Recently United Methodist Bishop Minerva Carcano of Phoenix chastised the just concluded governing General Conference of her church for failing to overturn United Methodism’s biblical teachings about marriage and sexual ethics.
“Our homophobia was blatant as we heard delegates compare homosexuality to bestiality, and voice other dehumanizing expressions against our LGBT brothers and sisters,” she complained in a column (http://www.unitedmethodistreporter.com/2012/05/bishop-carcano-on-the-good-and-bad-of-gc2012/). She targeted the African delegates specifically.
“Delegates from Africa once again proclaimed that their anti-homosexual stand was what U.S. missionaries taught them. I sat there wondering when our African delegates will grow up. It has been 200 years since U.S. Methodist missionaries began their work of evangelization on the continent of Africa; long enough for African Methodists to do their own thinking about this concern and others. Our conservative U.S. United Methodists continue to depend on the conservative vote of African and Filipino delegates to maintain our exclusionary position on homosexuality, a position I believe would be changed for the inclusion of our LGBT sisters and brothers if a U.S. vote for a U.S. context were taken. The manner in which we deal with the concern of homosexuality affects all of ministry in the U.S., and we are the poorer for it. It is time for us to let go of our wrong position and be the church of Christ Jesus, a church that excludes no one.”
As to the “bestiality” allusion, Carcano was echoing the New York Times report (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/04/us/methodists-wont-change-outlook-on-homosexuality.html?_r=1) on General Conference, which said:
“Several Americans begged delegates to ‘hear the pain’ of gay church members. Moments later, a delegate from Africa said in Swahili that saying that a homosexual person was created by God was like saying “that God created me to live with animals.”
The New York Times then quoted a gay advocacy caucus spokesman:
“The Rev. Troy Plummer, executive director of the Reconciling Ministries Network, which advocates full inclusion of gay people, said in an interview: ‘I’m tired of being compared to beasts in our church. Even if our world understandings differ, it’s just horrendous. That our perspectives differ is the truth, and we just voted 61 to 39 percent that we can’t tell that truth.’”
The ostensible beastiality quote that Carcano and Plummer cited is based on a Congolese delegate who said: “I rise to stand against this reasoning for the following reasons. First, the theme of our general conference is to make disciples for the transformation of the world. If we accept homosexuality, it means that the world transforms the church on homosexuality. You say a homosexual person is created by God the way he is or she is. I stand to say that that is not true. If we say that this is the way that God created them I refuse to accept that when they say ‘I am homosexual, I was created like this.’ Because God is a loving God, He cannot create a person with something that makes him or her suffer. If another person would come to the church and say, ‘God created me to live with animals,’ if we say ‘No’ it doesn’t mean we don’t love that person. I stand to say to say that the grace of God is for all people, but the grace of God does not allow us to sin. I ask to not accept this petition.”
The African delegate was not comparing homosexuality to beastiality, as Bishop Carcano claimed. Nor was he comparing homosexuals to “beasts,” as the caucus group spokesman claimed. Instead, the Congolese was saying the church’s mission is to “make disciples for the transformation of the world.” He noted that affirming homosexual behavior would be to allow the world to transform the church.
Allowing the world to transform the church has been the seeming mission for liberal bishops in America for many decades. The result is 3.5 million lost members in America. Carcano’s own Desert Southwest Conference is now down to under 39,000, having lost nearly 17 percent in the last 10 years alone. Meanwhile, there are over 2.2 million United Methodists under the 3 bishops in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The African churches are growing because they believe in transformation through the Gospel. Their success sadly earns them condemnation from some liberal, declining areas in the U.S. that are making their churches irrelevant by endlessly seeking accommodation with American secular culture.