Monday, September 28, 2015

Brief signed and notarized letter for Bishop Kiesey

September 28, 2015
            I, Mike Tupper, acknowledge that I signed the marriage license on July 17, 2015 for Monty and Ben Hutchison in Cassopolis, Michigan. I acknowledge that I am guilty of violating one of the chargeable offenses in the Book of Discipline (Par. 2702.1b)
            I, Mike Tupper, agree to forfeit the use of an attorney during every phase of the potential investigation and trial.
            I, Mike Tupper, waive my right to an appeal following the verdict and penalty in a potential trial.

            Mike Tupper

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Mike Tupper's Letter to Bishop on 9/28/15

September 28, 2015
Dear Bishop,
                Thanks for the frank discussions we’ve had during the Supervisory Response process following the complaint filed on July 17th. I regret to inform you that we will not be able to agree on a just resolution this time.
                I’ve struggled over the word “just” in just resolution. I don’t believe God wants me to get “off the hook” again so easily with a just resolution, knowing that justice in our church is not yet available for my gay daughter Sarah and my friends Rev. Hutchison and Ginny Mikita. I know others find the just resolution to be a helpful step forward. Last year, I signed a just resolution following Sarah and Ali’s wedding. But this time, God is leading me differently.
                The Lord has led me to this decision because He’s called me to shine a light on the harm done by our church to LGBTQ people like my daughter. God’s called me to highlight the need for a change in our Discipline at General Conference. But God has also made it clear to me that I should be willing to pay the price for my disobedience to the present Book of Discipline. I’m reminded of this in paragraph 164 F in the Discipline.
                I acknowledge publicly that I am guilty of violating one of the chargeable offenses in paragraph 2702.1b. (“performing same sex wedding ceremonies”) Consequently, you will probably be referring this complaint on to Counsel for the Church. Eventually, this might lead to a church trial.
                I lament the costs involved in a church trial. Therefore I invite Church Counsel and yourself to consider the following proposal to minimize the financial costs of a church trial: Do the investigation and trial with minimal costs and no lawyers. There is nothing in the Discipline which requires the participation of lawyers. There is nothing in the Discipline which requires exorbitant expenses for an investigation or trial. This makes sense because I’m pleading “guilty” to the offense. I will not contest the guilty verdict or the penalty decided on by a jury of my peers.
                I am thankful that I’m not alone in what I’ve had the privilege to do on two occasions. I’m a part of growing movement of United Methodist pastors who are being biblically obedient by performing weddings for all people. I love the United Methodist Church and am committed to fulfilling my responsibility as a pastor to be in ministry with all people.
                May God help us all do our part to welcome in His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.
                In Christ’s ministry of love and justice for all,
                Mike Tupper

P.S. I will be sending a signed, notarized letter in the mail today related to this matter.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Help Wanted: 8 Martyrs

          A friend recently said, "Ten pastors will have to be defrocked before the UMC changes its stance toward gays."    
         Two years ago Frank Schaefer became our first martyr in most recent UMC history. His ministerial credentials were removed following a church trial. (They were later reinstated.) Frank’s story and martyrdom brought light to the harm done to the LGBTQ community by the UMC. It also created tension and pain for our denomination. This brought us closer to making the change to full inclusion.
                I had the opportunity to officiate at my daughter’s same gender wedding last August. A complaint and just resolution followed. Last month I had the privilege of officiating at Rev. Hutchison’s same gender wedding following his forced resignation from the Cassopolis, Michigan UMC. A complaint was filed against me. I’m willing to go to trial and lose my credentials.
                God is looking for 8 more martyrs.
                How can you be a martyr for God’s kingdom of justice and inclusion for all people?
1.       Officiate at a same gender wedding.
2.       Have someone file a complaint. This can refer to any same gender wedding you’ve officiated in the past six years. Some suggestions for people to file the complaint: Your District Superintendent, a Good News evangelical, or even an ally.
3.         Don’t settle for a just resolution when you meet with the Bishop.
4.          Let your case go to trial.
5.          Encourage media (social and traditional and denominational) coverage of every step of your process.
The goal of this martyrdom is to bring light to the harm done to the LGBTQ community by the United Methodist Church. It is also to bring tension and pain to our denomination which is at a tipping point. Hopefully, we will have 8 more martyrs by the 2016 General Conference so that God’s desired changes are voted up.
Martin Luther King Junior said from the Birmingham jail: “Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and establish such creative tension that a community that has consistently refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue.”
He also said, “I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law.”
God is looking for 8 more martyrs. Will you be one of them?
Mike Tupper, pastor of Parchment, MI UMC,


Saturday, January 10, 2015

Different United Methodist Responses to Marriage Equality and LGBTQ Persons

Different United Methodist Responses to Marriage Equality and LGBTQ Persons
            Where do you stand? Which of the following five responses reflect your understanding of God’s will in our day for the people called United Methodists?
1.      Severely Exclusive - LGBTQ persons are condemned by God to hell. Homosexuality in any form is an “abomination” in the eyes of God.  
2.      Exclusive – LGBTQ persons are valued by God, but homosexual practice is condemned as sinful. Same gender ceremonies are not ordained by God.
3.      Mildly Exclusive – LGBTQ persons do not represent God’s original intention in creation. But God can redeem the brokenness. In the difficult choices of our fallen world, monogamous same gender relationships can often represent the best Christian response. 
4.      Diversity – Since our church is not of one mind in responding to LGBTQ persons and marriage equality, we should respect the diversity of understandings.
5.      Inclusive – LGBTQ persons are created by God with unique gifts. Homosexuality is not considered by God to be a sin. Faithful, monogamous, loving relationships between any two persons are ordained by God.
I had the privilege of signing the marriage license for my daughter’s same gender wedding in August of 2014. A complaint was filed against me the next day because this is a “chargeable offense” in the United Methodist Church. The complainant and the Bishop met with me on four occasions and we settled “out of court” with a Just Resolution.
 Item four of the Just Resolution statement says, “Rev. Tupper will develop a written theological statement which accurately presents the several theological positions within the context of the West Michigan Conference and includes his personal theological conclusions about the position he has chosen for himself.” This document reflects that work.

In preparation for this statement, I desired to learn more about the exclusive perspectives. I contacted Tom Lambrecht from the Good News organization. He directed me to Dr. Chris Bounds. Chris is a United Methodist elder and Professor of Theology at Indiana Wesleyan University. He graciously agreed to meet with me on December 12th, 2014. We enjoyed a warm and fruitful dialogue as we shared about our lives and our perspectives. The following document will include helpful information he shared with me.
The “exclusive” perspectives rest on four pillars.
The first pillar is Scripture. The Bible refers to homosexuality six times. Genesis 19:1-11 tells the story of the homosexual intentions of the men of Sodom. Leviticus 20:13 and 18:22-25 condemn homosexual practice as part of the Purity Code of Moses. Paul includes homosexuality in lists of sinful behavior in Romans 1:26-27, I Corinthians 6:9-10 and I Timothy 1:8-10. Every reference to homosexuality in the Bible is negative.
The second pillar is church tradition. Christian churches have taken a stand condemning homosexual behavior from the early church up till the present. They have understood the Scriptures to say that homosexuality is sinful.
The third pillar is Creation. God created humans as male and female to be joined together. The second creation story in Genesis 2 tells about the creation of woman to be a suitable partner for the man. Genesis 2:24: “That’s why a man will leave his own father and mother. He marries a woman, and the two of them become like one person.” Men and women were created by God with specific anatomical features that promote their joining together. Homosexual practice is “contrary to nature”.
The fourth pillar is the Fall. Homosexuality is an expression of the brokenness of creation and the fallen state of humanity. It is one way of expressing original sin – our bent to stray from God’s intentions. LGBTQ persons are born with a specific orientation that represents a deviance from God’s original plan. It is a spiritual disability.
Dr. Chris Bounds summarizes the fourth pillar this way: “However the Church has also affirmed that just because people have been born with a homosexual inclination, exacerbated by the fallen order around them, and fully materialized through personal sin, this does not mean they are without hope of healing from this manifestation of corruption. The redemptive work of Christ made available to believers through the sanctifying work of the Spirit can empower people to keep their homosexual inclinations in check and offer hope of healing of their corrupted sexuality.”
The “Inclusive” perspective stands on six pillars.
1.      The Goodness of God’s creation (Genesis 1:26-31 and Psalm 139:13-14)
God created humans “in God’s image”. The creation story was written to remind us that all of God’s creation is good. “God doesn’t make junk.” Whether we’re black or white, male or female, Chinese or American, homosexual or straight, left-handed or right-handed – we’re all created good in God’s image. Homosexuality is not a choice. It’s a unique gift given by God to certain people and not others. It is good in God’s sight.
The rest of the Creation story emphasizes the diversity of God’s creation. God could have made things to look and be alike. All plants could have looked alike. There could have been only one insect, only one bird, and only one fish. Instead, God chose to create the world using an amazing diversity. We’re incredibly diverse as human beings as well. We realize there’s diversity in our sexuality as well. God created us both homosexual and heterosexual. We can celebrate that diversity.
2.      God’s Inclusion of the “Impure” (Acts 10:1-36)
Gentiles were considered impure, sinful people to be avoided by Jews. The vision and the visit to Cornelius awaken Peter to his mission to reach out to these people. He realizes Gentiles can be Christian without following all the Jewish purity laws. He discovers that “God treats all people alike”.
 Who are considered by some to be the impure, sinful people in our day? The people in the LGBTQ community. What does Peter’s vision and visit have to do with us today in the church? We are called to reach out to those who are considered impure and sinful. We believe God’s grace and acceptance are for all, not for the ‘chosen’ few (the pure, the Jew, the heterosexual).
3.      Challenging the Rules (Colossian 2:20-22 and 3:14)
The Christians in Colossae have gotten caught up in rules that go beyond God’s intentions. It is similar to the problem some of the Pharisees had during the days of Jesus. The Colossians had rules about what they could and couldn’t eat, rules about what they could and couldn’t touch and detailed rituals and festival practices. They taught that one had to keep all of these rules to be a part of the church.
Paul told them this was wrong. He said that Christ died to set them free from rules like those. Later people referred to the problem in Colossae as the Colossian heresy. It’s been a problem we’ve seen throughout the centuries. We find it in rules that some churches hold on to today such as priests who cannot marry and women who cannot be church leaders. As a youth, I was a part of a church that taught that movie theaters, billiards, alcohol, playing cards and swimming with persons of the same sex were all sinful and forbidden. I’ve read about how intermarriage between the races fits the same category. It’s the Colossian heresy still with us.
One rule that is a part of the Colossian heresy today is the rule against homosexual practice. Paul’s words to us are still helpful: “Why be bothered with the rules that humans have made up?” In the next chapter Paul goes on to tell what it should be about instead of those rules. “Love is more important than anything else.” (Col. 3:14)
4: The Commandments of God (Mark 12:28-31)
The Son of God says love trumps human laws. Love is the essence of God’s true law. Loving a person means we value and respect them and do not treat them as second class Christians. Loving gay people as much as we love ourselves means we allow them as many rights and privileges as heterosexuals. The biblical God loves homosexuals and people in the LGBTQ community. The biblical God calls for everyone to love those in the LGBTQ community as much as they love themselves. We allow them to love a partner and get married just as heterosexuals are able to love a partner and get married. This also means we are compelled to advocate for their equal rights and equal treatment.
5. Jesus’ Inclusion of the Outsider (Luke 14:15-24 and Luke 5:12-16)
Jesus reveals what this love for all looks like by his stories and his life. Jesus has a special passion for those who are not treated as first class citizens. He reaches out to help the outsiders. He welcomes in those who are excluded and oppressed. This can apply today to the LGBTQ community who are often excluded and oppressed and treated as second class outsiders. Lord, help us love.  
6.      Jesus and Marriage (Mark 10:1-12)
Jesus values the joining together of two people in a married relationship. Jesus is clear that breaking this marriage covenant is not God’s perfect will. Divorce is the great danger to our families, not same gender weddings.

Mike Tupper’s Perspective
I am willing to live in a church that holds the “Diversity” position. Diversity has always been a hallmark of the United Methodist Church. We hold diverse understandings about most of the social issues of our time including: war, alcohol use, abortion, and capital punishment. The Book of Discipline states in “Our Theological Task”: “United Methodists as a diverse people continue to strive for consensus in understanding the gospel. In our diversity, we are held together by a shared inheritance and a common desire to participate in the creative and redemptive activity of God…      In the name of Jesus Christ we are called to work within our diversity while exercising patience and forbearance with one another.”
I prefer to serve in a denomination that supports the “Inclusive” position. It’s clear to me that the Scriptures indicating that homosexuality is a sin do not represent God’s will for all time. The trajectory of church tradition in responding to LGBTQ persons and marriage equality is moving toward the inclusive position. This can be seen in the changing position of the other mainline denominations and the perspective of younger Christians. Church tradition is shifting as it did related to slavery and the role of women. LGBTQ persons do not live with a spiritual disability, but are given a unique gift by the God of diversity. They are living according to their “nature”. Marriage is the most faithful arena for expressing sexuality so same gender weddings should be encouraged by the church.
Where do you stand? Which of the five responses reflect your understanding of God’s will in our day for the people called United Methodists?