New Year’s Resolution— Better Ecclesiology

One of the real problems which has plagued the Protestant movement from Day One is bad or weak ecclesiology. What I mean by this is that in various cases it is both unBiblical, and it is also often unworkable. It is unBiblical because there definitely is a hierarchy of leadership in the early church that extends beyond a particular local congregation, and furthermore, there is a concept of ‘church’ and its leadership structures which transcends a particular local expression of the church say in a house church or a particular local congregation.

If you want to see the sort of thing that goes wrong when you have too much authority at the top of a local church and too little accountability from outside the local congregation consider the following story from the NY Times.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/05/us/eddie-long-beleaguered-church-leader-to-stop-preaching.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha23

The structure of the early church varied from place to place, and was a work in progress. Some congregations appear to have been more pneumatic in character some less, but all of them had inherited certain things from their Jewish mother religion, one of which was the use of elders in positions of leadership in their local meetings. We see these not only in Acts (see the Ephesian elders in Acts 20), and in Paul’s letters (see Phil. 1 and the Pastorals), but also elsewhere in early Christian literature (read 1 Clement, the Didache, the Epistle of Barnabas, the letters of Ignatius, and Papias who constantly seeks out ‘the elders’).

Elders, as the Pastorals indicate were appointed to local congregations by church authorities who planted churches— either apostles or their co-workers. In other words, there were trans-congregational leaders who had authority over multiple local churches.

What happened after the apostolic era? Already before the end of the apostolic era there were ‘episkopoi’ or overseers/bishops. We can see this in a text like Phil. 1 written about A.D. 62 or a little earlier. Notice how the leaders are greeted separately from the rest of the congregation. At the root of all this growing structure in early Christianity was a belief that: 1) the church of God was a collective entity and it would not be assumed that any local congregation or house church had autonomy when it came to decision making on major matters, such as its leaders. 2) There was no voting on calling a pastor or anything of the kind in the first century A.D. Leaders were appointed by authority figures in the early church. They did not appoint themselves, much less dub themselves prophets or apostles or the like. They had to be recognized as such by the larger church and its leadership. Otherwise, they would need to be dubbed false prophets, and pseudo-self-appointed apostles.

Any careful study of the phrase ekklesia tou theou in the NT makes clear that while each congregation would be seen as a fully adequate expression of the body of Christ, at the same time they were seen to be part of the larger collective entity ‘the church of God’ (see e.g. Gal. 1) and as such were accountable to the larger church and to its over-arching leaders— apostles, apostolic co-workers, prophets, teachers, and the like. At any given time, an apostle might come and correct, or rebuke, or appoint new local leadership. There was accountability outside the local congregation.
If even Paul was accountable to the apostles in Jerusalem, ‘lest he run in vain’, then we should not expect it to be otherwise with us.

So, back to the story from the NY Times. What went wrong with Bishop Eddie? What went wrong was not merely that there was a cult of personality in this church and too much power resided in the one local church figure. What went wrong, at it’s root, was bad Protestant ecclesiology. The man had no real accountability outside of the members of the local church—- no bishops, no elders, no district superintendents who were not part of that local church who could come in and remove, defrock, or discipline the man. Finally, only scandal caused him to lose authority and standing in his church. Scandal however is a harsh taskmaster, and not a proper regular normal thing that one could count on to correct leaders gone astray. I know of a case where a minister got away with having all sorts of illicit affairs with women in his congregation for decades until he retired. Finally, it bothered his conscience enough that he repented and came and apologized to the congregation. Had there been better external checks and balances for that church, it would not have taken so long to set things right. Think on these things.

  • Lee

    I agree that some kind of over-arching leadership is inherent to New Testament ecclesiology and that a similarly functioning leadership today could limit some of the silly and shameful practises that are part of evangelical life. The challenge though remains: how are such leaders to be be selected and/or recognized and how to limit the corrupting influence of power and authority among them. One need only consider how certain over-arching leaders covered up abusive behavior in local churches rather than holding people accountable.

  • Katoikei

    Peace to you and yours in the year ahead. I resolved to read all the books that I’ve been told to read, starting with Prof. Kenneth Miller’s book ‘Finding Darwin’s God’ – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Finding-Darwins-God-Kenneth-Miller/dp/0060930497

  • Greg

    Thanks, Ben, for this important corrective to unchecked individual or congregational authority.

  • Anonymous

    What bothered me about that article was one congregant’s promise to stick by the disgraced pastor. What is to prevent him from coming back at some self appointed time with the claim that God had forgiven him and, therefore, he was now good to go?

    I believe that Jimmy Swaggart had the same type of situation and returned only to fall to the same sin. Even today he remains in the pulpit. When does a pastor disqualify himself through his behavior from ever holding that office again?

  • Benw333

    Oscar you raise an appropriate question. Since ministers are supposed to lead by example and be above reproach a distinction has to be made between being forgiven for some sin, and being allowed to continue to minister. Forgiveness should not be seen as the ‘all clear’ signal, for one to continue to do ministry. I do believe ministers can be rehabilitated but, this requires external scrutiny and verification, and when the minister returns, he may have to accept returning at a lesser level and will definitely need to accept ongoing accountability partners.

  • SkipR

    I agree that, at least in theory, accountability to an external hierarchy can serve as a healthy corrective to local abuses. But – just look at the Catholic Church’s child abuse scandal, and the way the hierarchy failed to stop the what individual priests were doing. Even worse, the institutional hierarchy itself seemed to perpetuate and exacerbate the evil with coverups. I think the reality is that external hierarchal authorities are still made up of us sinners – and that, in fact, those hierarchal structures come with their own set of special temptations.

  • CML

    A good reminder for all of us (and, it seems, an apologetic for UM ecclesiology). My question remains, what is the congregation/body do when those who are outside of the church, asserting influence due their office (bishop, for example) begin in their own avenues of apostasy? (can you see where I’m going with this?)

  • Benw333

    In almost all episcopal polities there are several correctives for episcopal mismanagement: 1) in some systems the council of bishops would impose restrictions or even defrock; 2) there are church trials, and yes this does happen; 3) in a papal system such as in the RC church or in the Coptic Church the Pope can sack the offending bishop on the spot, and a cardinal can do that with consultation as well.

  • Jwlung

    We’re looking forward to more from you on this question.

    The question of ecclesiology was supposed to be definitively answered in the 20th C. Ecumenism, Vatican II, World Evangelical Alliance, WCC, left much work to be done. Evangelicals and Catholics Together made much progress. But we’re still in the wilderness created by the excesses of the reformation (what you describe as “bad protestant ecclesiology.)

  • Benw333

    There are several things that will need to be discussed: 1) at some point the Catholic and Orthodox traditions will have to come to grips with historical reality in the form of the fact that a: we do not have any sort of unbroken succession of the apostolic office, while we definitely do have the passing on of the apostolic tradition, enshrined chiefly in the NT, and b: there was no such thing as either the Roman Catholic Church or the Orthodox Church in the first century A.D. The church of the first century was largely composed of Jewish followers of Jesus, and Gentile God-fearers, and later Gentile revisionist history (especially in light of Constantine) are not helpful on these points. Battles over whether the Catholic or the Orthodox Church are the one true church that goes back to the apostles involve so many anachronistic readings of history that no such claims can be wholly endorsed by an honest historian, 2) Protestants as well will have to come to grips with the fact that various facets of Protestantism also bear no resemblance to first century church life, and in any case first century church life was often as flawed and imperfect as modern church life (see e.g. all of Paul’s critiques of the Corinthian church).

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Eric-S-Giunta/606325556 Eric S Giunta

    Dr Withirington:

    “The church of the first century was largely composed of Jewish followers of Jesus, and Gentile God-fearers . . .”

    How exactly does this contradict Catholic or Eastern Orthodox ecclesiology? All you’ve done is make an observation about the ethnic makeup of the earliest Christians, but neither the Catholic nor the Orthodox churches consider any such genetic configuration do have anything to do with whether their respective churches are the legitimate successors to the original.

    Secondly, I don’t believe it is the case that “no honest historian” can endorse the claim(s) that the early Church was Catholic/Orthodox. What it sounds like you mean to say is that neither the modern Catholic nor the modern Orthodox church is a carbon-copy of the primitive Church, to which our reply is: duh! We consider primitivism one of (conservative) Protestantism’s most egregious heresies; the true Church is ancient, but she is never primitive. We shouldn’t expect the original Church to look/feel today *exactly* as she looked/felt 2000 years ago; she should look/feel like an organism that has matured, and will continue to mature until Judgment Day. The Church is after all a body, and bodies grow. Contra conservative Protestants, the Church is not a stunted infant, and contra liberal Protestantism the Church isn’t a mutant either.

    Of course, liberal Protestants live up more to their ideal (i.e., a mutant-Church that whores itself to every secular fad) than conservative ones do. Low-church Evangelicals tend to miss the forest for the trees: they’ll rightly point out that the earliest of the earliest Christians probably did not burn incense in their churches (so what?!), but then they adopt a Eucharistic theology — indeed, a very theology of worship — foreign to the historic Christian understanding. Talk about swallowing camels and spitting our gnats . . .

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Eric-S-Giunta/606325556 Eric S Giunta

    Skip:

    Point taken; the Catholic Church is just as much a dysfunctional family as any other — as we should expect God’s Church to be. Meanwhile, our system simply “works” better (in the long run) than any other (I’m speaking generally — Protestants are absolutely correct to remind us that the Church is “semper reformanda”). The Protestant churches do not serve God unitedly, not even in terms of an ideal: there is no unity whatsoever — not even a semblance of it — doctrinally, liturgically, or hierarchically.

    Your most ignorant medieval Swedish peasant would never have countenanced the thought, for example, that sodomy wasn’t a sin. Yet after less than 500 years of Protestantism, less than five centuries after the “Reformers” “liberated the Bible from the clutches of the Scarlet Woman,” the (Lutheran) Bishop of Stockholm is a partnered lesbian with a child by artificial insemination. What your ignorant medieval peasant would have called an abomination, even if he couldn’t tell Genesis from Hebrews, Protestants now tell us is “Biblical”.

    There’s no getting around the fact that the early Church was Catholic and the Bible itself is a product of Catholic Christianity. Saying so is not triumphalism, it’s just historical fact.

    (None of which is to deny that Catholicism has undergone development since the Apostolic era; the question is not whether the “early Church” resembled the modern Catholic Church in every respect, but whether the early Church was primitively Catholic, primitively Orthodox, or primitively Protestant. Only the first two are even serious contenders.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Eric-S-Giunta/606325556 Eric S Giunta

    Dr Withirington:

    “The church of the first century was largely composed of Jewish followers of Jesus, and Gentile God-fearers . . .”

    How exactly does this contradict Catholic or Eastern Orthodox ecclesiology? All you’ve done is make an observation about the ethnic makeup of the earliest Christians, but neither the Catholic nor the Orthodox churches consider any such genetic configuration do have anything to do with whether their respective churches are the legitimate successors to the original.

    Secondly, I don’t believe it is the case that “no honest historian” can endorse the claim(s) that the early Church was Catholic/Orthodox. What it sounds like you mean to say is that neither the modern Catholic nor the modern Orthodox church is a carbon-copy of the primitive Church, to which our reply is: duh! We consider primitivism one of (conservative) Protestantism’s most egregious heresies; the true Church is ancient, but she is never primitive. We shouldn’t expect the original Church to look/feel today *exactly* as she looked/felt 2000 years ago; she should look/feel like an organism that has matured, and will continue to mature until Judgment Day. The Church is after all a body, and bodies grow. Contra conservative Protestants, the Church is not a stunted infant, and contra liberal Protestantism the Church isn’t a mutant either.

    Of course, liberal Protestants live up more to their ideal (i.e., a mutant-Church that whores itself to every secular fad) than conservative ones do. Low-church Evangelicals tend to miss the forest for the trees: they’ll rightly point out that the earliest of the earliest Christians probably did not burn incense in their churches (so what?!), but then they adopt a Eucharistic theology — indeed, a very theology of worship — foreign to the historic Christian understanding. Talk about swallowing camels and spitting our gnats . . .

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Eric-S-Giunta/606325556 Eric S Giunta

    Skip:

    Point taken; the Catholic Church is just as much a dysfunctional family as any other — as we should expect God’s Church to be. Meanwhile, our system simply “works” better (in the long run) than any other (I’m speaking generally — Protestants are absolutely correct to remind us that the Church is “semper reformanda”). The Protestant churches do not serve God unitedly, not even in terms of an ideal: there is no unity whatsoever — not even a semblance of it — doctrinally, liturgically, or hierarchically.

    Your most ignorant medieval Swedish peasant would never have countenanced the thought, for example, that sodomy wasn’t a sin. Yet after less than 500 years of Protestantism, less than five centuries after the “Reformers” “liberated the Bible from the clutches of the Scarlet Woman,” the (Lutheran) Bishop of Stockholm is a partnered lesbian with a child by artificial insemination. What your ignorant medieval peasant would have called an abomination, even if he couldn’t tell Genesis from Hebrews, Protestants now tell us is “Biblical”.

    There’s no getting around the fact that the early Church was Catholic and the Bible itself is a product of Catholic Christianity. Saying so is not triumphalism, it’s just historical fact.

    (None of which is to deny that Catholicism has undergone development since the Apostolic era; the question is not whether the “early Church” resembled the modern Catholic Church in every respect, but whether the early Church was primitively Catholic, primitively Orthodox, or primitively Protestant. Only the first two are even serious contenders.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Eric-S-Giunta/606325556 Eric S Giunta

    Sorry for the repeat posts; I flagged them for deletion. :-)

  • CML

    I guess the issue, then, is the disparity between what “could” happen and what DOES happen. Even though the church trials can and do happen, they have typically made a mockery of the process by essentially having a predetermined outcome…..and, the idea that the Council of Bishops would hold one of its own accountable is downright laughable.

  • BW3

    Eric the earliest church had no class of priests at all. The only priesthood it knew was either the heavenly high priesthood of Christ or the priesthood of believers. Nor did it limit itself to male leadership of local churches. There were women who were teachers, prophets, deacons, and even apostles in the case of Junia. If by catholic you mean no more than ‘the early church’ you are being redundant. If by catholic you mean the traditions that produced: 1) a dominating male priesthood, 2) a liturgy based far more in Leviticus than anything in the NT; 3) and a view of Mary that the NT contradicts, not to mention 4) a Bible that takes the Greek translation OT as the basis for canon instead of the Hebrew OT, then you would be wrong in saying that this comports with what the original apostles and Jewish Christians had in mind. For one thing, their leadership structure involved elders and deacons and overseers. It did not involve priests at any level. For another thing, early Christian worship involved various sorts of spiritual phenomena, including the living voice of prophecy. It is in fact not true that the ‘catholic’ church formed the canon. The church that existed in various places in the 4th century recognized the canon by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The canonical books were written by apostles, and already assembled into collections in the second century A.D., in the case of the 4 Gospels and Paul’s letters. I would suggest you read my essays on the history of the formation of the canon in What’s In a Word…..and then get back to me.

    BW3

  • Benw333

    Actually CML this has happened. It is just not public knowledge, as there are issues of confidentiality. So, it’s not a matter of it never happening. One clue, watch for bishops who take early retirement, and not for health reasons :)

  • Jwlung

    With respect to “episcopal leadership”, our own United Methodist system is the best argument I know of for crossing the Tiber. Church trials (at least where the church’s position on homosexuality is the underlying issue) are a joke. Bishops can promote heresy and indeed schism with impunity (Sprague). There is no protestant church with an episcopal ecclesiology is trustworthy in handing down the faith once delivered to the Saints.

  • Benw333

    Really Brother Lung? Really? Have you checked out various of the Anglican Churches here and abroad? Apparently not.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Eric-S-Giunta/606325556 Eric S Giunta

    Thank you for your reply Dr Witherington.

    If you don’t mind, I’d like to tackle just the first of your remarks:

    “Eric the earliest church had no class of priests at all. The only priesthood it knew was either the heavenly high priesthood of Christ or the priesthood of believers.”

    Surely you’re not unaware, Dr Witherington, that the word “priest” is simply an Anglicized variant of the word “presbyter,” which means “elder”? Surely you’re also aware that by the close of the apostolic age the Church had a clear threefold hierarchy of bishop, elder (aka presbyter aka priest), and deacon? And that this threefold hierarchy corresponded to what we find in the New Testament:

    Apostles
    Bishops/Elders (aka Presbyters aka Priests)
    Deacons

    The names changed (i.e., bishops eventually being distinguished from presbyters), but the same threefold hierarchy existed throughout Christendom (again, by the close of the apostolic age).

    Of course the early Church, like the Catholic Church today and always, professed the priesthood of all believers; but for them this did not preclude a special ministerial priesthood. All Christians were priests, but some of them exercised their priesthood in ordained ministry.

    Rather than nitpick over whether or when the earliest of the early Christians used the *words* sacerdos or hiereus to nominate their ministers, we should ask ourselves whether the officers themselves existed, and whether early Christian doctrine concerning them was primitively Catholic or primitively Protestant. Clearly, the former. For example, Clement clearly describes the ordained ministry in hieratic terms:

    “Our sin will not be small if we eject from the episcopate those who blamelessly and holily have offered its sacrifices. Blessed are those presbyters who have already finished their course, and who have obtained a fruitful and perfect release.” {Letter to the Corinthians 44}

    Further, we also have from him a clear typological parallelism between the Christian hierarchy and the Jewish one:

    “These things therefore being manifest to us, and since we look into the depths of the divine knowledge, it behooves us to do all things in their proper order, which the Lord has commanded us to perform at stated times. He has enjoined offerings to be presented and service to be performed to Him, and that not thoughtlessly or irregularly, but at the appointed times and hours. Where and by whom He desires these things to be done, He Himself has fixed by His own supreme will, in order that all things, being piously done according to His good pleasure, may be acceptable unto Him. Those, therefore, who present their offerings at the appointed times, are accepted and blessed; for inasmuch as they follow the laws of the Lord, they sin not. For his own peculiar services are assigned to the high priest, and their own proper place is prescribed to the priests, and their own special ministrations devolve on the Levites. The layman is bound by the laws that pertain to laymen.” {Ibid. 40}

    The whole trust of Clement’s epistle is that if disobedience to the Old Testament hierarchy brought about God’s displeasure, so much the greater those who disobey the hierarchy of the New.

    I could cite the New Testament in this regard, too; the Apostles and bishops/presbyters, whether or not they are actually *called* “hiereis,” they perform ministerial functions analagous to their Old Testament counterparts, their ministry is constantly compared by Paul to that of the “hiereis” of the Old Covenant (I Corinthians 9:13-14; 10:14-22) and Paul elsewhere refers to his ministry as a kind of “priestly service” (Romans 5:16). There’s more parallels to be made, but the point is that the groundwork is already laid in the earliest Christian source material for designating New Covenant ministers in Old Covenant terms (though obviously not in terms of the incomplete theology of the latter).

  • Benw333

    Eric with all due respect, you are simply wrong about the priest=elders equation. Elders come into Christianity through the synagogue, and synagogue elders could never be equated with priests in that tradition. There were tribes of priests, it involved a certain genealogical connection, and this was not true of either presidents or elders of synagogues or early churches. As the Pastoral Epistles make clear, being of a priestly lineage had nothing to do with being an elder in or over a church— character did.

    Blessings anyway,

    BW3

  • Michael

    Ben, thank you for the discussion. Could you outline where the disconnect between the Church at the end of the 1st Century and where Catholic/Orthodox (all one until 1054) began … are you referring to the “sell out to empire” narrative? Since there is a continuity of location … how did the morphosis occurs and how long over time did it take to morph from Apostolic tradition into how the Churches in Asia Minor progressed into Orthodoxy? I’m trying to see how our protestant narrative and practice is any better than the Orthodox narrative.

  • Benw333

    Michael I would suggest you read Leithart’s Defending Constantine, or if you haven’t time for that, then read my critique of it last Fall on this blog. That should help. It is in the second century that the church began to lose its grip on early Christian eschatology, especially in responding and ocer-reacting to pneumatic and Gnostic groups, and when the already-not yet structure of eschatology was comprised, what happened was the taking over of an OT hermeneutic which came to dominate both the Catholic and Orthodox traditions. This hermeneutic involved reading the NT church so much through the lens of Leviticus and other OT texts that: 1) Sunday became the sabbath; 2) ministers became a class of priests; 3) the Lord’s Supper became a sacrifice; and 4) meeting places became basilicas and temples. An overarching problem was the resurgence of patriarchy with the giving up of early Christian praxis and eschatological belief. Women were either not allowed to minister or eventually told ‘get thee to a nunnery’. It is a sad story in many ways. We need to be clear that as good a theologians as the Gregories were and John Chrysostom was, among others, they were often: 1) anti-Semitic; 2) and often out of touch with the Jewish character of the NT apostolic documents themselves. The coup d’ grace comes with Eusebius and Augustine, who rejected early Christian eschatology in favor of a-millenialism, which in turn led to city of God on earth thinking about the church, and even to ‘nulla salvatus ex cathedra’.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Eric-S-Giunta/606325556 Eric S Giunta

    Dr Witherington:

    I never argued that being a an ordained bishop/elder/deacon had anything to do with one’s genetic lineage; I know you know this is a strawman, because I know you know Catholic and Orthodox Christians don’t claim such.

    The Christian orders of ministry had precedents in Second-Temple Judaism, but these precedents were not adopted wholesale and without any differentiation. It simply is *not* simply the case that “elders come into Christianity through the synagogue”. The synagogal senatus was a precedent for the early Church’s leadership structure, but so were the levitical orders, and at various points in Jewish history this hierarchy of high priest, priests, and levites had a true pastoral, and not simply ceremonial, function in the life of the covenant community. In Christianity, various elements of the ministerial priesthood of the Temple, the synagogial senatus, and the Sanhedrin coalesced in the three-fold ministry of bishop/priest/deacon (in New Testament lingo, Apostle/bishop (aka elders aka presbyters aka priests)/deacon).

    I’ll note you did not address any of the arguments I adduced from our earliest Christian source material: the clear presence of a three-fold hierarchy (don’t get so hung up on the names, look at the substantive functions and the three-ness) in the New Testament, the clear presence of this hierarchy as something already taken for granted as constituting a proper Christian church in the apostolic writings of Saint Ignatius, and a tradition, from the earliest days of the Church (in the writings of Paul and Clement, and not only them) of referring to the Christian ordained ministry in terms that reflect analogy with the Jewish priesthood.

  • Benw333

    Eric the idea of a threefold structure is certainly debatable in Paul, especially when he lists things like apostles, prophets, teachers, evangelists…and never priests. As for the priestly language you find in the NT it is applied to EVERY CHRISTIAN in a spiritual way. We all are to present ourselves as living sacrifices says Paul. And the author of Hebrews in Hebrews 13 makes clear the same thing. Nothing whatsoever is said in any NT source about elders being priests at any juncture, or acting as priests in relationship to other Christians. Yes, Paul talks about his converts being a fragrant offering to God, but Paul of course was the last of the apostles. He never suggests this is part of the role of his co-workers, or of elders, or of prophets etc. There is no historical basis for the notion of apostolic succession. Indeed, as Paul makes clear, to be an apostle, one must have seen the risen Lord, and he was the last to do so. Is there a hierarchy of leadership in the early church? Yes. But the church had to struggle to figure out how to continue to pass on the apostolic tradition when there were no more apostles, and certainly no priests.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Eric-S-Giunta/606325556 Eric S Giunta

    Anyone but me notice the contradiction here? One minute we’re told that the early Church Fathers were “anti-Semitic” and “often out of touch with the Jewish character of the NT apostolic documents,” and the next minute we’re told that these same Fathers were basically uber-philoSemitic, “reading the NT church so much through the lens of Leviticus and other OT texts”. Which is it?

    Might it instead me that Protestant primitivism is a futile exercise in trying to rebuild the Church from utopianist scratch every generation (or every morning) or so; or maybe that there was a *LOT* more continuity between the Old and New Testament religious establishments than Protestants have traditionally given credit to, and maybe — just maybe — those Christians earliest in time and culture to the context of the New Testament were more sensitive to this continuity than Protestant polemicists writing 1500 to 2000 years after the fact?

  • Benw333

    There is no contradiction. Plenty of anti-Semites have used the OT for their own purposes, not the least of which is to claim the OT for themselves and claim they have supplanted God’s first chosen people. It’s called supersessionism, and many Christians are guilty of it. No wonder Jews finally threw up their hands and said ‘you can have the LXX’ we will stick with the Hebrew OT.

  • OBD

    It would be helpful if they were made public. People think the UMC ordains homosexuals, and is pro-abortion. Silence means consent. I have people who would join the local church, but do not want to be loyal to the UMC because we teach that the Bible is not “true.”


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