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After 4.5 years and 270 posts — including 30 podcasts and more than 60 pieces of original reporting — MethodistThinker.com is being discontinued. The archive will remain intact, but this site will not be updated,.

TW&E_StackI invite you to listen to The World & Everything in It, a daily radio program for which I serve as senior producer and co-host.

Gospel Coalition blogger Trevin Wax describes it as being “like NPR from a Christian worldview.”

The program is produced by WORLD Radio, part of the same organization that publishes WORLD Magazine. It is available as a podcast and via online streaming.

Thank you for reading MethodistThinker.com.


Joseph Slife, editor

(This post has been updated since its original posting.)

The Apostle Paul pronounced this blessing on the Church at Rome: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, until, by the power of the Holy Spirit, you overflow with hope” (Rom. 15:13).

LORD God, give followers of Jesus such a full measure of joy and peace that our hope overflows to those around us who are without hope in the world.

hope-in-the-lordYou have put us here to touch others with a message of profound hope — the gospel of Jesus Christ. By the power of your Holy Spirit, give us success in that fulfilling that mission.

Cause our joy and peace to attract the attention of people who don’t yet know Jesus.

When they ask about the reason for the hope we have, may we be prepared to give an answer that points to Jesus the Righteous One — the One who lived and died and lives again.


Spiritual growth resources for 2013
Reading the Bible in 2013 | Justin Taylor, The Gospel Coalition
Yearly Bible-reading schedule (PDF)
A Wesleyan Spiritual Reader, edited by Bishop Rueben P. Job (Abingdon, 1998) (preview here)
Renew My Heart: Classic Insights from John Wesley (Barbour, 2011) (also available for Kindle)
A quiet-times calendar (a tool for keeping track of your consistency in maintaining a daily devotional time — PDF)

A Christmas prayer

Father, we stand in awe of what we celebrate. How can it be that the all-sufficient God of the universe became a helpless child resting in a feed trough?

mary_joseph_jesus_mangerHow can it be that the divine Word reduced Himself to unintelligible sounds?

How can it be that the hands that once sculpted mountain ranges, now made flesh, reach to grab hold of a loving mother’s finger?

We don’t know. Yet it happened. Jesus came, the visible expression of the invisible God, to bring God to us and us to God.

The darkness of this world at times seems overwhelming, but in midst of the darkness we again see the Light of Christmas — the Light that cannot be overcome.

Before Him, we bow down and worship.

The prayer above is adapted from the first chapter of Ken Gire’s 1989 book, Intimate Moments with the Savior (Zondervan).

Editor’s note: In 1996, I had the privilege of recording a portion of Ken Gire’s retelling of the nativity story for a nationally syndicated radio program. The piece was produced by Duane Harms, now of i5810 Media. To listen, use the audio player below (4 minutes). — jms

Looking for just the right gift for a preacher? Consider Warren Lathem and Dan Dunn’s 2008 book, Preaching for a Response: Leading New Believers into Spiritual Maturity, published by Bristol House. preaching-for-a-response2

The authors (Lathem has served as a pastor, district superintendent, and seminary president; Dunn has been a pastor, associate pastor, and missionary) know how to declare biblical truths in ways that elicit a clear response from listeners — a skill neither learned in seminary.

From the book:

These authors have a collective 17 years of formal theological education.

Yet never in those years did anyone attempt to instruct either of us in how to preach for a response, how to give the invitation for a response, or even why we ought to find a way to invite and encourage a response….

[But r]esponse is inherent in the gospel and the gospel preacher who does night invite response is not being completely faithful to the gospel.

Other excerpts:

How many sermons are preached, how many worship services are conducted in church all across America without any thought being given to a response by the hearer? How often do preachers and worship leaders prepare a great banquet, set it before the people, entice them to this gospel feast with beautiful words and music, yet never say, “Come and get it”?…

We may delude ourselves into thinking that just because the listener recognizes the need to respond, that he or she will know how to make a proper response to the gospel.

More likely, without direction, guidance and invitation from the preacher, most will simply make no overt, conscious, intentional response, and by failing to do so will in fact reject the message they just heard….

Why do most mainline preachers fail to issue an invitation or give an opportunity for response? There are several possible reasons….

  • We do not really believe people are lost…
  • We do not believe the power of the gospel…
  • We do not know how to invite a response…
  • We would not know what do if they did respond…
  • Our order of worship does not accommodate a response…
  • We are fearful of the opinion of others…
  • We do not take preaching seriously enough….

Preaching for a Response includes advice about “what to say” and “how to say it.” The chapter “Twelve Keys to Effective Preaching” emphasizes the basic building blocks of effective speaking — such as maintaining strong eye contact, using varied pacing, employing short sentences, and ending strong.

Warren_Lathem

Warren Lathem

Dan_Dunn

Dan Dunn

The book also includes detailed suggestions on how to plan worship services, week after week, aimed at eliciting responses that move people toward maturity in Christ.

You can order Preaching for a Response here (Amazon) or here (Bristol House).

The Holy Spirit plays a key and prominent role in the Christmas story, as detailed most fully in the Gospel According to Luke. Yet the outbreak of the Spirit’s activity that surrounds the birth of Jesus Christ receives relatively little attention in contemporary preaching/teaching about Advent and Christmas.

Charismatic Theology of St. LukeThe sudden stirring of the Holy Spirit recorded in Luke 1 and 2 is in sharp contrast to Spirit’s apparent absence during the 400 years of the intertestamental period.

As noted by scholar Roger Stronstad in The Charismatic Theology of St. Luke (Baker Academic, 2012), during those long years, Judaism had become identified with devotion to the Law, rather than prophetic proclamation, and the prophet had been replaced by the scribe.

One rabbinic teaching stated that when the last of the prophets died, “the holy spirit ceased out of Israel.”

But early in Luke’s gospel, the Holy Spirit “returns” in what Stronstad describes as “an outburst of charismatic activity.”

[T]he angel [Gabriel] announces [that the baby who is to be called John] “will be filled with the Holy Spirit, while yet in his mother’s womb.” Moreover, Gabriel informs Mary that she will conceive Jesus in this miraculous manner, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you , and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.”

Furthermore, not only will John be filled with the Holy Spirit, but subsequent events find both his mother, Elizabeth, and his father, Zacharias, “filled with the Holy Spirit.”

Finally, in a remarkable clustering of terms, the aged Simeon has

the Holy Spirit…upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the Temple….

Interpreted against the background of Judaism [that expected the revival of the activity of the Spirit when Messiah came]…the outburst of prophetic inspiration which Luke reports in the infancy narrative heralds nothing less than the dawning of the messianic age.

The Charismatic Theology of St. Luke goes on to track the record of the Holy Spirit’s activity throughout Luke and Acts, illustrating how that activity shares a fundamental continuity with the Spirit’s actions in the Old Testament. But a radical new dimension has been added, as the Spirit acts to empower the church (“the charismatic community”) for the advancement of God’s Kingdom.

Roger Stronstad is the Biblical Theology Director at Summit Pacific College in Abbotsford, British Columbia, and co-editor (with French L. Arrington) of the Life in the Spirit New Testament Commentary (Zondervan, 2003).

Roger Stronstad

For several years, he served as editor of the now-defunct Canadian C.S. Lewis Journal.

Stronstad is ordained in the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada and serves on the editorial board of The Journal of Biblical and Pneumatological Research.

The Charismatic Theology of St. Luke was originally published in 1984 (Hendrickson Publishers) and was released earlier this year in a second edition. It is available in paperback and in a Kindle edition.

Roger Stronstad’s 1999 book The Prophethood of All Believers: A Study in Luke’s Charismatic Theology was re-published in 2010 by CPT Press.


Related posts
Bishop Lindsey Davis: The wind-and-flame faith of Pentecost
Podcast: Tom Atkins — ‘We Need the Power of the Holy Spirit’
Podcast: E. Stanley Jones on ‘The Gift of the Holy Spirit’
Podcast: Bishop James King — ‘Preaching Authority’

Related articles and information
An excerpt from Chapter 1 of The Charismatic Theology of St. Luke
Academic and Pentecostal: An Appreciation of Roger Stronstad (PDF) | Martin W. Mittelstadt (Evangel University), Canadian Journal of Pentecostal-Charismatic Christianity 1 (2010)

December 6, 345 (traditional date): Nicholas, bishop of Myra (right), one of the most popular saints in the Greek and Latin churches, dies.

Eventually, stories of his generosity and cheer became part of the Christmas tradition, and St. Nicholas became the basis for Santa Claus.

December 18, 1707: Charles Wesley, who founded the Methodist movement with his brother John, is born in England. A celebrated and prolific hymnwriter, his Hark the Herald Angels Sing is widely sung this time of year.

December 18, 1865: Slavery is abolished in the United States as the 13th Amendment to the Constitution is ratified. Many of the abolitionists who pushed for its passage were Christians seeking to make America more like the Kingdom of God.

December 24, 1223: Francis of Assisi stages history’s first living nativity scene, complete with live animals, in a cave near Greccio, Italy.

December 24, 1818: Franz Gruber composes the music for Silent Night in the St. Nicholas Church of Oberndorf, Austria.

December 27, 1784: Francis Asbury is ordained superintendent of the Methodist Church in America at the famous “Christmas Conference” (left) held in Baltimore, Maryland. He soon took the title “bishop.”

December 29, 1851: The first Young Men’s Christian Association (Y.M.C.A.) in the U.S. is organized in Boston.

December 30, 1823: Charles G. Finney, the most effective evangelist in American history, is licensed to preach.

December 30, 1852: Future U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes marries “Lemonade Lucy,” so called because, as first lady, she forbade alcohol in the Executive Mansion.

The Hayeses (right, photographed on their wedding day) were both devout Methodists who began each day with prayer and organized Sunday evening worship services at the White House.

Adapted with permission from ChristianHistory.net.

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.)


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)

A Thanksgiving prayer

This classic prayer of thanksgiving is adapted from the Book of Common Prayer:

Accept, O Lord, our thanks and praise for all that you’ve done for us. We thank you for the splendor of the whole creation, for the wonder of life, and for the mystery of love.

thanksgiving_prayerWe thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for the loving care which surrounds us on every side.

We thank you for our successes, which satisfy and delight us — but also for the disappointments and failures that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone.

Above all, we thank you for your Son, Jesus Christ — for the truth of his Word and the example of his life.

We thank you for his dying, through which he overcame death — and for his rising to life again, in which we are raised to the life of your Kingdom.

Father, may we — at all times and in all places — give thanks to you in all things. Amen.

What will the bishops do?

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.


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.

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)

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.

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.

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.


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)

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

UMNS graphic

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

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

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

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

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

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

ISSUE: Abortion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Democratic Party

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

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

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

The Republican Party

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

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

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

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

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

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

ISSUE: Environment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Democratic Party

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

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

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

The Republican Party

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

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

ISSUE: Health care / Medical research

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



The Democratic Party

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

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

The Republican Party

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

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

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

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

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


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

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