A Response to Retired United Methodist Bishop Will Willimon

on March 4, 2019

Scott Fritzsche is a co-blogger at Unsettled Christianity who regularly attends and is active in Trinity United Methodist Church in Grove City, Ohio. He passionately believes in the voice and the responsibility of the laity to speak up and be as educated as possible on religious matters to empower ministry.

UM Voices is a forum for different voices within the United Methodist Church on pressing issues of denominational concern. UM Voices contributors represent only themselves and not IRD/UMAction. This post originally appeared on Unsettled Christianity. Republished with permission. 

William H. Willimon is a retired UMC bishop and current teacher at Duke Divinity School, and he, like many others, has decided to weigh in on the matters facing the UMC. You can read his comments here. I will focus on a few of the low points in his article in the hope of demonstrating why it is that going into 2020 we, as United Methodists, need to figure out how we can separate in the least harmful way possible and quit pretending that we can exist together in denominational ministry. At this point, I am convinced that we really don’t even like each other—let’s stop pretending and get on with the work of the Kingdom.

At some point I shifted my own prayers to, “Lord, please melt the hardened hearts and smite everyone who intends to vote against the One Church Plan.”

One of two things is true here. Either a retired bishop genuinely was praying that God smites those who actually share the theological stance of the church he used to serve, or he thinks that both prayer and calling upon God to smite people are jokes to be shared widely. Neither is terribly appropriate for a bishop, and both show that we are in a very bad place. Not knowing the bishop, I hope he was joking, but given the state of our bishops, I am not certain he was not expressing their feelings.

The Lord, as far as I could tell, had business elsewhere. In fairness to the Lord, months earlier nearly everybody had announced how they would vote on the questions before us.

Obviously, Jesus could not be involved because what he wanted is not what happened. You cannot spend an entire day calling upon the Holy Spirit and then complain that the divine did not show up because you did not get your way. You either trust that somehow the Holy Spirit moved in the General Conference, despite the ugliness, or you do not. If you trust that the Spirit moved, then you must lay down your hubris and abide by the decisions made. If you do not trust that the Spirit moved, then why in the name of all that is holy are we still doing this?

Now it is the UMC’s turn to experience the agony previously endured by the Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and Lutherans, though I fear that our interlocked, connectional polity will make our pain worse. We bishops believed in unity but couldn’t figure out how to lead it. As we called for generosity and openness from the podium, Traditional Plan politicos were busy on the floor counting votes and making deals.

It is interesting how he phrases many things here. First, the pain we are experiencing is only because of disobedience. Disobedience brings with it pain. Again, if you do not believe that the Holy Spirit is in the doctrine of the church, it’s time to go. If you believe that the Spirit is, then you best follow him to the best of your ability. If you do not want a connectional polity, you likely should not have been a United Methodist in the first place. It is nice to see him admit that the bishops were lost on how to lead. Some of us have been saying this for decades. Then of course we get to the real zinger, traditionalists are bad! Those nasty people making deals. Progressives would never do such a thing! They would never have briefings and give voting guides! They never try to influence others on the floor! They certainly don’t have bishops making video after video about the merits of their favored plan. All of the caucus groups do the same thing, so if it is wrong, condemn them all. If you think for a second that the caucus groups do things differently, then you are willfully ignorant, and likely should not have been named a bishop in the first place. The bishop here, and likely most of us, have become guilty of being the monster that we are decrying. We find ways to justify the behavior of our tribe, while condemning the behavior of other tribes, when the truth is that we are all doing the same things.

The misnamed Traditional Plan—little in the 200-year tradition of American Methodism justifies such punitive, exclusionary measures—

Since he was specific to American Methodism, I will comment mainly on that, but will point out that both Saint Paul and Saint John called for not only exclusion of those who were not believing in the proper manner, but also expulsion of them. We can quibble over what should be grounds for expulsion or exclusion, but you cannot say it does not exist. Allow me to quote sections of the Doctrines and Discipline of the Methodist Church in America 1798.

Quest. 3. How shall we prevent improper persons from insinuating themselves into the society?

Answ. 1. Give tickets to none until they are recommended by a leader, with whom they have met at least six months on trial.

The tickets here refer to the ability to receive the Eucharist. Yes, exclusion from the Eucharist. No ticket, no juice and crackers for you. Pretty exclusionary.

Quest. 5. What shall we do with those members of society, who wilfully and repeatedly neglect to meet their class?

Answ. 1. Let the elder, deacon, or one of the preachers, visit them, whenever it is practicable, and explain to them the consequence if they continue to neglect, viz. Exclusion.

2. If they do not amend, let him who has the charge of the circuit exclude them in the society; shewing that they are laid aside for a breach of our rules of discipline and not for immoral conduct.

Did you catch that? Expulsion for a breach of the rules of discipline even if it is not ‘immoral conduct.’

Other things that called for expulsion, or withholding the ticket, in the Discipline of this time was being married to an unbeliever (unequally yoked), buying or selling a slave, the buying, selling, or giving of spirituous liquors, superfluous dress, disorderly conduct, immoral behavior, and more. These are the early documents of our history, and yes, there is a very long and strong history of expelling people from the society and/or withholding the Eucharist from those who did not measure up to the standard. This is just for the members. Pastors were held to a higher standard. I am not advocating for the re-institution of all of this, I am simply stating the fact that there is indeed a very long history in American Methodism of excluding and expelling those who were not living in line with the doctrines and discipline of the church. By the way, these are not even the band meetings that were for Christian accountability. Those had even more stringent requirements. If we are going to talk about the history of American Methodism, we need to talk about the reality of it, not some idealized glossed over version we create to try to support an inaccurate point.

As for those in the global church who participated in this smackdown of North American Methodist mission and evangelism, they may soon regret the loss of financial support from a considerably weakened North American Methodism.

This is just ugly. Really ugly. You think so little of your brothers and sisters that you would degrade their belief, suggesting that they will regret it because of money? You should be rending your high priced suit and repenting in dust and ashes for such a sickening and self-righteous thought. The church in America may be a church of gold, but it is not so everywhere. Repent from the ugly ethnocentric basis of these words, and beg your brothers and sisters to forgive you.

Polls showed that the majority of North American United Methodists supported the One Church Plan. Many African and Asian delegates, who come from vital churches full of Holy Spirit-induced innovation, joined the conservatives in dictating to the North American United Methodists the boundaries of our mission and the scope of congregational formation.

Funny how being a worldwide church was just fine when the American voice was the only one and now that other parts of the globe have found their voice it is suddenly a problem. Ethnocentrism is ugly, and it was on full display in, and after, the General Conference.

All pneumatology is local, a gift of God from the bottom up.

Except for every ecumenical council ever. Listen, we are not Congregationalists, or Baptists. If you want to go that route, it’s ok, you are free to, but Methodism, and its Anglican roots, are not and should not be, Congregationalist or Baptist. This is the logic of a young child amounting to screaming “it’s not fair” and stomping your feet. You can’t have your way when you ask us to change the entire church governing structure.

At the end of this, I am now convinced that nothing has been learned. “I am right, and you are wrong,” is the thought for the day. There is not only a lack of trust in the bishops, there is not trust in each other. There is not a question of if there is going to be a separation, but a question of if we are willing to admit that there already is one. Will we admit this and live in two houses so that we can move forward in life and ministry, or will we simply move to two bedrooms for the sake of appearance while continuing to fight and hurt each other? Why in the name of all that is holy would you want to be in a denomination with me, whom you called upon God to smite anyway?

  1. Comment by David Turner on March 4, 2019 at 1:51 pm

    Wow Scott you nailed it!

  2. Comment by Jason on March 4, 2019 at 2:05 pm

    Wasn’t Wilimon originally sort of a moderate-conservative who held the traditional view? It’s always interesting when these guys switch sides “everyone who believes what I believed until it was no longer politically fashionable is a bigot”.

  3. Comment by Victor Styrsky on March 4, 2019 at 2:30 pm

    What a strong, clear-hearted and determined soul God has given you my friend! Excellent responses to this hopeful hour within your denomination.
    Much admiration.

  4. Comment by Geary Rowell on March 4, 2019 at 4:55 pm

    Thanks, Victor. Didn’t realize you were paying attention to this matter!

  5. Comment by Luke on March 4, 2019 at 2:31 pm

    One of the most consistent themes in these sexuality debates across the mainline denominations is that the conservatives have said the liberals are wrong, and the liberals have said the conservatives are evil. The unhinged responses of progressive Methodists remind me so much of Nadia Bolz-Weber’s using an ostensibly neutral stage (ELCA Youth Gathering) to lead ELCA youth in rejecting traditional sexual teaching along with Satan and all his false promises.

    There simply aren’t examples of high profile conservatives doing anything remotely like that.

  6. Comment by William on March 4, 2019 at 2:37 pm

    Progressives have been nasty from the beginning of this conflict. Typical liberal secular protocol that was brought into the church — righteously lash out at those who disagree with vitriol and then accuse them of starting it and practicing the same when they respond. Now that the secular LGBT movement has so infiltrated our church as to take on the appearance of a cult, it is indeed time for the progressives+ to depart and form their own denomination. With people like this Duke guy and his upper echelon liberal intellects, it should not be that great of a challenge to hook up with the Western Jurisdiction and others of like mind and get it done. After all, traditionalists were poised to go and start a new denomination if the one church plan had of passed, and certainly would not have stayed and started another era of defiance and disobedience. So, what’s stopping you, our progressive brethren, from doing the same?

  7. Comment by David on March 4, 2019 at 3:07 pm

    I doubt very much that gays have “infiltrated” the church. They have probably always been around, but people did not notice. Most gays I have encountered are atheists, and I am astonished so many have been attracted to the UMC.

    The problems in the UMC is simply the US culture wars being played out in the religious arena. True to form, it is largely the US Civil War divisions that are still with us. I suppose Mr. Lincoln made a big mistake wanting to preserve the Union and the ME Church made another in 1939 in accepting the southern church.

  8. Comment by Ian S McDonald on March 4, 2019 at 2:40 pm

    Luke 6:44-46
    44 Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. 45 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.

    Bishop Willimon , your own words convict you as to what is in your heart.

  9. Comment by Angela Clark on March 4, 2019 at 2:55 pm

    Spot on! Thank you for putting words to what I have been feeling.

  10. Comment by Donald Sensing on March 4, 2019 at 3:07 pm

    Your last line: “ ‘I am right, and you are wrong,’ is the thought for the day.”

    I am a UM elder. I wrote an essay a year ago that ponders that very thing – not about Methodism but the human condition: “Why you’re wrong and I’m right.”

    Excellent job you did rebutting Willimon’s shocking diatribe.

  11. Comment by Palamas on March 4, 2019 at 3:55 pm

    I’ve read at least half a dozen of Willimon’s book, and they were uniformly excellent. This is not the same man who wrote those books. Power corrupts, apparently. Well done, Scott.

  12. Comment by Mary Cockroft on March 4, 2019 at 5:22 pm

    I too have read and enjoyed Dr. Wolliman’s books in the past, and am very disappointed in the remarks in his recent post.

  13. Comment by Mike on March 4, 2019 at 6:45 pm

    Agreed – I’ve also read at least that many of Willimon’s books. Most were excellent and I learned a great deal from his challenging writing about the church and Christian faith and practice. As a matter of fact, in his book with Stanley Hauerwas, “Resident Aliens,” the main point was that Christians have a different politics (culture, etc.) than the world, and we will be an odd bunch. He seems to have forgotten his own words!

    Needless to say, he’s evidently spent too much time in the academy (at Duke, no less) and just enough time being a Bishop to lose all touch with reality and orthodox Christian teaching. Shame on him – he’s really not that stupid; I guess it’s just convenient for him to be politically correct and “cool” now. I’ve lost all respect for him.

  14. Comment by William on March 5, 2019 at 11:03 am

    I had the same experience with Adam Hamilton. Some excellent early books — we used them in Sunday School. Perhaps these folks faked it along until the opportunity presented itself for them to come out of the closet. Trust is broken across the denomination because of the betrayal of high profile “leaders” like these and others. It causes on to pause, be skeptical, and investigate everyone with diligence beginning with one’s local pastor and on up the line to one’s bishop. As Jesus warned, beware of false prophets as ferocious wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing. TRULY TRAGIC AND SAD.

  15. Comment by Steve Wellman on March 4, 2019 at 4:07 pm

    Superb Scott in every way. I’m grateful you wrote this. There was once a day when Willimon considered himself evangelical and was a proohetic voice toward the misguided establishment. I noticed a dilution in his writings from the moment he was bishop. His critique last week was embarrassingly incoherent, even for a UM bishop. What an incisive and insightful voice you have provided here!

  16. Comment by LaVerne Valdez on March 4, 2019 at 4:34 pm

    All denominations have been Hiding the very existence of Our Creator for some time now. As soon as We All realize that fact, Lord God is waiting for us outside. Look up, they do not want us to notice. Job 38:31-33 Orion – Pleiades & The Constellations – which Never change, Isaiah 40:26 He calls them each by Name, Job 37:18 Firmament/Above Earth, Isaiah 40:22 Above Circle Spreads Tent/Firmament, Psalms 19:1-6 Sun runs Circuit Above Circle Earth, Job 38:4-7 Laid Earth’s Foundations, Psalms 93:1 Foundations, Psalms 104:5 Motionless Earth/Cannot be Moved, Psalms 136:6-9 Sun-Moon & Stars-God’s Lights.

  17. Comment by John W Marsh on March 4, 2019 at 5:18 pm

    I though Bishop Willamon was very snarky and bitter. I was very disappointing in his attitude particularly toward the African delegates. While he is entitled to his opinions I would have thought a Bishop would know some diplomacy.

  18. Comment by David Allen on March 4, 2019 at 5:48 pm

    “God, I thank you that I am not like other people: bigoted, hateful, judgmental, self-righteous, and all those others things characterizing people who disagree with me,” said the bishop. “I thank you that I am open minded, loving, tolerant and humble.”

  19. Comment by Coach on March 6, 2019 at 4:51 pm

    The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I’m certainly not like that tax collector!

    You nailed it!

  20. Comment by David F Miller on March 4, 2019 at 6:37 pm

    I was very surprised, shocked even, by the comments from Bishop Willimon. I had to read his article to convince me he had said these things. Very sad. I have to believe that the Bishops have come to believe they are always correct. Elitism. This is one more reason why Bishops must be a temporary position of 5 or less years.

  21. Comment by Randy Kiel on March 5, 2019 at 7:58 am

    Power corrupts
    Absolute power corrupts absolutely

  22. Comment by Charles Leonard on March 4, 2019 at 7:13 pm

    I am shocked this is the same Bishop responsible for so many of the wonderful books in my library. One can’t help but wonder about both the honesty and Christian integrity of many of our most admired Methodist leaders. This recent reveal does not appear to be an accurate reflection of his previous ministry. What happened?

  23. Comment by Rev. Michael Ward on March 4, 2019 at 7:15 pm

    Excellent response to the Bishop’s opinion. Well thought out and well versed.
    Lets call the problem in the church today what it is: Politics! How can we as a denomination reflect the world and not the divine? Persons who are looking for a respite of forgiveness and a sanctuary of hope and spiritual renewal certainly have difficulty finding it in the UMC these days. Time to hit our knees, sincerely humble ourselves, and repent…knowing that the main reason for lackluster growth is lackluster faith and trust that Gods Word is Holy Scripture!
    May God have mercy on us!

  24. Comment by Lee D. Cary on March 4, 2019 at 7:39 pm

    The retired bishop can be excused for the tone and content of his comments. No longer does he carry a staff ahead of his sheep, nor preside over an Annual Conference from a dais. Today his domain is over seminary students. He cannot be faulted for what he does not understand. And that’s this:

    The era of protestant denominations featuring: tables of organization with a labyrinth of boards and agencies (AKA special interest groups of paid, yet largely unknown and unaccountable, church bureaucrats; a hierarchical pyramid of officialdom ascending upward from rank-and-file clergy in full connection, thru D.S.’s, to the bishops (who lose their first names upon installation); all sustained by the willing contributions of loyal and trusting laity, and a myriad of policies, polity and procedures so convoluted that it can take years and a dime-store version of the SCOTUS to adjudicate disputes over what the language of the BOD – a free-fire zone for social justice warriors – really means. And hovering above it all, a church “constitution” – a largely unknown and unread document, by lay and clergy alike.

    I watched most of the St. Louis event as it streamed on the internet. It was one long and painful epitaph for an organization not yet dead, but terminal from self-inflicted wounds.

    The theology of John Wesley will live on, elsewhere. And the good news is, that the good news is.

  25. Comment by Tamsin on March 4, 2019 at 9:33 pm

    The theology of John Wesley will live on, in the one, holy, apostolic and catholic Church to which I have fled. Jump on in, the water’s fine.

  26. Comment by April User on March 4, 2019 at 11:03 pm

    Yes, the water is fine. There IS life after the UMC so don’t be dismayed. Stay if you want. We have hitched our star to another and are entering new venues of ministry.

  27. Comment by Michael Childs on March 5, 2019 at 4:51 pm

    Good grief!

  28. Comment by Andrew Hughes on March 4, 2019 at 8:52 pm

    Thank you for your insights and spiritual awareness Scott. We must pray for our leaders who have lost their way.

  29. Comment by Joe on March 4, 2019 at 9:22 pm

    There’s a word for Willimon’s attitude. It is imperialism. The rich westerners seek to push their values on to the poorer, less wealthy countries of the world. Progressives would be mortified to think they were guilty of imperialism, but that’s exactly what it is.

  30. Comment by Carl on March 4, 2019 at 9:35 pm

    I’ve known and admired Will Willimon for over 40 years, ever since my first Worship class at Duke in 1976. Like some other commenters, his books have sustained me over 35 years of ministry in the UMC, especially his ‘Pastor: The Theology and Practice of Ordained Ministry’.

    Will’s comments in this article in The Christian Century are, I agree, shocking, and he should be ashamed of himself for what he has said. While I think the ‘smiting’ comment was typical Willimon humor, the other derogatory comments toward the traditionalist delegates and, especially, the African delegates were just dreadful.

    I had heard from a friend that Will was moving toward the progressive position recently, but these comments are beyond the pale. If this is the direction the so-called ‘centrists’ like Willimon are going, then we’re all in for some awful months and years ahead. God help us.

  31. Comment by Melissa Pegram on March 4, 2019 at 9:38 pm

    “In the four decades I’ve been an ordained leader in the UMC, we have lost 30 percent of our membership.”
    Did this arrogant elitist ever wonder why the Methodist Church lost 30 % of its membership during his leadership term? Of course not. Could it have possibly have been the liberal course the Methodist Church’s leadership was directing during this time? While the conservative, independent churches were thriving, the liberal leadership of the Methodist Church was alienating many of us who love and grew up in a Methodist Church that was being destroyed by its out-of-touch liberal leaders. The vitriol spewed by this man is not only shocking, it explains a lot about what has been going on in my denomination since at least the 1980’s.

  32. Comment by Carl Palmer on March 4, 2019 at 9:49 pm

    I found Willimon’s own words very self-condemning:
    “In the four decades I have been an ordained leader in the UMC, we have lost 30 percent of our membership…over a couple of decades, people my age have constructed the Book of Discipline to serve the interests of our generation, albeit unknowingly…”
    It seems by Willimon’s own admission that he is complicit in creating the very system and conditions he now disdains. Sir, if you happen to read this, you need not blame the conservatives, the WCA, or the Lord Himself for being out to lunch. You, sir, are to blame. Live with it.

  33. Comment by Lawrence Kreh on March 5, 2019 at 12:43 am

    Scott’s response is right on target. Indeed. Wildemon’s irresponsible comments exacerbate the wounds and prove the point that separation must happen. One of my progressive friends said today that two sides must separate in order somehow preserve relationships as we all move on. On That we agree.

  34. Comment by binkyxz3 on March 5, 2019 at 5:09 am

    Take note of the tactic: This on the heels of the statement by Susan Henry-Crowe. Influential people who are not in the formal structure are doing the dirty work for the bishops. Question: Is their goal to trigger a bigger OCP exodus, or virtue-signal Traditionalists into backsliding?

  35. Comment by Mary782 on March 5, 2019 at 7:24 am

    Why does the UMC in the US have proportionately more bishops than abroad? At the General Conference, since the bishops don’t vote, do the delegates closer represent the membership? Does the US have ‘Super Bishops’ on the Council of Bishops due to colonialism?

  36. Comment by Tom on March 5, 2019 at 7:33 am

    “As we called for generosity and openness from the podium, Traditional Plan politicos were busy on the floor counting votes and making deals.”

    Hah! As if there was not extensive “deal making” behind the scenes when it came to getting “diverse” leftists bishops such as Carcano and Oliveto elected.

  37. Comment by Mike on March 5, 2019 at 8:44 am

    These results are a mirror image of what happened in the national election in 2016. Results were not accepted by the other side and still are not. We are in the midst of a cold civil war socially, politically and spiritually. May we be good Christian soldiers in these battles.

  38. Comment by Bruce on March 5, 2019 at 10:04 am

    I too, like the “I am right and you are wrong”. Also that they have learned nothing from the outcome of the Conference. I see more nastiness than I ever have before. I’m almost ashamed to be a Methodist (for 75 years not) but then remember that I worship God, not the Church. Now I’m worried about the 2020 Conference. How nasty will it be?

  39. Comment by William on March 5, 2019 at 11:28 am

    Got around to reading Willimon’s angry response. He appears not to be a Christian. A political statement at best, a statement from a heretic at worst. Ignoring the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross for our sins, including the sins of sexual immorality, draws attention to an apparent vast void in his understanding of the Gospel. And, to essentially mock Jesus with relation to marriage and letting everyone decide for themself at the local level borders on blasphemy. Can’t believe he can stake out such an anti-Christ, anti-Gospe position, and, with a straight face, call himself a Christian. Tragic indeed. One thing for sure, this General Conference is smoking out the truth about a number of people we erroneously trusted.

  40. Comment by Pudentiana on March 5, 2019 at 11:35 am

    William Willimon has risen to the heights and now descended to the depths. There is a passage, “Pride goeth before a fall.” Evidently, the retired Bishop has fallen as Saul of Tarsus. We can hope he gets a chance to hear the voice of Jesus again and has the scales fall from his intellectually corrupted eyes.

  41. Comment by Pat Trammell on March 5, 2019 at 2:30 pm

    You say you do not know Bishop Williamon. I do. He served our Conference.

    We were happy to help him pack.

  42. Comment by Jon Burk on March 5, 2019 at 5:00 pm

    This is a very well written response. Thank you, Scott. It is apparent that the Methodist Church has been in schism for well over 100 years.

    Some will claim the difference is based on the homosexual issue, but it is much deeper. There is a basic difference in understanding about authority of God and authority of Holy Scripture.

    Without wholesale Holy Spirit revival, there is no way to cross the chasm of the different worldviews: low view of Scripture versus high view of Scripture; worship of creation versus Creator; man-centric versus God-centric; man-made religion versus relationship with God. If we have relationship with God and align ourselves to Him, we advance His kingdom and all things work for good for those who love the Lord.

    If we try to do things man’s way, we run into problems of the flesh, besides problems of being out of God’s will.

    There are at least two different faiths currently under the UMC banner; those who are traditional subscribing to the historical faith, and those who are unitarian universalists in belief. There are also those who are unsaved legacy Methodists, growing up in the church but never having been preached a salvation message or the need to make a decision to repent and be saved. Likely there are even more than these two faiths under the UMC banner.

    When the denomination does not have preach a single Gospel, the opportunities for false teaching and preaching abound. The Affirmations of Faith are firmly rooted in the Historic Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. If that is not the foundation we are all currently upon, then the UMC is not on a firm foundation and will break apart, no matter how much we keep building structures above it. (To throw in California references, we’re an earthquake or mudslide away from splitting apart and collapsing.)

    The UMC cannot go on much longer unequally yoked with different worldviews and different gospels. The only one who is currently winning is the deceiver, satan. One of the interesting things I have seen is how many ungodly things have come into the light, and how many people’s true feelings have come forward from behind false facades. The Truth shines bright and exposes darkness, which is for the good. Things hidden in darkness are often unknown and not dealt with. Things exposed to the light can be dealt with.

    I will continue to pay for revival in the UMC and across God’s whole universal church. I pray the Truth shines bright and darkness has no place. Revival is coming. God’s people will be involved in it. Will the UMC be part of the revival? I hope and pray this is so, and I leave it in God’s hands.

    People of the Methodist tradition will do mighty works prepared by the Lord, but will it be under the UMC banner? In Africa, yes; in America, in the Western Jurisdiction where I live; healings and deliverances have occurred even during GC2019. I was there, involved in prayers, and witnessed miracles. Unfortunately, much of the Western Jurisdiction is quenching the Holy Spirit by being in disobedience.

    I would think it better to break off and abide by rules that are agreeable within a group than to be disobedient to what has been agreed upon through the rules of denomination. If the rules for making change were followed, and the change did not happen, the godly response is to abide in the rules and work toward change in the future. Anger, strife, disruption and disobedient are not fruits of the spirit, but fruits of the flesh. The way of the spirit is love joy and peace.

    Going in peace was how I left my longtime UMC home church (28 years), because I knew that it would only bring strife to stay under a progressive pastor who quenched the Holy Spirit and did not share my worldview. I stood for truth as long as I was able, but when the reverend preached that Jesus was not God at the pulpit, that was it. I am Jesus’ sheep and I hear is voice, not the voice of the man preaching falsehood from the pulpit.

    I continue some limited fellowship with UMC members who share my core beliefs through WCA. My spirit has been much renewed away from the UMC strife, in a church with a high view of scripture and biblically based teachings from the Word. The glory is all to God the Father, through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, perfect Trinity!

  43. Comment by William on March 5, 2019 at 6:52 pm

    I’m still on board praying for revival or, should that fail, a split. But TRUTH will prevail one way or the other. This UMC congerence is, indeed, exposing a number of false prophets so far. It is also exposing the fact that progressives do not believe Scripture. If they believed Scripture, they would have long ago stepped up to the plate with actual, verifiable Scripture to underpin their positions. But the can’t because there is no such Scripture for which they can show. Therefore, the are left with on recourse except to attack the Scripture on these matters for which they vehemently disagree. It’s one messed up condition. Why do they stay if they don’t believe the Bible? Well, they must be children of Satan who are there to destroy. What a sorry state of being — trying to get through the gates of Hades.

  44. Comment by David Lee on March 5, 2019 at 7:43 pm

    Willimon has always acted like he thinks he is the Methodist Bishop version of Lewis Grizzard. It’s a tired old shtick.

  45. Comment by Scs on March 6, 2019 at 2:17 pm

    Absolutely unbecoming of a Bishop to behave this way and act like this.

    The liberal faction and those supporting them in our Florida conference are behaving like intemperate children. Irrational. Leading with emotion and snark. Maybe we should rethink he pensions of some. It’s disgraceful.

  46. Comment by David Carter on March 6, 2019 at 9:03 pm

    I have yet to understand why anyone outside of his Duke echo chamber listen to a word this guy has ever said…..to borrow snippet from Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The louder Bishop Willimon speaks of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.”

  47. Comment by Diane on March 15, 2019 at 1:55 pm

    OK folks, lgbtq people are generally not attracted to the UMC – they’re born into your church family. And most lgbtq people (I know literally hundreds, as decades-long advocate) are exceptionally spiritual beings. You love them in your pulpits, at the organ bench, singing in your choirs, etc – as long as they stay closeted. I lived in a small southern town where the United Methodists have had closeted lgbt clergy for at least four decades. The surest way for you “traditional” plan folks to manipulate, use, and adore them is for lgbtq folks to marry someone of the opposite sex. Because you are out of the lgbtq loop because of your condemnation, you have no clue how many of your faux-heterosexual preachers, lay leaders, and others are cheating on their straight spouses. It is extremely common, folks.

    The traditional plan breeds deception and sexual abuse of innocent folks (adultery, for example). Progressives prefer honesty. It’s that simple – you can argue your Bible bullets forever and a day, but what it boils down to is: traditional love pretend-heterosexuals who are actually closeted lgbtq folks and progressives prefer people to be honest and live as God created them.

    The argument that Willimon prayed and God’s Spirit didn’t move in the direction – therefore Jesus isn’t on Willimom’s side is about as stupid as one can get. Evangelical Christians poured their money, hearts, prayers, and political endorsement on a Charlotte, NC Baptist preacher, Mark Harris, because Harris represented their traditional anti-lgbt values. I guess Jesus wasn’t moved by their prayers, because Harris turned out to be involved with an election scam. His day of judgment was seen around the world while he cried as his son testified that Daddy Mark was lyin’. Jesus showed no mercy to Harris and the anti-lgbt Christians who fervently prayed that Harris might win.

  48. Comment by Loren Golden on March 17, 2019 at 12:15 am

    Madam, if I might enjoin you to come down from your soapbox for a moment and be “open to reason” (Jas. 3.17), that we might “reason together” (Is. 1.18), there are a few things that I would like you to seriously consider.
    It is quite plain that you believe that the only loving reaction Christians can have to seeing a loved one announce that he or she is an “lgbtq person” is to renounce faith that the Bible is being straight with us when it teaches us that God regards homosexual behavior as a sin (Lev. 18.22, 20.13, Rom. 1.24-28, I Cor. 6.9-11, I Tim. 1.8-11), and instead to embrace these loved ones as if “God created them” to be lesbian, “gay” (male homosexual), bisexual, transgender/transsexual, queer/questioning, intersex, asexual/allies, etc.
    However, Scripture is the Word of God (II Tim. 3.16-17, II Pet. 1.19-21), not the word of man, and as He said, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Is. 55.8-9)  And we are enjoined to, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.  Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.  It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.” (Prov. 3.5-8)
    The Biblical teaching that homosexuality is a sin is a hard teaching for many—yourself included.  After the Lord Jesus delivered another hard teaching (that feeding on His spiritual flesh and blood is eternal life, and that “no one can come to (Him) unless it is granted him by the Father”), “many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.”  Yet when He asked His twelve disciples if they wanted to go away as well, Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.” (Jn. 6.26-71)
    And when teaching the crowds of the cost of discipleship, the Lord Jesus said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”  By this He does not mean that we should literally hate and despise our flesh-and-blood relations, for such would be a supreme violation of the Fifth Commandment (Ex. 20.12, Dt. 5.16, Mt. 15.1-6, Mk. 7.9-13) and the Second Great Commandment (Lev. 19.17-18, Mt. 22.39, Mk. 12.31).  Rather, He means that we should not love them more than we love Him and, by extension, His Father (Mt. 10.37-39).  Yet when we forsake His Word in order to nullify the sinfulness of homosexuality, bisexuality, transgenderism, et al, we are declaring that we do, in fact, love our earthly father, mother, brother, sister, wife, son, or daughter more than we love God, making ourselves unbelievers, for we are thus declaring that we neither believe nor trust His Word, insofar as it violates our sinful consciences.  And to the extent that this is happening in the Church of Jesus Christ today, that part of His Church is dying.
    Now, suppose you were to go to your physician, and she were to see unmistakable evidence that you had a life-threatening cancer, and yet she were to say nothing to you about it, instead telling you that the symptoms you were feeling were merely of a benign tumor that God inherently created you with.  Would this not be malpractice of the worst sort?  Yet it is exactly what you are asking—nay, demanding—the Church of Jesus Christ to do, as a purportedly loving response to the revelation that our loved ones are engaging in sexual sin.  But if the sexually immoral (who fail to repent of their sexual immorality and put their faith in the Lord Jesus) will ultimately have no place in the Resurrection (I Cor. 6.9-11, Rev. 21.8, 22.15), and we know this and yet say nothing in an effort to convince our erring loved ones to repent and seek the saving grace of forgiveness in the finished work of the Lord Jesus, how are we then showing love?  Are we not thus proving ourselves to be genuine devils, by approving of and accepting their sin and iniquity, as if it were truly not sin, when repentance and faith in Christ is what they truly need for restoration and forgiveness, even if they think they neither need nor want it for their “lgbtq” lifestyle?  And how should the Lord Jesus welcome us, if we act thusly?  Do you think it in vain that the Lord Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 7.21-23)?  Or are you a priori convinced that He will only say this to individuals, such as myself, who believe the Biblical witness and seek to warn erring brothers and sisters from following desires of their hearts that will ultimately lead them to destruction?

  49. Comment by Roger on April 14, 2019 at 8:10 am

    Excellent response.

  50. Comment by Loren Golden on March 24, 2019 at 11:45 pm

    From Willimon’s original article, linked to in the article, above:

    “Before the United Methodist Special General Conference opened on Saturday, we prayed. Perhaps God would miraculously grant a fruitful discussion among 800 disputants who have very little in common except our cross-and-flame nametags. We prayed for openness to different points of view, unity, communion, gracious listening, holy conferencing, empathetic feelings, and generosity of spirit.
    “It didn’t work.
    “At some point I shifted my own prayers to, ‘Lord, please melt the hardened hearts and smite everyone who intends to vote against the One Church Plan.’ …
    “The Lord, as far as I could tell, had business elsewhere.”
    Now to interpret:

    “We prayed for openness to different points of view.” Translation: “We prayed that our opponents would be open to our point-of-view.  We really do not care to be open to theirs.”
    “We prayed for … unity, communion.”  Translation: “We prayed for unity and communion around our agenda.  We are not really open to unity and communion around our opponents’ agenda.”
    “We prayed for … gracious listening, holy conferencing, empathetic feelings, and generosity of spirit.”  Translation: “We prayed that our opponents would graciously listen to us, that we could have conferences with our opponents around our holy and self-righteous agenda, that our opponents would empathize with our cause, that their spirits would be generous toward our agenda.”
    “It didn’t work.”  Translation: “God did not answer our prayers in the affirmative that our opponents would come around to our point-of-view.”
    “At some point I shifted my own prayers to, ‘Lord, please melt the hardened hearts and smite everyone who intends to vote against the One Church Plan.’”  Translation: “Ours is the only compassionate plan; therefore, our opponents’ hearts must be hardened against us, since they oppose it, are not open to our point of view, are unwilling to join with us in unity around our agenda, are unwilling to listen to us graciously, are unwilling to empathize with the cause of those for whom we advocate, and lack a spirit generous to give us what we demand.  Therefore, God, I ask that you melt our opponents’ obviously frozen hearts of stone, or else if you will not, then I demand that you smite them down in your hot wrath!”
    “The Lord, as far as I could tell, had business elsewhere.”  Translation: “Since the Lord did not give us what we wanted, even though our point-of-view and agenda were the only point-of-view and agenda at the Special General Conference that truly comported with His holy, just, and loving character, then we’re going to mope and cast aspersions on His motives in addition to those of our opponents.”
    Willimon is very “wise in (his) own conceits” (Rom. 11.25), as is evident from the diatribe he posted on the Christian Century’s website.  He wants traditionalists to trust him and the other bishops who came up with the One Church Plan, to graciously listen to them, be open to their point of view, to empathize with them, and ultimately come around to their way of thinking.  Unfortunately, he was not practicing what he was preaching.  Why should UMC traditionalists listen to him, to be open to his point of view, to empathize with him, and come around to his way of thinking, if he is unwilling to do the same for them?  Where is the evidence that he understands traditionalists?  Consider the following evidence that he plainly does not:
    “The misnamed Traditional Plan—little in the 200-year tradition of American Methodism justifies such punitive, exclusionary measures …”
    The notion that homosexuality, transgenderism, et al, are justified by a sexual orientation or a psychological gender identity, neither of which can be tangibly discerned, is a postmodern invention; two thousand years of Christian tradition—including two hundred years of Methodist tradition—regarded these actions as sin, and the motives for these actions as arising from the corrupt, fallen, sinful human heart, with professing Christians found guilty of committing them subject to Church discipline, as the Lord outlined in Matthew 18.15-20.  To disparage traditionalist beliefs, when one does not understand—let alone share—them, as Willimon has done, only reinforces what he observed, namely, that traditionalist United Methodists “don’t trust bishops.”
    Given the small margin by which it was defeated, it stands to reason that the Centrists and Progressives in the UMC will attempt to push the bishops’ One Church Plan again at the General Conference next year, which makes rants, such as Willimon’s, shaming traditional United Methodists that much more counter-productive.  As the old adage goes, it is easier to catch flies with honey than with vinegar, and in excoriating traditionalists, Willimon has dished out a liberal helping of vinegar with no honey whatsoever.  It has been noted that in the increasing shift in the percentage of membership in the United Methodist Church to the Global South, which is overwhelmingly traditionalist, next year’s GC will have a greater percentage of delegates from those areas of the world whose delegates voted overwhelmingly for the Traditional Plan and against the bishops’ Plan in last month’s Special General Conference.  If the bishops are going to have any prayer of getting their Plan passed, they are going to have to convince a fair number of traditionalists to vote for it.  It stands to reason that if you’re going to have any shot of doing this, you are going to have to take the time to understand traditional United Methodists and their beliefs and motives, you are going to need to exhibit profound humility, and you are going to have to demonstrate an extraordinary amount of genuine respect for them and their beliefs and motives.  (And as an aside, this would be an excellent principle for both political parties in Washington to adopt, in order to reduce the horrendous levels of incivility and rancor that Republicans and Democrats show toward one another.)
    Now one might think that for members of the Church of Jesus Christ to practice this kind of civility toward their opposition within the pale of the Church would be common sense; after all, the Lord Jesus commanded us, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Mt. 5.44-45), and again, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Jn. 13.34-35)  Yet this is not how Centrists, Progressives, and other Theological Liberals have treated traditionalists in the United Methodist Church (or in the Episcopal Church, the ELCA, the PC(USA), and elsewhere), retired Bishop Willimon’s acrimonious post to the Christian Century being a case in point.  He is quick to accuse “the traditionalists from the Wesleyan Covenant Association” as being “eager to roll up their sleeves and go to work tearing asunder the church that produced them”, but he is blind to the tremendous strides that he has made toward that same purportedly undesirable end in the vindictive language he employed in his post.  He is quick to accuse the traditionalists of saying, “If this doesn’t go our way, and maybe even if it does, we’re leaving,” but when the things did not go his way, he lashed out in anger and rage toward those he blames for keeping his favored Plan from carrying the day.  And vindictive words carelessly spoken—or worse, committed to writing—are not easily recalled.  In this, it is well that we consider instruction from James, the brother of our Lord, and from the Apostle Paul:
    “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.  For we all stumble in many ways, and if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.  If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well.  Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs.  So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.
    “How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!  And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness.  The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.  For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue.  It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.  With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.  From the same mouth come blessing and cursing.  My brothers, these things ought not to be so.” (Jas. 3.1-10)
    And again, “Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.  Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (Col. 4.5-6)
    If retired Bishop Willimon and his fellow bishops would see a Way Forward Plan passed, upon which both they and the traditionalist majority in the United Methodist Church can agree, then I suggest that they genuinely and publicly repent of the incivility and rancor that they have exhibited in the weeks following the passage of the Traditionalist Plan in last month’s Special General Conference, and to humbly begin to build sound bridges of understanding with traditional United Methodists—especially with the those traditionalists with whom they are most at odds.  And I would implore you to remember the words commonly attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: “O Master, let me not seek as much … to be understood as to understand.”

  51. Comment by Lynn Higginbotham on April 5, 2019 at 1:29 pm

    Thanks Scott for an honest response and exposing Willimon and others like him for what they are. Unfaithful leaders in the United Methodist Church. In the New Testament we are provided scriptural guidance to not associate with those who call themselves brothers and sisters in Christ, but who actually deny Jesus and biblical teaching in their words and actions. Traditionalists are not evil and we do not hate sinners. We simply follow the Gospel as preached by Jesus and the Apostles. If only our leaders would preach the Gospel, clearly and without apology, people who are truly seeking Jesus would repent of their sins, follow Jesus, and be saved through faith in Jesus Christ. Lives are changed by the indwelling Holy Spirit. Thank you for speaking up for truth.

  52. Comment by bob on August 15, 2019 at 4:13 pm

    All i have been reading lately concerns the so called VOTE and the problems surrounding it.It appears that some were not supposed to vote and that others acheived the responce the wanted in an under handed fashion..Bishop Willimon is saying trust the Holy Spirit…Bishop ,The Holy Spirit is trying to keep the church together.Bishop i think you need to do some very serious praying.This time listen for God to respond .do not speak of your own selfish wants..

  53. Comment by Tim Killen on September 27, 2019 at 2:58 am

    I have had personal interactions with Mr. Willimon in his capacity as Bishop in Alabama. He was originally a stark conservative member of the “confessing” movement.
    His comments confirm to me my feelings toward this man…he is a fraud. He is a shameless, political opportunist that has consistently bent in the direction the wind was blowing. He was essentially “exiled” from Duke for his views on homosexuality (conservative) and given the “consolation” of a bishopric in Alabama. He proceeded to spend 8 years writing books, condescending local pastors and churches, and displaying a general academic elitist arrogance coupled with narcissism. Mr. Willimon is a “career” preacher, not a spiritual one. I’m glad to see him expose his arrogance finally. May he receive the recognition he deserves. We Methodists could not wait to get him the”hell” out of Alabama.

  54. Comment by Gigi on January 6, 2020 at 1:45 pm

    The real issue is not really about gay clergy or marrying same sex couples. The real issue is Do we believe the Bible is the inerrant and inspired word of God or do we believe it is not and is subject to each persons interpretation of it? Do we believe scripture is God’s absolute truth or not? Until we answer that question the LGBTQ question is whatever a person “feels” is right. I’d much rather have the Authority of the Word of the One who created us !

  55. Comment by PJ on April 28, 2020 at 11:43 am

    Scott, this is spot on. I am a seminary student and active member of an ACNA Church in the Chicago area, so I sympathize with much of what you have to say. I mourn with you that so many are departing from orthodoxy in such a gross fashion, but I find that reminding ourselves of what Jesus said of His Church, “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” May our Lord bless you and keep you!

The work of IRD is made possible by your generous contributions.

Receive expert analysis in your inbox.