What Happened in Traverse City?
History was made. Irreversible damage was done. Our fellowship is broken. In contradiction to United Methodist Doctrine and Discipline, Bishop David Bard commissioned and appointed a married lesbian as a probationary elder in Michigan.
The drama unfolded on Thursday at the Clergy session. The Board of Ordained Ministry withheld information from the assembled clergy about the illegal candidate put up for a vote of approval. Once the vote was taken, the clergy found out about it immediately through social media as liberal groups crowed about their achievement. All of this happened in the presence and with the complicity of Bishop Bard.
On Saturday the Conference took a non-binding straw poll. In this vote 69% of those present stated that they aspire to a Conference that operates outside the Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church. Note that this poll does not measure the aspirations of the individual congregations in our state. There are more than 130,000 members who were not polled. Bishop Bard admitted in the opening worship that we are headed for separation.
There is another way to put this: the Michigan Annual Conference just
wasted $5 million. That is the amount of money the denomination spent on the recent Commission on the Way Forward and Special General Conference held last February. After 3 years with thousands of hours of research, discussion, fasting and prayer, the General Conference passed the Traditional Plan last February and reaffirmed what United Methodists have always believed and taught about Christian marriage.
In Traverse City, Bishop Bard and the Board of Ordained Ministry set aside this enormous investment of time, talent and treasure to take control of the church for themselves. Trust has evaporated. Many left Traverse City in shock and distress. On Monday morning the sober reality came home: this can't be fixed, repaired or walked back. Our Heritage District Lay Leader Max Waagner was deeply aggrieved, and resigned effective immediately. Those who remain faithful to the United Methodist Church are wondering what happens next?
As your pastor, I want you to know that I will conduct my ministry in accord with the doctrines and discipline of the United Methodist Church. I believe—and I am bound by my ordination vow—they express the gospel teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ as recorded in the Bible. You can read the United Methodist and scriptural definition of marriage on the HUMC website. The HUMC administrative council made the decision last December to place financial support of the Michigan Annual Conference in escrow.
I and other faithful United Methodists will be gathering in Michigan this summer to pray, discuss and strategize a response to the actions of the Bishop and Board of Ordained Ministry. We will also be looking at ways we can facilitate an honorable separation here in Michigan. On the Global level, negotiations will be completed this summer between progressives and the Wesleyan Covenant Association (see below) on a plan of separation to be brought to the General Conference in 2020. The details of the plan are yet unknown. We are in the last days of the United Methodist Church but we are in the first days of labor to birth a new Methodist movement. I am resolved to spend myself in bringing this baby into the world! It is an exciting time. The Divine Gardner is removing the dead branches from the Vine. He is pruning and cleansing the people called Methodist so that we will bear much fruit. (John 15:1-7)
I am aware that some will be distressed with the direction of my leadership. I understand. In these closing moments of our denomination, I urge civility and mutual respect. We must soberly embrace the reality that our divisions are irreconcilable yet refrain from maligning the character of others simply because they think differently. If you are faithful to the United Methodist and scriptural teaching on marriage, I urge you to become a member of the Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA). The WCA is the global voice of the majority of faithful United Methodists. Visit www.wesleyancovenant.org.
I call everyone to fasting and prayer for the movement of God among us. Joshua 1:9 says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous, do not be dismayed and do not be afraid. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” I have every confidence Jesus Christ will lead us through this chaos and bring about a new thing. Call out to him for mercy. Surrender yourself to his leadership. Cry out to him for deliverance. Seek him earnestly for renewal. This is the finest hour for all