Methodism’s Neutron Bomb

on December 17, 2018

In the 1970s U.S. military strategists struggled with how to counter Soviet military superiority in Europe. The U.S. and NATO could not match the Soviets in personnel or tanks and ultimately relied on nuclear weapons to deter invasion. But traditional nukes, if used, would destroy much of the country they were meant to defend: West Germany.

So the U.S. developed the neutron bomb, which relied not on fire and velocity but on radiation. Invading Soviet troops would be radiated while German cities and infrastructure would be left largely intact.

Soviets and their proxies denounced the neutron project as the “capitalist bomb” because it would kill people while preserving property. Although West Germany and NATO supported it, the Carter Administration cancelled the neutron bomb.

The so-called One Church Plan before the February 2019 General Conference is United Methodism’s neutron bomb. By localizing the debate about sexuality into almost every local congregation it will decimate churches while preserving the institution and its property, at least for a time.

Almost all the forces of institutional liberalism from declining United Methodism in the U.S. back the One Church Plan that will supposedly preserve denominational unity. Of course, its impact will be the exact opposite.

Each of the other five Mainline Protestant denominations that adopted their version of the One Church Plan over the last two decades suffered schism and accelerated membership loss. For example, the Presbyterian Church (USA) has lost 25% of its members since its 2011 vote overturning its adherence to traditional Christian teaching on marriage in favor of local option. Thousands of congregations have quit Mainline Protestant denominations in favor of new communions or already existing similar denominations that uphold traditional teaching.

But here’s an important point. By overturning United Methodism’s longtime biblical stance on marriage defined as male and female, every local church is opened to internal conflict. The One Church Plan stipulates that local churches may host same sex rites “by a majority vote of a Church Conference to adopt a policy to celebrate same-sex marriage on church property.”

Imagine such a vote at your own church, which very likely has never as a congregation even discussed United Methodism’s nearly 50-year debate over sexuality. Typical United Methodist congregations are not homogenous and include conservatives, moderates and liberals.

So long as same sex marriage policy is determined by the quadrennial General Conference with universal application there was no reason for a local church to confront the controversy. But under the One Church Plan, nearly every one of over 30,000 local churches in United Methodism will have to decide whether to host or reject same sex rites.

A typical local church will vote 60-40, or 55-45. Few will have a strong consensus. No matter how the vote goes, many will be angered and/or disappointed and quit the congregation or stew. The debate will not be confined to sexuality but will, as church fights always do, open up more personal resentments.
Some local churches, especially if small, will be permanently crippled or perhaps even killed. Even larger churches will be hobbled by the debate fallout.

Local churches that have over the decades become “reconciling” i.e. pro-LGBTQ have suffered membership losses greater than the denomination as a whole. And those congregations typically were already very liberal yet still lost members. What will happen when decidedly non-liberal congregations are essentially forced to vote?

Defenders of the One Church Plan insist no local church will be “forced” to vote on same-sex rites, but this claim is disingenuous. By allowing such debate, the One Church Plan guarantees such debates will occur. Almost every local church has some people who will insist on raising it.

The One Church Plan, by relocating the United Methodism’s sexuality debate into the local church, will perform like the neutron bomb. It will technically preserve the denomination and its buildings. But many congregations will be decimated, effectively radiated, whether initially after a vote or through attrition over time.

American institutional United Methodism, led by U.S. liberal bishops, has pushed for some version of the One Church Plan for many years, without success at any General Conference. Institutional United Methodism in America has already disastrously presided over 53 years of continuous annual membership decline, resulting in over 4 million lost members. American institutional United Methodism still identifies with dying American Mainline Protestantism, not with growing global United Methodism or with growing evangelical churches in the U.S.

Unlike other Mainline denominations, United Methodism is global, with over 5 million of its over 12 million members living in Africa or elsewhere. The One Church Plan claims it will not affect growing United Methodism overseas, which is conservative. This claim is silly. United Methodism in Africa and elsewhere, if U.S. United Methodism liberalizes on sexuality, will inevitably separate, either initially or later.

The One Church Plan retains “one church” only in a narrow structural sense. It will, for a time, preserve the denomination and its buildings at least in the U.S. But it will eviscerate thousands of local congregations, inflicting on them what the neutron bomb would have by radiating its human targets.

If the neutron bomb was the “capitalist bomb” by destroying people, not property, then the One Church Plan is the tragic ecclesial equivalent. The General Conference in February 2019 will need to reject it decisively in favor of a more meaningful unity that preserves people and not property.

  1. Comment by April User on December 17, 2018 at 6:24 pm

    What an apt analogy. And those that want the bomb released are declaring it to be the best way to deal with the ecclesiastical conflict. What kinds of leaders do that to their OWN people?

  2. Comment by David on December 17, 2018 at 6:42 pm

    A traditional Christian stance on marriage would be not to get involved with it all. Old Testament marriages involved no religious ceremonies and Christians did not take it up until after their first 1,000 years. The Protestant Reformers downgraded marriage from being a sacrament. Martin Luther stated: “Know, that marriage is an outward, material thing like any other secular business.”

  3. Comment by William on December 17, 2018 at 7:19 pm

    Nope. A traditional Christian stance on marriage would be to continue following the example of Jesus in both his word and deed. Even in the absence of religious marriage ceremonies, whatever that means, the Christian church has recognized marriage as only between a man and a woman for these 2,000 years because that’s the Scriptural description of it based on God’s original created order for it.

    As for this so called ‘one church plan’, it is the biggest hoax, fraud and deception ever attempted in Methodism. There are few words to describe this egregious initiative. Satan’s inspired authors wrote this thing from beginning to end.

  4. Comment by David on December 19, 2018 at 2:47 pm

    Well, look up the rite of Sts. Sergius and Bacchus. I have my doubts that this was equal to same sex marriage, but it does raise questions given it appeared at the same time as marriage ceremonies.

  5. Comment by John Smith on December 27, 2018 at 7:33 am

    Ahh, all the same old canards, really David you need to update. Of course we realize that these are really designed to be serious arguments but rather are merely fig leaves to cover a decision based on personal preferences rather than biblical mandate. But for forms sake, despite your preference for “saints” over the bible just because a saint did or endorsed something does not make it correct.

  6. Comment by Ray D. on December 17, 2018 at 9:46 pm

    Whether marriage in OT times involved a religious ceremony or not, there was consensus that it always involved a man and a woman.

  7. Comment by Skipper on December 18, 2018 at 10:32 am

    The Traditional Plan is what we desperately need to restore God’s truth. Jesus said the truth will set you free. Without it we are lost. Those supporting “the anything goes plan” would be wise to consider Psalm 1:

    Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
    or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
    but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.

    That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
    and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.

    Not so the wicked!
    They are like chaff
    that the wind blows away.
    Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
    nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
    For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
    but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

  8. Comment by John Smith on December 27, 2018 at 7:35 am

    The Traditional Plan is no more likely to save the UMC than the old BoD. The strictures are basically the same and the enforcers are the same. If they wouldn’t uphold the BoD what makes you think they will enforce the Traditional Plan?

  9. Comment by betsy on December 18, 2018 at 6:40 pm

    My own analogy of the One Church Plan is that it would leave the sexuality question hanging over local churches like a bomb waiting for somebody to light the fuse. Make no mistake the One Church plan legitimizes the progressive sexuality ethic. Furthermore, it does so without acknowledging that the question has expanded way beyond same gender relationships. It also does not acknowledge that the deep theological divide within the United Methodist Church is already producing more and more conflicts. After GC2016, Annual Conferences that declared non-compliance with the sexuality stance also declared non-compliance with severing ties with the RCRC and the official view of Israel.

    And you are absolutely correct that many local American United Methodist Churches do not have a particular theological stance. It is the result of local churches blowing in the wind with whichever pastor is present because they believe they are to trust whoever the church sends. They are not in a position to have a rational discussion about anything!

  10. Comment by Bruce Willis on December 22, 2018 at 9:35 am

    Betsy that’s a rather sweeping view of small mostly rural churches. I was a llp in the NCCUMC for quit a while. To say they are blowing in the wind and not ready to have this conversation because they are led by whom ever the d.s. can send is a statement full of huberis and arrogance. I personally know people and pastors in small rural churches who’s knowledge of biblical teaching and orthodoxy is second to none.

  11. Comment by betsy on December 23, 2018 at 1:47 pm

    I apologize that I was not clear enough, but I did say MANY, not all. I know there are local churches that know where they stand. I also know there are local churches that do not because they have been blowing in the wind with whoever walks in the door. I am a member of one of those local churches and based on what I read on the internet there are most definitely others. As was pointed out in the article, the One Church Plan will be a disaster for these churches.

  12. Comment by MikeS on December 19, 2018 at 8:11 am

    The disunity you foresee is a feature, not a bug. The plan will accomplish what it’s supposed to accomplish. Life will be easier for the time-servers in the liberal power structure when those pesky traditionalists move away.

  13. Comment by Robert on December 19, 2018 at 11:13 pm

    My wife and I (along with many other conservatives) left our beloved UMC family when it became apparent that the pastor who had been sent in, and the rest of the leadership, was pushing a very liberal agenda. Then “Bishop” Olevito was voted in – against established UMC law – and sent to our Conference, and the church went gaga over her. Recently we ran into friends who had also left the church and learned that they left because it wasn’t becoming liberal enough fast enough. The exact words used to our faces were “That church will be better off when ALL the conservatives have left.” So I wouldn’t believe anyone who told me the people who are promoting the One Church Plan actually believe it will unify the church. They have an agenda and they know exactly what they’re doing.

  14. Comment by Paul York on December 24, 2018 at 7:26 pm

    My UM church has suffered the “send whoever they can find” situation. Over the first two years we lost 50% of the congregation.
    The DS refused to talk with the committee we sent to him. When a new DS was appointed she listened and removed the pastor. Unfortunate for the two church charge she sent him to.

  15. Comment by Bev Harris on December 25, 2018 at 9:33 am

    Sheep need a shepherd or they will go astray. We, the church, are hidden to teach what our Good Shepherd has taught us and to be watchful of false that teach error. Prayer is one weapon God has given his flock and needs to be executed with all fervency !

  16. Comment by John Smith on December 27, 2018 at 7:38 am

    Actually the On(ce A) Church Plan is exactly what the leadership ordered. They do not need to lead, make decisions or face any consequences. By the time all the dust settles they will have retired and it won’t be their problem.

  17. Comment by John Smith on December 27, 2018 at 7:40 am

    sorry “are not designed” for some reason I always seem to drop a word or two on this forum and there is no editing features.

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