UM Agencies Broaden Agenda to Promote Homosexuality and Transgenderism

By Rev. Thomas Lambrecht

therefore-go-umc-gc2016Evangelicals have often predicted that the effort by progressives to radically change United Methodism’s view of marriage, ordination, and sexuality is only the first part of a much broader agenda to overturn traditional Christian social ethics. The latest efforts by our denomination’s advocacy agencies (General Commission on Religion and Race, General Commission on the Status and Role of Women, and Young People’s Ministries) to promote the acceptance of homosexuality and transgenderism represent an expansion of the advocacy agenda in ways that most United Methodists would find troubling.

This advocacy is found in the handbook for delegates of General Conference (called the Advance Daily Christian Advocate—ADCA). Just released at the end of last week, this handbook has a section on “intercultural competence.” The agencies want “to support each delegate’s ability to build relationships across our diverse cultures.” Much of the information presented in this section is basic to understanding how to cope with personality and cultural differences.

But there is one page (whose authorship is not given) that outlines “Sensitivity on Holding Conversations Around Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.” It offers guidelines for conversation that delegates are expected to follow (although the guidelines were never voted on or approved by the delegates).

The first admonition states, “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and/or Queer (LGBTQ) persons are our siblings in Christ and should be treated with kindness, dignity, and respect.” With that principle, everyone can agree.

Beginning with the second admonition, the guidelines begin to go off the rails. It encourages us to be aware of the presence of persons with different sexual orientations. “Many may identify as bisexual, queer, lesbian, gay, or other identities.” This guideline assumes that there are multiple (“other”) sexual orientations that exist and are part of the normal human experience. It further assumes that “many” persons exhibit these various identities. Evangelicals believe that our identity is found in our relationship to Jesus Christ, not in our sexual attractions. We also believe that some sexual attractions are not good or positive and are to be resisted, not celebrated. Studies have consistently shown that less than five percent of the population exhibit one or another of these various attractions at some point in their lives. That hardly constitutes “many” (fewer than 43 out of the 864 delegates). Yet it seems to be part of the agencies’ drive to normalize homosexual and bisexual practices, portraying these as common and normal in hopes of convincing delegates to affirm these attractions and practices.

The third admonition stipulates, “Do not assume anyone’s gender identity, even if you have met them in the past. Ask someone their pronouns before using gendered words to describe them.” Ten days in Portland with this kind of recommended protocol before every conversation will make General Conference a perfectly dreadful experience for everyone involved.

One assumes that the recommendation is offered in the event that a person who looks and dresses like a woman may want to “identify” as a man (and vice versa). One assumes that there may be a few instances of this taking place. But the underlying message is that gender is a fluid, changeable concept that is subject to the feelings and desires of the individual. For the most part, however, our gender is part of our God-given personhood bestowed at birth and unchangeable. It is not desirable for a person to attempt to change his/her gender. This third admonition buys into the current fashion that gender is self-determined, rather than God-determined. And it represents an escalation of the LGBTQ advocacy into the arena of transgenderism.

The fourth and fifth admonitions posit that LGBTQ persons ought not to be referred to as “prostitutes, adulterers, pedophiles, murderers, confused, unchristian, an issue, etc.” and that their marriages, covenants, or relationships ought not to be compared to bestiality. Evangelicals agree that inflammatory language ought not to be used in describing any person, including LGBTQ persons.

At the same time, we need to be very sensitive to allowing legitimate debate and discussion about the rightness of certain sexual and gender practices. The question of how the church ought to regard marriage and sexuality is an issue that merits prayerful biblical study, theological reflection, and conversation. Placing artificial limits on language is just a clumsy attempt to make it impossible to discuss these questions and potentially intimidate people who are unwilling to affirm homosexuality and transgenderism.

Unfortunately, these guidelines on conversation are all one-sided. There is nothing in these guidelines to delineate how evangelicals and traditionalists are to be talked about. In the past, those who have embraced a traditional perspective have been called bigots, homophobes, unenlightened, uninformed, narrow, or a “child of the devil.” The name calling can go both ways. In either case, it needs to be avoided. The one-sided character of these guidelines calls into question their objectivity and poses the possibility of an underlying agenda.

The guidelines’ draconian nature appears in the final admonitions, which expect that facilitators (presiding bishops, committee chairs) should rule such “behavior” (using improper language) out of order. And if facilitators do not do so, delegates are expected to interrupt and challenge the improper language, making everyone responsible for being the “political correctness police.” A more calculating strategy for silencing the voice of those attempting to uphold biblical teaching cannot be imagined. If I don’t like what you are saying, I can shut you down by accusing you of using improper language.

I want to emphasize again that evangelicals oppose all violence against individuals for any reason, including LGBTQ persons, and oppose the use of disrespectful and inflammatory language in all debate, including debate about LGBTQ persons. However, these guidelines go beyond encouraging respectful debate and seek to engender thought control—or at least debate control—in a way designed to tilt the playing field. The agencies involved ought to withdraw the guidelines. If not, delegates should not feel bound by guidelines that have not been approved by the General Conference and let their conscience be their guide.

Comments

  1. Do not label the restrooms as men and women. Come up with less gender specific labels. Put a few men in dresses to explain all this to our African delegations and everything will work out fine. And do not forget to invent some new pronouns for those delegates who might require translation services to understand what is going on. With proper advance planning it will all go smoothly. That said I think I will turn off my sarcasm circuitry and press on.
    Why are we still trying to be nice to each other? It is not working.

  2. Welcome to the newest face of modern fundamentalism: liberal/progressives. They do not want conversation with us poor unenlightened beggars who, in their eyes are “black-hearted, evil, Bible-worshiping bigots.” They are simply “coming for the institution” with”‘piss and vinegar” because “the time has come”. Even though they themselves acknowledge the votes are not there to change the Discipline. I’m still trying to figure out how that strategy plays out.
    John Wesley talked about the “mystery of iniquity” that has been associated with the church since its inception. In one of his recent books, a modern Presbyterian pastor, M. Craig Barnes, talks about how there are “bugs attracted to the light” of the church but they should never be allowed to take a stage. Well, the gate is already open in that respect. The fact that a group of radical liberal/progressives has been allowed to control the agenda of the denomination and continually stir the pot about same gender relationships for so long is only a symptom of the disarray The United Methodist Church is in. I see their cause as an unholy alliance of two things out of the 1960’s: the civil rights movement and the sexual revolution. At that time, the church was very vocal about and involved in the first but way too silent about the latter–so why shouldn’t this group of liberal/progressive activists perceive their cause as a natural progression for the church?

    • Thanks for your comment, Betsy. I don’t believe the civil rights movement of the 1960’s was in any way “unholy” (just to clarify your comment). I do agree that it is a misappropriation of a valid and courageous movement (civil rights) to link it with the sexual revolution. I think that’s what you mean in your comment. You make some good points.

    • Frankly why should it matter if a clergy person is LBGT or heterosexual. I sincerely doubt that you ask your heterosexual friends and relatives about their bedroom or sexual proclivities. I know that I certainly do not as this is a very private matter.
      As for allegiance to the Discipline, this book is often revised and at each General Conference it is possible to do so. I remember the Discipline of the 1960 being quite liberal, and issues regarding our LBGT brothers and sisters was not even on the table and abortion was condoned as this was a decision to be made prayerfully and with the advice of a woman’s physician. The Discipline of the 1960s was quite liberal, when compared to the Discipline of the 21st century. Do we really want to retreat into the past, when LBGT persons were considered mentally ill? The DSM was revised in 1976 and psychiatrists and psychologists felt that this was determined at someone’s birth and not a mental illness but very normal for that person. Other attributes that are determined at birth are one’s eye color, skin color, and adult height, none of which are given the scrutiny that the UMC gives ones sexual orientation.

      • Thank you for the discussion, Carla. We may not ask our friends and relatives about their sexual proclivities, but we do ask clergy to maintain a standard of fidelity in marriage and chastity in singleness. If your male pastor had a mistress on the side or was living with a woman without being married to her, that would be of concern to most Christians. So there are some sexual standards that are expected of clergy, as an example to all Christians to follow.

  3. It sounds like “the fix is in”, … to revive an old term.
    The Free Methodists are looking better and better to me every day.

    • Rick Nelson says:

      I agree with you. Unfortunately the nearest Free Methodist Church to us is 68 miles from my home one way. Since the United Methodist Church owns all church property and would require a sizable sum for a congregation that wishes to be removed and go to another Methodist denomination or else the congregation would have to relocate to another site. Those who are pushing this agenda do not believe the Bible is the Holy Word of God, and to me that is even worse that their positions on sexual immorality. To me, Christians cannot pick and choose what we believe because God’s Word gives us guidelines for living through the teachings of Christ, Paul, and other apostles, and to deviate would be calling God a liar. I was born into a Methodist family and have been one all my life, but cannot support a church that goes off track and adopts a secular humanist agenda contrary to Christian teachings, and it saddens me that I may be forced to leave because I cannot support a church that teaches false doctrine.

  4. Brian Greenwald says:

    The Bible makes clear in several passages what God thinks about sexuality. He calls homosexuality an abomination and unnatural. There are many statements about who not to have sex with as well. If god thinks it is an abomination, that’s good enough for me, and anyone else’s opinion doesn’t count. If those who practice what God calls sin don’t like what we believe, they should leave and form their own “church”.

  5. I have beenUnited Methodist my entire life. When I talk with our local district superintended I always get the same story. I know it’s a problem and we have to just work with our local church and our local people and spread the good news here. But when I say well then why don’t we keep our apartment dollars here with our local people. That’s when you can see his anger start to build against you. Fortunately our local pastor was born and raised in Africa. However I know my days as a United Methodist are numbered. Very sad and very angry. Thank you for all you do Tom my prayers are with you.

  6. I think that by the time the African church takes a commanding leadership role there will be 20 years of water under the bridge . Look at the ACNA. they are doing great. It is past time to leave. We can start a new church.
    We can do great things when we are loosed from that ball and chain . The future can be scary . Courage /faith in the Lord Jesus will do more than we could ever have dreamed of.

  7. Bradford B Wilson says:

    Well written Tom. I am not at all surprised by this further attempt to silence any actual debate on the topic by the progressives. But I have to say that these same basic guidelines are already unofficially in place in my Annual Conference. Anyone who openly states his or her belief in the Biblical standards is already being marginalized here. I’ve been told that I need to be a “gentleman” rather than someone who upholds the traditional moral standards of the Bible which just happen to also be found in the Book of Discipline. I’ve been told very clearly that the definition of a “gentleman” is someone who never brings the subject up unless one is willing to toe the progressive line. I know that the Lord will continue to bless the ministry of those who stand for the unchanging Word of God. That’s why I remain a United Methodist, but I fear that the days of the “Quina Solae” within the UMC are just about gone: Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Solus Christus, and Soli Deo Gloria.

  8. Ian McDonald says:

    This is ridiculous, there is so much secular pop psychology in the instructions to the delegates that it is insulting. And there is no missing out on the point that same sex marriages covenants etc… are to be affirmed by silent acquiescence. In other words don’t say anything that might offend anyone. The right to self flows through the pages on how to conduct yourself at this GC.

  9. Thanks Tom for your writing and servanthood. Reading through the guide I also noticed there is some proposed legislation that could also allow some changes even if the “official” proposals do not pass. Why has the church, particularly the UMC, become more about politics, structures, and money (much like government)? When a group “looked at similar secular supervisory roles and salaries” and finds over $180k (+ expenses+parsonage+etc…) is appropriate for Bishops, while local pastors (and the congregants) average $40k-we have missed the calling of being “the church”, of being followers of Christ, is all about! I believe when seeing these actions and reading these man-made guidelines, somewhere seated at the right-hand of the Father,…”Jesus Wept” (John 11:35).

    May God be with us in this time of turmoil

  10. Like some other denominations, UMC accepted the “curse” (Gen. 12:3) when it went to bed with the World Council of Churches and the United Nations. These organizations have consistently rejected the divine worth of Israel; and most recently, divested funds from Israeli enterprises. I am ashamed of the United Methodist church and its refusal to properly recognize Israel which, recognizably, has made its own mistakes. But Israel, working hard to protect its borders and people, is to be supported. We know this from God’s own word. There is no way that UMM will work its way through its problems, including the Gay/Lesbian agenda, unless it first begins to support the Jewish State. How much more does UMC with the UN, want Israel to give up the land God gave to the Israelites? They have already given up Gaza and the West Bank!

  11. Michael Lee says:

    I wrote a letter to an online ministry (http://issuesetc.org/) of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod about this situation. Here a portion of the letter I wrote: (start of quote) “I would love it if the United Methodist Church leadership (UMC Bishops) would take the same type of stands on issues and doctrines as the Missouri Synod leadership does. There are still some very good United Methodist people out there even though the institution is failing these people miserably. I don’t know how long this can last.” (end of quote). I have no desire to be Missouri Synod but it’s refreshing to see a church take necessary stands that line up with scriptural Christianity. These are critical times for our church. The ministry of Good News is needed.

  12. Supt. Alma Thompson says:

    1st: I simply want to say, “I’m praying for you all in this process.” As a Free Methodist, I consider you all brothers and sisters, and find myself prayerfully aware of you.

    Rev Lambrecht, I find your comments critically insightful. I also find myself thinking, “Hmm…I’d love to see a re-write of the conversational guidelines that take all his points into consideration.” I wonder if that might actually be a good tool for all us – as we seek to elevate the conversation.

    Thank you for sharing.

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