United Methodist Council of Bishops Condemns Trump Without Facts

President Donald Trump speaks at the Conversations with the Women of America event in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018.

By Donald McLaughlin Published on January 18, 2018

This past Friday, the United Methodist Council of Bishops (CoB) issued a statement condemning President Donald Trump for his alleged “s***hole” remarks. Many in the United Methodist Church applauded the CoB’s courage for speaking “truth to power.” Others, like myself, were appalled that the CoB would put forth such a statement based solely on allegations, with no attempt to determine the truth.

The CoB speaks for an entire denomination. In so doing, they are showing by example how Christians should respond to events in the world. How is it remotely setting a biblical example, though, to condemn the president without first being sure of the truth?

The statement itself seems to reveal some doubts. It begins,

We are appalled by the offensive, disgusting words attributed to President Donald Trump who is said to have referred to immigrants from African countries and Haiti, and the countries themselves, in an insulting and derogative manner. According to various media accounts, President Trump made the remarks during a White House discussion with lawmakers on immigration.

Nevertheless, the bishops forged full steam ahead, condemning Trump for an offense he may not have committed.

Note the language used here. Phrases such as “attributed to Trump” and “according to media accounts” do not inspire confidence that the CoB knows the charges are even true. Further, it seems the CoB relied solely on hearsay. Nevertheless, the bishops forged full steam ahead, condemning Trump for an offense he may not have committed.

Alleged Remarks and Unproven Charges

Later in the statement the bishops called on all Christians to condemn Trump’s statement as well. “We call upon all Christians, especially United Methodists, to condemn this characterization and further call for President Trump to apologize.” The lesson the CoB teaches here is that it’s okay to condemn without knowing the truth.

Would the bishops seriously demand the President apologize, based only on unproven charges? How any of this is in keeping with Scriptural teaching is hard to see.

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Deuteronomy 19:15 tells us, “One witness is not enough to convict a man accused of any crime or offense he may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.” At the time the bishops were crafting their statement, there was, in fact, only one witness. On Friday morning, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin went public saying the President had indeed said these “hateful things and said them repeatedly.” The problem is, Sen Durbin has outright lied about such things in the past. This makes him less than worthy of our trust as a witness.

Two other Senators, both present at the time of the alleged remarks, have publicly declared that they never heard Trump say any such thing. In short, there’s enough doubt here to give anyone pause. A church leadership body should be especially careful because of the influence they hold.

Applying Biblical Standards

In Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus said,

If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

It seems the CoB jumped over the first steps and went right to the last one.

Church leadership bodies have a special duty to the truth. As such they should bear faithful witness as to how Christians may apply biblical standards in all cases. The UMC CoB’s failure to do that this time was a golden opportunity missed. All church leadership bodies should take note and use extreme caution. Not to do so will damage the Church’s witness to the world.

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