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An Open Letter to Bishop Whitaker by Annette Jones

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  • umcornet
    The following open letter from Annette Jones is a open letter to Timothy W. Whitaker, Resident Bishop, Florida Area. She is responding to his statement at:
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 31, 2004
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      The following open letter from Annette Jones is a open letter to
      Timothy W. Whitaker, Resident Bishop, Florida Area. She is
      responding to his statement at:


      Dear Bishop Whitaker:

      I know that being Bishop, though a great opportunity, must be very
      difficult at times. As General Conference approaches, I'm sure the
      stress increases. So, I want you to know that we at St. John's and I
      personally are lifting you and your colleagues up in prayer on a
      regular basis.

      I read with interest your statement regarding the Dammann verdict.
      It is my respect for you and my belief that the Holy Spirit works
      through thoughtful discussion that prompts me to respond to your
      statement in this open letter.

      I understand that you interpret the verdict in the Dammann trial to
      be an indication that the jurors broke covenant with the United
      Methodist Church. What I fear that you and others fail to wonder
      about is 'what is prompting so many educated, thinking, people of
      conscience, some of whom are widely held to be experts on the Book of
      Discipline, to believe that Karen Dammann should continue in the
      ordained ministry despite the section of the Discipline that appears
      to prohibit her appointment?' I do not believe the answer is as
      simple as 'because they are being disobedience to the order and
      discipline of the church'.

      My sense is that Bishop Tuell and the jurors are attempting to bring
      to light the fact that the Book of Discipline is not in harmony with
      itself, i.e., that one part of the Discipline affirms the civil
      rights of all persons regardless of sexual orientation and another
      part denies qualified persons who have gifts and graces for ministry
      the right to a job even though they qualify for the position in every
      way other than sexual orientation. It is this breach of the
      Discipline with itself that many Bishops and church leaders fail to

      The General Conference passed a prohibition refusing to accept as
      candidates, ordain persons who are homosexual and refusing to give
      jobs to persons who were ordained before the prohibition was put in
      place, because they are homosexual and because homosexuality
      is 'incompatible with Christian teaching'. The passage of this
      legislation arguably put the Discipline in conflict with itself and
      broke covenant with those previous General Conferences that affirmed
      the civil rights for all persons. One or the other has to be removed
      from the Discipline before the breach within the Discipline will be
      resolved. Then, when the Discipline is no longer in conflict with
      itself, the way will be clear for the church to resolve the breach
      within its members.

      I appreciated your analysis of Just War Theory last year and your
      argument that the war in Iraq was not just because, among other
      reasons, it was a preemptive strike. I share your concern on this
      matter. I find it significant that back a few years ago when the
      Discipline stated that United Methodists considered 'war to be
      incompatible with Christian Teaching' that the General Conference
      never found it necessary to even consider adding statements to the
      Discipline that would refuse to allow persons who were part of the
      military industrial complex to be accepted as candidates for
      ministry, be ordained or be appointed to serve within the United
      Methodist Church. Why is this?

      Even when our president who is a United Methodist took us to war in
      Iraq and many United Methodists, including Bishops, were divided over
      the wisdom of going to war and wrote and argued about this and there
      were many different opinions about this -- why did the issue of war
      not divide our church in the way that the issue of ministry and
      sexual orientation is doing now? There are certainly many more earth
      shaking consequences to the United States having launched the first
      preemptive war in our history (as it turns out) for no good reason --
      the many lives lost, being but one tragic example.

      How many people have died because Karen Dammann is serving as a
      pastor in the United Methodist Church? The more appropriate question
      might be, how many people's lives have been healed and transformed
      because Karen Dammann is serving as a United Methodist pastor?

      During this Holy Season, I can't help but recall the trial of Jesus.
      At the risk of sounding dramatic, I can only pray that our church
      does not whip itself into such frenzy by General Conference that the
      only cry that can be heard from those assembled is "Crucify Her! and
      all those like her!"

      Grace and Peace,

      Annette Jones, Pastor
      St. John's on the Lake First United Methodist Church,
      Miami Beach, FL 33140
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