Tag: John Lomperis
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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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@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.

‘The Christian Post’ Quotes Me & @eJoelWatts

After seeing yet another Christian “news service” include only the conservative outlook for the future of the UMC and the question of full-inclusion of the LBGT community, Joel Watts and myself made it an issue. The reporter was very gracious and sent us an email interview. This story is the result.  

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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.  

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Same @TheIRD, Different Day

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The Institute on Religion & Democracy is at it again.  This time, they set their sights on Claremont School of Theology – a UMC seminary.

John Lomperis seized on a tidbit from the school and ranted (here) about how the school is effectively stealing from the Christian portion of the seminary budget to fund other non-Christian portions.  He uses intentionally divisive language – par for his course – in order to produce a scandal where none really exists.

Claremont responded with an article that the IRD – graciously, for them – posted on their blog, Juicy Ecumenism (still creeps me out).  Their claims are that the IRD unfairly characterized their recent restructuring and expansion plans – including plans to remove a cross.  They also claim that John Lomperis uses “provocative” language to make his points.

As a previous victim of the IRD’s reactionary carelessness, I was sympathetic to their plight.

The IRD has made a name for itself by sniping at anything that doesn’t fit perfectly into their idea of Christian faith.  They do use provocative language and innuendo in order to make their ideological foes look however they desire them to look – evil.  Since their inception – dating back to the Reagan Revolution and the Moral Majority – they have made it their job to suss out “marxism” within the ranks of United Methodist agencies.  Today, their main goal appears to be sussing out liberal influence, pointing at it in impotent rage or smug condescension, and asking for your money.

Given their particular brand of neo-conservative Christianity, I don’t even think we can call them Methodist, or Wesleyan, even.

Claremont ended their remarks with a nod to our national heritage and the need for actual ecumenism.  I hope the IRD listens:

Surely for the American experiment to succeed, Americans of differing religious viewpoints must learn to live and work together in harmony.  Religion can either continue to be the cause of conflict, or we can work together to make it the foundation for the needed harmony.  We believe that Jesus Christ calls Christians to the latter, being peacemakers and good neighbors.

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An Open Letter by @csalafia To The Folks at @TheIRD

My friend, Christian – @csalafia & homebrewedtheology.com – wrote this amazing open letter to the neo-con, Washington think-tank posing as a United Methodist renewal group, The Institute on Religion and Democracy. There is scripture. There is Book of Discipline. It has it all, and should haunt the consciences of all those who inhabit the Washington

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The Poor PR of @TheIRD

In the aftermath of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, The Institiute on Religion & Democracy was apparently silent. This was uncharacteristic, as they typically take any opportunity to use the news of the day to make a point. I was critical of them. Not because I typically agree with their

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John Lomperis Gives Me A Lesson In Snark

This morning, I posted my thoughts and feelings about The Institute on Religion & Democracy and how they have yet to issue a response to the Sandy Hook massacre. A bit later, the IRD posted a story that recounted how the Washington National Cathedral responded to the shooting. Shortly after that, @theIRD tweeted me a

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A Response From @theIRD

The Institute on Religion & Democracy has broken their silence on the Newtown massacre.  Though, being generously fair, they responded on the night of the 14th. In an article posted on their blog – Juicy Ecumenism – Jeffery Walton reports the actions of the Dean of the Washington National Cathedral, in the wake of the tragedy.

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