALL people, including our friends and loved ones who identify as LGBTQIA+. We grieve for the deep pain inflicted by secular Western culture’s confusions about human sexuality. No lasting hope is offered by Dr. Oliveto’s bizarre spirituality of not only rejecting biblical standards for sexual self-control, but rejecting the very red-letter teachings of Jesus Christ while touting the alleged benefits of demon possession. The answer is for our church to rediscover the riches of Christian teaching about the holiness and good news of God’s plan for marriage and the human body.
We celebrate that global United Methodism is growing and increasingly orthodox. As our denomination moves away from its USA-only liberal Protestant identity there are inevitable tensions and crises. But we are hopeful about the future and confident in the Holy Spirit’s leadership.
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The UM Action Steering Committee and Advisory Board further approved the following invitation:
We invite all faithful United Methodists to join UM Action in working to move our churches forward in faithfulness for whatever new realities God may have in store for us. And we encourage you to send at least one representative from your congregation to Chicago for the October 7 meeting of the Wesleyan Covenant Association.
Book of Discipline: Photo by Kathleen Barry, United Methodist Communications
Central African delegates at General Conference 2016 listening on headsets while U.S. liberals protest in background: Photo by Mike DuBose, United Methodist News Service
Stanislas Kassongo: Photo by Mike DuBose, United Methodist News Service