Friday, March 3, 2017

Yes, WCA, God Is Good

You don't need to read much of my work to know that I have concerns about the Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA). So when I received an email from them asking me to watch a short video, of course I did. You can watch it too.

As is their habit, the WCA is creating a false narrative of what is happening in the United Methodist Church. In the video, Madeline Carrasco Henners shares three phrases that the WCA holds on to. God is Good. The Bible is True. Promises Should be Kept.

Amen and amen. But that doesn't mean that the WCA's narrative is true. To begin with, Rev. Henners makes the near libelous claim that, "There are those in the UMC who don't agree with all or even part of those three simple statements." I invite Rev. Henners to name those in the UMC who would refute the idea that God is Good. Even the most radical of our members left and right would not deny that God is Good. Do we have different understandings of exactly how God's goodness is lived? Of course. But we should be above playing games with each other in the serious times that we live in.

Rev. Henners then goes point by point, and so will I. That only gets us half way through her video but it's all I can stomach for the moment.

God is Good. 

The last sentence that Henners shares here gets to the crux of the matter. "If God tells us to refrain from something then it is good for us to obey Him." We all know that the WCA's primary concern is the "practice of homosexuality." They never use the words in the video, but everybody knows that this is the issue at hand. This sentence is code for 'If God tells us to refrain from [homosexuality] then it is good for us to obey." And I agree. But we aren't arguing about whether or not we should obey God; we are arguing about what God's will is.

The Bible Is True

Something else we can agree on. Rev. Henners quotes 2 Timothy on the authority of Scripture, which most likely originally referenced the Old Testament, but that's fine. We'll move on to the contention that some don't agree that the Bible is true. I have yet to find a pastor who doesn't start a sermon with Scripture. Or read Scripture regularly. Or seek to follow Scripture. Rev. Henners says, "The Bible provides us with authoritative teaching on what we should believe and how we should live." Yes! And yet we all agree that there are places where the Bible teaches things that on the surface appear contradictory and that must be sorted out by other means. We don't stone insolent children. We don't practice the Year of Jubilee. We don't attack those with lustful eyes as adulterers. We don't share all we have in common. The Bible is true AND we will sometimes disagree on how it is rightfully interpreted.

Promises Should Be Kept

Now we get to it. "Every ordained clergyperson...promised to God and each other to be accountable to the United Methodist Church, it's authority, it's Doctrinal Standards, and our Book of Discipline. This promise is absolute. It is without exception. That's what makes it a covenant." And so I'll go to my favorite part of the Book of Discipline, the footnote on Paragraph 310 (2012 BOD. This footnote reminds us that candidates for ordination should not be "self-avowed practicing homosexuals." But the history of the footnote goes back at least to 1976 and spoke only of tobacco and alcohol use - language that still remains as it was then. "...the burden of proof would be upon users [of tobacco and beverage alcohol] to show that their use of it is consistent with the highest ideals of the Christian life." I don't know about you, but I've never heard that question asked in a Board of Ordained Ministry interview. But promises should be kept! If you have ever had the wrong number of people on a church committee, if you have ever gone a year without receiving all of the special offerings, if you have ever served a church that does not have a United Methodist Women's chapter, then you have failed to keep the promise!

Is that what Rev. Henners really means? Of course not. And we know this because another vow we make in the Book of Discipline is to pay our apportionments. At least one WCA board member pastors a church that has not paid its apportionments in full even though it has found money to pay its WCA dues.

WCA members, if you are serious about keeping promises, then back it up with your words. And come up with some better lines to differentiate yourselves from the rest of us. We are all doing our best to stay faithful to God's call within the United Methodist Church.

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