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A typical scene in the relationship between offering-plate-funded UMC denominational agencies and destructive liberal caucuses? (Photo credit: The Town Church in Ft. Collins, Colorado)

A typical scene in the relationship between offering-plate-funded UMC denominational agencies with little real accountability to the denomination and liberal caucuses with no accountability to the denomination? (Photo credit: The Town Church in Ft. Collins, Colorado)

By John Lomperis (@JohnLomperis)

The United Methodist Church’s offering-plate-funded anti-sexism agency, the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women (COSROW), chose to further damage its own credibility by selecting a recent staffer of the Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) to be its own new Director of Gender Justice and Education.

The Chicago-based COSROW has sometimes been controversial for promoting theological and sexual liberalism, straying well beyond its charge of promoting inclusion of women within the United Methodist Church.  At the last General Conference, it narrowly escaped being consolidated with another of our top-heavy denomination’s dozen general agencies.  An effort to abolish COSROW altogether narrowly failed at the 1988 General Conference.

RMN is devoted to promoting acceptance of homosexual practice, as well as transgenderism and extra-marital sex in general, within the United Methodist Church.  The caucus group (also headquartered in Chicago) has received generous funding from secular LGBT foundations and, in the face of its failures to change church policies, has notoriously championed such tactics as brazen, unilateral breaking of church covenants and even resorting to physical force to try to control what decisions duly chosen UMC leaders can and cannot make.

Audrey Krumbach left RMN staff last year after serving as its National Organizer for several years.  Her new appointment to COSROW was celebrated by RMN in a recent e-mail to the caucus’s supporters.

IRD has long documented how the offering-plate-funded agencies and other leadership structures of the United Methodist Church far too often actively oppose the official United Methodist values they are charged with upholding while exclusively catering to a narrow faction of the denomination rather than serving as agencies of and for ALL United Methodists.  Much of this can be traced to the surprising amount of staff inter-relationships between official UMC denominational agencies and unofficial liberal caucus groups whose destructive agendas are rejected again and again at General Conferences.

Jim Winkler, general secretary of the UMC’s General Board of Church and Society (GBCS) since 2000, has long been openly involved in the Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA), an unofficial caucus devoted to defending heterodox theology and diverting church resources towards propping up leftist political agendas.  The two groups are headquartered within a five-minute walk of each other in Washington, D.C.  Under Winkler’s leadership, the GBCS has often seemed to operate as the apportionment-funded chapter of MFSA, working in alliance with the unofficial liberal caucuses, while for over twelve years it has refused to fulfill a resolution adopted unanimously by its own board instructing GBCS staff to seek constructive dialogue with its fellow United Methodists in IRD.  MFSA even has a member of GBCS’s board of directors,  Mr. Haniel Garibay, on its payroll.  Winkler has also been notorious for using the agency to oppose the UMC positions on homosexuality, abortion, and Just War which the GBCS is charged with upholding (but which conflict with MFSA teaching), while engaging in such intemperate rhetoric as equating American “so-called Christian academies and home schooling” with terrorist-training “madrassahs” and calling IRD “a snake.”

Another UMC general agency is United Methodist Communications, whose chief executive, Rev. Larry Hollon, is hardly shy about using his position to promote his theologically liberal views.  Last year, UMCom hired as its new minister of online engagement Sophia Agtarap, a self-described “progressive Christian” and “LGBTQ advocate” whose new role as a paid employee of the whole church has not stopped her ongoing public activism on behalf of RMN.

The General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM), the United Methodist agency charged with leading the denomination’s missions work, has often taken a rather curious interpretation of Christian missions.  Despite MFSA’s hostility to orthodox Methodist theology and its secularizing agenda for the church, GBGM decided that the aforementioned Garibay would be a good choice for it ranks of commissioned home missioners, while the same GBGM office continues to give its formal, unqualified blessing to the work of an RMN staffer / GBGM deaconess who has previously served as a GBGM missionary and worked for United Methodist Women’s New York headquarters.

We have already reported on how the commission that organized the 2012 UMC General Conference was led a longtime RMN leader who soon went on to become RMN’s interim chief executive. (RMN recently found a permanent replacement.)

With such an apparent revolving-door personnel relationship between official UMC structures charged with upholding United Methodist teaching and independent caucus groups committed to destructively undermining the same United Methodist theology and policies, it is no wonder our denominational leadership is facing such a crisis of credibility and legitimacy.