Looking at the UM Church from Different Angles

river-through-a-magnifying-glass-photography-hd-wallpaper-1920x1080-2545The press release from the Methodist Federation for Social Action about a closed door meeting with the Commission on the General Conference provides an interesting way to compare how progressives and evangelicals view the current situation in our church.  Good News president Rob Renfroe and I, along with Confessing Movement representatives Maxie Dunnam and Kim Reisman, also attended this meeting and shared in the conversation with the Commission and the LGBTQ representatives.  It was good that the Commission wanted to hear from different parts of the church, as the Commission works to perfect the process to be used at the 2016 General Conference.  Good News was glad to be part of that conversation.

The MFSA press release begins, “The issue of whether the United Methodist Church will continue to discriminate against LGBTQ people is of paramount importance to the future and viability of the church.”  The LGBTQ narrative continues to be around the issues of “rights” and “discrimination” in the church.  That narrative assumes that the sexual practices of LGBTQ persons are inherently morally neutral or even to be affirmed.  If that were so, of course LGBTQ persons ought to be treated as if those sexual practices did not matter to the question of whether they could be married to same-gender persons in the church or be ordained to serve in ministry.

Traditionalists and evangelicals, however, do not agree with the basic premise – we believe, as the church teaches, that the practice of homosexuality is contrary to the will of God as revealed in Scripture.  For Methodism, the narrative has always been about holiness and living in obedience to Christ’s commands, while at the same time supporting civil rights and opposing legal discrimination.  The essence of Methodism is to “spread scriptural holiness across the land.”  One aspect of that mission is to bring all of our sexual practices (whether we are same-sex attracted or opposite-sex attracted) into conformity with God’s will.  The church therefore expressly supports sexual relations only within monogamous heterosexual marriage.

That LGBTQ activists declare this “issue” to be “of paramount importance to the future and viability of the church” is surprising, given that UM Communications’ recent survey put issues of homosexuality in eighth place on the list of important issues as seen by church members.  Traditionalists and evangelicals are often accused of singling out homosexuality as the one issue of importance to the church, but it is in fact those advocating for change who have elevated this discussion to “paramount importance.”

For traditionalists and evangelicals, the crisis in the church is not caused by disagreements over homosexuality, but by the refusal of parts of the church to live by the covenant that governs the body or respect the discernment of the General Conference – the one body authorized to speak for the whole church.  We would be perfectly willing to continue studying, discussing, and debating the church’s stance of ministry with LGBTQ persons indefinitely, seeking a consensus around God’s will on this question.  But the inability of the church to command the loyalty of its leaders and members to the long-time policies of the church threatens to break apart the church body.

There are a couple things that traditionalists and evangelicals can agree on with LGBTQ activists.

  • Preventing harm from occurring to LGBTQ people – there is no justification for demonizing LGBTQ people, calling them derogatory names, or otherwise verbally assaulting them.  We are all human beings together, and all ought to be treated with dignity and respect.
  • We agree that consideration, debate, and action on proposals around homosexuality should take place toward the beginning of the plenary week as a way of helping the General Conference deal with this question and move forward in a well-considered and positive way, not unduly constrained by the pressure of a fast-approaching deadline.

The MFSA statement insists that “in the context of discrimination and oppression true dialogue can never occur.  Genuine dialogue requires equality, and in the UMC that equality does not exist.”  We must prayerfully strive to recognize that all persons are inherently of equal and sacred worth.  (For example, 85 percent of the language in the Social Principles paragraph on homosexuality is positive and affirming of the equal worth of LGBTQ persons.)

However, this complaint about the lack of equality making true dialogue impossible seems to be a way to “stack the deck” against the church’s teaching on homosexuality.  It implies that true dialogue can only take place if the church changes its position and grants the demands of LGBTQ activists as a pre-condition for dialogue.  Such a requirement makes no sense.  It is perfectly possible for two groups to strive to understand each other and respect each other’s points of view, even if there is inequality in the relationship.

Finally, I was troubled by the MFSA statement’s announcement that its goal is “ending the oppression of queer people by the United Methodist Church.”  It is difficult to know what the LGBTQ activists mean by “queer people.”  Is this a blanket term to refer to all LGBT persons?  Is it a general term for a variety of sexual inclinations and practices going beyond even LGBT?  It seems the scope of LGBTQ activism keeps expanding, and the church needs to take care that we are not co-opted into endorsing all manner of sexual inclinations and practices under the guise of “ending oppression.”

It is hard for traditionalists and evangelicals to credit the notion that “queer people” are “oppressed” by the church.  The church’s approach to sin is to teach biblical truth, call all persons to repentance and amendment of life, and offer mercy, forgiveness, and support in overcoming sin in one’s life.  Regardless of the sin, that is the approach the church should take, recognizing that we are all guilty of sin and fall short of God’s standard – no one is better than anyone else in this regard.  And it is perfectly legitimate for the church to expect that its members and leaders abide by church teaching in the carrying out of their ministry.

It is evident that LGBTQ activists see the current situation of the church very differently than do traditionalists and evangelicals.  We can and should learn from each other’s perspectives.  In the final analysis, however, it remains to be seen whether these two widely divergent world views can be reconciled within one church body.

Comments

  1. Merrill Bender says:

    Our conversation needs to switch to a solution that recognizes that we have two different sets of beliefs on the essentials. NOT force change on one side or the other. These differences on essential beliefs mean we are two different churches/denominations.
    It is time to let each church decide whether they want to stay in the traditional connection or to take their individual church and pastor and join a different connection or association of churches. We can love those that believe differently but they should not be allowed to change our Methodist heritage and foundational beliefs that seek “Scriptural holiness”. Continued Forced and False Unity will not work. It is time to let the Prodigal Son go his/her own way with their inheritance and our prayerful blessing.

  2. Edith L.Parker says:

    I have had way too much of the holy conversing option. It becomes nothing more than a stall technique. Dr. Tim Tennent has initiated a workable plan to save Wesleyan Methodism. Other than that plan to be initiated in September,I have read nothing worth my time and offering.

  3. Ann Creed says:

    The question is,” Will the Methodist Church continue to stand on Biblical authority or not? If the Discipline is changed to approve marriage between any two people other than a man and a woman we are disregarding God’s plan. When He created Adam and then Eve His plan was and is to populate world. His plan would not have succeeded if He had created only two men or two women. The animals that boarded the Ark were two of each kind of animal, one male and one female. Same reason. There is so much disobedience in the ranks of our church that it appears that not only is the Discipline, but the Bible being ignored. Only through prayer and God’s intervention can we survive.

    • Thank you Ms. Creed for recognizing the The Word as the supreme authority and deviation from it is the REAL issue.

  4. Jack Culpepper says:

    Tom Lambrecht
    Dear Sir: I thank you for standing up fo God’s truth. You have been plain spoken as to where the Methodist church stands. I count myself as one who will stand on God’s word until HE changes it and that’s not happening. I agree with you that the LBGTQ people have an end goal of the ‘church’ giving up it’s stand in order for their notions to be considered.
    A point I wish to raise is that every time this argument or conversation comes up, it seems to me that the LBGTQ people automatically come to it with the same authority as the ‘church’. Where does their authority come from and who gives it to them? What I would like is for someone to challenge their sexual desires, which is the only basis.for them to raise any argument. If they answer that it is a feeling or love for another wether it be from a small child or adult, then they have no standing. How can anyone or any entity or any court side with a “feeling” that would cause change in the status quo? They have mastered the argument that everyone else giveup, relent or adopt to their attitudes.
    There is absolutely no option for the church to give in to their understanding when in reality their goal is for the church to re-write God’s word. God’s word is emphatic in so many ways and should anyone try to add to or take from, the scriptures as written, they become helplessly engulfed in a futile attempt to avoid all that God’s word commands.
    I believe that church doctrine should always condemn the sin, but love the sinner. And with that said, loving the sinner is what we, the church, are called to do.

    Signed:
    Jack Culpepper
    member, FUMC
    Bullard, Tx

    • Sherrie Adams says:

      Thank you, Mr. Culpepper, well said! If anyone considers the actions of the signs of the LAST DAYS, we are fully in them. Man and woman going against God’s word and following their own desires is in God’s word called the Bible. The Bible also talks about many other situations involving the church and that man would follow his own lust and change God’s word. Your statement ” God’s word is emphatic in so many ways and should ANYONE try to add or take from, the scriptures as written, they become helplessly engulfed in a futile attempt to avoid all that God’s word commands.” So true and is a warning to everyone who knows the word, it plainly states these facts- You don’t add or take away from the words of the Bible! Do the people who are trying to change the church world to their way of thinking, know what the word of God says on these issues? I am not a hater, I agree with the other comment on here, Love the sinner-not the sin. That doesn’t mean we accept anyone’s lifestyle that is contrary to God’s word! We try to help them see the sin they are committing and save them from sin in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. As I have said on here before I really don’t believe Jesus Christ suffered, died and rose again to come back to earth for a gay bride!

      Sherrie Adams
      Harvest Church
      Dothan, Al.

  5. Kemper Smith says:

    Thank you for your article, I was interested in what took place at that particular meeting. In your article, you wrote “The MFSA press release begins, “The issue of whether the United Methodist Church will continue to discriminate against LGBTQ people is of paramount importance to the future and viability of the church.”

    They consider theological opposition equal to discrimination. I would think that our black Christian brothers and sisters would be offended that they make that analogy after many of them truly suffered under racial discrimination.

    It irritates me so that the LGBT crusaders continue to assume that to believe differently from them automatically means one “discriminates” against them. For my adult life I have done nothing but the opposite in my relationships with gay friends and co-workers. Our UM Conference even allowed a married UM minister to live a double life, married to a woman while acting out his homosexuality. I for one am tired of their “feigned discrimination” and use of their sexual preference as an excuse to bash those of us that hold different beliefs!

    • Ed Allred says:

      Do what? A conference condoned an elder having homosexual partners while living a married relationship!

  6. Evans Dunkin says:

    Sir,

    I have recently read Judge Roy Moore’s book SO HELP ME GOD. Judge Moore is best known for his stand regarding The Ten Commandments monument in the Alabama Judicial Building in the state capitol, Montgomery. His stated premise is the Acknowledgement of God as supported by the state constitution, the national constitution, the Magna Charta, the Supreme Court and all the state courts (God Save this Honorable Court). He mentions some of the national monuments that also support the Acknowledgement of God in quotations from the Bible. He does not mention the Washington Monument which is capped at its highest level with Laus Dei (Latin for Praise be to God).– but it is there.

    This Acknowledgement of God is the battleground for much of the political agenda we encounter today, whether it is Global Warming, Homosexuality, Same Sex Marriage —you name it. Obama stated that we are not a Christian Nation, exhibiting verbally his lack of understanding of the very foundation of our forefathers desire to build a New Nation, endowed by our Creator with the Inaliable Rights of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

    If government can remove this Acknowledgement of God then government can reign supreme over our citizenry. Government must not be allowed this power!

    Judge Moore is to be lauded for his courage in taking his stand and not being deterred from the battle. The State of Alabama is to be lauded for re-electing him to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court after he was removed by spurious elements of the government after prosecution by the ACLU and other likeminded organizations.

    Our Methodist Church and others of similar stature must continue to fight for adherence to Scripture against the elements that support the liberals who would destroy it

    We owe it to our Wesleyan heritage.

  7. Again, just another in the long and growing list of impasses. Our church has reached full schism. Finding a just separation is the only option. It is indeed way past time to end this debate. Merrill Bender is correct. Stop this conversation and change it to finding a solution. Nothing more can be said. It is done. A solution must become the focus, and General Conference 2016 must start the solution process.

  8. Bob Brooke says:

    I feel more of the same old same old will prevail at General Conference. Not only do the biblical revisionists and homosexualists demand that everyone play by their rules, they fail to clearly state them. Very frustrating! Their deriding of us who stand for the truth as it is in Jesus and clearly stated in the Book of Discipline only causes further division in the body of the church. I’m tried, very tired, of the “gay rights” activists saying, “We’re not going to play unless you play by our rules.” It’s long, long past time to tell them, “Okay! Go play your own game.” If the General Conference comes up with any less, it will be just another expensive experience in exhaustion and exasperation.

  9. B,J, Whitt says:

    I agree with all the writers that have written so far..

    I have to ask, ‘WHY’ is it necessary for the Christian churches to change their ways? What is wrong that this group can’t start up their own church, where they can have all that they feel they need? There are man denominations out there, with vastly difference teachings, and still part of the church going crowd. Perhaps the Christian churches can help them launch this. You would be comfortably among your own kind, No one to discriminate. Helping each other, with needs that you are all ready familiar with.

    I ask again, what is the agenda behind all of this? I believe the discrimination is on the other foot.

    I also think our definition of marriage needs to be revisited. My understanding of it is, Uniting two adults, is not the purpose of what we call marriage. Two people of same sex can live together quite well without the paper work involved. The purpose of marriage is for the children of that union. Children for God. This is kind of the way the Bible puts it.

    We can and do accept the person! It’s the choices we are at loss to accept according to OUR choice of belief.
    Can the LGBT find the grace among themselves to accept us as we are? Are there things being left unsaid, that we are to find out about later?

    We are at crossroads, but I don’t think that is at all necessary. .

  10. Jim Russell says:

    Jesus angrily threw out the money-changers in the temple, Jesus would most certainly have
    angrily thrown out LBGTQ if He were at that meeting–Unscriptural organizations like LBGTQ
    should never be invited to the meeting except to teach them biblical truths and lead them in
    repentance.

  11. Mike Tupper says:

    Tom,
    The reference to queer people is the term that many are using to describe LGBTQ people instead of using all those initials. My daughter still prefers the word “gay”, but her friends prefer the word “queer”. It’s like the changes we’ve gone through in what to call people of color in our country. I know many make fun of being “politically correct”, but our words and descriptions of people can hurt. Lord, help us all follow Jesus second great commandment.
    PS Thanks for affirming the two points you mentioned about the places both evangelicals and progressives can agree.

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