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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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Bill Bouknight

This post is by Dr. William R. Bouknight, associate director of the Confessing Movement Within the United Methodist Church.

It first appeared in a slightly different form in the October 2012 Confessing Movement e-newsletter.

Bill Bouknight is the author of The Authoritative Word: Preaching Trust in a Skeptical Age (Abingdon, 2001) and If Disciples Grew Like Kudzu (Bristol House, 2007).

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

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When members of the United Methodist Council of Bishops gather next week (Nov. 4-9) at St. Simons Island, Ga., they will find it difficult to ignore a retired bishop, Melvin G. Talbert.

Bishop Talbert has urged more than 1,000 UM clergy who have committed to officiating at union ceremonies for homosexual couples “to stand firm in their resolve” — even though officiating at homosexual unions would violate the United Methodist Church’s Book of Discipline.

Furthermore, the Western Jurisdiction has asked Bishop Talbert to oversee a grassroots movement that challenges the entire UMC to operate as if Paragraph 161F of the Book of Discipline “does not exist.” That is called nullification.

In reaction to these developments, more than 70 UM orthodox clergy and laity sent an open letter to the Council of Bishops urging them to “publicly censure” Bishop Talbert. The letter also asks the executive committee of the Council to file a formal complaint against the bishop.

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No-so-great expectations

Despite strong concern within the church about Bishop Talbert’s conduct, my guess is that the Council will do little or nothing about this matter.

From the UM
Book of Discipline

¶161B Marriage

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

¶161F Human Sexuality

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

The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider[s] this practice incompatible with Christian teaching. We affirm that God’s grace is available to all….

This pledge by more than 1,000 UM clergy to perform same-sex unions is not new. It was on the Council’s agenda a year ago. Yet the Council could not even bring itself to ask those 1,000 clergy to refrain from violating the Discipline.

(Do you suppose that if 1,000 clergy threatened to withhold apportionment payments, the Council would be that reticent?)

The Council’s problem is that it is hopelessly divided about Scriptural authority, theological worldview, and sexual morality.

Since about 1970, some bishops have been elected who have a relativistic view of Scriptural authority. Some ignore and/or don’t believe in some United Methodist doctrines spelled out in the Articles of Religion and Confession of Faith.

On the days of their ordination, they affirmed their belief in all of those doctrines (PDF—see pages 22 and 23). But somehow over the years they have changed. Yet not one of them has reported that change to the Board of Ordained Ministry and offered to turn in his or her credentials.

It is a safe prediction that the Council of Bishops will take no action with regard to Bishop Talbert. Nor will it ask those 1,000 clergy not to violate the Book of Discipline.

Instead, the Council will issue a call for all United Methodists to be tolerant, non-judgmental, and nice — and to engage in holy conferencing.

And the United Methodist Church in the U.S. will continue to decline.

Therefore, the Lord seems to be passing the torch of leadership to the African Methodists. Instead of rebelling against the Book of Discipline, they are focused on making disciples of Jesus Christ for the eternal salvation of persons and for the transformation of the world.


Related posts
Group of clergy, laity calls for censure of Bishop Talbert
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?
General Conference 2012: More attempts to change UM standards on sexual behavior
If defiance continues, United Methodism may come crashing down
Bishop Mack Stokes: Holiness in human sexuality
A word from Mr. Wesley: Holiness in singleness
Why the United Methodist Church cannot condone homosexuality
Renewal & Reform Coalition responds to retired bishops’ call to alter UMC’s sexuality standards
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’

Related articles and information
Bishop accused of urging disobedience | Heather Hahn, United Methodist News Service (Aug. 24, 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)
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)
UM clergy vow to wed homosexual couples | Sam Hodges, UM Reporter (July 15, 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)
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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The following book summary 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), and he has been a delegate to five UM General Conferences.

He is the author of Evangelical and Methodist: A Popular History (Abingdon Press).

This piece was first published in a different form in the Confessing Movement’s e-publication, “Happenings Around the Church.”

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

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Forgetting How to Blush: United Methodism’s Compromise with the Sexual Revolution (Bristol House, 2012) is a thoroughly researched, heavily footnoted account of efforts, strategies, schemes, and attempts on the part of non-Christian — or at least quasi-Christian — persons, groups, caucuses, and in some cases church leaders, to secularize historic Christian truth in regard to human sexuality.

Author Karen Booth, director of Transforming Congregations, begins with Alfred Kinsey and his studies on human sexuality. Kinsey influenced Hugh Hefner, who chafed under the restraints of traditional biblical morality (Hefner grew up in a conservative Methodist home).

Hugh Hefner not only started Playboy magazine, he also gave a major grant to fund the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS). SIECUS was interested in values-neutral sex education, which basically ignores biblical moral teaching.

Remarkably, SIECUS had ties with the Methodist General Board of Education Task Force on Sex Education, which operated under the assumption that the church’s “negative” views toward sexuality needed adjusting.

In the 1960s, youth ministry in the Methodist Church was undergoing a philosophical shift. Youth, so we were told, did not want others — including their parents or the church — to tell them what to do. They wanted “freedom” and “equality.”

Under the sway of progressive pressures, the 1972 General Conference did away with the Methodist Youth Fellowship (MYF) and legislated a new agency, the National Council on Youth Ministry (NCYM). That group, among other things, gave grants to homosexual-advocacy groups.

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Trying to be ‘relevant’

The church bureaucracy was already on board. As early as 1962 the Methodist Church had published a resource Sex and the Whole Person which essentially substituted the latest (secular) psychological insights for traditional teaching about faithfulness in marriage and celibacy in singleness. Sex and the Whole Person spoke of Freud and sexual repression. It emphasized that in sexual matters seldom is there a right and wrong, but shades of grey. There were no moral absolutes.

At the time of The Methodist Church-Evangelical United Brethren merger in 1968, the editors of church school material indicated that sex education would be one of their top priorities. Meanwhile in its March-April, 1969 issue, Motive magazine — the church’s paper for young adults — printed an article by Del Margin and Phyllis Lyon, co-founders of a lesbian-advocacy group. (The UMC had the sense to stop publication of Motive in 1971).

In the mid-1970s, Leon Smith of the Board of Discipleship commented on “positive” trends he saw in the church’s response to the new sexuality — from rigid rules to situational ethics; a new toleration of private, consensual acts; the recognition of positive uses of pornography; and a new understandings of homosexual activity (understood now as a “variant” rather than “deviant”).

If the church believed that this attempt to be “culturally relevant” would enhance youth ministry it was sadly mistaken. Over a 10-year period the circulation of youth materials fell from 1.2 million pieces per quarter to 400,000 and the youth staff at Nashville went from 13 full-time persons to one part-time employee. (Melvin Talbert, now a retired bishop who urges clergy and laity to defy the UMC’s sexuality standards, was the general secretary of the Board of Discipleship at that time.)

To their credit, a number of bishops and church leaders were not pleased with the direction in which progressives were leading the church in the area of human sexuality. A few leaders spoke out on behalf of the church’s traditional stance, and Curriculum Resources toned down some of the more extreme studies.

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The push to normalize homosexual relationships

Those biblically orthodox leaders were further tested by the onslaught of homosexual-practice advocacy that has characterized some parts of The United Methodist Church since 1970.

Karen Booth

Had it not been for an amendment from the floor at the 1972 General Conference that inserted into the Social Principles language that says the UMC “does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers it incompatible with Christian teaching” (now in ¶161F in the Book of Discipline), The United Methodist Church likely would have been the first mainline denomination to neutralize biblical teaching about homosexual practice.

Tellingly, since 1972 no general agency of the church has petitioned the General Conference to uphold traditional teachings on marriage, the family and human sexuality.

Before the 1980 General Conference, every agency and every caucus that petitioned General Conference in regard to homosexual practice — except for the renewal ministry Good News — urged the church to set aside its orthodox stance on homosexual practice. For its efforts Good News was labeled “intolerant” and “hateful.”

The United Methodist General Board of Church and Society claims to advocate positions taken by the General Conference, but in the area of marriage the board is silent. It is also silent in the area of affirming the sexual ethic of faithfulness in marriage and celibacy in singleness (¶161B and ¶161F).

GBCS does indicate that the church must seek to eradicate “heterosexism” and “homophobia,” but when it comes to the UMC’s statement that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching,” GBCS is silent. At one time the church sought to enrich marriages. But in a current GBCS list of 20 key issues facing the church and society, marriage is not even mentioned.

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Follow the money

The United Methodist Book of Discipline prohibits the use apportionment money to “promote the acceptance of homosexuality” (¶613.20 and ¶806.9). This doesn’t mean that those in the church who want to bless homosexual relationships and to change the definition of marriage are without funding and support.

Karen Booth traces some of this money and support, most of which comes from groups outside The United Methodist Church, including:

  • Welcoming Church Movement/Institute for Welcoming Resources;
  • Soulforce;
  • The Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice and Healing;
  • Faith in America;
  • The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Foundation;
  • The Human Rights Campaign: Religion and Faith Program;
  • Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLADD);
  • Believe Out Loud.

Major funding for these organizations — and for caucuses within mainline churches — comes from groups such as the Arcus Foundation, which from 2007 to 2011 has made 150 grants totaling almost $20 million to “religion and values” initiatives.

Two UM groups, Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) and Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA), received almost $850,000.

From LGBTfunders.org

The Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund has given $10 million in the same four-year period to “allies” who work among clergy and congregations for “marriage equality.”

The E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation gives money to seminaries that support the homosexual agenda. In 2009, it gave grants totaling $75,000 to the Church Within a Church Movement (PDF), Dumbarton UM Church in Washington D.C., and the Reconciling Ministries Network.

Karen Booth asks an interesting question: Does The United Methodist Church understand the implications of outsider money flowing into the church with the specific agenda of subverting the church’s teaching on human sexuality? Have any church leaders expressed concern over this?

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A healing gospel

The typical reaction on the part of progressives to a work such as Forgetting How to Blush is to rant about “homophobia” and “hatefulness.” However, it would be difficult to label the movement Karen Booth heads, Transforming Congregations, as a homophobic and hateful group.

Many of those associated with Transforming Congregations have known sexual brokenness themselves and have experienced rejection on the part of the church. But they believe that the gospel of Jesus Christ offers healing, and they give testimony to healing that has taken place in their own lives.

Forgetting How to Blush (the title is from Jeremiah 6:15 and 8:12) is not an encouraging book. It is a sober account of “United Methodism’s Compromise with the Sexual Revolution,” an account that suggests intense spiritual warfare is taking place in The United Methodist Church.

But hope remains. Most local UM churches and ordinary church members have refused to follow the progressives in their effort to follow the secular world in regard to human sexuality.


Related posts
Group of clergy, laity calls for censure of Bishop Talbert
The UM position on marriage and sexuality is stronger than anything Dan Cathy said
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?
Bishop Mack Stokes: Holiness in human sexuality
A word from Mr. Wesley: Holiness in singleness
Renewal & Reform Coalition responds to retired bishops’ call to alter UMC’s sexuality standards
Renewal & Reform Coalition releases letter to Council of Bishops
In GBCS article, UM elder argues against celibacy for single clergy
Why the United Methodist Church cannot condone homosexuality
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’
Judicial Council says no to same-sex marriage

Related articles and information
Endorsements for Forgetting How to Blush | Bristol House
‘Behavior Doesn’t Interrupt Your Relationship with Christ': A Recipe for Disaster | Ben Witherington, ChristianityToday.com (July 12, 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)
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)
UM clergy vow to wed homosexual couples | Sam Hodges, UM Reporter (July 15, 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)
United Methodism in crisis: Scriptural renewal through the Good News Movement | Chapter 4 of Public Pulpits: Methodists and Mainline Churches in the Moral Argument of Public Life by Steven M. Tipton (University of Chicago Press, 2008 — 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)
United Methodist churches perform same-sex weddings with one foot in the closet | Amanda Hess, TBD.com (Sept. 30, 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)
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)
The story of Good News: A recollection by Charles W. Keysor (PDF) | Good News (March/April 1981)
The Junaluska Affirmation: Scriptural Christianity for United Methodists (PDF) | Forum for Scriptural Christianity (Good News) (July 20, 1975)

Read Full Post »

A group of more than 70 United Methodist clergy and laity is asking the Council of Bishops to censure retired Bishop Melvin Talbert for encouraging UM clergy to disobey the Book of Discipline’s prohibition on officiating at homosexual-union ceremonies.

The request came in a July 19 open letter (reproduced below) sent to each bishop. That letter was released publicly last week.

Bishop Talbert speaking in May in Tampa, Fla.

The Discipline notes that sexual relationships between two people of the same sex are “incompatible with Christian teaching” (¶161F) and it prohibits clergy from officiating at union ceremonies that solemnize a relationship between two men or two women (¶2702.1).

At a May 4, 2012, gathering in Tampa, Fla., held on the final day of the United Methodist Church’s quadrennial General Conference, Bishop Talbert said existing UM standards on human sexuality are “immoral and unjust and no longer deserve our loyalty and obedience.” His remarks came two days after the General Conference voted to maintain the UMC’s long-held position on homosexuality.

Bishop Talbert urged clergy who had previously committed to perform union ceremonies for homosexual couples “to stand firm in their resolve to perform marriages among…same-sex couples.” Doing so, he noted, would involve “defying the [church] laws that prohibit them from doing so.” He also called on local UM churches to host such ceremonies, an action also proscribed by the UMC’s Book of Discipline.

Although 14 other UM bishops were in attendance as he spoke, Bishop Talbert said he was not speaking on their behalf or as a representative of the Council of Bishops.

The July 19 letter asking that Bishop Talbert be censured is below, along with audio of Bishop Talbert’s May 4 address. Some links below have been added by MethodistThinker.com — Ed.

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July 19, 2012

Dear Bishop ________________ ,

Grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ! We uphold you in our prayers for the important work that God has entrusted to you on behalf of His church.

We are compelled to write this open letter to you out of deep love for The United Methodist Church. Our unity is once more challenged by the remarks of one of your number and we ask that you take appropriate action to respond.

According to the websites of Methodists In New Directions and the Reconciling Ministries Network, Bishop Melvin Talbert made the following comments on May 4, 2012, at the Love Your Neighbor Tabernacle in Tampa, Florida:

The derogatory rules and restrictions in the Book of Discipline are immoral and unjust and no longer deserve our loyalty and obedience. Thus the time has come for those of us who are faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ to do what is required of us….

The time has come to join in an act of Biblical obedience. I call on the more than 1,100 clergy [who have signed marriage initiatives] to stand firm in their resolve to perform marriages for same-sex couples and to do so in the course of their normal pastoral duties, thus defying the laws that prohibit them from doing so….

The time for talking is over. It’s time for us to act in defiance of unjust words of immoral and derogatory discrimination and laws that are doing harm to our GLBT [gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgendered] sisters and brothers.

The Reconciling Ministries Network reports that standing with Bishop Talbert were retired Bishops Judy Craig, Violet Fisher, Elias Galvan, Susan Hassinger, Don Ott, Sharon Rader, Roy Sano, and Jack Tuell; and active Bishops Warner Brown, Sally Dyck, Grant Hagiya, Bob Hoshibata, John Schol, and Mary Ann Swenson.

Each bishop of The United Methodist Church has agreed to live within the covenant defined by our Book of Discipline. Each bishop is charged in the Book of Discipline “to uphold the discipline and order of the Church.”

Use the audio player below to listen to Bishop Talbert’s May 4 address in Tampa:

(If player doesn’t work, click here for mp3.)

We are deeply concerned that Bishop Talbert has undercut that very discipline and order, by encouraging dissension, disunity and disobedience, and advocating anarchy and chaos in response to the actions of the 2012 General Conference, taken after focused prayer, study, and holy conferencing.

Sadly, Bishop Talbert reiterated his call for UM pastors to disobey the Book of Discipline and pledged to do so himself, if given the opportunity, when he preached at the ordination service [PDF] on June 16 at the California-Pacific Annual Conference.

Some of the other bishops who stood nearby as Bishop Talbert spoke in Tampa on May 4, 2012

By their action in standing with Bishop Talbert as he made his statement at the Love Your Neighbor Tabernacle, the other bishops appear to have lent their credibility and influence to his call for disobedience.

We have corresponded with all the bishops who stood with Bishop Talbert and received replies from most of them. Some did not know ahead of time what Bishop Talbert was going to say and do not support his call for disobedience. Others did know and do support that call. Without a public statement clarifying where those bishops stand, however, it appears to our church that all were supportive.

In its November 10, 2011 letter [PDF] to United Methodist Sisters and Brothers in Christ, this Council of Bishops declared:

At times like these we call upon each other to remember and renew our covenant with God and with one another as United Methodist Christians. As bishops chosen, consecrated and assigned by the Church, we declare once again our commitment to be faithful to this covenant we have made. As the Council of Bishops we will uphold the Book of Discipline as established by General Conference.

The actions of Bishop Talbert specifically, and any of those retired and active bishops who stood with him, knowing what he was prepared to say, directly contravene this commitment made by the Council of Bishops as a whole. We commend the commitment of the Council of Bishops to be intentional in holding one another mutually accountable to the office and responsibilities of bishops as outlined in our Book of Discipline.

Now is the time for you to demonstrate your commitment by acting to hold these who have been disobedient to the order and discipline of The United Methodist Church accountable for their inflammatory actions. We ask that:

  • the executive committee of the Council of Bishops and the colleges of bishops in the various jurisdictional and central conferences when they next meet publicly censure Bishop Talbert for his statement;
  • the executive committee of the Council of Bishops request that those retired and active bishops who stood with Bishop Talbert as he called for disobedience to the Book of Discipline issue specific statements repudiating Bishop Talbert’s call to perform same-sex unions, and should they fail to do so, publicly censure them for their actions;
  • the executive committee of the Council of Bishops file a formal complaint against Bishop Melvin Talbert under ¶ 2702 (e) [disobedience to the order and discipline of The United Methodist Church in violating his responsibility to uphold that order and discipline], ¶ 2702 (f) [dissemination of doctrines contrary to the established standards of doctrine of The United Methodist Church], and ¶ 2702 (g) [engaging in behavior that undermines the ministry of another pastor].

We acknowledge that these are challenging days in The United Methodist Church. We affirm our commitment to the Book of Discipline, including its statement “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.”

We fully support the Discipline’s affirmation [in ¶ 161F] “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.”

We will continue to uphold you in prayer. We will continue to work together to preserve the unity and integrity of The United Methodist Church, and to make disciples for the transformation of the world.

We look forward to the actions you will take in response to this open letter.

Yours in Christ,

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The Rev. Ed Robb III, The Woodlands UMC, The Woodlands, Texas
The Rev. Thom Abrahamson, Armona UMC & Lemoore UMC, Lemoore, Calif.
The Rev. John Allen, Flower Mound Trietsch Memorial UMC, Flower Mound, Texas
The Rev. Scott Allred, Aldersgate UMC, Chico, Calif.
Turner Arant, Confessing Movement Board, Sunflower, Miss.
The Rev. Larry Baird, Trinity UMC, President of Confessing Movement Board, Grand Island, N.Y.
The Rev. Richard Bayard, Retired Elder, Visalia, Calif.
The Rev. Bill Bouknight, Associate Director, Confessing Movement, Columbia, S.C.
The Rev. Keith Boyette, Wilderness Community UMC, Chair of Good News Board, Spotsylvania, Va.
The Rev. James Buskirk, Confessing Movement Board, Tulsa, Okla.
The Rev. Riley Case, Associate Director, Confessing Movement, Kokomo, Ind.
The Rev. Bryan Collier, The Orchard UMC, Tupelo, Miss.
The Rev. Robert Collins, Jr., Centenary UMC, Modesto, Calif.
Robert Draper, Good News Board, Hot Springs, Ark.
The Rev. Maxie Dunnam, Confessing Movement Board, Memphis, Tenn.
Mickey Ellis, Confessing Movement Board, Houston, Texas
The Rev. Charles Ferrara, New Life Community Church UMC, New Fairfield, Conn.
The Rev. Scott Field, Wheatland Salem UMC, Good News Board, Naperville, Ill.
The Rev. John Gerlach, Trinity UMC, Windsor, Conn.
The Rev. Robert Gorrell, Church of the Servant, Oklahoma City, Okla.
Judy Graham, Confessing Movement Board, Houston, Texas
The Rev. Ronald Greilich, Elder, Retired, Clovis, Calif.
The Rev. John Grenfell, Jr., Good News Board, Fort Gratiot, Mich.
The Rev. Randall Hageman, Gateway Community UM Congregation, Houston, Texas
The Rev. Rick Hanse, West Hartford UMC, West Hartford, Conn.
The Rev. Chet Harris, Dueber UMC, Canton, Ohio
The Rev. Tom Harrison, Asbury UMC, Tulsa, Okla.
The Rev. Matthew Hartsfield, Van Dyke UMC, Tampa, Fla.
The Rev. Tony Holifield, Central UMC, Fayetteville, Ark.
The Rev. Godfrey Hubert, Foundry UMC, Houston, Texas
The Rev. Kent Jackson, Branford UMC, Branford, Conn.
Tom Junk, Confessing Movement Board, Tulsa, Okla.
Joe Kilpatrick, Confessing Movement Board, Tucker, Ga.
The Rev. Chong IL Kim, Bible UMC of New York, Dix Hills, N.Y.
Katy Kiser, Good News Board, Carrollton, Texas
The Rev. Thomas Lambrecht, Vice President, Good News, Spring, Texas
The Rev. Charles Kyker, Christ UMC, Confessing Movement Board, Hickory, N.C.
The Rev. James Leggett, Grace Fellowship UMC, Katy, Texas
The Rev. Kenneth Levingston, Jones Memorial UMC, Houston, Texas
The Rev. Joseph MacLaren, University Carillon UMC, Oviedo, Fla.
The Rev. David Mantz, First UMC, Port Jefferson, N.Y.
The Rev. Jim Martin, The River UMC, Richmond, Texas
The Rev. John Ed Mathison, Confessing Movement Board, Montgomery, Ala.
The Rev. Gregory McGarvey, Carmel UMC, Confessing Movement Board, Carmel, Ind.
The Rev. Randell Mickler, Mt. Bethel UMC, Marietta, Ga.
Dan Moore, Confessing Movement Board, Martinsville, Ind.
The Rev. Delroy Murdock, St. Paul’s UMC, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Norman Neel, Good News Board, San Augustine, Texas
The Rev. Allen Newton, St. James UMC, Montgomery, Ala.
The Rev. Randy Paige, Christ Church United Methodist, Port Jefferson Station, N.Y.
The Rev. James Presig, Lee’s Summit UMC, Lee’s Summit, Mo.
The Rev. Glen Raley, First UMC, Marysville, Calif.
The Rev. Robert Renfroe, The Woodlands UMC President of Good News, The Woodlands, Texas
Donna Schlitt, Confessing Movement Board, Houston, Texas
The Rev. Mike Schreiner, Morning Star Church, O’Fallon, Mo.
Donald Shell, Good News Board, Houston, Texas
The Rev. Dan Slagle, FaithBridge Church, Good News Board, Spring, Texas
The Rev. Ralph Sigler, Harvest Church UM, Dothan, Ala.
The Rev. Roger Spahr, Cornerstone Church, Watertown, S.D.
David Stanley, Confessing Movement Board, Muscatine, Iowa
Helen Rhea Stumbo, Good News Board, Fort Valley, Ga.
The Rev. Jeff Switzer, Sandtown UMC, Confessing Movement Board, Sandtown, Miss.
The Rev. Alpher Sylvester, Bethany UMC, Brooklyn, N.Y.
The Rev. Richard Thompson, First UMC, Good News Board, Bakersfield, Calif.
The Rev. Robert Thompson-Gee, Poughkeepsie UMC, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
The Rev. Doug Thrasher, Hillside UMC, Woodstock, Ga.
The Rev. Robert Tindale, Killearn UMC, Tallahassee, Fla.
The Rev. Kirt Watkins, Sea Cliff UMC, Sea Cliff, N.Y.
The Rev. Stephen Wende, First UMC, Confessing Movement Board, Houston, Texas
The Rev. Ken Werlein, FaithBridge Church, Spring, Texas
The Rev. Alice Wolfe, Christ UMC, Baltimore, Ohio
The Rev. Steve Wood, Mount Pisgah UMC, Confessing Movement Board, Alpharetta, Ga.
Marianne Wright, Good News Board, Valdosta, Ga.
The Rev. Harold Zimmick, Asbury UMC, Madison, Wis.


Related posts
Chasing away young people by being faithful to the gospel?
Should United Methodists agree to disagree on homosexuality?
General Conference 2012: More attempts to change UM standards on sexual behavior
If defiance continues, United Methodism may come crashing down
Podcast: Mark Tooley, author of Taking Back the United Methodist Church
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 articles and information
Bishop accused of urging disobedience | Heather Hahn, United Methodist News Service (Aug. 24, 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)
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)
UM clergy vow to wed homosexual couples | Sam Hodges, UM Reporter (July 15, 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)
United Methodism in crisis: Scriptural renewal through the Good News Movement | Chapter 4 of Public Pulpits: Methodists and Mainline Churches in the Moral Argument of Public Life by Steven M. Tipton (University of Chicago Press, 2008 — via Google Books)
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)

Read Full Post »

Bill Bouknight

This post is by Dr. William R. Bouknight, associate director of the Confessing Movement Within the United Methodist Church.

His comments below about homosexual activists and Chick-fil-A first appeared in a slightly different form in the August 2012 Confessing Movement newsletter.

Bill Bouknight is the author of The Authoritative Word: Preaching Trust in a Skeptical Age (Abingdon, 2001) and If Disciples Grew Like Kudzu (Bristol House, 2007).

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

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Chick-fil-A was started in 1967 by a prominent Baptist layman S. Truett Cathy. The restaurant chain is now led by his like-minded son, Dan Cathy. Most of the company’s 1,600 restaurants are located in the Bible Belt, with headquarters near Atlanta.

Recently, Dan Cathy told the Biblical Recorder (the newspaper of the North Carolina Baptist Convention) that he was “guilty as charged” for backing the “biblical definition of the family unit.”

“We are a family-owned business, a family-led business,” he said. “We want to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families.”

From the UM
Book of Discipline

¶161B Marriage

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

¶161F Human Sexuality

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

The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider[s] this practice incompatible with Christian teaching. We affirm that God’s grace is available to all….

In a separate radio interview, Cathy said: “I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.'”

What could be more traditional or non-sensational than that? The United Methodist Church has a much stronger position on sexuality and marriage than Mr. Cathy expressed. (Language from the UMC’s Book of Discipline is excerpted at right; the full text of ¶161B is here; ¶161F is here.)

But the homosexual lobby exploded in outrage, and some politicians joined in.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said, “Chick-fil-A’s values are not Chicago values.” Boston Mayor Thomas Menino accused Chick-fil-A of practicing discrimination, though the restaurant chain has no apparent record of practicing any kind of discrimination.

What if the mayors of Chicago and Boston get hold of a United Methodist Book of Discipline? They might declare that no new UM churches are welcome in their cities!

What is at the heart of this controversy? The homosexual lobby is trying to intimidate Christians into silence.

If activist homosexuals can persuade clergy (especially) that speaking out on biblical values related to sexuality and marriage is “political” —rather than moral and spiritual — and therefore should be avoided lest it give offense, the homosexual lobby will have won a major battle.

-

Against the grain

The outrage over Dan Cathy’s comments is a stark reminder that biblical values will always be in conflict with those of the secular culture. If we dare take biblical positions on controversial issues, sparks will fly.

But we must take courage. It is for this difficult hour that we have been called.

God’s plan for marriage as a lifetime covenant between one man and one woman must be declared and defended publicly, without demonizing those who disagree.

Chick-fil-A founder Truett Cathy in 2003

In this world where an estimated 270 Christians are martyred every single day because of their stand for Christ, our only risk in America is that we might be criticized!

Is there a single United Methodist bishop who will follow Billy Graham’s courageous example and publicly defend Dan Cathy and the biblical definition of marriage? Is there one who will publicly stand by our United Methodist teaching on marriage and human sexuality?

If bishops are silent when an important moral/spiritual standard is under attack, surely that sends a message to all preachers to do likewise.


Related posts
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?
Bishop Mack Stokes: Holiness in human sexuality
A word from Mr. Wesley: Holiness in singleness
Renewal & Reform Coalition responds to retired bishops’ call to alter UMC’s sexuality standards
Renewal & Reform Coalition releases letter to Council of Bishops
Why the United Methodist Church cannot condone homosexuality
In embracing homosexual marriage, Foundry UMC rejects UM boundaries, breaks with 2 millennia of church teaching
Judicial Council says no to same-sex marriage

Related articles and information
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)
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)
UM clergy vow to wed homosexual couples | Sam Hodges, UM Reporter (July 15, 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)
United Methodist churches perform same-sex weddings with one foot in the closet | Amanda Hess, TBD.com (Sept. 30, 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)
Truett Cathy tosses cows, mesmerizes North Georgia UMs (PDF) | Alice M. Smith, Wesleyan Christian Advocate (North and South Ga. Conferences) (July 4, 2003)
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)

Read Full Post »

Tomorrow (May 8) voters in North Carolina will decide whether to approve a state constitutional amendment that says “Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in [North Carolina].”

Jim Garlow

The commentary below is by the Rev. Jim Garlow, pastor of Skyline Wesleyan Church in La Mesa, Calif., who fought for passage of similar pro-marriage legislation in California in 2008.

Dr. Garlow founded the California Pastors Rapid Response Team, a group of pastors who endorsed Proposition 8, a state initiative that said “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”

Proposition 8 was approved by a majority of California voters but was later overturned by a U.S. District Court Judge.

Jim Garlow holds degrees from Drew University (Ph.D.), Princeton Theological Seminary (Th.M.), and Asbury Theological Seminary (M.Div.).

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God is neither male nor female (John 4:24), yet the Bible says human beings are made in the “image of God” (Gen. 1:26-27).

This image is expressed in us individually, but a more complete version is on display when the two halves of humanity complement each other and become one.

A male, by himself, is not fully representative of all the descriptors of the image of God. At the same time, a female, by herself, cannot do justice to the full spectrum of the image of God. However, when the two complementary halves of humanity unite — physically, spiritually, mentally, emotionally and psychologically — the image of God is more fully expressed.

This is why male and female are made for oneness — anatomically, emotionally, and spiritually. Joined together, a husband and wife represent the full spectrum of the “image” of God.

One part of God’s image is his life-giving creativity. In sexual union, a man and a woman become, in a sense, “co-creators” with God. As husband and wife unite, children come into being — one more expression of the image (creativity) of God. A sperm and an egg unite to form (miraculously) a human! A person!

The undeniable components for displaying this life-giving aspect of the image of God are male and female, the complementary halves of humanity, becoming one.

When Jesus participated in a wedding (John 2:1-11) or spoke of marriage (Matt. 19:3-11), the context was the joining of male and female in “oneness marriage” that expresses the notion of the image of God.

The idea of “two becoming one” is the why the Bible never affirms or even suggests the idea of male-male or female-female “marriage.” Nowhere. Not overtly. Not covertly.

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Earthly marriage is but a shadow

Marriage is obviously a key image in Scripture. The Bible opens with a marriage — between a man and a woman (Gen. 2:4-25). The Bible closes with a wedding — between a groom and bride (Rev. 19:6-9). In between, one man-one woman marriage is extolled in both the Old (Prov. 18:22) and New Testaments (Heb. 13:4), as well as by Jesus Himself.

But let’s take our understanding of marriage to the next level.

We tend to think that “real” marriage is that which we see here on earth. We assume that God simply “borrowed” the metaphor of marriage in the Book of the Revelation in an attempt to describe what will happen at the culmination of all history — the marriage of Jesus and the church.

We have it backward.

The real marriage is the one at the culmination of history, the Marriage of The Groom (Jesus) and The Bride (The Church).

We have never ever seen the real marriage. It is yet to come — at the end of time. Here on earth, we only have a “shadow” of the real thing. Earthly marriage is merely the hors d’oeuvre, the appetizer, not the main course.

God established earthly marriage — between a man and a woman — to provide a tiny foretaste of the spectacular True Marriage that is to come. Intimacy between a married man and woman is but a minuscule glimpse of the breathtaking oneness that Jesus and the Church will experience.

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A satanic strategy

It should come as no surprise that Satan is obsessed with destroying marriage — the fitting together of male and female, the two complimentary halves of humanity. After all, marriage is meant to be a mirror, an image, of what is to be fulfilled at the end of this age.

From this perspective, the battle we face today is not ultimately about earthly marriage or about religious freedom — or even about the practice of homosexuality as such.

It is about Satan’s desire to mar the picture of God’s ultimate design for the Cosmos: the Grand Wedding of His Son to the Prepared Bride.


Related posts
Bishop Mack Stokes: Holiness in human sexuality
Why the United Methodist Church cannot condone homosexuality
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
Judicial Council says no to same-sex marriage

Related articles and information
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)
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)
UM clergy vow to wed homosexual couples | Sam Hodges, UM Reporter (July 15, 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)
United Methodist churches perform same-sex weddings with one foot in the closet | Amanda Hess, TBD.com (Sept. 30, 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)
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)

Read Full Post »

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).


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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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Whatever benefits a restructuring The United Methodist Church may bring, it will not result in the UMC becoming more effective in its stated mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ, according to Rob Renfroe, the president of Good News, the oldest and largest renewal ministry within United Methodism.

The Rev. Rob Renfroe

In a radio interview that aired April 21, Renfroe said that to increase effectiveness, the UMC needs more “spiritually impassioned, Christ-centered…leaders [who will] speak to us about a lost world and a gospel that saves people.”

The interview aired on the The World and Everything in It, a weekly radio program produced by WORLD News Group, the organization that publishes WORLD Magazine.

On the topic of repeated legislative attempts to alter The United Methodist Church’s doctrine on human sexuality, Renfroe said the church’s ministry to people suffering “sexual brokenness” would be undermined if the General Conference opts to affirm sexual relations between people of the same sex.

“Once we decide that homosexuality…is a good gift of God that deserves to be blessed, we have in that moment abdicated the healing ministry of the church,” he said.

Use the audio player below to listen to the six-minute conversation with Rob Renfroe. If the audio player doesn’t work, use this mp3 file.

(NOTE: The interview with Rob Renfroe follows a brief segment on the the recent legal settlement between the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and Truro Anglican Church. Truro broke from The Episcopal Church in early 2007 over concerns related to biblical fidelity.)

Rob Renfroe has served as the president of Good News — and the publisher of Good News magazine — since 2009. He is also the pastor of adult discipleship at The Woodlands United Methodist Church in The Woodlands, Texas.

From 2007-2009, he served as president of the board of the Confessing Movement Within the United Methodist Church.


Related posts
Should United Methodists agree to disagree on homosexuality?
UMC restructuring: Power shifts, turf battles and trust
Bishop Mack Stokes: Holiness in human sexuality
Podcast: Rob Renfroe on ‘The Truth About God’
A word from Mr. Wesley: Holiness in singleness
Renewal & Reform Coalition releases letter to Council of Bishops
UM renewal leader: ‘The UMC is worth fighting for’
Podcast: Rob Renfroe on ‘The Deeper Issues of Methodist Renewal’
Podcast: Dr. James Heidinger on ‘United Methodist Renewal’
Podcast: Charles Keysor – ‘How then should UM evangelicals fight?’

Related articles and information
The deeper issues of United Methodist renewal | Rob Renfroe, Good News (via The Sundry Times)
Compromising positions | Rob Renfroe, Good News (May-June 2011)
What do United Methodists expect from their bishops? | Rob Renfroe, Good News (Feb. 17, 2011)
Should the UMC change its ordination standards and allow sexually active homosexuals to serve as clergy? | Rob Renfroe, Good News (Feb. 17, 2011)
In pursuit of truth | Rob Renfroe, Good News (January/February 2011)
Believe, experience, and increase | Rob Renfroe, Good News (June/July 2010)
Grace and truth (video) | Rob Renfroe, Asbury Seminary Chapel (April 13, 2010)
Speaking the truth in love | Rob Renfroe, Good News (September/October 2009)
For the cause of Christ (PDF) | Rob Renfroe, Good News (May/June 2009)
Defining the issues: A Methodist witness | Albert Mohler (Nov. 1, 2006)
United Methodism in crisis: Scriptural renewal through the Good News Movement | Chapter 4 of Public Pulpits: Methodists and Mainline Churches in the Moral Argument of Public Life by Steven M. Tipton (University of Chicago Press, 2008 — via Google Books)
Turning Around the Mainline: How Renewal Movements Are Changing the Church (ordering info) | Thomas C. Oden, Baker Books (2006)
40 years of vision for United Methodist Renewal (PDF) | James V. Heidinger II, Good News (November/December 2007)
The story of Good News: A recollection by Charles W. Keysor (PDF) | Good News (March/April 1981)
The Junaluska Affirmation: Scriptural Christianity for United Methodists (PDF) | Forum for Scriptural Christianity (Good News) (July 20, 1975)

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The following statement was released April 13 by the Renewal and Reform Coalition, composed of Good News, the Confessing Movement Within the United Methodist Church, Lifewatch, RENEW, Transforming Congregations, and UMAction.

Links and subheadings have been added by MethodistThinker.com — Ed.

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It’s that time again. General Conference will soon be here and all of us are hoping and praying for a Conference that will “major on the majors” and propel The United Methodist Church toward a vital, growing, and faithful future.

Of course, the issue that has divided us for over 40 years will need to be addressed again. And no doubt the debate regarding the practice of homosexuality will be as heartfelt and as emotional as it has been in the past.

Though other issues such as restructuring, vital congregations, and reaching young adults are essential for our future, none of those issues carries the possibility of splitting the denomination. Only the issue of homosexuality has that potential — will we ordain and appoint practicing homosexual clergy and marry same-sex couples?

Homosexuality is not the most important issue before the church, but it is the most divisive and the one that can rip apart The United Methodist Church, just as it has The United Church of Christ, The Episcopal Church in the U.S., The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and, most recently, The Presbyterian Church (USA).

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A proposed ‘compromise’

Some are proposing that we avoid this kind of damage to The United Methodist Church by adopting one of two “compromise” positions. At our last General Conference there was a strong movement simply to “agree to disagree.” This position would have us admit that we are of divided mind regarding homosexual practice and would have us make no definitive statement regarding the practice of homosexuality until we receive “further light.”

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.

While appealing to some, this “compromise” is ultimately unhelpful. We all want to be done with this issue. When a matter is pragmatic and little more, compromise can be the right option to take. Part of growing up is realizing that you can’t and don’t need to get your way all the time.

But when the issue is one of principle and when it involves the clear teaching of Scripture, we cannot take the easy way out and claim that we do not know what we believe without injuring our personal integrity and our corporate witness.

And to be honest, everyone knows that removing the clear statement we currently have in the Discipline would not resolve the issue. It is only a first step by those whose ultimate intention is to change the church’s position. That’s hardly a true compromise.

When the “agree-to-disagree compromise” was defeated in Fort Worth and the historic position of the church was reaffirmed, the charge against those who supported the church’s stance was, “You’re dishonest. We are of divided mind. Why won’t you even allow us to state that we differ?”

It’s a good question. And there’s a very good answer. We United Methodists are divided on practically every issue. But in none of our other statements on matters theological, moral, or cultural do we state that we have agreed to disagree.

Many United Methodists were surprised to discover that our denomination has a position on healthcare that supports the government providing universal coverage. Not only surprised to discover that we had a position, they were adamant that they disagreed with it.

Will those wanting us to adopt the “agree to disagree” position on homosexuality be consistent and ask the General Conference to remove our stance on healthcare and replace it with “we are of divided mind and are waiting for God to give us additional light before we take a position”?

We are divided on the church’s position regarding abortion. Some want us to take a stand against all abortions. Others want us to liberalize our position. Should we have no statement other than “we aren’t sure what we believe about abortion”?

We are divided regarding war. Some of us are pacifists; others adopt a just war viewpoint. Our differences have not kept our Bishops from issuing a statement on war. Nor have our differences kept us from making pronouncements in the Book of Discipline regarding collective bargaining, consumption, civil disobedience, and the death penalty.

None of those positions passed with 100% agreement at General Conference, and none of our positions in the Book of Discipline on those issues begins, “We are of divided mind.”

-

Another approach

The other “compromise” that will come before General Conference is an “Annual Conference” option. This approach would grant each Conference the autonomy to decide its own policies regarding ordination of practicing homosexual clergy, as well as performing same-sex marriages.

Again, though perhaps well intended, such a solution would be disastrous for the health of our church. We are a connectional body — and we are grateful and even proud of that reality. One of the reasons we are United Methodists is because we believe that a divided church is less than what Christ desires and prayed for in John 17.

In the past we have bemoaned the fragmented nature of the Church Universal and have been dismayed that there are so many “independent” congregations that are autonomous and accountable to no body greater than themselves.

Now, some are trying to make us United Methodists what we have never been to solve a matter of biblical interpretation and ecclesiastical accountability.

Annual Conferences and individual churches are not autonomous when it comes to paying apportionments, infant baptism, or women’s ordination — and they shouldn’t be. It means something to be United Methodists. We cannot violate our very nature to solve a problem just because we want it to go away.

  • The autonomous solution would create chaos. Could an elder ordained in one Annual Conference be denied appointment in another Conference because the second Conference has different ordination standards?
  • The autonomous solution would ruin our witness. Persons looking for a church home could not be certain what they would find in any congregation, and a bad experience in one local church could very easily turn them away from the entire denomination.
  • The autonomous solution would destroy our unity. This would be the first step toward a balkanization of the church that would cause us to drift further apart as time passes. This compromise intended to “keep us together” would insure, over time, just the opposite.
  • The autonomous solution would grant exemptions from church standards. Once exemptions are granted in one area, it will be very difficult to maintain any kind of covenant of mutual accountability within the church.

No promise of ecclesiastical peace and unity can justify these distortions of the church’s theology and polity.

-

The way forward

We may remain a divided church on the practice of homosexuality for some time to come. That’s a hard place to be. But our way out is not an easy solution that compromises our integrity by saying we don’t know what we believe or dismantles our connectional unity.

Our way forward is to listen to each other respectfully, to remain open to God, to vote our conscience, and to stay committed to each other and to the process of holy conferencing.


Related posts
General Conference 2012: More attempts to change UM standards on sexual behavior
If defiance continues, United Methodism may come crashing down
Podcast: Mark Tooley, author of Taking Back the United Methodist Church
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 articles and information
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)
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)
UM clergy vow to wed homosexual couples | Sam Hodges, UM Reporter (July 15, 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)
United Methodism in crisis: Scriptural renewal through the Good News Movement | Chapter 4 of Public Pulpits: Methodists and Mainline Churches in the Moral Argument of Public Life by Steven M. Tipton (University of Chicago Press, 2008 — via Google Books)
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)

Read Full Post »

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), and he has been a delegate to five UM General Conferences.

He is the author of Evangelical and Methodist: A Popular History (Abingdon Press).

This opinion piece was originally published in a 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 will discuss many important matters next month at General Conference in Tampa, Fla. — such as restructuring, the budget, and the global nature of the church. But for the press, the big news will be the decisions made around homosexuality.

The United Methodist Church is the last of the mainline churches to hold to the biblical view on marriage and the practice of homosexuality, and the pro-homosexual lobby knows that getting the UMC to alter that stand would greatly advance the homosexual agenda. To that end hundreds of thousands of dollars — much of it from outsiders not connected with the UM Church — have been poured into an effort to overturn United Methodism’s present stance.

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 United Methodist position on matters related to homosexuality is clear: All persons are individuals of sacred worth; marriage is between a man and a woman; the practice of homosexuality is not compatible with Christian teaching.

But we live in an increasingly secular society that is moving toward the acceptance of homosexual practice and, tied to it, homosexual marriage.

A vocal group in the church — those who call themselves progressives — agrees with the secular world. As one person said: “Society around us is leading the way about accepting of homosexual practice and the church is lagging behind.”

The progressives include some who by title and position are considered leaders in The United Methodist Church, including bishops, seminary professors, and board and agency staff.

-

What to watch for

So we come to General Conference 2012. While there are many petitions seeking to change the church’s historical stance in regard to human sexuality, three groups of petitions bear special watching.

1) Petitions that would have the church redefine marriage so that it is no longer a covenant between “a man and a woman” but between “two persons” (see an example here—PDF).

There is no biblical argument nor is there any argument from church or cultural tradition for this kind of redefinition.

The main religious argument is an inclusion/exclusion argument — i.e., we should not deny two men or two women who love each other the privilege of marriage because to do so is judgmental and restrictive (for progressives being judgmental and restrictive are practically the only personal sins left to condemn).

2) Petitions from several annual conferences would place disclaimers in the preamble to the Social Principles (see an example here—PDF).

These petitions want the preamble to state that unanimity of belief, opinion, and practice has never been characteristic of the Church. Therefore when there are significant differences of opinion in the church (such as around the practice of homosexuality), these differences should not be covered over with false claims of consensus, but embraced with courage as the people of God continue to discern God’s will.

The important thing is “celebrate our differences” and stay together.

The logical question to ask in response to these petitions is: Why then even bother? Why have any statements of faith? Why have any Social Principles? Why appeal to any biblical teaching? When all the chaff is blown away these petitions want us to say that, in practice, the United Methodist Church has no standards. Whatever is said in doctrinal standards or Social Principles is only a matter of opinion.

3) At least two petitions direct the church and the world to refrain from judgment regarding homosexual persons and practices “until the Spirit leads us into new insight” (see pages 273-276 of this PDF file).

“Until the Spirit leads us into new insight?” The assumption behind the statement is that whatever Scripture says, whatever church tradition holds, whatever the truth claims made by Christian groups of all times and in all places, these teachings are not adequate to serve as the basis for our moral standards.

Apparently, in these modern, secular times we are waiting for the “new insight” the Spirit offers us.

Petitions such as these typically make reference to “unity” and all being “people of good will” and “working together.” But when Christian faith with its appeal to Scripture is attacked and replaced with ideology based on personal preferences and subjective experience, we have long departed from unity and good will and working together. We are talking about two different religions.

Related posts
If defiance continues, United Methodism may come crashing down
Podcast: Mark Tooley, author of Taking Back the United Methodist Church
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 articles and information
Outsider influence over homosexuality at General Conference | Karen Booth, Good News (January/February 2012)
UM clergy vow to wed homosexual couples | Sam Hodges, UM Reporter (July 15, 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)

Read Full Post »

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