2019 UMC General Conference

20 ARTICLES IN THIS TOPIC


Guest Writer

by Sue Cyre


Guest Writer

Sue Cyre

March 2, 2019

Presbyterian Renewal Leader: Methodists, Don’t Grow Weary of Struggle Against Falsehood

To my UMC brothers and sisters who upheld biblical standards on sexuality:

The recent vote by United Methodist Church delegates to retain the biblical marriage standard for church leaders was an encouraging and significant victory. The vote upheld biblical standards not only for your own members to see, but also for the world. As the largest mainline denomination, the vote was reported by the media and, therefore, encouraged believers around the globe. That is good news.

The vote of 53-47 percent [for the “Traditional Plan”], however, was not a landslide victory. If an additional 49 delegates out of the 800, had voted to normalize same-sex behavior, the Church would have taken the route of the other mainlines like the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Episcopal Church, and the Presbyterian Church (USA). The narrow 12 percent difference in the vote may embolden those supporting same-sex behavior to fight harder and longer. Advocates already signaled that they were not done fighting when they declared that they would continue the fight at the 2020 General Conference. I therefore encourage and exhort those who uphold the biblical standard for sexuality to be strong and persevere in the ongoing, wearisome battles that lie ahead.

For 20 years, I was involved in the struggle to maintain biblical standards of sexual morality in the Presbyterian Church (USA). The votes at the biennial General Assembly and in the local presbyteries consistently supported the biblical position on marriage and sexual expression.

After two decades of struggling, however, a majority of pastors and ruling elders who supported a biblical position on sexuality began to talk about their weariness at fighting the spiritual battle, the financial and physical cost of fighting the battle, their desire to get back to the “real ministry of the church,” and their hope of finding a “third way.” It was when this mind-set among the conservatives reached a crescendo that the national vote was lost. The Presbyterian Church (USA) now ordains church leaders who engage in sexual expression outside of the marriage of a man and a woman, and it has redefined marriage to be between any two people.

For most of us, confronting evil and falsehood at the Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly meetings was difficult. It was emotionally stomach-churning. We spent time and financial resources attending the Assembly and preparing beforehand. We were vilified at the Assembly. Those supporting same-sex behavior told us we were unloving, uncivil, homophobic, and Pharisaical. As conservative pastors and elders, we were tempted to see the positive experiences in our local congregations as the real ministry of the church.

Ministry in local congregations is important. It is often in personal, one-on-one relationships that people come to know and confess Christ. It is in the local congregation where people form relationships, are mentored in their faith, are held accountable, and see Christ at work in believers’ lives. However, it is when large national bodies like the UMC General Conference speak that the culture is most affected. For people who are enticed by the culture to engage in sexual immorality that leaves them wounded and in despair, a biblically faithful national body speaks a word of hope. The national body speaks a word of encouragement to the local church, too, by supporting its biblical position, and reminding each congregation that they do not stand alone against falsehood and evil.

The spiritual battle against falsehood is the real ministry of the church. The Gospel always stands in opposition to the gods of this world. That spiritual battle happens in our own lives each time we are tempted by sin. Scripture admonishes us that, “All of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”. The spiritual battle against falsehood and evil also at times infects the local church and leadership must confront it no matter how painful. And the spiritual battle rages at the national level. For the sake of the culture, for the sake of the local churches under its charge, for the sake of Christians who are influenced by the media, I urge all of us to “not grow weary” of the struggle.

Jesus describes the battle to his followers saying, “Everyone who does evil hates the light and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” Wherever and whenever Christians confront evil, there will be a struggle. Yet, that is the calling of the national church, the local congregation, and each individual Christian, whether clergy or lay. We confront the evil not with anger but as Peter said, “with gentleness and respect”.

The writer of Hebrews admonished his hearers, “Consider him [Jesus] who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”

When the Jewish leaders seized Peter and John and threatened them if they continued to proclaim Christ, Peter and John’s response was to pray for greater boldness. They prayed, “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness”. Only by being bold are we able to “hold out the word of life” to a “crooked and depraved generation”. Paul tells the church at Philippi:

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life…”

May my brothers and sisters in the UMC and all of us pray for greater boldness to shine like stars holding out the word of life?

Sue CyreSue Cyre is a past board member of the Institute on Religion & Democracy. She previously served as Executive Director of Presbyterians for Faith, Family and Ministry (PFFM), an initiative providing resources to assist adherents in their defense of the biblical theology. Cyre also served as editor of Theology Matters.


29 Responses to Presbyterian Renewal Leader: Methodists, Don’t Grow Weary of Struggle Against Falsehood

  1. Donald says:

    Sue – You put your finger on the problem in the PCUSA and your words of encouragement to our UMC colleagues is a reminder to those of us whose knee remains unbowed in all churches to continue this battle.

    You are correct – the Adversary and those who follow the Adversary will not rest. They’ll be back with the same tired falsehoods and villifications, both in the church and in the nation. This is why I continue to say, “Stay alert and keep your powder dry.”

  2. Andrew Hughes says:

    Thank you sister Cyre for your faithfulness. The work will be over when Jesus comes. I don’t believe that time will be very far away.

  3. Ken Dean says:

    So saddened by the hate towards folks that want to uphold the many teachings , about personal behavior, in the Bible. Sex , not between a man and woman is an abomination. When the left decries divorce they are so off base. Divorce is a singular event , often outside the control of the person involved. Adulterous, Homosexual, behavior is constant and intentional . That’s a serious difference. Yes pornographers are just as wrong IMO. Yes, we all fail GOD often. Doing it intentionally is a while differnt sin.

  4. Alecia Schroedel says:

    Reading articles from this organization
    Would lead one to believe that the only thing of concern to the church is sex and sexual orientations. It sure seems to take up the majority if rent space in your heads. There are a whole lot of other things in the world to be concerned about like feeding the hungry and clothing the naked and healing the broken-hearted. Instead you major on the minor things and break more hearts than you heal. What a wearisome organization you are. What damage you have done to Christianity. Such damage and distortion you have done to the words ‘religion’ and ‘democracy’. Such division you have caused! And you celebrate that division! What sad and shriveled souls you are. I don’t know how your blog has crossed my path but I need to block your vitriol. It doesn’t need to infect my soul. This is not juicy ecumenism. It’s putrid rigid exclusivism of the most closed-minded kind. Move on folks. God doesn’t need you to defend him. God’s arms are much more open than your narrow minds.

    • Alecia,

      God has prescribed the narrow gate to life (Matt. 7:14), and it includes sexual morality (Matt. 15:19; Mk. 7:21-22).

      Rick

    • Jim Berkley says:

      Alecia,

      Please reread what you have written and notice where the vitriol is found. You cannot keep your vitriol from spilling out of your words and accusations. When you point your finger at others, remember that three fingers point directly at yourself.

      It is sad. It really is. It breaks my heart.

  5. Bill T says:

    None of the Apostles and early Christians had it easy defending the faith. Why should we?

  6. David says:

    I worshipped regularly in a UMC congregation while in university four decades ago. At the time this congregation was staunchly confessional and Wesleyan, primarily because its longtime pastor was. I’ve sometimes wondered whether it still is through successive pastorates.

    This points to a key difficulty with orthodox congregations in nonconfessional denominations, especially if the seminaries are mostly heterodox. Their identities may shift with the times, unless they can consistently draw on ministers from a confessional seminary. For UMC congregations, this would likely mean Asbury or, now, United.

    All of which is to say that focussing on congregational life is a very good thing, but if the orthodox give up on the denominational battles, they may end up losing their congregations one at a time over the long term.

  7. Ommer Everson says:

    The issue with the UMC and other mainline denominations is Clergy. They don’t worry about what the Bible says and about the beliefs of their flock. It is all about jobs, pensions, etc.

    I would say even a majority of our liberal friends are tired of the fight and want to go a separate way. While I disagree with them on certain scriptures, they are to be loved and I will pray they lead souls to Jesus.

    The One Church hogwash was a clergy formed plan for them. I wish we knew the # of laity that actually voted for that mess. I bet it would be a low number.

    I pray that our Clergy and leaders will take their pastoral vows seriously. I pray they truly believe that scripture stands above all else. I pray that God forms them to be shepherds of his word and not social activist.

    • Judy Bailey says:

      Your first paragraph says it all. The Bishops are False as the Bible warns us. Wolves in sheep’s clothing! They have supported this only to continue lining their greedy pockets while embracing sin and leading others to believe their words over the Holy Word of God. They have broken their vows to God and the Church. They will not give up. God will hold them accountable for the evil they have committed against his Church.

  8. Gary Bebop says:

    Thanks for this encouraging exhortation. Retreat into local bastions will not save the church. Progressive politics is hardball. If you are Traditionalist in a Progressive-controlled conference or jurisdiction, you will be deprived of a place to stand. Your voice will be systematically marginalized. Sugary promises otherwise will not avail. Traditionalists must not cease the organizational effort in the short run-up to Minneapolis 2020.

  9. Debbie says:

    Thankful the UMC is remaining as Word stipulates. Love all, but stay obedient.

  10. Carolyn says:

    Thank you for your encouragement. This is what I needed to read today. Though we upheld our biblical stance, there is still that talk of open defiance. Since many of our bishops are in support of same-sex unions and ordination, I foresee that again, even when bringing up someone on charges, that the consequences will not be carried out, or will be costly if they do. Thanks again.

  11. Jeff Winter says:

    Sue, it was a privilege to serve with you for many years in the PCUSA acting like white corpuscles battling the liberal infection. You led well, fought fairly and loved our opposition with grace.

    • Sue Cyre says:

      Thank you, Jeff. I should have mentioned in the article the encouragement we received as those who upheld Scripture gathered every two years from around the country and supported one another in the struggle. I am so grateful for your work and encouragement then and now!

  12. Thank you, Sue, for this thorough and thoughtful piece. Your warnings are spot on. Thanks for your faithful witness.

  13. Mary Meier says:

    The fact that pensions was the most important thing says a lot about the UMC. It’s a mess and concerned mire with money and “unity” than with the word or God. I’m still waiting. Waiting to see if the clergy have the backbone to makes the rules stand and enforce the punishments. Also waiting to see if an accountability measure for the bishops is put into place. With no accountability, and no enforcement, the UMC will be no different than the other Protestant churches and it’s clergy no different than the Catholic clergy.

  14. Judy Bailey says:

    Sue, thank you for the encouragement. Your ariticle is so accurate for where the UMC finds themselves today. This has been a hard fought battle in it’s 47th year. Extremely costly and wasteful to say the least. The Conference was despicable as the protesters lay in the floor waving their signs after the Traditionalist Plan passed. They removed the Cross from the stage then sat there chanting so loudly that it was hard to understand the people at the microphones. The police were in the hallways with pepper spray while other protesters had the entrances blocked.

    • Jeffrey Walton says:

      Judy, I was at General Conference and did not experience what you described. There were indeed protesters out in the entry way, and police did arrive, but I did not see pepper spray or protester-blocked entrances. The proceedings on the delegate floor itself were fairly orderly, and while there was a brief “prayer time” I did not see any protests on the floor itself, “chanting so loudly that it was hard to understand the people at the microphones” or removal of the cross. It was actually pretty low-key on the floor, compared to Tampa 2012.

      • Judy Bailey says:

        Jeff, I didn’t attend. I heard from people in two different states while these things happened as I watched on my tablet. Even I had a difficult time hearing over the chanting.
        Near 4:00pm on the 26th it began to get ugly with lots of chanting and protesters. At 4:10 the IT folks discovered someone was using a “jammer” to mess up the voting devices. By 5:00pm the Police were in the hallways with pepper spray. And by 6:22 pm protesters yelling “No” so loudly because the Traditional Plan passed it was hard to hear. Next a motion to appeal the passing of the TP. 7:00ish
        is when the Cross was removed from the stage but was put back. Now the protesters are just sitting on the stage and won’t leave. I don’t know how you missed all this hateful behavior because the progressives didn’t get what they wanted. It was shameful. And yes, the 2012 Conference in Florida was even worse. It was my understanding we had to pay well over $200,000 for security to keep the protesters in check. It is time for this mess to end.

  15. B. Alley says:

    “The spiritual battle against falsehood is the real ministry of the church.” – you nailed it. Jesus himself said that the very reason He came into the world was “to testify to the Truth”. And so should that be a primary directive for us.

  16. Richard S Bell says:

    “The spiritual battle against falsehood is the real ministry of the church.” Yes! But my fellow conservative evangelicals are not careful to identify the enemy. Most of them are in a spiritual battle against truth — specifically, the truth that God wills his Church marry homosexuals just as it marries heterosexuals. If you have a mind even slightly open, if you agree that it is important to identify the falsehood we must battle, if you think that truth about God’s will is found in the Bible interpreted according to traditional methods, then ask for a copy of my essay by email: rsbell@ameritech.net

  17. An Arkansas Traditionalist says:

    I don’t think the movement will go away. For progressives truly believe they are in the right and now are wearing down the US leadership with this long, and tiring battle. Only a victory over traditionalists will validate their misguided beliefs, so they will press on. And, yes, they are accusatory crying that those who are willing to love them and accept them as brothers and sisters are biased, self-righteous pharisees when we are not swayed. Yet, if the wall is breached and leadership is permitted to practice alternative lifestyles themselves and perform sacred marital rites, how can the truth ever be gotten to them, and how many who might have never succumbed to this temptation be lost to this lifestyle, too? The thing that I can’t understand is that God’s design is so incredibly perfect, how can any rational being think this lifestyle is part of it? Should a progressive victory ever be gained, I can only imagine what might be the next thing they will want to normalize? I praise God for the delegates who came in support of the word from other countries am impressed that perhaps it is time for them to bring their missionary work to the US.

    • Richard S Bell says:

      “The thing that I can’t understand is that God’s design is so incredibly perfect, how can any rational being think this lifestyle is part of it?”
      The thing I can’t understand is traditionalists’ belief that something is sin just because it is imperfect in comparison with God’s design.

      • Richard Z says:

        But that’s one biblical definition of sin isn’t it? “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”. And that’s why we follow Jesus and put off the encumbrances that so easily entangle us – because He loved us while we were yet sinners. But now we’ve put to death the deeds of the flesh and choose to live a new life, right?

        • Richard S Bell says:

          Yes, we are all sinners saved by faith and sanctified by the Holy Spirit. But I responded to “The thing that I can’t understand is that God’s design is so incredibly perfect, how can any rational being think this [homosexual] lifestyle is part of it?” I directed attention to what is sin — what is contrary to God’s moral law. That should be the matter of concern as the Church decides whether to marry same-sex couples.
          Autistic behavior is abnormal and defective. Is it therefore sinful?

  18. Rick says:

    Sue Cyre, 1 Timothy 2:10-12.

  19. Bill says:

    I found this to be an interesting exchange of opinion. However, I think the difficulty the UMC and other churches are experiencing on this topic has little to do with Christian faith and everything to do with political correctness. The UMC and other churches have been preaching tolerance and appreciation of differences for years. However the importance of personal responsibility has been set aside out of concern that individuals or groups of people might be offended. Love has become the focus of the ministry and disagreement is considered an unloving act. Even if a person is pursuing a sinful lifestyle God continues to love them; however this does not mean he loves their life choices. We are here to please God not the other way around. God continues to love Satan but his behavior condemns him. As Christians we are not to intentionally pursue a sinful life style. In fact we should work every day to avoid sinful behavior as defined in scripture. The UMC and other churches are seeking to be inclusive but have ignored their responsibility to please God. Instead, being inclusive and welcoming without an expectation of following the scripture is prioritized. God’s house is welcoming but like all homes there are rules to be followed to show our appreciation for him giving us shelter.

  20. Charles Duane Toole says:

    I am so excited by Christians who take God’s Word literally! It takes so much faith to trust God’s love and guidance from Scripture.

    Please send me $50.00, as it says in Luke 6:30. Thank you very much!

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