Rev. Cliff Wall is an elder in the Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church and serves as the pastor of Clarksbury UMC in Harmony, NC. He also preaches several revivals at other churches each year. Rev. Wall and his wife, Christi, have been blessed with six children. This article originally appeared on his blog, Wall to Wall Faith, Hope, and Love. Reposted with permission.
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.
In my last article, I mentioned my friend, Angy, who was a lesbian. I first met Angy a few years ago at a non-denominational charismatic church. We were both there for a special lecture. She was sitting behind me when she overheard someone asking me about being clergy in the United Methodist Church. The person asked me about the controversy over sexuality in our denomination. I briefly explained and also shared that I am conservative. That’s when Angy graciously entered into the conversation.
She said she was once a passionate member of the LGBTQIA+ community, who thought the traditional Christian view was pure hate. She said she eventually realized that it wasn’t really preachers like me who were condemning her; it was actually those who were affirming her in her sin.
Angy said she would like to share a word about the controversy in the Church. Below is her succinct and poignant message to the UMC and LGBTQIA+ people.
By Angy Calvert
As a former member of the LGBTQIA community, I would strongly urge you to understand this one thing in light of the recent United Methodist General Conference.
Our acceptance by God is not dependent on whether the church accepts people in the doors. It almost seems like some people actually think that if a church welcomes someone in, God is then bound to accept that person into the Kingdom. Almost like a “majority rules” concept. We HAVE to understand that GOD IS HOLY and welcomes people into the Kingdom on HIS terms alone, not on any terms or standards we fallen humans deem adequate, and He has made those terms very clear.
The church can welcome people in with open arms all day long and they will still end up in hell for not believing and acknowledging His truth as perfectly expressed in His word! If we choose to suppress that truth, as Romans 1 clearly lays out, no amount of human acceptance will save us.
“On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
Matthew 7:22-23 ESV
Rev. Wall’s last article very correctly states that though we are made in God’s image, we are a fallen race, slaves of sin and hostile to God. One of the ways this plays out most evidently is in same sex desires, as it goes against God’s original created order. We can kick and scream, suppress and refuse it and swear up and down that the Bible doesn’t say it’s wrong, but in the end, we alone will be responsible for our hostility to God’s truth.
If we would stop being hostile to God and accept His judgement on such things, this whole topic of practicing LGBTQIA in the church wouldn’t even exist because we would accept and respect what God said through Paul:
“But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. Purge the evil person from among you.”
1 Corinthians 5:11-13 ESV
If you want the extended list of those we are to have nothing to do with if they are professing to be a “brother”, Paul gives it to us here:
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”
1 Corinthians 6:9-10 ESV
So Paul is certainly not advocating for singing kumbaya and giving the right hand of fellowship to folks who are defiantly living for their own desires.
I say if someone is honestly searching for the truth, open doors and arms and speak God’s truth to them in love.
If someone claims to know Christ yet sees nothing wrong with practicing sexual immorality, close the doors, and as Paul says:
“Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.”
1 Corinthians 15:34 ESV
I know this is a sensitive topic for a lot of people. I have a great deal of compassion for anyone who is struggling with same sex attraction because I was once that person. But letting someone think God is pleased with the lifestyle they’re living, when God himself has stated that is NOT the case, is the most unloving thing we could possibly do…
Please hear me on this… eternity is at stake!
I have learned over the years that people like Angy receive no special sympathy from the radical Left. I have witnessed some of my progressive UM colleagues react with intense vitriol to Angy herself specifically when she has shared her testimony. But for anyone who is truly wrestling with these things, voices like Angy’s should also be heard.
Angy no longer struggles with same sex attraction. She has been transformed by the power of God’s grace. At the same time we are being told by some that gender has no biological basis and is an absolute choice, some of the same people are telling us that sexual orientation is absolutely fixed and people should not have the choice to try to change. Our society seems hell-bent to encourage young children to go through gender reassignment, while preventing any discussion of the possibility that sexual orientation can change. Children are being told it’s fine to question their gender and transform their bodies to confirm to their psychological state. They’re also being told that sexual orientation is absolutely fixed, and seeking change for sexual orientation is harmful. It is absurd and it is a lie. (See how APA researcher has acknowledged that sexual orientation can and does change.)
The power of God can certainly change our corrupted desires. Angy’s is a case in point. But there will also be cases where corrupted desires won’t be completely healed until the resurrection. I have some corrupt desires of my own that I still wrestle with, as do we all. There are Christians who still experience same-sex attraction, but choose, for the sake of Christ and the Gospel, to take up their cross and deny themselves daily when it comes to those desires.
Of course, the Church should not make any particular class of unrepentant sinners feel hopeless. The Gospel, however, is not only about God’s acceptance and affirmation of our dignity as humans created in his image; it is also a call to repentance and transformation with regards to the way sin has distorted God’s image in us through corrupted desires. There is plenty of hope in the gospel for all people.
The unconditional love of God is not that God will save everyone regardless of repentance and faith. God’s love is unconditional in the sense that no one who turns away from sin and turns back to him will be turned away–no matter what we have done or left undone. All people are truly invited to repent and enter into the kingdom of God. Again, there is no special condemnation for some; neither are there special exemptions. God’s grace, which includes forgiveness and new birth, is for all people.
As it turns out, the progressive message of inclusion is really the most exclusive because it excludes the most people from the kingdom of God, even as it purports to welcome more people into the visible Church. That’s Angy’s message above in a nutshell. Let the one who has ears to hear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.