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Holy Ground or Barren Ground?

Thursday, March 23, 2017 @ 2:26 PM Holy Ground or Barren Ground? ATTENTION: Major social media outlets are finding ways to block the conservative/evangelical viewpoint. Click here for daily electronic delivery of The Stand's Daily Digest - the day's top blogs from AFA.

Dr. Ray Rooney, Jr. Digital Media Editor MORE

It’s the oldest sleight of hand in the book. Literally.

What’s the best way to justify your sin?  Involve God.  That way, if anyone has a problem with it all you have to do is say, “Take it up with God.”  Voila.  Absolved.

When the Almighty confronted Adam about his disobedience the man tried his best to pull a fast one on God:

“Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate” (Gen. 3:11-12).

Wow.  Not only did Adam refuse to take responsibility for his sin but he blamed his wife.  Ultimately, he rather surreptitiously blamed God didn’t he?  He was very careful to say “The woman whom you gave to be with me…”  That’s just another way of saying, “If you don’t like where this ended, you should have had enough foresight to see the woman would lead me here. It’s not my fault and it’s only partially hers.  Truth be told…it’s yours!” 

Throughout the ages, whenever followers of God have yielded to temptation to sin, they have consistently returned to Adam’s old sleight of hand routine and either directly or inferentially sought to involve God in their sin in order to turn it into an act of righteousness.  "God told me to...", "God led me to...", and "I was just fulfilling God's will..." are all just versions of Adam's sleight of hand shell game.

As many know by now, the United Methodist Church recently elected and consecrated its first unrepentant lesbian bishop, Karen Oliveto.  Not only was Oliveto’s election and consecration in violation of Scripture but it was done in defiance of the denomination’s own church law as recorded in The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church (¶ 304.3).  The reaction by much of the membership of the UMC has been substantial with some large churches deciding to leave the denomination altogether while many members have simply left their churches in a state of great financial stress.

Enter the Rev. Kent Ingram and Emily Allen, two of the delegates of the Western Jurisdiction of the UMC who voted Karen Oliveto in as a bishop.  Together, they wrote “A Message to The United Methodist Church” explaining why they and 86 other delegates of that jurisdictional conference voted for an unrepentant “self-avowed practicing homosexual” to be the first openly (practicing) gay bishop in the denomination.

Please click the link above and read the “Message” that is subtitled “Karen Oliveto’s Election as Bishop Was a Movement of the Holy Spirit.”  There it is.  God did it.  All you unhappy and disgruntled United Methodists out there who have an issue with a homosexual bishop are complaining against God.

Hello again, Adam.

Just to make sure you didn’t miss that point in the subtitle the authors write, “We voted to make Karen Oliveto a bishop of The United Methodist Church because we felt God working among us.”  Really?  They continue: “It’s hard to put into words the spiritual presence that we felt. The Holy Spirit had swept across the room; its power and presence real and obvious. It was a sacred moment on holy ground.”

That may comport with many of the touchy-feely praise songs I’ve heard over the years but if you’re going to utilize the “holy ground” motif then you have to have some connection to the only place in the Bible that uses those two words: Exodus 3:5.  Moses stands before the bush that burns but isn’t being consumed and hears God say, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”

To borrow from the authors of the document, it is hard to put into words the sheer irony and malfeasance they seem oblivious to by using the “holy ground” motif as justification for their vote. 

Moses would find himself back on the mountain (that same holy ground) following the exodus with newly freed Hebrew slaves in tow receiving the Ten Commandments.  Paul would later write in Romans 3:20 that “through the law comes knowledge of sin.”  So Moses’ holy ground moment was the precursor to conveying the righteousness of God in juxtaposition to the sinfulness of humanity.  Our authors’ holy ground moment conveyed the supposed righteousness of an unrepentant sinner in relation to the newly revealed will of a holy God.  Wow.  Talk about having a hard time putting something into words…

But that is, of course, where you find yourself when you involve God in your sin.  I, for one, would have a little bit better go of digesting this malarkey if Rev. Ingram and Ms. Allen had said “The devil made us do it!”  But no, in an attempt to silence all the critics of their disastrous choice for an episcopal leader they tell everyone to take their complaints up with the Almighty.  They were only participants in “a sacred moment on holy ground.” 

If you are going to say God showed up and you had a “holy ground” moment then you better be prepared to back it up.  Moses delivered the Hebrews from bondage setting them on a course that would ultimately lead to taking possession of the Promised Land.  A lot of signs and wonders transpired along the way proving without a doubt that God was indeed with them and that Moses had actually been standing on holy ground when God called out to him.

What Promised Land are the delegates of the Western Jurisdiction leading the United Methodist Church towards?  What signs and wonders wrought by the hand of God Himself can they point to to substantiate the claim that God showed up and made their conference room “holy ground”?  I mean, if you’re going to go against Scripture, two millennia of church history, and the United Methodist Book of Discipline (which explicitly forbids the ordination or consecration of “self-avowed practicing homosexuals”) you better be prepared to offer up instances of God’s literal presence among you via the miraculous.  And since the authors said it was a “holy ground” moment I’m eagerly anticipating the eye witness reports of something (anything) that verifies God was really there and leading.

Alas, all Ingram and Allen have to offer as evidence that God was really there is this statement: “In the months since Bishop Oliveto has assumed leadership of the Mountain Sky Area, it’s clear we made the right choice.”  Clear?  As mud maybe.

Why, pray tell, if God was present and Oliveto was His choice did the same Western Jurisdiction of the UMC and the Mountain Sky Area (where Oliveto presides as bishop) issue “A Call to Stand Together Please support the Mountain Sky Area Vital Congregations Sustentation Fund”?  In the article there is an acknowledgement that “Some [churches] have lost members. Others have had members withdraw their financial support.”  Consequently, the appeal for money to offset the consequence of the Oliveto election.

When the Hebrews got hungry or thirsty in the wilderness God miraculously fed them and provided water.  If God provided the Western Jurisdiction delegates a “holy ground” moment like He did Moses why isn’t He providing miraculous support for a righteous decision?  And how can Rev. Ingram and Ms. Allen point to the aftermath of their vote as clearly revealing they made “the right choice”? 

There is nothing to suggest that Karen Oliveto’s consecration as a bishop involved any kind of “sacred moment on holy ground.”  All the authors have to offer as evidence that they really had a “holy ground” moment with God when they elected a practicing lesbian as a bishop is the nice reception the bishop and her wife have received in the Mountain Sky Area.  So, the evidence that God is pleased with a homosexual bishop is that people are being nice about it? 

What I find so disingenuous about this “Message to The United Methodist Church” by Ingram and Allen is that it was written nearly three months after the Western Jurisdiction sent out its plea for people to send money due to so many people leaving the Methodist Church and churches withholding funds because of Oliveto’s election!  The authors knew this and decided to try to stem the tide of resistance to their vote by saying God told them to vote that way and even went so far as to say “it’s clear we made the right choice.” 

Nowhere is the practice of homosexuality affirmed in the Holy Bible.  If you’re going to be so arrogant as to cast aside two thousand years of church history to go in some new direction you better have something more than telling everyone that you had a holy ground moment with God.

The early Christians had such a moment with God.  We call it Pentecost.  And God affirmed His presence as recorded in Acts 5:12-14

Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles…And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women…”

So, where are the signs and wonders and great increase of believers if you say God showed up to lead you to install a homosexual as a bishop?  After all, when God shows up great revival has always been the proof.

It’s pretty obvious that the “holy ground moment” Ingram and Allen are trying to sell to everyone was in actuality more of a Garden of Eden moment.  Where holy ground is actually lost.



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