THE COALITION FOR UNITED
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 8, 2000
||Dr. Ira Gallaway, Confessing Movement - (505) 797-2996
||Dr. Phil Granger, Good News - (765) 289-7337
||Dr. Tom Oden, Institute on Religion and Democracy - (405) 721-3515
||Dr. John Stumbo, CUMA Legal Coordinator - (912) 825-8567
Coalition Planning Further Action
For United Methodist Accountability
DALLAS, TX -- The Coalition for United Methodist Accountability (CUMA), a group of
church renewal leaders within the 8.4 million member denomination, met in Dallas September
7 & 8 to consider further actions-including the filing of complaints and/or
charges-against a number of clergy and bishops for their disobedience of church law,
especially regarding homosexuality.
CUMA was formed in February of this year as a coalition "of United Methodist laity
and clergy who have come together to seek doctrinal, fiscal, and procedural accountability
in the life of the United Methodist Church." CUMA is composed of representatives of
Good News, the Confessing Movement, and the Institute on Religion and Democracy.
"We believe the witness and ministry of our church is being undermined by
increasing disobedience to church doctrine and standards, neglect of due process, and
unfair administration on the part of some bishops and district superintendents," the
group said at its organizational meeting in Indianapolis in February. Dr. John Stumbo,
CUMAs Legal Coordinator, said about the current crises in the church, "Our
churchs leaders, especially our bishops, must uphold the laws of our church. They
are not above the law simply because they are bishops."
The United Methodist Church, as a matter of official church policy, prohibits same-sex
union ceremonies and the ordination of practicing homosexuals into the ministry. In
accordance with the Scriptures and with traditional Christian teachings, the denomination
cites heterosexual marriage as the proper context for sexuality. Yet a number of bishops
have disagreed publicly with the policy and have been reluctant to enforce it. And
hundreds of clergy have openly expressed their willingness to defy church law by
conducting same-sex union ceremonies.
CUMA has been assisting and will continue to assist local clergy and laity in
responding to other clergy, district superintendents and bishops who are persistently
neglecting church law. Responses have included the filing of charges against church
leaders, where a conviction can mean a suspension or removal from the ordained ministry.
Among the situations CUMA is currently investigating are:
The arrest of Chicago-based Bishop Joseph Sprague and Albany-based
Bishop Susan Morrison at the churchs May 2000 General Conference for
highly-publicized acts of civil disobedience and protest against the churchs policy
on homosexuality. Bishops are charged with the responsibility of enforcing and
implementing church law, not publicly denigrating it.
Action by dozens of clergy at the New England Annual Conference earlier
this year endorsing a "New England Declaration," pledging their open defiance of
United Methodist Church law regarding same-sex unions. Bishop Susan Hassinger (Boston
Area), presiding at the time, raised no objections when the statement was read publicly on
the floor of that annual conference.
The conviction of a Spokane, Washington, United Methodist pastor, Dan
Sailer, who was convicted (in a secular court) of false swearing for falsely exonerating
his apparent same-sex companion in a trial for assault and battery. The same-sex companion
lives with Sailer in the church parsonage and has legally taken on Sailers last
name. The woman whom Sailers companion assaulted planned to complain about Sailer to
local church officials. But in the early hours of the morning of the planned meeting, her
house was fire-bombed, and she and her husband barely escaped with their lives. Their
$500,000 home was totally lost. Police are investigating. Meanwhile, Bishop Elias Galvan
(Seattle Area) has permitted Sailer to return to his pulpit.
The loss this summer of at least six more United Methodist ministers in
northern California who have left the denomination because of the actions of (now retired)
Bishop Melvin Talbert (San Francisco Area) and his conference leadership. Those who left
supported the churchs official teaching on sexuality, while Bishop Talbert and his
entire cabinet do not. Talbert refused to insist on a responsible, credible handling of
charges by the conferences Committee on Investigation who chose to drop charges
against 68 clergy who participated in a same-sex union ceremony last year. Charges filed
against Talbert for mishandling that situation were "dismissed" by Bishop
William Dew (Phoenix Area), President of the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops.
A Denver clergywoman, the Rev. Toni Cook, has told a local newspaper
that she has conducted some six same-sex unions a year at her United Methodist church. But
the former episcopal leader of the Denver Area, Bishop Mary Ann Swenson, refused to call
her to accountability.
Two Washington, D.C. clergywomen, including the director of Christian
education at Foundry United Methodist Church, which President Clinton attends, have
acknowledged their participation in a "croning" ritual. Croning is traditionally
tied to wiccan practices. One of the clergywomen admits that she practices "white
magic." Bishop Felton E. May (Washington, D.C. Area) has not held them accountable.
"It is obvious that clergy are refusing to abide by our churchs teachings,
in large part because of a failure of episcopal leadership in their jurisdictions,"
noted Rev. Gallaway, chairman of CUMAs Steering Committee. "When church law is
allowed to be openly violated, CUMA will urge and assist the church in holding those
bishops responsible in all appropriate forums," he added.
For more information about the above cases and CUMAs response to them, please
contact the above listed leaders at the phone numbers provided.