- by Anthony Fatta -
This blog is a response to Bishop Coyner’s “Response to the Western Jurisdiction”
Although I have the utmost respect for the episcopal office, I cannot have respect for ecclesial criticism based upon factual inaccuracies. What happened at the Western Jurisdictional Conference this past summer was a cry of both concern and celebration addressed to the general United Methodist Church. There is concern in regards to the recent legislation and language retained at General Conference. But the jurisdiction has found celebration in the fact that the Spirit of God remains active in and throughout a church that chose to uphold restrictive policies for all of God’s children. Bishop Coyner’s response is appreciated and heard by me and I am sure by others as well, but it deserves some feedback.
1) What the Western Jurisdiction did in passing “A Statement of Gospel Obedience,” was not an act of neocolonialism. Surely, there is a hope that restrictive policies for all peoples will be eliminated in the global church, but this statement is for the Western Jurisdiction, so that we can be more fruitful in disciple-making in our mission field. To assume that the Western Jurisdiction’s clergy and laity are flippant about issues of neocolonialism and intercultural sensitivity is simply untrue and uninformed. I serve a local church in the heart of Silicon Valley in California. It is one of the most ethnically and linguistically diverse communities in the entire United States. If we want to find neocolonialism in the UMC, we only need to examine how monies are disseminated.
2) “A Statement of Gospel Obedience” is an act of ecclesial disobedience, which, in my opinion, has parallels with civil disobedience. In disregarding Par. 161F, United Methodists in the Western Jurisdiction are proclaiming that we will support and celebrate the ministries and lives of LGBT clergy and laity if we choose to do so. There may be some who do not want to experience the consequences of such action, but there are definitely others who are willing to be put on church trial, including the risk of losing clergy credentials. Having been on the floor at General Conference during the Common Witness Coalition’s witness, I can assure you that there were plenty of people who were willing to be arrested and go to jail to obey the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
3) To claim that supporters of this statement are not open to those with whom we disagree or do not prayerfully discern such decisions is also untrue. One only needs to look at the past 40 years. It has been that long since par. 161F has entered our Discipline. From that time, faithful United Methodists have taken part in many an instance of holy conferencing on every level of our polity and we continue to do so. And let me just clear another misconception: people in the Western United States DO PRAY. We pray for our United Methodist Church, for the communities that we serve, for a hopeful tomorrow, and for so much more.
Perhaps, such a statement is unconventional on a jurisdictional level, especially in our connectional polity, but it is a way to continue the conversation within the general UMC. This is why I am glad Bishop Coyner was able to give a response and I am able to respond to it.
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Anthony Fatta is the Youth Director at Los Gatos United Methodist Church in Los Gatos, CA. Recently, he completed a Master of Divinity at Vanderbilt Divinity School. He was a Jurisdictional Organizer with the Called to Witness campaign for two years, working with the Memphis, Kentucky, and Western North Carolina Annual Conferences.