Relaymedia

United Methodist Evangelicals Respond to Controversial Trial

"We strongly urge all faithful biblically-centered United Methodists to contact their own bishops and encourage them to speak out in opposition to this schismatic and unbiblical action by The Pacific
( [email protected] ) Mar 24, 2004 10:28 AM EST

In response to Saturday’s verdict in favor of openly lesbian Karen Damman in a clergy trial, the largest body of evangelicals within the United Methodist Church released a statement urging members to speak out in opposition to the controversial ruling, on Tuesday, March 23, 2004.

The statement, which was penned by the leaders of the 600,000-member Confessing Movement within the UMC, clearly shows that much of the denomination disagree with the actions of the highly liberal Pacific Northwest Conference where Dammann was put to trial for actively participating in a sexual relationship with another woman.

“This nullification of Church law and the moral teaching on homosexuality in the Discipline must not be allowed to stand. The clergy jury have broken covenant with the Church and failed to live up to their ordination vows. They have broken a covenant which they vowed to uphold,” the statement read.

“We deplore that these retired bishops, who spoke as experts on Church law, used the weight of their office to encourage the jury to render a decision that contradicts the Discipline, and is boldly contrary to the clear teaching of the Bible as well as more than two-thousand years of Church tradition,” it continued.

While asking members to stay within the denomination, the statement encouraged them to take action by letting their voices be heard.

“We strongly urge all faithful biblically-centered United Methodists to contact their own bishops and encourage them to speak out in opposition to this schismatic and unbiblical action by The Pacific Northwest Conference. Please contact your General Conference delegates, also. We urge our constituents to remain in the Church and give the delegates at General Conference the chance to rectify the rebellion that took place in the Dammann trial verdict,” the statement said.

The following is the full statement signed by the Executive Director Senator Pat Miller, Associate Director Dr. Ira Gallaway and the President Dr. Bill Hinson of the Confessing Movement, on Tuesday.

On Saturday, March 20th, a thirteen-member jury of Pacific Northwest clergy members found their colleague, The Reverend Karen Dammann, not guilty of the charge of "practices declared by The United Methodist Church to be incompatible with Christian teaching". The Reverend Dammann had disclosed to her Bishop in writing that she was in a covenanted homosexual relationship with her partner. The jury’s verdict "sustained the specification that The Reverend Karen Dammann is a self-avowed practicing homosexual" but voted not to sustain the complaint against her.

By the action of this jury, representing the clergy of The Pacific Northwest Conference, this Conference has become schismatic and separated itself from the rest of the Church. This nullification of Church law and the moral teaching on homosexuality in the Discipline must not be allowed to stand. The clergy jury have broken covenant with the Church and failed to live up to their ordination vows. They have broken a covenant which they vowed to uphold.

This action of the jury was supported by three retired bishops who lent the prestige of their office to encourage the jury to render a verdict that is clearly in direct contradiction to the will of The General Conference and The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church. We deplore that these retired bishops, who spoke as experts on Church law, used the weight of their office to encourage the jury to render a decision that contradicts the Discipline, and is boldly contrary to the clear teaching of the Bible as well as more than two-thousand years of Church tradition.

We are very grateful that a number of active bishops have spoken out in strong opposition to this "rebellion" of a group which "chooses to flagrantly ignore the Discipline". We strongly urge all faithful biblically-centered United Methodists to contact their own bishops and encourage them to speak out in opposition to this schismatic and unbiblical action by The Pacific Northwest Conference. Please contact your General Conference delegates, also. We urge our constituents to remain in the Church and give the delegates at General Conference the chance to rectify the rebellion that took place in the Dammann trial verdict.

The Book of Discipline is crystal clear on this matter: "Since the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching, self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be accepted as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church." (304.3, Book of Discipline) We do not see how the Bishop of The Pacific Northwest Conference can in good conscience appoint The Reverend Dammann without being in conflict with The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church.

The very moral fiber and fellowship of our Church has been ripped apart. Tears of grief and sorrow flow from the center of our souls as we fear for the unity of our Church. But, we firmly believe that there is a solid core of biblical believers within United Methodism who will stay the course and see that this indefensible and schismatic action does not stand.

Perhaps delegates to this General Conference should consider a way where those in the Western Jurisdiction – and the rest of the Church for that matter – who are not willing to keep and live by the covenants of the Church, have a way to amicably depart from the denomination with their property and clergy retirement benefits secured. There is no way that committed orthodox Christians can keep fellowship with those who would undermine and destroy the historical faith and moral teaching on human sexuality.