Letter To The Council

After the recent election of a practicing homosexual bishop in the Western Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church I felt compelled to send a letter to the Council of Bishops and the Judicial Council.  Below is a copy of the letter that I wrote.

A .pdf copy of the letter and the mailing addresses is available.

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(Date)

(Address for the Council of Bishops, and the Judicial Council.)

Dear XXX;

My name is Rick Stiles, and I am a member of Evangelical United Methodist Church in Billings MT. Coming to the realization that I needed to write this letter has been a very difficult path filled with sleepless nights and hours of prayer.

You have probably received many comments about the recent election of a practicing homosexual bishop in the Western Jurisdiction. The election issue is merely a visible sign of a cancer growing within the United Methodist Church: that cancer is the loss of integrity by many clergy in pulpits and in leadership.

There are four key items I would like to highlight regarding the ordination of elders and consecration of bishops within the United Methodist Church:

1. When elder-candidates are participating in the ordination service the candidate is asked, ‘Will you be loyal to The United Methodist Church, accepting its order, liturgy, doctrine, and discipline’, and the candidate responds, ‘I will, with the help of God.’ Later in the service the elder-candidate kneels on the altar before God and church body, with their hand on the Bible, and accepts their ordination with the words, Amen’.
2. In the introduction portion of the bishop consecration service it states, ‘Bishops are elected . . . from the group of elders’, and ‘Bishops . . . share in the full ministry as ordained elders.’
3. When bishop-candidates are participating in the consecration service the candidates are presented to the presiding bishop with the words, ‘we present to you (full name of bishop-elect), an elder in the church. Later in the service the candidate is asked, ‘you are now called, as bishops in the church, to reaffirm the vows made at your ordination as elders’, and the candidate responds, ‘I will, with the grace of God.’ At the end of the service they are given the charge, ‘May the God who has given you the will to do these things give you grace to perform them’, and the new bishop responds, ‘Amen.’
4. The United Methodist Book of Discipline, Article 4.304.3 states: The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.

The first three items are taken directly from the Services for the Ordering of Ministry in The United Methodist Church, 2013-2016. Elder candidates agree at the altar before God and the church body, with their hands on the Bible, that they will be loyal to and accept the doctrine and discipline of the United Methodist Church. Bishop candidates are asked to reaffirm their commitment to the church doctrine and discipline. The last item, on homosexuality, is taken from the Book of Discipline.

This is no longer a situation about the acceptance of homosexuality; it has now become a situation about the ends justifying the means. In other words, do the means (ignoring the vows taken at the altar before God with a hand on the Bible), justify the ends (acceptance of a preferred agenda).

So, here is the real question we should be asking, ‘does God believe that lying and dishonesty are justified when doing something in His name?

Lying is a strong word, but when an elder or bishop candidate makes a vow to support the church doctrine and discipline at the altar before God and church body, with their hand on the Bible, while knowing full well that they will not do so, they have lied.

Dishonesty is also a strong word, but when an existing elder or bishop has committed to supporting the church doctrine and discipline and now decides to use their ministry to practice things in opposition to that commitment they are being dishonest.

Nowhere in the Bible do I find God’s acceptance for lying and dishonesty for any reason. Even though there are many passages in the Bible related to those words, two come to mind:

1. Proverbs 12:22: Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight.
2. Luke 16:10: One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.

I fully endorse the Book of Discipline as written, which begs the question, ‘would I still send this letter if I supported the practice of homosexuality.’ Prior to writing this letter I spent a significant amount of time in introspection and believe that I would still feel this way. In part I can say this because of sacrificing significant amounts of money and career advancement as a result of a position taken at work during a similar situation.

Integrity is defined as ‘the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles’. If the church clergy and leaders cannot be trusted to uphold vows taken at the altar before God with their hand on the Bible can there be trust in anything they say?

Certainly, I understand many church members, clergy, and leaders favor the practice of homosexuality. I have NO problem with people expressing views different from mine. There are many ways to act on your personal views without sacrificing integrity.

The Hindus have a word called ‘karma’, which expresses the universal principle of cause and effect, action and reaction. Are the clergy and leaders teaching people that lying and dishonesty are acceptable as long as you are doing it in God’s name after thoughtful prayer and discernment? That is a very slippery slope to place the cross of Christ on.

In the movie ‘The Confession’, Ben Kingsley said, “It’s not hard to do the right thing; in fact it’s easy. What’s hard is knowing what the right thing is. Once you know that, doing the right thing is easy.”

Based on the Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church the Western Jurisdiction does not have a qualified bishop. In failing to be loyal to the Book of Discipline many conference leaders and clergy no longer meet the requirements for being elders in full connection, either.

I ask the Council of Bishops to install a temporary qualified bishop, conference leadership, and necessary clergy persons until such time as permanent qualified leadership and clergy can be appointed and a qualified bishop can be elected. This request is NOT made because of the issue of homosexuality. This request is made because lies and dishonesty were used by a group of leaders and clergy to advance the nomination and election of someone that was unqualified per the United Methodist Book of Discipline.

Lies and dishonesty should NOT be tolerated by a church that spreads God’s message of love and salvation through His word, the Bible.

With God’s love and blessings . . . . . . I am,

Rick Stiles

Free At Last

The hullabaloo going on in the United Methodist Church over the new found belief that a homosexual lifestyle is acceptable somewhat reminds me of the song by J.W. Work: Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty I am free at last.

All my life the church leaders had me convinced that I was a sinful creature in need of God’s salvation. The church employed all of these nice folks who were ready and willing to convince me that I needed what they were offering. Why, every Sunday morning they even allowed me to pay them for listening to their sin and salvation pitch.

They said that the Bible was very important, and it was the inspired word of God. God defined those sins that I needed salvation for, and these awful nice church leaders told me how to read the Bible and then confess my sins and ask for salvation.

But I digress . . . .

Numerous sections of the Bible talk about homosexuality being a sin. Let’s see, there are Genesis, Judges, Leviticus, Romans, Corinthians, and Timothy. But now-a-days, thanks to the United Methodist Church leaders, if our shoes pinch a little tight cause of what the Bible says about us being sinful creatures all we got to do is redefine what the Bible really means. Yep! Just a little reformed interpretation here and a little reformed interpretation there and all of a sudden our shoes are a whole lot looser.

All of this seems to have a lot to do with the fact that the Bible was written over two thousand years ago and the times they are a changin’. Society views things differently, and people take a different outlook about our goings on.

Uh, I digress, again . . . . . .

I have never been accused of being real quick witted, so I appreciate these awful nice church leaders for bringing this new philosophy to my attention. Actually, the more that I think about it, I am a tad mad that they didn’t do it a whole lot sooner.

You see, Cindy Sue used to live down the street, and I sure had a hankering for her, but the Bible told me that adultery was a bad thing. Now that times have changed, and I do this little reformed interpretation trick I learned from those nice church leaders, adultery is gonna be okay. Boy, Cindy Sue was sure a looker, and I know my wife would be okay with it now cause adultery won’t be on the sin list anymore. Why, I bet we could remove just about any sin from the bad side of the ledger with this little reformed interpretation trick.

But there I go, digressing some more . . . . .

The more I get to thinking about it the more I realize how grateful I am to those awful nice United Methodist Church leaders. Thanks to them I need no longer be a sinful creature.

Come to think about it, since I am not gonna be a sinful creature any more I don’t need to visit them on Sunday morning anymore cause I won’t be needing what they are offering. I can watch the entire NASCAR race and a few football games or go fishing or sleep in without worrying about my salvation.

Since I don’t need to go and listen to those awful nice church leaders talk about the Bible and the forgiveness of sin I don’t need to pay them anymore, either. Wow! I guess I really am free at last!

Keyboards Don’t Hug

If you are reading this post you must be either at your computer or on your cell phone. It seems like everything has some type of keyboard now. It may be a touch pad keyboard, or a push button keyboard, or a voice activated keyboard, but we are all tied to one in some form or fashion.

Now, take a moment, reach down, and touch your keyboard. Go on, really touch it! Grab it, and give it a great big hug! Look at it and say ‘Hi, keyboard. Are you having a good day?’ Hopefully nobody was watching you, but never mind. Did your keyboard hug you back? Did you feel anything even close to warmth coming from it. Did the old keyboard tell you it was doing fine and then ask how you were doing? Didn’t think so.

Internet statistics tell us that people under 30 reported that they are connected to each other and the world more than any other age group. They also reported that 70% of them felt lonely. That number was astonishing to me, but it also confirmed my gut instinct: the warmth of human relationships doesn’t come via remotely reaching out and touching someone. It doesn’t even come from videos or SKYPE.

The warmth from a human relationship comes from the touch and smile and laugh from someone close up and personal to you. T.S. Elliot made an astute observation some years ago, “The remarkable thing about television is that it permits several million people to laugh at the same joke and still feel lonely.” Today, we are way past the television stage.

Facebook, email, SKYPE, Twitter, text messaging, and other social networking tools have their place, and I am not saying they are bad. But up close and personal contact with people has its place, also. There needs to be a balance, and I am afraid so many of our younger people do not have any balance.

Have you ever been to a social function where the older people are all talking, laughing, and joking with each other? Sure you have. Next time, look around at the number of younger people with their cell phones out texting. How many times have you tried to engage someone in a conversation, and they are constantly interrupting the discussion while they ‘check’ an incoming message or phone call?

I have delivered Meals On Wheels; there are some absolutely wonderful people on the route. Many of these people are dying for someone to hug them, or touch their arm, or shake their hand, or laugh and smile with them. I asked one person if they got to see their grandchildren often. Her reply was rather sobering, “He comes by sometimes but plays with his phone the whole time he is here.”

God designed us to live in close fellowship with him and with those around us. Christian fellowship helps to develop a feeling of belonging, of trusting, of hope. It also helps us with patience, selflessness, and unconditional love. Actors talk about the entirely different experience between working in from of a live audience versus working in front of a camera.

It’s all about balance. Right now I am going to check my balance; am I doing too much in the virtual world and not enough in the real world? I don’t know, but I am going to pay better attention to the people around me. Are you lonely? Maybe you should check your balance, too?

Stirring The Pot

Cream of chicken soup is just about my favorite thing on a cold day. Have you ever noticed what happens when you leave a pot of soup on the burner and forget to stir it? A skim coating develops on top, the soup gets a bad taste, and the good stuff ends up burning on the bottom.

 

If the pot isn’t stirred on a regular basis it is difficult to get the soup back to the right consistency. Sometimes it is ruined, and the pot has to be scrubbed to get rid of the mess. I speak from experience. Sometimes I don’t stir the Holy Spirit in my body enough either, and the outward appearance ends up like the soup I my pot: thick coating, bad taste, good stuff settling on the bottom.

 

When reading the Bible I find that Jesus was constantly stirring the pot. He associated with tax collectors, prostitutes, lepers, and adulterers. He constantly talked about the actions of the Pharisees and Sadducee. He preached on the Sabbath and tailored his stories to make the most impact on each particular type of audience. His good stuff didn’t settle on the bottom and burn.

 

There was some discussion the other night about what ‘church’ is. Some people thought of ‘church’ as a building or institution where Christians meet. To me, church is the Holy Spirit working within me, and how I choose to live reflects the Holy Spirit’s results.

One question we discussed was: What do think ‘church’ should be? I want ‘church’, or the reflection of the Holy Spirit working within me, to be vibrant and exciting. I want to be alive with a love for God and a love for all of his people. I want the good stuff swirling around so people can see it.

The second question we discussed was: How can you make your vision of ‘church’ happen? I want to use the talents God has given me to present Christ’s message of LOVE and HOPE in as many different forms as I can to all different types of people. I hope my enthusiasm is contagious. When trying something new I try to remember that God doesn’t call the qualified; He qualifies the called.

We all get tired of food presented the same old way and are always searching out new restaurants with different menus. Why do we insist that Christ’s message always be presented in the same old way? Doing the same things in a different way can be exciting; it can keep the spirit alive and our attitudes fresh.

Are you stuck in ‘the same old way’? Do you resent new ideas and people that are a little different? Is your pot in need of a good stirring?