DEAR BISHOP GARY MUELLER; an open letter

Dear Bishop Mueller and fellow servant in Christ,

I am writing to you even though the reality of you reading this is very slim. Yet, I remain hopeful you will. The call we share in Christ now compels me to speak to you about recent events in Jonesboro. To be more specific, it is the article from Arkansas Democrat Gazette by Frank E. Lockwood, dated August 2, 2022. This would have been 2 days after Jonesboro First United Methodist Church, following your Conference’s guidelines, voted to disaffiliate from your Conference and the United Methodist Church.

In your interview with Mr. Lockwood you referred to, and I quote, “I am concerned that traditional Christian orthodox thought is beginning to resemble white Christian nationalism“. To your credit, you did not directly call Jonesboro First United Methodist Church white Christian nationalists. However, sir, I kindly refer you to Leroy Jethro Gibbs Rule #39–“There is no such thing as coincidence.” The fact you made this comment the day after that congregation faithfully followed the Discipline and Conference Procedures, cannot be considered coincidence. Thus, this letter, #BishopMueller.

At the risk of sounding exactly like the fictional character, Gomer Pyle, “For Shame! For Shame! For Shame!” Now, in all fairness, I don’t know anyone from Jonesboro First United Methodist Church. Therefore, it is reasonable to expect that I could learn something about them from you, Sir. Perhaps they are attempting to create and push the agenda of, in your own words, white Christian nationalism“. Yet, when I looked at the photograph of the sanctuary, it’s reasonable to expect to see skin-heads, white robes, even swastikas. I saw none of these.

#BishopMueller, you have done a terrible thing, sir. Why is it so difficult for you to allow any congregation follow in the direction that God is leading them? You speak about a “big tent” for a variety of positions in the United Methodist Church–but you belittle and demean people by “coincidentally” talking about “white Christian nationalism” who have tried to find a place under your “big tent”. May I graciously remind you of what James wrote in chapter 3, verses 10-12 (NRSVUE)? “From the same mouth comes a blessing and a curse. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and brackish water? Can a fig tree, my brothers and sisters, yield olives or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh.

#BishopMueller, you have furthermore cast a dispersion on our Book of Discipline. Since you did not deem their meeting to be in violation of our Disciple, then they were not in violation of our Discipline. However, there are many of your colleagues who are in open violation of that same Discipline. Yet you have not, to my knowledge, cast any vituperations against them. Is it because that the Jonesboro First United Methodist Church situation is different? To call out one for following the Discipline and your Conference procedures and not another is shameful duplicity on your part, Sir.

#BishopMueller, even if your use of that term “white Christian nationalism” was not directed at those who voted to disaffiliate, your timing in using that term was, how can I say this in a way that helps you understand your error? Sir, it sucked! Forgive my bluntness sir, but you owe Jonesboro First United Methodist Church, and all United Methodist congregations a sincere “without excuse” apology. And even though Leroy Jethro Gibbs Rule #6 states “Never say you’re sorry. It’s a sign of weakness.”, he added Rule #51: Sometimes you are wrong.

And in the future, may you be treated with kindness and grace. And though I am aware many will say my words to you were unkind, yet they are full of grace. When we are in the wrong, words are unkind; for none of us like to be reminded we made a mistake. But even words of correction can be filled with grace. #BishopMueller, I assure you that my words are filled with grace because that’s what followers of Jesus do. I remain, as always,

A servant of the Lord, Jesus,
Randy Burbank

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13 thoughts on “DEAR BISHOP GARY MUELLER; an open letter

  1. and in related news; the North-West Texas Conference, allocated $25,000,000.00 to be used by their local churches for disaffiliation expenses. now THAT’S grace in leadership.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you Pastor, for so beautifully stating what so many Methodists are feeling in these trying times. Without going into detail, about two years ago, the bishop of the Louisiana Annual Conference posted a letter with comments very similar to those of Bishop Mueller. Between that letter and the events going on in the church these days, my wife and I, after more than 40 years, have decided to disassociate ourselves from the Methodist Church.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Since it’s an open letter, I’ll leave an open question as a comment.

    Was the date of the interview included in the published article, and was that date actually after the vote of this congregation?

    In my experience, reporters often work a week out prior to publication.

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    1. Even if it was before the vote, he knew it was happening. Perhaps he did not intend for it to sound like it did. But intentions go out the window when something is said.

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  4. In reading the definition of Christian White nationalists by Philip Gorski, a professor of sociology and religious studies at Yale University, in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette article by Frank E. Lockwood, I did not read Bishop Mueller calling the members of Jonesboro FuMC by this classification. Gorski’s definition also does not seem to include “skin-heads, white robes, even swastikas.” What I read was the Bishop explaining the extremes that are being found in the UMC at this time and he says that the “Arkansas Conference, which he oversees, does not have congregations in either camp.”
    PS: For me, personally, I would not use Leroy Jethro Gibbs’ rules or Gomer Pyle’s comments to mke my point. I’m still sticking with Jesus..

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    1. However one defines white Christian nationalism it does not negate the content of what Bishop Mueller said. It was an inappropriate statement in the context of Jonesboro.

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      1. Why would the response of a single church define or negate an Episcopal statement on the state of the Church? You seem to be reading an excess of local connection into a Conference State of the Church report that is actually quite insightful.

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  5. Way to go sir, the truth spoken in love. In my honest opinion, the institutionalist now all have sour grapes over the fact that strong large congregations are jumping ship. They’ve got nobody to blame but themselves. If the first acts of “ekklesial disobedience “ had been handled properly there would be no disaffiliation.

    Liked by 1 person

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