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AFA Journal

Don's Column

UM bishop denies essential truths of gospel

by Don Wildmon
AFA Founder/Chairman
AFA Journal, September, 2002 edition

My column this month deals with comments made by a United Methodist bishop. In one sense, it is reflective of only one person, the bishop. But in another sense it is reflective of many leaders in the old line denominations.

Let me share with you some quotes taken from a presentation made by United Methodist Bishop Joseph Sprague. Bishop Sprague is president of the North Central Jurisdiction College of Bishops of the United Methodist Church. These comments were made in a speech given at Iliff School of Theology in Denver on January 28, 2002.

• “I believe Jesus the Messiah, the Christ of God was fully human. The myth of the virgin birth is found neither in Mark (the earliest gospel account) nor in John (the latest). A theological myth as you know so well is not false presentation, but a valid and quite persuasive literary device employed to point to ultimate truth that can only be insinuated symbolically and never depicted exhaustively.”

• “The myth of the virgin birth was not intended as historical fact but was employed by Matthew and Luke in different ways to appoint poetically the truth about Jesus as experienced in the emerging church.”

• “Jesus was not born Christ, rather by the confluence of grace with faith he became the Christ, God’s beloved in whom God was well pleased.”

• “I believe in the resurrection of Jesus, but I cannot believe that his resurrection involved the resuscitation of his physical body.”

• “I am certain that the miracle of the resurrection, preeminently that of Jesus, is not tied to bodily resuscitation. The linking of resurrection with bodily resuscitation is to make a literal religious proposition of a metaphorical symbolic expression of truth itself. This is the kind of idolatry from which I dissent.”

• “I must dissent from Christocentric exclusives which hold that Jesus is the only way to God’s gift of salvation. Such an arrogant claim stands over and against the inclusive Jesus of the synoptics and limits God in ways that humans cannot and must not.”

• “Our personal and communal lives will give credence or lack thereof to our witness and call others to, or repel them from the Jesus way, which I believe is unique and normative, but not the only way to salvation.”

• “In conclusion, simply stated, Jesus was fully human and fully divine. His humanity was given in his conception and birth through the natural processes of procreation. His divinity was derived, given as a gift, from his relationship of trust and obedience with God.”

Well, there you have it. The full transcript can be found on the web at www.ird- I suggest you read it for yourself.

Now, who pays the bishop’s salary? If you are a United Methodist, you do. Each time you help pay your “conference askings.” There are two ways you can keep from helping pay his salary. One is by your church refusing to pay “conference askings” and the second is by designating where your gift to your local church is to be used and where it is not to be used.

And if you are a member of another mainline denomination, don’t feel too smug. You can expect to hear a similar report in the future.