UM Voices: Do No Harm?

Sara Anderson on August 16, 2018

I won’t say I’ve heard everything until my time comes to shuffle off this mortal coil, but recent events have produced some whoppers from United Methodists promoting the pro-LGBT agenda. At a recent claiming-to-be-inclusive-but-rejecting-traditionalists’-views Uniting Methodists’ conference in Dallas, a speaker said the Bible was wrong on matters of sexual behavior. Today I read that a UM bishop titled a blog “Splitting the Church is Just ‘Tacky’.”

Now that’s an interesting description of the theological crisis in our church. I’ve always thought wearing brown shoes with a black dress was “tacky.” But calling a heart-wrenching crisis in your denomination “tacky” sounds superficial.

As local churches discuss the three plans to be presented at the called 2019 General Conference, those who support the Bible’s teaching on sexual behavior express anxiety as to how these plans, if enacted, would affect their local congregations.

One long-time friend of mine was a member of a large Episcopal Church that voted to leave the denomination when the EC church decided to embrace the LBGT agenda a number of years ago. When asked about it, he replies, “No one who has gone through a civil war wants to do it again.” Despite being a positive voice for the orthodox faith, the congregation lost members because, as my friend stated, “People don’t want to be part of a church that appears to be against something.” He pointed to continuing lawsuits brought against conservative congregations by the denomination.

Another friend, who had been active at the national level in the Episcopal Church, stayed with her small-town congregation, even though her husband and father chose to attend other churches while supporting her activity in the ECUSA. She told me that she witnessed not only the division of local congregations, but also the rending of families and long-time friendships.

Yet, both of these people support the biblical stance on sexual behavior and believe that UM traditionalists are doing the right thing to try to hold back against the normalizing of homosexual practice.

This June my pastor, pastor emeritus and I submitted a resolution to the South Georgia Annual Conference Resolutions Committee supporting the Traditional plan, in which the church would maintain the current language in the Book of Discipline on same-sex marriage and ordination.  It was accepted by the committee and presented for adoption to the clergy and lay delegates during annual conference.

After a delayed vote and procedural stalling by opponents of the resolution, a vote was taken. The resolution passed, with an amendment from the floor to impose penalties on clergy who refuse to obey the Book of Discipline, by a vote of 431 to 179. Advocates of change to the BOD were unhappy, but the general attitude was support for maintaining a biblical stand on human sexuality.

One argument often used by LGBT advocates is one of John Wesley’s standard principles: “First, do no harm.” They point to the distress of those who do not feel accepted by the church because of the language in the Book of Discipline. An UM lobbyist for the Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) told the first Uniting Methodists’ conference last fall that she wanted her lifestyle not just to be tolerated, but to be celebrated.

I suspect that if the founder of Methodism were in his grave, his spinning would create enough energy to power in lights and air conditioning of all the annual conference gatherings.

In recent months the angst of United Methodist pastors and lay people seems to have accelerated daily, if comments on Twitter and Facebook are any indication. Members of the Council of Bishops seem to have done nothing but stoke the curiosity and concern of nearly everyone by their  inability to speak with candor, clarity and honesty. This is especially true when they try to press changes without counting the cost to local congregations, pastors and Global South Methodists.

Do those who blithely repeat “Do no harm” realize the harm that has been done to pastors and lay people who have been faithful and have watched as UMC leaders have kicked aside the divinity of Christ and His resurrection and punted on the authority of the Scriptures and the faith handed down to the saints? We watch the faithful being called hateful and old fashioned. We see former evangelical leaders conform to the culture instead of preaching transformation through the power of the Holy Spirit.

As believers, we are called to a life of holiness. We are called to take up our crosses and follow our Lord and Savior. We are all broken people in need of healing and redemption. We are called to bind up the wounds of the broken hearted and to repent of our sins. As our Communion liturgy states, we are to be freed for “joyful obedience.”

  1. Comment by William on August 16, 2018 at 11:31 am

    It becomes clearer and clearer daily — those advocating liberalizing the sexual ethics and the redefining of Christian marriage in our denomination do not believe the Bible and are not Christians. The “do no harm” of Wesley and the Greatest Commandment of Jesus are completely misused and misapplied by those advocating these changes. How do I “do no harm” by celebrating and enabling my neighbor’s sinful lifestyle in the eyes of God? How do I first — show my love for God by walking in His ways, and second —merge that with loving my neighbor as myself by celebrating and enabling his specifically Biblical defined sinful lifestyle that’s clearly in violation God’s ways and law?

    My love of neighbor must be to help him, not harm him by failing to inform him of repentance and salvation, by showing him the saving grace of Jesus Christ without condemnation or judgement but with love.

    Now, if this is rejected by neighbor, I believe that Jesus said to move on.

  2. Comment by Bruce on August 21, 2018 at 1:33 pm

    Well said! My thoughts exactly.

  3. Comment by Penny on August 23, 2018 at 3:28 pm

    Thank you. You are right, William.

  4. Comment by Bradley Pope on August 16, 2018 at 2:38 pm

    Well written article that speaks for many outside the SGa conference also. I don’t understand why the far left/UMC leadership does not want to split. I would think with a fundamental disagreement w/traditionalists on the authority of scripture both sides would prefer a split since unity in the authority of Scripture is clearly never going to happen. Unlike some I don’t question the sincerity of either side but the difference is irreparable and with the subject of the difference being the Bible itself it’s beyond a foundational difference. It’s not theological interpretation it is a difference in view on whether or not the Bible we have is the Bible God intended us to have.

  5. Comment by Joan on August 20, 2018 at 8:30 pm

    Far left can’t afford to split.

  6. Comment by Pudentiana on August 16, 2018 at 4:29 pm

    Sara Anderson has spoken for millions of laity who have watched clergy at the highest levels show disrespect for our deeply held beliefs and love of the Scriptures. Indeed, “do no harm” should be applied to those who would deny the teachings of Christ in exchange for the human longings of those who have not yet learned to bow before Him.

  7. Comment by Josh Cantrell on August 16, 2018 at 4:35 pm

    I read the article by a “bishop” about dividing the church being “tacky” (or rather I skimmed it). I don’t even know what to say. Not dividing because it’s “just plain tacky.” Good Lord

  8. Comment by Dan W on August 16, 2018 at 9:08 pm

    Sara your article reminded me of Romans 14: 13-23 where Saint Paul urges us to not condemn each other, and not cause other believers to stumble and fall. Do Methodist pastors ever preach on this in 2018? Maybe before we tried to find “a way forward” we should have spent some time figuring out where the heck we were. (My super power is 20/20 hindsight.)

    BTW, I picked up some boiled peanuts in Peach County on my way back to Cobb County last week. They were so good!

  9. Comment by John Smith on August 21, 2018 at 6:42 am

    And it reminded me of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians where he condemned the church for tolerating and celebrating sin within it.

  10. Comment by Skipper on August 16, 2018 at 11:07 pm

    “Do no harm” is disregarded by some UMC ministers and at least one bishop living immorally, those refusing to recognize the sanctity of marriage, and worst of all those encouraging people into sexual confusion that God loves so dearly! Hopefully the United Methodist Church has hit bottom and all of this foolishness and ungodliness will be at the end in February. The Council of Bishops itself will try to block voting on accountability again.

    Wesley had a way of making people aware that disregarding God’s Word will certainly bring a sadness one day and a realization that a total breakdown of one’s relationship with God has occurred due to sin. The UMC has failing ministers, members and bishops in need of a Savior. Thanks for the article.

  11. Comment by brandon on August 17, 2018 at 7:27 pm

    As a methodist who believes in christ jesus and his word, i am ok with walking away and finding a bible believing church. No sense in tithing to a lukewarm church, let them be hot or cold.

  12. Comment by William on August 18, 2018 at 9:27 am

    I can’t imagine how to do MORE HARM than to kick this fight down to the local church level. That’s what this one (two) church plan is ultimately all about. Our “visionary” bishop Carter, president of the Council of Bishops, has actually gone on record stating that this would be a good thing!!!

  13. Comment by Sue Neff on August 23, 2018 at 7:49 am

    Well said, Sara Anderson. Sad for me if the UMC allows this to happen. I don’t want to leave my church but do not agree to this divide.

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