Amicable breakup of UMC needed, pastor group says

By Sam Hodges*

Photo illustration by Kathleen Barry, UMNS

Photo illustration by Kathleen Barry, UMNS

DALLAS (UMNS) — A group of United Methodist pastors and theologians is calling for an amicable split of the denomination, saying differences over homosexuality and other issues are irreconcilable.

The group describes itself as traditionalist and says its ranks include more than 80 members, including pastors of some of the larger United Methodist congregations.

“Are we not at a point where we can acknowledge, after years of dialogue and debate, the depth of our differences and together, progressives and traditionalists, give each other the freedom to pursue our understanding of God’s will?” the group said in its statement.

The group makes clear its support for the church’s current official positions on homosexuality, including that marriage should only be between a man and a woman, but says its disagreements with “progressives” go farther, including to whether the Bible is the infallible word of God.

“I don’t think we will ever agree on the issues that deeply divide us,” said the Rev. Chuck Savage, president of the Georgia United Methodist Foundation, in a press release accompanying the statement. “However, it is my hope that we will agree on a plan of separation that will serve both traditionalists and progressives well. My opinion is that if we can reach agreement on such a plan both progressives and traditionalists will emerge stronger.”

Talk of a breakup of the United Methodist Church is not new, and discussions at the 2004 General Conference led to passage of a unity resolution.

But the Rev. Tom Harrison, part of the group releasing the new statement, said recent clergy defiance of church law by performing same-sex unions convinced him that going forward as one denomination isn’t realistic.

“You can’t play that way,” said Harrison, pastor of Asbury United Methodist Church in Tulsa, Okla., in a phone interview. “It’s chaos. My argument really is rooted in the violation of our covenant together, the Book of Discipline.”

Initial reaction to statement

The group’s statement has just begun to circulate, but was met with dismay by the Rev. James Howell, pastor of Myers Park United Methodist Church in Charlotte, N.C.

“We manage to disagree on a great many things, as we do within our very own families, and we can still love and stay together,” said Howell, who offered an unsuccessful “agree to disagree” measure at the 2012 United Methodist General Conference in Tampa, Fla. “No such division will be a win-win. The fissures will be within congregations, and we will thus be irreparably weaker.”

The Rev. Scott Campbell, an outspoken advocate of changing the Book of Discipline regarding homosexuality, also expressed reservations.

“While I appreciate the tone of their statement, I am saddened that we have not tried every alternative that is available to us,” said Campbell, pastor of Harvard-Epworth United Methodist Church in Cambridge, Mass. “Several proposals to restructure the church to allow greater autonomy within differing ministry contexts will be coming before General Conference in 2016. I believe these are worth seriously considering and perhaps even attempting to implement before we take the drastic step of separation.”

The group calling for a split has had conference call talks, but has chosen no name and elected no leaders. Some members of the group are currently unwilling to be identified, but one who is, the Rev. Larry Baird, said he hopes a list of participants will be published this summer.

Baird thinks the next step is for the group to meet in person to begin to talk about how an amicable split might happen. He said he hoped that would lead to discussions with the other side.

“I, for one, would like to avoid the kind of situation that some of our other sister denominations have gone through — the bitter splits,” said Baird, pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church in Grand Island, N.Y. “We’ve got to be able to do better than that, in my opinion. At least, I pray so.”

But the Rev. Bonnie Beckonchrist, board chair of Reconciling Ministries Network, an unofficial caucus which favors full inclusion of LGBT persons in the United Methodist Church, said even an amicable breakup would be costly.

“I believe people, individuals and congregations, will be hurt by such a split,” said Beckonchrist, a retired United Methodist pastor. “The differences we are talking about are located not only in our denomination, but within individual families and congregations. Sitting in the same pew are folks who differ on many things, but in healthy families and congregations grace abounds and love is what ultimately unites them.”

The group advocating a split has turned to Good News, an unofficial caucus that supports the church’s current stance on homosexuality, for help with communications.

But the group is not part of Good News and does not carry its endorsement, said the Rev. Tom Lambrecht, Good News’ vice president and general manager.

“We are definitely intrigued by the whole process,” Lambrecht said. “We’ve heard from various sectors of the church express the sentiment that separation may be the only way to resolve the deep division that’s in the church today.”

The group’s statement notes that division over homosexuality extends to the Council of Bishops.

San Francisco Area Bishop Warner H. Brown, Jr., president of the Council of Bishops, did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the group’s statement.

Bishop Mike Lowry of the Central Texas Annual (regional) Conference, said, “We are struggling with transformation into a new form of connectionalism. All of us would do well to remember the promise of Jeremiah 29:11. I respect the integrity of those who have issued the statement as well as those who disagree. I call on all of us to prayerfully seek God’s guidance in matters of deep division.”

*Hodges, a United Methodist News Service writer, lives in Dallas. Contact him at (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org

This story can be originally found at http://www.umc.org/news-and-media/amicable-breakup-of-umc-needed-pastor-group-says

United Methodist News Service

United Methodist News Service is the official news gathering agency of the United Methodist Church, and a division of United Methodist Communications. Mandated by the United Methodist Book of Discipline, UMNS provides news stories to communicators throughout the world.

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  1. Expressions of love, unity, and a desire to discuss the matter are most certainly admirable. But so long as the conservative side of the issue remains steadfastly resolute in their intentions to reduce gay people to second-class status, as well as their firm belief in biblical inerrancy and that God is on their side, there’s really not much to talk about. Thus “dialogue” between CUMC conservatives and progressives can never be anything more than pointless tilting at windmills.

    IMO, painful as a split into conservative and progressive branches of UMC will be, other denominations have already gone through this and emerged OK, so rather than endlessly thrashing around in a sea of pointlessness, we need to learn from their experiences, avoid repeating their errors, and build upon their successes. Let’s prayerfully bring our UMC into the 21st century, and get on with it.

    • Wes Andrews says:

      Jon, it is those who trust the Scriptural definitions of marriage and family who are keeping their commitment to the collective decisions reflected in the BOD made by the faithful delegates of General Conference. The progressives are the ones who have betrayed the trust and the due process of the denomination.

    • “Reduce gay people to second class status”???? For forty years, the gay advocacy proponents have been shown unparalleled respect and love at the General Conferences. They have been given enormous time and resources to present their case, often in most obnoxious ways. Just because they have not gotten their demands voted in, they respond with claims of hatred, bigotry, homophobia, and second class status. There is not another organization on the planet that has come close to this level of tolerance. Of course, the gay advocacy proponents yell intolerance because the church has not voted in their demands. And, this ongoing issue of Biblical accuracy does show that this schism goes much deeper than the sexuality conflict. If the church declares Scripture on human sexuality and marriage to be inaccurate, then where does that strategy end? The Bible would, over time, be declared inaccurate and irrelevant per the various political forces in the church constantly demanding their way. Of course, long before then, the UMC would either be gone or have evolved into an institution that’s certainly not a Christian church.

      • Gregory Peterson says:

        Right…denying for other adults what you allow for yourself is showing them “unparalleled respect and love.” I think not.

        “The issue” is about defending privilege over practicing the Golden Rule. “The issue” is reminding me that the Methodists has split over slavery….back when my great grandfather was a child. “The issue” reminds me that Methodists had a race segregated organizational structure until the merger with the EUB (which had baptized me). They wouldn’t united otherwise, and they were right.

        “Homosexuality” is a much abused, modern-era social/scientific construct with a lot of long discredited scientific and theological baggage. To have terminology so obsolete as to be pejorative in the Book of Discipline is simply evil…and its probably no accident that it was added when the Gay Rights movement had started to gain some traction. It was about defending privilege, ill will towards a minority group, and reducing competition for ordination and leadership roles in the UM… and it continues for exactly the same reasons.

        • Wes Andrews says:

          “defending privilege”

          Gregory, this is just another debate ploy turning the issue into the powerful vs. the powerless. Progressives and their academic institutions love to come up with new ways to re-frame these discussions to gain traction and to muddle the issue.

          This is about the Scriptural definition of marriage and sexuality.
          The church must get its identity from God revealed/inspired Scripture, or else it’s just another social gathering or another social institution, but not the church.

          Once we ditch Scripture there is no basis for transcendent understanding of justice.
          Once we ditch the transcendent Scriptural understanding of justice then there is no appeal to a Higher Law.
          When we are unable to appeal to higher law then “truth”, “right and wrong”, “family”, “marriage” and what is “just” will only be defined by the powerful, and history tells us that the powerful exploit the powerless.

          So, your argument is self-defeating. It’s not about protecting the powerless, it’s about embracing the powerful. In this case the progressives who by definition have no real appeal to higher law since they reject it.

  2. This is one of the most even stated opinions that has been offered in regard to the umc. Each side—conservation-traditional/progressive-liberal is presented in a very congenial and soft manner. Seems to me, however, that when the two sides come together the dialogue becomes loud–even angry–and the voice that is most strident and loud is the voice that “appears” to carry the day.

    Actually what might transpire in these discussions encouraged by this article in regard to the umc will affect me very little. My hair is gray and thinning and I am much, much closer to the end than to the beginning. What transpires will affect young families who are searching for a fellowship where their children can learn–bloom–grow.

    Until–ONLY until–the governing council of this denomination falls to its collective knees and stays on them until Father/Son/Holy Spirit speaks with only ONE voice, the umc will float aimlessly through turbulent water. The umc and the country long for the message that is penned in II Chronicles 7:14.

    In the meantime–KEEP LOOKING UP. SIGNS AND WONDERS ARE HAPPENING EVERY DAY!!!!!

  3. Weighs heavily in my soul. Every human being that is . . that ever was and ever shall be . . came onto this world through the marriage, the reconciliation, of male and female. This is a unifying Truth, inclusive of all mankind. A mystery which cannot be defined. To think that it can be, seems the height of arrogance, better given to Caesar than to our Creator. It saddens me that homosexual brothers and sisters will rather bring division than to wrestle with God. None of us walks through this life without the wrestle, nor would life be worth living without it. For it is in the struggle that we find Him. And in the resignation that we abide. I struggle with this, search my soul, I find no rest. As a bride awaiting her groom . .

  4. I am truly saddened by this. Although I am theologically in the same camp as the group calling for a split, I believe that such a split will be costly for the Kingdom in ways that we cannot foresee. Although my own congregation is mostly comprised of traditionalists and evangelicals, it also has a large number of moderate left (I’m not sure they’d call themselves progressives) persons as well. A denominational split would tear my congregation apart. I suspect my congregation isn’t alone in this.

    I also think that it is fair to say that there are persons on both sides of the issue who have forced us to this point. We talk at each other and not to each other. I’m not sure we are living into Jesus’ prayer for us (John 17).

  5. With open rebellion of a few bishops, active and retired; an Annual conference refusing to pay connectional apportionments, pastors refusing to uphold their vows, and a small but activist group insisting all agree with them a split seems inevitable. Many churches will be hurt. Many pastors amd bishops lives will be turned upside down. Such has been happening in members lives for years. God’s word will still be preached. The gospel of Christ Jesus will save people from sin. The kingdom of heavan will one day be established.Praise God.

  6. There is no need to break up the United Methodist Church over LGBT inclusion. There is a need for a change in the language of the Book of Discipline so that both conservative and reconciling congregations can continue to operate in the context of one Church. It is terrible to consider that this one issue above all others is being used for a political agenda of division. This inhibits our ability to live out Jesus’ calling as a denomination.

    Even if conservative churches break off and form a separate denomination, the issue will not be settled for those congregations. As my generation rises, support for full LGBT inclusion in the life of the Church will only increase across the board. A conservative Methodist denomination would still have to wrestle with the issue – breaking up the UMC will not change that.

    It is disturbing that some conservative Christians appear so willing to break down rather than build up the institutions of Christ. When World Vision acknowledged the diversity of opinion and policy in the broader Church regarding LGBT inclusion, they were met with a storm of protest. Certain Christians showed that they would rather dump their sponsorships of children rather than accept LGBT Christians as part of the Body of Christ. And increasingly, it is the forces opposing LGBT inclusion that speak in favor of the dissolution of the UMC. How does this advance the Gospel? How does this benefit the work of our Lord?

    This must be an indication that the Reconciling movement is gaining the advantage in the UMC. Otherwise, the opposition would not be suggesting a Methodist divorce.

    • Lisa Keenan says:

      That we should be reconciled by a Lie . . . Or simply be indifferent. This is the opposite of Love.

  7. If schismatics within the UMC have their way, the church will not “amicably divide.” It will shatter. Local churches will experience chaos, with much fallout. Those leaving will end up investing ungodly amounts of money on property, not mission. One generation from now, both “sides” will see that this was about homosexuality, not who is orthodox/conservative and who is otherwise. That future generation – not far into the future at all – will shake their heads at the foolishness of our own generation since there will be little disagreement that LGBT persons are fully worthy of full inclusion in the church.

    I cannot respect any public statement that is not publicly signed by those who bring it forth. We all know that anonymous notes should be disregarded. The fact that this is even a story is shameful.

    • Amen. Beautifully stated. Is there even an “amicable” divorce that comes without pain and regret? This is sad.

    • Gregory Peterson says:

      The breakup will not be seen to have been about “homosexuality.” It will be seen as having been about one group trying to deny for other adults what they allow for themselves….such as ordination and marriage within the church.

      Methodists once split before, back when my great grandfather was a child, over the issue of one group trying to deny for other adults what they allow for themselves…such as in not being owned. (Being from a line of late in life babies might give me a different perspective on United States history…as nearly all of it happened in my family within the lifetimes of just four generations. My grandfather was born before the 13th Amendment emancipated America’s enslaved people.)

      Of course GLBT people today aren’t enslaved, far from it, but in too many areas of the country, they still have one thing in common with America’s enslaved ancestors…their marriages are not recognized. Well…two things, actually. The other being endlessly targeted by Christian conservatives of ill will armed with historically and intratextually dubious clobber verses while professing to … Well, their behavior reminds me of the Temptations 1971 song, “Smiling Faces Sometimes.”

  8. Israel Alvaran says:

    I posted this comment on the Good News website but they ditched it… sounds like censorship to me: “I’m wondering why such an important statement is cloaked with secrecy and anonymity. Organizing by press release is not a form of dialogue. Conversations happen in our annual conferences and local churches – churches invested in our connectional structure, and not mega-churches whose pastors don’t really itinerate. The threat of schism is real, but the roots are not fully exposed. I even wonder if these 80 or so leaders have LGTQ friends or family that they have spoken with or in relationship with. Have they had honest-to-goodness conversations with the persons they agree are people of sacred worth without having one hand of fellowship extended and the other brandishing a machete just in case the conversation got a bit rough and divisive? Breathe, pray, witness. This statement is an acknowledgement that its leaders have closeted concerns about the efficacy of graceful, personal engagement and would rather cut their losses and take what they can before the wall of discrimination starts crumbling down.”

  9. This statement is one of the most civil and conciliatory that could be made in view of the continued defiance of the covenant by sexuality-obsessed liberals in this denomination. It is time to make official what has essentially already occurred.

  10. Acceptance of homosexuals is gaining traction every day across this country. Gay marriage is now the law in the entire Northeast. By the time General Conference rolls around two years from now it will be the law in well over half the states or perhaps the entire nation. Do we want to be known as one of the last churches discriminating against many of our precious children over something that isn’t of their choosing? Really? This hardly seems like the kind of witness a church should be making.

    • You might want to check your assumptions; they could be little more than wishful thinking. Orthodox non-denominational Christian churches are the fastest growing churches now, bring many people to Christ through conversion and profession of faith — and they’re growing mostly with YOUNG people.

      • Gregory Peterson says:

        The Southern Baptist Convention is distressed over the declining number of baptisms and members. Conservative Evangelicalism is rightfully being exposed and condemned for fanning the lethal flames of homophobic scapegoating in Africa. Eventually, you reap what you sow.

    • Wes Andrews says:

      Sandy, the taking of unborn life is also legal. But no one can make a case that abortion is right or Biblically justifable. Slavery was legal, and exploitation of women and children have been tolerated by culture, but that doesn’t make either of these behaviors just. The whims of culture, we find over time, are often “on the wrong side of history,” not because they weren’t tolerated or even popular at the time, but because God’s justice wasn’t fulfilled in those culturally popular actions.

      Based on your, statement, since “living together” is commonly accepted then we should accept that for our clergy. Human trafficking is popular in the underground culture perhaps it will become more acceptable as culture tolerates that as well….. It ends in the church being changed by culture, and not the other way around….

      • Gregory Peterson says:

        Do you know that comparing the law abiding members of a minority group with human traffickers and those who enslave, and exploit others is called “defamation?”

  11. It’s not the grassroots congregations which are talking “division. It is coming from the same small group of powerful clergy who have opposed the acceptance of homosexuality over the years. Do you really want to ask every congregation to vote on which side to go with? My guess is most UM congregations are divided right down the middle and that most would rather stay together than split.

    • Gary Bebop says:

      It’s a categorical error to assume an orthodox pushback to be nothing more than a tiny hornet’s nest vexing a global denomination of millions. Progressives belittle resistance because they are used to having any; they ridicule and scorn and abuse it. But all of this becomes a public record of rage at defenders of traditional Christian teachings. The raging will ONLY help demarcate the division. Even as the Apostle Paul said: “Indeed, there have to be divisions among you, for only so will it become clear who among you are genuine” (1 Cor. 11:19).

      • Gary, I think you hit the nail on the head. Liberals, being natural agitators, are used to having their way without much pushback. Their greatest friend is ignorance and apathy on the part of the laity. Most grassroots United Methodists—I just spoke to one today—know nothing about the leftist lobbying of UMC political agencies, and they would be appalled that well-placed bishops and other leaders in the denomination are anti-Biblical, anti-Discipline covenant-breakers on the issue of sexuality. Anyone from just a few years ago would be shocked at what is happening today…and it is NOT PROgressive, it’s REgressive. There is nothing new under the sun (I think of the OT pagan elevation of sexuality above almost anything else).

    • Wes Andrews says:

      Wow, Jack, your statement is as far from the truth as it possible. The small percentage, yet powerful are the progressives. Their way of “winning” is to trample on others, while those who trust Scripture have honored the voices of others in faithful discussion and have succeeded in helping the UMC remain faithful to Scripture. But due process means nothing to progressives.

    • I dread the vote. It will be ugly, real ugly, especially the time leading up to it. My guess, once the vote is announced, many upon many will depart because they simply will not want to be part of the confrontation.

  12. The situation within the United Methodist Church has reached the point of hopelessness. But this statement “Regarding United Methodism’s Future” is the first genuinely hopeful message for Methodisim that I’ve seen in years! Its focus appears to be centered upon the UMC’s mission “to make disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,” it is grace-filled, and strives to factually and fairly summarize the two polar positions (as much as that is humanly possible in this emotionally charged situation).

    It is interesting that some are wondering warily about the identity of the 80 while others clearly are attacking the messengers because of the message. My perspective is that the 80 simply are filling a vacuum created by the lack of leadership of our Council of Bishops. Who they are hardly matters. When it comes time to vote at Annual or General Conference, they are only 80 votes under our polity. If their perspectives and opinions don’t reflect that of a majority of our delegates, they have no more power or authority than I do.

    Those institutionalists still favoring the middle ground deserve credit for tenacity. Forty years is more than enough for me. It’s time to move on, show the world how Wesleyans can part lovingly over sincere differences and watch how God uses refocused Methodist churches to make disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

  13. God’s Word is all we need to look to.
    Philippians 2:15 NASB-“…so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world,…”

  14. “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. ”
    Note please that in most responses the terms Liberal and Progressive are here are appearing to be used as curse words. As one who seeks to be both liberal in my sharing of my limited income and in my sharing of my time and talents, and progressive in my perspective on the 21st century church, I do find that disconcerting.
    I am also curious as to why on earth so many people would want to involve themselves in exploring so thoroughly the sexual attractions and involvements of other consenting adults. 50+ years ago, my parents taught me that people are not all the same and as long as nobody is being coerced or abused, what consenting adults with other consenting adults do should be none of my business. I would certainly not want to encourage anybody else to speculate about my heterosexual marriage. I would certainly think that for so many to spend so very much time speculating on the marriages or relationships of other consenting adults, either heterosexual or homosexual, could be construed to be a bit voyeuristic to some of us who were more thoroughly taught that marriages and other adult relationships are each and every one unique.

    • Lisa Keenan says:

      This is a good question, Velma. It has haunted me, also. I’m just a simple kind of woman who finds solace and community within the church.

      After engaging in these discussions, so far, I have learned this:

      There is no marriage ceremony in the Bible.

      Marriage happens behind “the tent flap”.
      Our biological chemistry not only creates a desire and tender bonding very similar to that of a mother to her child, but also analogous of our Creator to his children. It brings an empathy to us that is beyond definition. From this miracle, this marriage of the tiniest essence of male and female . . new life is created.

      The Church is, in essence, as a bride awaiting her Groom. He prepares a place for her. Provides, protects and gives his life for her.
      She cares ands shows her love for Him by keeping herself strong, healthy, salty and pure. She lives in a world that does not recognize her humble goodness. She must be discerning while she waits for her Groom.

      God, our Creator, created marriage in this way. The Church did not. The Church would open the bride to a lie, a wound prone to bacterial infection, if it promoted any other “definition” of marriage.

      This is what I have gathered, so far.

  15. Schism exists right now. The College of Bishops has lost credibility as it cannot even manage accountability among Bishops. The credibility of the polity is collapsing as folks look for ways to dance around the covenant, instead of upholding the covenant, and the leadership of the church uses “unity at any cost” as the excuse of the day to do nothing. Radical progressives ( not all progressives) have chosen to abandon their Vows for their own agenda, and now try to package anyone who dares to disagree as “schismatics”, instead of honestly separating in the “schism” they have seeded and promoted – heaping dishonesty upon dishonesty. The real question? Is there a remnant of leadership (on either or both sides), to honestly separate without going to battle over silly stuff like property and pensions. The ultimate positive outcome? A now dysfunctional top-down theocracy, will by default be dismantled and grass roots Christianity will have a chance to re-seed in the Methodist families of Churches?

    • Gregory Peterson says:

      Vows which uphold the language of oppression …complete with obsolete, long discredited and now pejorative words like “homosexual” must be broken. What conservatives want is to deny for other adults what they allow for themselves like ordination and marriage.

      I’m old enough to have heard it all before from people who claimed to be faithful to scripture, only about the “sexuality” of a different minority group. I’ve even been accused of the “unnatural sin of miscegenation.” I’m proudly unrepentant.

      Gay is a declaration of a certain sort of personal integrity, which conservatives who are defending privilege generally seem to lack, and therefore fear in others.

  16. theenemyhatesclarity says:

    The idea of a new denomination is exciting, and many would have a part in creating it. There are many more things than homosexuality that have been issues for the orthodox. Imagine:

    1. A church committed to serving the least of these AND salvation of souls.
    2. No more General Board of Church and Society.
    3. No more membership in the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.
    4. A pro life stance, much stronger than the confused mess in our current Discipline.
    5. Funding for seminary students would be by voucher, and they could chose from a list of approved seminaries where to take the money. Claremont would not be on that list. Costs would go down and the quality of graduates would go up.

    I know that all of these wouldn’t happen exactly as I want them to, and there would be other issues I haven’t even thought of, but our church would be much improved on more areas than just the issue of homosexuality.

    In Christ,

    The enemy hates clarity

    • What a great post!!! There are SO many things that would/could change in the establishing of a new denomination.

      First on the list would be a people who bow in reverence and awe to Father/Son/Holy Spirit!! Perhaps Iliff would be left of the approved list as well!!

      Thank you, TEHC, for a positive start to this Lord’s Day–and the celebration of the memory of all those who have served this country in The Armed Forces………………..

      • Wes Andrews says:

        Iliff has been one of the most “progressive” of seminaries. My guess is the students and faculty would be very, very proud of this. In reality, Iliff was started by a family that loved Jesus and wished to promote the spread of the Kingdom of God. Yet, it has been taken over and dominated by progressives who are uninterested in the Kingdom, as defined by Scripture. The founders are rolling over in their grave. Of course, this is one of many UM seminaries that despise the church that supports them. And yes, I know this from personal experience.

    • Amen, enemyhatesclarity! The current cultural ethos of sexuality-as-identity is terribly unbalanced and unrealistic. And how about approving only seminaries where 90+ percent of the faculty are Christians themselves!

      • William says:

        Our seminaries should not resemble secular liberal arts colleges. I am most aware of the old worn out academic freedom issue. Of course many private colleges and universities have cut ties with their church denominations over the years after, of course, taking money from them to get established and on solid financial ground. But, for our seminaries, they should be unique Christian focused institutions or schools within their universities with professors who really want to be there to TRAIN ministers to preach the Gospel and proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. Instead, a number have evolved into something that barely resembles the definition of a seminary. The UMC has a HUGE problem here and, my guess, a major contributor to our current problems.

    • Gregory Peterson says:

      “There are many more things than homosexuality that have been issues for the orthodox.”

      And no doubt there were more things than about slavery that had been issues for the orthodox with the 1844 schism , right theenemyhatesclarity ?

  17. The National Rifle Association and the Koch brothers are no doubt delighted to observe what ought to be one of the most prophetically engaged denominations in America aim straight for the iceberg as it mimics — under cover of theological language — the secular cultural divides in the nation, just as we did in 1844 when we split into two denominations over the issue of slavery. We knew then that John Wesley was adamantly opposed to slavery, his last letter before dying being an eloquent denunciation of the practice and addressed to William Wilberforce. We know now that Wesley was in no sense a biblical inerrantist, had women preachers in defiance of St. Paul’s instuctions (which Wesley knew very well), decried the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few, and did all he could back in the day to see that the poor had decent meidcal care. All of these make him a poor champion for the “orthodox” in the current debate, and hint that they are uncritically breathing the vapors from some very non-methodist sources. While we cruise toward 2016 arguing vociferously over gay folk, the NRA continues to run amok, spreading guns across the land and treating with contempt the spilling of children’s blood in Newtown, CT, as well as countless other outrages. The Koch brothers and their ilk do all in their power to dismantle what remains of legitimate government rergulation of industry, to deny the poor and jobless even minimal dignity, to obliterate workers’ rights . . . the list could go on and on. The deeper question in all of this is why we are corporately willing — liberal and conservative — to die on the relative molehill of sexual orientation, while far larger issues cry out for a Christian witness they will never — never — receive from the megachurch community.

    Ed Moore

    • Wes Andrews says:

      Ed, both the conservatives and liberals offer “Kool-aid” to any who will drink. For every “conservative” you list who conspires to control there are “liberals” who also seek to control. Ultimately they care more about power than about the people, or justice, etc. It’s an illusion that the “bad buys” fit in either/or OR us vs. them categories.

      I agree with you that there are big issues that are missed when the church debates marriage and sexuality. A couple of thoughts: The UMC has debated this openly and every four years the issue is SETTLED. It is the PROGRESSIVES (not those who affirm Scripture) that dishonor and disrespect respect due process as they trample on the voices and decisions made in regard to marriage and sexuality by the faithful representatives at General Conference. The progressives make this a DAILY issue, by betraying the covenant relationship, and yes, it is the the fault of the Bishop-class that disrespect the involvement of the rank and file (what do mere clergy and laity know anyway?).

      There are many issues that are vital, but isn’t the family vital? How the body of Christ in the UMC defines family truly matters. How we understand Scripture in the definition of sexuality matters. Sex, marriage and family is the most core issue of all. The issue is SETTLED every four years, except that the progressives keep beating everyone up and distract the UMC from proclaiming the Good News and from seeking justice.

      Ed, beware of the “Kool-aid” regardless which hand (the left or the right) that serves it…

      • Wes, exactly.

        But please don’t forget the role of the media/Hollywood/academic and theological elites in all of this. They—who told us years ago that marriage was an outdated social institution—have been on board with marriage redefinition from the get-go. They have conditioned the thinking of Americans into believing that if you agree with the Bible and 99 percent of human history you are a bigot. Also, never forget that the media—being reliably liberal—will always be more prone to report on the Koch Brothers than atheist left-wing billionaire/felon George Soros.

        • Gregory Peterson says:

          “They have conditioned the thinking of Americans into believing that if you agree with the Bible and 99 percent of human history you are a bigot.”

          Way to remind me of what the proslavery apologists were writing, though less succinctly, back when my great grandfather was growing up.

          By Thornton Stringfellow in his 1856 “Scriptural and statistical views in favor of slavery.”

          [Slavery] is branded by one portion of the people, who take their rule of moral rectitude from the Scriptures, as a great sin; nay the greatest of sins that exist in the nation. And they hold the obligation to exterminate it, to be paramount to all others.

          If slavery be thus sinful, it behooves all Christians who are involved in the sin, to repent in dust and ashes, and wash their hands of it, without consulting with flesh and blood….

          I propose, therefore, to examine the sacred volume briefly, and if I am not greatly mistaken, I shall be able to make it appear that the institution of slavery has received, in the first place,

          1st. The sanction of the Almighty in the Patriarchal age.

          2d. That it was incorporated into the only National Constitution which ever emanated from God.

          3d. That its legality was recognized, and its relative duties regulated, by Jesus Christ in his kingdom; and

          4th. That is full of mercy….

          [The abolitionists'] hostility must be transferred from us to God, who established slavery by law in that kingdom over which he condescended to preside; and to Jesus, who recognized it as a relationship established in Israel by his Father, and in the Roman government by men, which he bound his followers to obey and honor.

          Reprinted in “Cotton is King.” http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/disp_textbook.cfm?smtID=3&psid=280

          • Yet again this specious argument is presented. The Bible is equivocal at best on slavery, and an intelligent, informed reading of it (the book of Philemon can be viewed as an argument against slavery), in my opinion, argues against it (that’s what John Newton thought!)

            In contrast, the Bible is unequivocal in its condemnation of homosexual behavior. It is not a debatable point.

    • I am not as kind as Wes. Seems to me Ed you are a liberal/progressive’s dream!! And that is ok. And you are correct–there are MANY things that are not right in the umc and the USofA. We’ll just have to agree to disagree on the “things” that are wrong.

  18. Wes Andrews says:

    Again, the problem is that organizations, educational institutions, “professors”, Bishops, and a very small but powerful minority of clergy are taking faithfully offered tithes and offerings to support their salaries from people who have values these entities despise. Amazing…..

Your thoughts?

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