Conservative church leaders consult on divisions in the UMC

In a press release issued tonight, a group of some 60 conservative pastors and theologians from the United Methodist Church announced that they had begun conversation about how to respond to what they see as deepening divisions in the church. The group came together via conference call earlier this week, and they stated they believe “the present reality, where a growing number of United Methodist bishops are unwilling to enforce the Book of Discipline, is unacceptable and untenable.” The group said that they were forming a smaller working group to bring suggestions to the larger group for responses, including suggestions of withholding funding from the church, advocacy with the Council of Bishops for greater enforcement of the Book of Discipline,  and the possibility of creating a proposal for the division of the United Methodist Church into two denominations.

Rev. Dr. Tom Harrison of the Asbury UMC in Tulsa, OK

Rev. Dr. Tom Harrison
Asbury UMC, Tulsa, OK

“Lyle Schaller’s 2004 book, The Ice Cube Is Melting, described a problem that still confronts The United Methodist Church today: two groups are locked in diametrically opposed positions,” said the Rev. Dr. Tom Harrison, pastor of Asbury United Methodist Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  “Since his book was published, the conflict has escalated to the point where one group is breaking the covenant which binds us together.  A new path must be found.”

Rev. Dr Charles Kyker Christ UMC, Hickory, NC

Rev. Dr Charles Kyker
Christ UMC, Hickory, NC

While the divisions in the UMC over the issue of human sexuality and gay marriage, leading to what the group sees as acts of disregard and disobedience to the Book of Discipline, the groups believe that the deeper and more important division in the church is the different understandings on the inspiration and authority of the Bible.  “We believe that the Bible is God’s word – inspired by the Holy Spirit in its entirety and authoritative for determining what is spiritually and morally true.  Many progressives see the Scriptures very differently, so much so that they accept some parts as coming from God and dismiss other parts as being uninspired – even flat out wrong,” said the Rev. Dr. Charles Kyker, pastor of Christ United Methodist Church in Hickory, North Carolina.

Rev. Steve Wood Mt Pisgah UMC John's Creek, GA

Rev. Steve Wood
Mt Pisgah UMC
John’s Creek, GA

An issue of concern for the group was what they see as a disregard for the covenant of the church. The group said that while they had been willing to engage in debate and dialogue, they believed that the church had arrived at a settled doctrine and practice, and that the decisions to ignore the provisions in the Book of Discipline were are breach of that covenant.“Our connectional covenant depends on obedience and faithfulness to the policies adopted by the General Conference of The United Methodist Church,” said the Rev. Steve Wood, pastor of Mt. Pisgah United Methodist Church in Alpharetta, Georgia.  ‘From bishops, to clergy, to boards and agencies, it is that covenant that makes us united and binds us together.  When the covenant is not maintained and protected at any level of the church, we suffer from disunity and create a diffused witness to both the church and the world in which we live.”

Rev. Dr. Maxie Dunnam

Rev. Dr. Maxie Dunnam

“The heightened conflict within our denomination is hindering the ability of both progressive and orthodox United Methodists to pursue the mission of the church as they see it,” said the Rev. Dr. Maxie Dunnam, retired pastor, author, and seminary president.  “We must resolve this conflict, so that we can focus wholeheartedly on the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”

No list of participants in the conference call was made available at the time of publishing this article. The group also gave no timeline for followup calls or meetings.

UMReporter Staff

This story was created by the staff of The United Methodist Reporter. For over 160 years The United Methodist Reporter has been helping the people called Methodist to tell their stories. If you have stories that you think need to be told, please let us know at editor@circuitwritermedia.com
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  1. Dave Nuckols says:

    So sad and so unnecessary and ultimately counterproductive Here we have a subset of traditionalists seeking an exclusive claim to Biblical authority and an exclusive claim to orthodoxy. And they claim to be harmed when others live out their call differently with respect to spreading the gospel to all peoples. And they and too many others (of different ideology or different perch in the media) portray this as conflict between two opposing sides. Some of them then say just divide in two. Reality is the are more than two perspectives and any any attempt to split will lead to shattering and shrinking and financial ruin. And there will be no spiritual renewal as they imagine but only continued conflict. The reality is we are in the midst of a huge social shift towards acceptance of LGBT people based on (1) the recent scientific understanding of sexual orientation and gender identity and (2) the courage of gay people to live openly and the Christan witness of many of them leading to widespread acceptance. A new so-called right wing denomination founded at such a time will not flourish. Those who want to purge the gays and families/allies of gays will not long remain gay-free. Straight parents and conservative parents too give birth to gay as well as straight kids. And the current and future generation of kids will not put up with rigid discrimination.
    Alternatively we have this great tradition within Methodism of tolerating conflicting views among non-essential beliefs. Today’s traditionalists and today’s progressives can worship and make disciples and do mission together. Just stop arguing and attempting coerce non-essential belief and just stop these trials. It is simple: retain our traditional ethic of faithfulness in marriage and celibacy in singleness by holding up this standard for all people including LGBT people. This position is what is best supported by the Bible in my reading of it. Of course the Bible speaks not of sexual orientation just as it speaks not of evolution and automobiles. But it speaks of love and witness and personal and social holiness. All follows from this. I very much value my traditional brothers and sisters. Let’s work together.

    • MethodistPie says:

      The thousands of years of Judeo-Christian teaching that marriage is between a man and a woman may be seen by some as pretty essential.

      • If by essential you mean “needed as a way to control and belittle those that you as a human deem less than yourself or that you are afraid of” then sure. Religion at it’s best empowers people to do great things for each other and with each other. Religion at it’s worst is a very powerful and convenient way of controlling the hearts and minds of a people, or providing “an opiate for the masses.” When The Church discriminates against a person or group of people it in my mind has crossed the line from the former to the latter.

      • Thousands of years of Judeo-Christian teaching said that marriage was between a man and as many women as he could afford.

        • Thank you, Dorothy. I hate to judge others, but it is perplexing to me that so many who make claims about “Biblical marriage” must have skipped over a good deal of Scripture to think it means a man and a woman only.

        • Actually there are 8 forms of Bbiblical marriage:”

          Here’s a summary:
          1.Polygynous Marriage

          Probably the most common form of marriage in the bible, it is where a man has more than one wife.
          2.Levirate Marriage

          When a woman was widowed without a son, it became the responsibility of the brother-in-law or a close male relative to take her in and impregnate her. If the resulting child was a son, he would be considered the heir of her late husband. See Ruth, and the story of Onan (Gen. 38:6-10).
          3.A man, a woman and her property — a female slave

          The famous “handmaiden” sketch, as preformed by Abraham (Gen. 16:1-6) and Jacob (Gen. 30:4-5).
          4.A man, one or more wives, and some concubines

          The definition of a concubine varies from culture to culture, but they tended to be live-in mistresses. Concubines were tied to their “husband,” but had a lower status than a wife. Their children were not usually heirs, so they were safe outlets for sex without risking the line of succession. To see how badly a concubine could be treated, see the famous story of the Levite and his concubine (Judges 19:1-30).
          5.A male soldier and a female prisoner of war

          Women could be taken as booty from a successful campaign and forced to become wives or concubines. Deuteronomy 21:11-14 describes the process.
          6.A male rapist and his victim

          Deuteronomy 22:28-29 describes how an unmarried woman who had been raped must marry her attacker.
          7.A male and female slave

          A female slave could be married to a male slave without consent, presumably to produce more slaves.

          and of course …
          8.Monogamous, heterosexual marriage

          Source: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/unreasonablefaith/2009/04/the-varieties-of-biblical-marriage/

          • Wes Andrews says:

            George, your references 1-7 are not “Biblical Marriage”. The are descriptions of “marriages” that occurred and are recorded in Scripture. The purpose of these accounts was not to prescribe to people God’s will regarding the qualities of the marriage relationship.

            Many of these situations to which you refer were merely the reporting of events. When God reveals in Scripture ideas about his will for marriage they are NOT exploitative. They are between one man and one woman. Marriage is intended to be a safe and honoring environment to celebrate sexual expression and procreation. It is designed to be a relationship that reflect the unselfish relationship between Christ and his church. It is meant to have diversity of genders to provide a balanced experience for child rearing and so those children learn what it means to be human from both genders.

            The intent of your post George is obviously designed to confuse because to manipulate and misrepresent the texts.

  2. Please proofread and correct the typos

  3. It is good that the dialogue has begun. Please don’t discount laypeople in your discussion. One of the divisive factors in the umc today is that the hierarchy has taken MUCH of the lay participation out of the church and ask only that they sit in pews with folded hands and follow blindly……………….

  4. I applaud the conservatives for having the courage to fire the first shot over the bow. I agree with their assertion that the real issue is regarding interpretation of the Bible.

    • Thank you for being honest. It is interpretation of the Bible that is at issue here, not adherence. People of sincere beliefs are on both sides. It’s a shame more people won’t acknowledge that.

    • Sam Halverson says:

      True, the interpretation of scripture is the real issue, but it sounds like much of the point that this group is making is that a group of bishops – elected church officials who vowed to uphold the instructions of our Discipline – chose to make their own rules. Now, I believe in standing up for what one believes is right, but I can understand why this would bother anyone…on any side. If the shoe were on the other foot and the UMC had determined that it is OK to ordain practicing homosexuals but one bishop had decided that he/she would not do that then I’m sure people would just as likely be calling for his/her credentials.

      It saddens me that these church leaders in this report are using threats of apportionment holding and splitting the church (similar to the conservative evangelical movement that was used to get World Vision to change their minds?) as tactics, though. Perhaps they simply need to ask for those bishops who refuse to follow the discipline to turn in their credentials (which would also be sad, but it is no doubt something they were willing to do before making their commitment).

  5. Drew McIntyrere says:

    “We’ll take our ball and go home” is not an adequate ecclesiology for the people of God.

    • Chad Holtz says:

      An example of taking one’s ball and going home. Drew, you’re a hypocrite.

      Chad Holtz And if you can, I’m still curious how you answer the marriage question. Should the unfaithful spouse repent before being taken back in? How would you counsel such a couple? I find it hard to believe you would not require repentance.
      April 5 at 1:06pm · Like

      Chad Holtz In Rom 2:4 what is Gods kindness meant to bring about in us?
      April 5 at 1:10pm · Edited · Like

      Chad Holtz One more thing, Drew, repentance is a key component of the ordo salutis, coming just before justification. It matters a great deal.
      April 5 at 1:51pm · Like

      Drew McIntyre Prevenient is before. And Wesleyans affirm a via, not an ordo, because of the possibility of backsliding and the need for repentance – which is,of course, important on the journey towards Christian perfection.
      April 5 at 1:58pm · Like · 1

      Chad Holtz Drew, you’ve not answered a single question of mine above. If you are one of the voices for a supposed “middle” way, you will need to do much better at talking about one of the core doctrines of faith – repentance – so as to not make every conservative feel as though progressives have watered down yet one more important scriptural warrant and thus find more reason to believe your middle is just mush. Jesus, John the Baptist and Peter all began their preaching ministry by first calling people to repent (were they Pharisees, too?) You would suggest that you have a better way?
      April 5 at 2:11pm · Edited · Like

      Drew McIntyre Chad, I doubt I will speak to your satisfaction about anything, nor do I have time to try. I do not care for your tone, nor your attempt to bait me by insult. Have a nice day.
      April 5 at 2:19pm · Like

      Chad Holtz Drew, I’ve not baited nor insulted you. No one forced you to comment on an observation I was making about reconciliation, yet you chose as your first comment to insinuate that demanding repentance is Pharisaic.. I’m asking you a few questions by means of trying to help you see why this is not the case, yet you refuse to answer any of them. I believe you are avoiding them because the answers don’t fit your agenda. That’s unfortunate that your “middle way” takes precedence over looking at what the scriptures actually say about these matters. I hope you’ll reconsider your position.
      April 5 at 2:22pm · Edited · Like · 1

      Drew McIntyre Chad, you don’t have a clue what my position is, you just suspect me of being a heathen liberal because my answers can’t fit into a tract. This is me leaving the conversation; I’ll be happy to engage you further in a message or email, but if you continue to tag me in every comment I will need to block you for my own sanity.
      April 5 at 2:31pm · Like

      Chad Holtz Feel free, Drew. Again, you haven’t answered any questions I’ve asked, so how can I have a clue? It’s not that your answers don’t fit into a tract, but that you give none. You want to call people to a “middle way” and yet you can’t answer simple questions and have a conversation without getting upset and walking out? As I said, I think I know why, and I hope you’ll reconsider.

      • Chad Holtz says:

        Forgive me, I should have said you are acting hypocritically. At least you certainly are in this instance. You quickly and easily separate yourself from me when asked questions you don’t wish to answer yet disparage those in our church who are simply following the commands of Jesus in Matt. 18 and Paul in 1 Cor 5 (among others) to separate from those who call themselves “brother” while continuing in or condoning sin. What fellowship does light have with darkness? The answer is “none.”

        • Chad,
          Feel free to email me and I will happily engage. Calling me out in a public way only reinforces to me and everyone reading why you can’t have a respectful dialogue.

          • Agree. Copying the text of a prior exchange to publicly illustrate a supposed flaw is creepy and disturbing.

    • Neither is it an adequate expression of a life transformed by Christ to arrogantly defy a covenant and “play by ones own rules.”

      • Nobody is “arrogantly defying a covenant.” What people are doing is refusing to be bound by an unjust law. What would you do if you found yourself confronted by a law that you see as unjust?

  6. Name one United Methodist that holds every single commandment in the Bible to be right for our time. I’m waiting for somebody to say that we should roll back the clock on ordaining women. And you can’t claim a desire for dialogue and moving forward together when you’re holding ‘conference calls’ such as this. You know who’s voice isn’t being heard right now? Moderates. It’s all about the extremes lately when most young people (those that church desperately want to recruit) have already settled this argument – by being friends with those of the LGBT community.

    We use the words schism way too much. It’s like having an argument in a marriage and using the word ‘divorce’ out of hand. It plants a terrible seed in the covenant and only leads to harm. We can do more together.

    • “I’m waiting for somebody to say that we should roll back the clock on ordaining women.”- Some on the conservative side already ARE stating this! Any & all women who support the conservative stance re: homosexuality, and contemplate joining them in schism do so at the possible peril of their ordination. Just an observation!

  7. Conservative apologists for the current UMC official position toward homosexuality often speak in terms of “violating the ‘Covenant.’” Writing your prejudices into law, and then using the law to force your prejudices on others whether they agree with them or not is not “covenant”; it is some kind of autocracy. We are not under a “covenant.” We are under a Discipline: break the rules, get punished; no exceptions, no excuses, no allowances for principled disagreement–no Grace.

  8. Many claim this issue is how we interpret scripture both in its Sitz im Leben and its current application for spiritual formation and discipleship. While they claim this issue of acceptance of same-sex loving Christians is seriously enough to split the church, while they conveniently overlook those sins that Jesus himself condemned. How about having a conference about income disparity and treatment of the poor? How about having a conference about the harm Duke Energy or BP is having to God’s creation? How about having a conference about reducing the divorce rate among practicing Methodist? Here is my take….these so called “Conservative church leaders” are cut from the same cloth of those who historically failed to reach out to minorities in their communities, discouraged women to live out their call, and support the most vulgar applications of war and interpretations of the 2nd Amendment. In their hearts they say they love the “Church” yet their concept of grace, mercy and tolerance is limited to their own social setting. Should I dare to ask how many African American church leaders are participating in this movement? One thing that I have learned by being a Methodist for over 50 plus years is those who practice sexism, racism, and homophobia usually cherry-pick and proof text the same set of scriptures to practice their hate. What part of Jesus’ command to love do they find so hard to understand? I am sure these “leaders” pastor churches that are homogeneously white, conservative, and are opposed to any government social program that helps the poor and marginalized. (Jesus weeps anew) Being willing to split the church in order to openly discriminate is wrong on biblical proportions. I once read that Jesus said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” I love the LBGT members of my congregation….they give their time, talent, and treasure….is that not the Good News?

  9. I’m glad to see the recognition that the current debate surrounding same-sex relationships/marriage is not about same-sex anything. It’s not even about sex of any sort. The entire debate turns on the conflicting understandings of Scripture. That’s it. The question is how, or even whether, these radically different views can be reconciled.

  10. Jon Altman says:

    It’s important to note that the self-styled conservatives are not actually being asked to DO anything differently. They are merely asked to refrain from using the tools of coercion to keep OTHER people from doing things differently.

    • Wes Andrews says:

      No, it’s self-styled progressives that reject the agreements at GC that come from openly debated discussion. They don’t get their way and so they don’t follow the rules of the organization they say they are committed to. They dishonor the community of the UMC and any organization within which they “belong” because agreements don’t mean anything to progressives.

      It’s like debating the meaning, placement, benefits, and consequences of placing a STOP sign at a four way intersection. The debate is intense but the majority agreed that the STOP sign means to STOP, not yield, not blow through, not sort of stop. But progressives don’t like the STOP sign, even though they were part of the discussion, but lost, so they completely ignore it and don’t care who they run over.

      • Rachael says:

        “One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that ‘an unjust law is no law at all.’” – Martin Luther King, Jr. “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”

      • The four-way stop sign analogy really doesn’t do justice to the issue. There is no question or debate that stopping at a stop sign is a good and right and moral thing to do. The question with homosexuality is more analogous to questions about fugitive slave laws of a century or so ago. Do you hand over the fugitive slaves to the bounty hunters because “the Law is the Law is the Law,” or do you insist that there is a loyalty to a higher truth coming into play here? How about the conservatives, “self-styled” or what have you, upon whom this article focuses? Can they acknowledge, at least in principle, that it is, at least in principle, possible for a law to be morally wrong? What shall we do when we find ourselves confronted by a law that is morally reprehensible?

        • Wes Andrews says:

          Ken, it’s stunningly insensitive that you equate the plight of those who suffer from the horrific evil of human trafficking and modern day slavery, to the fact that a homosexual person’s relationship with another is not acknowledged as a Biblical marriage. Actually I think the STOP sign metaphor is spot on. Progressives will run over and exploit people who experience real injustice in order to make a case for what they want. Amazing.

          • “Amazing”? Who do you think you are? Can you not acknowledge the fact that one just as intelligent as you are, one just as devout as you are, can come to different conclusions than you?

            It is my view that the Bible doesn’t say anything, one way or the other, about “homosexual marriage.” The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is about rape, not homosexuality, and the problematic parts of it have to do with hospitality as much as anything. And Ezekiel 16. 49 equates the sin of Sodom with hardness of heart toward the poor and needy, not any specific reference to homosexuality. It can be cogently argued that the levitical strictures deal with same sex relations between heterosexuals. And in Romans Paul is talking about “natural” intercourse, and for those born homosexual, homosexual relations are “natural,” and forced heterosexuality would truly be “unnatural.”

            “Stunningly insensitive”? What is happening is that homosexual people are being denied basic human rights at best, and at worst being beaten and lynched, and in many cases this is being done in the name of Jesus. You need to quit passing judgment on other people’s supposed lack of “sensitivity” and open your eyes to your own lack thereof. I’m sorry, but under the circumstances your four-way stop analogy is, well, insensitive, not to mention lame. There is, as I said, no discussion anywhere of the justice or injustice of having to stop at stop signs, and the analogy with disobeying patently unjust laws is all too real. What is your specific response to that comparison? Do you acknowledge, in principle, that a law might be unjust? What is a Christian to do when faced with an unjust law? Blindly obey it because “the Law is the Law is the Law?” Or disobey it out of loyalty to a higher principle?

            “Amazing”? What is “amazing” is that you can pass a snarky, cheap little rejoinder like that off as “respectful dialogue.”

          • “Biblical marriage” is not what conservatives are advocating and seeking to enforce. Biblical marriage, first of all, isn’t a singular. Second of all, biblical marriages included lots of polygamy and lots of forced marriages. Is that what y’all are advocating? No, then stop saying you’re advocating Biblical marriage. You’re advocating a modern capitalist-era marriage that (re)defines the family not as an economic unit but as a social one, based on certain privileges and hierarchies, and further, the 20th century phenomenon of the nuclear family. Stop calling it biblical.

          • Wes Andrews says:

            Dorothee, polygamy is NOT a prescribed behavior in Scripture. The instances in Scripture are descriptive of what what some people did. It doesn’t make it preferred or God-prescribed behavior. In fact a case could be made that the Biblical definition between one man and one woman is much preferred, much safer, much more effective for family and child rearing, because other forms, including polygamy were so destructive and confusing to family.

            Bring in hatred for capitalism just clouds the issue by the way. We should all be every bit as suspicious of any form of government. Power is dangerous and seductive no matter where it is found.

  11. The general issue is the authority of Scripture. The specific issue (at this time) involves Scriptural teaching about sexuality. While there is narrow Scriptural justification for divorce, and no unequivocal ban on female pastors, re-defining marriage is simply not an option owing to clear teaching about homosexual sex. This should not be a debatable point, and comparisons to issues like those previously mentioned is largely specious. Simply because activists attain positions of power is no reason to capitulate to culture. Christianity has always been counter-cultural, and today is no exception.

    • There is no “clear teaching” about homosexual sex. The Sodom and Gomorrah passages deal with rape. The levitical restrictions, as well as NT passages, can be responsibly seen as dealing with homosexual relations among heterosexual people. The Bible offers no specific insight whatsoever about relations between homosexual person who were born that way. And what shall we do with “clear teachings” about not eating shrimp, or, for that matter, catfish (fins and scales)? Jesus declared all foods clean? Well, in so doing, Jesus declared portions of scripture to be no longer appropriate for the times.

      • Wes Andrews says:

        Ken, what seemed to be missed here is that once one rejects the authority of Scripture then any appeal to transcendent universal truth to determine justice, or right or wrong or good or bad is neutralized. You can appeal for justice from Scripture and then at the same time regret the authority of Scripture.

        By the way, just because you make claim that the definitions of marriage and sexuality can include homosexual marriage doesn’t make it so. Your scholarship reflects skewed and disingenuous teaching from our UM (or similar) seminaries. It’s more honest to just say. I reject this part of Scripture rather than to “redact” or “reimagine” it.

        • I’m not “redacting” or “reimagining” Scripture; I am giving it a different interpretation than you do. I am not rejecting or redacting or redefining; I am disagreeing with you over interpretation. You are not the final word on what scripture and tradition “really mean.” Your implication that I’m being dishonest is one more example of your (perhaps unconscious) mean-spiritedness.

          • Wes Andrews says:

            The illusion is that there are different interpretations of plainly presented precepts. There may be different applications, but really not different interpretations unless eisegesis (rather than exegesis) is the primary method of studying Scripture.

        • What you are apparently incapable of hearing is that these “precepts” are not at all “plainly presented.” You arrogate to yourself the sole authority to interprete scripture “correctly,” and you reduce those of us who don’t interpret as you do to subhuman status, and demand that we accept your narrow readings unthinkingly. And then you talk about “covenant.” If there is no allowance for principled disagreement, there is no “covenant.” You have no real desire for “covenant.” What you want is a dictatorship in which all are impelled to accept your interpretations, whthr they agree or don’t.

          • Wes Andrews says:

            Ken, thank you for offering insights about my interpretations. They are not mine, they are the collective insights that the general church has held for over 2000 years (and Hebrew community before that) in regard to what the Bible says about human sexuality and marriage. The collective INTERPRETATION is that marriage is the safest place for sexual expression and celebration. Marriage and family are enhanced with the diverse giftedness of TWO genders joining together with the power and blessing of God to celebrate and procreate. Two genders provide a more diverse set of gifts, roles, strengths and resources that strengthen family and help children have a more diverse and rounded understanding of both experiences of humanity.

            So it is not my “narrow” interpretation. Your actually concern is with the authority of Scripture and with the sober-minded collective interpretation the church that has had wide spread agreement on this issue. Just the very small minority of progressives prefer to listen to culture, and think culture has a better idea in regard to sexuality. Culture has always had sexuality wrong. Culture has always used sexuality to exploit. The truth of Scripture, which you reject, is the remedy for that exploitation.

          • Wes, the “collective insight” of the church on Jesus’ teachings about divorce for almost 2000 years was that divorce is to be all but forbidden. It is only in my life time that the church has learned to lighten up and allow for the act that some marriages are not marriages and need to end. For about a thousand years the “collective insight” of the religious community of Jesus’ time was that certain foods were “clean” while others were not, and that eating unclean foods “defiled” people. The teaching of Jesus was that a thousand years of tradition was wrong. What we have in scripture is texts that condemn same sex relations between heterosexual people. That the church has interpreted these texts as giving blanket condemnation to all homosexuality does not make that right. Challenging traditional interpretations is not “rejecting Scripture.” The problem is not that I am “rejecting Scripture”; the problem is that you are making an idol out of your interpretation of certain passages of Scripture. And your interpretation is indeed “narrow”; you limit and restrict marriage, you limit and restrict how the church should regard homosexual persons, and in so doing we damage human souls.

            Marriage is indeed the safest place for sexual expression. That is why we need to honor homosexual unions.

      • Ken, your interpretation strains credulity.

        Is Sodom and Gomorrah about hospitality? Well, yes, but it is also about homosexuality. Do not fall prey to modern interpretive revisionism. You are also conflating moral laws reaffirmed by Christ in the NT with ceremonial laws which He largely rejected. Consistent with the pattern in Genesis 1–2, sexual intercourse outside of the marriage relationship between one man and one woman is prohibited. For example, “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14; reaffirmed by Jesus in Matthew 19:18; cf. Romans 13:9; James 2:11). In addi­tion, other specific kinds of sexual intercourse outside of marriage are also prohibited, such as prostitution (1 Corinthians 6:15–18), incest (Leviticus 20:11–21; 1 Corinthians 5:1–2), and bestiality (Leviticus 18:23; 20:15–16).

        Homosexual conduct is also viewed as a sin (something contrary to God’s will) in several passages of the Bible. Leviticus 18:22 says, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination [Hebrew to‘ebah, actions that are extremely displeasing to God].” Similarly, “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have commit­ted an abomination” (Leviticus 20:13; cf. Genesis 19; also Jude 7). These absolute Levitical prohibitions are grouped with other relevant sex proscriptions (incest, adultery, bestial­ity) and are considered first-tier sexual offenses that are grouped together in Leviticus 20:10–16.

        In the New Testament, Paul speaks of homosexual conduct:

        “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” (Romans 1:26–27).

        If you disagree with Scripture then so state. Don’t pretend it says something it does not.

        • My interpretation only “strains credulity” for one who has a prior prejudice against homosexuality and reads that prejudice into scripture. The early biblical writers knew nothing of ‘homosexuality” as we understand the term. The word, “homosexual,” is an English word that wasn’t even coined until the late 19th Century. Their strictures are against same sex relations between heterosexuals. The Sodom and Gomorrah passages are about rape as a form of domination and humiliation; that the rape in question was homosexual rape is only incidental to the story. You skate over the fact that Leviticus contains all kinds of prohibitions–against eating shrimp and catfish, taking interest on loans, wearing cotton and polyester–that we all feel free to ignore as being no longer appropriate for the times; your prejudice leads you to make much of the anti-samesex relations passages and ignore the others. The Romans passage concerns “natural” relations; forcing people who have been homosexual since birth to engage in heterosexual relations is what is unnatural. If you hate and fear homosexuality, say so. Don’t hide your prejudice behind Scripture by forcing Scripture to say things it doesn’t say.

          • Ken,

            I have been reading your comments and it seems that you have your agenda and prejudices as much as you say the other (in the above case Mark) does. From what I read of Mark’s comment I didn’t see any homophobia. He listed several types of sin along with homosexual sin. He did not talk about people or a relationship, he talked about sex. I think his point is that 1) there are a couple kinds of laws in the OT that were either continued or discontinued by the early church (i.e. shellfish and pork became ok because they were ceremonial, but sexual sin remained out of play because it was moral) and 2) there are certain sexual sins listed in the OT and according to him affirmed by Jesus and Paul in the NT, and thus Scripture continues to call certain acts as sin with a law against them (and other things ok). You can try to interpret in another way, but by starting off calling someone’s reading homophobic, I think you are being mean-spirited and not talking about his interpretation as much as name calling. Is this to score points, feel better about your reading or to get over some bad experience you have had in the past or another reason, I am not sure. But I think it would be more fruitful to argue with his interpretation of scripture (i.e. is there a moral law and a ceremonial law and are one or the other continued in the NT) then name calling.

            Just my two cents….

            Jon

          • I don’t profess to be agenda-free. You are not either. However, my “agenda” does not include defrocking people who disagree or telling people they can’t marry the one they love. Deal with that, before you start in with the gratuitous psychoanalysis and the accusations of “mean-spiritedness.” You think you are so kind and gentle and civil and sweet, but what you are about is denying basic human rights—human rights you yourself take for granted—to others who don’t share your point of view. I am tired of being kicked to the curb by people who think they’re morally superior and more “Godly” than I am, based on narrow, self-serving readings of selected proof texts. That’s my “agenda.”

          • Ken, you can impugn my motives and suggest that anyone who disagrees with you is a prejudiced bigot, but that does not refute facts, and it surely does not undergird inaccurate or extremist Scriptural undertandings that have only been “discovered” recently.

            With respect to Sodom, why do you think that Lot offered his daughters to the men of the city as a preferred alternative? In contrast, what the men wanted to do to the male visitors was clearly described as “evil.” If this was only about rape then why that distinction? This is not a matter of interpretation, it is simply a matter of reading and understanding the text.

            Whether or not the specific word “homosexual” was used during Biblical times is irrelevant since it is the act that is important (and that was clearly appreciated and addressed in the cited Biblical passages). And the Pauline passages make no distinction regarding natural sexual predilections, so you are simply parroting the imaginations of contemporary Biblical revisionists.

            You have a right to your opinion, but not your own facts, and you certainly don’t do yourself any favors by suggesting that those who differ with you are bigoted homophobes.

            Again, if you disagree with Scripture, if you think it is outdated, it you think certain parts are overridden by other portions, if you think the collective testimony of Christian history has gotten it wrong, then honestly state your case (sans the ad hominem attacks). If you continue with interpretations that are illogical and inconsistent with centuries of Biblical exegesis, then you will justifiably be ignored by informed, fair-minded people…but, sadly, you will create further division and acrimony.

          • Re: Mark’s reply to Ken: Are you sure that Lot offering his virgin daughters to be raped is an effective illustration while discussing what is moral? That incident alone calls for a big “time out” re: the relevance of Sodom/Gomorrah to this discussion.

        • Mark–”Impugning your motives”? Well, I don’t know. It seems to me that you are trying to lay guilt on me for forcefully arguing my position. What I see you doing is taking a handful of biblical texts, giving a very narrow interpretation to those texts and saying that narrow interpretation is the one only possible true interpretation, and refusing to open your mind even a sliver to the possibility of other, more inclusive readings. Why? You object to being called a “bigot.” Well, what do you call it? What would you call the absolute refusal to open your mind to other possibilities? You want to lay the same charge at my feet? I’m not refusing to open my mind, Mark; I have opened my mind, and I am refusing to close it.

          I am saying that the argument that The Bible makes this absolute, blanket condemnation of all homosexuality everywhere is patently false. It is not a “fact.” It is an interpretation–and, in light of what we know today, a grossly oversimplified and inadequate interpretation. That’s where I come out on this. Agree or disagree, but keep your insulting, belittling remarks about how I’m “making up my own facts” to yourself. I know the Bible as well or better than you do. I know what a “fact” is and what it is not. It’s my church as much as it is yours.

          • I find it quite interesting that YOU accuse ME of being closed-minded when you assert out-of-the-mainstream Biblical interpretations with more determinism than I state the traditional ones. Based on that, as well as your propensity to insult those with whom you disagree–including ascribing to them motives you cannot possibly know–it seems clear that you are NOT open-minded. In the long run, however, rhetoric can never trump reality.

          • Mark, I didn’t accuse you of anything; I asked you a question. What do you call it when you refuse to open your mind to any but the most narrow interpretation of the passages in question? “Thousands of years of tradition can’t be wrong!” is not an answer to the question, it is a logical fallacy. Jesus said on a couple of occasions that tradition can indeed be wrong. And where, exactly, is the “rhetoric” that you’re talking about–what are you offering in your defense, if not “rhetoric”? It would seem to me that considering out-of-the-mainstream interpretations that question traditional ones is the very definition of open-mindedness. What would you call it? How would you define “open-mindedness”? Do you consider yourself open-minded? How so? You seem to object to any implication that you’re not, but you really offer no convincing reason to believe otherwise.

          • Ken, I don’t think my interpretations are based on narrow-mindedness; they are reasonable, and they comport with the witness of history. I am open to any interpretation that makes sense.

            I admit that adding 2 + 2 and getting 4 can be done several different ways. However, I am not open to any way that yields a sum other than 4.

          • Your interpretations don’t “comport with history”; they ignore the last hundred years or so of what we’ve learned about homosexuality. They are not “reasonable,” because they deny the basic humanity of a significant portion of e human race, and you read way more into the texts than is actually there.

            With regard to your refusal to acknowledge the existence of number systems that are not base 10—forgive me, but it seems to me that what you are doing, if I may say so, is bragging about being a bigot. You are saying with your own words that you are a bigot, you are proud to be a bigot, and you have no intention of being anything other than a bigot. Well, sail on, then, Mark. Wear your bigotry like a badge of courage.

  12. The central issue at hand is, indeed, how we understand and engage scripture. But these diverse understandings stem from having accepted differing philosophical points of view. Said another way, scripture requires interpretation, and that interpretation is deeply influenced by the bias each one of us brings. Both extremes of this conversation might have us believe tolerance is weak and unfaithful. But the capacity to hear, understand, even vehemently disagree with another while still calling that other “sister” or “brother” is foundational to our United Methodist identity. In 1627 Rupertus Meldenius offered a way of being that many Methodists attribute to Wesley: “In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty. In all things, love.” I understand the essentials of our faith as those elements of the Apostles’ Creed, that the non-negotiables concern our understanding of God, the universality of Christ’s Church, and our hope beyond death. In other matters, liberty must be afforded. There is a via media which allows a degree of diversity in the midst of continued unity. Several realities, however, are clear. First, regardless of one’s position, it is dangerous ground for Bishop’s to refuse to uphold the Discipline. Second, God loves all humanity, black, white, and brown, female and male, straight and gay, and we must as well. Third, there are only three options with regard to the question of sexuality: continue with our current language, engage a different language and by extension a different stance, or remove all language pertaining to homosexuality from the Discipline. When the Methodist Church joined with the Evangelical United Brethren Church to form the United Methodist Church, the issue of the segregated Central Conference was one of great contention. The solution was painfully simple. The motion was made and adopted that when the churches merged the Central Conference would simply cease to exist. This solution is not perfect, yet to remove all language of homosexuality from the Discipline would allow more conservative conferences to consider sexuality, allow more progressive conferences to disregard it, and it would preserve our unity. For some this is too far. For others it is not far enough, which may mean it is just the right solution.

    • Rob, I agree: remove all the language. That way Boards of Ordained Ministry can approve candidacy & ordination, local churches and clergy can perform weddings in states where legal and we can have unity in diversity. Laity can join the church of their choice (as we do now) and clergy can seek appointment to the church that matches their personal stance (as some are not able to now).

      I don’t see we will ever be in 100% agreement on homosexuality. Those who are against it will still give birth to LGBT children – that will never change, though those individuals’ minds may change. A split church will not solve that.

      No matter which “side” one falls on, I believe the goal for each of us as faith UMs is to love one another, love God, and make disciples to transform the world. Neither progressive nor conservative has exclusivity on that.

    • Apologies… rather than Central Conference, I meant to state Central Jurisdiction.

  13. The mix and format of the comments defines “schism” exists. What is left is a choice between choosing to agree to disagree in a cordial separation, or continuing to allow harm in the venom spitting from the far reaches of both ends of the controversy.

  14. Gary Bebop says:

    Stephen Burkhart’s summation is spot on. It’s LOL funny (through tears) that some bishops flout the law of the church shamelessly regarding sexuality but arbitrarily insist on it in other areas, as though the law is a grand buffet of choice. How long will we put up with this tendentious doublespeak?

  15. Just watch. The left will do its best to paint these church leaders as haters, bigots, and any other negative label that will stick. Even our own UMC news service could very well join that club. It is one weird historic time for the UM church. These church leaders come together out of necessity to defend the church from an inward revolt and attack and can end up, themselves, being portrayed as the attackers. And, defending Biblical teachings and church doctrine can be twisted into some sort of an exercise in hate and bigotry. As many others retreat into hiding and denial, these bold people are to be commended, supported, and admired. As they will be under relentless attack and abuse, may they bring on more and persevere to the end of a resolution to this schism.

    • These church leaders and their episcopal apologists are not under anything remotely resembling “relentless attack and abuse.” Nobody is telling them they may not marry the one they love. No one is telling them they are somehow worse sinners than the rest of us and must be denied ordination. No one is defrocking them, stripping them of their livelihood, and throwing them out. And they are not “defending the church”–the people they would prosecute, punish, and banish are “the church” just as much as they are. They are not “defending biblical doctrine”; they are defending their opinions.

  16. Ray McKinnon says:

    Interesting that those pictured here are all white males. There is a certain level of “group think” which occurs when you have just one voice present or allowed to speak. There is a tide-shift happening. We should each be committed to hearing the other person and not claiming to be the gate-keepers of Orthodoxy. We can’t long survive, as a Conference, where there is no healthy and meaningful dialogue. There is wisdom in m any opinions and open discussion. Something that I fear this group would see as capitulation. They seem to be willing to cut the baby in half unless all of their demands are met. The same might be true for folks on other sides of this argument, too.

    • Interesting to think, though, that if a split does occur, we would see a majority of our Central Conferences side with the church that maintains traditional teachings on sexuality.

    • Dialogue has been under way for the past 42 years, and General Conference has voted for the past 42 years.

    • Wes Andrews says:

      Ray, we have had 40+ years of “meaningful” dialog in Churches, Annual Conferences, seminaries and at General Conference. When the UMC decides to affirm and reaffirm Biblical definitions of sexuality and marriage those who felt like they didn’t get their way bully and name call those who affirmed Biblical authority rather than cultural whim. And then the progressives ignore the process and the results of the process claiming unjust law. What they are claiming as unjust is Scripture, because Scripture shouldn’t limit who “someone loves.” Yes, Scripture defines love (and justice). Scripture gives us boundaries for our love and our expression of love.

      If we follow the “who you love” principle, then that’s justification for doing anything. Some people want to love men and women, So that’s perfectly fine and Scripture is wrong. Some adults want to love children, so that must be justification enough. Others want to love their spouse and then love others on the side, etc. Many want to “love” outside of marriage. Once the authority of Scripture and the content of the Gospel of Jesus is rejected then there is no consistent foundation for being the church.

      • You are arrogating to yourself the sole authority to declare what “biblical authority” requires of us, and you refuse to respect principled disagreement—the fact that you put meaningful dialogue in scare quotes indicates that you are contemptuous of any challenge to your own interpretations. Once again, this is not “covenant.”

        Those on the progressive side of this issue are not “ignoring the process”; they are challenging a law that they find to be cruelly unjust. What would you do, if “due process” resulted in a law you saw to be cruelly unjust? What we we are claiming is unjust is not “scripture,” it is a narrow application of scripture that completely destroys the overall scriptural witness to a more and more inclusive understanding of God’s all-embracing love.

        Your comments on the “who you love principle” are a classic example of slippery-slope logic. In the first place, whom are you quoting? Who is it that is espousing a “who you love” principle? The progressive side of this issue is not advocating open, ‘love whomever you please’ promiscuity. And this kind of slippery slope reasoning doesn’t pan out in real life. Look around. Where do you see LGBT couples moving inexorably from loving monogamous relationships into bestiality? Jesus declared laws regarding clean and unclean foods to be invalid; did that lead inevitably to eating mud?

        • Wes Andrews says:

          Actually, I’m quoting you, Ken. (April 10, 2014 at 9:11 am). Many appeals in our culture and in response to articles on UMR offered by progressives go something like this: “who is anyone to stand in the way of marriage for people who love one another.” The appeal to the concept of “love” is one of the principle ways progressives have furthered the pro-same-sex movement. After all who can argue with the appeal and logic of love?

          • That is a very narrow, mean-spirited interpretation of those words. Those words do not in any way justify promiscuity, as you imply.

          • And where are you going with this, anyway, Wes? Are you throwing love out the window along with anyone who doesn’t share your narrow interpretations of Scripture? What do you do with the statement “God is Love”? What do you do with Jesus’ teachings on love of neighbor and enemy? What do you do with Jesus, for that matter, Wes? Jesus said absolutely nothing, one way or the other, about homosexuality? What do you do with that?

          • Wes Andrews says:

            My response in quoting you Ken is hardly mean spirited. I just quoted you and didn’t call you names. I didn’t insinuate that you are truthophobic in a similar way progressives call people who affirm Biblical authority as “homophobic.” Fear has nothing to do with affirming Scriptural authority.

            It’s ridiculous that you would take my observation on how you and other progressives use love to manipulate an argument as mean spirited. That’s what you did and progressives do! Own it! But you probably won’t because with progressive thought most everything is shifting sand.

            I agree with you that God loves everyone. After all that is Biblical. Yes, God loves all people no matter their sexual preference, etc. But Scripture is clear that God doesn’t love all of our behaviors, or choices, reactions, interactions, etc.

            And no I don’t buy the pseudo-scientific pseudo-fact that people are born homosexual. heterosexual, or anything else and being born must justify endorsement. Even if someone is born with any particular attribute or affinity, that affinity doesn’t make the trait automatically acceptable for something like marriage.

          • The sentence of mine that you quoted said that people ought to be able to marry the one they love. You painted that as a statement on my part that I was advocating something along the line of free love with no restrictions. That was dishonest, Wes—a lie. Deliberately distorting what someone says is indeed mean-spirited and small.

          • Wes Andrews says:

            I didn’t say anything or imply that you were advocating “free love.” Ken, I took your statement and other statements using the concept of love as justification for marriage of same-sex couples as offered, nothing more, nothing less.

            I agree with you, deliberately distorting other peoples point of view is mean-spirited. I would add manipulative. And that’s what progressives do, because they can’t stand on their own foundational truths, because they have no transcendent universal unchanging foundation for those truths. Those that are Christian progressives reject the source of transcendent justice, which is the authority of Scripture.

          • Re: Wes’s remarks on “sexual preference”… I wonder if he realizes how unhelpful those words are in a discussion that includes actual LGBT persons. Those who have struggled to understand their own sexuality as persons who have never been attracted to the opposite gender understand clearly that it is not about ‘preference.’ I prefer an Audi, but I happily drive a Kia. The deep drive to love and be loved by another person, along with the related sexual attraction to a person of the same gender, is an “orientation,” not a preference. Without that understanding, heterosexuals base their assumptions about LGBT persons on their own experience and end up saying all kinds of things about homosexuality not being inborn or being an undesirable “trait” or whatever. Even where there is disagreement, I believe it is essential to hear and deeply respect the testimony of actual LGBT individuals re: their experience of sexuality. Some of us followed supposed evangelical wisdom (including the ‘ex-gay’ path) for decades with disastrous results. If you are going to oppose full inclusion of LGBT persons in the church, please make sure you know your subject thoroughly.

          • Thank you, Rick, for a much needed reality check. I know that being heterosexual was not a “choice” or a “decision” on my part; I just always was that way. I think we can only assume that that is the way it is for LGBT people.

            Wes, Scripture” is not the “transcendent source of wisdom”; God is. We profess that “God is love,” not “God is Scripture.” Scripture is nothing more than a finger pointing to God. As Christians, we see Jesus as the embodiment of God and the presence of God, not Scripture. To say this is not to”reject the authority of Scripture,” it is to put scripture, and scripture’s undeniable authority, in its proper place. We are called, as best we can, to read scripture as Jesus read it. What I see you doing is reading your own prejudices into scripture, and then labeling your prejudiced readings as the absolute Word of God. You are not proclaiming “the Authority of Scripture,” you are arrogating absolute authority to your reading of scripture, and refusing even to consider any other readings. You reduce scripture to your own lowest common denominator, and act as if that were the last and final word. You are not proclaiming the “authority of scripture”; you are proclaiming the authority of Wes.

            I don’t know, Wes, but it seems to me that you are being fundamentally dishonest in pretty much everything you say. Your readings of scripture are dishonest and self-serving. Your caricatures of your opponents’ positions are dishonest. Your blanket, universal, unfailingly dismissive and belittling statements about “progressives,” about whom you really know nothing, are dishonest and self-serving. Your refusal to allow LGBT people to define themselves is dishonest. I don’t mean to call you a “liar,” or anything like that. But it seems to me you’ve got some serious blind spots. You’ve got yourself in this narrow little box, and you want to drag the whole church in with you. I’m not trying to go ad hominem. I’m responding to what I see as your being ‘ad hominem’ in about everything you say. You consistently reduce your opponents to tiny little straw men and sententiously and self righteously knock them down. I don’t know. I’m about done with this.

    • Thank you, Ray. I am making an assumption that you identify as male. If I am wrong, please forgive me. If that is correct, thank you even more. You said what I, a person who happens to be female, caucasain and lesbian, was thinking. However, I would have been more vulnerable because I am speaking from a place of white privilege, but without male or heterosexual privilege.

      • Ray McKinnon says:

        Yes. I am a male. A black male who speaks with, I suppose, a level of “male privilege” but none of the white-male privilege. Thanks for your comments, friend.

  17. This will mean the loss of the largest UMC churches in the country for the conservatives. They know that right?? Church of the Resurrection, the church in La Croix MO, etc.

    • Wes Andrews says:

      It’s not about which churches come or go. It’s also not about sides. It’s not about gaining or losing certain local churches. If churches and their pastors rejected the authority of Scripture in regard to the definitions of sexuality and marriage, then they should be allowed to stand on their own, and visa versa.

    • MethodistPie says:

      If you’re suggesting LaCroix in Cape would go with the Progressives, you haven’t heard the lead pastor’s sermon on homosexuality.

  18. Drew McIntyre says:

    A prayer from the UMH #564:

    Help each of us, gracious God,
    to live in such magnanimity and restraint
    that the Head of the church may never have cause to say to any one of us,
    “This is my body, broken by you.” Amen.

  19. As I shared in a response to Christy Thomas on her article, “The Inquisition Cometh” (a progressive point of view), I would share the same exact comment here.

    On the issue of same-gender marriage… one side is not going to “convince” the other one – and shaming each other by using terms such as “homophobic” and “unscriptural”, “discriminatory” and “permissive” is far from covenant behavior. Saying that “The Inquisition Cometh” is not helpful. Conservatives and Progressives alike in the UMC are using all kinds of language that is not acceptable in a covenant community. Both sides are threatening to withhold funds. To some, it seems like we’d rather cut the baby in half.

    John Wesley and George Whitefield disagreed. And debated. Vehemently. They argued over grace. Predestination. Universal redemption. Wesley leaned toward the Arminian. Whitefield leaned toward Calvinism. And yet while they argued, and disagreed, and wrote back and forth – there was never a claim of discrimination, or being morally bankrupt, or the taking of cheap shots and denigration. They both labored to teach and preach, to take mission and discipleship to a world that was hungry and desperate for it (and still is). And when Whitefield died – of all people – Wesley was asked to preach his funeral. And if you read that sermon, it is clear: Wesley loved Whitefield.

    It disgusts me that the secular world reads little about the Methodists anymore except for this controversy (and I’m convinced, evil temptation) to schism, divest, disrupt, demonize, divide… instead of going to make disciples of Jesus Christ for a hurting world in need of healing. Not only is it sinful – it is a blood feud, as insular and dysfunctional as most blood feuds. It may be the greatest blow to our pride that if the UMC splits, falls apart, or disintegrates, that it will be with a whimper and not a bang. We won’t be news long.

    E.H. Sugden wrote this in his introduction about Wesley’s funeral sermon for Whitefield and how the two men loved and respected each other: “Two opposing views represent the two sides of one truth, which our finite understanding is not able to synthesize; but which we may nevertheless accept, just as we accept the Unity in Trinity in the Godhead, or the divine-human person of our Lord.” Or, to quote the more recent words of Reinhold Niebuhr, Christians must learn to live in the tension of having AND not having the truth.

    These would be good things for all of us to remember before we go off thinking “we” are right and “they” are wrong. On this matter, I suspect we all share in ignorance and arrogance.

    • Thank you for your words. It hurts me that, rather than moving together toward grace in disagreement, we have become more polarized and divided. Each side believes wholeheartedly that they have taken God’s position. In Christ there is no East or West, no North or South, and no Left-wing or Right-wing. It’s time for us to follow the first general rule: Do No Harm. We have all been the hurt as well as those who hurt. It’s time for everyone to reach out in love and stop the harmful rhetoric.

  20. I write what follows with all due respect. In the first response to the United Methodist Reporter story, the writer mentions a “great tradition within Methodism of tolerating conflicting views among non-essential beliefs. ” Given the importance of marriage to society and to the church, how on earth is the definition of marriage a “non-essential belief”? The traditions in the Gospels show Jesus Himself defining marriage as one man and one woman, in Matthew 19:5 and Mark 10:7, where the Lord quotes Genesis 2:24 (“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”). In First Corinthians 7:2, St. Paul writes very plainly, “each man should have his own wife and each woman, her own husband,” and so I ask, was Jesus engaging in irony? Was St. Paul mistaken? Where is there *any* indication, anywhere in the Bible, that marriage is two men or two women? There isn’t, and since there isn’t, the liberals don’t have a leg to stand on. Hurrah for the UMC Bishops who discipline those clergy that depart from the New Testament understanding of marriage!

    • Jesus was addressing the question of divorce and Paul the question of polygamy. Considering the church’s relative silence and passive acceptance of divorce culture, we are being hypocritical when we quote Jesus and claim to uphold “his” principles on marriage. Regardless of our views on homosexuality, we must be honest with ourselves in our failures to uphold God’s true vision of marriage as an unbreakable union.

    • I am excessively enthused that you brought forth the 1 man and 1 women scriptures. I have been around so many individuals that insists that a homosexual relationship/marriage is acceptable to God and to Jesus Christ. I honestly think that the Bible has become… a personal shield for those who truly follow Christ; however, for those who profess that Jesus would accept the act of homosexuality (or the acceptation for any other sinful desires that we humans), the Bible seems to be mis-used, or mis- interpreted, in just the way that suits the individual. If a Christian wants to have a relationship with someone of the same gender, then the Bible is used/interpreted to fit the desires of the individual. We have allowed Satan to enter our hearts and our souls and our Church. Now, right now, we need to push away our individual thoughts/desires/perspectives in order for us to truly praise and worship The Son and His Father, God, because the moment we accept these sinful acts is the moment that we have personally condemned our Church and it’s people. The moment we allow ourselves to put our own thoughts and our own perspectives into what we think that the Bible says, then we have defiled the Word of God. We have to read the Bible without a perspective; we should read it for knowledge and wisdom so that we may have a personal relationship with God. The Bible has become so mid-used, or taken out of context, and it makes my heart feel broken and torn. We have made our own desires become between ourselves and Gods I wonder… I truly wonder what God thinks of our Church and it’s leaders… At this very moment..

    • Jesus isn’t taking about homosexuality in the passages you quote. He is talking about divorce. Jesus says in those passages that divorce is wrong for any reason other than unchastity. Are you suggesting that we bring clergy divorced for reasons other than unchastity to trial and defrock them? Shall we deny church membership to divorced people?

      Your use of the “one man/one woman” language is way too literal. In the 21st Century, we have grown and matured in our understanding of what homosexuality is, and this understanding needs to inform our understanding of scripture.

      • Wes Andrews says:

        Jesus is talking about the nature of marriage in a plain and simple fashion, only progressives twist “no” to mean “yes”, and visa versa.

        • No…Jesus is talking about the nature of marriage in a plain and simple fashion—and you are twisting that into blanket statements about homosexuality, a subject about which Jesus said nothing.

          I am beginning to realize that this really is not about scripture at all. This is about Homophobia—”plain and simple,” if you will. You just cannot stand the idea of sharing the church with free, open, living and loving homosexual persons, and you desperately read that fear into scripture, and pass laws which rigidly reflect those readings and attempt to purge any who will not accept it.

          Let me reiterate a question I’ve raised elsewhere, that you haven’t as far as I know addressed: what would you do if you were faced with a law, or a disciplinary text, that you experienced as cruelly unjust? Would you, plainly and simply, obey it because the Law is the Law is the Law?

    • Dave Nuckols says:

      Florida guy — In case I wasn’t clear: I support a UMC sexual ethic of fidelity in marriage and celibacy in singleness. That is essential to me. And I also think we should be careful not to add even such essentials (for denominational reasons) as extra items to the historic creeds( for orthodoxy and ecumenicism). Especially not in service of exclusionary political agenda. So I agree that marriage is essential. And I disagree that marriage is only for straight people. I see your point about no examples of same sex marriage being blessed in the Bible, but so too you should see my point that same sex marriage is never condemned in the Bible. It so a modern social case of marriage not known I n Biblical times. So too is the case of love match and egalitarian marriage common now as the intentional ideal but generally unknown (or very exceptional) in ancient times . We have science on our side since later half of last century in a way that was not yet consensus when UMC started messing up the BoD in 1972. And we have much more experience of faithful gay Christians sharing their stories so we can learn. This later scientific and experiential knowledges points us back to the sacred text for closer examination, and having looked closely, we can see the traditional view has been wrong when over generalizing from same sex rape and idolatry cases to then discriminate against good gay people. We managed to improve our Biblical understanding about slavery and women’s place in home and church leadership. We can do it again.

  21. In the 1980s, I was a Southern Baptist, and during that period a rather mean-spirited debate and controversy led to a split between the Conservative/Fundamentalists who took over/corrected the more progressive course the denomination had been taking and the Moderate group who formed the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. The split did not bother me nearly as much as the rather unChrist-like behavior of both sides. Since joining the UMC, I have seen my church have a heated battle over our participation in quasi-political, multi-group (mostly church affiliated) movement called Together Baton Rouge, the main issue being TBR’s support of tax increase for mass transit. It saddens me to see the way “Christiians” behave when in conflict with brothers or sisters in Christ. I hope the UMC finds a better way to solve its problems than did the Southern Baptists.

  22. Everyday it seems I hear more and more talk of schism in the United Methodist Church, talk that suggests Methodists no longer trust each other enough to pray together and yet looking in my own home congregation and my own tiny corner of Methodism I still am blessed to see liberals and conservatives, reconcilers and confessors, traditionalists and progressives find ways to be the church together. Perhaps all we’ve demonstrated in the past four decades is that the will of this peculiar denomination to remain united is stronger than the forces or issues that would drive us apart. Years later when the manner in which Christian denominations responded to the question of gay rights are studied and analyzed by future historians and theologians what will the Methodists be seen as? Just another denomination that swam with the crowd and let themselves be torn apart like the rest into sects that barely if at all still recognize each other or will we be remembered as that peculiar and extraordinary denomination which kept its house standing firm even the midst of the most bitter and pained struggles engulfed it from within? The wounds of our last great schism are still felt today. Will our are children and their children’s children forgive us if we now open fresh ones? Are we ready abandon the achievement of the last century and let the church historians say that the United Methodist Church was born already doomed to fail or will we with faith, piety, and boldness try to become worthy of our forebears’ dreams?

  23. My life has been filled with privilege that allows for the full inclusion of all people to be a theological issue of Biblical interpretation. However over 30 nations now have laws, often backed by the Christian and United Methodist leaders, that make some sexual identities and choices of partner illegal, even to life in prison.

    It is time to stop endorsing a culture of violence against gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender, and queer children of God. I call out these “conservative pastors and theologians” to renounce violence and imprisonment for GLBTQ. Please quit worrying about the purity of the UMC and work to save lives. Let us agree to disagree and to love one another.

    This article sounds like a bunch of conservatives who do not want to engage the entire world, just those who interpret the Bible like them. I love the Bible and Jesus is the key to my faith journey. The Biblical story calls us to live in God’s grace and to live out God’s grace. My ministry will continue to be based on these principles.

  24. This conversation – pro-anti Homosexuality – has been going on within the United Methodist Church for 40 years and the only thing that has changed is the Book of Discipline which has become more restrictive. I am saddened that our conversation has remained around thus issue while poverty has elevated to degree it has in America. Could this be a design by those wanting to divert Christians away from an issue often decried by Jesus toward one never mentioned by Him? Possibly. When the Bible was canonized people of the day believed the world flat. We no longer do. Exploration has proven that belief wrong. Scientific exploration in many areas has proven beliefs of 1500 years ago wrong. We have grown in our ability to understand and see many things differently than 1500 years ago. People who penned the Bible understood God through the filter of their day. In other words, they would not have understood about germs and microbes and so would be unable to understand a God who spoke to them in those terms, terms which had not been coined yet. To think that Paul or the writers of Leviticus understood homosexuality is to say they understood the engineering of rocket ships that took us to the moon. They did not. And for us to think of living today with the mindset of a 1st century person is impossible. We cannot. We are persons of our time, with knowledge beyond the 1st century Christian that is woven within our thinking to be indistinguishable in our consciousness. Homosexuality has been proven by science a legitimate state. We cannot dismiss it or deny it. It is here and it is real. We must deal with it. Those who cling to prejudice do it not do it because the Bible compels them to do so. They do it because they are prejudice. Just as those who stood against the black man or woman because they “believed” the Bible showed them damned and inferior, these people are in truth plain old racists. If I am to err in this life, then let me err on the side of love. I think God is much more pleased with us if we are open to all people rather.

    • Lana
      Eratosthenes of Cyrene calculated the circumference of the Earth around 200 BC well before the Bible was canonized. Aerodynamics has nothing to do with homosexuality. We are the same fallen beings we have always been.

  25. We simply can’t have every General Conference disrupted by protesters. We are at an impasse. It’s time to split.

    • Well…splitting is one option. Another option is to somehow agree to put the impasse aside and move on to other things–”agree to disagree.” Yet another option is to stay in the impasse, with an openness as to what may come of it. People who can’t stand to be in a church that is stuck in this impasse are always free to choose to go somewhere else.

  26. MethodistPie says:

    The picture at the top of this article, depicting a tug-of-war over The Book Of Discipline, goes to the heart of my frustration with this whole fruitless debate. We spent ten million dollars on a General Conference that once again voted to retain the language in the BOD. If we’re not going to live by what we decide at these quadrennial blood-lettings, why have them in the first place?

  27. One of the commenters above mentioned that the pictures of the participants in the “conservative” article were all white. Perhaps the solution is to kick out all of the white/anglo saxon/protestant males from the umc. Surely by then the umc would come into compliance with the Discipline–or rewrite it–and all of the problems the denomination faces would vanish in a heart beat and utopia would be achieved for all those who would belong to the umc…………………………

    • Did anyone suggest that white Anglo-Saxon men should be kicked out? The person who commented on the lack of ethnic or gender diversity in the presenting group made a valid point. (Straight) white men have held the power in the church for a very long time. The fact that they are the ones making pronouncements about division (conveniently right before a meeting of the active bishops) shows me that the old power base is digging in and getting desperate. All of those featured in this article are straight white Anglo-Saxon men with ties to Asbury Seminary (I know three of them personally from my years at Asbury.) These are last gasps before the old order gives way to the new work of the Spirit. I find it hard to believe that a group with a valid, Spirit-directed and prophetic message for the church would not reflect the diversity of race and gender that increasingly characterizes the United Methodist Church.

      • Not digging in or getting desperate. Just hoping against hope that some solution can be found so that all sides can continue on their journey with Father/Son/Holy Spirit. The umc as it stands can share with not one person the message of God’s love. The umc is locked in a discussion that gets more and more viral and causes more and more hurt on both sides of the issue. Father/Son/Holy Spirit must be weeping–John Wesley would not even recognize the church he was inspired to found……………………

  28. It occurs to me that we are turning into those very pharisees that were so immersed in their law they crucified the one who came to show a new way. Today our law is the Discipline. Apparently that discipline is more important to some than spreading and sharing the life-changing love of Christ. How sad are we.

  29. Division is the last thing I would want becasue it would be just another rejection. I didn’t join the UMC to go to a gay church. I joined the UMC to be part of a chruch beleives that everyone can serve God. I am sick and tired of my LGBT community being a topic and everyone thinking they have the moral authority over someone else. Only God has authority over me.

  30. Perhaps Orthodox Methodists could merge with the growing Wesleyan Church while progressive Methodists could merge with the declining Episcopal Church.

    • Excellent idea WAD!!

      • Wes Andrews says:

        Sounds appealing. All things progressive are declining in real social context except in Universities and Media. Progressive thought, but its very nature, destroys social constructs because there is no basis for trust.

  31. The “conservatives” referenced in the article claim that those opposed to their viewpoint are “violating covenant.” Yet, their first threat is to cut off funding to the denomination. That is a huge breach of covenant. Does anyone else see the hypocrisy in threatening a violation of covenant to respond to a violation of covenant? Are they basing their principles on the Bible or Hammurabi’s Code?

  32. Who will listen to me? Who will read my words? No one probably, but here is what I have to say.

    Our issue over homosexuality is fundamentally a problem of deontological ethics. That is, the problem is that we have posed the question wrong, posing it in a positive/negative way. We ask ourselves, “Is homosexuality permissible?” But this question is the source of our anger, frustration, and potential crisis of schism. The problem is that we ask the question, automatically prompting a yes/no answer. Therefore, when we answer, we polarize ourselves, and there form exactly two camps of individuals: pro and con. Polarization is not only destructive, but teems within American society, and has for the past couple of decades. American politics is an excellent example of polarization caused by this kind of question.

    Stanley Hauerwas, perhaps our brightest ethics scholar in the post-modern world, urges us to think not deontologically, in terms of permission (yes/no). Rather than ask ourselves, “Is homosexuality permissible?” we should ask ourselves, “who are we becoming in Christ Jesus?” As the church on earth, who are we supposed to be if we are to remain salty and a powerful light and testament to the cross? Who are we becoming if Christ is alive, the Holy Spirit remains faithful, and God’s kingdom is certainly to be ushered back to earth one day?

    Both conservatives and progressives are thinking deontologically, and this is our downfall. It’s not our fault! It’s our habit from which we can yet be forgiven through repentance. It’s an injustice which we have been exposed to through the principalities of this world. But Christ can–and will–redeem us yet! But Christ has not called us to be passive in our world, but actively participating in the movement and life of the Spirit.

    Both sides feel hurt by the other, but both sides are in love with Christ. The conservatives are hurt because they feel that progressives are not taking Scripture seriously enough. If we lose our biblical witness, what do we have left? On the other hand, progressives are hurt because they feel that conservatives are reading into the letter of the law rather than the Spirit of the Word. If the Spirit of the text is lost, or cannot be applied to a rapidly-changing modern context, what do we have left? Both sides are defending the same text, because both sides are one body of Christ and one community, one people with one text. We need to understand this, no matter how differently we read that text.

    My brothers and sisters, if you continue to read, I urge you to reprogram your thinking and instead ask yourself the question, “who are we as the church becoming in Christ Jesus?” Rather than focusing on the matter of homosexuality in a yes/no paradigm, we ought to move forward in unity around Jesus’ witness and life on earth. What are the primary themes of Jesus’ teaching in the Gospels? What kind of community should Christians live in according to Acts and Paul’s letters? What is our mission, our purpose, indeed our identity?

    I believe that, progressives and conservatives alike, will find that Jesus would come down clear on the homosexuality issue: schism is not in God’s plan. In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

  33. The division in the UMC is between 1) those who believe that the Bible is truly God’s Word, that Christ, the Son of God, physically died and rose from the dead, paid the penalty for our sins, will come again to judge the living and the dead, and that there is a literal heaven and hell and all who do not place their faith in Christ and die in their sins will not see heaven, and 2) those who don’t believe this.

    Up until about one hundred and twenty years ago, anyone would call this division what it is — believers and unbelievers, Christians and non-Christians. Now, though, in our 20th/21st century enlightened view, unbelief of various forms has been “re-interpreted” within our church as now being an acceptable part of the club. We do no favors for our friends who are deceived by progressive/liberal theology though when we smile and pretend that they are fellow Christians; all must turn from their sins and place their faith in Christ in order to escape the wrath which is to come. We also do no favors for the UMC when we allow unbelievers (even good-intentioned truly-nice-people of-course-I’m-a-Christian unbelievers) to attain positions of authority within our local churches and beyond.

  34. Elaine T. says:

    I see the Bible from the beginning to the end glorifying male/female sexuality. In the beginning God created men and women for each other thus having created the first human institution…marriage. In Revelation 19 we find the marriage of the Lamb (Jesus) with the Church (Christ’s bride). God loves us so much that he uses marriage to illustrate His love for his committed believing people (His church the Bride). Then right smack in the middle of the Bible you find The Song of Solomon where you find a beautiful portrayal of men and women who express their love for each other. It can not be denied that the Bible does have a negative stand on homosexual activity . So many people just don’t understand how there has been such a turnaround in the church. If you really want to be honest you have to admit that millions and millions of dollars have been spent to change people’s attitudes. Experience is raised up as proof and after mountains of money has been thrown at studies to prove the premise that people are born that way they have still not been able to overcome the hurdle of identical twins . If one is born gay then the other one would be gay but this is not always the case. In describing those who hold to a more orthodox viewpoint, there are those within the church who call them haters and bigots, and say they are passing judgment, attacking, abusing and condemning the homosexual activity. All you have to do is say that there are people who say that God has redeemed them from the homosexual lifestyle then you will truly hear rabid vitriol!

  35. As the PK of a UMC pastor in PA, some of these comments make me smile and some make my heart melt. It isn’t 1960 anymore. You may disagree with “the homosexual lifestyle”, and that is your right, but it is also your right to continue to disapprove of interracial marriage. Thankfully, we won’t let you stop the latter, and soon we won’t let you stop the former. Jesus loves all. In an overpopulated world, I don’t think he’s worried who is raising the child as long as it’s a good home. #LoveConquers

    • Wes Andrews says:

      Jor, it’s never been about a personal disagreement with someone else’s life-style. It’s not about personal fear toward homosexuals. NO ONE is afraid of homosexuals especially in the case of the UMC. What progressive thinkers like to do is mischaracterize the point of view of those they disagree with. so they have more leverage (deceptive at it may be) to win an argument. It’s not about what I (or traditionalists/conservatives) like or think. It’s about the authority of Scripture and what Scripture says. The Biblical definition of sexuality and marriage is NOT obscure. It is disingenuous for progressive/liberals to suggest that it’s “not clear” or that “it’s not even about homosexuality at all.”

      You may have never been exposed to the idea of the authority of Scripture depending on the spiritual teaching and training in your life. The reason authority matters is because humanity needs what God has given, that is a transcendent unchanging universal truth. If that doesn’t exist then there is NO basis for justice. There is no basis for higher law. There is no basis to fight oppression, other than the eventual defeat of today’s oppression with tomorrow’s oppression.

      Progressives in this way essentially cut their nose to spite their face. They claim that homosexual marriage is a justice issue, but deny/reject/ignore the authority that makes justice possible.

      • No, it is not about “The Authority of Scripture,” Wes. Disagreeing with your very narrow interpretations of a select little handful of biblical passages is not the same thing as refusing to accept the authority of Scripture. The passages you refer to simply are not some blanket condemnation of all homosexuality in all places at all times; they address specific events in specific places at specific times. You can agree with that or disagree with it, but your continued pronouncements that those who make that argument are “rejecting the Authority of Scripture” are false and border on slander.

      • Agree. Not about the authority of Scripture. That is a huge smokescreen to cover the refusal of traditionalists to consider that LGBT Christians can love God, commit to another person, and serve the church just like anyone else. The ‘authority of Scripture’ canard does not stand up. It’s disingenuous to only appeal to the scriptures you like and pretend the whole book has authority. I know numerous LGBT Christians who describe themselves as evangelical. They are more theologically conservative than I am, but I respect their faith and admire their courage. They believe they are fully accepted by God and that their covenantal relationship with a same-gender partner is fully blessed. They hold a high view of Scripture and appeal to its authority. They have had to struggle mightily with the handful of verses that are used against them, and they have resolved those theological issues much as women and divorced folks have found grace and freedom despite the Scriptures traditionally used to exclude them. So…. unless someone has a direct line to God determining whether their understanding of biblical “authority” is more authoritative than that of other sincere believers in Jesus, I’m ready to stop hearing the pointless and pompous appeals to authority in this endless debate.

      • Wes, I think you are right. Once the basis of morality is subjectively viewed through a prism of irrationality and extremism constructed to suit selfish interests then the whole church enterprise collapses under the weight of competing personal agendas.

        • Competing personal agendas… like being treated with equality? Vs. denying equality.? One is definitely a personal agenda. The other is a denial of personhood.

  36. Why are we likely to split? Because in place of holy conversation, “talk to the hand” would a rough equivalent to the majority of the posts written above.

  37. This whole discussion proves the point, mentioned in the article, that there is not now and most likely never will be, agreement on these issues. I believe a split will be a mercy and allow all groups to pursue the mission of the church as they see fit as mentioned by Dr. Dunnam. It’s sad but I see no other alternative to allowing everyone to pursue their faith without constant conflict and fighting.

  38. Elaine T. says:

    I really believe there are lots and lots of good people who love the teachings of Jesus and work at telling others. I also believe that there are many who love Jesus and seek to tell and live out His story of redemption through the blood of the Lamb. When I read Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus seems to make a similar distinction. “Not everyone who says ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name? and then I will declare to them I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”

  39. How can I get in touch to support and allow the congregation I serve to align with this effort?

  40. A friend sent me UMR editions and asked for my take on schism. I’ve read all, including comments. I’m a 65-year-old, white, married daughter of old Dixie, with Methodism in my DNA. I’ve taught Bible studies over 40 years, been a lay delegate to conference, and lay staffer at a conference office, yet the stereotype attributed to me doesn’t match my opinion or relationship with Christ. I first heard schism decades ago over a women’s meeting with the word ‘imagination’ in it and it’s gathered steam since. Desire by a faction of clergy to tear this denomination apart is fixed and only recently have LGBT issues been fuel for the break-up fire. My congregation is white haired and skinned on one side of the aisle and black and brown on the other. We host a Hispanic mission and all the children under 18 in our building are Latino, most able to speak English — not one white child. We are down to serving Communion only 4 times a year and even with that, there must be a special pair of servers off to one side to offer bread and cup to those who can’t abide the idea of receiving from ‘dirty’ brown hands. Those demanding such an act of ugliness at Our Lord’s Table are very strong on the anti-gay issue. I only go because dear friends encourage me to keep teaching. We’ve lost all but a handful of young adults and no new ones join. My money goes elsewhere and on Tuesdays I receive Communion (in unity with all communicants) at an Episcopal church. It’s lively with children, young adult leaders and real growth at ease with diversity. No whiff of schism. They’ve apparently cut their losses and moved on. God will help me decide if I move my church home there. I am and will be a Christian as devout as I am able and please, God, make me more so. I will worship, pray, give, serve and receive the Sacrament and will until I die. But as a Methodist? It looks like probably not. Too many of you fellows love tearing things up way too much. I’m about done with it.

    • Amen! been a Methodist all my life and about done with it! born and raised In a Methodist church,but now am feeling more at home in the Baptist Church! I am 67 years old. My family believes in the Bible…..not just parts of it…..all of it. I think I will be moving with them to a different place where the Bible is truly taught and appreciated and lived.

Your thoughts?

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
 

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