March 13, 2019

UM Voices: “Some (Still) Trust in Chariots”

 Today’s guest author is Rev. Karen Booth, the former director of Transforming Congregations and a former member of the Institute on Religion & Democracy’s UMAction Advisory Board.   

A few months before the United Methodist General Conference of 2012, Bristol House Publishers released my book Forgetting How to Blush: United Methodism’s Compromise with the Sexual Revolution.[1] The culmination of eight years of extensive research, it traced the denomination’s history of theological, educational and programmatic accommodation to the sexual revolution, including its response to pro-LGBT activism.

One of the chapters drew attention to a little-known but nonetheless groundbreaking study from 2006 called David v. Goliath. A project of The National Religious Leadership Roundtable, it cast a compelling vision for a secular and religious gay rights alliance. Uniting those who were more politically savvy with those “in the business of changing hearts and minds” had the potential to wield enormous social clout.[2]

So, a two-pronged strategy was developed: first, support, strengthen and promote those religious bodies that already were pro-LGBT and second, attempt to change the teaching and policy of those that were not. Mainline Protestant denominations were key to this scheme; as “the backbone of American religion,” their conversion would score “a tremendous moral victory for the LGBT community.” (David v. Goliath, p 14)

Thirteen denominations that had large, influential LGBT “affinity” groups were surveyed, but only four of them received special attention. Though it had already approved gay ordination and same-sex blessing, the Episcopal Church was chosen because it still faced international opposition in the broader Anglican Communion. The other three – the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and The United Methodist Church – needed assistance in fighting their seemingly uphill battles for full inclusion.

The last three also had something else in common: democratic decision-making processes that affected the entire denomination.[3] If potential donors could be persuaded to commit the necessary money for resources and staffing, it was hoped that these processes could be more effectively influenced or manipulated, especially via the “vast, moveable middle” and the younger generations.

Over the next five years, from 2006 to 2011, the Arcus Foundation, the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund and the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation pumped over $30 million into religious efforts to undermine traditional sexual ethics. The Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) and several official and related seminaries were the major beneficiaries within United Methodism.[4]

The results? Two of the three non-affirming denominations that were singled out for special attention voted to officially sanction gay ordination and/or same-sex marriage – the ELCA in 2009 and the PCUSA in 2011.[5] The United Methodist Church successfully resisted this trend, though traditionalist delegates only narrowly defeated an attempt to pass “let’s all agree to disagree” legislation at General Conference 2012.

A quick online search this week revealed that The United Methodist Church has remained in the crosshairs of these powerful foundations ever since. Though grants to RMN from the Haas Fund and the Carpenter Foundation were substantial ($101,000 and $135,000 respectively from 2014-2016), support from Arcus was overwhelming – over $2 million from 2011-2018. In fact, Arcus funding contributed more than half of RMN’s overall operating budget during at least one of those years.[6]

In addition, Arcus hired United Methodist layman Randall Miller as its Director of Global Religions in 2015. (He had served in a similar capacity for six years with the Haas Fund.) For almost three years, Miller worked to implement the stated goals of the project, which were comprehensive and far-reaching: advocating for LGBT Muslims by strengthening the network of LGBT-friendly Islamic faith leaders; building a similar network among faith leaders in Africa, primarily in the south and east; defeating or reversing “religious exemption” laws; and seeking opportunities for “limited” influence in “historically resistant” faith communities – “black churches, evangelical communities, Roman Catholic churches, and others.” [7]

Miller also has an extensive history of United Methodist pro-LGBT involvement. He served on the RMN Board for four years and twice for short periods as its Interim Director. He taught at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley. And even though it appears to me to be a conflict of interest, he has been elected as a General Conference delegate multiple times, including operating as Chair of the Commission on General Conference in 2012.[8] He is a persuasive advocate for full inclusion, especially in the legislative committees I have observed and also on the plenary floor.

When I reflect on our recent specially called General Conference in St. Louis, I am amazed that the UMC – with the Holy Spirit’s help, of course – managed yet again to dodge such a colossal, well-financed, and seemingly unstoppable bullet. To me, it is nothing short of miraculous! But then, Psalm 20:7 easily comes to mind. “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” I choose to believe that will be the case in the years ahead, at General Conference 2020 and beyond.


[1] Bristol House Publishers is no longer in business. Remaining hard copies of Forgetting How to Blush may be purchased through Seedbed (https://store.seedbed.com/collections/bristol/products/forgetting-how-to-blush) or directly from the author (ilovepoosterboy@aol.com). A Kindle version is available through Amazon.

[2] The National Religious Leadership Roundtable was organized in 1998 by the Gay and Lesbian Task Force (now the National LGBTQ Task Force) and included representatives from both secular and multi-faith pro-LGBT activist groups. Three unofficial United Methodist caucus groups were founding members: Affirmation/CORNET (Covenant Relationships Network), the Methodist Federation for Social Action and the Reconciling Ministries Network. The David v. Goliath report can be read online at http://www.welcomingresources.org/davidvgoliath.pdf.

[3] “Denominations including the Lutheran, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Methodist, and American Baptist Churches and the Disciples of Christ regularly hold national and regional assemblies with representatives from across the country where the primary topic of debate in recent years has been the place of LGBT people in the churches. For many members of the mainline churches, issues such as LGBT ordination and same-sex blessings within their denominations are their primary point of engagement on issues of LGBT equality. If these denominations could be won over to support LGBT ordination and same-sex marriage, it would represent a vast and historic shift in the religious landscape of America.” David v. Goliath, p 14.

[4] See my blog post “Outsider influence over homosexuality at General Conference.” (https://goodnewsmag.org/2012/01/outsider-influence-over-homosexuality-at-general-conference/)

[5] See Dan Moran’s blog post “Personal Testimonies of the PCUSA and ELCA’s ‘One Church’ Plans” for an overview of the results of these decisions. (https://juicyecumenism.com/2019/02/19/personal-testimonies-pcusa-elcas-one-church-plans/)

[6] For example, in 2015 RMN reported total assets of roughly $685,000. Arcus had contributed $400,00 of that. Other grant information is available to the public through a search of 990s on The Foundation Center website (http://foundationcenter.org/find-funding/990-finder) or by reading Arcus’ Annual Reports on ISSUU (https://issuu.com/emersonwajdowiczstudios/docs/arcus_ar2012_social_justice).

[7] See https://www.globalinnovationexchange.org/funding/arcus-global-religions-program and https://www.arcusfoundation.org/arcus-announces-appointment-randall-miller-global-religions-director/.

[8] The Commission on General Conference is the committee in charge of making arrangements and setting agenda for the gathering. See https://rmnetwork.org/rmn-hires-interim-executive-director/.


21 Responses to UM Voices: “Some (Still) Trust in Chariots”

  1. Andrew Hughes says:

    Thank you Rev. Booth for your research and the unveiling of those behind this awful agenda. I pray for God’s continued guidance and to raise up more leaders like yourself.

    • Melissa says:

      Very enlightening article, Rev. Booth. I am so very thankful for the courage shown by the traditional Methodists in St. Louis and for the results of the vote taken there.

  2. Diane says:

    My take on this: in the end, Booth remains married to win-lose institutionalism. As a Human characteristic, homosexuality is more common than having red hair. I’m a senior citizen, an lgbtq ally for the past 30-some years. This I know: LGBTQ are born everyday and are in every faith community. In communities where sacred texts are interpreted literally, an LGBTQ person who wants to remain needs to literally pretend or pass as heterosexual. Deception is honored. LGBTQ people in affirming communities can literally just be themselves. One part of the institution is built on deception, the other honesty. I don’t need bible verses to figure out which community I want to be part of – the honest one is where I want to be.

    • James Lung says:

      Exactly. “Born that way, can’t change” is the lie that makes dialogue in this issue impossible. Leanne Payne called it “Dialogue with the devil.”

    • diaphone64 says:

      If they’re born that way then so are pedophiles/pedosexuals. Will you be inclusive of them also or is your allying selective?

      • Diane says:

        There’s no shortage of heterosexual pedophiles….should we deny heterosexuals marriage and ordained ministry because if one practices an obscene lifestyle, surely all heterosexuals obviously fall in the same lifestyle boat.

        BTW, those who prefer to use “lifestyle” should be reminded that the term refers to denial of sexual orientation, ie, sexuality is a choice. That reduces all of humanity to being bisexual – if one can choose homosexuality, one can choose heterosexuality. We are all innately bisexual. Find me the millions of folks who can tell me about the day and hour they sat down and decided to be heterosexual, as I’ve yet to find a such a person. Heterosexuals I know have said they didn’t decide to be heterosexual, they just are…innately.

        • Tom says:

          “Heterosexuals I know have said they didn’t decide to be heterosexual, they just are…innately.”

          Because that is the natural order. That is the way the species propagates. Anything else is abnormal.

          But you already know that.

  3. David says:

    “And the LORD was with Judah; and he drave out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron.” Judges 1:19 KJV

  4. Mike says:

    If anyone here hasn’t read Rev. Booth’s excellent book, get a copy of it – it is eye-opening! The progressives in our church are truly part of a much larger movement to erase traditional Christian faith. I’m not an alarmist, but when you read all the data/evidence in her book, you simply have to acknowledge this as fact.

  5. Jens Paulsen says:

    Even the confused and misguided are welcome in our church and community however their lifestyle is not acceptable nor is it in compliance with scriptures; therefore they shall not stand as examples, leaders, teachers or pastors in front of our children and congregations.

    • Diane says:

      Really? People who are gay are no more confused then people who are straight. I mean, I get a good laugh when conservative Christians tell their pastors how wonderful they are (when their pastor is actually gay….conservative people have a desperate need to believe everyone is heterosexual until they’re told otherwise. Very confused belief!

  6. William says:

    If the church no longer believes in repentance, forgiveness, and new born again transformed lives in Jesus Christ, then the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross has no meaning. And, that, in turn, nullifies the Resurrection as well. Why exist without the gospel? No reason. We are no longer a Christian church, but instead yet another of the numerous cults that have come and gone over these last 2,000 years.

    • Diane says:

      Every major “ex-gay” “ministry” that operated for decades (they “served” thousands”) have folded in recent years, apologizing for the hurt caused by their bogus claim, “change is possible”. Gay people have no need to repent of their sexuality any more than heterosexual people do. Sexuality is one of God’s good gifts.

  7. Susan Donahue says:

    Thank you for such a well stated piece. There are those of us Methodists who love and encourage the participation of all groups, even those with alternative lifestyles, but we do not want the church to be effectively influenced or manipulated to change from the spirit filled place it has always been.

    • Diane says:

      Now here’s an alternative lifestyle that conservative Christians love to accept: when gay people marry someone of the opposite sex. Problem is mixed-orientation marriages, where one spouse is pretending to be straight overwhelmingly end in divorce. The Straight Spouse Network exists to support the thousands of unsuspecting straight spouses who learned their spouse was gay. The Network estimates 85% of mixed orientation marriages end in divorce. A gay friend of mine finally couldn’t pretend he was straight any longer and came out as gay to his wife of twenty years. They didn’t divorce – great, conservative folks reading this are probably thinking. They did indeed decide to remain married. One month later his traumatized, devastated, depressed wife took her life. Committed suicide. When conservative Christians talk about “alternative lifestyles,” they’re talking about mixed-orientation marriages. Please read the heartbreaking stories of straight spouses on the Straight Spouse Network website. BTW, one of the leaders of that organization is a United Methodist woman whose marriage ended in divorce after her husband came out as gay. Gay people who conceal their identity and marry straight folks do so to please conservative family and church members.

  8. James Lung says:

    Our Conference (Western NC) has planted and heavily subsidized reconciling congregations. I’m wondering if those churches are not receiving this money.

  9. Cynthia says:

    And exactly how is this any different than the involvement of the IRD in Methodist affairs? (Don’t know why I bother; this won’t be posted….)

  10. Julie A. Arms Meeks says:

    And the flip side is United Methodism @ Risk. By Leon Howell. Copyright 2003 by Information Project for United Methodists.

    Follow the money works for both sides, just as following Jesus does.

  11. Rev CJH says:

    Ecumenism: the principle or aim of promoting unity among the world’s Christian Churches. Right…..that is *exactly* what Juicy Ecumenism does. Not. And it is absolutely rich with irony that the IRD’s blog is complaining about money spent in support of LGBTQ Christians. Is the pot calling the kettle black much?

    • MikeS says:

      Well I think ‘ecumenism’ refers to unity among orthodox Christian churches, but not unity between orthodox and deviant churches which is pointless. IRD seems to be pursuing the sensible type of ecumenism.

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