Bishop Arichea (Pre-)Responds

Posted by Bernard Rosario On 8:25 PM 8 comments



Three minutes after 6PM was the time registered to a message electronically mailed from Bishop Daniel Arichea in response to the email that I sent to him last night, February 19.
 
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 My dear Pastor Rosario,

Thanks for your email. I am sorry I have no time right now to send you a reply. But I will do so in due time. Rest assured that I respect your position. Also rest assured that I do abide by the Book of Discipline even though I may not be in agreement with what it says. 

There are times when this happens, and when you make a distinction between the provisions of law and your personal convictions. It is a very difficult position to be in, I assure you.

While I cannot give you an extended answer right now, let me just say that I have believed all along that sexual orientation should not be used as a way of evaluating people even in ministry.  Also, I have studied the issue of homosexuality both scientifically and biblically, and my position has come from serious grappling of the biblical and theological issues connected with the problem of sexual orientation.  And finally, I have met so many people who I believe have genuine calls to the ministry and who cannot serve in the UMC because of our rules, and so have to find the fulfilment of their ministry elsewhere. There are others who have to deny who they are in order to be faithful to their call to ministry.  

I will give you a more substantial answer when I have more time.

Thanks again for your desire to engage in this kind of dialogue.

God bless you richly in your ministry.

Bishop Arichea

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Though I would love if he, instead, bombarded me with his scientific, biblical, and theological serious grappling about sexual orientation, I was still grateful that he (pre-)responded. All we can do for now is to further wait and pray that bishop honors his word. My reply:
Thanks for responding to a nobody. I do understand how scarce time is for you. However, may those who wait with eagerness for your painstaking response not be disappointed. Also, I, personally, would love to hear my ten inquiries addressed.

Pastor Bernard 
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The following is a message that I sent to UMC Retired Bishop Daniel Arichea through email pertaining to his signing of a document counseling the Church through its leaders to abandon its long stance against homosexuality in the ordained ministry. The colored texts are direct quotations from the signed document.

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Greetings, Bishop!

Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

First of all, I am a nobody for such a giant like you. I am just an ordinary inexperienced part-time pastor of a small local church here in Pangasinan with no formal education. I have an intense respect for you. Actually, just a pinch of your profile here floods me. I strongly believe that no one, or only a few at best, can ever rank along with you considering your accomplishments until Christ returns.

However, I am writing this letter to you because of an awful distress that I am feeling because of this news from the UMNS Report. You are one of the three most recent signers of A Statement of Counsel to the Church — 2011, which believes that “The United Methodist Church should remove the following statement from The Book of Discipline (2008):  

‘…The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.  Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.’  ¶304.3”

To state my purpose clearly, I want to let you know that a few clergy men and lay people from your Philippines are massively discouraged and dismayed with what you have done.

But before I totally throw my scabbard against you and consider you an enemy of Evangelicalism, please allow me to enumerate some surface questions after a shallow reading of the Statement.

With this statement of conviction and counsel we seek:  
·         To affirm that the historic tests of “gifts and evidence of God’s grace” for ordained ministry override any past or present temporal restrictions such as race, gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.  

(1) Do you truly believe that homosexuality as a “sexual orientation” is a “temporal restriction” for the ordained ministry? Does that imply that 1 Cor. 6:9-10 speak of a temporal kingdom?

·         To declare our conviction that the current disciplinary position of The United Methodist Church, a part of our historical development, need not, and should not, be embraced as the faithful position for the future.   

(2) To whom or to what is the object of the “faithful position for the future”? Faithful to whom?

With increasing frequency we observe and experience the following disturbing realities and know them to be detrimental to the mission of a Church of Jesus Christ:  
·         Laity and clergy, gay and straight, withdrawing membership or absenting themselves from the support of congregational and denominational Church life in order to maintain personal integrity.  

(3) Won’t it be also a disturbing reality and detrimental to the mission of the Church when laity and clergy withdraw membership from the UMC for the belief that it is drown into apostasy?

·         Young adults, especially, embarrassed to invite friends and expressing dismay at the unwillingness of our United Methodist Church to alter its 39-year exclusionary stance.  

(4) Won’t it be also a disturbing reality and detrimental to the mission of the Church when young people, especially, are embarrassed to invite friends and are dismayed with the willingness of the United Methodist Church to embrace an error which It fought against for decades?

·         Closeted pastors, currently called and ordained in our church, living divided lives while offering effective appreciated ministry.  

(5) Who defines ministry effectivity? Who defines an appreciated ministry?

·         Bishops being drained of energy by upholding Church Discipline while regarding it as contrary to their convictions.  

(6) Won’t it be also a disturbing reality and detrimental to the mission of the Church when Bishops are being drained of energy by upholding Church Discipline while regarding it as contrary to their convictions (Assuming that your sought change happens)?

·         Bishops caught between care for the Church by reappointing an effective gay or lesbian pastor and care for the Discipline by charging them under current legislation.  

(7) Again may I know who defines ministry effectivity?

·         Seminary leaders desiring greater flexibility and openness from the church in order to advance their mission of identifying, recruiting, enrolling, educating and spiritually forming Christian leaders.  

(8) How poor are the skills of these seminary leaders whose ability on nurturing spiritual formation lies dependent on flexibility and openness rather than on objective truth?

·         Christian gay men and women understanding themselves called of God to seek ministry opportunities within their United Methodist family Church home, but having to decide between:   
o  leaving to go to accepting denominations, or  
o  staying and praying for change, or   
o  challenging Church law and accepting punitive actions.

(9)How about a fourth choice?
o  being encouraged by the sufficient and infallible Word found in 1 Cor. 6:11, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

“…(A) The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.  (B) Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.”  ¶304.3  

(10) The paragraph in question has two sentences which I marked as (A) and (B) above. Both are requested to be removed while the contents of your statement of counsel only deal with the second. This makes me curious of what you think will be the most fitting paragraph if this be changed.
a.       …The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.  However, self-avowed practicing homosexuals are allowed to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.
b.      …The practice of homosexuality is compatible with Christian teaching.  Yet, self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.
c.       …The practice of homosexuality is compatible with Christian teaching.  Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are allowed to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.

Perhaps the crux of my disgust with your position is our differing view of whether homosexuality is detestable in the sight of the glorious Almighty or not. And perhaps, you may also hold the perennial justification of making a distinction between a homosexual and a practicing homosexual. That 1 Cor. 6 only abhors those who practice homosexuality only (not mentioning that ¶304.3 includes the words “practice of homosexuality”).

In Matthew 5,
He who practices murder and he who is a murderer at heart are equally guilty.
He who practices adultery and he who is an adulterer at heart are equally guilty.
How about him who practices homosexuality and him who is a homosexual at heart?

I will be very glad if I can post your response to my blog where I am posting this as an open letter.

Tearful but fearless,
Ptr. Bernard A. Rosario
PPAC, Philippines

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It was February 2001 when my bestfriend, Anna, introduced me to my Beloved. At first, she appeared boring, unattractive, and traditional. I decided just to date her for three months. I never thought she would be so lovable that after three months, I was officially engaged to her, not mentioning that we only got to acquaint every Sunday. Months turned to years, and years turned to a decade. And I can say that I love her more today than yesterday. Yes, I’m in love for ten years now.

10) She is rare. She keeps a journal containing all instructions that governs her life and ministry. She keeps a record of her rich biography. She also preserves a list of her beliefs and why she believes them. Every four years, she does meticulous reviews and does amendments if necessary. At first, I thought this was unwise yet when I learned that nothing in her journal hates my Calvinism but, instead, gives hints of acceptance, I try to request for a copy of her journal from time to time.

9) Who can’t fall in love for one who knows your gifts well and encourages you to exercise them in any way? It was her who saw a shepherd’s heart within me. She saw it first even before I did. Yet, she still did a bunch of tests of confirmation if this was really what the Sovereign had gifted me with. Now I thank her and GOD for Dorongan Punta UMC, my first pastoral appointment.

8) I value my Bible much. It is another reason why I thank GOD for letting me meet her. She loves the Bible too. In fact, in 1998, she gathered a cluster of young people from all over the country, wherein Anna was one, whom she encouraged to grow in the knowledge of their Creator through their Bibles. It then became a biennial activity which we now label as National Bible Quiz. I am blessed to witness 4 out of the 7 quizzes. I have witnessed how multiple young men and women became more committed Christians because of this.

7) Another thing, I can say that there is something delightful with me being with her. Eversince we’ve been together, I find it easier to request for books from Christian authors. One of the reasons, I suppose, is that because they find my engagement with her odd, puzzling, but interesting because I am a Calvinist. No one else loves John Wesley more than her while I consider John Calvin as my influence. These two, as others often see, are generally at odds with each other. However, as what I am getting used to say, “Because the heart-warming experience is an irresistible gift of providence.” The two Johns can shake hands.

6) I can still remember the multiple instances when I felt that she was being threatened, when I was always ready to throw all my scabbards for her sake. But, again, thanks be to GOD for all the mighty warriors who loved her much too. My fight for her became their fight. And their fight became mine as well. We met regularly before every Wednesday pleading to GOD that may she be helped. I miss those times with Manang Annie and Manang Bayen with their husbands Uncle Imon and Kuya Ed, respectively.

5) But amidst those trials, we still found time to share interests with each other. Few are like her who have a bunch of considered spiritual heroes. The funny thing is her spiritual hero, John Wesley, is my spiritual hero’s spiritual hero. Charles Spurgeon stated in his autobiography, “If there were wanted two apostles to be added to the number of the twelve, I do not believe that there could be found two men more fit to be so added than George Whitfield and John Wesley.” From the Wesleys, I learned about Luther and other reformers, and from then learned about the Puritans. My Beloved then encouraged me to share this little knowledge that I acquired in Lay Institute for Christian Advancement. My three years as the History of Protestant Reformation teacher in LIfCA is a great privilege.

4) I am not a good singer but everytime I am with her, songs overflow for our Lord. She really is the one who taught me to sing. She has a lot of wonderful songs filling her wonderful songbooks. Besides, her songs are not like others’ songs. Every line is magnificently crafted. Some are decades, and even centuries, old yet their messages are always fresh. Nowadays, it is already a challenging task to find one whose eyes still glow for Bible-saturated, God-glorifying, Christ-centered, Spirit-led, Church-edifying, passion-filled songs like her songs. Her chosen tracks are the best, just next to the Psalms I believe. These really make her appear so attractive and lovable.

3) For the past ten years that we were together, we never did miss a Christmas spent with each other. We yearly consume five days in a camp, from the 26th to the 30th of December. These days for us are very special that we look forward to it even as early as June. But of course, we don’t want to waste it so we spend the most of these times with other young people from all over Central Pangasinan. We leave our comfy beds and rest, instead, in tents cushioned with hays but almost nothing can parallel with the memories. Film showings, group dynamics, Bible studies, games, presentations, and tons of laughters and joys all for the glory of GOD.

2) As my list flights to the top, the growth that my Beloved had caused to me (and to others) is also incalculably soaring high. Her smile was incredibly beautiful when we started our New Testament Survey with the Book of Romans. And in 6 longs years, she was there making sure that every New Testament branch was shook and the ripest fruits were gathered. GOD had used her again and again to kindle and rekindle our passion for His supremacy in Christ Jesus. In fact, it was in her very own house where the utmost expression of our single passion, GOD, was displayed on October 30, 2009.

1) Here now comes the greatest reason that I love her much. She introduced to me a fellowship of youngsters which I can call my second family. These are the grandest channels of strength, courage, and inspiration from the Lord for me. I am extremely grateful to GOD and to her for the ever virtuous Anna, my humble pride Met, the most learned Joy, the joyful May Ann, the artist-theologian Bona, the poetic thinker MJ, the sweetest Amy, and also for Jerome, Grace, Ludith, Ninoy, and for the younger ones especially for the most lovable Mai-Mai. My heart will always be a treasure chest of all our Bible studies, Bibliolympics, luncheons, outings, picnics, VCS classes, Com-Coms (Communicating my Communion), and everything spent with them. Breathing amidst trials and rough roads are no problem when their walk with the truth is observed.

I count all of these as graces from the Holy Sovereign God through my beloved. These are the top reasons why I love her much.

Now, my beloved is much endangered and threatened. Some are trying to supplement her manual which may result to unfaithfulness to the Lord. She has become a victim of politics, immorality, and worldliness. Her used to be influential family has downgraded to a dying sect. She is becoming lesser beautiful and lesser gorgeous. So sad, because I want my future children to fall in love with her too. Please pray for the United Methodist Church, my beloved.

TEN GRACES FOR TEN YEARS IN UMC
10) Book of Discipline
9) Pastoral Ministry
8) National Bible Quizzes
7) Books from Authors
6) Wednesday Group
5) Church History / LIfCA
4) Hymnal, Hymns, Choir
3) Christmas Institute
2) New Testament Survey / single passion: GOD

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