UMAction Briefing HomepageMark Tooley
Institute on Religion and Democracy



 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, CUMA’s Legal Coordinator, said about the current crises in the church, "Our church’s 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 church’s May 2000 General Conference for highly-publicized acts of civil disobedience and protest against the church’s 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 Sailer’s last name. The woman whom Sailer’s 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 church’s 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 conference’s 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 church’s teachings, in large part because of a failure of episcopal leadership in their jurisdictions," noted Rev. Gallaway, chairman of CUMA’s 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 CUMA’s response to them, please contact the above listed leaders at the phone numbers provided.