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Friday, November 23, 2007

Do You Hear What I Hear?

This Advent the lectionary includes some of the most beautiful prophetic passages from Isaiah:

"They'll turn their swords into shovels, their spears into hoes. No more will nation fight nation; they won't play war anymore." (Isaiah 2, MSG)

"The wolf will romp with the lamb, the leopard sleep with the kid. Calf and lion will eat from the same trough, and a little child will tend them." (Isaiah 11, MSG)

"Wilderness and desert will sing joyously..like the crocus in spring, bursting into blossom, a symphony of song and color." (Isaiah 35, MSG)

I love these passages because of their prophetic imagination, using metaphors to remind us that there is an alternative way to the warfare, violence, and desolation that we often come to believe is the only way in this world.

I wonder if the Church has lost its prophetic voice, or even our understanding of what it is. Since the latest Bishops' Statement on the War in Iraq, once again there are voices that say the bishops in particular have no right to a prophetic voice. (I am not criticizing the points made by some who disagree with aspects of the statement; just those who believe the bishops or the Church should have no voice at all.)

Perhaps we have all lost a sense of what the prophetic voice is and when and who has it. What is a prophetic voice? Who has it? What does it comprise, not just on matters of the war, but in general?

WDYT?

29 comments:

Brent Olson said...

"If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything..."

From Alexander Hamilton to Peter Marshall to John Mellencamp, the tune changes (a lot) but the message stays the same. Why in the world would anyone go through the bother of reaching a position of authority, if not to express an opinion? What I would find more disturbing is a bishop with no opinion he/she is willing to make public. That would be disheartening indeed.

The problem with a prophetic voice is that it quite often belongs to Cassandra - someone who sees a dismal future coming, but is doomed to have no one believe her. Truthfully, there isn't much fun in being prophet, you tend to get a bunch of stuff thrown your way.
Brent

Jeff Ozanne said...

I think you raise some really good questions about what it means to have a prophetic voice. Part of the difficulty in such a voice is that to me it implies speaking not because we believe in something, but because we believe God is calling us to speak out about something. Most of the prophets said what they said not because they wanted to, but because they felt God was calling them to. I certainly do not believe that God is calling the Church to be silent in the world. While I am glad for what the Bishops said because I agree with it, I am also glad with what the Bishops said because I want the church I love and its leaders to be taking a stance and trying to change the world by what we believe. Thanks for this interesting post.
Jeff Ozanne
Light of the Lakes UMC, Baxter

Clay Oglesbee said...

It's curious to me that the bishops are being accused of being irresponsibly "prophetic" when what they have actually done is to simply speak seriously about what has been written in our United Methodist Discipline for many quadrennia on the question of war.

At least they are no longer special-privileging one set of issues, say particularly sexual ones, over other controverted areas. They are exerting pastoral judgment on behalf of the churches.

I take it that the bishops' statement was issued as a pastoral letter, as much as a prophetic, public statement. Full pastoral counsel always potentially entails exhortation, correction and critically examined guidance, which may not be welcomed by the recipients. Criticism of the bishops is to be expected; but it would be a palpable sign of disorder in the church's vocations if Christian bishops kept still when they felt called of God to speak.

Rev. Debra J. Wells said...

My Thanksgiving was spent in Springfield, Il. While here my daughter and I visited the Abraham Lincoln Museum and Library. The museum is an excellent blend of artifacts, multi-media and information. I was moved by something I rarely am moved by, American History.
I suppose because I am involved in forming and informing future leaders of the universal church, I analyze around the subject of leadership. What if Lincoln had listened to those who told him he had no authority to express opinions about the unity of the country? What if he had given up when the war looked like is was lost for the north? What if he had chosen to fire the first shot?
It is the what ifs...? by which leaders are eventually judged. Realizing, historically, that powerfully effective leadership requires prophet voice in the face of opposition who would deny leadership of convictions and the authority to speak, act and react according to those convictions.
Of course, it is always vital that those who hear the prophet's voice must judge the truth, goodness and righteousness of the prophet's convictions. Without that check in the public square, we would be subject always and everywhere to the most charismaticly, persuasive voice. And history has shown us the dire consequences of following such a non-prophetic leader.

Bishop Sally Dyck said...

But do bishops/spiritual leaders, including yourselves (all of you!) really know enough about the war to make such statements? Is knowledge the basis upon which to make pronouncements? (If there were a trip of religious leaders to Iraq, I'd sign up in a heartbeat.)

Arthur Hill said...

Opinions - Yes.
Prophetic remarks - Yes. Encylcilcals - No.
That is the danger of the Council speaking, a small majority can appear to be telling us all what to think. Though it is only a misunderstanding by those who do not know our system, it does foster misunderstanding.

Don said...

About time we speak up. As a combat veteran it is about time the church starts to take some action. Why are we so afraid to tackle the far right with issues.

Larry Nielsen said...

It has been the function of bishops, as well as pastors and laity, to engage the world around them. Christians and other people of faith are called to witness to the morality of particular situations. If such persons do nothing, how will a voice of ethics and reason be heard.

The bishops may not only speak, but as Clay points out, "it would be a palpable sign of disorder in the church's vocations if Christian bishops kept still when they felt called of God to speak."

The history of the Christian Church and, particulalry, the United Methodist Church, those in leadership were always called to speak. Wesley in his time spoke against the payment of workers in gin or rum, which upset the economics of the three corner trade (slaves, sugar, rum)and changed England.

The real fear is when leaders remain silent as many did during the rise of Hitler.

I applaud the courage of our bishops to speak their souls and minds and welcome that whether or not I am in agreement.

Peace,

Larry

wyates@unitedseminary.edu said...

The prophetic as word and a way of being in the world lies deeply rooted in our faith. Its prototype comes from the Old Testament prophets, its message is threaded through the words of Jesus, and it is woven into the very notion of protestantism. The twentieth-century theologian, James Luther Adams, responded to the heavy accent on Luther's notion of the "priesthood of all believers" by calling on us to speak equally of "the prophethood of all believers".

I think Tillich spoke powerfully of the prophetic in his work "The Protestant Era" when he said that the prophetic is to state the Divine NO against idolatry and injustice and hold out the Divine Yes as a vision of what we could become. He said that the prophetic is focused on "form-negation" while holding out the promise of "form-creation".

Wesley was certainly a prophetic figure: condemning the lack of education for poor children, he held out the promise of education by building schools; condemning the way bankers left poor people without financial loans or loans too burdensome to carry (Sounds familiar given the current home mortgage exploitation of vulnerable homeowners) he created a low interest loan system; condemning the triangle of sugar, gin and slavery,as has been noted by Larry Nielsen above, he crusaded against the exploitation that each activity visited upon the people; and we could go on.

There is a darker side of the prophetic in which there is little hope expressed. A story comes from Harvard Divinity School of 50 years ago when all students had to defend their theological stance before thirteen members of the faculty. The Old Testament professor was known for asking "what is the prophetic word"? Students would begin with sophisticated exegetical responses to which he would respond:"Enough, the prophetic is
God's word of doom". That may have been a bit too dark, but he made well his point.

So I see the bishops speaking with a prophetic voice as crucial to their faith and leadership. And particularly so, since I have experienced Sunday services of several denominations in which they offer forth a thundering silence about this war, a silence that is deafening. I can only pray that the bishops speak boldly with the voice of an Isaiah, a Jeremiah, a Jesus, a John Wesley and that all who would hear their voice would hear the rumbling judgment of God.

Outpost said...

I do not believe bishops have the authority from God to speak for all of the churchmembers. We do not all agree with the no just war theory. I believe God said all are created equal and we should support all in their quest to be free to speak of their belief in God.Not just us.

Kristin Clifford said...

I do believe it is the church's duty to lend it's prophetic voice to the conversation about war. If we do not, we are just another school of fish swimming with the current downstream. God calls us, as Christians and a Christian community, to be like salmon-swimming upstream, going the difficult way sometimes to reach HIS goals in the world. We are required to fight against the mainstream when it is against God's word-for example this issue of war. Again, as the examples above, John Wesley's encouragement to Wilberforce in England led Wilberforce to take action to end slavery there. In turn, those ideas took root in the United States and became a large part of the politial conversation here until slavery was indeed abolished. John Wesley lent his voice to the conversation which inspired action. This action changed the world and aligned it closer to the Kingdom of God. Our voice may inspire action with hopefully the same outcome.

Brent Olson said...

"Do bishops know enough to have an opinion? How about the rest of us?"

Compared to who? Look at the decisions made by people with all the information and a wealth of experience. History shows us over and over that quite often by the time a person rises to the top levels in government and in the military they lose their flexibility, their ability to see things as they are and not as they wish. Realism, objectivity, and common sense are almost always in short supply. Knowledge is not enough - a willingness to see AND speak the truth is what is needed.

True prophets almost always come from outside the mainstream of the decision making system.

About the trip to Iraq - I've been on both sides of such fact finding expeditions and they always remind me of a passage from Steinbeck's "Travels with Charley" where he talked about traveling to Prague or some such place on a press junket. His seat mate was Joseph Alsop, a prominent, powerful, columnist. They stayed in the city a week and on the plane ride home compared notes. Alsop had gone to all the press briefings, taken all the tours, and interviewed all the powerful people. Steinbeck had spent his week hanging out on the docks, in the bars and coffee shops, and shopping in the local markets.

It turns out they'd been to completely different cities and drawn completely different conclusions.

There is a saying in business consulting circles: "Managers do things right, leaders make sure you do the right things."

Bishops are called on to be both managers and leaders - a daunting task, but the most important aspect of their job is to be a leader, and that quite often involves some thought, and the willingness to say, "I know we CAN do this, but SHOULD we?"

Brent

Amy Jo said...

In response to Bishop Sally's posted question do we "know enough about the war to make such statements?"

Yes, we do.

Our faith community has strong consensus around the belief that it is "the first moral duty of all nations to settle by peaceful means every dispute that arises between or among them." If we know that our country is at war, then we know that we have failed in carrying out our first moral duty-- no further information required.

However, additional information would be helpful as we think creatively about the peaceful alternatives to resolving our dispute.

I would love to see Bishop Sally be the one to organize and lead a religious leaders' trip to Iraq.

Amy Jo Bur
Centenary/St. Peter new church start

Amy Jo said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Happy Dan said...

I think that to make such a statement on behalf of the church is wrong, I think that that should be left to the general Conference.

I do think that Bishops should be allowed to express opinions, though I would prefer that it be something like the Bishops of the UMC believe that the Iraq war is in conflict with our book of Discipline.

If such a point needed to be made I would instead recommend that the bishops say that they all agree that this war is wrong and RECOMMEND that the UMC agree with this or in the very least to say such things by a greater authority to go to annual conference. and so on to use other outlets to make such statements.

Dwight Haberman said...

Bishop Sally: Re the bishop's statement on Iraq: I assume you-they must
choose how to respond, but it is clear that the clergy(including bishops) are called to be
people of justice and to find appropriate ways of LEADING the church in
carrying out justice. The order of worship at the service of ordination
makes it clear:

A UMC minister is called to justice.
( taken from the ordination service booklet)
Diaconal: to serve God’s people with special concern for love, justice, and
ministry to the poor, the sick, and the oppressed and to equip the people of
God to do the same things.

Deacon: to lead Christ’s people in ministries of compassion and justice,
liberation and reconciliation, even in the face of hardship and personal
sacrifice.

Elder: exemplifying and leading the people of God in obedience to mission in
the world, to seek justice, peace, and freedom for all people

dwight haberman

Rev. Russell said...

There is a distressingly high number of United Methodists who would rather that Bishops simply be high-ranking administrators that "do their jobs and keep quiet" so they (the people) can go about their lives without interference from outside opinions and direction.

I'm sure this will put a burr under more than one saddle, but I shall say it anyway: One can not truly embody the calling or life of episcopos and not exercise the prophetic gift of the office.

It was prophetic voices "from above" who brought God's word on issues such as slavery, segregation, the ordination of women, and so on.

Why, suddenly, are there so many who seek to silence those voices in the name of political exigency or other human frailty?

Honestly, there are so many who want the security of being Catholic (that is, the church will always make sure they have a minister, support them in their shortfalls, etc.) but the freedom of being Baptist (completely autonomous without responsibility to any higher structure).

If we are to be the church, then the leaders whom God has called to lead us should not be deprived of the ability to speak God's word to us -- even when we don't agree with them.

Michelle said...

I'm not sure I can add to the eloquence of these comments, but I will add my opinion:
The General Conference, convening every four years, is the only body that can authoritatively say where the church stands. But in the meantime, while the dangerous drama of the world continues, I would hope our Bishop's would speak out of their connection to scripture, our Discipline, and the events of the world. You cannot speak in full knowledge about the issue because there is no such thing. But the Bishops can speak out of the heart of the church and out of its best thinking on matters that affect our world.
Michelle Hargrave, Fairmount Ave UMC

David said...

The Sunday following the public release of the Bishop’s letter on the war in Iraq, I read it at our worship services. It was not a terribly difficult thing to do as I agree with the substance of what was said, though I might quibble with some details. I hope that I would also read such a letter were I to disagree with the position of the bishops on an issue.

The dilemma of the bishops is one shared by pastors as well – how do we preach and teach in meaningful ways in our contemporary context? It is easier to speak about generalities than about specifics, but I think we need to take the risk of getting more specific, at least at times. The Sunday I read the Bishop’s letter, I was preaching a sermon on Romans 1, not the easiest chapter in the Bible to preach from. My basic point was that Paul, looking at the world around him, saw that the darkness around him was deep (a line I took from a William Stafford poem). By that I meant Paul saw places where the image of God was being marred in people by what they did, that God’s purposes were being partially eclipsed by human action. This is pretty abstract stuff, so I gave some examples from contemporary society where I saw “darkness,” using the text from Romans as a starting point. So I cited things like internet pornography as a misuse of the good gift of human sexuality, the elevation of national security to an ultimate concern and the kinds of things that entails – such interrogation techniques that make me uncomfortable as a citizen, the growing concentration of wealth in the global economy. I told people that they could disagree with my interpretation of contemporary life, but it seemed important to go beyond the general comments about darkness in the world. Pastors and bishops sometimes need to take that risk if we are going to preach and teach meaningfully, though we always need to be wise and compassionate in doing so.

When I read the Bishop’s letter in my church, I prefaced it by saying that faithful United Methodists could disagree with their bishops. I say the same thing when we are looking at The Book of Resolutions. We can disagree, but we should take these statements seriously, and we should use these statements to foster a deeper dialogue. The prophetic voice, at its best, invites conversation and fosters dialogue. The prophetic voice, at its best, cannot be separated from the teaching voice. When I think about it in this way, I would not like to see the prophetic voice of our bishops silenced.

David Bard
First UMC, Duluth

Anonymous said...

What's the point in having a bishop if her voice is not heard? Surely she prays before she speaks, and surely the Spirit will encourage her to have opinions. I for one want to know as many of her voices as possible. We need a prophetic voice in these times. Of course, prophets have rarely been popular, since what they tell us is usually something we don't want to hear! Fair C-Meeks

Roadtripray said...

Amy Jo,

I agree with your point that "the first moral duty of all nations to settle by peaceful means every dispute that arises between or among them." However, to immediately say that if a nation is at war it is because that nation failed their first moral duty is incomplete at best. Do you seriously think Hitler could have been negotiated with?

Many of the people who oppose the war in Iraq today supported the invasion in 2003 after any sort of dialog between the UN and the Iraqi government failed. What do we do in those cases?

I don't disagree with the general thrust of the argument that we Christians are charged with promoting peaceful resolutions, but we cannot bury our heads in the sand and pretend everyone else is going to "play nice."

This past year the South Carolina Annual Conference passed "A Resolution on Human Rights Violations of the People of the Darfur Region." The resolution itself was supporting peaceful means for assisting the victimized in the region. But I remember thinking how useless our resolution will be without "resolve."

Believe it or not, but many leaders will react violently when we come in with our peaceful Christian message. It happened Somalia when UN forces were deployed for humanitarian reasons, and there is a good chance of it happening when aid is sent to Darfur.

The Old Circuit Rider said...

The Old Circuit Rider:

The Bishops certainly have a right and a responsibility to speak to the church. As individuals they have a right to speak their opinions to the government. When they begin to tell the govenment what to do, whatever happened to the separation of church and state?

Perhaps we want the government to begin telling the church how to function.

jdcolv said...

Bishop Dyck: Unfortunately, I am greatly conflicted by the Council of Bishops Resolution on the Iraq War. On the one hand, I agree with much of the sentiment of the statement. On the other hand, I am concerned that the Bishops’ statement is neither clear enough about the status of Bishops in the United Methodist Church nor drafted as carefully as it needed to be.

I believe that the Bishops have every right to express their opinions, prophetically or otherwise. However, when they do so collectively or individually, they have a responsibility to make clear the authority with which they speak. I think that the impression is left that the Bishops spoke for the United Methodist Church. However, it is my understanding that only the General Conference, and perhaps the Judicial Council on specific questions, has that authority. I have seen nothing in either the Bishops’ Resolution or in the announcement of the resolution that clarifies this point. Unfortunately, this lack of clarity lends credence to the impression that the United Methodist Church has spoken.

I question whether the Bishops language in the statement was sufficiently concise. For instance, the first bullet point in the operative portion of the statement calls for the withdrawal “of all military personnel from Iraq.” Does “all” include the Marines who traditionally protect United States embassies around the world? Does it include any military personnel who provide normal liaison functions for an embassy and who traditionally operate and maintain the secure communications systems? Does it include military personnel who may be assisting the Iraq security forces in learning policing functions to establish and maintain a safe environment for the Iraqi people? As with most statements of absolutes, the Bishops’ statement unfortunately admits of no reasonable exceptions. If the Bishops really meant “all military personnel,” I question whether the statement constitutes a plausible option even of all combat personnel were removed from Iraq.

Finally, the Bishops’ statement does not seem to address adequately the moral conundrum in which I find myself. We have created the Iraq that now exists. While I opposed the war from before it started, I do not find that the Bishops’ statement adequately addresses our moral responsibility to repair that which we broke with our ill conceived and ill-executed invasion and occupation. While I applaud the call for support of the reconstruction of Iraq with emphasis on the humanitarian and social needs of the people, I question if any of that will be possible without the establishment of a viable system of governance, either regionally or nationally.

Sincerely,
James D. Colville
Christ United Methodist Church
Rochester, Minnesota

Anonymous said...

I guess I am a bit confused by the resolution.

On the one hand it calls for immediate removal of troops, etc. Yet it also calls for...

"initiate and support a plan for reconstruction in Iraq, giving a high priority to humanitarian, social, and educational needs of the Iraqi people."

The problem is the troops are there to aid in the reconstruction of Iraq. However, we do not hear any of that in the general media. Instead, all we hear are how many people were killed today, and what got blown up. Our troops are not the one doing the killing. Our troops are not the ones blowing things up.

No, our troops are doing the best they can to protect themselves and the citizens of Iraq from being killed. They are doing the best they can to help the people of Iraq rebuild their country.

Yet statements similar to what is included in the resolution consistently make it look like our troops are the ones perpetuating these evil deeds, when in fact, it is those who want to see the new Iraq fail committing these acts.

As soon as we pull out, the killings will continue. The destruction of community infrastructure will continue as long as it serves the purpose of those who want to see a free Iraq fail.

You want peace? Please tell me how you make peace when there are people literally hellbent on making sure they kill anyone and everyone not like them. This includes anyone who looks like them, but proclaims Christianity.

Marj said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you bishops for breaking this dreadful silence.

The years of silence in the face of such enormous carnage plus deprivation of civic means of resistance (detentions without charges, phone/email data mining...) have deeply pained me and led to serious consideration of leaving the institution of the church all together. I am heartened that the bishops have made another statement and that our conference participated in an interfaith service at Hennepin UMC last night, but if that's all, it's too paultry.

Clergy are called to this prophetic task as well
"Elder: exemplifying and leading the people of God in obedience to mission in the world, to seek justice, peace, and freedom for all people

dwight haberman"

However, this greater calling is in conflict for many pastors of many local churches with the responsability that they also have to oversee the administration of the temporal affairs (paying mortgage, salaries, including their own, utilities, apportionments and programs...)

Jeff Ozanne said, "Most of the prophets said what they said not because they wanted to, but because they felt God was calling them to." I think that when one is called by God to say something, one wants to say it, but the resistance comes from the anticipation of the consequences that will be inflicted by humans. We do have human systems that are familiar even if horrific for many. It is not rare for people to resist vigorously a change from the familiar, even if the change will lead to liberation and maintaining the status quo means continued suffering. At least the suffering is familiar! So, even those who do not benefit from the human systems that are in opposition to God's calling for us all will vigorously protest when the systems that harm them are threatened. Then there are other people (usually, including in the case of the Iraq war) who benefit. They have shown themselves willing to take drastic measures (ie civil liberty violations, cover ups of murders...) to maintain the status quo. So, when pastors of local churches exercize their prophetic voice, they're going to pay. People are going to protest, and it's not going to be logical. Reasoned arguements will not change the emotional response for those who feel secure in the familiar suffering. So, their parishioners will leave/withdraw support/complain to the DS. Then what happens to the clergy person's career? So, there is a disincentive for clergy to speak--hence the deafening and deadly silence.

So, how do we either create safety for clergy to speak or embolden them to speak in spite of the formidable risks?

I have been trying and trying to speak as a lay person, but feel that I'm a terribly lonely voice crying in the desert with an occassional passerby. How do we give prophetic voice to the laity, who may be in the best position to speak since they don't have a career on the line?

Marj said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you bishops for breaking this dreadful silence.

The years of silence in the face of such enormous carnage plus deprivation of civic means of resistance (detentions without charges, phone/email data mining...) have deeply pained me and led to serious consideration of leaving the institution of the church all together. I am heartened that the bishops have made another statement and that our conference participated in an interfaith service at Hennepin UMC last night, but if that's all, it's too paultry.

Clergy are called to this prophetic task as well
"Elder: exemplifying and leading the people of God in obedience to mission in the world, to seek justice, peace, and freedom for all people

dwight haberman"

However, this greater calling is in conflict for many pastors of many local churches with the responsability that they also have to oversee the administration of the temporal affairs (paying mortgage, salaries, including their own, utilities, apportionments and programs...)

Jeff Ozanne said, "Most of the prophets said what they said not because they wanted to, but because they felt God was calling them to." I think that when one is called by God to say something, one wants to say it, but the resistance comes from the anticipation of the consequences that will be inflicted by humans. We do have human systems that are familiar even if horrific for many. It is not rare for people to resist vigorously a change from the familiar, even if the change will lead to liberation and maintaining the status quo means continued suffering. At least the suffering is familiar! So, even those who do not benefit from the human systems that are in opposition to God's calling for us will vigorously protest when the systems that harm them are threatened. Then there are other people (usually, including in the case of the Iraq war) who benefit. They have shown themselves willing to take drastic measures (ie civil liberty violations, cover ups of murders...) to maintain the status quo. So, when pastors of local churches exercise their prophetic voice, they're going to pay. People are going to protest, and it's not going to be logical. Reasoned arguements will not change the emotional response for those who feel secure in the familiar suffering. So, their parishioners will leave/withdraw support/complain to the DS. Then what happens to the clergy person's career? So, there is a disincentive for clergy to speak--hence the deafening and deadly silence.

So, how do we either create safety for clergy to speak or embolden them to speak in spite of the formidable risks?

I have been trying and trying to speak as a lay person, but feel that I'm a terribly lonely voice crying in the desert with an occassional passerby. How do we give prophetic voice to the laity, who may be in the best position to speak since they don't have a career on the line?

Charles Holm said...

Charles Holm said: I'm confused! In passing the resolution why did the Bishops only address the withdrawal of our military forces from Iraq? We have military forces fighting and dying in Afghanistan. We have had military forces stationed in Germany since the end of the Second World War. We have had military forces stationed in South Korea since the end of the Korean War. Why is it appropriate to have our military personnel stationed in other parts of the world but not in Iraq?

I want peace as much as any ot the Bishops that passed this resolution, however, I do not want to see an immediate withdrawal of our troops from Iraq. The sectarian killing and destruction will only increase if we were to withdraw our military forces at this time. As to whether there shold be permanent military base in Iraq that decision will, and should, be made by the Government of Iraq. As to the reconstruction of Iraq that is and has been ongoing for some time.

But mainly, I'm confused as to how did the Bishops Resolution on the Iraq War become a prophetic message? The war in Iraq has been going on for almost five years. Forgive my skepticism, but I have to believe that the timing of this resolution is more political than prophetic.

Eric said...

"The wolf will romp with the lamb, the leopard sleep with the kid. Calf and lion will eat from the same trough, and a little child will tend them." (Isaiah 11, MSG)

Bishops do have a right to a prophetic voice, as do all citizens of this great country.

But, what if you are wrong?

I am not a religious leader, but a United Methodist and a soldier recently home from 16 months in Iraq. I too enjoy Isaiah 11, but believe it to be prophetic of Christ's Kingdom, not the earth as we know it to be. I am a sheepdog, and until Christ returns, there will be a need for sheepdogs such as soldiers, firefighters, and police officers--History shows they are all that stand between the sheep and the wolves, until Christ's return.

As a teenager in the early 80's, the UM church convinced me to support unilateral nuclear disarmament. History has shown clearly that the leaders of the UM church were wrong at that time. Currently the threat of nuclear war is greatly diminished---our children do not live under the same threat as we did. That outcome came about by standing strong, not laying down our arms and hoping that our enemies will be nice to us.

As a soldier, I am for peace, but as a student of history, know that peace will not come by hoping for it and "laying down with the wolves". Only Christ can make that happen, in his own good time. For now, we need to rely on our sheepdogs and resist the false hope that by wishing and praying, peace will just happen.

Bishop Sally, I support your right of a prophetic voice and stand by to defend it with my life. I just think you are wrong, but will defend you, regardless.

Pastor Justin said...

I do not have anything to add in terms of the importance of "prophetic voice," etc., but I would like to clarify the confusion that seems to still surround the resolution by the Council of Bishops. (Michelle Hargrave touched on this, and rightly so, but I would like to fully clarify it).

First, many have questions about the authority of the Council of Bishops to speek for United Methodism. Michelle pointed out and so did others that General Conference is the only body that "officially" speaks for the church.

Second, there are questions about the sentiment of the resolution and a certain sense that the Bishops are speaking for United Methodism. Having read the resolution document, it appears very clear to me. The active party that is speaking is named at least three times as the "Council of Bishops" and nothing else, it does not say "The United Methodist Church calls".

Third, all of this is within their rights via the Discipline and is part of their expression of being a Bishop. The "Book of Discipline" states, "The Council of Bishops is thus the collegial expression of episcopal leadership in teh Church and through the Church into the world. The Church expects the Council of Bishops to speak to the Church and from the Church to the world and to give leadership in teh quest for Christian unity and interreligious relationships" (Book of Discipline, Paragraph 427.2, page 305)

I am hoping that clarified the "authority" questions surrounding the Council of Bishops. They are a people called to covenant and hold one another accountable, but more than that they are our leaders who are called to hold us (i.e. the Church) accountable and to hold the world accountable through our understanding of what God would have the world be.

Justin Halbersma
Chatfield UMC