Friday, September 6, 2013

letter 2

September 5, 2013

Bishop Mark Webb
Upper New York Annual Conference 

324 University Ave., Third Floor 
Syracuse, NY 13210

RE: Charges against Rev. Steve Heiss

Dear Bishop Webb,
I’ve read Rev. Steve Heiss’s letter stating that, contrary to rules in the Book of Discipline, he has conducted wedding services for same-sex couples now that marriage equality has become law in New York state. I understand that he has been charged with violating the BOD, and there is the possibility of a church trial.

As a psychologist (Ph.D., Educational Psychology, Syracuse University, 1973, life member of the American Psychological Association), I am opposed to a church trial in this matter.

In 1970, homosexuality was removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders by the A.P.A. Rather than a pathology in need of treatment, homosexuality was recognized as a part of the normal spectrum of human sexuality. If it is normal and not a “choice” or a “life style”, it can not be considered “sinful” or “contrary to Christian teaching”.

In the psychological, psychiatric, and medical communities there is now a broad consensus that human sexuality is quite complex, including bi-sexuality, transgender identity, gender diversity, intersex, and asexuality, in addition to homosexuality and heterosexuality. The United Methodist Church can no longer afford to ignore the scientific advances of the last forty years in our knowledge of human sexuality.

I attended the Reconciling Ministries Network Convocation in Chevy Chase, MD, August 30 to September 2. Bishop Melvin Talbert (ret.) presented his concept of “Biblical Obedience”, which he believes supersedes obedience to the restrictive and harmful rules of the BOD. Bishop Mary Ann Swenson reported that all the bishops in the Western Jurisdiction have agreed to observe “Biblical Obedience”; i.e., there will be no more church trials of ministers who conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies.

From conversations in the past with Jimmy Creech and Amy DeLong, it is my opinion that church trials on this issue accomplish nothing positive and are a tremendous waste of time and money. In the long run, they are most likely to be an embarrassment to the United Methodist Church, just as the Roman Catholic Church was embarrassed by its treatment of Galileo in the 17th century.

It is my hope and prayer that the charge against Rev. Steve Heiss can be resolved quickly, and without a church trial.

William J. Russell, M.Div., Ph.D. 

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