Letters to the Editor: Board works against wishes of most United Methodists



The Dec. 20 edition of the Mississippi United Methodist Advocate contained a column by Jim Winkler, general secretary of the General Board of Church and Society. The headline read: Church and Society seeks to change “Discipline” language. That large headline raises questions even before knowing the subject matter. 

Winkler writes: “...the full board voted 21-17 to recommend to the General Conference “while Christians of good faith differ on what Christian teaching reveals regarding gender and homosexuality” replace the statement “The United Methodist Church does not condone homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.” 

The board then voted 23-14 to recommend the Social Principles read: “We affirm the sanctity of the marriage covenant between two adult persons that is expressed in love, mutual support, personal commitment, and shared fidelity,” and to remove the sentence in social principles which now reads, “we support laws in civil society that define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.” 

No matter what your position on this issue, the General Board of Church and Society is working against the clearly stated stance of the vast majority of United Methodist representatives at the last and previous General Conferences. 

Mr. Winkler and a majority of the board are functioning out of a total disregard for a United Methodist membership which has affirmed a distinctly opposite view for many years with no indication of agreeing with the proposed recommendations. This action continues to fan the flames of an issue which has already contributed to losses of United Methodist Church membership. 

Imagine what would happen to our church if we were to follow the recommendations of our General Board of Church and Society. 

Who pays these folks for their “leadership” while they continue to ignore the will of the United Methodist people? 

Our present system seems to accommodate persons in leadership positions no matter what they do.

Glenn Martin


The 2004 General Conference assigned a group “to bring clarity to the ordering of lay, licensed and ordained ministry in The United Methodist Church.” The Study on Ministry Commission under the leadership of Bishop Will Willimon (episcopal leader of the Birmingham Area) has met several times with the goal of developing “a conversation within the whole Church around lay, licensed and ordained ministry in order to gain clarity about our shared life together for the sake of God’s transformational mission in the world and the vital importance and challenges of leadership today.” 

Under the direction of God’s Holy Spirit, a tremendous amount of progress has been made since the Study on Ministry Commission began meeting. A culmination of its work to date is available online for all to read, absorb, reflect and respond to by going to www.gbhem.org, clicking on the box which reads “Draft report on ordained ministry commissioned by 2004 General Conference is now available for study and comment.”' 

As chair of the Order of Elders of the Mississippi Annual Conference, I respectfully request all pastors serving the local church, all those serving in extension ministries, all laity and, especially, lay members of Annual Conference read the report and answer the survey which follows. 

Why do this? Because the decisions made at the 2008 General Conference in Fort Worth in response to the Study on Ministry Commission’s work will dramatically impact the way God’s ministry is practiced on a day-to-day basis at every level of the church.  

The site is open until April 15. It will take time for you to read the report, pray about your response and complete the survey. You may come back to the report as often as you need to prior to completing the survey. 

I believe this issue to be central to our self-understanding as baptized Christians. It is an issue around which lay and clergy alike should be in dialogue with and among one another in a positive, Spirit-filled manner. Once again, you may view the work of the Study on Ministry Commission at www.gbhem.org.

Rev. George W. Buell


I view (Bishop Hope Morgan Ward’s) support of the “petitioners” at Southern Methodist University to stop the location of the Presidential Library of George W. Bush at SMU as another instance of personal politics and secular progressive influence in The United Methodist Church. 

Her role as a bishop is to tend and inspire the flock, not to blatantly play politics for personal gain.

Paul Savko
Getwell Road UMC

Editor’s note: Ward is among 10 United Methodist bishops and others who have signed a petition urging SMU to not allow the library to be located on the campus.


I want to thank Dr. Wallace Cason for setting me straight concerning the teachings of the Quran in his guest column in the Jan. 17 issue of the Mississippi United Methodist Advocate.  

I readily admit that I am “gravely ignorant about the Quran,” and that I may have been “mouthing proof-texts by a pro-Muslim propagandists” when I entered the debate about Muslims. I was trying to counter the spirit that permeated a place of business where the open Bible was prominently displayed and in which was heard a chorus pertaining to Muslims that “we need to kill ‘em all,” and that of a noted columnist who suggested to the nation that “we need to invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert their people to Christianity.”  

How frightening that this spirit often emanates from the Christian pulpit, as well as from the Muslim pulpit. I was trying to counter the spirit that has led, not only Christians and non-Christians to slaughter each other over religion, but the spirit that has caused Christians to slaughter fellow Christians over religious differences. 

In the Works of Wesley (v. 111, page 11) he says, on “Friday 16, (1760) I walked around the ruins of the abbey, formerly one of the largest in the kingdom. The walls of it are standing and three sides of the cloister is entire: But you can scarce tread, either within or without, unless you will step upon skulls or human bones.” Of the same war between Protestants and Roman Catholics in Ireland he states that “In 1641, three hundred thousand Protestants...were destroyed in less than a year, and more than twice that many Papists, within a few years following,” Protestants and Roman Catholics both found in the same Bible and in the same religious justification (in their own minds) to hate each other and to slaughter one another wholesale. 

The scriptures Cason quotes from the Quran give a disturbing picture of God as some Muslims perceive him, just as some Old Testament scriptures portray a God that I don’t feel comfortable with. Deuteronomy 3:6 has Moses saying of the towns they captured: “We put to death all the men, women and children.” And in Exodus 32:27-29, when Moses came down from the mountain and found the people worshipping a golden calf (they had reverted to their former religion) he commanded the priests: “‘Put on your swords and...kill your brothers, your friends and your neighbors.’ The Levites obeyed and killed about three thousand men that day. Moses said to the Levites, ‘Today you have consecrated yourselves as priests in the service of the Lord by killing your sons and brothers, so the Lord has given you his blessings.’” (Good News version) 

We can continue to use our holy books and our religion to justify our hatred and violence toward fellow man, or we can find in them the road to reconciliation and peace. It just depends on which we really want to find. I am convinced that much of our problem would be solved if, while we debate who has the holiest holy book (or maybe the unholiest book), we would “read” the people most affected by our bickering. War is almost always related to religion. Certainly war would be less likely if we were to identify with the most vulnerable (and often the most numerous) victims of war. 

The morning after I had been wounded during World War II, dozens of little Muslim kids lined the path from the old barn that was used as a field hospital to the boat that carried me to the base hospital. They were waving and shouting goodbye to their friend “Cholie” (Charley). Is a God who commands us (through our leaders) to drop cluster bombs on such “little ones” worthy of our allegiance?

C.E. Swain