Methodists Hold Firm to Scripture ... for Now
The nation's second-largest Protestant denomination keeps the Biblical stance on homosexuality.
Surprise! The recent vote within the United Methodist Church (UMC) to affirm its stance against homosexuality and other sexual perversions rejected the “One Church Plan” that would’ve embraced not only homosexuality but the entire spectrum of LGBTQ activism. This “progressive” plan was presented by the Methodists’ bishops and leading clergy that was permissive of same-sex marriages and the ordination of LGBTQ pastors but failed to win adequate support among the delegates meeting in St. Louis last week to represent the church’s more than 12 million global members.
The surprise was to the leaders within the denomination and the media who seemed to be at a loss that a church, organized to teach the Bible and function as a modern-day body of Jesus Christ, would have the audacity to stick to Biblical teachings rather than embrace a cultural acceptance that is identified in Scripture, along with many other acts, as sin.
According to reports, three plans were presented to the assembled delegation to be enacted as governance for local churches: The One Plan, the Traditional Plan, or the Simple Plan supported by the Queer Clergy Caucus (no, we’re not making that up). The Traditional Plan was finally adopted, maintaining the prohibitions of homosexual or otherwise gender-confused leadership or marriages,. What seems to be at the center of all these plans really transcends the one issue of homosexuality and this one denomination.
The unanswered question is this: Do churches organize, operate, and grow based on the Biblical function as the Body of Christ — one that is called to live as a redeemed membership, forgiven through mercy, but called to a life set apart to be “in this world, not of it”? Clearly, this conflict, whether Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Catholic, or whatever, runs as a common thread throughout the tapestry of today’s faith communities. Do we teach Christ or culture?
Let’s review a few statements from last week’s events that reflect the divide, which, while on display in the UMC, is within every organized religious body.
Horatio Vilanculo, a delegate from Mozambique, told Christianity Today that the Traditional Plan “keeps the church in the way of God … and is what God wants in the church in this world.” His sentiments were shared by a delegate from the Western Pennsylvania Conference, Nancy Denardo, who told USA Today, “The One Church Plan does not agree with the words of our Savior and in so doing deceives young persons into believing that same-gender marriage is OK with God when clearly it is not. There is danger to that not only to those being deceived but the deceivers as well.”
This stance reflects the self-reported 44% of the conservative-traditional Methodists participating in a United Methodist Communications survey published in February. In the U.S., about 20% of the UMC congregants identified themselves as liberal.
What’s the importance of this survey data regarding ideology within the UMC? In the same survey, when asked if the church’s priority should be saving souls for Jesus Christ or advocating for social justice to transform the world, 88% of the conservative-traditionalists said the former while 68% of the liberals declared the latter.
To reflect this chasm, a Virginia delegate spoke to USA Today at the UMC General Conference and heralded, “What’s being said in private conversations is that if the Traditional Plan, the majority plan, is voted in today, you will be putting a virus into the American church and it will make it very sick and it will be sick quickly.” Reverend Tom Berlin not only supported the One Church Plan but, obviously, believes the sickness of the church is not the sin, but, teaching about the sin.
The General Conference was tasked with addressing a 2018 report from a UMC commission on revising the Book of Discipline, which is published every four years and has been since 1784. The most recent edition was released in 2016, meaning that the vote to adopt a church plan was to serve as the governing stance for at least the next four years, as noted in the upcoming 2020 publication.
A warning was issued by a former bishop whose assessment seems to predict a split that may not be ruinous. Professor Will Willimon, at Duke’s Divinity School and former Dean of the Chapel at Duke, offered to Religion News Service, “The hope is that Jesus Christ is Lord. There is a God, and our God is a redemptive God. I can’t decide if the Lord is saying now, ‘You created the structure and polity of the United Methodist Church. I didn’t. You wrote the Book of Discipline. I didn’t. If that’s being dismantled, that’s OK.’”
As has been stated and discussed by many, religion is man’s attempt to get to God, while Jesus Christ is God’s way to get to man. The various denominational doctrines and practices of the various branches of the Christian church were created by God’s creation in some attempt to organize in shared belief. Yet the taxonomy of the various branches of Christianity reflect the differences, not the unity of beliefs. These separations permit interpretations and even deceptions related to Biblical teachings and practices — in this case, sexual sin.
As has been written about very plainly here at The Patriot Post for years, Mark Alexander’s column from 2006 stated: “Homosexuality is unanimously condemned by the foundational teachings of all world religions, and those teachings are the basis for societal norms worldwide. … In every authentic translation of the Aramaic, Hebrew and Greek Old and New Testament Scriptures, homosexual acts are, indeed, explicitly condemned.”
For folks like the Queer Clergy Caucus, however, the normalization of homosexuality is the goal, just as is the normalization of murdering an innocent child in the womb and calling it a matter of “choice” and “reproductive health” in these efforts to prioritize culture over Christ in the church. This is no surprise at all.
In the first century, a very learned Jew who was forever changed by Jesus Christ, Paul of Tarsus, wrote in his farewell to his trusted colleague, Timothy, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”