UM Voices

by Bill Bouknight


Guest Writer

December 8, 2015

Their Silence is Deafening

The United Methodist Council of Bishops concluded its fall meeting at Lake Junaluska, NC, on November 5. In a most unusual development, the 13 African bishops (plus one retired) issued a public statement. They called the UMC to stand in solidarity with people who suffer from unjust political systems, wars, famine, and poverty. The African bishops registered alarm at the rise of terrorist organizations such as ISIS, Boko Haram, and Al Shabab.

The African bishops also deplored the tendency of many in the UMC to give “a warm embrace to practices that have become sources of conflict that now threaten to rip the Church apart…One of such practices is the LGBT (agenda).” The bishops added: “We are deeply saddened that the Holy Bible, our primary authority for faith and the practice of Christian living, and our Book of Discipline are being grossly ignored by some members and leaders of our Church…” They also noted that church teachings “only affirm sexual relations in monogamous, heterosexual marriage, and not in same-sex unions or polygamy.”

This public declaration required great moral courage by the African leaders because they depend on United Methodist boards and agencies for much of their funding. They are certainly aware that some bishops and other United Methodist leaders in the U.S. disagree with their public statement.

It has been over a month now since the African bishops issued their public statement. To my knowledge, not a single U.S. bishop has gone on the record publicly in support of it. It has been suggested that United Methodists in the U.S. should write to their bishops urging them to support the Africans. That’s not a bad idea, but it should not be necessary. Real leaders don’t have to be persuaded or encouraged to lead. They do it because it is their God-given responsibility. In the absence of a public statement, it is reasonable to conclude that most U.S. bishops either disagree with the Africans or are afraid to take a stand.

The silence of evangelical bishops in the U.S. is deafening.

These words come to mind from the hymn “Once to Every Man and Nation” by James Russell Lowell:

“Then to side with truth is noble, when we share her wretched crust,
Ere her cause bring fame and profit and ‘tis prosperous to be just;
Then it is the brave man chooses, while the coward stands aside,
Till the multitude make virtue of the faith they had denied.”


10 Responses to Their Silence is Deafening

  1. Gregg says:

    Like the Fort Worth Episcopalians, the African UMC will sooner or later simply leave the denomination and form their own church.

    • Macy Rivera says:

      I pray not. Possibly, we should not rewrite the Bible to be able to condone such behavior which “doesn’t hurt anyone.” The issue is not should we permit this behavior in our congregations, but rather on our pulpits. Our congregants come to church for spiritual guidance. Our Pastors are expected to give such guidance, AND LEAD BY EXAMPLE! Pastors can be fired for immoral conduct. I have seen it happen due to both infidelity and alcoholism. So think about this…… 1. None of us are without sin. 2. The Bible is very clear about which sexual behaviors are immoral and wrong — homosexuality, polygamy, infidelity, etc. 3. SO, if we know homosexuality is wrong, how can we permit this on our altar?

      We fire our pastors for infidelity. We fire our pastors for having sexual relationships outside of wedlock. How can we rewrite the Bible to permit this sin of homosexuality?

      People will claim that they were born homosexuals, and it is the way God intended for them to live their lives. Alcoholics can tell you the same about their genetic condition as well. It is simply a matter of self control! Let’s not be overly arrogant and decide we need to rewrite the Bible to suit our current desires, just to make our religion “easy to follow” and more appealing to the masses.

      Possibly religion is a matter of QUALITY and not quantity. Stand by your beliefs, and attend the Florida Conference when it is held. <

    • Macy Rivera says:

      I pray not. These are the UMCs who are upholding the BOD rules, and standing firm on them. Too bad the USA can’t do the same. There are other sins that society will tolerate, which the Bible does not. I strongly believe that the avid church attenders who keep each church running will seek new worship and religions if they make the changes being proposed at General Conference 2016. However, it is about time to take a vote on this matter and remove any Church employees who decide not to support the Church in their final decision. <

  2. John S. says:

    The silence is cutting both sides. Neither those who oppose nor those who support (there must be a few NA UMC Bishops that cling to the Bible and BOD, surely?) seem to have the courage of their convictions. Those who oppose them seem afraid of either engaging or being labeled racist, imperialist or whatever the latest insult is by denouncing the African declaration.

    • Ben Adams says:

      I find it humorous in putting so much stock in what a Bishop or D.S. or even a local Pastor might say on the issue of homosexuality. I believe Jesus referred to the leaders of the synagogue as “the blind leading the blind”. I stand on God;s Word alone which condemns homosexuality at EVERY turn. There is NO place in Holy Scripture that has ONE good thing to say about it. Richard Bell can re-write the Bible to fit his own immoral lifestyle all he wants, but unless God intervenes in his life (see Saul on Damascus Road) then he will be judged according to His sin. God is loving and merciful, but also JUST. I pray for your soul Richard as I do for anyone who currently lives in the darkness of his own selfish desires.

  3. Skipper says:

    I am so proud of our African bishops – they are God’s people. I am disappointed in our American bishops who “grossly ignore” morality. I am so sorry for them since they know what they are doing and who it is that they really serve in darkness.
    “Genuine righteousness leads to life, but pursuing evil leads to death.” Proverbs 11:19 “The light of the righteous shines brightly, but the lamp of the wicked is extinguished.” Proverbs 13:9
    We all “welcome” sin in our lives occasionally, but to do it regularly and openly is an affront to Christ. And we must choose who we serve. Jesus reminds us that we cannot serve two masters.

  4. Small Church USA says:

    Indeed, most troubling times — it is an echo of what I encounter in the ELCA since it’s tragic decision in 2009 that continues to wreak havoc on churches. I recall one Bible study when a visiting African ELCA bishop expressed similar concerns as the the UMC bishops did here. You could have heard a pin drop when he finished his remarks — indeed the silence was deafening! I no longer attend that ELCA pastors’ Bible study — just tired of the continual harassment…. and I’v

  5. Richard S. Bell says:

    Our African brothers are mistaken. The Bible clearly reveals God’s will that the Church marry homosexuals and heterosexuals on just the same terms. These Africans and other traditionalists cannot defend their interpretations of relevant Scripture; all are based on false assumptions or confusions.
    Alas, almost all revisionists have offered a lot of sophistries in favor of their position on same-sex marriage, and many have rejected Christian sexual morality. I have not. Christian morality of commitment governs heterosexual and homosexual conduct alike. The Bible tells us so, and I will show you with traditional hermeneutics and methods of interpretation. Satisfy yourself by asking me to send you a digital copy of my essay. Write rsbell@ameritech.net.

    • mamaditto says:

      If Adam & Eve had not sinned would homosexuality have even developed?
      Is there one example in Scripture of a same-sex love affair which is sanctioned by the Biblical writers?

    • Quartermaster says:

      Your essay is just a repeat of the anti-biblical nonsense of those that would call what God called an abomination, good. The only revisionist here is you.

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