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United Methodist Bishop Mack B. Stokes died last week just shy of his 101st birthday.

Bishop Mack B. Stokes (UMNS photo)

Below are insights from Bishop Stokes on the topic of human sexuality, offered from the standpoint of Christianity’s historic teaching and the particular emphasis of Wesleyan believers regarding on holiness of heart and life.

The material is excerpted from the out-of-print book Scriptural Holiness For the United Methodist Christian (Discipleship Resources, 1987).

Bishop Stokes’ other books include The Holy Spirit in the Wesleyan Heritage (1993), Major United Methodist Beliefs (revised 1998), and person-to-Person: Building a Relationship with God Through Prayer (2007).

Marion “Mack” Boyd Stokes served on the faculty of Emory University’s Candler School of Theology from 1941 until 1972, when he was elected to serve as a bishop of the United Methodist Church.

(NOTE: References below to the United Methodist Book of Discipline have been updated to conform to current wording and paragraph numbering.)

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When God created human beings in his image, God made them male and female (Gen. 1:27). And God called them to be “fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28)…. Therefore, in keeping with the biblical revelation, “we affirm that sexuality is God’s good gift to all persons” (¶161F, The Book of Discipline—2008).

As is the case with all human desires, sexual desires need to be directed and controlled. God’s call to holiness includes Christian stewardship of our sexuality. For this reason the biblical teaching is that “sexual relations are affirmed only with the covenant of monogamous, heterosexual marriage” (¶161F).

This raises serious questions…. What about premarital sex? What about homosexuality? What about promiscuity? What about adultery?…

[W]hen God’s love is immediately present and operative in us, how do we act?… For one thing, we act in full respect for the sacredness of our own body and soul, as well as for the body and soul of the other person…. It is not enough to think in terms of “consenting adults.” That is relevant in democratic courts of law…. [But] Christian youth and adults are governed by the presence of the living Christ in them and reserve for their life-partners in marriage the full expression of their sexuality….

[In regard to homosexuality,] the basic question is: What does holiness — the love of God and neighbor — move us to do?

Beyond question there are persons with homosexual tendencies. And beyond question they are precious in the sight of God. Christ’s grand redemptive work has been done for all. And all are called to be redeemed by grace through faith. But is the practice of homosexuality in keeping with God’s holy purpose for our lives?

Among the ancient Greeks and Romans the practice of homosexuality was condoned. And among some people today this practice is condoned and even publicly acclaimed. But in the Hebrew-Christian heritage this practice has not been approved. It has been repudiated as contrary to the revealed purpose of God for our lives.

Our standards are not to be governed by the pagans of ancient Greece and Rome. Nor are they to be guided by the standards and values of those of our own time who are not interested in what the Holy Creator requires.

It is one thing to have homosexual tendencies — just as it is to have tendencies toward promiscuity — but it is another to practice it. This is why we United Methodists say that “we do not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian teaching” (¶161F)….

[As regards promiscuity, i]s it not one of the cheapest and most contemptible ways of using others as means to the gratification of elemental selfish desires? And is not this on the side of evil and against God and his righteousness?… In the light of the Bible and God’s holy purpose, promiscuity is as far removed from the grace of God in Christ as hell is from heaven….

[In summary, w]e may say that scriptural holiness leads us to practice the formula: In singleness, chastity; in marriage, fidelity.


Related posts
What will the bishops do?
Worth reading: ‘Forgetting How to Blush: United Methodism’s Compromise with the Sexual Revolution’
Chasing away young people by being faithful to the gospel?
What is at stake in the battle over marriage
Should United Methodists agree to disagree on homosexuality?
A word from Mr. Wesley: Holiness in singleness
Why the United Methodist Church cannot condone homosexuality
Pro-homosexuality foundation pours millions into Catholic and mainline Protestant dissident groups
Riley Case: Retired bishops’ statement is a sign of UMC’s sickness
Renewal & Reform Coalition responds to retired bishops’ call to alter UMC’s sexuality standards
In GBCS article, UM elder argues against celibacy for single clergy
Board of Church and Society sex-ed writer: Sex outside of marriage can be ‘moral, ethical’
Judicial Council overturns bishop’s ruling on sexuality statement
Billy Abraham on United Methodism: ‘There is no common faith among us’

Related articles information
Why The Church is so concerned with same-sex marriage and homosexual ordination | Timothy C. Tennent (Nov. 26, 2012)
United Methodists uphold policy that calls homosexual acts ‘incompatible with Christian teaching’ | Daniel Burke, Religion News Service (May 3, 2012)
The church addresses marriage and sexuality | Thomas A. Lambrecht, Good News (January/February 2012)
Outsider influence over homosexuality at General Conference | Karen Booth, Good News (January/February 2012)
Eros defended or eros defiled — What do Wesley and the Bible say? | Ben Witherington, The Bible and Culture (Patheos.com) (Feb. 14, 2011)
Christianity elevates sexual morality (a historical overview of the Christian church’s teaching on sexual morality) — Chapter 3 of How Christianity Changed the World | Alvin Schmidt (Zondervan, 2004 — via Google Books)
Book: Staying the Course: Supporting the Church’s Position on Homosexuality (ordering details) | Maxie Dunnam and H. Newton Malony, ed. (Abingdon Press, 2003)
Anyone who works under the authority or auspices of the Church must be held to the highest standards of behavior, free of misconduct in any form | UMSexualEthics.org
United Methodist churches perform same-sex weddings with one foot in the closet | Amanda Hess, TBD.com (Sept. 30, 2010)
UM Judicial Council backs clergy dismissal over affair | Linda Bloom, UMNS (April 27, 2010)
What the evidence really says about Scripture and homosexual practice: Five issues (PDF) | Robert A. J. Gagnon (March 2009)
How churches can refine message on homosexuality | Robin Russell, United Methodist Reporter (May 19, 2008)
The church and homosexuality | Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker, e-Review (Florida United Methodist News Service) (July 12, 2006)
Resources list: Ministry for and with homosexual persons (requested by the UMC’s 2004 General Conference) (PDF) | United Methodist Publishing House
Homosexuality and the Bible (PDF) | R. Albert Mohler Jr., Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Homosexuality and the Great Commandment (an address to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh) | Peter C. Moore (November 2002)
‘Good News’ says push to accept homosexual practice threatens to split United Methodist Church | United Methodist News Service (May 6, 1997)

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This the second of two posts comparing the United Methodist “platform” (i.e., language from the UM Book of Discipline) with the official platforms of the Democratic and Republican parties. This post focuses on two issues: marriage and national security.

As noted in part one, for Christians living in a democratic society electing government leaders is a stewardship responsibility.

UMNS graphic

Elections give followers of Christ the opportunity act through the political process to advance a “Christian worldview” that promotes justice, virtue, and freedom. In the words of the United Methodist Book of Discipline, “The church should continually exert a strong ethical influence upon the state” (¶164B).

Even so, it is worth keeping in mind that the role of the church and the role of the state are not one and the same.

The official United Methodist Church positions quoted below have been approved by various sessions of the UM General Conference and are included in The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church 2012 (forthcoming).

Democratic Party positions are from The 2012 Democratic National Platform: Moving America Forward (full text in PDF). Republican Party positions are quoted from 2012 Republican Platform: We Believe in America (full text in PDF).

Issues and parties are listed in alphabetical order. The side-by-side comparisons are presented without editorial commentary, except except for one clarifying note.
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ISSUE: Marriage and Family

The UMC
We joyfully receive for ourselves and others the blessings of community, sexuality, marriage, and the family. 

We believe the family to be the basic human community through which persons are nurtured and sustained in mutual love, responsibility, respect, and fidelity. We affirm the importance of loving parents for all children….

We affirm the sanctity of the marriage covenant that is expressed in love, mutual support, personal commitment, and shared fidelity between a man and a woman.

We believe that God’s blessing rests upon such marriage, whether or not there are children of the union….

We support laws in civil society that define marriage as the union of one man and one woman….

God’s plan is for lifelong, faithful marriage. The church must be on the forefront of premarital, marital, and postmarital counseling in order to create and preserve strong marriages. However, when a married couple is estranged beyond reconciliation, even after thoughtful consideration and counsel, divorce is a regrettable alternative in the midst of brokenness.

We grieve over the devastating emotional, spiritual, and economic consequences of divorce for all involved, understanding that women and especially children are disproportionately impacted by such burdens. As the church we are concerned about high divorce rates…. We…support efforts by governments to reform divorce laws and other aspects of family law in order to address negative trends such as high divorce rates….

Although all persons are sexual beings whether or not they are married, sexual relations are affirmed only with the covenant of monogamous, heterosexual marriage….

Violent, disrespectful, or abusive sexual expressions do not confirm sexuality as God’s good gift. We reject all sexual expressions that damage the humanity God has given us as birthright, and we affirm only that sexual expression that enhances that same humanity. We believe that sexual relations where one or both partners are exploitative, abusive, or promiscuous are beyond the parameters of acceptable Christian behavior and are ultimately destructive to individuals, families, and the social order.

The Democratic Party 

We support marriage equality* and support the movement to secure equal treatment under law for same-sex couples. We also support the freedom of churches and religious entities to decide how to administer marriage as a religious sacrament without government interference.

We oppose discriminatory federal and state constitutional amendments and other attempts to deny equal protection of the laws to committed same-sex couples who seek the same respect and responsibilities as other married couples. We support the full repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act.

[*MThinker note: That is, marriage should not be restricted to one man/one woman. A man should be allowed to marry a man, and a woman should be allowed to marry a woman.]

The Republican Party

The institution of marriage is the foundation of civil society. Its success as an institution will determine our success as a nation….

Children raised in intact married families are more likely to attend college, are physically and emotionally healthier, are less likely to use drugs or alcohol, engage in crime, or get pregnant outside of marriage. The success of marriage directly impacts the economic well-being of individuals.

Furthermore, the future of marriage affects freedom. The lack of family formation not only leads to more government costs, but also to more government control over the lives of its citizens in all aspects.

We recognize and honor the courageous efforts of those who bear the many burdens of parenting alone, even as we believe that marriage, the union of one man and one woman must be upheld as the national standard, a goal to stand for, encourage, and promote through laws governing marriage.

We embrace the principle that all Americans should be treated with respect and dignity.

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ISSUE: Military readiness / National security / Arms control

The UMC
We dedicate ourselves to peace throughout the world, to the rule of justice and law among nations, and to individual freedom for all people of the world. 

We believe war is incompatible with the teachings and example of Christ. We therefore reject war as an instrument of national foreign policy….

We insist that the first moral duty of all nations is to work together to resolve by peaceful means every dispute that arises between or among them.

We advocate the extension and strengthening of international treaties and institutions that provide a framework within the rule of law for responding to aggression, terrorism, and genocide.

We believe that human values outweigh military claims as governments determine their priorities; that the militarization of society must be challenged and stopped; that the manufacture, sale, and deployment of armaments must be reduced and controlled; and that the production, possession, or use of nuclear weapons be condemned. Consequently, we endorse general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.

From the beginning, the Christian conscience has struggled with the harsh realities of violence and war, for these evils clearly frustrate God’s loving purposes for humankind. We yearn for the day when there will be no more war and people will live together in peace and justice.

Some of us believe that war, and other acts of violence, are never acceptable to Christians. We also acknowledge that many Christians believe that, when peaceful alternatives have failed, the force of arms may regretfully be preferable to unchecked aggression, tyranny, and genocide.

We honor the witness of pacifists who will not allow us to become complacent about war and violence. We also respect those who support the use of force, but only in extreme situations and only when the need is clearly beyond reasonable doubt, and through appropriate international organizations.

We urge the establishment of the rule of law in international affairs as a means of elimination of war, violence, and coercion in these affairs….

We are aware that we can become guilty both by military action and by conscientious objection, and that we all are dependent on God’s forgiveness.

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The Democratic Party 

After more than a decade of war, we have an opportunity to retool our armed forces and our defense strategy to ensure we both maintain the world’s most capable military and adapt to the challenges of the 21st century….

[W]e have a special obligation to every soldier, sailor, airman, Marine, and Coast Guardsman who puts their [sic] life on the line for our nation. We must send them into harm’s way only when it’s absolutely necessary….

[W]e will continue to emphasize forward engagement in critical regions, while enhancing robust security partnerships to share the burden….

[W]e must address the threat that nuclear weapons pose to our security and to peace in the world. Despite the two decades that have passed since the end of the Cold War, large stockpiles of nuclear weapons persist, and more nations are interested in acquiring them. Nuclear testing and black-market trade in sensitive nuclear materials continue. And terrorists remain determined to buy, build, or steal the ultimate weapon.

[We] are committed to preventing the further spread of nuclear weapons and to eventually ridding the planet of these catastrophic weapons.

[E]nding “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in full cooperation with our military leadership…reflects Democrats’ belief that all Americans deserve the same chance to…serve their country….

The Republican Party

We are the party of peace through strength…. We must deter any adversary who would attack us or use terror as a tool of government. Every potential enemy must have no doubt that our capabilities, our commitment, and our will to defeat them are clear, unwavering, and unequivocal….

We will accept no arms control agreement that limits our right to self-defense; and we will fully deploy a missile defense shield for the people of the United States and for our allies….

We recognize that the gravest terror threat we face — a nuclear attack made possible by nuclear proliferation — requires a comprehensive strategy for reducing the world’s nuclear stockpiles and preventing the spread of those armaments. But the U.S. can lead that effort only if it maintains an effective strategic arsenal at a level sufficient to fulfill its deterrent purposes….

We reject the use of the military as a platform for social experimentation and will not accept attempts to undermine military priorities and mission readiness….

We support rights of conscience and religious freedom for military chaplains and people of faith…. We will enforce and defend in court the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in the Armed Forces as well as in the civilian world….


Related posts
Worth reading: ‘Forgetting How to Blush: United Methodism’s Compromise with the Sexual Revolution’
What is at stake in the battle over marriage
Why the United Methodist Church cannot condone homosexuality
Bishop Mack Stokes: Holiness in human sexuality
Renewal & Reform Coalition responds to retired bishops’ call to alter UMC’s sexuality standards
Judicial Council says no to same-sex marriage
Bishop Lindsey Davis: The Church in time of war

Related articles and information
2012 Party Platform Comparison Guide (PDF) | Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention
What they believe: Both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama come from traditions far from Christian orthodoxy | Jamie Dean, WORLD (Oct. 20, 2012)
White Mainline Protestants going for GOP presidential candidate Romney by nearly 2-to-1 margin (60% to 34%) (click tab that says “White Mainline Protestants”) | Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life (Oct. 9, 2012)
In bid to galvanize homosexual vote, Obama endorses state initiatives that would OK same-sex marriage Reuters (Oct. 25, 2012)
Obama campaign releases ad — targeted to young women — comparing voting to having sexual intercourse (video)
The campaign for immorality | John MacArthur, Grace to You (Oct. 1, 2012)
United Methodists uphold policy that calls homosexuality ‘incompatible with Christian teaching’ | Daniel Burke, Religion News Service (May 3, 2012)
The church addresses marriage and sexuality | Thomas A. Lambrecht, Good News (January/February 2012)
Christianity elevates sexual morality (a historical overview of the Christian church’s teaching on sexual morality) — Chapter 3 of How Christianity Changed the World | Alvin Schmidt (Zondervan, 2004 — via Google Books)

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For Christians living in a democratic society, electing government leaders is a stewardship responsibility, presenting followers of Christ with an opportunity to influence government in the direction of policies that promote virtue and restrain evil.

UMNS graphic

In deciding how to cast their ballots, Christian voters should consider reflect on how the positions of the major political parties align with official church positions on particular issues.

The two main political parties in the U.S. tend to disagree more about means than ends, although on some issues significant disagreement exists about ends as well (most notably on tax policy, marriage policy, and issues related to the sanctity of human life).

This post, the first of two parts, compares United Methodist teaching on several major issues with the official platforms of both the Democratic and Republican parties. The side-by-side comparisons below are without commentary, except for two clarifying notes.

The United Methodist Church positions quoted below have been approved by various sessions of the UM General Conference and are found in The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church 2012 (forthcoming).

Democratic Party positions are from The 2012 Democratic National Platform: Moving America Forward (full text in PDF). Republican Party positions are quoted from 2012 Republican Platform: We Believe in America (full text in PDF).

Issues and parties are listed in alphabetical order. Additional issues will be covered in part two of this post.
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ISSUE: Abortion

The UMC
…Our belief in the sanctity of unborn human life makes us reluctant to approve abortion. But we are equally bound to respect the sacredness of the life and well-being of the mother and the unborn child. We recognize tragic conflicts of life with life that may justify abortion, and in such cases we support the legal option of abortion under proper medical procedures by certified medical providers.

We support parental, guardian, or other responsible adult notification and consent before abortions can be performed on girls who have not yet reached the age of legal adulthood.

We cannot affirm abortion as an acceptable means of birth control,* and we unconditionally reject it as a means of gender selection or eugenics.

We oppose the use of late-term abortion known as dilation and extraction (partial-birth abortion) and call for the end of this practice except when the physical life of the mother is in danger and no other medical procedure is available, or in the case of severe fetal anomalies incompatible with life….

The Church shall offer ministries to reduce unintended pregnancies. We commit our Church to continue to provide nurturing ministries to those who terminate a pregnancy, to those in the midst of a crisis pregnancy, and to those who give birth….

Young adult women disproportionately face situations in which they feel that they have no choice [but to abort a pregnancy] due to financial, educational, relational, or other circumstances beyond their control.

The Church and its local congregations and campus ministries should be in the forefront of supporting existing ministries and developing new ministries that help such women in their communities.

They should also support those crisis pregnancy centers and pregnancy resource centers that compassionately help women explore all options related to unplanned pregnancy.

We particularly encourage the Church, the government, and social service agencies to support and facilitate the option of adoption.

We affirm and encourage the Church to assist the ministry of crisis pregnancy centers and pregnancy resource centers that compassionately help women find feasible alternatives to abortion….

[*MThinker note: A 2005 study found that 74 percent of women having abortions chose to abort their pregnancies because having a child "would dramatically change my life." This suggests, at a minimum, that nearly three-fourths of abortions are for reasons of birth control. A 2002 study found that 54 percent of women having abortions had used contraception during the month they became pregnant, suggesting that abortion is widely seen as a birth control "back-up plan."]

The Democratic Party

The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay.** We oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right. Abortion is an intensely personal decision between a woman, her family, her doctor, and her clergy; there is no place for politicians or government to get in the way.

We also recognize that health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions. We strongly and unequivocally support a woman’s decision to have a child by providing affordable health care and ensuring the availability of and access to programs that help women during pregnancy and after the birth of a child, including caring adoption programs.

[**MThinker note: In other words, a third party — either government or government-mandated insurance — should cover the cost for those who who lack the means to pay for an abortion.]

The Republican Party

…[W]e assert the inherent dignity and sanctity of all human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed….We oppose using public revenues to promote or perform abortion and will not fund organizations which advocate it….

We all have a moral obligation to assist, not to penalize, women struggling with the challenges of an unplanned pregnancy.

We salute those who provide them alternatives, including pregnancy care centers, and we take pride in the tremendous increase in adoptions that has followed Republican legislative initiatives….

[W]e assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed…. We oppose using public revenues to promote or perform abortion or fund organizations which perform or advocate it and will not fund or subsidize health care which includes abortion coverage….

We call for legislation to ban sex-selective abortions — gender discrimination in its most lethal form — and to protect from abortion unborn children who are capable of feeling pain….

We seek to protect young girls from exploitation through a parental consent requirement; and we affirm our moral obligation to assist, rather than penalize, women challenged by an unplanned pregnancy….

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ISSUE: Environment

The UMC
We believe in God, Creator of the world; and in Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of creation….

We affirm the natural world as God’s handiwork and dedicate ourselves to its preservation, enhancement, and faithful use by humankind….

We believe in the right…to property as a trust from God….

All creation is the Lord’s, and we are responsible for the ways we use and abuse it.

Water, air, soil, minerals, energy resources, plants, animal life, and space are to be valued and conserved because they are God’s creation and not solely because they are useful to human beings.

God has granted us stewardship of creation. We should meet these stewardship duties through acts of loving care and respect.

Economic, political, social, and technological developments have increased our human numbers, and lengthened and enriched our lives. However, these developments have led to regional defoliation, dramatic extinction of species, massive human suffering, overpopulation, and misuse and overconsumption of natural and nonrenewable resources, particularly by industrialized societies.

This continued course of action jeopardizes the natural heritage that God has entrusted to all generations. Therefore, let us recognize the responsibility of the church and its members to place a high priority on changes in economic, political, social, and technological lifestyles to support a more ecologically equitable and sustainable world leading to a higher quality of life for all of God’s creation.

The Democratic Party

…Pollutants like nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, and mercury are a threat to human health, and Democrats will continue to stand up to polluters in the interest of environmental and public health.

We know that global climate change is one of the biggest threats of this generation — an economic, environmental, and national security catastrophe in the making. We affirm the science of climate change, commit to significantly reducing the pollution that causes climate change, and know we have to meet this challenge by driving smart policies that lead to greater growth in clean energy generation and result in a range of economic and social benefits….

We understand that global climate change may disproportionately affect the poor, and we are committed to environmental justice….

The Republican Party

…[T]he Republican Party believes in the moral obligation of the people to be good stewards of the God-given natural beauty and resources of our country and bases environmental policy on several common-sense principles. For example, we believe people are the most valuable resource, and human health and safety are the most important measurements of success….

Experience has shown that, in caring for the land and water, private ownership has been our best guarantee of conscientious stewardship, while the worst instances of environmental degradation have occurred under government control…. It makes sense that those closest to a situation are best able to determine its remedy. That is why a site- and situation-specific approach to an environmental problem is more likely to solve it, instead of a national rule based on the ideological concerns of politicized central planning….

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ISSUE: Health care / Medical research

The UMC
…Stewardship of health is the responsibility of each person to whom health has been entrusted.

Creating the personal, environmental, and social conditions in which health can thrive is a joint responsibility — public and private….

Providing the care needed to maintain health, prevent disease, and restore health after injury or illness is a responsibility each person owes others and government owes to all…

Like police and fire protection, health care is best funded through the government’s ability to tax each person equitably and directly fund the provider entities….

The right to health care includes care for persons with brain diseases, neurological conditions, or physical disabilities, who must be afforded the same access to health care as all other persons in our communities….

We believe it is a governmental responsibility to provide all citizens with health care.

We oppose the cloning of humans and the genetic manipulation of the gender of an unborn child.

Because of the effects of genetic technologies on all life, we call for effective guidelines and public accountability to safeguard against any action that might lead to abuse of these technologies, including political or military ends. We recognize that cautious, well-intended use of genetic technologies may sometimes lead to unanticipated harmful consequences.

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The Democratic Party

We believe accessible, affordable, high quality health care is part of the American promise, that Americans should have the security that comes with good health care, and that no one should go broke because they get sick….

As a result of our efforts, today, young Americans entering the workforce can stay on their parents’ plans. Insurers can no longer refuse to cover kids with pre-existing medical conditions. Insurance companies will no longer be able to arbitrarily cap and cancel coverage, or charge women more simply because of their gender. People with private insurance are getting preventive services like cancer screenings, annual well-woman visits, and FDA-approved contraception with no out-of-pocket costs….

The Republican Party

We believe that taking care of one’s health is an individual responsibility. Chronic diseases, many of them related to lifestyle, drive healthcare costs, accounting for more than 75 percent of the nation’s medical spending. To reduce demand, and thereby lower costs, we must foster personal responsibility while increasing preventive services to promote healthy lifestyles.

We believe that all Americans should have improved access to affordable, coordinated, quality healthcare, including individuals struggling with mental illness….

We call on the government to permanently ban all federal funding and subsidies for abortion and healthcare plans that include abortion coverage….

We call for expanded support for the stem-cell research that now offers the greatest hope for many afflictions…without the destruction of embryonic human life. We urge a ban on human cloning and on the creation of or experimentation on human embryos….

We oppose the FDA approval of Mifeprex, formerly known as RU-486, and similar drugs that terminate innocent human life after conception….


Related posts
Bishop Timothy Whitaker: United Methodists must stand against ‘violence of abortion’
How did the UMC come to define health care as a ‘right’?
Book review: ‘Methodism and Politics in the Twentieth Century’
UM renewal leader: ‘The UMC is worth fighting for’
United Methodist Church facing health bill fallout
House Speaker thanks UMC for help in passing health bill
UM pro-life group urges Sen. Ben Nelson: ‘Do no harm’
‘Church and Society’ decries pro-life amendment to health bill

Related articles and information
White Mainline Protestants going for GOP presidential candidate Romney by nearly 2-to-1 margin (60% to 34%) (click tab that says “White Mainline Protestants”) | Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life (Oct. 9, 2012)
2012 Party Platform Comparison Guide (PDF) | Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention
President Barack Obama’s pro-abortion record | Steven Ertelt, LifeNews.com (Oct. 21, 2012)
The campaign for immorality | John MacArthur, Grace to You (Oct. 1, 2012)
The Obama Democrats: This isn’t the party of FDR, Truman, JFK or Clinton | Daniel Henninger, The Wall Street Journal (Sept. 12, 2012)
Missed opportunity to vote for life | Rob Renfroe, Good News (September-October 2012)
United Methodist Bishop Scott Jones addresses pro-life event | Connor Ewing, IRD (Jan. 22, 2010)
United Methodists and abortion today | Bishop Timothy Whitaker (Feb. 9, 2009)
United Methodism on abortion | Paul T. Stallsworth, On the Square—First Things (May 29, 2008)
United Methodist Church continues decades-long crawl to pro-life direction | John Lomperis, LifeNews.com (May 23, 2008)
The sanctification of human life (a historical overview of the Christian church’s position on abortion and other issues related to the sanctity of human life) — Chapter 2 of How Christianity Changed the World | Alvin Schmidt (Zondervan, 2004 — via Google Books)

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A Monday afternoon tweet by Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, received sharply negative responses from several United Methodist tweeters.

Dr. Albert Mohler

At 4:19 p.m. Eastern Time, Mohler tweeted: “Join me in praying that the General Conference of the United Methodist Church will hold firm for biblical standards of sexuality.”

Mohler apparently was referring to the sexual standards detailed in the United Methodist Book of Discipline in paragraphs 161F and 304.3. Petitions that would alter those paragraphs will be debated and voted on later this week.

The Discipline language upholds human sexuality as “God’s good gift” but teaches that not all forms of sexual expression are within the boundaries of holy and appropriate Christian conduct.

“Although all persons are sexual beings whether or not they are married, sexual relations are affirmed only within the covenant of monogamous, heterosexual marriage,” paragraph 161F states.

Paragraph 304.3 requires clergy members of the UMC “to maintain the highest standards of holy living in the world,” further noting that “self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be accepted as [clergy] candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.”

A few UM tweeters thanked Mohler for his comment about praying for the upcoming vote on sexual standards, but most responses directed to him (via the @albertmohler designation) were decidedly negative and in some cases even derisive:

Although a Southern Baptist, Albert Mohler served two Methodist churches while pursuing his seminary education. He has been president of Southern Seminary in Louisville, Ky., since 1993.

Mohler is the author of Culture Shift: Engaging Current Issues with Timeless Truth (Multnomah, 2008), Desire & Deceit: The Real Cost of the New Sexual Tolerance (Multnomah, 2008), and He Is Not Silent: Preaching in a Postmodern World (Moody, 2008).


Related posts
Astonishing preaching
A conversation with Mark Tooley on General Conference 2012
Rob Renfroe of Good News on General Conference 2012
Should United Methodists agree to disagree on homosexuality?
General Conference 2012: More attempts to change UM standards on sexual behavior
Bishop Mack Stokes: Holiness in human sexuality
A word from Mr. Wesley: Holiness in singleness
Why the United Methodist Church cannot condone homosexuality
Pro-homosexuality foundation pours millions into Catholic and mainline Protestant dissident groups
Renewal & Reform Coalition releases letter to Council of Bishops
Judicial Council says no to same-sex marriage
Billy Abraham on United Methodism: ‘There is no common faith among us’
Podcast: Charles Keysor – ‘How then should UM evangelicals fight?’

Related articles and information
Defining the issues: A Methodist witness | Albert Mohler (Nov. 1, 2006)
Book Review: Forgetting How To Blush: United Methodism’s Compromise with the Sexual Revolution by Karen Booth | James V. Heidinger II, Good News (March/April 2012)
Outsider influence over homosexuality at General Conference | Karen Booth, Good News (January/February 2012)
Compromising positions | Rob Renfroe, Good News (May-June 2011)
UM clergy vow to wed homosexual couples | Sam Hodges, UM Reporter (July 15, 2011)
Should the UMC change its ordination standards and allow sexually active homosexuals to serve as clergy? | Rob Renfroe, Good News (Feb. 17, 2011)
Eros defended or eros defiled — What do Wesley and the Bible say? | Ben Witherington, The Bible and Culture (Patheos.com) (Feb. 14, 2011)
Christianity elevates sexual morality (a historical overview of the Christian church’s teaching on sexual morality) — Chapter 3 of How Christianity Changed the World | Alvin Schmidt (Zondervan, 2004 — via Google Books)
Book: Staying the Course: Supporting the Church’s Position on Homosexuality (ordering details) | Maxie Dunnam and H. Newton Malony, ed. (Abingdon Press, 2003)
Anyone who works under the authority or auspices of the Church must be held to the highest standards of behavior, free of misconduct in any form | UMSexualEthics.org
United Methodist churches perform same-sex weddings with one foot in the closet | Amanda Hess, TBD.com (Sept. 30, 2010)
UM Judicial Council backs clergy dismissal over affair | Linda Bloom, UMNS (April 27, 2010)
Speaking the truth in love | Rob Renfroe, Good News (September/October 2009)
Turning Around the Mainline: How Renewal Movements Are Changing the Church (ordering info) | Thomas C. Oden, Baker Books (2006)
Methodists strengthen stand against homosexual practice | Christianity Today (May 5, 2004)
Homosexuality and the Great Commandment (an address to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh) | Peter C. Moore (November 2002)
‘Good News’ says push to accept homosexual practice threatens to split United Methodist Church | United Methodist News Service (May 6, 1997)

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Jan. 22 marked the 39th anniversary of the United States Supreme Court’s decisions in the cases of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton. Taken together, the two rulings (authored by Justice Harry Blackmun, a United Methodist) effectively voided dozens of state laws aimed at protecting unborn children from abortion.

Sign outside a UM Church in North Georgia

Since then, abortion doctors have performed more than 50 million abortions in the U.S. — primarily for purposes of birth control rather than for medical reasons. On average, more than 3,000 abortions occur in America every day.

In 2005, on the 32nd anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 1973 abortion decisions, United Methodist Bishop Timothy Whitaker of the Florida Conference addressed the topic of how faithfulness to the gospel and to the Wesleyan tradition demands a pro-life position on abortion.

Speaking to the annual gathering of Lifewatch, the UM pro-life caucus, he called on United Methodists to stand against “the violence of abortion in the name of the God of peace.”

Below are excerpts from Bishop Whitaker’s address, followed by audio of his remarks.

When John Wesley gave the General Rules to the people called Methodists the first thing he told them was, “Do no harm.” In order to show evidence that we are a people who are being saved by God, we should do no harm.

The rule to do no harm directs those of us who are Christians to practice non-violence. A Christian is someone who is horrified by violence, refrains from violence in her or his life, and seeks to restrain violence in the world insofar as possible….

When Jesus was born, all of the angels in heaven praised God and promised peace on earth.

When he grew up he inaugurated his ministry by being baptized by John in the Jordan River, and the Spirit of God confirmed that he was the Son of God by descending upon him not as an eagle but as a dove, the bird of peace.

Bishop Timothy Whitaker

Bishop Timothy Whitaker

He taught the people, saying, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God.”

As one would expect in a world of violence the Prince of Peace suffered a violent death…. By his violent death he overcame violence. Then God vindicated him by raising him from the dead; and when he appeared to his disciples he announced, “Peace be with you.”

On the Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit descended upon his disciples, and the church was born. The church is a community from all of the nations called to be a peaceable people who follow Jesus until he comes again at the end of history and establishes that kingdom where “death will be no more: mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4 NRSV).

We who are the church are called to be a peaceable people. In our practices and in our public witness we are called to make peace in the world. We acknowledge that the ultimate kingdom of peace has not yet been established by God.

We ourselves cannot build the kingdom, but we can build for the kingdom. We can live and witness in ways that can lead to a more tangible peace here and now that points to the coming kingdom of God….

Pope John Paul II made a powerful Christian witness to God’s peaceable purposes in his 1995 encyclical called The Gospel of Life. He warned the world about creating “a culture of death” that is rebellion against “the Gospel of life.”

He showed us that a culture of death is one that endorses abortion, euthanasia, and capital punishment.* He asserted that the commandment, “You shall not kill,” is integral to the revelation of God….

In the United Methodist Church we ought to apply our theological reflection, our pastoral guidance and our public witness against the violence of abortion in the name of the God of peace…

I think that our silence and passivity about abortion comes from the difficulty of being a Christian in America.

The logo of Lifewatch,
the pro-life UM caucus

I used to think that being a Christian in America is easy. I thought it would be hard to be a Christian in a country dominated by other religions, or in a Communist country where atheism was avowed by the state, but I thought it was easy to be a Christian here.

Now I realize that practicing the Christian life in America has its own difficulties. The seductions of American life may seem more subtle, but they are real and dangerous.

In America both the culture and the state view persons as autonomous individuals who have private rights to live as they choose.

But we who are Christians have a different anthropology: we view persons as members of a community who are made in the image of the Triune God and who have both rights and responsibilities.

Therefore, we cannot endorse a woman’s right to abort an unborn child as a morally neutral decision because we understand that the child also has a right to live and the community has a responsibility to care for this child if the mother is unable to rear it….

Can there be any doubt that there is silence and passivity about abortion in our Church?

How often is a sermon about abortion or an educational forum on abortion offered in our congregations? How many congregations are involved in supporting crisis pregnancy centers in their communities or offering tangible support to women with unwanted pregnancies? What kind of pastoral counsel is being offered behind the closed doors of the pastor’s office?….

(UMNS photo)

We who are United Methodist Christians should continue to seek to embody in our teaching, pastoral guidance, congregational care and public witness the preservation of human life, and a protest against the killing of human life, in the name of the God of peace….

It is often said that there is no clear prescription against abortion in the Bible. That is because such a horror is unthinkable and unspeakable to the people of Israel and to the people called the church….

From the very beginning Christians everywhere have felt this revulsion against the killing of human life. As Christians moved into the wider world where abortion was not unthinkable or unspeakable they had to apply the divine commandment against murder to the horrible practice of abortion….

In our time and place, in our own Christian communion, we who are United Methodists also have a responsibility to live according to our first rule, which is to do no harm. Do no harm to the unborn! Do no harm to the witness of the Church as a peaceable people! Do no harm to the Gospel of peace!

Use the audio player below to listen to a portion of Bishop Whitaker’s 2005 address, Do No Harm!, delivered in the Simpson Chapel at the United Methodist Building in Washington, D.C. (8.5 minutes).

The full text of Bishop Whitaker’s 2005 address is included in the March 2005 Lifewatch newsletter (PDF).

The speaker at this year’s Lifewatch service is the Rev. Jim Heidinger, former president of the UM renewal ministry Good News. The service will be held today (Monday) at the United Methodist Building (PDF) on Capitol Hill.

Use of the facility is not donated by the UMC’s General Board of Church and Society, which is a member of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) a group that supports legalized abortion. Rather, Lifewatch rents space in the UM Building for its annual service and board meeting.

In a recent press release, RCRC accused pro-life “zealots” of waging a “war on women.”

In conjunction with MoveOn.org, RCRC is currently sponsoring a “Virtual March for Women’s Lives” as part of a promotion called “Trust Women Week.”

Other groups co-sponsoring the “Virtual March” include the Center for Reproductive Rights, NARAL Pro-Choice America, the National Organization for Women, the Feminist Majority Foundation, Fund Abortion Now, and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

In addition the annual Lifewatch service, the March for Life to the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to take place Monday, preceded by a rally on the National Mall. The rally and march draw tens of thousands of pro-lifers each year.

The March of Life events (i.e., pre-rally activity, the rally, and the march itself) will air live on EWTN, the Roman Catholic cable/satellite channel, beginning at 11 a.m. ET. Live online audio and video will be available here.

The March for Life rally will also air live on C-SPAN 2 (live online video here starting at Noon ET).

EWTN will re-broadcast the March for Life events tonight (Monday) at 11 o’clock ET and again on Saturday, Jan. 28, at 2 p.m. ET.

The March for Life has been held annually since 1974.

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*Editor’s note: In The Gospel of Life (Evangelium Vitae), Pope John Paul wrote that punishment of a murderer “ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity: in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today however, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically non-existent.”

This blog post is adapted from a post first published in 2009.


Related posts
The Manhattan Declaration: In defense of human life
United Methodists praying, speaking, and marching for life
Why aren’t UM leaders supporting the Manhattan Declaration?
Party platforms and the UMC
UM pro-life group urges Sen. Ben Nelson: ‘Do no harm’
UM Board of Church and Society withdraws support for Freedom of Choice Act
Bill Bouknight: The good news from General Conference ’08

Related articles
How a pastor might first broach the abortion issue with his congregation | Paul T. Stallsworth, Remarks at the 2010 Convention of National Right to Life, Pittsburgh, Pa. (June 2010)
NOTE: The Rev. Mr. Stallsworth is president of the Taskforce of United Methodists on Abortion and Sexuality and editor of the Lifewatch newsletter.
United Methodist Bishop Scott Jones addresses pro-life event | Connor Ewing, IRD (Jan. 22, 2010)
Presentation to the Study Committee on the Worldwide Nature of The United Methodist Church | Paul Stallsworth, Lifewatch (November 2009)
United Methodists and abortion today | Bishop Timothy Whitaker (Feb. 9, 2009)
United Methodism on abortion | Paul T. Stallsworth, On the Square—First Things (May 29, 2008)
The pro-life pulpit | Lynne M. Thompson, At The Center (Winter 2005)
Roe ruling: More than its author intended | David G. Savage, Los Angeles Times—via HispanicPundit.com (Sept. 14, 2005)
Diversity of life: Opposition to abortion spans ideologies and ethnic groups | Gene Edward Veith, WORLD—via National Pro-Life Religious Council (Nov. 6, 2004)
The sanctification of human life (a historical overview of the Christian church’s position on abortion and other issues related to the sanctity of human life) — Chapter 2 of How Christianity Changed the World | Alvin Schmidt (Zondervan, 2004 — via Google Books)
Why is the New Testament silent about abortion? | Michael J. Gorman, Good News (May/June 1993)
‘Durham Declaration’ asks for ‘Scriptural approach’ to abortion in the UMC; Signatories include Bishops Ole E. Borgen and William R. Cannon | United Methodist News Service (March 12, 1991)
Text of the Durham Declaration (January 1991)

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In December 1964, Southern Christian Leadership Conference president Martin Luther King Jr. addressed a gathering of the Methodist Student Movement in Lincoln, Neb.

Speaking about the “Christian responsibility” to affirm that racial segregation “is morally wrong and sinful,” King described nonviolence as “the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom and human dignity.”

The SCLC president also declared that the “God that we worship is not some Aristotelian ‘unmoved mover’ [but] an other-loving God working through history for the salvation of his children.”

Excerpts from King’s address are below, followed by a portion of the audio.

It is always a rich and rewarding experience for me to take a brief break from the day-to-day demands of our struggle for freedom and human dignity and discuss the issues involved in that struggle with college and university students and concerned people of goodwill….

Martin Luther King Jr. ini 1964

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1964

And by and through the grace of God and continued work we will be able, I’m sure, to solve this great problem which is the chief moral dilemma of our nation….

[W]e have a Christian responsibility — in this racial crisis, in this revolution — to reaffirm the essential immorality of racial segregation….

[W]e, as Christians, must come to see not only the unconstitutionality of segregation, but we must reaffirm over and over again that racial segregation is sinful and immoral, whether it’s in the public schools, whether it’s in housing, whether it is in the Christian church, or any other area of life. Segregation is morally wrong and sinful….

Christian responsibility means that it is necessary to engage in creative and massive action programs to get rid of segregation and discrimination in our nation, and racial injustice wherever it exists in the world…..

[C]ertainly some strides have been made that make us all very happy — you’ve done things in the Methodist church that are most significant in this area, and we’re all inspired by it.

I just talked with my good friend Bishop [James] Thomas, who has just been appointed to serve in an area where a Negro Bishop has never served, and most of the congregations that fall under his jurisdiction happen to be white congregations. This happens to be a marvelous step forward, and it is always great to see the Church moving on to remove the shackles of segregation from its own body….

[I]t is my hope that we will move on to get rid of segregation in all of its dimensions within the Church. That not only means the Church itself, but church institutions such as hospitals, such as colleges and universities….

♦ ♦ ♦

I would like to say just a few words about the philosophy and the method of nonviolence, since it has been so basic in our struggle across these years….

I’m still convinced that nonviolence is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom and human dignity…. This way of nonviolence has a way of disarming the opponent. It exposes his moral defenses. It weakens his morale and at the same time it works on his conscience and he does not know how to handle it….

[I]f he puts you in jail, you go in that jail and transform it from a dungeon of shame to a haven of freedom and human dignity. Even if he tries to kill you, you develop the inner conviction that there are some things so dear, some things so precious, some things so eternally true, that they’re worth dying for; and if a man has not discovered something that he would die for, he isn’t fit to live. And this is what the nonviolent movement does.

So, there is power in this way because it has a way of disarming the opponent. But not only this: It gives individuals engaged in a struggle a way of seeking to secure moral ends through moral means….

mlk_smileAnother thing about this philosophy is that it insists that it is possible to struggle against an unjust and evil system and yet maintain an attitude of active goodwill for the perpetrators of that unjust system.

In points, this is the most misunderstood aspect of nonviolence when one seeks to live it as a creed and not merely use it as a strategy. It says that you somehow place the love ethic at the center of your struggle.

People begin to say what do you mean? How can you love those who are oppressing you? How can you love those who are using violence to destroy ever move you make?…

Fortunately, the Greek language comes to our aid in trying to determine the meaning of love at this point…. [It speaks of agape love.] Agape is understanding, creative, redemptive goodwill for all men. It is an overflowing love which seeks nothing in return.

Theologians would say that it is the love of God operating in the human heart. And so when one rises to love on this level, he loves every man, not because he likes him, not because his ways appeal to him, but he loves every man because God loves him, and he rises to the level of loving the person who does an evil deed while hating the deed that the person does….

And I believe that it is this kind of love that can take us through this period of transition and we can come to that brighter day….

The thing that must always console us is that as we struggle, we do not struggle alone. And there is something in our Christian faith to remind us of this: The God that we worship is not some Aristotelian “unmoved mover” who merely contemplates upon Himself. He’s not merely a self-knowing God, but He’s an other-loving God working through history for the salvation of His children.

And there is an event at the center of our faith which reminds us that Good Friday may occupy the throne for a day, but ultimately it must give way to the triumphant beat of the drums of Easter. There is something in our faith which reminds us that evil may so shape events that Caesar will occupy the palace and Christ the cross, but one day that same Christ will rise up and split history into A.D. and B.C., so that even the life of Caesar must be dated by His name.

There is something in this universe which justifies [Thomas] Carlyle in saying, “no lie can live forever.” There is something in this universe which justifies William Cullen Bryant in saying, “Truth, crushed to earth, [will] rise again.”

There is something in the very structure of the cosmos which justifies James Russell Lowell in saying,

Truth forever on the scaffold,
Wrong forever on the throne,—
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
and, behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow,
keeping watch above his own.

This is our faith, and this is what will carry us through.

Use the audio player below (or click here) to listen to excerpts from Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1964 address to the Methodist Student Movement (9 minutes).


umsm

The entire text and full audio of King’s address can be found at AmericanRhetoric.com.

According to an article in the Fall 1995 Journal of Ecumenical Studies, the Methodist Student Movement was organized in 1937 and continued until 1965.

The organization was reconstituted — as the United Methodist Student Movement — in 1996.

This post was first published in January 2009.

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The following commentary is by Riley B. Case, associate executive director of the Confessing Movement Within the United Methodist Church.

Dr. Riley B. Case

Dr. Case served for many years as a pastor and district superintendent in the UMC’s North Indiana Conference (now the Indiana Conference).

He is the author of Evangelical and Methodist: A Popular History (Abingdon Press) and has served as a delegate to five UM General Conferences.

This opinion pieced was originally published in a slightly longer form in the Confessing Movement’s e-publication, “Happenings Around the Church.”

Links below have been added by MethodistThinker.com. — Ed.

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United Methodists are in the news again — not because of what UMs are doing in flood-ravaged areas, or for the numbers of mission teams serving in various places, or for spectacular evangelistic efforts, but for internal conflicts over issues related to marriage and homosexuality.

Major articles have appeared in TIME magazine, the Boston Globe, and USA Today. This is because of the Amy DeLong church trial in the Wisconsin Annual Conference, and because hundreds of United Methodist clergy have pledged to defy church law and perform homosexual unions.

Not surprisingly, most articles in the secular press have given wrong impressions.

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A vocal minority

The secular media makes it sound as though there is strong support for changing the church’s historic stand that supports celibacy in singleness and faithfulness in marriage. According to several reports, there is “growing pressure” for the United Methodist Church to join other mainline churches in ordaining sexually active homosexuals; clergy are willing to defy church law; a major battle is looming at the 2012 General Conference, etc.

The truth is quite different. Despite the publicity, despite the equivocating on the part of the bishops, despite manipulated trials, despite statements from retired bishops and seminary faculty and boards and agencies, The United Methodist Church is not about to change its biblical stance. Overwhelming numbers of church members would oppose it. We need to assure our troubled church members that this is so.

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Nearly 40 years of fighting

In speaking of General Conference 2012, the secular media suggest that the General Conference (the only body in the UMC that can change the Book of Discipline) will “settle” the issue of homosexuality for United Methodists. This is the same mantra touted in 1976, 1980, 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, and 2008.

Let’s face reality: whatever happens on this issue at next year’s General Conference, there will not be peace in the denomination. There will be talk about civility, but civility will not take place. There will be talk about a compromise that will make everyone happy, but no conceivable compromise will make everyone happy. There will be talk about unity around “core values,” but we seem not to agree what those core values might be.

UM bishops stand in support of homosexual protesters
at the 2000 General Conference (UMNS photo)

Does anyone see a hopeful future for United Methodism over this issue?

It needs to be pointed out — and written boldly — that it is not evangelicals who are creating controversy, disunity, and lack of civility in the church. It is not evangelicals who are talking about demonstrations, undermining the Discipline, pledging themselves to ecclesiastical disobedience, and going to extraordinary lengths to obstruct justice. It is not evangelicals who are breaking covenant and making a mockery of church law.

Nor is it evangelicals at the General Conference who break chalices and cover the altar with black and disrupt the conference with demonstrations and rants from bishops.

What are evangelicals seeking? Simply this: Since the United Methodist Church has officially approved and (supposedly) operates with written doctrines, social principles, and covenant relationships, we want those in the church to honor and submit to these doctrines and principles and relationships.

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A challenge to the connection

Some secular news accounts have given a wrong impression when they speak of those pledging to perform same-sex unions as primarily defying “church authorities” — as if it is the “authorities” (whoever they are) who are the block to loosening standards in regard to sexuality.

From the UM
Book of Discipline

¶161F Human Sexuality — We affirm that sexuality is God’s good gift to all persons. We call everyone to responsible stewardship of this sacred gift.

Although all persons are sexual beings whether or not they are married, sexual relations are affirmed only within the covenant of monogamous, heterosexual marriage.

We deplore all forms of the commercialization, abuse, and exploitation of sex. We call for strict global enforcement of laws prohibiting the sexual exploitation of children and for adequate protection, guidance, and counseling for abused children.

All persons, regardless of age, gender, marital status, or sexual orientation, are entitled to have their human and civil rights ensured and to be protected against violence. The Church should support the family in providing age-appropriate education regarding sexuality to children, youth, and adults.

We affirm that all persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God. All persons need the ministry of the Church in their struggles for human fulfillment, as well as the spiritual and emotional care of a fellowship that enables reconciling relationships with God, with others, and with self.

The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian teaching. We affirm that God’s grace is available to all. We will seek to live together in Christian community, welcoming, forgiving, and loving one another, as Christ has loved and accepted us. We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons.

¶304.3 Regarding Clergy — While persons set apart by the Church for ordained ministry are subject to all the frailties of the human condition and the pressures of society, they are required to maintain the highest standards of holy living in the world.

Since the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching, self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be accepted as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.

The defiance is more serious that simply “defying authorities.” What is being defied and undermined is the United Methodist connection itself, including covenant relationships, ordination vows, and our commitment to one another as United Methodists.

The progressive strategy, at least on the part of some, is to wage civil war. This war is not against some outside imposed authority being foisted upon them, but against the very church to which these persons vowed faithfulness.

In other words, some in our connection desire to overturn the understandings, the promises, the ordination vows, and the Discipline that have made us who we are as United Methodists and replace them with something different — all in the name of some higher good. The higher good is variously stated: conscience, justice, inclusivity — all of which are defined not by Scripture, tradition, and reason, or by our vows, doctrine, and heritage, but by progressive preferences.

At the trial of Jimmy Creech some years ago, the defendant didn’t offer a defense, or even a plea of innocent or guilty. Rather, he urged the jury to make a prophetic judgment — namely that it is not the practice of homosexuality that is incompatible with Christian teaching (as Methodist doctrine states), but the prohibition against the practice of homosexuality that is incompatible with Christian teaching. In other words, bring the whole system down by judicial decree.

Or by any means. Obfuscate. Overload the system to make it inoperative (if 900 UM clergy perform same-sex unions, the system will blow all circuits and simply cease to function). Challenge all language so that words such as “practicing,” “self-avowed,” “heresy,” “status,” “celibacy,” “faithfulness” must be defined in such a legalistic way that they are inoperative.

Our covenant relationships were never meant to be business contracts that need 10 pages of legal language to make them operative. Our covenant together is based on relationships and relationship language is based on trust. At the present time, trust is in short supply.

So there is a problem — a serious problem. Numbers of United Methodists, both clergy and lay, feel like aliens in their own denomination. How can we exist in a denomination when some seek to undermine the core values that make us United Methodists and when the covenant relationships we speak of seem to mean nothing?

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Where are the bishops?

In our system of church government, we have an executive branch (the bishops). We need to hear from that executive branch — and it needs to be something more than “Let’s stay at the table” or “We feel your pain” or “Let’s wait until the next General Conference.”

Even bishops who do not support the teachings of the Book of Discipline in regard to human sexuality (which itself raises questions about how sincere they were when they took their vows*) must realize that if the present strategy of ecclesiastical disobedience and intentional obfuscation continues, the whole system could come crashing down. To continue down the present road without intervention cannot be good for United Methodism.

The bishops seem quite capable of strong action when they want to act. They were effective in blocking the election of judicial council members in 2008 who voted in favor of Judicial Council Decision 1032. There have been numbers of instances where bishops (and cabinets and conferences) have taken care of moral problems and loyalty problems without having to hold trials and without public fanfare.

In 1844 the Methodist Episcopal Church — one of our predecessor denominations — was being rent apart by attitudes toward slavery. The bishops at the time could not work through their own conflicting attitudes about slavery, or, perhaps more accurately, what the church should be doing about a stated position of the Discipline which was being undermined and defied by a part of the church.

In what must be considered as one of the greatest historical “cop-outs” in the history of the church, the bishops encouraged the General Conference to “table” any action for four more years.

But the church had been tabling the issue far too long. In 1845, the denomination divided.

Let’s pray that history will not repeat itself.

    *Each newly elected United Methodist bishop is asked, “Will you guard the faith, order, liturgy, doctrine, and discipline of the Church against all that is contrary to God’s Word?”
Related posts
Outcome of DeLong trial likely to exacerbate disunity of UMC
Bishop Mack Stokes: Holiness in human sexuality
A word from Mr. Wesley: Holiness in singleness
Why the United Methodist Church cannot condone homosexuality
Pro-homosexuality foundation pours millions into Catholic and mainline Protestant dissident groups
Breaking the covenant: Why aren’t ‘Reconciling’ churches being held to account?
Renewal & Reform Coalition responds to retired bishops’ call to alter UMC’s sexuality standards
In embracing homosexual marriage, Foundry UMC rejects UM boundaries, breaks with 2 millennia of church teaching
Board of Church and Society sex-ed writer: Sex outside of marriage can be ‘moral, ethical’
In Mississippi Conference, testimony from lesbian couple stirs controversy
Judicial Council says no to same-sex marriage
Billy Abraham on United Methodism: ‘There is no common faith among us’

Related information
UM clergy vow to wed homosexual couples | Sam Hodges, UM Reporter (July 15, 2011)
Lesbian elder’s penalty takes different path | Heather Hahn, United Methodist News Service (June 24, 2011)
Eros defended or eros defiled — What do Wesley and the Bible say? | Ben Witherington, The Bible and Culture (Patheos.com) (Feb. 14, 2011)
Christianity elevates sexual morality (a historical overview of the Christian church’s teaching on sexual morality) — Chapter 3 of How Christianity Changed the World | Alvin Schmidt (Zondervan, 2004 — via Google Books)
Book: Staying the Course: Supporting the Church’s Position on Homosexuality (ordering details) | Maxie Dunnam and H. Newton Malony, ed. (Abingdon Press, 2003)
Anyone who works under the authority or auspices of the Church must be held to the highest standards of behavior, free of misconduct in any form | UMSexualEthics.org
United Methodist churches perform same-sex weddings with one foot in the closet | Amanda Hess, TBD.com (Sept. 30, 2010)
UM Judicial Council backs clergy dismissal over affair | Linda Bloom, UMNS (April 27, 2010)
What the evidence really says about Scripture and homosexual practice: Five issues (PDF) | Robert A. J. Gagnon (March 2009)
Slavery, homosexuality, and not being of one mind | Riley B. Case, via The Sundry Times (July 1, 2008)
How churches can refine message on homosexuality | Robin Russell, United Methodist Reporter (May 19, 2008)
United Methodists uphold homosexuality stance | Robin Russell, United Methodist News Service (April 30, 2008)
Methodists strengthen stand against homosexual practice | Christianity Today (May 5, 2004)
Homosexuality and the Great Commandment (an address to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh) | Peter C. Moore (November 2002)
‘Good News’ says push to accept homosexual practice threatens to split United Methodist Church | United Methodist News Service (May 6, 1997)

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The following post is by blogger and church planter David Fischler. He writes frequently on topics related to mainline Protestantism at his blog, The Reformed Pastor.

David S. Fischler

A New Jersey native, David was born of Jewish parents and became a Christian in college after reading the Bible for the first time. He served as a United Methodist pastor for nine years (North Carolina Conference) and is now a pastor in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

David holds degrees from Rutgers University and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (Wake Forest, N.C.). He is currently a Doctor of Ministry student at Trinity School for Ministry near Pittsburgh.

This opinion piece first appeared in a different form at The Reformed Pastor. Links below have been added by MethodistThinker.com — Ed.

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The Wisconsin Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, via the trial and “punishment” of lesbian minister and same-sex union blesser Amy DeLong, has declared that the denomination’s Book of Discipline is merely a Book of Suggestions — and, by extension, that the views of the worldwide church that passes that Discipline every four years can be effectively ignored.

DeLong received only a slap on the wrist — a light 20-day jury-imposed suspension — though found guilty by a unanimous vote of presiding over a 2009 union ceremony at which a woman married another woman. Ceremonies celebrating homosexual unions are expressly prohibited in the UMC (¶341.6).

By a 12-1 vote, DeLong was acquitted on a second charge — being “a self-avowed practicing homosexual” — even though had she informed Wisconsin Conference officials two years ago that she was in a lesbian relationship. The Book of Discipline says self-avowed practicing homosexuals are disqualified from serving as clergy (¶304.3).

From the penalty argument by the Rev. Thomas Lambrecht, counsel for the UMC

By a unanimous verdict, you have found that Rev. Amy DeLong is guilty of conducting a ceremony which celebrated a homosexual union in violation of ¶2702.1b of the Book of Discipline…. [This] is not [an] insignificant violation…. [All who are] part of the Order of Elders of The United Methodist Church are bound together by the covenant that we have joined, as it is expressed in the Book of Discipline…. [W]e have agreed to uphold the Discipline and abide by its provisions….

Neither this annual conference, nor this Trial Court, has the authority to establish or alter official rites and rituals. No individual pastor has the authority to establish or alter official rites and rituals. The General Conference, 15 years ago, unequivocally declared that “ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers.” This provision is binding on every United Methodist pastor. When any of us violates a provision such as this, we are setting ourselves over against the Church that has ordained us, declaring that we will not submit to the authority of the Church. This we are not permitted to do….

The Church’s main interest in terms of penalty is that the requirements of our Book of Discipline are honored and complied with. We want to ensure that Rev. DeLong will conform her future behavior to the requirements of the Book of Discipline, so that we are not back here again in the future to do this all over again. In addition, we want to ensure that others in our church will know that we all have an obligation to conform our behavior to the requirements of the Book of Discipline. Otherwise, here and elsewhere, we will be facing the scenario of repeated disobedience to the Order and Discipline of The United Methodist Church. No church or denomination can long survive such rending of its covenant….

I invite you, the Trial Court, to consider [the] types of harm that are likely to be done by an inadequate penalty…. [S]ome United Methodists will become discouraged, feeling that there is a lack of accountability to our Church’s rules. Some may even leave local congregations because of it…. More broadly, harm will be done to the Church’s covenant by an inadequate penalty, since it would appear that the terms of the covenant are optional, and each clergy member will feel free to interpret that covenant in their own terms and adjust their behavior accordingly, leading to disunity and widespread conflict. Most broadly, we need to consider our brothers and sisters in Africa, Latin America, and other parts of the world…. [T]here is no disputing that becoming a more gay-affirming church would severely harm our Church’s witness in… countries…where our brothers and sisters are confronted with life and death circumstances in their conflict with radical Islam….

[T]he fundamental purpose of the penalty…is not retribution, but restoration — not only restoration for the individual, but restoration for the Church body. The penalty of suspension until such time as Rev. DeLong commits herself to live by the terms of the covenant to which she agreed has the virtue of enhancing the unity of the Church around our common covenant. It is proportional to the offense, in that it withdraws the right to perform ordained ministerial functions from one who has abused that right by performing an ordained ministerial function contrary to the Book of Discipline. It gives maximum power to Rev. DeLong herself, who has the ability to choose the length of her penalty by choosing to return to live within the covenant and comply with the terms of the Discipline.

During the trial, that moral standard for UM clergy got lost in technicalities that may provide a road to chaos.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

DeLong’s counsel, the Rev. Scott Campbell, had argued during the trial that church investigators never asked the lesbian minister whether she engages in prohibited sexual activity, the church’s accepted definition for “practicing.” And DeLong declined to answer that question when church counsel the Rev. Tom Lambrecht posed it during her testimony….

“I don’t know if you’re being voyeuristic or just plain indecent, but there is no way, when you are trying to do me harm, that I’m going to answer and share the intimate, sacred details of our lives,” DeLong said.

What this comes down to is that, in acquitting DeLong, the jury of Wisconsin Conference clergy members decided to adopt the approach that has been used in other mainline churches for years to get around “fidelity in marriage/celibacy in singleness” standards.

The jury would not convict DeLong of being a practicing homosexual unless it had some kind of independent evidence of sexual conduct that is, under normal circumstances, impossible to obtain.

Make no mistake: Widespread adoption of this evidentiary standard will vitiate the  UMC’s prohibition on sexually active homosexual clergy. It will be the means that liberals will use to frustrate the will of the church as a whole — unless a way can be found to stop them.

Indeed, the pro-homosexuality Reconciling Ministries Network in the UMC crows that the DeLong approach is the key, for now, that will enable any practicing homosexual clergy member to avoid conviction at a church trial.

The outcome on this charge appears to signal that it’s possible for gay and lesbian clergy to be out about their sexual orientation, as DeLong is, and not be prosecutable under the Incompatibility Clause as long as neither they nor anyone else documents the details of their sex lives.

As for presiding at union ceremonies for two people of the same sex, DeLong said she has every intention of continuing to do so, as the United Methodist News Service reported:

The Rev. Amy DeLong testified that she would not abide by The United Methodist Church’s ban against clergy officiating at same-sex unions.

“I can’t imagine doing that,” she said in testimony…during the penalty phase of the trial.

To put it plainly, Amy DeLong announced that she considers the Discipline’s strictures to be optional in her case — and the jury, by issuing a toothless suspension, effectively agreed.

DeLong (left) celebrates outcome with supporter (UMNS photo)

“I feel good about what the church has done,” DeLong later said, as quoted in the Journal Sentinel.

“I think we’ve sent a message that the United Methodist Church will not throw out its gay and lesbian people, and that it has opened the doors for a more inclusive church,” she said.

Oh, in addition to her 20-day suspension (the counsel for the UMC had asked that she be suspended indefinitely, pending her willingness to submit to the Discipline — see sidebar), the court imposed another wrist slap: DeLong must “initiate a written document outlining procedures for clergy in order to help resolve issues that harm the clergy covenant, create an adversarial spirit or lead to future clergy trials.”

If Amy DeLong were willing to submit the church’s boundaries, that could a short paper indeed. All it would need to say is: “To avoid harming the clergy covenant, creating an adversarial spirit, or precipitating church trials, United Methodist clergy should by abide by the will of the church as expressed in the Book of Discipline.”

But that is just what DeLong has made clear she will not do — and, based on recent  reports in the denominational press (see here and here–PDF), DeLong apparently has the support of hundreds of clergy across the United Methodist Church.

Further, it would seem that performing homosexual unions is widespread in the Wisconsin Annual Conference. In trial testimony, the Rev. Richard Strait, chair of the conference’s Board of Ordained Ministry, said that if performing same-sex unions “were a heinous crime, there would be a whole lot of us in deep trouble.”

“A whole lot of us” is a telling phrase, suggesting that disobedience to the Discipline among Wisconsin Conference clergy and leaders is common.

What was really going on in the Amy DeLong trial was this: the Wisconsin Annual Conference (which in the person of the bishop appointed DeLong to her current position as director of Kairos CoMotion, an advocacy group that among other things seeks — surprise! — to repeal the prohibitions on sexually active homosexual clergy and the blessing of same-sex unions) is telling the rest of the denomination that it will not enforce the parts of the Discipline it doesn’t like. Expect other conferences to follow.

If this is not stopped, the collapse of the United Methodist Church as an even vaguely unified body cannot be far off.


Related posts
Bishop Mack Stokes: Holiness in human sexuality
A word from Mr. Wesley: Holiness in singleness
Why the United Methodist Church cannot condone homosexuality
Pro-homosexuality foundation pours millions into Catholic and mainline Protestant dissident groups
Breaking the covenant: Why aren’t ‘Reconciling’ churches being held to account?
Renewal & Reform Coalition responds to retired bishops’ call to alter UMC’s sexuality standards
In embracing homosexual marriage, Foundry UMC rejects UM boundaries, breaks with 2 millennia of church teaching
Board of Church and Society sex-ed writer: Sex outside of marriage can be ‘moral, ethical’
In Mississippi Conference, testimony from lesbian couple stirs controversy
Judicial Council says no to same-sex marriage
Billy Abraham on United Methodism: ‘There is no common faith among us’

Related information
Lesbian elder’s penalty takes different path | Heather Hahn, United Methodist News Service (June 24, 2011)
Eros defended or eros defiled — What do Wesley and the Bible say? | Ben Witherington, The Bible and Culture (Patheos.com) (Feb. 14, 2011)
Audio: Does the growing affirmation of homosexuality in the Western church further endanger Christians in Muslim lands? — A conversation with Dr. Uwe Siemon-Netto | Issues Etc., Lutheran Public Radio (March 15, 2011)
Christianity elevates sexual morality (a historical overview of the Christian church’s teaching on sexual morality) — Chapter 3 of How Christianity Changed the World | Alvin Schmidt (Zondervan, 2004 — via Google Books)
Book: Staying the Course: Supporting the Church’s Position on Homosexuality (ordering details) | Maxie Dunnam and H. Newton Malony, ed. (Abingdon Press, 2003)
Anyone who works under the authority or auspices of the Church must be held to the highest standards of behavior, free of misconduct in any form | UMSexualEthics.org
United Methodist churches perform same-sex weddings with one foot in the closet | Amanda Hess, TBD.com (Sept. 30, 2010)
UM Judicial Council backs clergy dismissal over affair | Linda Bloom, UMNS (April 27, 2010)
What the evidence really says about Scripture and homosexual practice: Five issues (PDF) | Robert A. J. Gagnon (March 2009)
Slavery, homosexuality, and not being of one mind | Riley B. Case, via The Sundry Times (July 1, 2008)
How churches can refine message on homosexuality | Robin Russell, United Methodist Reporter (May 19, 2008)
United Methodists uphold homosexuality stance | Robin Russell, United Methodist News Service (April 30, 2008)
Methodists strengthen stand against homosexual practice | Christianity Today (May 5, 2004)
Homosexuality and the Great Commandment (an address to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh) | Peter C. Moore (November 2002)
‘Good News’ says push to accept homosexual practice threatens to split United Methodist Church | United Methodist News Service (May 6, 1997)

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Issues related to human sexuality are front and center in both the culture and the church.

Bishop Mack B. Stokes (UMNS photo)

In this post, excerpted from the out-of-print book Scriptural Holiness For the United Methodist Christian (Discipleship Resources, 1987), retired UM Bishop Mack B. Stokes discusses sexuality from the standpoint of both the historic teaching of the Christian faith and the particular emphasis of Wesleyan believers on holiness of heart and life.

Bishop Stokes is a graduate of Duke Divinity School (B.D.) and Boston University (Ph.D.). He served on the faculty of Emory University’s Candler School of Theology from 1941 until 1972, when he was elected to serve as a bishop of the United Methodist Church.

His other books include The Holy Spirit in the Wesleyan Heritage (1993), Major United Methodist Beliefs (revised 1998), and person-to-Person: Building a Relationship with God Through Prayer (2007).

(NOTE: References below to the United Methodist Book of Discipline have been updated to conform to current wording and paragraph numbering.)

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When God created human beings in his image, God made them male and female (Gen. 1:27). And God called them to be “fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28)…. Therefore, in keeping with the biblical revelation, “we affirm that sexuality is God’s good gift to all persons” (¶161F, The Book of Discipline—2008).

As is the case with all human desires, sexual desires need to be directed and controlled. God’s call to holiness includes Christian stewardship of our sexuality. For this reason the biblical teaching is that “sexual relations are affirmed only with the covenant of monogamous, heterosexual marriage” (¶161F).

This raises serious questions…. What about premarital sex? What about homosexuality? What about promiscuity? What about adultery?…

[W]hen God’s love is immediately present and operative in us, how do we act?… For one thing, we act in full respect for the sacredness of our own body and soul, as well as for the body and soul of the other person…. It is not enough to think in terms of “consenting adults.” That is relevant in democratic courts of law…. [But] Christian youth and adults are governed by the presence of the living Christ in them and reserve for their life-partners in marriage the full expression of their sexuality….

[In regard to homosexuality,] the basic question is: What does holiness — the love of God and neighbor — move us to do?

Beyond question there are persons with homosexual tendencies. And beyond question they are precious in the sight of God. Christ’s grand redemptive work has been done for all. And all are called to be redeemed by grace through faith. But is the practice of homosexuality in keeping with God’s holy purpose for our lives?

Among the ancient Greeks and Romans the practice of homosexuality was condoned. And among some people today this practice is condoned and even publicly acclaimed. But in the Hebrew-Christian heritage this practice has not been approved. It has been repudiated as contrary to the revealed purpose of God for our lives.

Our standards are not to be governed by the pagans of ancient Greece and Rome. Nor are they to be guided by the standards and values of those of our own time who are not interested in what the Holy Creator requires.

It is one thing to have homosexual tendencies — just as it is to have tendencies toward promiscuity — but it is another to practice it. This is why we United Methodists say that “we do not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian teaching” (¶161F)….

[As regards promiscuity, i]s it not one of the cheapest and most contemptible ways of using others as means to the gratification of elemental selfish desires? And is not this on the side of evil and against God and his righteousness?… In the light of the Bible and God’s holy purpose, promiscuity is as far removed from the grace of God in Christ as hell is from heaven….

[In summary, w]e may say that scriptural holiness leads us to practice the formula: In singleness, chastity; in marriage, fidelity.


Related posts
A word from Mr. Wesley: Holiness in singleness
Why the United Methodist Church cannot condone homosexuality
Pro-homosexuality foundation pours millions into Catholic and mainline Protestant dissident groups
Breaking the covenant: Why aren’t ‘Reconciling’ churches being held to account?
Riley Case: Retired bishops’ statement is a sign of UMC’s sickness
Renewal & Reform Coalition responds to retired bishops’ call to alter UMC’s sexuality standards
In embracing homosexual marriage, Foundry UMC rejects UM boundaries, breaks with 2 millennia of church teaching
Riley Case: The future of the United Methodist Church is at stake
In GBCS article, UM elder argues against celibacy for single clergy
Board of Church and Society sex-ed writer: Sex outside of marriage can be ‘moral, ethical’
Judicial Council overturns bishop’s ruling on sexuality statement
Maxie Dunnam: Amendments outcome reflects ‘sense of the faithful’
Judicial Council says no to same-sex marriage
Billy Abraham on United Methodism: ‘There is no common faith among us’

Related articles information
Eros defended or eros defiled — What do Wesley and the Bible say? | Ben Witherington, The Bible and Culture (Patheos.com) (Feb. 14, 2011)
Christianity elevates sexual morality (a historical overview of the Christian church’s teaching on sexual morality) — Chapter 3 of How Christianity Changed the World | Alvin Schmidt (Zondervan, 2004 — via Google Books)
Book: Staying the Course: Supporting the Church’s Position on Homosexuality (ordering details) | Maxie Dunnam and H. Newton Malony, ed. (Abingdon Press, 2003)
Anyone who works under the authority or auspices of the Church must be held to the highest standards of behavior, free of misconduct in any form | UMSexualEthics.org
United Methodist churches perform same-sex weddings with one foot in the closet | Amanda Hess, TBD.com (Sept. 30, 2010)
UM Judicial Council backs clergy dismissal over affair | Linda Bloom, UMNS (April 27, 2010)
What the evidence really says about Scripture and homosexual practice: Five issues (PDF) | Robert A. J. Gagnon (March 2009)
Slavery, homosexuality, and not being of one mind | Riley B. Case, via The Sundry Times (July 1, 2008)
How churches can refine message on homosexuality | Robin Russell, United Methodist Reporter (May 19, 2008)
United Methodists uphold homosexuality stance | Robin Russell, United Methodist News Service (April 30, 2008)
Judicial Council Decision 1032 and ecclesiology (PDF) | William J. Abraham, General Board of Higher Education & Ministry Consultation on Decision 1032 (February 2007)
The church and homosexuality | Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker, e-Review (Florida United Methodist News Service) (July 12, 2006)
Methodists strengthen stand against homosexual practice | Christianity Today (May 5, 2004)
Debate at the 2004 General Conference on various legislation related to homosexuality (includes audio) | 2004 General Conference Archive
Resources list: Ministry for and with homosexual persons (requested by the UMC’s 2004 General Conference) (PDF) | United Methodist Publishing House
Homosexuality and the Bible (PDF) | R. Albert Mohler Jr., Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Homosexuality and the Great Commandment (an address to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh) | Peter C. Moore (November 2002)
Good News’ response to Cal/Nevada’s dismissal of complaints against 68 clergy involved in same-sex covenant | James V. Heidinger II on behalf of the Good News Board of Directors (Feb. 14, 2000)
Good News board urges bishops to preserve unity of church | United Methodist News Service (Feb. 2, 1999)
‘Good News’ says push to accept homosexual practice threatens to split United Methodist Church | United Methodist News Service (May 6, 1997)

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This post is part of a monthly series that presents selections from the writings of John Wesley, co-founder (with his brother Charles) of the Methodist movement.

Below is an excerpt from Mr. Wesley’s pamphlet, Thoughts on a Single Life, first published in 1743 and reissued with minor changes in 1784. As presented here, two paragraphs — identified by brackets — have been added from his comments on Matthew 16:24 in Explanatory Notes on the New Testament.

For easier reading, the wording has been slightly updated to conform to modern usage. (Links to the full text of the pamphlet and to the Matthew 16 section of the Notes are included in the links area below.)

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Persons may be as holy in a married as in a single state. Indeed, the Holy Ghost says, “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled” (Heb. 13:4).

And yet we must not forget what the apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 7:

I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am…. But even if you do marry, you have not sinned…. Nevertheless such will have trouble in the flesh….

I want you to be without care. He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord — how he may please the Lord. But he who is married cares about the things of the world — how he may please his wife…. The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she who is married cares about the things of the world — how she may please her husband.

And this I say for your own profit…that you may serve the Lord without distraction. (1 Corinthians 7:8, 28, 32-35)

Though “it is good for a man not to touch a woman,” (1 Cor. 7:1), this is not a universal rule. “I wish,” says the apostle, “that all men were even as I myself.” But that cannot be; for “each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that” (1 Cor. 7:7).

This is exactly agreeable to this are the words of our Lord. When the disciples said to him (after he taught on marriage and divorce), “If the case be so, it is good not to marry,” he said to them:

All cannot receive this saying, but those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother’s womb and there are who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake.

He who is able to receive it, let him receive it. (Matthew 19:10-12)

Focused on God

To those able to “receive this saying,” I say: Know the advantages you enjoy — many of which are pointed out by the apostle above.

You may be without care. You are under no necessity of “caring for the things of the world.” You have only to “care for the things of the Lord, how you may please the Lord.” One care alone lies upon you, how you “may be holy both in body and spirit.”

You enjoy a blessed liberty from the “trouble in the flesh,” which must more or less attend a married state, from a thousand nameless domestic trials which are found, sooner or later, in every family.

Above all, you are at liberty from the greatest of all entanglements: the loving of one creature above all others. It is possible to do this without any impeachment of our love to God, but how inconceivably difficult it is to give one’s whole heart to God while another has so large a share of it!

Whereas those who are married are necessarily taken up with the things of the world, you may give your time to God without interruption, and need ask leave of none but yourself so to do.

You may give all your worldly substance to God — nothing need hinder. You have no increasing family to provide for, which might occasion a thousand doubts whether you had done either too much or too little for them. You may lay out all your talents of every kind entirely for the glory of God, as you have none else to please, none to regard, but Him that lived and died for you.

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Take up your cross daily

If you know and duly prize these advantages you enjoy, be careful to keep them. But know that this is impossible to do by your own strength. You have need to use every help.

The first of these is earnest prayer. Let no day pass without this, without praying for this very thing — that God would work what with men is impossible.

A second help may be frequent and free conversation with those of your own sex who are like-minded. By this means a thousand devices of Satan will be brought to nought.

From the 1954 film ‘John Wesley’

Above all, “keep your heart with all diligence.” Check the first risings of desire. Let no “vain thought lodge within you.” Cry out, “My God and my all, I am alone! Bring my ‘every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.’”

How shall you preserve this strength and firmness of spirit? Avoid with the utmost care all softness and effeminacy, remembering the express denunciation of an inspired writer that the soft or effeminate “shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10).

Avoid all sloth, inactivity, indolence. Be never idle. Keep at the utmost distance from foolish desires, from desiring any happiness but in God.

It is not possible to avoid all pleasure, and God does not require this. On the contrary, he “giveth us all things to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17), so we enjoy them to his glory. But I say avoid all pleasure that in anyway hinders you from enjoying him — yea, all such pleasure as does not prepare you for taking pleasure in God.

Add to this constant and continued course of universal self-denial the taking up your cross daily, the enduring “hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Tim. 2:3). The Lord will uphold you with his hand.

[Indeed, if any will follow Christ, the very first step is to deny himself — to substitute the will of God in the place of his own will as his overriding principle of action.

Let him in all things deny his own will, however pleasing, and do the will of God, however painful. Should we not consider all crosses, all things grievous to flesh and blood, as what they really are — as opportunities of embracing God's will at the expense of our own? We should approve and choose what his choice warrants as best for us.]

Upon the whole, without disputing whether the married or single life be the more perfect state — an idle dispute, since perfection does not consist in any outward state whatever, but in an absolute devotion of all our heart and all our life to God — we may safely say, “Blessed are ‘those who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake.’”


Related posts
A word from Mr. Wesley: The sure cornerstone of our faith
A word from Mr. Wesley: ‘The way to the kingdom’
A word from Mr. Wesley: ‘Salvation by faith’
A word from Mr. Wesley: ‘The first doctrine’
Podcast: John Wesley on ‘The New Birth’
Podcast: Donald English — Aldersgate Day address, 1988
Podcast: Bishop Gerald Kennedy on ‘The Marks of a Methodist’
Judicial Council asked to revisit Decision 1032, allow homosexual clergy to marry
In embracing homosexual marriage, Foundry UMC rejects UM boundaries, breaks with 2 millennia of church teaching
In GBCS article, UM elder argues against celibacy for single clergy
Board of Church and Society sex-ed writer: Sex outside of marriage can be ‘moral, ethical’

Related information
Thoughts on a Single Life (full text) | From The Works of the Reverend John Wesley, A. M. (1835) (via Google Books)
Notes on Matthew 16 (full text) | John Wesley’s Notes on the Bible, Wesley Center Online

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This post is by the Rev. David Fischler, a church planter in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church and the founder of The Reformed Pastor blog.

David Fischler

A New Jersey native, David was born of Jewish parents and became a Christian in college after reading the Bible for the first time.

He holds degrees from Rutgers University and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (Wake Forest, N.C.). He is currently a Doctor of Ministry student at Trinity School for Ministry near Pittsburgh.

This post first appeared in a different form at The Reformed Pastor. Links below have been added by MethodistThinker.com — Ed.

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At CatholicVote.org, Thomas Peters recently wrote about the effort by homosexual billionaires to change the Roman Catholic Church’s position on homosexuality by funding dissident groups within the church. Peters catalogs funding to the tune of almost $600,000 to various Catholic groups through something called the Arcus Foundation.

After reading Peters’ article, I went to the Arcus website and discovered that it isn’t just Roman Catholic groups this foundation is funding. Money is also going to many dissident groups in mainline Protestant denominations.

Here are some of the grants listed for 2010 alone:

  • Central United Methodist Church (Detroit): $50,000 for The Reconciling Project, “a reconciling education and advocacy initiative to positively transform attitudes and beliefs about LGBT [Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgendered] people among United Methodist congregants and pastors in Southeastern Michigan.”
  • Christian Community: $300,000 (over two years) “to increase support for and advocacy on behalf of LGBT people of faith in mainline Protestant congregations across the U.S.”
  • Emory University (United Methodist affiliated): $100,000 (over two years) for continued support for Religion Dispatches, “a progressive online magazine dedicated to analysis and critique of the role of religion in public culture, with a focus on LGBT justice issues.”
  • Intersections International: $100,000 for the Believe Out Loud campaign, “which seeks to move moderate people of faith to publicly advocate for LGBT inclusion within their mainline Protestant faith communities.” (The Reconciling Ministries Network in the United Methodist Church is integrally involved with the Believe Out Loud campaign.)
  • Lutherans Concerned: $90,000 for “two convenings to advance the full inclusion of LGBT people of faith by convening pro-LGBT denominational leaders from the Episcopal Church USA, the United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutherans of America, the Presbyterian Church (USA), and the United Church of Christ, and by convening nationally recognized pro-LGBT Lutheran theologians.”
  • Methodist Federation for Social Action: $93,120 “to advance the full inclusion of LGBT people of faith within the United Methodist Church through a coalition of progressive justice organizations working within the UMC.” (MFSA used these funds to hire a coordinator for the Common Witness Coalition, an alliance of progressive groups that will press the UM 2012 General Conference to vote for “full inclusion of all people in UMC membership and leadership”—PDF.)

In 2009, the Arcus awarded the Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) in the UMC $300,000 (over two years) to support “a comprehensive strategy to advance LGBT inclusion within the United Methodist Church that includes passage and implementation of pro-LGBT denominational policy regarding Church membership, ordination and same-gender [sic] marriage.” (In 2007, Arcus awarded RMN $100,000.)

Also in 2009, Arcus gave the communications firm of Douglas Gould and Company a grant of $194,200 to provide communications support to both the UM Reconciling Ministries Network and Lutherans Concerned to assist their efforts “to advance the full inclusion of LGBT people in the United Methodist Church and in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.”

Here are several other Arcus grants from last year:

  • Church Divinity School of the Pacific: $404,351 “to develop official rites for the blessing of same-gender relationships within the Episcopal Church.”
  • More Light Presbyterians: $75,000 “to support the ratification of denominational policy that permits the ordination of partnered LGBT persons within the Presbyterian Church (USA).”
  • The Gay Christian Network: $73,018 “to develop, test, and refine a pilot program that prepares young adult evangelicals to support pro-LGBT dialogue within evangelical communities.”
  • Truth Wins Out: $40,000 “for general operating support to enable Truth Wins Out to continue to challenge the ex-gay movement and monitor the anti-LGBT efforts of the religious right.” (Truth Wins Out is the group behind pressuring Apple to drop apps developed by the Manhattan Declaration and Exodus International.)

Despite the lack of stated religious connections on the part of its staff or its board members, the Arcus Foundation has a “Religion and Values” program, the goal of which is described this way:

[Our] goal is to achieve the recognition and affirmation of the moral equality of LGBT people. To accomplish this goal, the program supports the efforts of religious leaders to create faith communities in which LGBT people are welcomed as equal members; it also supports civic leadership to promote the moral and civil equality of LGBT people at state, national, and international levels.

The two-part “measurable program outcome” for the Religious and Values program is stated this way:

Goal 1: Ensure that denominations and faith-based institutions affirm LGBT moral equality and support LGBT rights;

Goal 2: Support pro-LGBT faith-based leaders who form, sustain and drive the movement or LGBT moral equality and civil rights.

In his article at CatholicVote.org, Thomas Peters notes that the total given by the Arcus Foundation since 2007 to groups operating within Catholic and Protestant churches is $6.5 million. That’s a lot of scratch.

The questions raised by this attempt to influence church doctrine and policy are enormous. Arcus certainly has every right to fund organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign and GLAAD that are working for homosexual rights in the political arena. But by what right does a secular foundation, operating from principles at odds with historic Christian faith, seek to influence Christian churches to abandon aspects of that faith?

From LGBTfunders.org

Liberals have been claiming for years that there is something insidious, if not downright evil, about support the Institute on Religion and Democracy has received from conservative foundations.

That funding is dwarfed — in both scale and breadth — by the money given out by Arcus.

It’s also the case that the IRD supports the traditional stances of the churches to which it speaks. It is not seeking to bring about radical change in historic teaching and practice.

In the current issue of First Things, George Weigel of the Ethics and Public Policy Center has a fascinating article about the infiltration of the Catholic Church by various agents of the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies during the post-World War II era. The aim was to influence church policy with regard to the Soviet bloc, and to seek to garner support for the bloc’s foreign and domestic political agendas.

What the Arcus Foundation is doing may be more public, and may involve using money to fund others rather than using their own “agents,” but make no mistake: this is just as much about infiltrating the churches to push a political agenda.


Related posts
Why the United Methodist Church cannot condone homosexuality
Breaking the covenant: Why aren’t ‘Reconciling’ churches being held to account?
Riley Case: Retired bishops’ statement is a sign of UMC’s sickness
Renewal & Reform Coalition responds to retired bishops’ call to alter UMC’s sexuality standards
In embracing homosexual marriage, Foundry UMC rejects UM boundaries, breaks with 2 millennia of church teaching
Riley Case: The future of the United Methodist Church is at stake
Judicial Council overturns bishop’s ruling on sexuality statement
Maxie Dunnam: Amendments outcome reflects ‘sense of the faithful’
Judicial Council says no to same-sex marriage
Billy Abraham on United Methodism: ‘There is no common faith among us’
Bill Bouknight: The good news from General Conference ’08

Related information
MFSA hires coalition coordinator with grant from Arcus Foundation | Methodist Federation for Social Action (Dec. 15, 2010)
Road to General Conference 2012 (PDF) | The Progressive Voice, MFSA (Fall 2010)
Brochure for “Building an Inclusive Church” (a training workshop sponsored by RMN, More Light Presbyterians, Lutherans Concerned, et al and supported by the Arcus Foundation) (PDF) | Institute for Welcoming Resources, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (2010)
Eros defended or eros defiled — What do Wesley and the Bible say? | Ben Witherington, The Bible and Culture (Patheos.com) (Feb. 14, 2011)
Christianity elevates sexual morality (a historical overview of the Christian church’s teaching on sexual morality) — Chapter 3 of How Christianity Changed the World | Alvin Schmidt (Zondervan, 2004 — via Google Books)
What the evidence really says about Scripture and homosexual practice: Five issues (PDF) | Robert A. J. Gagnon (March 2009)
Slavery, homosexuality, and not being of one mind | Riley B. Case, via The Sundry Times (July 1, 2008)
How churches can refine message on homosexuality | Robin Russell, United Methodist Reporter (May 19, 2008)
United Methodists uphold homosexuality stance | Robin Russell, United Methodist News Service (April 30, 2008)
Judicial Council Decision 1032 and ecclesiology (PDF) | William J. Abraham, General Board of Higher Education & Ministry Consultation on Decision 1032 (February 2007)
The church and homosexuality | Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker, e-Review (Florida United Methodist News Service) (July 12, 2006)
Methodists strengthen stand against homosexual practice | Christianity Today (May 5, 2004)
Resources list: Ministry for and with homosexual persons (requested by the UMC’s 2004 General Conference) (PDF) | United Methodist Publishing House
Homosexuality and the Bible (PDF) | R. Albert Mohler Jr., Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Homosexuality and the Great Commandment (an address to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh) | Peter C. Moore (November 2002)
‘Good News’ says push to accept homosexual practice threatens to split United Methodist Church | United Methodist News Service (May 6, 1997)

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