Tag: IRD
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How Soon Will the #UMC Split?

Annual Conference is just around the corner. I'm excited, mainly because I will be comissioned as a probationary elder this year – something that has been nearly 10 years in the making. I will also be taking a new appointment shortly thereafter. It's an exciting time.

Unfortunately, the upcoming Annual Conference season has caused many in the UMC blogosphere to turn their attention to the incipient rumblings of a schism.

Dr. David Watson – Academic Dean at United Theological – wrote this thought-provoking piece.

John Lomperis – IRD director of UMAction – wrote about a group who claims schism has already happened in theory.

Joel Watts questions – among other things – the witness of a church that would schism.

To be sure, there are other things over which a church split could be fought. However, the ideological extremes (isn't is telling that phrase is germane to the discussion?) appear willing to pull the church apart over the issue of LBGT inclusion into the life of the community of faith. Since the 1970's, this issue has been pulling at the edges of the denomination – fraying and tattering the fabric of the church.

In the meantime, the culture has not stopped it's slow-but-sure turn away from the church. We are all aware that the Western church as a whole – not to mention the UMC – has spent the last 5 decades in decline. Each of the ideologically opposed sides has spent considerable amounts of time blaming each other for it, or they will point to their own numeric success as proof that their side has the market on righteousness cornered.

The fact is that the church's multi-decade, numeric decline has much more to do with cultural shift and the church's refusal to respond in kind, than it does with how the church acts on this issue. Yes, the church's stance on issues of LBGT concern effect the church's witness in the world, but church renewal folk will tell you we have bigger fish to fry.

In my opinion – and the opinion of many others – schism would only further kill the church's witness.

I spoke about the frayed edges of the fabric of the denomination. However, there is a vast middle. In this vast middle lives the majority of the denomination. These people see the same disagreements everyone else does, and they probably have their own opinions on this and other issues – with varying degrees of passion ascribed to them. What they see, however, is their local congregation and the communities into which they must minister.

Those in this vast middle see the ministry that needs to be done, and not their pet ideological issues for which they need to doggedly advocate. They are congregations who tend to be more conservative, being led by pastors who tend to be more progressive – or vice versa – and they see opportunities for ministry. They are communities of faith, and they understand that our minor disagreements over pet issues should not overshadow the vital ministry they could do together.

How much more effective and vital could our ministry be if we learned to live and love together? Could our disagreements be used to enliven our community, instead of being used as a way to divide it? Could we make ministry about the love and grace of God, and not about how we've learned to deny it to each other?

Even with General Conference being a couple of years away, there are rumblings of a schism proposal (or two) being floated around. It won't pass this quadrennial or next, but there are plenty of us who hear these rumblings and think it could be sooner rather than later.

I prefer never.

What do you think?

 

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The @RMNNetwork is Wrong, #ShaeferTrial #MinistryonTrial #TheCommunion @TheIRD @ConfessingMovement

This post represents one of the only posts I will make in the coming weeks. However, I thought this topic was important enough to warrant a special comment.

 

My friends of all stripes,

 

In response to the trial and sentencing of Rev. Frank Shaefer, #ShaeferTrial & #MinistryonTrial, I must say that the consternation over his de facto defrocking is inappropriate.

 

While Rev. Shaefer did this for different reasons, his actions constitute civil disobedience. Civil disobedience is a form of protest where the one who is disobedient is willing to accept the consequences of their actions, whether or not they believe the consequences are just.

 

One is civilly disobedient in order to bring attention to injustice of bigotry, in hopes that the injustice will be remedied. You do not do this in order to avoid consequences.

 

While I initially disagreed with the sentence, I think it is the most grace-filled, and henceforth, Wesleyan. He has the opportunity to remain a pastor. However, his point will not be served by rolling over and capitulating.

 

I do realize that, as merely an ally, I don't necessarily have a dog in this fight. However, as a global church that has existed in many forms for centuries, we must remember that it's not all about us and our trials.

 

The gospel cannot be forsaken for politics. When we do that, we lose hope and the reason we are all here in the first place. Don't get me wrong. Other parachurch organizations, like The Institute on Religion & Democracy and The Confessing Movement within the UMC, do this, as well. In many ways, they are the most virulent offenders. That does not mean we have to beat them to the bottom.

 

I do not wish to hurt any of my good friends on either side. However, I think – every once in a while – we need to be shown a bit of tough love.

 

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@JohnLomperis & The Absence of Irony

John Lomperis is a United Methodist working for the pseudo-Methodist, Washington think-tank, The Institute on Religion & Democracy.

His latest piece seeks to disparage civil rights activists over revelations from the heinous murder of Matthew Shepherd.

However, the headline out of this article comes from a seemingly innocuous (for his subject matter) quote. This quote is supposed to be a backhanded slap at anti-Christian activists, but turns out to be quite a commentary on he and his group's “do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do” track record:

…we must never allow our passion for any cause, however righteous, allow us to cut the slightest corners of honesty or ethics in our work to promote the cause, no matter how “useful” or “necessary” such shortcuts may seem to be. Never commit the stupidity of thinking that God is okay with your doing evil just because someone else’s evil may be worse or your evil is being done in the name of good.

This “think-tank” advocates for a strike-first foreign policy, overwhelmingly against social programs, and is constantly identifying many (most, probably) of their targets as an enemy of the faith.

The arrogance they give off is overpowering, and their sense of self-awareness is non-existent.

This is just the latest incarnation of it.

IRD Intern @BrianKenMiller Criticizes Rowan Williams, Makes His Point For Him, @TheIRD

Pseudo-Methodist Washington think-tank The Institute on Religion & Democracy has interns.  If the goal is to produce people exactly as confused as they are, they are so nailing it! Brian Miller is the intern in question. He picked up on the comments of former archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and his comments on Western Christianity and

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NOT SURPRISED #1: @TheIRD & Xian Reality Television (NEW FEATURE)

'Cause, there's a hashtag for everything, nowadays

 

The Institute on Religion & Democracy is a bit late to this particular party.

Alexander Griswold – blogger for the IRD – belatedly critiques the reality show and the culture of reality TV in this article. The subject of the article is Preachers of L.A. – a reality show featuring mega church pastors living lavishly (too lavishly) in Los Angeles. Honestly, I agree with most of what Alex has to say. Unfortunately, he winds back to the IRD's “company line” by the end of the piece.

At the end of the piece, the fault for the behavior of the Christians featured in these shows lies with the producers of the shows and the popular culture that often makes fun of Christians – and not the people who perform the actions that make them look bad. His final critique goes like this:

But above all, my hope is that being unfairly targeted will move Christians to reject all shows that denigrate groups of people just to feed into viewers’ pride.

Did ya' get that? These pastors – and other reality TV subjects – are “unfairly targeted” for denigration. Apparently, the IRD has given up on the idea of people being personally responsible for their actions. Reality TV personalities must sign contracts and give permissions for these producers to air their content.

If that's the case, can you really say someone has been “unfairly targeted?”

Ultimately, this piece reacts to this story much like the IRD does to any other story about Christianity in popular culture – Christians are a persecuted majority. It's a poor, pitiful me approach to whatever the IRD supposedly exists to do.

I'm not surprised. In fact:

 

 

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Pope Francis Sides With Me Against @TheIRD

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A recent quote from the Pontiff

 

Pope Francis has done plenty to ingratiate himself to the widest possible audience – especially progressive and social justice-minded Christians, like myself.

In a papal tidbit I missed, he talks about the people in his own church who are stuck in an earlier time and think that the answer to Christendom’s problems lies in “going back” to some time when they were comfortable with things.

The Institute on Religion & Democracy is one example of a group within United Methodism which thinks that the answer to our denomination’s problems lies in reliving the 1950’s.

In an AP article, Nicole Winfield recalls how Pope Francis has publicly spoken about groups like the IRD:

Francis’ predecessor, Benedict XVI, had coddled traditionalist Catholics attached to the old Latin Mass and opposed to the modernizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council. That group greeted Francis’ election with concern – and now is watching its worst fears come true. Francis has spoken out both publicly and privately against such “restoratist groups,” which he accuses of being navel-gazing retrogrades out of touch with the evangelizing mission of the church in the 21st century.

“Restoratist…navel-gazing retrogrades.”

I couldn’t put it any better myself.

The problem with groups who believe that looking back is the most-significant thing an organization can do to reform is that they are dangerous and out-of-touch.

And, honestly, it’s nice when I can use a story about the Pope to further question the credibility of organizations like the IRD.

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Is @JohnLomperis “Skeevy” or “Hateful?”

"Irony" ft. John Lomperis

 

Before today, I wouldn't have characterized the IRD's UM Action Director John Lomperis as “skeevy” or “hateful.”

That was before today.

For, you see, I've read his latest diatribe against his fellow creatures of sacred worth in the LBGT community.

In response to Arizona laws that discriminate against and criminalize the behavior of transgender brothers and sisters who identify as a sex other than the one they were born with – by preventing them from using public bathrooms according to the sex they identify with – the Desert Southwest Conference of the United Methodist Church passed a resolution stating the following:

  1. the Desert Southwest Annual Conference and the United Methodist

  2. 42 Churches of the Desert Southwest Annual Conference make the public statement that our

  3. 43 Churches and facilities (building, gathering spaces and bathrooms) are safe places for all

  4. 44 regardless of gender identity and that transgendered people may use the bathroom of their

  5. 45 choosing in our churches and affiliated buildings.

As you can see, this policy is designed to treat with dignity all of God's people – not just the ones people like John Lomperis are weirded out by.

Mr. Lomperis, however, decides it isn't enough to say he disagrees with it – he has to demean an entire class of people to get his point across.

Such an “open bathrooms” policy is ripe for abuse by a few perfectly heterosexual, non-gender-identity-disordered, perverted individuals who now seem to have an invitation in Desert Southwest UMC congregations to go into the opposite sex’s bathroom. If anyone questions them, they simply need to claim (perhaps with a sarcastic smirk) that they identify with that sex, at least that day. The resolution suggests no safeguards or concerns for such abuses.

Any church worth anything already has a “safe sanctuaries” policy that is designed to deal with such individuals to which he refers. In other words, it's a non-starter and an attempt to emotionally manipulate the reader into siding with him.

Along with using dog-whistles such as the term “gender-bending,” Lomperis just takes his shot (by lumping transgendered individuals into the same category with heterosexual abusers) at anything with which he doesn't personally agree – pretty skeevy, if you ask me.

He even tries to co-opt the argument of an LBGT activist to mislead his readers (a tactic he isn't new to, as you will see me address in the closing paragraph of this Huffington Post piece).

Overall, his piece demonstrates just how hateful he and his ilk can be when they try to approach an issue that both upsets them and weirds them out.

The policy he rails against is designed to treat all persons with dignity. His attempt to pervert the idea or make it into something it isn't shows just how weak his argument truly is.

P.S. Lomperis is likely to treat this type of article as a badge of honor, rather than criticism he should listen to, so I don't ever really expect a reply. The fantasy of living as some type of martyr is very appealing to the conservative, evangelical elite.

 

@eJoelWatts & Myself Respond to @JohnLomperis on @HuffPostRelig

A quick post to direct you to a response I penned with Joel. John Lomperis of The Institute on Religion & Democracy wrote a Washington Post op-ed, and we believe it is woefully incorrect.  

Yes, @MarkDTooley, Murder is Murder

  Mark Tooley – @MarkDTooley and President of The Institute on Religion & Democracy – is reactionary enough to be the president of a Washington D.C. based think tanks, but too reactionary to be the religious leader he believes himself to be. Por ejemplo… His latest article is his reaction to an article by Christianity Today.  The

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Video From The Pastor’s Office #18 – “Guns & The Christian”

The news today is that many gun control proposals are on their way to the garbage heap of history. I talk about that and the Christian's response to the issue of guns, in this episode.

 

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