Change on Marriage and Homosexuality Could Cost UM Church Millions of Members

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By Rev. Thomas Lambrecht

 

As the 2016 General Conference approaches, progressive United Methodists are pulling out all the stops to push for a change in the denomination’s position that would allow same-sex marriage and the ordination of practicing homosexuals. They seem to be taking this course in total disregard of any possible negative consequences for the future of United Methodism.

The United Methodist Church is already facing a projected drop in membership of about 130,000 members per year in the next few years. That is the equivalent of eliminating the Arkansas Annual Conference or the Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference every year! What would be the impact on U.S. membership of a shift in the denomination’s positions on marriage and sexuality?

The Presbyterian Church (USA) provides a cautionary example that continues to unfold. According to a recent article in Charisma based on analysis in the Presbyterian Layman, the PCUSA has lost  nearly 285,000 members in the three years since they granted denominational approval for same-sex marriage and the ordination of non-celibate homosexuals. This represents the loss of 100,000 more members than the previous three-year period. Over the past three years, the denomination has lost nearly 15 percent of its membership.

In the wake of the radical PCUSA decision, hundreds of PCUSA congregations have withdrawn to unite with a more evangelical Presbyterian denomination. Additionally, thousands of more conservative members have left the PCUSA to join the independent church down the street.

The picture is not getting any brighter for the PCUSA. Denominational officials project membership losses for 2015 and 2016 of 100,000 per year, with losses of 75,000 per year in 2017-2020. Carmen Fowler LaBerge, President of the Presbyterian Lay Committee observed that “year over year losses of more than 90,000 members per year is institutionally unsustainable. To put it into perspective, that’s the equivalent of closing an average of 1,000 PCUSA churches a year.” Since 2005, the PCUSA has lost over 645,000 members. Projected losses of 500,000 over the next five years will bring the total loss to 1.15 million members, cutting the denomination’s 2005 membership nearly in half.

Predictably, it is not the loss of members that is stirring the Presbyterian pot, but the loss of revenue from per capita assessments (their equivalent of UM apportionments). Revenue to the national PCUSA is projected to drop from $13.5 million in 2012 to $11 million in 2020. Under proposed budgets, the national PCUS will run a half-million-dollar deficit in 2016, with deficits exceeding $1 million starting in 2018. In the absence of drastic budget cuts, the unrestricted reserves are projected to run out in 2021. In the meantime, denominational askings are proposed to rise 23 percent by 2018 from their 2010 level. By 2020, the askings will be 30 percent higher than 2010. Where there are fewer members, they will need to pay proportionately more to keep the denominational machinery going—or the machinery will begin to be dismantled.

What if this took place in The United Methodist Church? What if the UM Church adopted the Connectional Table proposal to permit same-sex marriage and ordination? What if the same fallout happened to U.S. membership in our denomination that took place in the PCUSA?

Can you imagine being down to 3.5 million members in the year 2030 from the current 7 million? Can you imagine losing or closing over 10,000 congregations (one-third of the current total) over the next ten years? Can you imagine the need to raise apportionments by one-third over the next 15 years, even with yearly budget cuts? By 2030, U.S. membership would be less than one-third of the global United Methodist makeup (unless the more conservative churches in Africa, Eastern Europe, and parts of the Philippines also withdrew from the denomination). The ministries of our denomination would be left at only a shell of their former strength.

Is this picture of precipitous decline the preferred future of progressive United Methodists? Despite the cautionary example of not only the PCUSA, but also The Episcopal Church, the United Church of Christ, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, progressive UM’s insist that “it won’t happen to us.” The idea that “we’re different” is only a whistling in the dark denial of reality. The United Methodist Church consistently polls as more conservative at the grass-roots level than any other mainline denomination. If other mainline churches suffered such grievous turmoil and membership loss in the wake of adopting gay-affirming stances, what basis is there to think that the UM Church would react any differently?

One hopes that progressives and sympathetic moderates will take another look at the damage done to other denominations before persisting in trying to inflict the same on our own UM Church.

NOTE: for a previous blog on the PCUSA membership situation, see “Changes in PC(USA) Bode Ill for Methodism”

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Comments

  1. The economic argument against full LGBT inclusion. No denomination that has gone full inclusion has experienced growth. Accelerated decline is the expected result. So what? Those who are for full inclusion feel that sustaining large numbers based upon a discriminatory policy that marginalizes some of our members is an immoral stance and must be corrected regardless of consequences. This is not a business case but a moral crusade. It gets bitter when those who decide to leave try and take real estate with them. This is why a separation protocol is essential but anyone who tries to put one forward is branded as a schismatic and all conversation stops. While this business case argument is valid it is also irrelevant. Our leadership has chosen to ignore, cover over or even encourage BoD violations and have set this train in motion. Now we must see where it takes us. It will be a rough ride.

    • Carl Murphy says:

      It is not the business case nor the moral case my friend. It is the sinful case. Just because progressives wish to call a tomato an apple does not make it so. God changes not and what was sin yesterday is sin today. I am afraid the progressive moral standard is much like the story of the king that has no clothes. You might shame or convince others that the king had beautiful clothes but God sees he has none.

  2. The Presbyterian Layman is not a fair, balanced, and unbiased source of information. Why are you not directly quoting PCUSA denominational statistics instead? Makes your argumengt suspect.

  3. Musial Pearson says:

    The United Methodist Church has been approached by leaders of the LGBT at General Conference for at least the last 3 Conferences over a 12 year span. Their demonstration for equal rights to same sex marriage has gotten stronger and stronger. The votes have gotten closer and closer to allowing same sex marriage and ordination than ever before. If the minority cries long enough and loud enough, people get worn down and forget their moral beliefs and just say what’s the use? As a United Methodist pastor for 37 years now, I have seen our own conservative bible believing pastors come to side with the movement of the gay organization. I am truly bewildered by it all. A person either believes the bible as the true Word of God or they believe it is just a guideline that changes as the world changes. I for one still believe in the True Word of God that tells me Homosexuality is a sin. Yes, we United Methodist already have a somewhat liberal stance on abortion. We also acknowledge that people go through a divorce and we ordain divorced pastors. Yes, we have certain standards of which the bible teaches otherwise. Now I could address a hundred other sins of which the church turns its head and says… go and sin no more, but we still do it anyway. This is where we are at with the Homosexuality issue. If it is ok to turn our heads on other sins, then it must be ok to turn our heads on this issue as well. This is where I have to disagree. Why would any of us sin on purpose? How could we openly be living in sin without shame? Yes, we all sin.. Yes we all have come short of the glory of God. Yes, we continue to mess up…. but on purpose without need to confess our sins, or without need to strive towards perfection as John Wesley would put it? No… no not one of us who call ourselves a Christian would want to be continually living in an open sin of any kind. Therefore if the United Methodist Church votes to allow same sex marriages and ordination of gays and lesbians, then I must step aside and hopefully find a church that believes in the bible as the True Word of God.

    • I agree!

    • The problem, Musial Pearson, is that the UMC seminaries teach that the Bible is not the inerrant Word of God, that it is a guidebook, open to interpretation. That it has been changed by man through the years, and therefore is not infallible. This would have John Wesley rolling in his grave. I had a chat session with a seminary student on the UMC’s official website a few years ago about this very issue. This is why, although raised in the UMC, I will never return to it until this apostasy is repented of and God’s authority is restored. When I asked this young lady “If the Bible is, as you say, a guidebook and not authoritative, how do we then know anything concrete about God at all–meaning that I could say He is a pink elephant because that is how I interpret scripture, and according to you my interpretation is just as valid as Martin Luther’s?” She had no valid answer. She knew in her heart that is wrong, but she was trapped by her assertion. This is the problem, and why so many are leaving the UMC, UCC, ELCA, and other “mainline” churches and going to Bible teaching churches.

      • Scott Tracy Imler says:

        It’s tough to provide a valid answer to such a loopy un-authoritative question as — prove God is or isn’t a Pink Elephant. If this is the logic underlying the doctrine of the UMC, just drink the Kool Aide — the end is near.

      • You said: “The votes have gotten closer and closer to allowing same sex marriage and ordination than ever before.” Actually, the vote has gone the other way. More are supporting clean living, like Methodists are supposed to do.

    • I also agree

  4. The Bible hasn’t changed. Why do these progressives think we should. Wrong is wrong. We have to stand against the world and stand up for God.

    • It is not a discriminatory policy. The UMC welcomes all into its membership, regardless of orientation. Without taking into account the religious aspects, what so many are ignoring, it is the law of our Church that we cannot ordain gay people into the ministry nor can our ministers marry same sex couples and they may not use our Churches for such a ceremony. If you want to join our Church and sit in the pew, you may certainly do so.

    • Where does the term “progressive” fit into this? This group is not in any way progressive. They are everything but progressive. They are preaching a false gospel and are mad because the rest of the Church does not fall in line with their unbiblical beliefs. I would like one of them to give me an honest, rational reason for what they believe and are trying to push on the rest of the Church.

    • Scott Tracy Imler says:

      The content, flavor, and message of any text — sacred or otherwise — is wholly determined by the experience, intellect, and social context of both the person reading it and the person who wrote it. Truth is a matter of the present and is derived from the dance between author and reader in the service to the future. Anything less is little more than salvationistic self-absorption. That people actually believe that God’s good purposes are furthered by maintaining a hateful, discriminatory, exclusive body under a separatist threat of taking your marbles and going home only proves the utter childishness of your faith. Oh, what a small, weak, and pathetic God you worship, for whom the diversity of creation is too confusing to one’s personal comfort zone and sense of perfected self merely awaiting your laurels in pathological certainty. The major difference between LGBTQI equality advocates and religious absolutists is that the equality advocates have spent 2000 years struggling in the possibility that we may be totally wrong. Since our friends across the aisle have spent 2000 years absolutely convinced they are right, I only hope we all get to the “gates” at the same time, so real forgiveness can blossom among us all, when the truth is ultimately revealed.

      • Paul Morelli says:

        It it interesting that the MAP call LGBTQI bigoted because they don”t accept those who practice Minor Attraction. The MAP argument was that “who gives you the right to judge what we feel is normal and acceptable behavior”… good question…. how do we decide anything is right or wrong? Francis Schaeffer’s quote, “Modern man has both feet planted firmly in mid-air.” describes where we find ourselves once we cast off from a firm foundation based in something timeless. Why is murder wrong, why is bullying wrong, why is damaging the environment wrong, etc…

    • If, as you say, “the bible has not changed,” then why are there so many different translations of the bible?
      The bible was written by men who were not alive when Christ was alive. They repeated stories told to them by grand parents who were children at the time of Christ. Many of these stories are the retelling of stories from the Hebrew Scripture, this is known as Midrash.
      We live in a different time. In the time that the NT and Hebrew Scriptures were written, the life span was shorter due to illnesses that have been eradicated today. Today we know, if we choose to research it, that being LBGT is not a “choice,” but genetic, just as blue eyes, one’s adult height, or natural hair color, or skin color.
      Our LBGT sisters and brothers are not sinners, any more that I, at five feet tall, am a “sinner” because I am shorter than most people.
      If you want people to keep leaving the church, keep your archaic views, but if you want a growing church, use humor, and speak of topics that are relevant today and relate them to the bible. The bible tells us the condition of human kind, some people are kind and some are not, and encourage the kindness and compassion toward others, and full inclusion of all who love God and love their neighbors as themselves.
      Encourage people to be all that they can be and tell people to encourage others to be all that they can be.

      • The writers of the New Testament were alive when Jesus was alive: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Paul. There are many translations because people make new translations can be easier to read. Old English of the King James is hard to read, for example. The bible says that God’s Word does not change. Different translations should all be saying the same thing, just slightly different wording. To intentionally change the meaning of God’s Word would be a very serious thing. Sexual confusion has to be a choice because of Sodom and Gomorrah. If God had made them that way, he could not have destroyed them for being that way. We need to faithful to God and live the way Jesus taught us. That’s not too much to ask, is it, considering God gave us our lives?

      • Your arguments do not hold water.
        A recent survey says that the more liberal a church becomes in its interpretation of the bible the more people flee to bible teaching churches.

  5. One of many reasons I became Catholic.

  6. As a previous (all but) life-long Methodist during the formative years, and also a currently Spirit-filled Apostolic Holiness congregant, I gotta say from experience – yall need the Holy Ghost and He doesn’t reside in compromised churches; you’d all be doing better on your own, to flee apostasy and repent on your faces, seeking His.

    2016 is a year of separating sheep from goats. Just look @ The Last Reformation revival movement or any local Apostolic Oneness congregation – these are all doing fine, hosting explosive revival, in fact. Why? Because we’re talking the Word of God for a whole and it’s the last thing we’d ever compromise on, yes even if that means we have to be exclusionary to unrepentant sinners. Jesus has always had a plan and an order to things for His Church to follow, but you Methodist don’t even have your method anymore! You’re following the world and look where it’s leading you – the militant homosexual agenda isn’t interested in attending, they’re interested in dismantling you and scattering the pieces! Don’t you see why we’re doing so well? We came and were changed, but the UMC prides itself on “open mindedness and inclusivity” at all costs, ALL COSTS! Don’t you know that without being born of the water AND Spirit, no man can see The Kingdom? Stop trying to save what’s under judgment, get back to saving the lost!

    “And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.”
    ~ Revelation 18:4

    [Editor’s Note: this comment was edited for length and content.]

    • – and by the way, John Wesley, himself,
      spoke in tongues and preached holiness;
      where did all that fire go?

      Out.

      • Wesley, also, believed in the Quadrilateral:
        Tradition
        Reason
        Scripture
        Experience

        As someone who has studied science and has had and have LGBT friends and relatives, (my grand daughter) I have the Reason and Experience to know that someone who is LBGT is not sinful. They are fine, intelligent, and caring human beings who deserve all the rights that I, as, a heterosexual deserve.

        What happened to the beautiful saying that the UMC used, “Open Doors, Open Hearts, Open Minds?”

        • Carla, Please remember that all of us are sinful- and of the 4 branches of the quadrilateral, Scripture is predominant. As Christians we are to use Reason, Tradition and Experience to help us interpret Scripture, not refute it. Acknowledging that a certain action is sin does not reflect on a persons intelligence or other aspects of their personality not related to the specific action. Instead it calls them to a closer walk with their Lord which can only happen by refuting the sin and relying on Him to help them deal with it.

          • No, Ceal, you are entitled to your own opinion, just not your own facts. In Wesley’s quadralateral all four were and are equal in importance.

        • I also have homosexual relatives and friends. While I cannot judge them as people, I can judge there actions. Homosexual behavior IS sinful. Homosexuality IS sinful. While I except them as they are, I do not except their homosexuality. This is no different then the person who commits adultery, fornication, or any other sin for that matter. We are all sinners. If we closed the doors to the church to sinners the pews would be empty. Having said that, there is a big difference in acknowledging that we are all in need of the Grace of God and saying that sin (homosexuality) is not sin.

        • Carla – your statement “I have the Reason and Experience to know that someone who is LBGT is not sinful.” signifies that you have clearly put yourself more knowing and above God’s Word and plans for His people. If a person chooses to act on their nature and emotions and follow their own sexual desires and engage in same sex relationships, they have willingly walked away from what God has determined as right for His order in society. Get out of the Science Book and study the Bible. ,,, By the way, how has the open door, hearts and minds worked for the UMC that has experienced 49 consecutive years of membership decline and spiritual bankruptcy. Open doors, open hearts and open minds means to me that God’s people accept everyone in love but do not condone all behavior. People may have preferences and proclivities, but ultimately, it all comes down to choices. God’s word is the truth. We must not alter the truth to suit man’s relative morality.

          • Get out of the :science book? No, the science tells us that being LBGT is not a choice. Nor is it “evil.” It is a fact of one’s existence. Why should anyone care if a good, decent, hard working, compassionate person is gay, or straight. I doubt very much if you ask your heterosexual friends (if that is what they say they are, because you may not really know) what they do in the privacy of their bedrooms.

        • Wow Carla, you don’t know what your talking about, read what the Quadrilateral is all about. Not going to argue, because you don’t have a base to argue from, your just talking emotion and feel good, rock and roll, religion.

        • Paul Morelli says:

          I know a married man who completely loves a woman other than his wife with a profound care and love and it’s beautiful. The attraction toward this heterosexual relationship is powerful and he said it is God given and he believes they have the right to be happy and also still maintain his covenant of marriage with his wife. He asks, what right do you have to judge him in this loving relationship. He believes this is a good gift from heaven and should be lifted up as a good new way in relationships. He is asking the church to bless this relationship and endorse it and celebrate it with him. He believes scripture validates his “concubinage” more clearly than the claimed homosexual passages that are wrestled with in order to support the LGBQI case. He has gifts to preach and wants to be ordained and sees nothing wrong with this. how do we answer him?

          • You are comparing apples to oranges. Your friend took a vow to be faithful to his wife, and he has stepped outside his vows.
            If someone is LBGTQI they were born as such, and may be married, now legally, to the person they love. If one of them stepped outside of their marriage vows then, if they asked me, I would say that they were wrong, just as your friend is wrong in violating his marriage vows.
            May I remind you who castigate our LBGTQI sisters and brothers, marriage equality is the law of the land.

  7. I don’t understand why these liberals don’t just go and form their own “church” and leave the United Methodist Discipline and our beliefs alone. If my church would decide to leave the denomination, we should be entitled to keep our church property because we paid for it and built it on the “solid rock.” When most of us joined, the church was in harmony with our beliefs, and it’s not our fault that the church’s standards may be changing. But the loss of a building is a small price to pay, if we are forced to leave because of the evil that is lurking by not being in step with God’s Holy Word. Did the bishops and others among the higher positions in the denomination forget that ultimately they are accountable to God for their attitudes, actions and motives?

    • We do not have to “form our own churches,” as there are many mainline churches that are Open and Affirming, and perform marriages for our LBGTQ sisters and brothers and, also, ordain them into the ministry. One is the UCC church, the Episcopal church, and even………….gasp, some UMC churches that advertise that they are “confirming” meaning they be married in the church, and baptized in the church, if they are adults seeking baptism. There is a church in western MA that is confirming. KUDOS to them.

  8. There is rampant disobedience to the Scriptures and the Book of Discipline in the Methodist Church as we speak. There are Methodist ministers to be found at abortion clinics holding signs supporting abortion and they are not disciplined in any way. The Bishops seemed to have closed their eyes and ears to the gay issues, so there is no discipline for anyone. I really do not know why we have a Discipline because it is useless. My concern is that if the vote is in favor of changing the Discipline and ignoring the Scripture, the “no discipline” rule is out the window and the Bishops will suddenly open their eyes and ears and be ready to punish those of us who stand strongly with the Bible and the Discipline.

    • Ann, I respect your right to your opinion. However, please recall that the Discipline has been revised and has been revised many times.. From 1959 to 1968, when when my husband was a full time minister, (he was, until retirement, a dual career person) the Discipline said nothing regarding the issue of persons who were LBGT. The Discipline, realized that abortion, while an agonizing decision, was often the best or only decision that some women could make. This decision should be made carefully and prayerully and in conjunction with what the woman’s doctor thought advisable but abortion was not condemned.
      In the 1960s clergy were very attuned to the social gospel, and were really very “liberal,” in that they marched for the Civil Rights for our African American brothers and sisters, so that they could attain decent housing. I hosted Fair Housing Council meetings int he parsonage. Clergy marched to help attain voting rights for our African American brothers and sisters.
      Clergy, also, marched in protest over the Viet Nam War, a war that should never have been waged.
      I am thrilled that the UMC welcomes new members from other nations, nations that are new to the Bible, and thus, take it without reservation and completely literally. There are many parts of the Bible to which no one adheres, such as “stoning one’s child if he/she disobeys. We do not stone to death, someone who commits adultery. We often eat shell fish and mix various types of threads in our fabrics, such as cotton and polyester. However, the UMC has become more conservative over these years. Instead of the new members learning from the UMC, they want the UMC to change to their far right wing, conservative view. This is a mistake.
      The fight for human dignity for our African American brothers and sisters that was fought in the 1960s, is now being waged, again, but this time it is for our LBGT brothers and sisters, who, also, deserve human dignity and all the rights and privileges that we, who are heterosexual, have and take for granted. .

      • Right on, Carla! A careful study of the Biblical sources reveals that the condemnation against homosexuality as we know it is absent from most, if not all, of the clobber passages. For me, Biblical Obedience is much more important that denominational unity. Although I am an ordained deacon, I never believed that my covenant with the conference was intended to supersede my commitment to God.

        • WOW, Nancy, you are an awesome Deacon, and I wish you well in your, well chosen, career, and calling. You will have a full church to hear your wise words.

      • Carla,
        What God says is sexual perversion and evil, you say is good. By the way, in 1968 no one had the audacity to suggest that sexual perversion was anything but extremely evil. If you want God’s protection, one must repent and turn back to God. There is no other way. Jesus calls us to be different from the world. Be different or be the same as the world. It’s your call. Just be prepared to live with your decision.

  9. Peter Kreeft, in the book ‘How to Win the Culture War’ said the following about living the Christian Faith:

    If nobody wants to crucify you then you aren’t doing your job. Or you aren’t doing His (God’s Work) work.

    As a conservative, I feel as though the LGBT group would like to crucify not only us but the church for sure. Who really wants to destroy or crucify the church? Satan. But in todays world so many people don’t believe in Satan. So why should we not expect them to destroy the church.

    We will lose Pastors, lay speakers, those that tithe, the folks that really do believe in Jesus and his teachings. The UMC will be an empty shell of itself.

    • I am eagerly awaiting the General Conference of the UMC. It should be very interesting. I hope that the UMC will come into, at least, the end of the 20th century, and maybe, with God’s grace, come into the 21st.

      • You may not want to hear this, but the majority of Methodists are expecting a return to more Methodist ways at the conference.

  10. What really is so astounding is the continued look from Orthodox Christians towards liberals for some reason and sanity. Why after all of these decades do we continue to look for rational thought from the irrational? Why after all of these decades do we continue to look for sanity among those afflicted with the disorder of liberalism? To answer the bottom line question as to why we spend time fighting with figures and statistics about how badly it will hurt us and hurt the cause of Christ and the Church is that we have not yet understood the obvious. The obvious is liberalism is suicidal. Of course they know it will slash membership and money and sooner or later terminate the denomination. You have cited how history has shown with 100% accuracy what follows such a decision. However, the liberals are undeterred by the rational and the obvious. Liberalism destroys everything it touches. Liberalism is suicidal. Liberalism is self extinguishing but the sad part is they take all the healthy people down with them. Why do we approach them with reason? Why do we allow them to be co pilots? It appears we will “dialogue” with them until everyone and everything has disappeared under the water What is truly amazing is that after all of these decades we have never had a leader who stood up and said this will go no further. It ends here and now. But perhaps in our own delusional approach we continue to try to reason with them. Folks, how much clearer does it have to become? You cannot reason with the irrational.

    • I have to smile at your definition of “liberals” and “liberalism.” From what I have read, Jesus was definitely a Liberal. He asked his Jewish brothers and sisters to look outside their Jewish circle as there were good people there, too. Lest we forget Jesus was Jewish.
      Someone asked, no, told me, to “get out of the science book.” So I guess we have to “hang up our brains in what I might call a brain rack,” when we attend church? I refuse to do so.
      Please read a book written in 1998 by Bishop John Shelby Spong entitled “Why Christianity Must Change or Die.”

      • Paul Morelli says:

        One more preliminary issue that must be mentioned is Spong‟s explicit claim that all
        truth is subjective. As he clearly states in his book, Into the Whirlwind, in the chapter aptly titled
        “The First Frontier: All Truth is Relative” Spong declares, “Every assertion that Christianity in
        any form possesses by divine revelation the ultimate and unchanging truth will have to be
        abandoned.”9 Spong concludes that “If no ultimate and unchanging authority exists in
        Christianity today, then all theology is relativized and fluid.”10
        and……….
        Theism is Dead

        “1. Theism, as a way of defining God, is dead. God can no longer be understood with credibility as a Being, supernatural in power, dwelling above the sky and prepared to invade human history periodically to enforce the divine will. So, most theological God-talk today is meaningless unless we find a new way to speak of God.
        “2. Since God can no longer be conceived in theistic terms, it becomes nonsensical to seek to understand Jesus as the incarnation of the theistic deity. So, the Christology of the ages is bankrupt.”
        (pp. 453-454, ‘Here I Stand,’ John Shelby Spong, Twelve Theses, A Bishop Speaks to Believers in Exile, A Call for a New Reformation.)

        not sure why we would use him as an authority for Christianity… if we want to create a new religion, why not do it under a new name and leave orthodox Christianity intact for those who wish to follow it. In the U.S. we have the right to believe anything we want, so why not create something new?

      • Carla,
        Jesus said the Gates of Hell will not prevail against His church. True Christianity will not die, unlike what Spong believes. Don’t forget his friend Bishop James Pike. He did die, in the Judean desert without water when his car broke down. Like Spong, he preached the acceptance of sexual perversion. Isaiah 55, “Seek the Lord while he may be found.”

        • Spong is still alive and well, thank you. He does not “preach perversion,” he preaches sanity.

          • You read too fast. That’s James Pike (another Episcopal) that died of thirst in the hot sandy desert. Some have wondered if this was an act of God, by the way. His wife walked through the desert to safety.

            Spong was to speak at the college I graduated from, a United Methodist related College. Many students, parents, alumni and Methodists ask that he not speak.

            We need to be in harmony with God’s Plan of Created Order as Rev. John Stott said: “There can be no ‘liberation’ from God’s norms; True liberation is found only in accepting them.”

  11. Jim Russell says:

    Reason We became Independent Baptist which believes in the Bible as the
    True Word of God.

  12. Patricia Hallam says:

    Already small, rural congregations are experiencing membership drop offs. Maintaining buildings and property is expensive and the large number of Senior members [mostly conservative believers] are unable to do the work of younger people who are in the minority. Pastors are discouraged and dissalusioned and they need to be encouraged not to give up on a small but faithful flock. Rural areas are really prime locations for missionary zeal. Evangelists would find themselves welcomed in such places. not finding much in monetary benefits but a field ready for a great harvest of souls. Week long endeavors [protracted meeting] like in the early years of our denomination. Focusing on Jesus only and the pure refreshing word of God in a dry and thirsty land.

    Social Issues affecting the larger congregations are not as relevant to our local churches members as how do we meet our budgets. Prayer meeting that are centered on the provisions of God would provide an outward focus. When and if it comes time to close down our churches I pray that other ministries will rise up to care for the scattering flocks. The larger churches are so busy fighting that they simply can’t seem to find a way to help their smaller brethren. And we just want God to do His work in the hearts of His people.

    • I am a lifetime member of the United Methodist Church. If they change the way things are I won’t be able to get out fast enough. It will be painful yes, but I won’t donate my hard-earned dollars to that Lifestyle. Besides you go to church praise the Lord and you can bet he won’t be there.

  13. Are churches a business, or a gathering of believers? This article seems more concerned about the economic impact of accepting gays. Jesus talks about love, not about making money. Jesus reached out to people that the church of his time rejected, and was criticized for his actions. Should our churches be imitating Christ, or the Pharisees?

    • Great words, Lisa, yes, our LBGTQI sisters and brothers have been denied the right to marry in the UMC, and have been denied the right of ordination in the UMC. Yes, the powers that be (PTB) in the UMC are very much like the Pharisees, who judged others, not like Christ, who welcomed those who had been, formerly, shunned.

  14. Dave Nuckols says:

    The central flaw in this analysis is counting “members of the UMC” rather than counting “disciples of Christ”. Is it thought that members who might leave the UMC will stop being disciples of Christ? Really? I hope not! But, truly, I would much rather they stay in a united UMC because we are so better together than apart. No, back to the central mission which is making new disciples of Christ: (1) the current man-made Book of Discipline rule prohibiting gay marriage pushes many of our gay UMC children and their straight UMC friends away from not only the UMC but from Christ because it misrepresents Christ’s teachings, and (2) it masks and thus defeats our message to the unchurched (who we should be reaching out to with the Gospel!) because they just can’t hear our Gospel over the noise of our anti-gay rhetoric.

  15. Tom’s analysis is both accurate and damning. There’s no flaw in it. But gay advocates seem content with the prospect of a smaller denomination emerging from the ruins of an orchestrated debacle at General Conference 2016. They are eager to divide the spoils of the conflict. They perceive that each liberal annual conference will become an autonomous enclave.

  16. If you are trying to understand another’s thinking, I would encourage you to start with reading Rob Renfroe’s book, “The Trouble With Truth: Balancing Truth and Grace.” The problem is more complex than progressive or traditional, it involves changes in perception and understanding of truth.

  17. I’ll say it again: Our United Methodist Church, along with other guilty denominations, will continue to lose God’s blessings as long as Israel and the Jewish people are not fully supported. So says Genesis 12:3, which I strongly believe! The Gay/Lesbian issue in the church is reflective of God’s mind.

  18. Wesley spoke of a Quadrilateral:
    Reason
    Scripture
    Tradition
    Experience

    As a retired nurse, married to a retired engineer who is, also, a retired ordained UMC cleric, we both deal with the scientific and the scriptures. The Bible was the ‘word of God,’ as interpreted by men, the men of centuries ago when life expectancy was low, disease rampant, high infant mortality, and high maternal mortality. Of course they eschewed homosexuality, as the population would dwindle without procreation. This is hardly the situation in the 21st century, nor was it in the 20th century. We, also, have a gay or possibly transgender grand daughter whom we love, unconditionally. She is a bright, articulate, compassionate young person. She deserves all the rights as we enjoy.

    We both wonder what became of the beautiful words of the UMC not too long ago, “Open Hearts, Open Doors, Open Minds?”

    Interestingly enough, we now attend a UCC Church, whose membership is growing, and they are taking in many young families, young singles, and people of all age groups.
    We were blessed for several summers to be able to hire summer interns at the UCC church which we attend. One was a former psychologist, who had just graduated from Andover-Newton Seminary, was gay and engaged to her partner.
    The previous summer we were blessed to have an intern who started in June as Michelle, and was transgender. When September arrived, Michael, left with his wife, whom he had married when he was Michelle, since marriage equality was been legal in Massachusetts for over ten years before it was legal in all fifty states. I celebrate this for the sakes of the LBGT community, my grand daughter and all of us who have “Open Minds and Open Hearts.”

    • Carla, everyone is free to believe whatever they choose to believe. You don’t say whether you are a Christian or not, but your beliefs put you far from both orthodoxy and Wesleyan doctrine. You are placing your own opinions above the Scriptures, delegating the Scriptures simply as a flawed product of its time. You are free to believe this, and this is not meant pejoratively, but why do you choose to view your position of unbelief in the Bible as the divine Word of God, as being, somehow, a higher more mature form of belief and, more particularly, even as Christian? Is it because you grew up in the church and view yourself as culturally Christian? Is it because you have found others in various churches who likewise choose to use the word “Christian” to similarly define their own lack of faith and belief in the authority of Scripture? These are meant as serious questions — while I understand what you believe, I have trouble understanding why those who believe as you do choose to identity as Christians. This is of key importance since disagreement over the authority of Scripture and what it means to be a Christian is the root issue behind this entire debate regarding sexuality.

      Also, to correct a misrepresentation in your post, the Quadrilateral was neither proposed or used by Wesley — it is a 20th century construct defined by the late Professor Albert Outler, The primary criticisms of the Quadrilateral are 1) it is little more than a definition of the 4 sources that everyone and every denomination has always used in approaching scripture, and 2) it is usually invoked only when being used to denigrate the authority of Scripture (which was the opposite of its intent).

  19. Gustave Schaefer says:

    Alone and in the wilderness I found a book entitled the “Bible”. I read it and was enlightened. I came to understand it to be the word of God. One day I met a man who professed to be a Man of God, he called himself a minister, pastor and preacher. The things he said and did were consistent with the instruction in the “Bible” and we worshiped together. I met a second man who professed to be a Man of God, he called himself a minister, pastor and preacher but many of the things he said and did were contrary to the instruction in the “Bible”. The second man said we must Love our neighbors as ourselves and we are not to judge because we are not without sin. But I said sir; ” as believers do we not have an obligation to correct our sin and help others do the same ?” He said Jesus, the Son of God, will take care of that for us. I said to him what I do I do out of love for the Son and the Father. I told him of a passage in the “Bible”, 1 Corinthians 5:11-13, and asked him again of our obligation. He had no answer.

  20. OR change could mean millions of NEW members. That’s with a return to automatic removal for supporting sexual perversion. Our Wesleyan doctrine is wonderful, but we’ve got to stick to it.

  21. I predict a split in the UMC similar to the split in the ME Church in the mid 1800s, over the issue of slavery. The Methodist Episcopal Church (as it was then known) South, allowed slavery as it “said so in the Bible.” Whereas he ME Church North disallowed one human being to own another human being.
    They did rejoin, but still held on to the Central Jurisdiction, which was where all the African American Churches were a part, whether the church was in NY or in Ohio, if it was an African American congregation with an African American minister, they were relegated to the Central Jurisdiction. Finally, that dissolved, and the AA churches were “allowed” in what ever jurisdiction the church resided.
    Even then the Jim Crow Laws abounded until the 1960s, although the way our fabulous president has been treated, I wonder if they will ever completely disappear.

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