January 9, 2019

Will the LGBTQ Progressive Agenda Capture the UMC in February 2019?

By Lee Cary and Philip McLarty

Rev. Dr. Lee D. Cary served 25 years as a United Methodist pastor in Northern Illinois and North Texas. He holds a Masters in Theology (’74) and a Doctor of Sacred Theology (’79) from the UMC’s Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois.

Rev. Dr. Philip W. McLarty has served 24 years as a UMC pastor, and 22 years as a pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA). He holds a Masters in Theology (’74) and a Doctor of Ministry (’81) from the UMC’s Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, Texas. Today, as a retired Presbyterian minister, he pastors two United Methodist congregations in rural Arkansas.      

UM Voices contributors represent only themselves and not IRD/UMAction.


The LGBTQ agenda driving the United Methodist Church (UMC) debate concerning human sexuality is based on political religion and stems from identity politics. Human sexuality is not a theological debate.

The Church reacts to political pressure, just like other venues of American culture. When a politically-driven ideology defines Church doctrine, the result can assume the patina of a state religion. And, if that happens next February at a special UMC meeting in St. Louis, it could implode the denomination.

The history of Protestant denominations is full of theological debates that led to schisms. One such debate, that came to a head in the early 20th Century, led to the founding of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (1936), and, later, the Bible Presbyterian Church (1938). Here’s a brief review of that saga.  


Early 20th Century Debate of Modernism vs. Confessional Calvinism

The strife back then within the Presbyterian Church was mainly between Modernism and Confessional Calvinism.

Writing as a Modernist, Shailer Mathews, Dean of the University of Chicago Divinity School, wrote this in his 1924 book entitled The Faith of Modernism:

The issue between Modernism and Confessionalism is not one of mere theology. It is rather a struggle between two types of mind, two attitudes toward culture, and, in consequence, two conceptions as to how Christianity can help us live…[T]he use of scientific, historical, social method in understanding and applying evangelical Christianity to the needs of living persons is Modernism.” (pp. 18-19)

Who were the Modernists? In his book of over a thousand pages chronicling the decline of the Presbyterian Church, Crossed Fingers: How the Liberals Captured the Presbyterian Church, Gary North wrote:

The reason why the term ‘modernist’ has been applied by historians to religious figures as well as to contemporary political activists and cultural innovators is that theological modernists shared Progressivism’s faith…It was faith in Darwinian evolution, historical relativism, progress through science, the benevolent State, and the benefits of getting one’s hands on other people’s money–through political force, deception, or both.” (Preface, xxxv)

Writing for the Presbyterian Confessional Traditionalists, Princeton Seminary’s New Testament Professor J. Gresham Machen referred to Modernism as theological “Liberalism” in his 1923 book Christianity and Liberalism:    

“There is a profound difference, then, in the attitude assumed by modern liberalism and by Christianity toward Jesus the Lord. Liberalism regards Him as an Example and Guide; Christianity, as a Savior: liberalism makes Him an example for faith; Christianity, the object of faith…If Jesus was only what the liberal historians suppose that He was, then trust in Him would be out of place…liberalism regards Jesus as the fairest flower of humanity; Christianity regards Him as a supernatural Person.” (p. 82)

The debate from 1900-1936 pitted an established orthodoxy, based on the authority of the Scripture, against the Modernist understanding of mankind’s evolving word as authority. It was a well-documented and clearly-articulated theological debate.


The Early 21st Century Human Sexuality Debate in Today’s UMC

The LBGTQ movement’s push to change the UMC’s position on homosexuality and same sex marriage escalated at recent General Conferences. Feeling that they were at an impasse, a narrow majority of delegates approved formation of a 32-member, church-wide Commission on the Way Forward tasked to find a solution to the disagreement. (In the mid-1920’s, the Presbyterians appointed “The Commission of Fifteen” to address their own internal unrest.)

This led to the showdown scheduled for February 23-26, 2019, in St. Louis, Missouri.

Advocates of the One Church Plan are labeled “Progressives.”  Those opposing the Progressives are “Traditionalists.”  Those favoring The Connectional Church Plan are unlabeled.

When questioned by email as to what it means to be “Progressive” in the context of this debate, a spokesperson for United Methodist Communications wrote:

“[W]ithin American Protestantism…the term ‘progressive’ or ‘progressives’ describe those who work for change to improve the lives of persons who have been oppressed or excluded within church structures and in the wider world—often joining with others who share similar political, economic, or social views, even when religious views may vary dramatically. Progressives within various religious groups have ‘kept up the fight’ for women’s rights, for civil rights for all people, for the environment, for the rights of indigenous peoples, and for LGBTQIA+ rights.” 

This explanation takes a page out of the LGBTQ Playbook, and suggests that the official communication outlet of the UMC has assigned the moral high ground to the One Church Plan and its advocates. That position mirrors the stated opinion of a majority of the Council of Bishops.

In 2013, the LGBTQ agenda influenced the Boy Scouts of America to lift its restriction denying membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation. The organization subsequently permitted gay adults to be Scout leaders.

In 2015, the LGBTQ agenda influenced the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges by redefining marriage to include same-sex couples.

Since the late 19th Century, the American Progressive Movement has captured, or made significant inroads into, the academy, media, civil government, entertainment, advertising, professional sports, and organized religion. The current crisis in the UMC is among several, recent, Progressive inroads into the Church.

In June 2015, the Presbyterian Church (USA) amended its Book of Order to open the door to same-sex marriages, stating:

“Marriage is a gift God has given to all humankind for the wellbeing of the entire human family. Marriage involves a unique commitment between two people, traditionally a man and a woman, to love and support each other for the rest of their lives. The sacrificial love that unites the couple sustains them as faithful and responsible members of the church and the wider community.” 

(Note the shift away from normatively teaching that marriage IS between a man and a woman.)

As of 2018, the Episcopal Church stripped its bishops of the authority to prohibit any priest in their respective dioceses from conducting same-sex marriage ceremonies. In response, the Rt. Rev. Bishop William Love of the Albany Diocese, wrote a long Pastoral Letter explaining why he refused to abide by the new provision. In “To the People of God in the Diocese of Albany and throughout the World” he wrote this:

“The Episcopal Church and Western Society have been hijacked by the ‘Gay Rights Agenda’ which is very well organized, very strategic, very well financed, and very powerful.”

The question is: Will the United Methodist Church be next?


25 Responses to Will the LGBTQ Progressive Agenda Capture the UMC in February 2019?

  1. Tim says:

    “And you will be hated by all on account of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.”

  2. Dan says:

    Does anybody besides me find it strange that a retired Presbyterian minister would be pastoring two UMC churches? The theological differences are significant; e.g., see the series of letters between John Wesley and Augustus Toplady back in the day.

    • Chris Downey says:

      The UMC can’t fill its pulpits for lack of candidates. I’ve known of several smaller UM churches served by other than Methodist ministers. Anyone with any integrity is not going to let a UM bishop to lay hands on him.

    • Loren Golden says:

      As significant as the difference between traditional Methodists (Arminians) and Presbyterians (Calvinists) is, the difference between either a traditional Methodist or Presbyterian—who believes the Bible—and a Theological Liberal of the same denomination—who, frankly, does not—is far, far greater.

  3. David says:

    The UMC has already been “captured” by conservatives at the last GC when resolutions supportive of women’s reproductive rights were overturned. The outcome of the February meeting is hardly in doubt. This article is silly and alarmist. Religious marriage was not part of the Judeo-Christian tradition until around 1100 CE. Evolution is the unquestioned basis of modern biology regardless of what people what to believe. Human morality today has risen above that of the Bible with its provisions for slavery and genocide.

    • diaphone64 says:

      So you’re claiming Jesus lives in 1100 CE?


      • David says:

        “One flesh” can have several meanings in Hebrew, but the more likely one is to have sex. Biblical Jews had no marriage ceremonies, though a feast might be held. Early Christianity was not so keen on marriage and being single was the preferred state. People should not assume that what exists today was always the case.

        All mammals, including humans, start as female with those with a Y chromosome having their female traits reversed and male ones formed at around 2-3 months in humans. Indeed, there is a fish where all start as female, but become male in middle age.

        • John Smith says:

          If religious ceremonies for instituting a marriage are irrelevant why is the LGBTQ community pushing so hard to have them?

        • John Young says:

          Biologically, you are incorrect. At conception, 1 egg (ovum) unites with one sperm. The egg has only the X chromosome. The sperm has either an X or a Y chromosome. If the X sperm combines with the egg, a female results. If a Y sperm chromosome unites with the egg, a male results.

        • betsy says:

          When humans start spontaneously changing genders in middle age without any human intervention, then I will rethink my position re same gender sexual relationships. In the meantime, when it comes to humans, there is still a natural law in play that has yet to evolve: it takes one male and one female to create a child and perpetuate the species.

    • John Smith says:

      Good for you, finally changing strategy, pushing for conservatives to become complacent and thus easy prey in Feb.

    • Loren Golden says:

      “Human morality today has risen above that of the Bible with its provisions for slavery and genocide.”
      Which, of course, is why human trafficking and genocide have been completely eliminated by human beings in the 21st Century, right?

    • Bruce says:

      CE? Anyone that uses that term is already lost. It was not a “Common Event”! In fact, It was a very Uncommon Event.
      Let’s stick with BC and AD!

      • John Smith says:

        CE stands for Common Era, not Common Event. Thus it is a logical name for multiple religions, cultures and countries. Since 1 AD was not a particularly memorable year, it actually being 2-4 years after anno domini, CE makes more sense than A.D. or B.C.

  4. William says:

    The end game of the ‘one’ church plan of deception is a carbon copy of the Episcopal Church — to strip all its bishops of the authority to prohibit any pastors in their respective conferences from conducting same-sex marriage ceremonies. Following that, the next step would be to make it a mandatory chargeable offense for any pastor who refuses to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies.

    To the 864 UMC delegates — this ‘one’ church plan of deception is a classic case of what Jesus warned us about:


  5. Richard S Bell says:

    I agree with the authors that UMC’s debate about human sexuality, especially homosexuality, is not a theological debate. It ought to be, but proponents of the LGB agenda have failed to adduce plausible interpretations of scripture that support their program.
    Let us make UMC’s debate about homosexuality a theological debate. For proof from scripture, in accordance with traditional methods of interpretation, that God wills the UMC marry homosexuals just as it marries heterosexuals, ask for a copy of my essay by email: rsbell@ameritech.net

  6. The wrath of God is being revealed in Heaven against all the godlessness & wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them because God has made it plain. For since the creation of the world Gods invisible qualities, his eternal power& divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave him thanks, but their thinking became futile & their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claim to be wise they became fools. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity, for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the Truth for a Lie, because of this God gave them over to the shameful lust. Even their women exchanged natural relations with unnatural ones. In the same way the men abandoned natural relations with women & were inflamed with lust for one another. Furthermore since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. Romans 1:18-28

  7. Posted Scripture last night to back up Gods Word on this subject. Romans 1:18-28. Where is it?? Are you Really working to Protect Truth?? Or just another organization to bring down Christianity?

    • Pam Bartosh says:

      Amen! Preach, LaVerne. Truth is what is being attacked. But then, nothing is new under the sun; in Genesis Satan asked the woman, “hath God really said…” Not much has changed regarding what God has said is TRUTH.

    • Richard S Bell says:

      In Romans 1, Paul calls homosexual relations unnatural, not sinful. Ask me for a copy of my essay, which corrects not only misunderstandings of Romans 1 but also misunderstandings of all other “clobber texts” used by conservatives.

    • Richard S Bell says:

      Paul calls homosexual acts unnatural. That is a far cry from calling them contrary to God’s will. Speaking metaphorically of the gentiles’ entering into the new covenant, Paul called their grafting on to the domesticated olive tree of faithful Israel “contrary to nature” — just what Paul called homosexual acts. But Paul did not think that the grafting on of gentiles was contrary to God’s will. Paul thought just the opposite. Paul did not use “contrary to nature” or “unnatural” as terms of condemnation under God’s moral law.

  8. anna hoffman says:

    God would have created the human race to be an asexual race if who you partnered (loved) did not matter in his eyes. As someone else who quoted genesis said – he made them male and female…….‘FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH’?”

    • Richard S Bell says:

      God’s creation of male and female and God’s joining them in marriage proves that God is in favor of heterosexual marriage. But it is a fallacy to infer from God’s favoring heterosexual marriage that God forbids – or even that God disfavors – homosexual marriage. Ask me for a copy of my essay, which corrects not only misunderstandings of Genesis 1 and 2 but also misunderstandings of all other “clobber texts” used by conservatives.

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