Wednesday, November 27, 2013

UMC trials: 8 things bishops control

Hand-carved UMC bishop's crozier
1. The resident bishop selects the counsel for the church. (BOD ¶2704.2.a) A counsel for the church needs only to be a clergyperson in full connection and does not need to be a male clergyperson with anti-inclusive conservative viewpoints. (BOD ¶2713.4) Some bishops argue that no one else will take the assignment. I find this hard to believe. When a bishop has invited me to her or his office, looked me in the eye and asked me to do something for the sake of the good of the church, I have never said no. I am not unusual. If mainstream clergy are turning down a bishop's request, I would question how serious the bishop is about asking. Because the bishop selects the counsel for the church, the bishop should be held accountable for any bigoted or offensive statements the counsel makes during the trial or to the public while filling this role.

2. The resident bishop picks the presiding officer. (BOD ¶2713.2)  The presiding officer must be a bishop but does not need to be a white, male, retired bishop from one of the more conservative jurisdictions of the denomination. He or she does not even need to be a retired bishop and could be a younger bishop more attuned to a younger demographic. The presiding officer makes a lot of crucial decisions about who will be and will not be allowed to testify and what topics can be discussed during the trial. The presiding bishop determines the questions to ask to remove people from the jury. Because the resident bishop selects the presiding officer, he or she should be held responsible for the decisions the presiding officer makes.    

 3. The resident bishop selects the district superintendents who select the jury pool. (BOD ¶2713.3.a) The bishop can ask the cabinet to select people who are mainstream and thoughtful. Clergy who are rigid or fundamentalist do not need to be included in the pool.

4. Even before the trial, at the conclusion of the supervisory response, the resident bishop determines, with the consent of the cabinet, whether or not to dismiss the complaint. (BOD ¶363.1.e) At the very least, any complaint based on a personal grudge or vendetta should be dismissed. The same expectations the United Methodist Church has of civil authority should apply, at a minimum, to church authority: "We reject all misuse of these mechanisms, including their use for the purpose of revenge or for persecution or intimidating those whose race, appearance, lifestyle, economic condition, or beliefs differs from those in authority." (BOD ¶164.H) In fact, the Book of Discipline does not specify the reasons needed for the bishop to dismiss the complaint. [BOD ¶363.1.e(1)] The only requirement is that the bishop have the consent of the cabinet and give the reasons for her or his decision in writing. The complainant having no personal involvement in the activity being complained about or not personally being harmed by it may be adequate reason to dismiss a complaint. 

5. Even before the trial, the resident bishop has the option of including "persons with qualifications and experience in assessment, intervention, or healing" in the supervisory response process in order to avoid a trial. (BOD ¶363.1.b) The bishop has the unilateral authority to choose who these persons will be. Nothing in the Book of Discipline prevents the bishop from informing a complainant that her or his requirements to reach a just resolution are unreasonable. If a complainant refuses to sign "a written statement of resolution"(BOD ¶363.1.c), nothing prevents the bishop from dismissing the complaint with the consent of the cabinet. (BOD ¶363.1.e)

6. Even before a complaint is filed, the resident bishop can shape the continuing education of clergy in the conference. (BOD ¶414 3,5) The bishop can promote education and learning about restorative rather than retributive justice as advocated in the Book of Disciple. (BOD ¶164.H) According to ¶164.H, "Through God's transforming power, restorative justice seeks to repair the damage, right the wrong, and bring healing to all involved, including the victim, the offender, the families, and the community." The bishop can make sure that her or his conference is educated about the principles of restorative justice long before a complaint is filed or a trial is held.

7. Bishops can help advocate for and work for changes in the Book of Discipline so that pastors are not tried for being in full ministry with LGBTQ persons. In fact, this would seem to be part of the mandate given bishops by the Book of Discipline to "interpret the faith evangelically and prophetically"  (BOD ¶414.3) and to lead through "a prophetic commitment to the transformation of the Church and the world. (BOD ¶403.1.d)

8. Finally, bishops can stop saying there is nothing bishops can do.

Correction to "the crux of the divide"

Rev. Karen Booth
I have added a correction to my blog posting entitled "Frank Schaefer's trial and the crux of the UMC same-sex divide."

I stated in the original version of the posting that the Transforming Congregation Movement, a part of the Good News Movement,  believes in "reparative therapy," such as was formerly practiced by Exodus International.

In a comment to that posting, Rev. Karen Booth, executive director of Transforming Congregations, says that the Transforming Congregtion Movement rejected "reparative therapy" shortly after she became executive director of the organization because it was Freudian rather than Christian-based.

I had based my original conclusion on an article written by Rev. Booth and Rev. Thomas Lambrecht in Good News Magazine entitled "Transformation is Still Possible: The Closure of Exodus International." 

In that article Rev. Booth and Rev. Lambrecht stated that Transforming Congregations and Good News were sadden by the closing of Exodus International and the new position taken by its executive director Alan Chambers

Their article also stated that their organizations believe transformation "is not accomplished by simply 'praying away the gay,' but is usually a more strenuous and lengthy process involving various counseling approaches and spiritual disciplines to foster emotional and spiritual growth and healing." 

I interpreted this to mean they agreed with the kind of "reparative therapy" formerly practiced by Exodus International.

I encourage everyone to read Rev. Booth's article here to undertsand the position of Transforming Congregations and the Good News Movement. 

I am sorry for any way I may have misinterpreted or misrepresneted their position.
I do not believe whether the Confessing Movement and Good News believe that therapy should by "Freudian" or "Christian" affects my argument that opposition to same-sex marriage within the United Methodist Church is largely based on the prejudice that same-sex couples are not capable of  the same kind of  healthy relationships and families that we encourage and support among different-sex couples.    
is not accomplished by simply “praying away the gay,” but is usually a more strenuous and lengthy process involving various counseling approaches and spiritual disciplines to foster emotional and spiritual growth and healing. - See more at:

Monday, November 25, 2013

Frank Schaefer's trial meant to begin a reign of fear?

Rev. Paul T. Stallsworth
One of the expert witnesses for the prosecution during Pastor Frank Schaefer's trial was the president of an unofficial group of United Methodists called the Taskforce of United Methodists on Abortion and Sexuality

The Rev. Paul T. Stallsworth, president of the task force and editor of its publication Lifewatch, was introduced at the trial as the president of an organization that deals with issues of human sexuality.

Sort of.

Lifewatch is actually an anti-choice group. According to their website, their mission is: 
Out of obedience to Jesus Christ, the Taskforce of United Methodists on Abortion and Sexuality (TUMAS) will work to create in church and society esteem for human life at its most vulnerable, specifically for the unborn child and for the Woman who contemplates abortion.  Therefore, TUMAS's first goal is to win the hearts and minds of United Methodists, to engage in abortion-prevention through theological, pastoral and social emphases that support human life." 
Notice, however, that birth control may not be one of the task force's strategies for "abortion-prevention."

Posted on their website today (Nov. 25, 2013) is a quote lambasting the work of Margaret Sanger, one of our nation's greatest pioneer in making birth control available to families and women. This, in part, is what, the website says about Sanger:
  From the seed of Margaret Sanger came ... widespread distribution of birth control and condoms to teenagers, rampant sexual immorality, commercials celebrating irresponsibility and bastardization, an “easy out” of any consequence of sexual flippancy and the list goes on. The fruit we reap today from Margaret Sanger and Planned Parenthood comes from a seed of hatred, sin and death– you cannot separate the fruit of this tree from it’s [sic] seed.
 Stallsworth's lengthy testimony, mostly read word for word from a manuscript, during the penalty phase of the trial concerned Article 22 of the Articles of Religion in the Book of Discipline

When U.S. Methodism became an independent church in 1784, John Wesley selected 24 of the Anglican Church's 39 Articles of Religion  to be a basic doctrinal statement for American Methodism. A 25th article was added until General Conference passed a restrictive rule in 1808 that said: "The General Conference shall not revoke, alter, or change our Articles of Religion or establish any new standards or rules of doctrine contrary to our present existing and established standards of doctrine."

Here is what Article 22 of the Articles of Religion says:

Article XXII—Of the Rites and Ceremonies of Churches
It is not necessary that rites and ceremonies should in all places be the same, or exactly alike; for they have been always different, and may be changed according to the diversity of countries, times, and men's manners, so that nothing be ordained against God's Word. Whosoever, through his private judgment, willingly and purposely doth openly break the rites and ceremonies of the church to which he belongs, which are not repugnant to the Word of God, and are ordained and approved by common authority, ought to be rebuked openly, that others may fear to do the like, as one that offendeth against the common order of the church, and woundeth the consciences of weak brethren.
Every particular church may ordain, change, or abolish rites and ceremonies, so that all things may be done to edification.
 At the heart of Stallsworth's lengthy testimony was a minor theme and a major theme.

The minor theme was that doing a same-sex wedding is an instance of a rite or ceremony that is "ordained against God's word." Interestingly, Stallsworth did not really present a study of scripture that showed this to be the case. He merely made a vague reference to Genesis 2, Mark 10 and Ephesians 5.  

His major theme, the one he focused most of his  energy on, was what penalty ought to be imposed on Frank Schaefer for having done a same-sex wedding. Here he quoted, and requoted, and quoted again the words: "ought to be rebuked openly, that others may fear to do the like."

His point was that the penalty ought to be severe enough to make other United Methodist pastors afraid enough that they would never themselves do a same-sex wedding.

So we all should understand we've been warned. The people prosecuting Frank Schaefer (at the invitation of the resident bishop)  made it clear that they intend to assure obedience to their interpretation of the Book of Discipline by punishing clergy so severely that pastors will do their ministry with LGBTQ United Methodists in a spirit of fear.

They want to scare us into agreeing with their interpretation of the Book of Discipline.  

And don't suppose it will stop here. One of the goals of the Taskforce of United Methodists on Abortion and Sexuality is to end the current law which says:  "...physicians must be free to use their 'medical judgment for the preservation of the life or health of the mother.'" A page on their website argues that the life and welfare of the mother should not be prioritized.  

Furthermore, another goal of the task force is to get United Methodist-related hospitals to not prioritize the health of the mother.  The task force says: "We pledge, with God's help, to encourage United Methodist-related hospitals to adopt medical ethics guidelines, which are protective of the unborn child and mother."

To summarize: Pastor Frank Schaefer's trial had a prosecutor who would call Paul Stallsworth to advocate for a fear-inducing penalty. The trial was judged by a jury who would succumb to Stallsworth's argument that the penalty ought to be fear-inducing. Now we all have to worry about whether the spirit of controlling pastors through fear will grow among us. 

It is hard not to think of the words of the 20th century German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemoller:
First they came for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn’t speak up,
because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me,
and by that time there was no one
left to speak up for me.
By the way, during his discussion of Article 22, Stallsworth did not mention Article 21. Article 21 says:
Article XXI—Of the Marriage of Ministers
The ministers of Christ are not commanded by God's law either to vow the estate of single life, or to abstain from marriage; therefore it is lawful for them, as for all other Christians, to marry at their own discretion, as they shall judge the same to serve best to godliness.
If we have to have trials, I hope someone testifies someday about this article that says that all Christians, clergy and laity, should be able to "marry at their own discretion, as they shall judge the same to serve best to godliness."

No fear!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Why I believe hell will be empty

Some of you have heard me mention in passing from time to time over the years that I am a universalist, and I want to take a few minutes to explain this morning what I mean by this and to make my case for Christian universalism. 

I am not arguing that universalism is the consensus view of the Bible. I do argue that universalism is one voice that we find in the conversation between generations and people that we call the Bible.
I am not going to argue that universalism has been the majority opinion of the Christian church during its 2000 year history. I do argue that many Christians throughout the centuries have come to a universalist conclusion, and they did so for good reason … because the Christian gospel points us in this direction. 

The way I have chosen to phrase my understanding of universalism is the statement that ultimately hell will be empty.  

Let us forget for a few minutes all of the metaphorical descriptions that are used to describe heaven and hell … that heaven will have streets of gold and pearly gates … that hell is a place of flames and sulfur. 

Theologically, heaven or the kingdom of heaven means to live in the presence of God according to God’s will and desires and hopes for us. Theologically hell means to live in the absence of God in rebellion against God’s will and desires and hopes for us. 

If we believe in human freedom, hell is a necessary theological  proposition.  If we believe that human beings have the freedom  to accept or reject God, a place or state where we can choose to be godless is a logical necessity. 

 And I believe fully in human freedom. God is never coercive, God never forces us into relationship, God never bullies us.

God is not coercive but God is infinitely and eternally invitational. This is the revelation we have seen in Jesus Christ. God never closes the door on any one of us … not even if our name is Judas or Hitler. 

There are some images in the New Testament on this topic I find very compelling. Ephesians 4: 9-10 describe a Jesus who descends into " into the lower parts of the earth” to bring good news to those who are captive there. 1 Peter 3:19 says that Jesus when he was put to death in the flesh went in the spirit to proclaim good news to those who are imprisoned. 

The historic Apostle’s Creed says Jesus Christ “was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead…”

I am less concerned about the specific technology of these texts but the spirit of them. Jesus is so commitment to never closing the door on anyone of us that he will willing to go to hell to communicate the good news of God’s love and welcome. 

My conviction that hell will eventually be empty is not because I think that all of us are good and do not deserve the consequences of the harmful and destructive things we have done. It is because I think that God’s love is eternal . I think ultimately, because it is barren and empty,  we will all come to the end of our rebellion and when we turn back home God will be there waiting for us, even if we’ve been to hell and back. 

The strongest argument, in my opinion, against universalism is that if no one is in hell where is the justice in the universe. If Judas and Hitler are not in hell, isn’t the universe ultimately an unjust place? Isn’t God unfair?

So I have to say that I do believe in judgment. In Revelations 14:13 Bishop John hears a voice from heaven and it says:
“Blessed are the dead who from now on die in the Lord." "Yes," says the Spirit, "they will rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them."

Our deeds do follow us out of this life. 

There will have to be a correction of the injustices of this world. Some of us are born privileged. Some of us born to die of starvation before they have hardly lived. Some of us slave owners; some of us slaves. Some of us abusers; some abused.  I don’t need to go on and on. This is a horribly unjust world not because of a Creator’s intention but because of the creation’s radical freedom.
This is why I believe in something like purgatory, not in the crude sense that it is sometimes talked about but in the sense spoken of by the theologian Jurgen Moltmann.

Moltmann says:
An intermediate state of this kind is presupposed by the doctrines of purgatory and reincarnation, but the idea of a great divine judgment also gives a name to something between our death and eternal life. ... For me, God’s judgment means the final putting to rights of the injustice that has been done and suffered, and the final raising up of those who have been bowed down. So I conceive of that intermediate state as a wide space for living, in which God’s history with a human being can come to its flowering and consummation. I imagine that we then come close to that well of life from which we could already here and now draw the power to live and the affirmation of life that was meant for them, for which they were born, and which was taken from them. ...
Those whom we call the dead are not lost. But they are not yet fully saved either. Together with us who are still alive, they are hidden, sheltered, in the same hope, and are hence together with us on the way to God's future. They "watch" with us, and we "watch" with them. That is the community of hope shared by the dead with the living, and by the living with the dead.”

This is what I think divine judgment will be like. We will all have to experience our lives from the perspective of others. We are going to have to experience what it was like for those we ignored, those we treated badly, those who suffered and we didn’t care. And it will be hell. 

Frankly, I’ve had some of these experiences already without being dead yet … the experience of seeing yourself as you must seem through the eyes of another who has experienced injustice or suffering. It is hell.

But in the end we will all have the opportunity to be part of the kingdom of heaven where the will of God is truly done and we all are loved and included and fulfilled. 

I am not a universalist because I think God is required to include all of us in heaven. I am not a universalist because I am trying to tell God what God has to do. If humans are free, so is God.

I am a universalist because I believe including all of us is what God wants to do. And I have ultimate confidence in God being able to accomplish what God want to get done ...  not by power or might but by the spirit.  

There is so much scripture about God’s passionate love for us and God’s refusal to give up on us that I could quote. But I particularly love this passage form Hosea  Chapter 11. God is speaking:

When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. The more I called them, the more they went from me; they kept sacrificing to the Baals, and offering incense to idols. Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them up in my arms; but they did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love. I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks. I bent down to them and fed them. … My people are bent on turning away from me. … [But] How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel? … My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender. I will not execute my fierce anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and no mortal, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath.

This is the God of Israel and Jesus. No matter how much we try to turn away, this God who love us and calls us her child will not come in wrath. 

Finally, I think that believing  that God will ultimately be successful in including all of us in heaven is important for the way we live together now. It means there is no one we can write off. There is no one we can consign to hell. 

Sitting and watching Pastor Frank Schaefer’s trial this week was so painful. Frank is without guile. He is just so sincere and he so clearly wants to love everyone. 

And on the other side were these men (and they were men) theologically kicking him. 

I wanted to hate, but I kept thinking of this sermon I had committed to preach today. 

I believe I will be in heaven with those folk someday.

They can condemn and exile Frank but they will be in heaven with Frank and us someday. So we must treat them as fellow citizens of heaven here and now. 

It is hard to write somebody off if you believe you will spend eternity in the same place as they are.

In order to persecute others, I suspect we have to convince ourselves that they will spend eternity in a different place than we will be.  Perhaps the reason we call people godless or bound for hell is so that our hate is justified in this life.  

So the closing words belong to the Psalmist.      
Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.  If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast. (Psalm 139:7-10)

The closing words belong to the Apostle Paul:
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

The closing words belong to Jesus:
… on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. (Matt. 16:18)

The gates of hell will not prevail. The infinite love of the divine and holy One will.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Frank Schaefer's trial and the crux of the UMC same-sex divide

 CORRECTION: In an earlier version of this blog I stated that the Transforming Congregation Movement believes "in the kind of 'reparative therapy' recently recanted by Exodus International (and rejected decades ago by mainstream psychiatric medicine)."

Rev. Karen Booth of the Transforming Congregation Movement corrects my statement in a comment below. She states that the organization has disavowed reparative therapy because it is Freudian and not Christian-based.

My statement was based on my interpretation of an article Rev. Booth wrote entitled "Transformation Is Still Possible: The Closure of Exodus International."   Rev. Booth's article says the Transforming Congregation Movement believes in "a more strenuous and lengthy process involving various counseling approaches and spiritual disciplines to foster emotional and spiritual growth and healing."

I encourage everyone to read Rev. Booth's essay for clarity on the position of the Transforming Congregation Movement.
a more strenuous and lengthy process involving various counseling approaches and spiritual disciplines to foster emotional and spiritual growth and healing. - See more at:

I apologize for any misunderstanding I may have communicated.

For many years, Transforming Congregations was an Exodus affiliate member and even merged with Exodus at one point. Within the last several years, however, there has been a dramatic shift in the theological and ministerial perspective at Exodus. - See more at:

Pastor Frank Schaefer and his son Tim.
During the trial of Pastor Frank Schaefer, my friend Rev. Bob Coombe --his clergy counsel -- made the point over and over again that Frank presiding at his son's wedding was the expression of a father's love for his son. 

The prosecutor Rev. Christopher Fisher had a drum he consistently beat as well. His mantra: There is a rule against United Methodist pastors doing same-sex weddings; Schaefer broke the rule; he will not promise not to break it again; ergo he cannot remain a United Methodist pastor. 

Only once during the trial did Fisher leave his main point. It was during his closing argument in the verdict portion of the trial. 

Fisher seemed irritated by my friend Bob's emphasis on a father's love for his son. He had to set us straight. He spoke rapidly so it was hard to take notes and we have no transcript of the trial yet, but I thought his message was clear. It is not loving, he argued, for a father to endorse his son's "disordered" sexuality by doing his same-sex wedding. He seemed piqued that we couldn't understand this. He repeated the word "disordered" at least 5 or 6 times, maybe more.

Fisher said that all sexuality is disordered  unless it is redeemed by Christ. He said his own sexuality before he became a Christian had been disordered. "I know what it is to be dead. I know what it is to be redeemed by the savior," he said.

Rev. Christopher Fisher
Increasingly more and more United Methodist pastors of various theological stripes are saying they do not want to communicate hate but want to be in loving ministry with LGBTQ people. The big question is what loving ministry means.

For Fisher, loving ministry with LGBTQ persons means changing or suppressing their "disordered" sexual behavior.

Sitting at the prosecution table with Fisher was Rev. Thomas Lambrecht, vice-president and general manager of the Good News Movement. Good News and the Transforming Congregation Movement recently merged, according to an article by Rev. Karen Booth in Good News Magazine.The Transforming Congregations Movement was the unofficial organization of United Methodists who believe that persons who experience same-sex attractions are "sexually broken."

In an editorial in Good News Magazine entitled "What Does Love Require?" Robert Renfroe, executive director of Good News, articulates the viewpoint that Fisher tried to get us to grasp at the trial. He is responding to an essay by Rev. Sandy Brown, pastor of First UMC of Seattle. Renfroe writes:
For example, the word “love.” Brown uses the word 18 times in his article and along with “listening,” he states that love should be the determining factor in how we think about homosexuality. But he never defines “love.”
We must love our neighbors, Brown rightly contends, but he never defines what it means to love another person. The closest he gets is that love requires us to be in “an attitude of compassionate service” to those around us. But that simply begs the question, “What does it mean to serve someone?” “What does it mean to love?”
I facilitate a course at our church titled “How to Love and Help Your Adult Child.” Parents attend who have children who are alcoholic, guilty of criminal behavior, and/or repeating bad decisions regarding their love life. And every parent who attends, no matter how much pain he or she has experienced, still loves his or her child.
But the question becomes: “What does it mean to love a child who is making poor decisions?” Some want to give the child money and shelter so he or she will be safe. They’re certain that’s what love would do. Others feel they must let the child live with the consequences of his or her choices, even if it means living on the streets. These parents believe that’s the loving thing to do. Both sets of parents love their child, but they disagree about what love requires.
I think in some ways that’s where the church is.
Does loving others mean that we must celebrate their lifestyle? Does serving another person mean we must accept and support every choice he or she makes?
For Fisher and Good News, same-sex love is a "poor decision" and loving ministry means getting gay and lesbian people to stop loving someone of the same gender.

Along with mainstream medicine and a growing majority of Americans, some of us believe that traditional western negative attitudes toward gay and lesbian persons were simply wrong. Same-sex attraction is not disordered for those who are gay and lesbian. A loving committed relationship with someone of the same gender is healthy for those who are gay and lesbian..

The idea that homosexuality is a disorder or perversion (excuse me for using such ugly words) is a prejudice. The American Psychiatric Association declassified homosexuality as a disorder in 1973 and the American Psychological Association followed suit in 1975.  Thinking gay and lesbian people are disordered is a prejudice that may have worked itself into a few verses of the Bible like some other prejudices have, but it is still a prejudice.

The American Psychological Association says:
Since 1975, the American Psychological Association has called on psychologists to take the lead in removing the stigma of mental illness that has long been associated with lesbian, gay and bisexual orientations. The discipline of psychology is concerned with the well-being of people and groups and therefore with threats to that well-being. The prejudice and discrimination that people who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual regularly experience have been shown to have negative psychological effects.

For those of us who are convinced by contemporary medical thinking, loving ministry with LGBTQ people means listening, accepting, supporting gay Christians as they work out how traditional Christian teaching about relationship applies to the lives of gay and lesbian Christians, and celebrating same-sex loving, committed relationships.

Admittedly, the belief that same-sex affection is disordered  is not the entirety of the reason good pastors like Frank Schaefer are being tried and exited. Some United Methodists are just very literal about the inviolability of a rule no matter the context, circumstance, or even the existence of conflicting rules. Others who help facilitate the trials, like bishops, may think they are fulfilling their obligation as a bishop or they are afraid of their authority being threatened.  

Nonetheless, the two different meanings of loving ministry is the crux of the current divide between United Methodists. Either we agree with Rev. Christopher Fisher that loving committed relationships between gay persons are disordered and loving ministry means helping them live straight or celibate lives. 

Or else we agree with the overwhelming majority of psychological and psychiatric medicinal professionals and our own experience that lesbian and gay persons are just as capable of mature loving relationships as straight people are. 

We have learned to transcend our prejudices before. Jewish persons are not Christ-killers. Persons with epilepsy are not demon possessed. Self-affirming women are not witches. People who use wheel chairs are not too lacking in faith to be healed. 

Listen, we need to understand that we can't have it both ways. We can't find a good pastor like Frank Schaefer guilty and still claim we accept our LGBTQ members and neighbors.