Monday, October 15, 2012

Bishop Coyner, Please Don't Speak for Martin Luther King Jr.


United Methodists in the Western Jurisdiction adopted a “Statementof Gospel Obedience” that says the denomination is in error in its stance that the practice of homosexuality “is incompatible with Christian teaching.” The jurisdiction’s statement also urged United Methodists to operate as if that stance “does not exist, creating a church where all people are truly welcome.”

Bishop Coyner's Statement

Today, Indiana Area Bishop Coyner published his criticisms of the Western Jurisdiction in his e-pistle.

Among other objectionable points in Bishop Coyner's statement was the unbelievable belief that the Western Jurisdiction's call for Gospel Obedience (in direct opposition to the UMC's current stance) is a “very poor substitute for the honorable practice of civil disobedience as expressed clearly by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”

My Response

Bishop Coyner, in all due respect to your episcopal office, but are we speaking about the same MLK Jr. who argues that civil disobedience is justified not only to deal with an unjust law, but that "everyone has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws."

When you said poor substitute, are you sure you didn't really mean to say faithful practice

When you read MLK's "Letter From a Birmingham Jail", where do you identify in the story? There are basically two options... 

  • The preacher in jail because he was calling for people of faith and moral conviction to Biblical obedience to love one another.
 - or -
  • The White, moderate clergymen (one of which was a Methodist Bishop) who were asking MLK Jr. to stop rocking the boat.

Bishop Coyner, since you brought up Rev. MLK Jr. in your e-pistle, and basically spoke for him, where do you fall in this story?

Bishop, I've read Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. 
I've been formed by the words of Martin Luther King Jr. 
Martin Luther King, Jr. is a hero of mine.
Bishop, please don't speak for Martin Luther King Jr.


Rev. Andy Oliver

PS. Here are a group of youth from AlumRock UMC that seem to get MLK Jr's writing. You can sign their online petition to The Council of Bishops in support of Bishop Talbert's message, which, as they point out, is a faithful practice of MLK Jr's call to civil disobedience.


  1. My reading of Coyner's letter was that he was pushing the Western Jurisdiction to go further than just saying they disagree. I read him to say if you want to be in the footsteps of King then start performing same-sex marriage ceremonies, start ordaining LGBT people in active and open sexual relationships, and then face the consequences. Don't just talk the talk.

    Am I misreading that? Note his underlining in the letter.

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