Adam Hamilton Centrism Uniting Methodists Agenda Sexual Morality UMC

November 14, 2017

Not much Centrism in “Uniting Methodists’” Agenda on Sexual Morality

This article is part of a series of writings about the new “Uniting Methodists” caucus group within the UMC, led by Adam Hamilton, some high-profile leaders within general agency and liberal caucus circles, and others. Within these articles, I have put in bold sentences for which I would especially welcome feedback in the comments if I have missed something major. I have put *stars in front of the names of individuals on the “Uniting Methodists” leadership team.  Articles in this series will be released over the course of several days. The “Uniting Methodists” group is examined in light of the following:

 

How Do We Understand and Define “Centrism” within the UMC?

Sexual Morality

Covenant Breaking

Core Theology

The Church’s Social Witness

Abortion

The Arab-Israeli Conflict

African Inclusion

Marginalizing Traditionalists

Dividing the Church

 

 

The most prominent presenting controversial issue debated at United Methodist General Conferences is approval of homosexual practice.

Significant super-majorities have consistently upheld our rules banning our clergy from performing same-sex union ceremonies or being openly homosexually active themselves. At the last two General Conferences, opposition to change was so evidently strong that liberals gave up on even trying for votes on repealing these two policies. Given these strong General Conference majorities, someone truly in the “center” of gravity of this most representative body of United Methodists would support keeping our standards on marriage and ordination, or at most would be one of those people who for some reason votes for change on one of these but not the other.

But amidst all of its frustratingly vague rhetoric, the only really concrete proposal I see in the “Uniting Methodists” platform is to change the rules to explicitly make the UMC a denomination that officially allows homosexually active clergy and same-sex union services. So at its core, this group’s agenda is more or less what the older liberal caucuses have been seeking for years and so is nothing new under the sun.

As for the details, those are not nearly as new as some seem to think. Their proposal to leave it up to each annual conference to decide its ordination standards related to “LGBTQ persons” is essentially the same liberalizing policy that split the Episcopal Church.

This leaves unanswered such major questions as how bringing the divisive battles of General Conference to each annual conference would play out, and how much respect for conservative consciences is really shown given how this policy would allow official sanction for homosexually active bishops while requiring disapproving annual conferences to still pay into the common pot that would fund such bishops. This fits with a go-slow strategy of hoping that one annual conference after another can be flipped until there are homosexuality-affirming ordination policies throughout the denomination. Indeed, I have seen an extremely liberal blogger to which some “Uniting Methodists” like to link publicly state that while he wants to LGBTQ liberalism from every region and congregation, he is joining “Uniting Methodists” as a means of achieving that eventual end! And their proposal to remove prohibitions on clergy performing same-sex unions goes far beyond any “local option,” as there is no talk of giving annual conferences or congregations any authority to restrict any of its pastors from doing such things.

Furthermore, the UMC currently has no clear policy on transgendered clergy. So if this group really means the plain-sense meanings of their professed support “for disciplinary changes so that annual conferences are neither compelled to ordain LGBTQ persons, nor prohibited from doing so,” this would actually necessitate that they petition General Conference to explicitly allow annual conferences to adopt ordination policies excluding anyone who has undergone sex-change surgery. If this group actually does that, I will fall over.

All of this to say, on the most prominent controversy within our denomination, this so-called “Methodist middle” group is actually exclusively aligned with one minority faction. As one of its leadership team members admitted, “Clearly, I am not ‘in the middle’ or ‘on the fence’ with regard to this struggle which is threatening to split the United Methodist Church.” The same is evidently true for all of this group’s leaders, given the platform they all signed onto.

Interestingly, while *Adam Hamilton’s 2014 “A Way Forward” manifesto had at least paid lip-service to holding individuals pursuing homosexual relationships to the standard of monogamous fidelity in marriage and celibacy in singleness, I saw no clear stand against pre-marital sex in the Vision statement for his new “Uniting Methodists” group.

The reality is that numerous activists for the LGBTQ liberationist cause have also petitioned General Conference to end our disapproval of adultery and pre-marital sex. The Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA) openly defends pre-marital sex among clergy.

This new caucus’s odd silence on such matters fits with the broader pattern of how it seems to be operating with the slogan once associated with certain phases of the French and Bolshevik Revolutions: “No enemies to the left.”

Indeed, if every leadership team member had a court-ordered, legally binding requirement to aim all of their firepower against the conservative side of debates and bend over backwards to try to avoid alienating potential allies among the older liberal caucuses, I am not sure how much they would need to alter what they are doing already.

Now to be fair, both *Hamilton and *Mike Slaughter have, when pressed by me, said that they personally disapprove of adultery and pre-marital sex. And I believe them. However, given the above, along with *Slaughter strong, on-record opposition to accountability for clergy unrepentantly involved in adultery or pre-marital sex, it seems that this is not a consensus position among the “Uniting Methodists” leaders and/or that this is a value that they are perfectly willing to sacrifice for the sake of advance their higher priority of liberalism related to homosexuality.


8 Responses to Not much Centrism in “Uniting Methodists’” Agenda on Sexual Morality

  1. William says:

    If the 2019 General Conference approves some sort of structure that affirms the practice of homosexuality and same-sex marriage, it will then be compelled to take up legislation affirming the practice of heterosexual adultery, premarital heterosexual sexual relations, and various other forms of sexual immorality. How many United Methodists have considered this, or are prepared to go down such a road? We all certainly need to be presented this scenario to contemplate.

  2. Emory Goertz says:

    Now I can see how Hillary claims to be a Methodist

  3. William says:

    No matter what convoluted rhetoric Hamilton, Slaughter, et al espouse, delegates to the 2019 General Conference must know that in order to liberalize the position of the church on homosexual practices, they will also be faced with how to do that without liberalizing the position of the church on heterosexual adultery, heterosexual premarital sexual relations, and other sexual immorality practices.

    For example, how would a fair complaint procedure be set up so that a practicing homosexual could adjudicate a case against a practicing heterosexual adulterer?

  4. Jim says:

    Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. (Revelation 2:5, ESV)

    The lamp stand has been removed from the UMC – the leaders do not repent choosing to defend sin instead. If you hold to scripture and the Holy Spirit has nudged you- leave this denomination and find a body that honors His Word.

  5. Lance says:

    Adam’s answer: Sanctify sin for the sake of unity. What could go wrong?

  6. John Smith says:

    What does this matter: “Significant super-majorities have consistently upheld our rules banning our clergy from performing same-sex union ceremonies or being openly homosexually active themselves”
    if it is not enforced? Bishops flout the BOD, protect like-minded Elders and members sometimes go to the UMC congregation that reflects personal belief but many more just leave, some for other churches, far too many simply fade into the general society, lost to the church.

  7. Kathe says:

    I am just starting to read this article, but I have already read several pieces in the last hour that use the phrase “openly homosexual” or “openly homosexually active.” What is the point of the modifier “openly”? Is hidden sin acceptable? No! I might have a different perspective on this because of my life experiences and my testimony. I deliberately choose to obey God in my sexual practice and claim my identity in Christ. When I share my testimony, am I being openly queer?

    • Kathe says:

      I just want to be absolutely clear: I hold an orthodox Biblical view of human sexuality, and I live accordingly. I examine all my own attractions and thoughts on LGBTQ issues through this lens. This is part of “taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” This is my testimony.

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