Institute on Religion and Democracy
LETTER TO GENERAL BOARD OF HIGHER EDUCATION GENERAL SECRETARY REGARDING EXPLORATION 2000
September 25, 2000
Dr. Roger Ireson
Dear Dr. Ireson:
As I wrote to members of your staff on September 12, with a copy of my letter sent to you, I am very concerned about the program of the upcoming "Exploration 2000" conference sponsored by your agency. The conference, scheduled for November 10-12 in Dallas, is for hundreds of young people who are considering going into the ordained ministry of The United Methodist Church.
Of nine plenary speakers on the program for "Exploration 2000," none would appear to be from an evangelical or conservative perspective. To my knowledge, only one speaker, Steve Long, would identify himself with a strongly orthodox Christian perspective and support for our church's historic teachings on sexuality. The others all seem to be from a theologically liberal perspective. In particular, Tex Sample, Minerva Carcano, and Mark Miller are especially outspoken about their disagreement with our church's stance on homosexuality. It is very odd and disappointing that the historic teachings of our church, to which a majority of church members still subscribe, as reflected at the recent General Conference, are virtually unrepresented among the main speakers at "Exploration 2000."
In her September 18 response to me, the Rev. Ann Moman, as Associate General Secretary of the Division of Ordained Ministry, did not dispute my description of the speakers. She implied that the workshop leaders would represent a wider diversity of theological perspectives. I have reviewed the list of workshop leaders and confess that all but a few are unknown to me. But even if there were a strong evangelical or conservative representation among them, I am not sure that this would compensate for the nearly complete absence of this perspective among the main plenary speakers. And it still strikes me as highly inappropriate for the main speakers to be persons who are well known for their opposition to our church's teachings on key issues, such as sexuality.
I implore you to change the program of "Exploration 2000" so that major speakers who support our church's basic teachings are included in the plenary sessions. The young people who are going to attend this conference will not receive a fair impression of where our church stands from the currently scheduled program of "Exploration 2000." The false impressions about our church that they receive could also discourage them from pursuing the ordained ministry, at least in our denomination.
I am also distressed that the head of the Division of Ordained Ministry, which is the office that is apparently responsible for the organization of "Exploration 2000," is Ms. Moman. She conducted a same-sex union in 1992 when she was associate pastor at the Broadway United Methodist Church in Indianapolis. Her actions caused her bishop at that time, Leroy Hodapp, to warn that such behavior would not be tolerated among clergy in that annual conference. Unless Rev. Moman has changed her views on this important issue, I believe her holding this position of authority within your agency is very inappropriate.
Cc: all members of the Board of Higher Education and Ministry