Fresh off Jim Winkler’s abuse of the story of the Good Samaritan, we have this: God’s Renewed Creation: Call to Hope and Action — A Pastoral Letter from the Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church. These leaders embarrass themselves and the denomination over and over again. (Please note that these are just the U.S. Bishops. In my experience the International Bishops are more orthodox. And as always, I’m grateful that my local church has sound theology.)
Once again, I am not anti-environment. Two of my cars get 33-35 mpg, I have recycled newspapers for almost 40 years and I constantly minimize waste, among many other things. But I find the shrill and un-thinking environmentalism espoused by these Bishops and other extremists to be counterproductive, and I am most concerned about their abuse of scripture to advance their political agenda.
Here are selected portions of this announcement.
First, let us orient our lives toward God’s holy vision. This vision of the future calls us to hope and to action. “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). Christ’s resurrection assures us that this vision is indeed a promise of renewal and reconciliation. As disciples of Christ, we take God’s promise as the purpose for our lives. Let us, then, rededicate ourselves to God’s holy vision, living each day with awareness of the future that God extends to us and of the Spirit that leads us onward.
Go read Jeremiah 29:11 in context, or even just verse 4: “This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon . . .” It has nothing to do with some generic promise to all people or even Christians. It is a specific promise for a specific group (the Israelites taken into captivity by the Babylonians) at a specific time. God’s plans for those who die without trusting in Jesus do not involve increasing their welfare or giving them a future with hope. It will be an eternity in Hell. Under no circumstances is this some kind of catch-all verse to share with people.
The Bishops completely misunderstood their foundational verse. I’ve misinterpreted verses before, including that one, but (1) I’m not a group of 50 Methodist Bishops, (2) I am not speaking for the denomination, (3) I’m correctable and (4) I don’t take verses out of context to support my political views.
Did none of the Bishops realize how this verse was taken wildly out of context (bad), did they not care (bad) or both (really bad)?
We practice social and environmental holiness by caring for God’s people and God’s planet and by challenging those whose policies and practices neglect the poor, exploit the weak, hasten global warming, and produce more weapons.
Do they really challenge those whose practices neglect the poor and exploit the weak? What have they done in, say, North Korea or Iran?
What do they do for the pro-life cause? What could be more neglectful or exploitive than destroying unwanted human beings who are the weakest of all?
Have they not read that the global warming power grab was a fraud? They need to pray for the spiritual gift of discernment.
Weapons protect people. The Bishops should read Romans 13.
For example, in the Council of Bishops, the fifty active bishops in the United States are committed to listening and learning with the nineteen active bishops in Africa, Asia, and Europe. And the bishops representing the conferences in the United States will prayerfully examine the fact that their nation consumes more than its fair share of the world’s resources, generates the most waste, and produces the most weapons.
Maybe they should share our economic model (pre-Obama) that generated the amazing wealth in the U.S. — you know, the wealth we’ve shared with the rest of the world. Economics is not a zero sum game. Sure, some cheat, but if you provide superior service and products with efficiency you can win. There is nothing un-Biblical about that.
We pledge ourselves to make common cause with religious leaders and people of goodwill worldwide who share these concerns. We will connect and collaborate with ecumenical and interreligious partners and with community and faith organizations so that we may strengthen our common efforts.
I see that 2 Corinthians 6:14 doesn’t mean much to these folks: Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?
We pledge to advocate for justice and peace in the halls of power in our respective nations and international organizations.
Really? What are your plans for Iran and N. Korea?
Ecumenical and interreligious partners persist in demanding the major nuclear powers to reduce their arsenals, step by verifiable step, making a way to a more secure world totally disarmed of nuclear weapons.
Again, what are their plans for Iran and N. Korea? Naiveté is not a spiritual gift. It can be deadly.
There is nothing wrong with a message of reduce, reuse, recycle. But the church should focus on its real purpose first. This announcement by the Bishops is just more left-wing politics disguised as religion.
I wish these Bishops put this much energy into sharing the Gospel. I’d like to ask each one individually when they last shared the real Gospel with someone — including the key points about their sin nature and need for a Savior, and how Jesus is the only way.
Note: Comments are welcomed, but instead of theological liberals just telling me I should leave the denomination instead of criticizing it, how about actually addressing my arguments? For example, if you think the Bishops’ take on Jeremiah 29 is more accurate than mine, please explain why in detail.
Hat tip: Mark at Chester Street