December 17, 2012

Agreement:

Our retreat is important to attend as what comes out of that will likely guide our report to the Clergy Session of Annual Conference as time is moving on.

Narrative:

We began with a  prayer from Homiletics regarding the Newtown massacre was shared.

In preparation for a time with Bishop Jung we reviewed what we were interested in hearing from him:

  • How do you understand “clergy covenant”
  • Where are the Disciplinary “Orders” in their work
  • Do you have a sense of our task (what do you need to know from us)
  • Anything further regarding the Judicial Council decision
  • Are you familiar with the Love On Trial document
  • What are your reflections on imbalances of power in the church
  • What is your experience of current clergy morale
  • How far will you support a dispute with the present Discipline
  • How can a Code of Ethics allow diversity
  • The trial court specifically asked that GLBT needs be addressed
  • Can we end participation in discrimination or only aspire to it
  • What are the politics of our work; the theology of our work
  • Is a cost/benefit approach the way to go with discrimination
  • Is the locus of theological judgment and practical power with BOOM
  • Can covenant be nurturing or only restrictive
  • Does the Invitation we are working on predetermine our outcome, are we authorized to go beyond it?

Our conversation with Bishop Jung included:

  • How we can come together (lay and clergy) around any issue we face to advance a total ministry of United Methodism in Wisconsin?
  • Apology for the division and harm that has happened in our midst
  • The limits of the office of Bishop
  • Wondering about a larger call of Baptism and Call over appointment rules
  • Supervisory system is overseeing our life together as a ministry unit
  • Noted that clergy covenant is fragile in its emphasis upon separations and divisions and needs the strength of diversity
  • Community has more power and possibility than the Bishop
  • A clergy covenant has both formal and relational aspects
  • Critical listening is needed to keep majorities from disrespecting minorities
  • A clergy covenant is not just for the clergy but also for additional circles of laity, Christianity, and the world
  • Unresolved: How will the Bishop’s Office would help resolve and future GLBT appointments, are trials a matter of the last resort
  • Clergy Session will start earlier and be longer so more conversation can occur
  • Unresolved: How is a “grace margin” of small actions in controversial matters distinguished from “grace”, regardless of the controversy and how does it change our engagement with difficulties
  • Working together does not mean full agreement
  • There may be ways to work with present clergy but how do we deal with those not yet ordained whom our Discipline won’t allow in
  • Is there a common definition of United Methodist Clergy in Wisconsin that we can re-commit to
  • If a clergy person desires an appointment (even a self-avowed practicing…) they will be appointed to a church that will accept their ministry
  • Doing a case-by-case approach may lead to appointable closeted gay clergy (characterized as “house slaves”) and unappointable out gay clergy (“field slaves”). Is this an acceptable covenant position?
  • If passion needed for journeying together, from whence will it arise?
  • Church needs to be lived into its next iteration (process) but the Church can’t be closed to the world (action)
  • Let us not waste this sacred time of seeking direction

After lunch the Covenant Team continued in conversation:

  • Given the congregational emphasis of today’s church, are other clergy extraneous to the work each one does? How might we be connectional again?
  • Our tendency is to ignore those who opt themselves out of being a part of the whole ministry of the clergy, to what is there a common accountability?
  • Can we re-establish a lost value of common vision?
  • Being one church with many locations seems to no longer be the case
  • Tendency to claim problems are someone else’s, not mine
  • Prejudicial (personal) or Discriminatory (institutional) Behavior (sin)
  • Be clearer in the blessing and curse of connectionalism
  • Conference theme of Fruits of the Spirit might need emphasis upon humility when speaking of what G*D won’t allow
  • Can we disagree with categorical discrimination of the Discipline and implement the Orders ¶305-309 and ¶323
  • Practice is theological – overt welcome is needed
  • Do personal positions from orthodox to liberation preordain responses to our work?
  • If love means asking what is the best that can be done for others, where does their witness fit into a determination of “best”?
  • Can we shift from “do what you want” (freedom/hedonism) to “do what matters” (healthy sexuality within any orientation)?
  • We tend to argue from our general sense to specific instances and have created a series of theological boxes where no one can prove they care to anyone else and so fears undermine faith
  • We have a fear of learning a new thing even though teaching such is a work of the Holy Spirit
  • Do we presume the Bible require discrimination and separation?
  • Is truthful conversation blocked by discrimination?
  • Where does 2 Corinthians 3:6 fit in here, Spirit gives life, letter of law kills and are we talking about a covenant of life and death when we talk about a clergy covenant?
  • Do we march or not?
  • Be clearer about the blessing and curse of a Discipline
  • Who cares?
  • As leaders set aside for this task, do we have a stake in this work?
  • Language of “incompatibility” turned into legislation is an intertwining of prejudice with discrimination and hard to separate once joined
  • The new 2012 Discipline has a 4 page footnote on page 225 about various limits we have placed on ordination over the generations and the tension between specific prohibitions and trust in the “covenant community”
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