The trial of Amy DeLong, a lesbian elder who performed a same-sex union in Wisconsin, went along almost unnoticed here in the Philippines. It is perhaps because of the current crisis that pushes us Filipinos to the brink of division on this eastern part of United Methodism.

A church trial was convened from June 21 to 23 because of two charges pressed against DeLong: (1) for officiating a union for a lesbian couple on September of 2009; and, (2) for supposedly being a self-avowed practicing homosexual. The jury unanimously declared her guilty of violating the church ban on celebrating same-sex unions. But she was acquitted, 12-1, on the second charge. You may read more on this here.

Though United Methodism is generally liberal in the West, there are still lands where she grabs a foothold that are lesser “progressive” in theology and practice. When news like this hits our shores, there are some entities that should shock us.

Twenty-Day Suspension
Last March 12, a certain TV show headed by Willie Revillame became an object of disagreement for having an episode that featured a dancing boy which was, according to the regulatory board, “unfit for public viewing.” A one-month suspension was issued against the show. That is a 30-day suspension. Now, I can’t help but use this for comparison. Though DeLong was unanimously found guilty of violating church law, she only received a 20-day suspension. Moreover, the suspension given to her is not really a penalty but is to be used for spiritual discernment. So shocking to know that here, we give 30-day suspensions for dancing boys while in the west, they reward 20-day retreats to those who openly insult church law and GOD’s Word.

Rule for Practicing
For the second charge against the lesbian elder, she was found innocent. She was not proven to be a “self-avowed practicing homosexual.” This is behind the fact that DeLong had a 16-year homosexual relationship with a certain Val Zellmer. The shocking comes from how the Judicial Council defines a “self-avowed practicing homosexual.”
In response, in Decision 920, in exercising its responsibility to render declaratory decisions on the meaning, application and effect of specific disciplinary provisions (¶ 2610), the Judicial Council unanimously held that such a statement was sufficient to subject such person’s membership in her ministerial office to review under ¶ 359.1 of the Discipline. If in the course of such review, such person affirmed that the person was engaged in genital sexual activity with a person of the same gender, such person would have openly acknowledged that the person is a self-avowed practicing homosexual.
This is absurd. This virtually establishes nothing. As long as the respondents shut their mouths on things about their sexual activities (like DeLong), lock the door, and cover themselves in thick blankets, they are still not considered as self-avowed practicing homosexuals… even if they become registered committed partners.

Lot in Trouble
When the chair of Wisconsin Annual Conference’s Board of Ordained Ministry, Richard Strait, occupied the witness stand, he confessed that if performing same-sex unions "were a heinous crime, there would be a whole lot of us in deep trouble." This again sounds so shocking. “A lot of us” from the chairman of the Board of Ordained Ministry? His statement implies at least three things: (1) that violating the church law in their annual conference is rampant, it is normal; (2) that church leaders and ministers are fully aware of these violations; and, (3) that for them violating the church law is not a violation at all, it is not a heinous crime.

Juror’s “No Harm”
Although the members of the jury that handled DeLong’s trial are generally silent, there is one name that participates actively in news articles and blog posts. He is juror Bill McBride, a pastor and a blogger. The following are glimpses of his comments.
“The word ‘penalty phase’ really has no place in a church that should always have its mind and eye toward restoration and reconciliation.”
“… the goal of the ‘trial court’ was to rebuild covenant, seek to 'Do no harm' as Wesley stated.”
There is perhaps a misunderstanding of Wesley’s “Do no harm” rule. McBride seems not to realize that his version of doing no harm also collides against Wesley himself when the latter wrote, “After diligent inquiry made, I removed all those from the congregation of the faithful whose behaviour or spirit was not agreeable to the gospel of Christ; openly declaring the objections I had to each, that others might fear and cry to God for them.” And again, “I met the classes, but found no increase in the society. No wonder, for discipline had been quite neglected, and without this, little good can be done among the Methodists.” It is known that Methodism in the west is decreasing rapidly. If McBride would ask Wesley why, he would receive an answer that would shatter his own “Do no harm.”

Both camps that debate on the issue of sexuality are bracing themselves as the General Conference 2012 is less than a year away. However, the battle is not just on keeping the words printed intact in the Book of Discipline. The battle is also in securing the Discipline of its power. For, though the words are staying intact, the power behind the words is obviously shrinking.

(A member of DeLong's Trial Team had posted a comment which you can read here.)

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Free Book Give-Away and the Mystery Prize Game

Posted by Bernard Rosario On 10:28 AM 0 comments

GOD has again been so faithful to me that I have now purchased another book to give away on this blog. However, let us make this time’s giveaway different by making the free book mysterious. The aim of our current game is to know the mystery book prize among the following six books by considering the five clues below.

Here are the choices:
Book 1: [click here]
Book 2: [click here]
Book 3: [click here]
Book 4: [click here]
Book 5: [click here]
Book 6: [click here]
 And here are the clues. The Mystery Book (and the Mystery Prize):
  • does not have a number in its title.
  • is not published by Baker Book House.
  • has only one author.
  • has a paperback binding.
  • is worth more than $15 in its list price.

DOUBLE your chance of winning! Like our Facebook page and you automatically get your draw entry doubled. (If you have already liked our page, your entry is automatically doubled.)

This game closes by Saturday (July 2) noon and the winner will be announced on Sunday (July 3). Enjoy the game.. ^_^

The Good Thing You Won’t Do in Heaven

Posted by Bernard Rosario On 10:46 PM 0 comments

The fellowship we have here on earth cannot match our perfect fellowship in heaven. The joy that earthly worship causes us here on earth cannot equal the perfect joy of perfect worship that we will do in heaven. Even our knowing of GOD will be perfected in heaven (though I believe that knowledge of the infinite GOD is perfect yet progressive in heaven). Evangelism and missions. How noble, spiritual, and rewarding these may be, inhabitants of heaven won’t be doing them anymore. There will be neither unbelievers nor unreached peoples in the heavenly realms. So Matthew 28:19-20 ceases when the foreknown are glorified. Heaven marks the finish line of the Great Commission.

But, its being temporal does not make it a non-essential. On the contrary, its significance and urgency are even intensified by its temporariness. When something beautiful is on the brink of discontinuity, its beauty becomes more worthy of appreciation. Just imagine what will happen for the next seven days when a week from now, e-mailing and texting will be banned for life. The same applies to evangelism and missions. The Great Commission is satisfyingly beautiful, but it is temporary.

The R-E-A-C-H of Reaching Out
While hovering over Matthew 28:16-20, John MacArthur has helped me know five important elements of the Great Commission.

Readiness (Matt. 28:16). Jesus promised to meet the disciples in Galilee before He was crucified (Matt. 26:32). Therefore, they expectantly travelled to this place although it would take them almost a week-long journey from Jerusalem. And this travelling happened at least twice. When Jesus appeared to Thomas, they were in Jerusalem. When Jesus ate with them and asked Peter about his love for Him three times, they were in Galilee. When Jesus ascended to heaven, they were at the Mount of Olives, Jerusalem. Here, in the commissioning, they were at Galilee. For forty days (from Jesus’ resurrection to ascension), the disciples were most of the time travelling, from Jerusalem to Galilee and back and forth again. The first recipients of the Great Commission possessed unfailing readiness without which, even the greatest skills and talents are useless.
Exaltation (Matt. 28:17). After a week-long travel, the disciples were no doubt exhausted and perhaps even hungry and thirsty. Personally, put my body in exhaustion and hunger, you will hear nothing from me but complaints UNLESS what I come to see is very much precious to me. And “precious” is an infinite understatement about Christ. The disciples, in the midst of physical fatigue, saw Christ and they were satisfied. They worshipped Him. Goers and senders for the Great Commission ought to be seeing Christ as infinitely valuable and seeing their sacrifices so little. Worshipful hearts make them so passionate for His glory. Like Isaiah, a missionary cannot but utter, “Here am I. Send me,” after seeing the glory of GOD.
Authority (Matt. 28:18). Jesus asserts his overall dominion over heaven and earth, his sovereign lordship over all things seen and unseen. First, he did not deny the worship and secondly, he declared his supremacy. He cannot be lesser than GOD. There are at least three purposes of this authority pronouncement: (1) to give affirmation to those who doubt (v.17); (2) to give legitimacy to the command that follows; and, (3) to give courage to the hesitant. John Stott rightly did say, "His authority on earth allows us to dare to go to all the nations. His authority in heaven gives us our only hope of success. And His presence with us leaves us no other choice."
Command (Matt. 28:19-20a). Contrary to the prevailing view on the Great Commission, the main verb is not “Go” but “Make disciples.” Disciples are abiding followers who commit their lives in continuous learning and obedience. Disciple-making is aiming for Christlikeness, Christ-imitation. Others seem to have mistaken verse 19 as, “Go and make converts.” If the Great Commission is to be a house, conversion is just the door. The command of disciple-making is three-fold: (1) Going; (2) Baptizing; and, (3) Teaching. Going implies displacement, and this displacement is not of the unreached but of the reacher. The Bible did not just say, “Invite and make disciples” but instead, “Go.” Baptism means being identified with the Creator, the Redeemer, and the Comforter. It is death to self and life in GOD, in newness of life (Rom. 6:3-4). And lastly, teaching is for mind-renewal. Obviously, for a believer to live in constant obedience to GOD, he needs to be instructed of what GOD wants to be obeyed.
Help (Matt. 28:20b). Jesus is not sending us empty-handed. He promised His very presence to us. This presence is all we need. This is the presence of the storm-quieting, disease-terminating, hunger-sustaining, wrath-absorbing, death-conquering Lord of the universe. A similar promise is found in Matthew 10:19-20. I find these promises to be about an utmost intimacy of missionaries and their GOD. An utmost closeness and fellowship with GOD is promised to those who go. This perhaps is the reason why a lot of us Christians feel so much distant from GOD and do not feel His presence. It is because we don’t go and suffer for the salvation of others.

"Never pity missionaries; envy them. They are where the real action is - where life and death, sin and grace, Heaven and Hell converge." (Robert Shannon) Let us go to where the real action is. It is not yet too late. It is not yet heaven.

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