Dr.

Joseph Bishman District Superintendent Shawnee Valley District West Ohio Conference United Methodist Church
Dear Joseph, You may recall that I sent you an earlier letter, dated June 16th, regarding the election of Bill Brownson as CFO of the WOC-UMC, in which I said in part:

On Monday, June 7th, 2010, Mr. Bill Brownson, a self-described practicing homosexual, was elected Chief Financial Officer of the West Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church. His candidacy was supported and promoted by Bruce Ough, bishop of the West Ohio Conference. Although Bishop Ough correctly quoted the UMC’s Social Principles in his statement “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teachings (Para. 161F)”, he nevertheless issued a pastoral letter with a clear statement that he “support[s] Bill's nomination”. It is clear that Bishop Ough purposely disregarded the teaching of the UMC regarding the practice of homosexuality. Bishop Ough has … disqualified himself to be bishop within the UMC ... NO CHRISTIAN should feel any obligation to follow his misguided attempts at leadership.
Now it’s your turn for criticism. The purpose of this letter is to protest your handling of the June 28th meeting which I and many others understood to be an opportunity for members of the Shawnee Valley District to voice our concerns and to formulate a collective action to oppose Mr. Brownson’s election. That understanding – that we would have an opportunity to air our grievances and to formulate a collective response – was predicated upon your announcement in the regular SHV “Keeping You Informed” message which went out for the week of June 20th and which stated that “District Superintendant, Jospeh (sic) Bishman will lead a discussion and would like to gain a sense of response within the district so he can best represent you in Cabinet and to the Bishop. “ In reviewing my notes from that meeting, the following are some of the problems I found with your handling of that meeting: 1. You began the meeting with a lengthy explanation that you did not need the DS job, you had sufficient investments to live on, you were nearing the end of your term as DS, etc. Further, you stated that you would not participate in or countenance a rebellion against the WOC, nor would you convey any letters or petitions to the bishop, etc. Yet you claimed to be pastor to us all. Interesting. It seems to me that a good leader would have been more

invested in the concerns of his constituents than in the interests of his bosses. You failed to support us, your flock. 2. You told us, several times, that we were not all in agreement about this homosexual thing. But how would you know? While we were in large group session you never asked for or permitted a simple large group vote such as: “how many of you are opposed to the hiring of a practicing homosexual as CFO?” Even when we were broken into small groups you did not ask how many of us opposed the election enough to take action. It would have been a simple matter to find out what percentage of church representatives in attendance were opposed to the election. Perhaps you, or the bishop, didn’t really want to know the answer to that question? 3. The format of the meeting – breaking into eight small groups for discussion of the questions you provided – appeared on the surface to be a means to more efficient discussion, but I believe that dividing us into small groups served a more deceitful purpose: we were never allowed to vote, and speak, as a group representing the entire district. Further, we were never allowed to formulate a district-wide response to the conference election. It seems to me that you deliberately kept us fragmented in order to diffuse our anger and prevent a collective response.

4. The questions you presented to us for discussion were all rather pointless “feel good” types of questions. That is, they did not scratch where we itched. Further, they were all from a “damage control” organization-maintaining perspective: a. Question 1 – “What kind of hurt or pain are you experiencing? How are you dealing with it?” – this is a Feel Good type of question that does not really get to the facts of an issue. It permits people to vent, but to what point? It never asks “what do you want to do about it?” b. Question 2 – “What issues or questions need to be discussed regarding the hiring of Mr. Brownson?” -- a little too late for that kind of question, don’t you think? I believe that most of us assembled at the meeting were more interested in asking “What can we do about it now that Mr. Brownson has been elected? How can we address this egregious moral and doctrinal lapse on the part of conference leadership?” c. Question 3 – “How do you think we as Christians should behave regarding this issue?” -- this was another skillfully-worded question that ALMOST sounds like what we really wanted to ask: (i.e., How do you think we as Christians should RESPOND regarding this issue?). The overt implication of this question is to remind us to “turn the other cheek” and be good little Christians. But the deeper, more covert, implication in the question is that, now that the damage is done (a homosexual is elected), the burden for “proper behavior” lies solely

upon us, the injured ones. Where was the requirement for proper behavior and orthodoxy while the Finance Committee was meeting, and when the election was held?

How we should behave now seems clear to me: we who believe that homosexuality has no place in the leadership of the church should stand up and be counted. I do not want a practicing homosexual as Treasurer/CFO; I do not want a practicing adulterer to teach Bible Study; I do not want a practicing liar/gossiper to teach Sunday School; I do not want someone living an intemperate gluttonous lifestyle to lead the choir – in short, no unrepentant sinner should be placed in any position of leadership within the church. We are all sinners, and no particular sin is worse than other sin – it is the unrepentant aspect which is the focus of the current issue. One of the things Christians are called to do with the Body is to police our own behaviors (Matt. 18:15; Gal. 6:1; 2 Thess. 3:15; James 5:19; Heb. 10:29; etc.). Mr. Brownson should be asked to repent, or failing that, to resign.

Perhaps your question would have been more effective if it had been directed at Mr. Brownson: “Bill, now that you have been elected as Treasurer/CFO, the third-highest office within WOC, how should you behave?” Wonder what his answer would have been? d. Question 4 – “When people say they are leaving the Church, how are you coaching them; to leave or to stay?” – this question was designed to make us all think like a DS is supposed to think: “How can I keep this rabble together?”. It has the impact of equating membership in the UMC as being of equal importance with Biblically sound doctrine. And it is dead wrong. Our first priority must be to seek and save the lost. Our second priority should be to disciple those who are saved, and last time I looked in the Bible there was no requirement for church membership in any particular denomination in order to follow Jesus Christ. Becoming part of the Body of Christ and learning what we may be good for within that Body have nothing to do with formal church membership in any denomination. At some point down the road, after we have done all we can to fulfill priorities 1 & 2, then perhaps it becomes appropriate to see what benefits we can derive from commonalities in worship and service (i.e., church membership), but it is certainly NOT the highest priority. This question was only important to you and the conference leadership, not to any of us.

5. I think a better set of questions to ask in small group session would have been: a. “How many of you believe that it is Biblically unacceptable for the UMC to elect a self-avowed practicing and unrepentant homosexual as a member of its leadership?” (If I were the DS I would think it my duty to actually find out what percentage of churches on my watch opposed the conference action. Simply saying “there are folks among you, even within your churches, who do not agree with you on this issue” is non-productive at best, misleading at worst.) b. (Assuming that the majority of attendees present at the meeting on June 28th felt that the UMC should NOT have homosexuals in its leadership): “How many of you feel strongly enough about this issue that your local church must take some action in response to the Conference election of a homosexual?” (Again, as DS I would want to gauge the strength of the majority’s convictions so I could report that to conference: “you really need to pay attention to these people; they mean business”) c. (Assuming that the answers to Questions 1 and 2 are strongly positive [that is, that we strongly do not agree with Conference’s position]): “What suggestions do you have in terms of formulating a response to Conference regarding this issue?” d. Once the suggestions have been collected and organized into thoughtful options, then this question is appropriate: “Which of these options shall We, as a District, present to Conference as our Collective Response?” e. (Then finally) “Now that we have formulated a Response, acceptable to the majority of those assembled here now, how can we begin a healing process within this District for all of us, regardless of which side of the issue you are on?” This would have been the most important question of all. Why did you ignore it? 6. You may recall that during the meeting of June 28th I stood and recapped what you had said earlier in the meeting, viz. “writing letters to the bishop would do no good (in terms of opposing the election)” and “signing petitions will do no good”. I then asked you what you would recommend to us as a viable course of action, and your only answers were that you (1) did not want us to quit Methodism and (2) that you wanted us to keep paying 100% of our apportionments (redirected away from the “Administration” budget item if we so choose). Your answers were not helpful at all, and in fact you sounded like someone simply trying to please his masters rather than someone who was as offended by the conference election as we were. I gave you a perfect opportunity to offer real leadership to a distressed group of believers; you should have shown more concern for our distress than for the worries of the bishop.

7. Your announcement in the regular SHV “Keeping You Informed” message which went out for the week of June 20th stated that “District Superintendant,
Jospeh (copied with spelling errors intact) Bishman will lead a discussion and would like to gain a sense of response within the district so he can best represent you in Cabinet and to the Bishop.“ Just what “sense of response” did you gain from that meeting? We

haven’t heard another word from you about that meeting or what happened when you supposedly carried our concerns to the bishop. Do you have any plans to share further information with the rest of us? 8. There are many questions we would like to ask since the answers might inform and clarify our own decisions: a. Just how many churches/church representatives within SHV are distressed to some degree about this election? What percentage of us oppose that election? b. How many individuals or churches within SHV are completely withholding all apportionments as a result of the election? c. How many individuals or churches within SHV are redirecting apportionments away from the “Administration” budget item? d. How many individuals or churches within SHV are withdrawing from membership within the UMC? e. Did other districts within West Ohio Conference hold meetings similar to our June 28th meeting? What were the outcomes of those meetings? What percentage of the other districts oppose the election of Mr. Brownson? What are churches in the other districts doing to voice their concerns? f. Did you actually carry our concerns to the bishop/cabinet? What was the response? g. Why have we not heard anything further from you regarding this divisive issue? This is a HUGE issue. People are leaving the UMC in search of other church homes. Doesn’t anybody care about that? Surely this disruption warrants a more complete sharing of information. 9. You did state during the June 28th meeting that individuals and whole churches may leave United Methodism and you gave a brief summary of proper steps for doing so. And I note that you have scheduled a meeting for September 19th to discuss the withdrawal process with churches interested in withdrawing from membership in WOC-UMC. I commend you for that. 10.There are a few relatively simple solutions for resolving this divisive issue:

a. Mr. Brownson, if he truly believes himself to be Christian, and recognizing that Christians should give way to one another for the common good (Rom. 12:10; 1 Cor. 12:25; Phil. 2:3; etc.), he could/should recognize the extent of the damage his election is causing to WOC, and he could resign his post. b. Or the WOC leadership could fire him as being Biblically and doctrinally unsuited for his post. But that would require guts and orthodox thinking on the part of Conference leadership, both of which seem rather unlikely. c. Alternatively, the bishop/cabinet could recognize the extent of the damage being caused by this election and they could set Mr. Brownson aside (continuing to pay his salary for the duration of his term) and could hire a temporary replacement (a person more acceptable to the conservatives among us) to complete his term. I believe that many of us would be willing to give extra, over and above our current apportionments, to pay for a replacement CFO’s salary. d. As regards the collective will of the people of Shawnee Valley District, you could call another district-wide meeting for the purpose of airing our concerns and formulating a collective response which reflects the majority opinion, AND instead of your telling us what you will and will not do, you can listen to us and carry our concerns back to the conference leadership. In summary, my view of the June 28th meeting is that you acted like a mid-level functionary trying to keep his fiefdom from crumbling around him by herding the rabble rousers back into line. I’m not sure how much input you had on the format of the June 28th meeting, but I suspect that the questions you supplied to us as well as the format for the meeting (small group session to diffuse our anger) were dictated to you by someone very smart at the conference level . I can’t speak for anyone else who attended that meeting but frankly I feel abused and violated by the way it transpired. You came across to me as a “company man” whose only real concern was to follow the instructions of his bosses. I, along with other thoughtful Christians, am aware that Church history has been filled down through the ages with doctrinal disputes, organizational and jurisdictional wranglings, and numerous Machiavellian conspiracies and power struggles as one or more “Christians” attempted to claw their way to ascendancy over their siblings. I view this current divisive issue as just another in a long line of such abuses. The action of WOC in electing Mr. Brownson to the position of CFO is, I believe, the first crack in the dam for the UMC. Since the homosexual community (and Muslims, for that matter) have been pushing hard for acceptance and inclusion in all areas of life during the last few decades it seems likely that other cracks will

continue to appear until the time comes when the UMC actively endorses homosexual behavior as normative and natural and wholesome: “Open hearts and open minds” (the current UMC media campaign) – don’t look now, but I think the other cracks are already appearing. Let me be clear about where I stand on this current divisive issue: I believe that the practice of homosexuality is a sin, not so much because it involves sexual behavior (after all, God created sex for a number of purposes and called it good), but because it is a perversion of something God created for good. There are not many things which God Himself calls an abomination, but homosexuality is one of them (Leviticus 18 and 20, and Romans 1, among others). ANY perversion of something God has created is an abomination to Him, and should be to us also. If the UMC is going to permit, accept or otherwise say that it is OK to have homosexuals in positions of leadership within the denomination, then I want no part of the UMC. I would feel exactly the same way if the UMC said it was OK for practicing unrepentant adulterers, or thieves, or liars, or murderers (are you getting the picture here?) or any other egregious behavior to be placed in a position of leadership – they are all sin – and unrepentant sinners have no business being placed in positions of leadership within the Church. This issue is particularly painful for me, not only because the UMC is shifting its historic doctrinal stance with regard to homosexuality, but because of how I must respond to the UMC’s error: If the WOC-UMC does not show some sign that it is seriously reconsidering, by December 31st of this year, its election of a practicing self-avowed homosexual as Treasurer and CFO, then I must withdraw my membership from the UMC and look for a church home elsewhere. This will be costly for me (and others): I am currently organist for three UMC churches, and I am the Bible teacher at one of those churches. Among those churches is one (previously E.U.B) where I grew up as a child, where I became a Christian, where I joined the Church, where I later served as YF president and later still, as district YF president, and where I have preached and taught and played and sung many times over the last few decades. I am fully persuaded that a liberal contingent at the conference level and above schemed and conspired for months to produce the election results. Unless you can find a way to actually LISTEN to our concerns and faithfully report them to the bishop then I must conclude that you are complicit in the back-room dealings which led to the election, which frankly I view as tantamount to crawling into bed with the homosexual agenda right alongside Bishop Ough. Joseph, I urge you to schedule another district-wide meeting at which you may listen to our concerns, rather than telling us what you will and will not do.

May God Almighty speak to your heart, and to mine, indeed to all our hearts in true healing,

Jerry Massie Bible teacher, Organist, Lay speaker

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful