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.”