Institute on Religion and Democracy
September 12, 2000
Dear Rev. Espino and Rev. Garcia:
I am writing you as you are listed as Design Team members for the upcoming "Exploration 2000" conference sponsored by the Board of Higher Education, Division of Ordained Ministry, to be held in Dallas November 10-12. This event is described in its promotional brochure as a national gathering for youth and young adults considering the ordained ministry in the United Methodist Church.
The event seems like an important one, as it seeks to influence young people who may become future ministers in our church. The speakers at such a conference should be persons who accurately represent the beliefs, doctrines and policies of our denomination, while also representing the diversity within our denomination.
This does not seem to be case with the list of nine major speakers and worship leaders scheduled for "Exploration 2000." Nearly all appear to be from the liberal wing of the church. Perhaps the one exception is Steve Long, an assistant professor at Garrett-Evangelical Seminary. He would not be described as a conservative. But he does support, with conviction, our church's stance on sexuality and would identify with historic Christian orthodoxy.
It is not certain that the same could be said for any of the other speakers, although I would welcome your correction if I am mistaken. Tex Sample and Minerva Carcano are certainly outspoken in their disagreement with our church's stance on sexuality, among other issues. Mark Miller publicly identified himself as homosexual at the recent General Conference and is an activist on that issue.
None of the speakers, it would seem, would identify himself or herself with the evangelical wing of the United Methodist Church. This seems very odd. Certainly young people who are considering a career of ministry within our church should be exposed to the major components of belief within our church. At the very least they should hear from leaders of our church who support the policies of our church on some of the most controversial issues, such as homosexuality. But almost all the speakers dissent from our church' s official teaching on that issue.
I am writing you with the hope that you will correct this situation and include speakers who firmly adhere to orthodox Christian teachings and who can enthusiastically support the United Methodist Church's stance on sexual morality. The Board of Higher Education and Ministry has been entrusted by our denomination to accurately transmit the beliefs of our church to our future clergy. I pray that you will uphold this trust.
Cc: Roger Ireson
P.S. I am planning to post this letter on the UMAction web site and share it with some directors on the Board of Higher Education and Ministry. But I will wait until next week (September 19), so that you can advise me if I have inaccurately portrayed the program of "Exploration 2000."