In July 1991, I took a vow.
I stood before God at the altar of the local church in Johnstown, PA which had first nurtured my faith and I vowed to God and to a breathtakingly beautiful young woman that I would live with her in holy marriage. I took a vow that I would love her, comfort her, honor and keep her, in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others be faithful to her as long as we both shall live.
The striking lady who miraculously became my wife that day and the presiding pastor both graciously affirmed my vow and permitted me to enter into a new covenant.
At various points in the 1990s & 2000s, I took a vow.
I stood before God, my wife, and gathered disciples of Jesus Christ at the altars of three different United Methodist churches and I vowed to nurture the children with which God has blessed me in Christ's holy Church, raise them in the Christian faith, teach them the Holy Scriptures and give reverent attendance upon the private and public worship of God, that they might be guided to accept God's saving grace for themselves, to profess their faith openly and to lead Christian lives.
My wife and the various presiding pastors all graciously affirmed my vow and permitted me to enter into a new covenant
In June 2003, I took a vow.
I stood before God and the clergy of the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church and I vowed that I would preach, support and maintain the doctrines, teachings and polity of The United Methodist Church.
The presiding Bishop, Hae Jong Kim, and the gathered clergy members of the Conference all graciously affirmed my vow and permitted me to enter into a new covenant.
A few days later, I took a vow.
I stood before God, my wife and children and extended family, clergy colleagues, and members of various United Methodist congregations as Bishop Kim charged me "to serve rather than to be served, to proclaim the faith of the Church and no other, to look after the concerns of God above all." I confessed, among other things, that "the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments contain all things necessary for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ and are the unique and authoritative standard for the church’s faith and life."
I vowed "to lead the people of God to faith in Jesus Christ, to participate in the life and work of the community, and to seek peace, justice, and freedom for all people," - not as I define those terms, but as the Church defines those terms. I went on to vow "to be loyal to The United Methodist Church, accepting its order, liturgy, doctrine, and discipline, defending it against all doctrines contrary to God’s Holy Word," and committed to be accountable with those serving with me, and to the bishop and those appointed to supervise our ministry.
Bishop Kim along with the gathered clergy and laity members of the Conference all graciously affirmed my vow and permitted me to enter into a new covenant.
A vow is, "a solemn promise, pledge, or personal commitment made to a deity, person or group of people committing oneself to an act, service, or condition." It is a reflection of a person's character. One's keeping of vows demonstrates how trustworthy one is.
If I deliberately, unrepentantly break one of the sacred vows I have willingly made, all of my vows may be called into question, as my word would become utterly worthless. My wife and children would have every right to distrust me and to be filled with shame that I am their husband and father. I would be completely without honor as a man and as a human being.
There is no reason to believe that if one breaks their marriage vows, they will be faithful to their ordination vows.
There is no reason to believe that if one breaks their ordination vows, they will be faithful to their wedding vows.
There is a crisis of vow-keeping in the world today as persons freely break vows which they made before God at their wedding.
There is a crisis of vow-keeping in the United States today as persons freely break vows which they made before God at the baptism of their children.
There is a crisis of vow-keeping in The United Methodist Church today as clergy at every level of ecclesial life freely break vows which they made before God at their ordination and/or consecration.
This is the case whether one is teaching that homosexual behavior is acceptable (in clear violation of Church teaching), presiding at a wedding between two persons of the same gender (in clear violation of Church teaching), denying the efficacy of infant baptism (in clear violation of Church teaching) or rebaptizing a person who is already baptized (in clear violation of Church teaching).
The paramount issue is not whether homosexual behavior, gay marriage, infant baptism or rebaptism are theologically acceptable; the issue is whether one will be true to the vows they have made before God, even when they may struggle with those vows. This isn't just a question of inadequate or at times even non-Christian theology; this is a question of a person's character.
May God grant me grace to keep the vows I have made, that my wife and children might know I am a man of my word, and that Jesus will be proud of me. May God grant me grace to stand strong in the vows I have made, to hold accountable in love those who struggle with their own vows, and to maintain a heart of mercy and reconciliation when working with sisters and brothers who have broken their vows.