Following the Feb. 9 top story, "Holston Conference lay leader and resident bishop respond to statement of 33 retired bishops," readers were invited to send letters to the editor.
Most recent letters, in order received:
We will be in much prayer for you as we face these kind of things in our future.
Doyce and Loretta Loudermilk
The letters last week broke my heart. It is obvious we have much work, and praying, to do.
I am a student of Bishop Kenneth Carder, one of the retired bishops who signed the letter. Few are as committed to the integrity of Scripture and the witness of Christ’s Church as Bishop Carder. A native of Holston Conference, he is one of the most humble, gracious, Spirit-filled men I know.
I once held many of the views expressed last week. In fact, before I became a Methodist I wanted assurance that we would never veer from our current position. That was five years ago. At that time I didn’t know a single gay Christian. Now I know many -- many whose fidelity to Christ makes my own faith seem so small. Similar to Peter’s experience with Cornelius’ household, though his education and history told him Gentiles could not have the Spirit of God, it was not until he entered into their home that his heart was changed. Who am I to prevent these from being baptized who have obviously received the same gift of the Spirit as we?
As Methodists who love the Bible we must recognize that we are hypocrites here. Scripture has just as much negative words to say about divorce and women having leadership over men as it does about homosexuality. Thank God we heard the voice of the Spirit leading us into truth on the former matters. I pray we listen to God in the latter.
Rev. Chad Holtz
Marrow's Chapel UMC
Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors. Let's implement the above by removing discrimination from the Methodist Church. Support the statement by 33 retired bishops re removal of ban on gay and lesbian ministers.
I have been a proud United Methodist all my life. The statement by the 33 retired Bishops is alarming. I feel if the Church ever changes its stance on this matter we can no longer be United Methodists. Country churches like my own will do whatever means necessary to pull out of the Conference. No matter what the Book of Discipline states the Bible is clear on this matter.
Rural Retreat, Va.
This discussion has raised ignorance, truly, and literally, to a written art. Christendom was promised that the sky would fall when any and all non-Caucasians were admitted as Church members, and later, licensed and ordained; when non-male, i.e. female, persons were licensed, ordained, and eventually consecrated as bishops; the list goes on and on, throughout Methodist and Church history; and the sky is far from falling. Miscontextualizations of Paul's writings in Timothy led to the discrimination, against females in particular, for centuries. Stop quoting miscontextualizations, again, in defending the hypocritical discrimination against homosexuality today. Gays are serving in leadership positions throughout all of Christendom, including the United Methodist Church. Denial of such, through citing of Discipline paragraphs or otherwise, is nothing short of a figurative celebration of the ostrich.
Keith Memorial UMC
I agree that as faithful United Methodists we are obligated to follow the Book of Discipline. As canon law it serves us in ministry and in our relationship to God. But its man-made and can and must change over time. In my opinion the current position of the United Methodist Church is no more tenable than its opposition to the ordination of women or racial segregation. In those instances as in this matter Scripture was used to support personal bias and bigotry.
I suppose we can engage in "dueling verses" but I defer to the guidance of our founder, John Wesley. Look at Paragraph 310 of the 2008 Book of Discipline and Wesley's Historic Questions. Is there anything there about sexual orientation? No, as Wesley gets to the heart of the matter. "...Do they desire nothing but God? ... have they gifts for the work? ...Have they fruit?"
Is homosexuality a sin? Perhaps. But we are not all sinners and unworthy of His grace?
In 2005 Methodist churches, particularly in the U.S. South, held services of confession for past bigotry dating to 1787 when Richard Allen led the walkout at St. George's church in Philadelphia. Officials, adhering to official rules, had jerked Allen and others from their knees as they prayed. Sadly, it took 218 years (53 General Conferences!) of anguish, struggle, and pain before United Methodists could repent and apologize for our flagrant sin of racial discrimination. Zeal for saving black souls at Methodist altars, and then providing no spiritual home, left these dear Methodist Christians still singing "Nobody knows the trouble I've seen" all through the years.
I wonder if from Heaven's sweet bliss these sainted brothers and sisters now know of our fervent prayers for forgiveness and reconciliation.
The 1972 General Conference was the first to openly debate what Methodists ought to do about homosexuals, particularly clergy. Since then, the conversation has been shrill, sometimes rabid, and mostly inconclusive. Our "best angels" haven't yet kicked in. Patience, friends! If we go by the rules, however wrong they may be, and if history guides, we still have until 2190 (45 more General Conferences!) before begging pardon for our gender prejudice. Sin may abound, but grace ... we shall overcome someday!
Rev. John Duvall (retired)
Comers Rock, Va.