As the United Methodist Church (UMC) splits apart, the depth of the denomination’s division over human sexuality and related theological questions is becoming increasingly obvious. Recently, a video was posted by openly gay Isaac Simmons, an associate pastor at Hope UMC in Bloomington, Illinois, who has been widely celebrated as the first drag queen certified as an ordination candidate in the UMC. Simmons regularly preaches in drag as the female persona “Ms. Penny Cost,”and has been featured as a speaker for progressive United Methodists across the country.
The video immediately raises questions about the wisdom of ordaining Simmons. Blatantly titled “The Bible is Nothing” the video is now featured prominently on Simmons’ website. It contains repeated use of profanity (including blasphemy), consistent anger-filled claims against orthodoxy, casual hate, and a denial of God. Simmons opens with a shocking disparagement of the Bible’s unique authority, stating, “The Bible is no more holy than Allen Ginsburg’s howls of life, no more peaceful than Oscar Wilde’s Requiescat in pace, and no more stronger than Tammy f—ing Faye’s g—d— eyelash glue.”
Simmons delivers the poem orally as himself (wearing a shirt with the words “PROUD MARY” and an apparent picture of a statue of Jesus Christ’s mother overlaid with rainbow colors), rather than in his drag queen persona. In this video, he calls the Bible “nothing but poetry, pain, and performance” and refers to God as “God, themself” (avoiding male pronouns for God).
The poem eventually devolves into a condemnation of “theology of toxic masculinity” and “Christian terrorists who wield their flappable doctrine to inflict harm on God’s queerly anointed creation.” Simmons even likens Christians with traditional biblical beliefs to literal murderers of gay people like Aaron McKinney, Roger Nunez, and Omar Mateen.
Simmons even repeats “God is nothing” several times, at one point declaring “God is nothing, but if she were, she would be a seamstress, of divine couture, weaving together string theory and self-portraits to form the fiercest gowns of queer existence.” Simmons goes so far as to reference the “nothingness” of the Bible, God, and religion with an explicit gay pornography term. Throughout the entire five-minute rant, Simmons belittles God’s divinity, holiness, and supremacy.
According to Ms. Penny Cost’s “About” page, Simmons found a home in the UMC after coming out as gay, and discovered in the UMC’s doctrine a “beautiful understanding of Grace, a history of reformation, and a desire to right the wrongs of injustice, oppression, and exclusion.” Throughout this brief autobiography, Simmons never directly mentions Jesus Christ, salvation, or repentance of personal sin. There is, however, a reference to the “reclamation of Spirituality” and a claim of “Love, Affirmation and Celebration which ever flows from the Divine.”
Now certified as an ordination candidate in the historically moderate Illinois-Great Rivers Annual Conference, this drag-queen activist has been celebrated by liberal United Methodists across the nation. He was an invited speaker for the distant, Arizona-centered Desert Southwest Conference’s “Pride Month Worship Service” last year. He will be a speaker at a large, liberal United Methodist congregation in Missouri later this year. The official United Methodist News Service’s YouTube channel has even produced a one-sided video sympathetically detailing how Simmons uses “the art form of drag” to “speak in a new way.” Simmons says he celebrates everyone fully for who they are because he sees it as “divine.”
Ms. Penny Cost was also recently featured as the keynote speaker for a major event organized by the Indiana “Room For All Coalition,” the main caucus of liberal leaders in the UMC’s Indiana Annual Conference. During this speech, Simmons outlined an alleged difference between the “Duty to Doctrine” and the “Duty to Care” He then stated that church doctrine would have to give way to “Care,” if the two are in conflict, because “doctrine is but a document of humanity, but humanity is a testament of divinity. In caring for one another, we care for the Well of Justice… the River of Peace… the Source of Unyielding Love itself.” He portrayed doctrine as an obstacle, rather than divinely established truths that lead to love, freedom, and the best care. In the same speech Simmons referred to God as “God the Father, God the Mother, and God the Trans-Identifying Parent of Color.”
Simmons’ obvious disdain for traditional believers and biblical faith raises many questions his candidacy for ordination. When Simmons produces such forceful diatribes against the foundations of biblical Christian faith, what kind of service would he conduct as a minister of a flock? How patient and loving should would he likely be with conservative members of any United Methodist congregation to which he may be appointed as pastor in the future?
Ms. Penny Cost is a symptom of a larger issue facing the UMC, and a possible indicator of the future of the post-separation United Methodist Church. If the UMC continues to celebrate the self-centered postmodern theology that glorifies individual power, it will lose all connection to the biblical truths of sin and salvation. Church people will continue to struggle with what it means to love others without condoning sin. But Simmons’ provocative, angry activism, and the way it has been widely embraced by liberal United Methodists beyond his annual conference, suggests that the post-separation UMC may increasingly silence and “cancel” as bigots anyone who objects to the flamboyant queer spirituality or questions the radical theology of such drag-queen pastors in the denomination.
UPDATE [10/14/2022]: Isaac Simmons preached October 2 at Allendale UMC in St. Petersburg, Florida, as Ms. Penny Cost, including a children’s sermon. Read more here.
Comment by Eternity Matters on May 27, 2022 at 8:04 am
It is such a condemnation of the UMC that people like this can be members, let alone pastors.
Comment by There is precedent for this on May 27, 2022 at 10:59 am
When you read stuff like this it reminds us of the children of Israel in Egypt. The evil slavemasters will not the people who want to leave go, just like the Methodist church hierarchy refuses to let churches go unless they are loaded to the teeth with cash and can buy their way out.
Then at the same time they make things worse and worse for those who cannot abide this horrible sinfulness, taking away the hope the ‘slaves’ had to be free of their overseers, and piling more and more ugliness on them.
At this point I’m starting to regret the first day I walked into a United Methodist church.
Comment by Steve on May 27, 2022 at 1:22 pm
Well, I watched the video/poem and understand what he is trying to do. He starts off by deconstructing Christianity (that’s the negative comments about the Bible and God) and then builds it up by reconstructing Christian faith anew (that’s the positive attributes he applies to God using the “she” pronoun).
I think this video/poem is a great illustration of the significant flaws in the Christian deconstruction fad that is going around churches these days. They are deconstructing the foundation of the Christian faith so they can reconstruct it in their own image (“she”) and feel better about themselves. As a result, all they are left with is the isolation of a self-constructed coffin of rationalizations.
Comment by David S. on May 27, 2022 at 2:11 pm
Romans 1:18-32, or Judges 21:25: “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”
Comment by Brett on May 27, 2022 at 2:23 pm
The link referencing Simmons’ upcoming presentation to a “large, liberal United Methodist congregation in Missouri” goes to a 2018 conference held on the University of Missouri campus. What is the church being referred to?
Comment by Anthony on May 27, 2022 at 3:28 pm
This denomination is so divided and in such abject schism that surely only those in UMC cemeteries could be missing it.
Comment by Tom on May 27, 2022 at 5:31 pm
As with other denominations, apparently the UMC isn’t shrinking fast enough? So this guy has to help it along? If nothing else, what exactly does he think his career path is like in a denomincation hurtling towards extinction?
Comment by George on May 27, 2022 at 7:36 pm
Why single out this poor disgusting sinner over those who allowed and supported his dark endeavor. The greater sin falls on the bishop, district superintendent, and all those who have allowed this to go on.
There will be two distinct Methodist churches. The choice will be clear. Choose wisely.
Comment by David Miller on May 27, 2022 at 8:54 pm
This fellow’s poetry is a bad remake of the pretentious beatnik poems I remember from the 60’s. Little real logic or sense. Awful theology and the fact he is a candidate for ordination is an indictment of the UMC.
Comment by Brett on May 28, 2022 at 8:22 am
The link to an upcoming presentation at a United Methodist church leads to a conference held on the University of Missouri campus four years ago. Can this be fixed to properly direct interested readers? The others seem to work properly.
Comment by Theodore Miner on May 28, 2022 at 9:41 am
I think these explosions of absurdity are useful. This ridiculous behavior will wake people to the bitter fruit of liberal churches and denominations. It will do this much more than liberal nuance and equivocation which uses language in strange ways to fool the people.
Comment by Paul on May 28, 2022 at 3:06 pm
If this person was saying the same things, except condoning and exploiting kinky pre-marital or extra-marital sex, there would be outrage rather than acceptance. Please, I beg church leaders, no ordination.
Comment by Lynn on May 28, 2022 at 4:11 pm
This is yet another wake up call for traditionalists. If the bishops, including council of bishops, refuse to abide by the Methodist Discipline, traditionalists are under no obligations to abide by it, including the trust clause. You cannot pick and choose to follow what only you like, just like the bible you can not cherry pick only the scripture you like. Refuse to pay benevolence for supporting their liberal agenda and most state laws do not recognize the trust clause if traditionalists fight it. We are no longer following like blind sheep and just doing what the wolf wants us to do. Cut off the liberals where it they care, funding.
Comment by Pat on May 28, 2022 at 6:18 pm
Thank you, George for your comment. You are correct. Since the liberal leadership that includes Bishops, district superintendents and any who have no courage to enforce the Book of Discipline and have been blinded by satan or their own quest for power and money, their sin is the greater sin. I agree. This may be the rationale for the split and formation of the new Global Methodist Church as the USA liberals have kept the African and International conservative Methodists from stopping their destruction of the John Wesley Methodist church with a complete abandonment of God’s Holy Scripture by the continued refusal to have the General Conference. They want to gain as much property and monies as possible.
Comment by Pat on May 28, 2022 at 6:26 pm
Unfortunately, the only way to force a general conference vote prior to 2024 is to simply turn off the financial support of the local church, state UMC and all related to the national UMC. I don’t like this step as those of us who have a traditional, Bible preaching pastor and church fall into the trap of an easy gift to the liberal church if all walk away. The only way this strategy would be effective is for local traditional churches to stop any and all payments, leave the UMC and move on. Giving the libeal UMC two more years of financial assistance lets the liberals to continue to have control and dictate what happens. This will not work unless all local givers simply stop at once. If there are not enough traditional leaders in the UMC who will fight and force those in power to enforce the current Book of Discipline, then, it is no wonder so many members are leaving with their pocketbooks to find a new church home, start a new church or send their tithe/financial support to anyone other than the current UMC.
Comment by Gary on May 29, 2022 at 6:00 am
Strange choice of careers that he’s made.
Comment by Anthony on May 29, 2022 at 4:13 pm
While fully utilizing, to the letter of the law for financial gain, the disaffiliation legislation passed at their special called 2019 General Conference — called by these bishops to solve the fifty year old human sexuality and marriage conflict — and as they acknowledge the Global Methodist Church as a place for traditional-orthodox Methodists to land after disaffiliating, they are, at the same time, unilaterally resisting, sabotaging, undermining, and openly violating the other part of that same 2019 legislation on marriage and human sexuality — thus escalating the church conflict into a full blown schism. They are now also declaring as irrelevant the 2020 Protocol Of Reconciliation And Grace Through Separation of which they helped negotiate and then endorse, while, at the same time, making the outrageous, preposterous, and BIG LIE claim that traditional-conservative Methodists will continue to have a home in their “Big Tent” future UMC. Continue to have a home???
Of the mainline Protestant denominations, Methodists always boasted of being the educated, intellectual band. What happened? Have so many Methodists been so dumbed down, brain washed over the last several decades as to not see these con artists-wolves in sheep’s clothing for what they are? Their hypocrisy is so egregious that even many their constituents must be privately cringing.
Comment by Rev. Dr. Lee D Cary (ret. UM clergy) on May 30, 2022 at 10:07 am
Someone has to explain to me why this article is newsworthy?
This the Best that Juicy Ecumenism has to offer readers?
Comment by David on May 30, 2022 at 2:04 pm
The frequency with which this person appears in these pages does make one wonder.
Comment by George on May 30, 2022 at 2:05 pm
What’s your point, Doctor ? Over the past few years, I have learned more about the national politics of the UMC than from anything my pastor, district superintendent, or bishop has told me. It’s about time everyone hears what’s really going on within our denomination and thank God there are those who are exposing it.
Comment by Steve on May 30, 2022 at 3:46 pm
Because it’s the fringe of the UMC, not the norm. (Read above for my opinion of this person and his self-destructive rationalizations). But I do not kid myself that the progressive fringe is the norm any more than the right-wing fringe in the UMC is the norm. For example, there are a lot of “former” Southern Baptists preaching in Methodist churches that clearly are not Methodist in their theology nor appreciate the importance of connectionalism in Methodism. Reading the evolution of the GMC’s transitional BOD illustrates how they are struggling with the influence of those Baptist/UMC local pastors and elders joining their ranks. Seems like they want to make the GMC a Southern Baptist annex Congregationalist denomination that allows divorcees to become preachers – most former Baptist preachers in the UMC I know have been kicked out of the SBC for getting a divorce. They would still be in the SBC if it wasn’t for that one issue and job security.
Don’t allow yourself to be distracted by the craziness of one fringe group while another slips in the backdoor.
Comment by td on May 30, 2022 at 7:23 pm
I am torn about whether giving this man and the devil more publicity by having this article is a good or bad thing. I do think he makes valid points about people who wouldn’t feel comfortable due to how they perceive themselves needing to be welcomed in an abundant way. But welcoming is not the same as blessing sin. And deconstructing christianity is just that- deconstructing it and replacing it with paganism and demonic forces.
Comment by Gail on May 30, 2022 at 8:38 pm
The words being written about this candidate are not only unkind but ungodly in nature. How can you claim to be a Christian or a Methodist and speak so horribly of someone you haven’t met? Disagreeing with someone’s theology does not warrant such words. God bless you all.
Comment by Joe Renta on May 30, 2022 at 10:03 pm
It is getting hard to be a Methodist. Allowing folks to flaunt this behavior and begin the process of ordination is pathetic. The only thing that tops it is the lack of leadership at the top. The Book of Non-Discipline is now no better than a poor excuse for a door stop.
Comment by George on May 31, 2022 at 6:52 am
History tells us that burying one’s head in the sand and ignoring the “fringe”, has not worked out in the past. When Karen Oliveto was ordained, people shrugged and said it was just one church. Just the “fringe “. Now she is BISHOP Oliveto . Oh well, it’s just the fringe, right? Just ignore it and maybe our Church will not split, right ?
Comment by Steve on May 31, 2022 at 7:43 am
You missed the point. We shouldn’t ignore the fringe groups on either side. The problem is the UMC and GMC seem to be focusing on one while ignoring the others. That’s how the devil corrupts. Distract and destroy.
Comment by John Smith on May 31, 2022 at 8:21 am
Ordination in the UMC has long been divorced from the orthodox Christianity. Why is any of this surprising or even of note? This is the UMC.
Comment by George on May 31, 2022 at 8:46 am
Steve, you keep mentioning the far right fringe but fail to explicitly point them out.
Which far right fringe group or groups are you referring to? You said both sides.
I recently met with a pastor who said he would not take sides. Didn’t Jesus say something about hot or cold, but lukewarm he would spit it out.
Comment by John on June 3, 2022 at 1:55 pm
I am UMC clergy and sent the following message to the Illinois-Great Rivers Annual Conference Board of Ordained Ministry where Mr. Simmons provisional ordination will be voted on in clergy session. If you would also like to send a message, you can use their contact form at: https://igrc-reg.brtapp.com/bomcontact
I am clergy in a different conference and thus have no standing in Illinois, but after viewing Isaac Simmons video “The Bible is Nothing” I strongly urge you to reject his candidacy. A profanity-laced excoriation of God and the Bible ought to be sufficient reason, but if that’s not enough, you might consider the ramifications of having a narcissistic drag-queen becoming the face of Jesus Christ in a religion specifically oriented towards humility and self-sacrifice. I’m all for different points of view, but even if Methodism is supposed to be a “big tent” I don’t think it stretches far enough to include clergy with views antithetical to the faith it purports to cover.
Comment by Loren J Golden on June 3, 2022 at 7:44 pm
“Celebrated United Methodist Drag Queen Activist Denounces Bible”
The denunciation is mutual.
“And God spoke all these words, saying, ‘I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.’” (Ex. 20.1-3)
“If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery, to make you leave the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.” (Dt. 13.1-5)
Note: In the contemporary context, where the Old Testament penal code has been abolished with the ancient nation state of Israel, this should be understood to mean, that those who do such things should be defrocked and excommunicated.
“A woman shall not wear a man’s garment, nor shall a man put on a woman’s cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD your God.” (Dt. 22.5)
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
“Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
“For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
“And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” (Rom. 1.18-32)
“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.” (II Pet. 2.1-3)
“Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” (Jude 3-4)
And against the bishops who allow this young man to spread his blasphemies abroad in the churches of Jesus Christ:
“I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth.” (Rev. 2.14-16)
“I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of their works, and I will strike all her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you as your works deserve.” (Rev. 2.20-23)
“Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations, and repays to their face those who hate him, by destroying them. He will not be slack with one who hates him. He will repay him to his face.” (Dt. 7.9-10)
“It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Heb. 10.31)
Comment by Rev. Dr. Lee D Cary (ret. UM clergy) on June 4, 2022 at 3:08 pm
The sooner the UMC passes away, the better for the laity. It’s turned into an unfunny clown show.
Comment by Jeff on June 6, 2022 at 5:01 pm
Dr. Cary, I agree; I’m sure you are aware that a significant number of us awakened laity have already escaped the heresy, insanity and fecklessness of the UMC.
Comment by Tom on June 7, 2022 at 11:36 am
How grotesque. My family left the UMC last year. Our previous pastor decided she was going to focus primarily on LGBT stuff and turned the church into an advocacy group (at least, if felt that way). Rainbow flags on every bulletin, constant social media posts with rainbows and pride stuff, and they even rewrote the welcoming statement to affirm gender identity in the opening words. She also has “pro-choice” license plates, which is the sole message she put on her vehicle. I guess that’s the one thing she wanted to share with the world. Plus, I think she closed the church for a year+ for the covid thing, which is when we decided to move on. Others did, too. Now, the entire denomination is in freefall, I see. It is disturbing, honestly.
Comment by BG on June 21, 2022 at 2:11 pm
It stands out very clear that for Progressive Methodists, L O V E justifies sin. Anything goes.
Comment by Carrie on August 23, 2022 at 1:10 pm
I just want to know why. Why, if you truly don’t believe in anything the Bible has to offer, why would you try to destroy it for those of us that do? I, with every fiber of my being, believe that the Church should accept all. I truly believe that a persons gayness or trans status should not exclude him or her from knowing God and worshiping our Creator. Why should the UMC have to change everything for the small percentage of people who are forcing that change? Are you trying to tear us apart because there are those who can’t accept you? Please come, please enjoy the word of God and the fellowship of other believers, but please don’t tear my Church apart because of so few that are unaccepting. The Bible is something. God is something. My Church is something that helps sustain my life.
Comment by Sue Landers on September 9, 2022 at 11:18 am
I’m ok with the homosexuaolity but NOT the language and saying things HE/SHEthinks is correct about the Bible. He should not be ordained in the UMC or any other church. No pastor should use language like that or say the Bible is nothing. I’m not a pastor and I don’t even use that language or allow it used in my house.
Comment by Sue Landers on September 9, 2022 at 11:41 am
I would not be accepting of him in my church. The language is the worst thing anyone can use! I do not believe a pastor should say the Bible is nothing.
I am not a pastor but belong to the UMC and am ok with the homosexuality. Maybe his church likes him but he would not be for every UMC church. Strongly urge the conference to NOT ordain him or accept him in the conference. If he was just gay and preaches about the Bible and talked without using profanity it would be ok. But it’s all over the web and not acceptable.
Comment by Jen on October 15, 2022 at 7:38 am
Such a sad day in the life of Christians. When THIS is what is ok. So glad we left the UMC when we did. The Lord was most definitely getting us out of a down spiraling, hell bound religious organization. So proud of the Methodist Churches who have gotten out of the conference. And shame shame shame on those who felt this was ok to happen. I’m kind to EVERYONE no matter their lifestyle but I won’t rewrite the Bible to make someone else feel good about their sin. We are all sinners but this is a gross allowance of leadership in Gods house! Shame on the conference and those who went with the world rather than Gods Holy word. Surely I pray that you will find redemption and salvation before it’s too late.