He’s Not Talking to You

Posted: November 6, 2021 by Matt Horan in ReEmergent Church
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A litte while back, some harsh things were being written about a friend of mine named Jay.  He and I agree on most things about about 90 percent of the time, from politics to entertainment to theology; but he went to the University of Florida while I went to Florida State, so it would be unfair to expect perfection from him 100 percent of the time. 

In any case, I wrote a blog article to remind people of Jay’s good qualities–many of which I would be thankful to see in myself.

That was a about a year and a half ago–or a few weeks before we all learned what “social distancing” was, what “PPE” stands for, and who Dr. Anthony Fauci was.  All of a sudden, the big elephant in every United Methodist room–a possible split of the United Methodist Church–was nowhere to be found.  2020 didn’t do much to make our lives better (unless you own stock in Amazon or Uber Eats), but I did enjoy the respite from the constant talk about how the United Methodist sky was falling.

The détente may have come to an abrupt end for you when you watched a video of Jay surrounded by forlorn faces (Figure 1.) with a harp playing in the background. In the video he renounced his ordination as a clergyperson in the Florida Conference and sent his licensing documents back in the mail. He joyfully (his word) described the decision–declaring his many reasons for believing that the United Methodist Church is no longer something with which he can be affiliated.

Figure 1.

He believes that United Methodist churches and clergy will soon be forced to host and officiate same-sex weddings whether they want to or not. This, coupled with mistreatment he’s described from Florida Conference lay, staff, and clergy leaders, are the reasons he decided to be temporarily de-ordained until re-ordained in the new denomination he’s currently assembling with parts from the United Methodist Church (UMC) that he is able to convince to leave.

I have no reason to ammend the original “My Friend Jay” article.  Everything I mentioned that he’s done, and the degree to which I admired him for it, is still a part of his story and mine.  What I offer today is not another defense of Jay, but rather a guide to watching his videos and reading his blog posts for those who prefer to stay in the UMC, as they can feel pretty insulting if you watch them the wrong way.

The right way to watch them is really pretty simple. All you have to do is remember this one simple thing:

He’s not talking to you.

Jay is a president of the Wesley Covenant Association.  He has been skillfully giving presentations about how a new denomination would be much better than the United Methodist Church.  Hearing him do these presentations is like watching a great lawyer make a compelling closing argument, and it sounds that way because Jay is a great lawyer, and he is making a compelling closing argument.  However, he is talking to a very specific group of people: Fundamentalist, Christian nationalist political conservatives (FCNPC) who have angrily gathered together over the last few years for the cause of pushing back against progressive cultural change in the United States.

Allow me to highlight some recurring themes Jay uses in the closing arguments he makes to audiences at churches across the Florida Conference.

Apportionments Will Be Lower. Jay often shares in various settings that apportionments to be paid by churches to the new denomination will be less by a half or even two-thirds in comparison with what they currently pay as a part of the UMC.  This is because they will no longer be responsible for the cost and upkeep of Warren Willis Camp; the Florida Conference Center; Wesley Foundation college ministry facilities; UMC colleges like Bethune Cookman or Florida Southern; and other properties that will be left behind with the UMC.  Further, they plan to have fewer centralized denominational agencies and leaders. 

Fundamentalist, Christian nationalist political conservatives (FCNPC) who have angrily gathered together over the last few years for the cause of pushing back against progressive cultural change in the United States tend to fervently resent any requirements that money be collected from individuals or organizations to pay the costs of centralized governance, making this an effective closing argument when recruiting them.

See?  He’s not talking to you.

Churches Will Have More Freedom.  I’ve heard Jay talk about how churches will have more freedom to go to the conferences they want to attend or support mission agencies they prefer rather than supporting the ones owned or endorsed by the UMC. 

We’ve all had the option to do that already anyway, but Fundamentalist, Christian nationalist political conservatives (FCNPC) who have angrily gathered together over the last few years for the cause of pushing back against progressive cultural change in the United States love their freedoms and specialize in not letting someone else tell them what to do, making this an effective closing argument when recruiting them.

See?  He’s not talking to you.

There Will Be Fewer Bishops, and They Will Have Less Authority.  Jay frequently cites the size of the college of bishops as unnecessarily cumbersome and self-serving.  Therefore, in his new denomination, they will reduce the authority they wield, and give them term limits. Fundamentalist, Christian nationalist political conservatives (FCNPC) who have angrily gathered together over the last few years for the cause of pushing back against progressive cultural change in the United States find it extremely satisfying to put leaders in their place who don’t share their agenda, making this an effective closing argument when recruiting them. 

See?  He’s not talking to you.

There Will be Swift and More Thorough Discipline for Disobedient Clergy.  One of the greatest frustrations that traditionalists have in the United Methodist Church is the reluctance by district and conference leaders who do not bring clergy who do same-sex weddings up on charges to face discipline, including the potential removal of their ordination.  Fundamentalist, Christian nationalist political conservatives (FCNPC) who have angrily gathered together over the last few years for the cause of pushing back against progressive cultural change in the United States find it extremely satisfying to see the crimes they find grievous answered with punishment, making this an effective closing argument when recruiting them. 

See?  He’s not talking to you.

Licensed Local Pastors will be Treated Better.  Jay often says that the UMC treats licensed local pastors as “second class citizens.”  I’ve not heard him explain what that means, but he doesn’t really have to for that to sound like a good reason for a Licensed Local Pastor to leave the UMC and join the new denomination.  Very briefly, a licensed local pastor is someone who has been through a thorough training program in pastoral ministry and is serving as a pastor in a local church, but doesn’t necessarily have a master of divinity degree, and has not yet completed the examination process for commissioning as a provisional elder by the Board of Ordained Ministry.  It appears that licensed local pastors will be made the equivalent, or at least much more similar to, full elders in the new denomination.

There are UMC churches in Florida led by beloved licenced local pastors whose congregations are largely Fundamentalist, Christian nationalist political conservatives (FCNPC) who have angrily gathered together over the last few years for the cause of pushing back against progressive cultural change in the United States. Hearing Jay tell them that the UMC doesn’t value their pastor as much as his new denomination will is an effective closing argument when recruiting them. 

So, unless you are a licensed local pastor in the UMC or one of their church members, he’s not talking to you.

There Will Be a Lot of Unemployed United Methodist Clergy without Guaranteed Appointments. Jay has often said that the clergy tend to be more progressive than the laity in the United Methodist Church.  Therefore, he predicts that there will be more clergy than churches in the UMC once his churches leave and join the Wesley Covenant Association (WCA); and conversely, there will be more churches than clergy in the WCA.  This would mean that there will be many pastors that don’t have a church where they can be appointed in the UMC, and there will have to be a way to fast track people who are in the WCA’s candidacy process to have enough pastors for all of their churches. 

The idea of clergy who didn’t join the WCA losing their jobs is an extremely satisfying one to Fundamentalist, Christian nationalist political conservatives (FCNPC) who have angrily gathered together over the last few years for the cause of pushing back against progressive cultural change in the United States. It feels like they’re getting what they deserve, making this an effective closing argument when recruiting them. 

See?  He’s not talking to you.

And that’s not all! As if these things weren’t enough to help close the deal, there’s more. All of these upgrades over the UMC would occur against the backdrop of assent to a more fundamentalist theological, exegetical, and ecclesial approach, making this an effective closing argument when recruiting them.

The various pep talks staged (the audience for this one was coached ahead of time to cheer enthusiastically throughout) leading up to the 2019 General Conference were full of red meat for Fundamentalist, Christian nationalist political conservatives (FCNPC) who have angrily gathered together over the last few years for the cause of pushing back against progressive cultural change in the United States.

Jay is an attorney, and he’s a good one.  He knows how to make a compelling case to the jury, and he’s doing an excellent job of it.  He almost has the Book of Disicpline memorized, and he’s been well-trained in how to make arguments.  In fact, the UMC has used his skills in that regard on multiple occasions to our great benefit.  He’s good at this–in fact, I don’t think the UMC has anybody as good at this as he is, because he is pulling off this amazing courtship of Fundamentalist, Christian nationalist political conservatives (FCNPC) who have angrily gathered together over the last few years for the cause of pushing back against progressive cultural change in the United States… without even being one!

That’s right. Jay is not a Fundamentalist. He’s not a Christian Nationalist. He has no desire to push back against the work of social justice for women or people of color. He lamented January 6th, and doesn’t believe the election was stolen. I mean, the guy is even fully vaccinated! The fact that he’s become a pied piper of FCNPCs is truly remarkable, and a further testament to his skills, and will be what ends up making him a denominational founding father. (Figure 2.)

The De-ordination Video showed more skills from Jay, turning this whole thing into a “David and Goliath” style battle for the ages between good and evil by giving up something that he was never going to use again anyway. It was theater. (It could have been musical theater if they’d tossed in a chorus of “We Shall Overcome,” but maybe they thought that might make the thing look staged…👀 )

Either way, FCNPCs jumped on it and commented it on to algorhythmic glory. Freaking brilliant.

The Tomato Vandals showed even more skills from Jay as he expertly used an episode of someone throwing tomatoes at his car during one of his presentations.  He didn’t have to point a finger at “UMC stayers” for it–he just shared the story on Facebook and let the FCNPCs post the comments and do that for him. He got a ton outrage mileage simply for the cost of a car wash. Freaking brilliant again.

I know it feels personal sometimes. I love the United Methodist Church for so many reasons, and it’s hard to not take the many articles and videos, and the many insulting social media comments made on them by others personally. Just remember that it’s theater.

He’s not talking to you.

Jay would rather not insult or anger anybody, but it would be pretty unreasonable to ask the WCA to ignore all that’s been learned the last few years on how to effectively incite Fundamentalist, Christian nationalist political conservatives (FCNPC) who have angrily gathered together over the last few years for the cause of pushing back against progressive cultural change in the United States to action. The WCA has learned how to talk to them, to get them angry, to get them ready to fight, and to use them to build momentum toward their very own denominational independence day. We should acknowledge an impressive job done, and we should let them go in peace.

Besides, fellow UMC-stayer, if you’re really honest with yourself, you’ll probably realize it’s been a very long time since they were ever interested in talking to you anyway.

Figure 2.

PS. This was posted in social media groups for people who do not want to leave the UMC so that they would not be further angered by Jay’s efforts to get people and churches to leave.

I shared it with Jay directly, as I didn’t feel I should write about him without him seeing it. As a result, he has publicized it those who do want to leave the UMC. I didn’t anticipate that Jay would use the article to incite those who want to leave to further anger, but I should have. As I said, he’s really good at this.

Comments
  1. […] am writing this as a lay person to fellow laity of The United Methodist Church in response to a recent blog by Matt Horan, dated November 6, 2021, posted in ReEmergent Church. I have never met Mr. Horan. This response is not an attempt to engage him or other members within […]

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    • Matt

      You ignore the fact in your article of the Council of Bishops are ignoring the decisions of the last three General Conferences on the issue of clergy doing same sex marriages. Your ignore the fact that at the meeting your had at your church with Alex Shanks it was not objective but slanted to try to convince folks to stay in the UMC including some promises offered that could not be backed up concerning covenants with individual churches. As far as I can see you have not offered your congregation the opportunity to know more about why traditional position that has been supported every 4 years at GC and why clergy like me are ready to leave the UMC and I have the history of 41 years in this denomination. So here is my challenge to you. Why not invite me over to your church to a leadership meeting and we will sit on stools next to each other to dialogue about the two perspectives of the future the UMC? And then I will invite you to a church leadership at my church and we will do the same. It would seem that certainly these issues can be discussed and shared with our people in a graceful matter without attacking the other side as your have done in your article . I believe we can do better than that.

      Blessings,

      Brent Byerman

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    • Matt Horan says:

      Hi Brent, thanks for your response. I was writing to people who want to stay in the UMC in hopes that the things Jay does would not be taken personally. I don’t know that the Council of Bishops or Alex’s visit or previous General Conferences really fit in an article about that, so I have to push back a bit about ignoring those topics. I certainly don’t think they’re a secret to anybody.

      I also have to push back about attacking anybody. I named the items Jay shares without comment, and then noted why they are effective. I also have never heard someone who uses the five fundemantals as a measure of one’s Christian faith say that they felt insulted by the mention of it; nor have I heard as much from a person who feels that God has a preferential relationship with the United States. If anything, I’ve seen and heard people wear it as a badge of honor. Further, I don’t think either of those would complain about the mention that they don’t see progressive cultural changes positively. I certainly didn’t disparage any of these views in my article–I just said that Jay’s arguments work well in those circles.

      My comment about his credential-mailing video being theater–was that the insulting thing? Are you telling me his good conscience that couldn’t remain a clergyperson in the UMC wouldn’t have been relieved by just mailing the thing in and calling it a day? Surely you don’t expect me to believe that the harp music, the sad faces, and the defient act of proudly standing up to the institution wasn’t a performance for the purpose of evoking an emotional response? I didn’t mean it as an insult–I meant it as a pep talk to people who were angered by it. However, it absolutely was 100% theater. I even called it brilliant and complimented him on it, but you and I both know it was theater. If someone felt insulted by that, methinks you doth protest too much.

      I texted the article to Jay so to not write about him without him knowing, but I only shared it in online groups that want to stay in the UMC. I confess I didn’t anticipate that he would have someone write a response that invented a lot of stuff I didn’t write in order to tell his blog followers how insulted they should feel, and use it to stoke even more anger, but in hindsight I guess I should have. He is really good at this.

      As for your offer for dialogue, I appreciate it, and I might take you up on it. All I know right now is that the whole topic is toxic at Heritage, and every time it comes up we get distracted from what God’s calling us to do–making disciples of Jesus Christ to transform the world by helping alleviate the overburdened foster care system; partnering with nearby schools; keeping food pantries stocked to push back against food insecurity; protecting the environment by supporting marine conservation efforts; promoting school readiness; creating safe places for children and youth to gather together for fun, discipleship, and mission; supporting missionary partners around the world; raising up future clergy, staff, and lay leaders for the church; and supporting the conference’s connectional work at Wesley Foundations, UM colleges, Africa University, and things like that.

      Therefore, we’re leaving it alone for now. There are no same-sex couples who want to get married at Heritage. I’m the pastor and I’m straight. We offer worship with excellent music, we preach and teach the Bible, and have an all-star staff working on making Heritage the best it can be. Having another event about same-sex marriage and clergy in same-sex marriages is not a strategy that would be effective right now at Heritage to get that done.

      If it would help for me to visit Lake Magalene for a discussion sometime, I’d be glad to. We don’t know each other all that well, but I know that you’re a good pastor, and that you lead a church that does a lot of good for a lot of people. Lake Magdalene is surely one of the greatest gifts to the UMC of the EUB/MEC merger! It would be humbling to be a help in any way to you and/or your congregation.

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  2. Jeanine harris says:

    FCNPC I searched and searched for this to put some source of validity to your Blog but could not find any reference to it at all. He is speaking to us! I cannot believe the efforts of the UMC and you to make this a political issue. Grateful for my decision, that I made years ago after our congregation was so rudely treated at Conference, to join the WCA.

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  3. Cookie King says:

    Correction: It is actually the WesleyAN Covenant Association. https://wesleyancovenant.org/ and Jay is president of the Florida chapter. Keith Boyette is the president of Wesleyan Covenant Association. I have found Jay to be thorough, thoughtful, loving and honest in his presentation. There is no deception or mistruths in the information he presents. I look forward to joining The Global Methodist Church.

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    • Matt Horan says:

      Correction received with appreciation.

      I don’t know the ins and outs of the structure, so I said that Jay is “a president,” not “the president.”

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    • Matt Horan says:

      I also did not claim in my article that there is deception or mistruths shared by Jay.

      No doubt the new denomination will be a complete and constant joy-filled expression of the love of God poured out on humankind in Jesus Christ. I have no doubt that positive testimonies will abound for generations to come.

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  4. Matt Thanks for the dialogue. You mention the issue at hand being toxic and you focused on Jay. I remember a clergy meeting at your church right after the 2019 GC and the progressive clergy not wanting to eat lunch that your folks prepared for all because they would have had to fellowship with traditional clergy. Was that not toxic? You throw punches at Jay but I don’t think he threw any back at you. Who is toxic here? You mentioned that you were speaking to people who wanted to stay in the UM Church. Well for traditionalists the UM Church left them because the Bishops and Cabinet chose to no longer to honor UMC form of government by ignoring decisions of the GC. Matt my reason to my response to your article is that I think we can deal with difference of opinions a little better than the angry political debates of the world. Any time you want to travel to north Tampa for good discussion with grace I will buy lunch. Blessings, Brent Byerman

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    • Matt Horan says:

      Thanks Brent.

      I recall the lunch you mention, and I’m pretty sure that everybody just left because the business of the meeting was over and they could leave. I don’t recall anybody leaving in protest.

      Jay is the one doing the presentations, so that’s really all I had to go on. He’s the one who wrote the blog article detailing step by step instructions for laity to undermine a pastor like me who wants to stay.

      I honestly feel like none of you guys are really reading what I said. I never faulted Jay, I simply said that there’s a specific audience for his presentation, and it’s not those who want to stay.

      Holly invented things that weren’t in there. That response was either the result of serious confusion or intentional mischaracterization. I hope that people well commented read t
      My article too, but I kind of doubt it.

      After taking to Jay on multiple occasions about the topic of same-sex relationship’s and, it’s become clear to me that the two sides are not even talking about the same thing anymore.

      I believe that parting ways would best for everyone.

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  5. Final response to your last statement. (I believe that parting ways would be best for everyone)-Yes Yes Yes -that’s what we are trying to do so don’t make Jay and I the bad guys. Your position lost the GC vote and would lose again at the next GC without a split. This is less about same sex marriage now and more about a broken and rebellious form of leadership. Hopefully we can part as friends. Here is my question to you. Have you been fair in providing our perspective to your congregation or have you only given them your perspective? Are you afraid? My offer stands for me to come to you and your people and you to come me and my people. I guarantee that your people would not see toxicity but the love of Christ in me. Blessings Brent Byerman (PS I promise you that the clergy left before lunch that day at your church not for any reason other than not wanting to eat with folks like me)

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    • Matt Horan says:

      So sorry about the lunch, Brent. Really, this is the first I’d heard that people left to avoid the topic.

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    • Matt Horan says:

      My position has always been to hope that one day we would see the full inclusion of LGBTQ persons in the life and leadership of the church, but it has never been to disobey the rules on what weddings we could do.

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    • Matt Horan says:

      I would say that your perspective is the predominant one at Heritage. My perspective is that a slight majority of Heritage’s members would rather not have same-sex weddings or a gay pastor, so I’ve been telling them that therefore we shouldn’t. Gay couples have called the church and asked if I thought they’d be comfortable at Heritage, and I’ve told them that they probably wouldn’t.

      Sounds like the perfect target for the blog article Jay wrote before the one responding to me giving instructions on how to undermine the leadership of pastors who want to stay in the UMC, except for one main problem–we’ve been through a lot together the last three years, and we’re starting to like each other. I’ve been telling them I think the United Methodist Church’s contribution to the global conversation about who Jesus Christ was and the difference knowing Him makes is a voice that should not be lost. I’ve told them there’s more to being United Methodist then your stance on same-sex weddings, and side we don’t have any gay people at Heritage, and since there are no people asking to do a same sex wedding at Heritage, this really isn’t a big issue for us. I don’t see the value therefore in scheduling a debate and making it one.

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