July 23, 2014

Young United Methodists Reject Gay Marriage

The once-every-four-years global assembly of United Methodist youths, young adults, and adults in ministry with young people was held July 16-20 in the Philippines.

Among other things, the Global Young People’s Convocation and Legislative Assembly (GYPCLA) spent several hours debating and voting on ten proposed petitions to General Conference.

Three of these very clearly and directly addressed the question of church approval of homosexual practice. One would have changed the official United Methodist definition of marriage from being a covenant between one man and one woman to such a covenant between “two persons.” Another would have deleted our binding denominational prohibition on services to pronounce God’s blessing upon homosexual unions. And another would have deleted the declaration in the UMC Social Principles that homosexual practice is inherently “incompatible with Christian teaching.”

All three of these were considered, debated, and rejected by votes of this one multicultural, multilingual group of slightly over 100 United Methodists, despite significant, vocal support for each.

What fared especially poorly was a proposed amendment to the first petition I mentioned, which would have explicitly endorsed “civil unions.” From where I sat watching the standing vote, it looked like civil unions had less than a dozen supporters out of slightly over 100 voting delegates.

This reverses the trend of the first two GYPCLAs, which both adopted homosexual-practice-affirming petitions. The first GYPCLA was held in South Africa in 2006 and the second was in Germany in 2010. The quadrennial event is organized by the Division on Ministries with Young People of the UMC’S General Board of Discipleship.

These recent votes also rebut the rather unnuanced claims some (generally older) people frequently make about how the church “has to” divorce itself from biblical and historic Christian teachings in order to pander to what “young adults” or “our young people” believe.

Of course, the proper response to such claims must not stoop to equally unnuanced, mirror-image rhetoric suggesting that all “young people” are a biblically orthodox monolith.

The fact is that no one person, group, or view represents everyone in my generation of Americans, let alone around the world. This holds true whether we are speaking about only young people within our denomination, those in all Christian churches, or those who have not yet experienced the radical, supernatural transformation of one’s values, direction, and very self that comes with Christian conversion. (The usual failure of people making let’s-change-the-church’s-sexual-values-to-pander-to-young-people arguments to make such distinctions is rather revealing.)

In any case, the vote totals from GYPCLA 2014 reveal that redefining marriage was ultimately rejected by quite the multicultural coalition of young United Methodists from Africa, America, Eurasia, and the Philippines.

I hope United Methodist denominational officials will remember this the next time they discuss reaching young people alongside questions related to biblical standards for sexual self-control.

Other highlights of the conference included other petitions, interactions with UMC general agency staff, workshops, worship, missionary commissioning, struggles with the increasingly global nature of our denomination, and a major typhoon.

Stay tuned for a fuller report after I have settled back in the United States.

21 Responses to Young United Methodists Reject Gay Marriage

  1. Nick Porter says:

    Praise the Lord!

  2. brookspj says:

    You forgot to mention the fact that the conference also passed a resolution calling for unity and dialogue around questions of human sexuality and adamantly rejecting all calls for schism. Must have slipped your mind? Here’s a quote:

    “The Church that we have taken our places in is called to a ministry that
    includes so much more than this one issue. There are genuine, passionate
    perspectives on all sides of the issue and though we disagree, we have
    committed ourselves to loving, faithful discussion on this subject. Part of the
    beauty of our Church is that there has always been room at the table for a wide
    range of theological diversity within our connectional church family. As Wesley
    said, ‘May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion?’”

    • johnschuh says:

      Wesley was talking about the clash between Calvinists and Arminians, or about the charism of lay preachers. Homosexual activists are closer in opinion to John Wilkes, as far as behavior is concerned, than to John Wesley.

  3. James Lambert says:

    To “brookspj” – Your sarcasm would indicate you are reading something inappropriately partisan into Mr. Lomperis “forgetting” to mention the call for unity which you quote. I could be wrong, but there seems to be an assumption behind your words that all conservatives want to split the church, or something along those lines. Perhaps you missed the article where the well-beloved Mark Tooley, current head of the IRD, made a strong argument *against* schism. Now, his reasoning was different than the resolution at GYPCLA, but nonetheless the overall stand against against schism is something which the GYPC and IRD/UMA currently share. So, not commenting on it doesn’t really say anything other than that’s not what this article was about. Some conservatives are ready for schism; others are not. Kind of like the liberals two years ago. There tend to be moments of panic on both sides followed by returning to work within the system we have.

    • brookspj says:

      I simply thought it was a peculiar oversight since the said resolution also talked specifically about marriage and homosexuality. I can’t imagine he was unaware of this resolution. Also because Mr. Lomperis stressed the need to consider these resolution when

      “they discuss reaching young people alongside questions related to biblical standards for sexual self-control.”
      I hope as more old men in the church come forward with proposals to split the denomination they will also consider the fact that the young people have shown their opposition to any schism within the church.

    • brookspj says:

      I don’t remember liberals advocating schism two years ago.

    • brookspj says:

      Also the name on the article is John Lomperis, not Mark Tooley, unless you’re assuming the author can’t speak for himself.

    • johnschuh says:

      Methodism historically was a movement, and Wesley more like Francis of Assisi than Martin Luther. The holiness movements were something like the “spiritual” Franciscans, with an emphasis on one aspect .A split in the UMC over homosexuality would be most like the split over slavery, in both cases because each concerned very different ways of looking at what human beings are.

  4. JJT says:

    What was the geographic breakdown of the “100 or so UM’s?” It’s not surprising that Christians in developing nations would have radically different views concerning homosexuality.

    • johnschuh says:

      Since those nations have not be as exposed to the doctrine progressivism that under girds the Sexual revolution. The very word “developing” is condescending since it implies they will become what the west is today. But the romanized Germans who conquered the Empire did not become Romans but became Europeans.

      • JJT says:

        I’m sorry you read “developing” as condescending. It’s a word I’ve frequently read in missiological texts, so I used it above. (In my opinion, it is far less condescending than “3rd World”) Your conclusion that it is somehow determinative and must mean “they will become us,” is your own conjecture and not my intent.

        Your comments about the roots of American Christianity’s shifting view (or not shifting view) concerning homosexuality aside, the fact still remains that the sample of young UM’s mentioned should be explored before one can extrapolate any conclusions.

        • johnschuh says:

          The presumptioin of all progressives is that they represent the wave of the future, that the developing countries OUGHT to adopt the “enlightened” views of the progressive.

          • JJT says:

            John, you’ve developed a nice combination of both a Red Herring and a Straw Man, there.

            First, your comment has nothing to do with my point, just that you didn’t like my word-choice.

            Second, no one is arguing about your take on “progressives.”

            If you have something to say about my thoughts on sample sizes in statistics, then I’m all ears.

          • johnschuh says:

            If you mean that the sample size hardly tells us anything, I agree. It’s like trying to gauge public opinion based on a vote in the US Senate.

    • It was secret ballot, so I cannot tell you exactly how many from where voted in a certain way. But if you follow the link at the bottom of this article to my comprehensive overview you can get some info on the votes, and here I have the breakdown of how many voting delegates came from each region: http://juicyecumenism.com/2014/08/08/a-microcosm-of-the-umcs-struggles-with-global-inclusion-representation/
      It is likely that all nine German delegates voted for the pro-homosexuality petitions. But even in the unlikely event that EVERY single delegate from Africa, the Philippines, Eurasia, and Central/Southern Europe voted against them then there would have still been a chunk of Americans also voting against them.

      • JJT says:

        No offense, but there’s quite a bit of conjecture in your comment above and the link you cite. The meager evidence and sample size belies the headline of your article, “Young Methodists Reject Gay Marriage.”

        • I obviously do not know how any specific individual voted, unless they personally tell me. But since we do know the vote totals on the measures, and how many voting delegates came from each region. So it is a fact of basic, objective math that even if EVERY central-conference delegate, including those from the German Central Conference (which tends to be pretty liberal on these issues) and Central/Southern Europe (which is theologically mixed) – not to mention how the Philippines and Africa are not as monolithic as some seem to think – voted against the three petitions mentioned in question, the numbers do not add up to the actual numbers that rejected the petitions. Those additional votes could have only come from America.

  5. Abigail Parker Herrera says:

    John, I know we don’t always agree but I am grateful for your statement here that young people do not all think the same way. I’m so tired of the many people on many sides of a debate saying “young people want this” or “young people believe that”. There is very little evidence to support such claims, especially in a global body. Thanks for saying that many times in this article.

    • Thanks for your gracious response, Abby. In briefly reporting (with my limited overseas technology access) what I thought was most newsworthy about the conference, I was obviously reacting to the rather sweeping, unnuanced rhetoric I hear from UMC officials old enough to be your or my parents about what “the young people” all believe, and so I thought it was important to highlight some contrary evidence. But of course, as I noted, the discussion would not be elevated by my issuing equally monolithizing rhetoric in the opposite direction. Hope you and your husband made it back safely!

  6. bonniewheeler says:

    i suppose some churches of all denominations have decided to follow the instructions of the Bible The truth must be preached. For what good is a minister if he’s not bringing the truth to the people? It’s his job , not to appease, but to bring the truth. What does the Bible say about those who “tickle the ear”?

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