Dear Bishop Webb:
I was disappointed to learn that you did not reach a just resolution with Pastor Heiss last week, and I am puzzled about why. At the 2012 General Conference, Pastor Heiss and others tried to start dialogue about the rules on homosexuality in the Book of Discipline, but their efforts were rejected, with great hostility. Last week, he proposed dialogue again, but you rejected that option – unless he would stop providing the sacrament of marriage to homosexuals, although legal in New York State. In other words, you want him to comply with antiquated sections of the Discipline, on the chance that others would stop refusing to participate in dialogue.
At Sunday’s installation of our new District Superintendent, you claimed that the most important quality in a new DS was deep love for Jesus Christ. How can that be, when you do not show that love yourself? As you know, the Bible tells this story about Jesus:
Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with
all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou
shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law
and the prophets.
Matthew 22:35-40 (King James Version)
On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
It seems like you hang your decision on the Book of Discipline. I wonder if you really believe the Discipline supersedes the Bible, even where the Discipline is unjust, or if you simply use the Discipline to hide your personal fears and prejudices. The reality is, the Discipline contradicts itself. It says the foundation of the United Methodist Church is to be welcoming and loving, as demonstrated by providing the sacraments; then it has lots of rules, some of which are not at all welcoming and loving. The reality is, the Bible has verses that contradict the lessons that Jesus taught. The reality is, mortals have cherry-picked verses from the Bible to justify despicable crimes against humanity. You are cherry-picking from the Discipline, and apparently from the Bible, and forgetting the center of what Jesus taught: the two greatest commandments, to love. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
The Methodist Church has had many wonderful members who love God, Jesus, their church, and one other person, a consenting adult who happens to be of the same gender. Pastor Heiss shared with you extensive documentation about the natural and benign nature of homosexuality, as well as the terrible harm done by attempts at “conversion” and by rejection. When our LGBTQ sisters and brothers are driven out of the UMC, which seems to be the goal, you also will drive out their straight family members, friends, and allies. We, who contribute our time, talents, and income to the church, generously, who have loved all the Methodist church represented, are horrified by the spiteful, vengeful turn in our leaders’ theology. This emerging theology rejects the two greatest commandments, on which all other laws hang. The new UMC theology rejects Jesus Christ!
Please, Bishop Webb, stop cherry-picking the Bible and the Discipline. Stop choosing hatred and exclusion over the love, inclusion, and passion for justice for which Jesus Christ lived, and died.
With hope, though fading,
Beverly Rainforth, Ph.D.