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

Bishop Mack B. Stokes (UMNS photo)

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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This edition of the Methodist Thinker Mini-Podcast features a teaching excerpt from the Rev. Rob Renfroe, pastor of discipleship at The Woodlands (Texas) United Methodist Church and the president of the UM renewal ministry Good News.

The Rev. Rob Renfroe

The excerpt is from a 2009 sermon series, “The Trouble with the Truth,” preached at The Woodlands UMC .

To listen (5 min.), click the arrow on the audio player below — or download an mp3 file (5MB).

For previous MethodistThinker Podcasts, click the “podcasts” tab at the top of this page. To subscribe, use the “Subscribe to Podcasts” link near the top of the right column.

Robert Lane Renfroe earned a B.A. magna cum laude from Rice University (1977) and an M. Div. summa cum laude from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (1982).

After graduating from seminary, he was appointed to be the associate pastor at The Woodlands UMC north of Houston.

In 1988, he was named pastor of First United Methodist Church in Atlanta, Texas. Four years later, he moved to Mission Bend UMC in Houston.

In 1998, Renfroe was named executive pastor at Houston’s First United Methodist Church, serving alongside Dr. Bill Hinson (PDF). After three years in that role, he returned to The Woodlands UMC as the pastor of discipleship, a position he continues to hold.

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

Renfroe became the leader of Good News — and publisher of Good News magazine — in the summer of 2009, following the retirement of the ministry’s long-time leader, James V. Heidinger II.

A 10-minute video excerpt from Rob Renfroe’s “Trouble with the Truth” series can be seen below.

 

Related posts
Renewal & Reform Coalition responds to retired bishops’ call to alter UMC’s sexuality standards
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?’
Podcast: Bill Hinson on ‘The Making of a Minister’
A salute to James Heidinger of Good News

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)
Good News moves ministry to Houston, Texas area | Good News (November/December 2010)
Your life, God’s gift | Rob Renfroe, Good News (November/December 2010)
Believe, experience, and increase | Rob Renfroe, Good News (June/July 2010)
Grace and truth (video) | Rob Renfroe, Asbury Seminary Chapel (April 13, 2010)
Health care and the most vulnerable | Rob Renfroe, Good News (November/December 2009)
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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On this edition of the MethodistThinker Mini-Podcast, Dr. Stephen P. Wende, senior pastor of First United Methodist Church–Houston, Texas, urges the election of delegates to the 2012 UMC General Conference “who will represent God-honoring, Kingdom-focused, Christ-first, biblically strong positions.”

Steve Wende addressing N. Ga. clergy in Jan. 2011

He says that the outcome of this year’s elections will determine whether or not the future of the United Methodist Church will “be built on the path of orthodoxy, the primacy of Christ, and the advancement of the kingdom.”

Delegate elections for General Conference 2012 are occurring now across the denomination, at annual-conference sessions that began in March. Most annual conferences in the U.S. hold their yearly gatherings this month (full schedule here—PDF).

To listen to the podcast (5 min.), click the arrow on the audio player below — or download an mp3 file (5MB).

Steve Wende, a native Texan, is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, Yale Divinity School, and Princeton Theological Seminary. He has served as the senior pastor at First Methodist Houston since 2001.

He is a board member of the Confessing Movement Within the United Methodist Church and has been a delegate to several UM General and Jurisdictional Conferences.

The audio of Steve Wende used on this podcast was recorded at a January 2011 meeting of the Wesleyan Renewal Movement, a group of clergy in the North Georgia Conference. Dr. Wende’s full remarks at that event are posted here.

To subscribe to the biweekly MethodistThinker Mini-Podcast, use the “Subscribe to Podcasts” link near the top of the right column.


Related posts
Podcast — George Hunter: Can the once-great Methodist movement become a movement again?
GC 2012 delegates set at 988 — Philippines gains delegates despite large membership loss
Steve Wende: Doctrinal orthodoxy should be deciding factor in choosing GC delegates
Billy Abraham on United Methodism: ‘There is no common faith among us’
Podcast — Randy Maddox: ‘Methodist Doctrine, Spirit, and Discipline’

Related information
Schedule of 2011 United Methodist Annual Conferences (PDF) | General Council on Finance and Administration (Feb. 28, 2011)

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

The following is condensed from “The New Birth,” Sermon 45 among Mr. Wesley’s standard sermons. For easier reading, some of the wording in this condensation has been slightly updated, based on the adaptation found in Renew My Heart (Barbour Books, 2011).

A link to the full text of the original sermon is included in the links below.

You should not be surprised at my saying, “You must be born again.”
(Jesus in John 3:7)

Baptism and the new birth are not one and the same. Baptism is a sign and seal of regeneration by His Holy Spirit — a death unto sin and a new birth unto righteousness.

Baptism, the outward sign, is distinct from regeneration, the inner grace being signified. The one is visible, the other invisible. The one is an act of man; the other is a change wrought by God in the soul.

Just as the new birth and baptism are not the same, they do not always accompany each other. One may possibly be “born of water” and yet not be “born of the Spirit.” There may sometimes be the outward sign where there is no inward grace. I do not now speak with regard to infants. Whatever is the case with infants, it is sure that all of mature years who are baptized are not the same as born again.

“The tree is known by its fruits,” and it is too plain to be denied that many of those who were children of the devil before they were baptized continue the same afterward. They continue to be servants of sin with no pretense to either inward or outward holiness.

Being charitable?

What must one say who loves the souls of men and women? We see them living in willful sin, and we are grieved. What can one say — other than, “You must be born again.”

“No!” says another. “That cannot be. How can you speak so uncharitably to people. Have they not already been baptized? They cannot be born again now.”

Wesley statue in Bristol, England
Photo by Chris Bertram (used by permission)

Can they not? Do you really affirm this? Then they cannot be saved. In saying, “They cannot be born again,” you, in effect, deliver them over to damnation.

Where is the uncharitableness now? On my side or yours? You block their way to salvation and send them to hell, out of mere charity!

Perhaps it is the sinner himself — to whom in real charity we say, “You must be born again” — who responds, “I need not be born again. I was born again when I was baptized. Would you deny me my baptism?”

I answer, you have already denied it by every willful sin you have done. I say to that one, if you have been baptized, do not admit it. For how highly it aggravates your guilt, and how it will increase your damnation! For in your baptism you renounced the devil and all his works. Whenever, therefore, you do any of the works of the devil, then you deny your baptism.

Never boast again of what ought to make you ashamed.


No exception

Whether you are baptized or unbaptized, you must be born again.

If you have not already experienced this inward work of God, let this be your continual prayer: “Lord, add this to all your blessings — let me be born again. Take away whatever seems good to You — reputation, fortune, friends, health — only give me this, to be born of the Spirit. And then let me daily ‘grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ'” (2 Peter 3:18).

Adapted from Renew My Heart,
published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. Used by permission.

Related posts
A word from Mr. Wesley: Holiness in singleness
A word from Mr. Wesley: The sure cornerstone of our faith
A word from Mr. Wesley: ‘The way to the kingdom’
A word from Mr. Wesley: ‘Salvation by faith’
A word from Mr. Wesley: ‘The first doctrine’
Podcast: John Wesley on ‘The new birth’
Podcast: Donald English — Aldersgate Day address, 1988
Podcast: Bishop Gerald Kennedy on ‘The Marks of a Methodist’
Podcast: Billy Abraham on ‘Connecting Doctrine and Evangelism’

Related information
The New Birth (full text) | The Rev. John Wesley (from The Sermons of John Wesley, 1872 Edition — Thomas Jackson, editor)

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On this edition of the MethodistThinker Mini-Podcast, Dr. George Hunter of Asbury Seminary details how Methodism, at least in its institutional United Methodist form, has become what it was once a reaction against.

Dr. George Hunter

In his remarks, recorded earlier this year at United Methodist Congress on Evangelism, Dr. Hunter asks if “a once great movement” — now greatly deficient in New Testament Christianity — “can become a contagious apostolic movement once again?”

To listen to a five-minute excerpt from his January 2011 address, use the audio player below — or download an mp3 file (5MB). (Audio of Dr. Hunter courtesy of GNTV Media Ministry.)

Dr. George G. Hunter III holds the Ralph W. Beeson Chair of Christian Evangelism at Asbury Theological Seminary, where he serves as Distinguished Professor of Evangelism and Church Growth. He the founding dean of the E. Stanley Jones School of World Mission and Evangelism at Asbury.

Dr. Hunter is a graduate of Florida Southern College, the Candler School of Theology (Emory University), Princeton Seminary, and Northwestern University.

He is the author of a dozen books, including The Apostolic Congregation: Church Growth Reconceived for a New Generation (Abingdon, 2009) and The Celtic Way of Evangelism: How Christianity Can Reach the West…Again (Tenth Anniversary Edition) (Abingdon, 2010).

To subscribe to the biweekly MethodistThinker Mini-Podcast, use the “Subscribe to Podcasts” link near the top of the right column.


Related posts
Billy Abraham on United Methodism: ‘There is no common faith among us’
Podcast — Eddie Fox: ‘That the World May Know Jesus’
Podcast — Sir Alan Walker: ‘Christianity at the Crossroads’
Podcast — Harry Denman: ‘Are We Making Christ Known?’
Podcast — Bishop William R. Cannon: ‘The Whole Gospel for the Whole World’
Randy Maddox: ‘Methodist Doctrine, Spirit, and Discipline’
Billy Graham at the 1980 UM Congress on Evangelism

Related articles and information
The Call to Action: A serious conversation | George G. Hunter III, Good News magazine (March-April 2011)
Barbarians in our midst: How the Irish spread the gospel | A conversation with George G. Hunter III, Good News magazine (March-April 2000 — via Thunderstruck)

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The following commentary is by Terry Teykl, author of The Presence-Based Church, My Most Wanted: 40 Days to Pray for the Lost, and Pray the Price: United Methodists United in Prayer.

Dr. Terry Teykl

An elder in the Texas Annual Conference, Dr. Teykl is a “prayer evangelist,” traveling across the U.S. and around the world encouraging churches to develop and maintain prayer ministries.

He also serves as the “prayer pastor” at Faithbridge UMC in Spring, Texas.

Terry Teykl holds a Master of Theology from Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University. He earned a Doctor of Ministry degree with honors from Oral Roberts University.

He is the founder of Renewal Ministries and Prayer Point Press.

I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.
(Jesus in Matthew 16:18)

As the Church of Jesus Christ, are we overcoming — or are we being overcome?

I have to ask myself that question as I read about the events going on in our world today and the struggles our denomination is facing. Hemorrhaging and weak, we hardly seem like the prevailing church that started in the Upper Room and spread throughout an entire continent within a year-and-a-half.

I believe one reasons for our dysfunction is that we have become a church sold out to people. We have bought into consumerism and all the tenets thereof. The consumer-driven marketplace feeds on such factors as ingenuity, entertainment location, and image. The mottos are, “Make the customer happy. Give ’em what they want and they will come back for more. Make a profit at all cost.” The individual consumer is the prize.

While consumerism has its place in the marketplace, it is not difficult to see why it becomes a toxic virus when it is allowed to bleed over into the church.

When, as a church, we buy into the consumerism model, we begin to forfeit our birthrights as part of Jesus’ earthly bride. Driven by marketing, image control, and entertainment value, we allow ourselves to be shaped by the needs and desires of the church-shopping masses.

The whole thing becomes a people-to-people affair based on research and statistics. We do religious things based on careful assessment of human behavior in the “church industry.” Like Martha in the kitchen, we get so busy serving people that we neglect Jesus in the living room!

Being “culturally relevant” is fine — please hear me — but the church exists for God’s pleasure, not the pleasure of humankind. We are His bride, His love, created to represent Him and worship Him to His glory and honor.

We are not to be a consumer-based church, but a Presence-based church, sold out to inviting and welcoming the Presence of God.

Becoming Presence-based

The Presence-based church isn’t defined by procedures or specific worship styles. A Presence-based church doesn’t surface by following a prescribed formula, such as singing certain songs or ministering to people in a certain way.

Most importantly, a church is not Presence-based because of what it does or doesn’t do on Sunday morning. A church service is just the proverbial tip of the iceberg. It is simply a weekly expression of all that is going on under the surface.

Any church can become more Presence-based than it currently is. Any congregation, regardless of size or affiliation, can desire more of God and hunger for His manifest Presence. The issue is not so much about how we worship, but why we worship, and the heart attitude that we embody.

The Presence-based church isn’t interested in the question, “Are we attracting people?” but rather, “Are we attracting the Presence of God,” and, “Is He welcome and honored above all else?”

To be Presence-based, we must, like the Israelites in the desert, put the new Ark, which is Jesus, in the very center of our camp and be led, governed, taught, and sustained by Him alone. He is to be our identity.

The ‘Mary’ heart

Though there are several characteristics of a Presence-based church, the most distinguishing mark is a passion and hunger to know God as expressed through worship and prayer. Presence-based churches have the heart of Mary, who loved nothing more than sitting at the feet of Jesus.

Like the Levites who waited in the temple, lured by an intense fascination with the Ark of the Covenant, the people of the Presence-based church have tasted the incomparable sweetness of God’s nearness and bear His divine imprint. They worship because they are drawn to the Presence of God, and because being created by God for that purpose, they feel more alive and fulfilled during worship than at any other time. It is their passion and purpose.

In the Presence-based church, worship isn’t confined to a one hour service on Sunday morning. It is an ongoing dance that engages all that we are in loving all that He is. Presence-based worship is a response to a God who is so terrifyingly magnificent, yet so intimately known, that praise and adoration burst forth naturally and without effort. It cannot be contained.

Small groups worship at the feet of Jesus. The worship leaders usher the congregation to the feet of Jesus Sunday after Sunday after Sunday. Even board meetings engage the business of the church at the feet of Jesus.

The Presence-based church lives on the cutting edge of worship because its people are constantly looking for ways to press past any barriers that would hinder their expression of love and adoration.

Worship leaders in Presence-based churches may ask people to bow or kneel or worship in a prolonged period of silence and listening. They may introduce His people to worship music from different cultures. Occasionally, they may even dismiss the visitors at the end of the service and invite the regular members to stay and continue worshiping past noon.

Outside the camp

The prayer life of the Presence-based church follows a similar pattern. Hungry to know God’s ways, His glory, His heart, His voice, His rest and His thoughts, the people push past prayer that meets human agendas to seek God just for Himself. They pray to see His face, not just move His hand.

This is a realm of prayer that few ever experience. It is the purist form of prayer that teeters close to the edge of worship — that of praying to know God for no other reason except that He is worthy to be known.

It is the prayer of healthy desperation, a yearning prayer without crisis. It longs to press against the veil of the spiritual realm with such humility and endurance that the breath of God can be felt.

The Presence-based church goes beyond the familiar to seek God. Just as Moses went “outside the camp” to be with God in the Tent of Meeting (Exodus 33:7), the Presence-based church is always pushing past the successes of yesterday and going beyond the normal routine of church life to pray and experience God in new ways.

Seeking God, romancing with Him, deepens our spiritual understanding and faith. It greatly enhances God’s ability to transform lives and impact communities through us. That is why we need to go outside the camp to seek God for all that He is.

Vast knowledge and profound experience awaits the body of believers that can shake free from the familiar long enough to gaze at the heavens and listen for the heartbeat of God.

Many of our churches today are experiencing “Presence starvation,” and the deficiency is crippling. They have fasted the Presence for so long that they have forgotten what it is like to feast. All the while, Jesus is in the living room, beckoning anyone who will to come and sit at His feet.

Those who do will have “chosen what is better, and it will not be taken from [them]” (Luke 10:42).

Used by permission of Terry Teykl and Prayer Point Press: www.PrayerPoint Press.com


Related post
Podcast — Terry Teykl: ‘Praying for the Lost’

Related articles and information
Prayer and Presence: Not prominent in the Call to Action | Good News magazine (March/April 2011)
Excerpt from My Most Wanted Devotional: 40 Days to Pray for the Lost (PDF)
Biography of Terry Teykl (Microsoft Word file)
Why you should start a prayer room in your church | Terry Teykl, ForMinistry.com
30 Scripture-based prayers to pray for your pastor (PDF) | Terry Teykl, Church Prayer Leaders Network
Interview with Terry Teykl about the Houston area’s ‘Pray Down at High Noon’ prayer focus | KSBJ (several audio clips)
Terry Teykl — chapel address at the Wilmore, Ky., campus of Asbury Theological Seminary (Sept. 9, 2008)

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The following commentary, about a recent decision by the United Methodist Judicial Council, is by blogger and church planter David Fischler. David writes frequently on topics related to mainline Protestantism at his blog, The Reformed Pastor.

David Fischler

A New Jersey native, David was born of Jewish parents and became a Christian in college after reading the Bible for the first time. He served as a United Methodist pastor for nine years.

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

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

On April 29, the United Methodist Judicial Council struck down a policy passed last year by the New York Annual Conference that would have permitted a male pastor to get married to another man or a female pastor to marry a woman.

Policy Concerning Marriage
of All Clergy and
Article of Religion XXI

WHEREAS, the Articles of Religion take precedence over all other sections of the Book of Discipline outside the Constitution, we believe that any Disciplinary provision denying marriage to some clergy is unconstitutional and contrary to the Articles of Religion and the first Restrictive Rule (see ¶17); and,

WHEREAS, interpretation of scriptures that relate to issues outside the Articles of Religion, the Confession of Faith, and John Wesley’s Notes and Sermons does not rise to the level of doctrine (see ¶102, pp. 58-59); and,

WHEREAS, same-sex marriage is legally permitted in the state of Connecticut; and,

WHEREAS, same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions are legally recognized by state agencies in New York;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the New York Annual Conference (NYAC) adopts a policy effective January 1, 2011 that all clergy in the NYAC may be legally married at their own discretion, as permitted by ¶103 of the Articles of Religion. We direct that all Conference Boards and agencies conduct their business consistent with this policy; and,

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, given that our policy is consistent with ¶103, which states, “Therefore it is lawful for [the ministers of Christ] to marry at their own discretion, as they shall judge the same to serve best to godliness,” but it is in conflict with ¶2702.1 (a) & (b), which bar clergy from any form of marriage other than heterosexual marriage and bar them from self-avowed practicing homosexuality, even in the context of marriage, the NYAC requests a Declaratory Decision from the Judicial Council (see ¶2601.1 and ¶2610.2j) as follows:

Is our policy valid in light of the apparent alteration and change of ¶103 of the Articles of Religion by General Conference when they established the provisions of ¶2702.1 (a) & (b), in violation of the First Restrictive Rule in ¶17 of the Constitution, which states that, “The General Conference shall not revoke, alter, or change our Articles of Religion or establish any new standards or rules of doctrine contrary to our present existing and established standards of doctrine”?

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we request a Declaratory Decision from the Judicial Council concerning the validity and constitutionality of our conference policy, set forth above, as follows:

Given that ¶2702.1 commands some of our clergy to remain single, it violates Article XXI (¶103) and is therefore an alteration and change of our Articles of Religion which is prohibited by the First Restrictive Rule in ¶17 of the Constitution of the UMC; and Given that our policy is consistent with ¶103, which states, “Therefore it is lawful for [the ministers of Christ] to marry at their own discretion, as they shall judge the same to serve best to godliness,” but is in conflict with ¶2702.1 (a) & (b), which commands some of our clergy to remain single and removes their discretion to marry, is our policy valid and constitutional?

That policy, adopted overwhelmingly (83%-17%) by the New York Conference, is shown at right and is available here in PDF.

The United Methodist News Service reported on the Judicial Council’s rejection of the policy:

A policy adopted but not yet implemented by United Methodists in New York and Connecticut that essentially would have allowed clergy to marry someone of the same sex has been declared “null, void and of no effect” by the denomination’s top court.

The United Methodist Judicial Council has ruled that the New York Annual (regional) Conference resolution and policy allowing clergy “to marry at their own discretion” is “neither valid nor constitutional.”

While an annual conference can adopt rules and regulations for its own governance, the council wrote in Decision 1185, the conference “may not legally negate, ignore or violate provisions of the Discipline with which they disagree even when the disagreement is based upon conscientious objections to those provisions.”

Strictly speaking, as noted in a previous MethodistThinker post, even if the policy had been upheld, there should have been no situations in which it would apply.

UM Book of Discipline requirements on “standards of holy living” for United Methodist clergy bar “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” from being “accepted as [ministerial] candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church” (¶304.3).

Nevertheless, the New York Conference presented an interesting set of arguments in favor of its policy:

The rationale for the New York policy…is that same-sex marriage is [now] legal in Connecticut[, which is part of the New York Conference]; that such unions performed legally elsewhere “are legally recognized by state agencies in New York”; and that the church’s Articles of Religion — doctrinal standards found in Paragraph 103 of the Book of Discipline — state that it is “lawful” for clergy “to marry at their own discretion.”

Contending that the Articles of Religion take precedence over other church laws outside the church’s constitution, the New York Conference declared that “we believe that any…provision (in the Discipline) denying marriage to some clergy is unconstitutional and contrary to the Articles of Religion…”

In particular, Paragraph 103 would take precedence over Paragraph 2702, the conference said.

It worth noting that liberals in the denomination have spent the better part of the last century slowly eviscerating the Articles of Religion, to the point where the document is widely held to be nothing more than historical curiosity that can be ignored at will (that’s certainly the only way to explain some of the bizarre stuff taught in United Methodist seminaries these days).

But when they think (incorrectly, as it turns out) they can use the Articles to get what they want, they go all creedal. The hypocrisy is stunning, if unsurprising.

The other two arguments seem to be saying (as liberals in the mainline have been saying since 2003 when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ignored precedent, tradition, history, biology, and anything else that would get the way in legalizing same-sex marriage) that state law should take precedence over church law in governing the denomination.

Needless to say, they didn’t get far with that.

During [an] oral hearing [last] October, J. Ann Craig and Nehemiah Luckett — New York lay members who identified themselves as homosexuals — argued that Article XXI of Paragraph 103, declares marriage is “a moral structure available to all.”

Which it is — any man is free to marry any woman, and vice versa.

At [last month’s] oral hearing in Detroit, Kevin Nelson, a New York lay member who identified himself as “a straight person who supports full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons,” argued that when John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, wrote [sic] the Articles of Religion, he did not define marriage as heterosexual.

That’s true. The Articles don’t specifically prohibit two men from marrying, nor do they prohibit men from marrying manatees or statues of Elvis. Given the 18th century time frame, I would have thought we could simply assume that Wesley, who adapted the Methodism’s Twenty-Five Articles of Religion from the Anglican Church’s Thirty-Nine Articles (dating back to the 16th century), believed marriage to be a man-woman thing — but apparently not.

By the way, are you wondering what Article XXI actually says?

Article XXI—Of the Marriage of Ministers: The ministers of Christ are not commanded by God’s law either to vow the estate of single life, or to abstain from marriage; therefore it is lawful for them, as for all other Christians, to marry at their own discretion, as they shall judge the same to serve best to godliness.

Ah. So Methodist Article XXI — just like Anglican Article XXXII on which it is based — was aimed at the Roman Catholic prohibition on ministers’ marrying. (Context can be such a pain in the neck, can’t it?)

More from the UMNS report:

Both Craig and Nelson noted that Wesley was well aware that issues of class, race and status could be used by society as an attempt to block marriage. “Although John Wesley may not have considered marriage for same-gender couples in Article XXI, the discretion of clergy to marry whom they choose can be understood on the face of it as a challenge to arbitrary social categories and prejudices,” Craig said at the October hearing.

Except that there’s nothing arbitrary about the restriction of marriage to heterosexual couples. It’s that pesky Bible thing, doncha know.

Nelson[, a program associate at the UMC’s General Board of Global Ministries,] declared that allowing other parts of the Discipline to supersede Article XXI is “anti-Wesleyan” and ignores the ministry of Jesus to the marginalized, “a marginalization that in today’s world and in the case of gay and lesbian persons is all too often perpetuated by the very Christian churches that have been charged by God with opposing it.”

Noting that “there is no acceptable place between humiliation and respect,” Nelson asked council members to “take a controversial but clearly proscribed stand” to uphold the church’s constitution and affirm the New York Conference policy.

As a constitutional argument, this amounted to a plea for the Judicial Council to do what the supreme courts of several states have done, and simply impose its own policy preferences (assuming they differ from the current ones) for that of the membership of the denomination.

The good thing about this is that it appears to shut off any judicial avenue for liberals in the United Methodist Church to foist their transformation of theology and ethics on the church as a whole.

Instead, they will have to go the route of trying to change the Book of Discipline at UMC’s General Conference, the world-wide meeting of the church that has seen evangelical United Methodists from Africa wield growing influence because their churches are growing which the American church shrinks.

Theological and moral standards still need to be enforced, of course, but at least the standards themselves aren’t going anywhere any time soon.


Related posts
Judicial Council asked to revisit Decision 1032, allow homosexual clergy to marry
United Methodist Judicial Council convenes for fall 2010 session
A word from Mr. Wesley: Holiness in singleness
Why the United Methodist Church cannot condone homosexuality
Judicial Council overturns bishop’s ruling on sexuality statement
Board of Church and Society sex-ed writer: Sex outside of marriage can be ‘moral, ethical’
Maxie Dunnam: Amendments outcome reflects ‘sense of the faithful’
In Mississippi Conference, testimony from lesbian couple stirs controversy
Judicial Council says no to same-sex marriage
Billy Abraham on United Methodism: ‘There is no common faith among us’

Related information
Court voids new policy on clergy marriage | Linda Bloom, United Methodist News Service (May 3, 2011)
Docket for the April 27-30, 2011 meeting of the UM Judicial Council (PDF)
Petition #2010-305: Policy concerning marriage of all clergy and Article of Religion XXI (PDF) | New York Annual Conference (June 2010)
Court takes up membership, marriage | Linda Bloom, United Methodist News Service (Feb. 4, 2011)
Jurisdiction and powers of the UM Judicial Council | ¶2609, Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church — 2008
Rules of practice and procedure (PDF) | UM Judicial Council (Revised April 2010)
African Power: How 192 delegates saved Methodists from madness & other stories from the General Conference | Mark Tooley, Touchstone (November 2008)
Five new members are elected to Judicial Council | Neill Caldwell, UMNS (April 28, 2008)
Judicial Council election excludes Africans (PDF) | UMAction (April 30, 2008)
How churches can refine message on homosexuality | Robin Russell, United Methodist Reporter (May 19, 2008)
United Methodists uphold homosexuality stance | Robin Russell, United Methodist News Service (April 30, 2008)
Methodists strengthen stand against homosexual practice | Christianity Today (May 5, 2004)
Homosexuality and the Great Commandment (an address to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh) | Peter C. Moore (November 2002)
‘Good News’ says push to accept homosexual practice threatens to split United Methodist Church | United Methodist News Service (May 6, 1997)

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Focused on God

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

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

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

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

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

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


Take up your cross daily

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

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

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

From the 1954 film ‘John Wesley’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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For the eighth time, the United Methodist Judicial Council is being asked to revisit a 2005 ruling that declared that the pastor-in-charge of a UM congregation is invested with the authority to determine if a parishioner is spiritually prepared to take the vows of church membership.

A UMNS graphic

The council — the denomination’s supreme court — will hear a reconsideration request (PDF) from the California-Pacific Annual Conference at this week’s spring session, which begins Wednesday (April 27) in Detroit.

At its October 2010 meeting, the Judicial Council denied similar reconsideration requests from the Arkansas Conference and the Northern Illinois Conference. The tersely worded denial, issued in Memorandum No. 1158 (available here in PDF), said simply: “The requests for reconsideration are hereby denied.”

The controversial 2005 ruling, known as Decision 1032, stemmed from Virginia Conference case in which a pastor explained to a sexually active homosexual man who wanted to join the South Hill (Va.) United Methodist Church that taking vows of membership in the UMC involved a public declaration of turning from sin. Further, the pastor explained that UM doctrine teaches that sexual activity between two persons of the same sex is considered “incompatible with Christian teaching” (¶161F of the Book of Discipline).

The pastor, the Rev. Ed Johnson, did not bar the man from attending worship services or otherwise restrict his involvement in the congregational life of the South Hill church.

Pastor Johnson subsequently faced an administrative complaint from Virginia Conference Bishop Charlene Kammerer, who said that in not immediately allowing the man to become a member, Johnson was violating the Book of Discipline by demonstrating an “unwillingness or inability to perform ministerial duties” (¶362.2).

From the UM Baptismal Covenant

In Decision 1032, the Judicial Council ruled 5-3 against Bishop Kammerer, noting that the Book of Discipline “invest[s] discretion in the pastor-in-charge to make the determination of a person’s readiness to affirm the vows of membership.”

Last October, in a concurring opinion (PDF-p.3) issued along with the council’s terse denial for a reconsideration of Decision 1032, council member Jon R. Gray urged that efforts to resolve the underlying dispute that led to the 2005 decision be focused on the legislative arena — via the General Conference — rather than on the judicial processes of the UMC.

“[In the] five years [since] Decision 1032 was rendered, we have been asked in seven separate cases to review or reconsider Decision 1032 in some fashion,” he wrote. “The General Conference is the only body authorized and able to resolve the issue for the Church.”

Also on the Judicial Council docket this week is a case that asks the council to determine if a 225-year-old year old rule that that allows Methodist ministers to marry — specifically, Article XXI of the Articles of Religion — supersedes the Book of Discipline‘s language on the heterosexual nature of marriage.

Policy Concerning Marriage
of All Clergy and
Article of Religion XXI

WHEREAS, the Articles of Religion take precedence over all other sections of the Book of Discipline outside the Constitution, we believe that any Disciplinary provision denying marriage to some clergy is unconstitutional and contrary to the Articles of Religion and the first Restrictive Rule (see ¶17); and,

WHEREAS, interpretation of scriptures that relate to issues outside the Articles of Religion, the Confession of Faith, and John Wesley’s Notes and Sermons does not rise to the level of doctrine (see ¶102, pp. 58-59); and,

WHEREAS, same-sex marriage is legally permitted in the state of Connecticut;…

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the New York Annual Conference (NYAC) adopts a policy effective January 1, 2011 that all clergy in the NYAC may be legally married at their own discretion, as permitted by ¶103 of the Articles of Religion. We direct that all Conference Boards and agencies conduct their business consistent with this policy; and,

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, given that our policy is consistent with ¶103, which states, “Therefore it is lawful for [the ministers of Christ] to marry at their own discretion, as they shall judge the same to serve best to godliness,” but it is in conflict with ¶2702.1 (a) & (b), which bar clergy from any form of marriage other than heterosexual marriage and bar them from self-avowed practicing homosexuality, even in the context of marriage, the NYAC requests a Declaratory Decision from the Judicial Council (see ¶2601.1 and ¶2610.2j) as follows:

Is our policy valid in light of the apparent alteration and change of ¶103 of the Articles of Religion by General Conference when they established the provisions of ¶2702.1 (a) & (b), in violation of the First Restrictive Rule in ¶17 of the Constitution, which states that, “The General Conference shall not revoke, alter, or change our Articles of Religion or establish any new standards or rules of doctrine contrary to our present existing and established standards of doctrine”?

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we request a Declaratory Decision from the Judicial Council concerning the validity and constitutionality of our conference policy, set forth above, as follows:

Given that ¶2702.1 commands some of our clergy to remain single, it violates Article XXI (¶103) and is therefore an alteration and change of our Articles of Religion which is prohibited by the First Restrictive Rule in ¶17 of the Constitution of the UMC; and Given that our policy is consistent with ¶103, which states, “Therefore it is lawful for [the ministers of Christ] to marry at their own discretion, as they shall judge the same to serve best to godliness,” but is in conflict with ¶2702.1 (a) & (b), which commands some of our clergy to remain single and removes their discretion to marry, is our policy valid and constitutional?

The case, deferred from last fall’s Judicial Council session, stems from a policy resolution adopted overwhelmingly last year (83%-17%) by the New York Annual Conference.

The resolution, sponsored by the Methodist Federation for Social Action and Methodists in New Directions (a New York Conference group affiliated with the pro-homosexuality Reconciling Ministries Network), is aimed at allowing homosexuals serving as clergy in the NY Conference to marry.

(Marriage between two men or two women is now legal in the state of Connecticut, which is part of the UMC’s New York Conference.)

The new policy (shown at right and here in PDF) permits clergy members of the New York Conference to be “legally married at their own discretion, as permitted by Paragraph 103 of the Articles of Religion.”

Strictly speaking, there should be no situations in which the New York Conference policy would apply. Book of Discipline requirements on “standards of holy living” for United Methodist clergy bar “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” from being “accepted as [ministerial] candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church” (¶304.3).

In addition, any “clergy member of an annual conference…may be tried when charged…with one or more of the following offenses: (a) immorality including but not limited to, not being celibate in singleness or not faithful in a heterosexual marriage; (b) practices declared by The United Methodist Church to be incompatible with Christian teachings, including but not limited to: being a self-avowed practicing homosexual…” (¶2702).

The United Methodist News Service offered details on the New York Conference case earlier this year:

During an oral hearing at the October [Judicial Council] meeting, J. Ann Craig and Nehemiah Luckett — New York lay members who identified themselves as gay — argued that Article XXI of Paragraph 103, declares that marriage is “a moral structure available to all.”…

[J. Ann Craig previously served as the executive secretary for Spiritual and Theological Development in the UMC’s Women’s Division; Nehemiah Luckett is the composer-in-residence and associate minister of music at Asbury Crestwood United Methodist Church in Tuckahoe (Yonkers), N.Y.]

In her presentation, Craig said that the denomination’s ban on same-gender marriage is contrary to Paragraph 103, which states that it is “lawful” for pastors, “as for all other Christians, to marry at their own discretion, as they shall judge the same to serve best to godliness.”

She added that the church’s doctrinal standards, of which the Articles of Religion are a part, take precedence over changes to the Book of Discipline.

The October oral hearing also included a presentation in support of current UMC policy from Wisconsin pastor Thomas Lambrecht, a board member of Good News, a ministry that describes itself as “a voice for repentance, an agent for reform, and a catalyst for renewal within the United Methodist Church.” [Disclosure: The editor of this blog is a Good News board member.]

Lambrecht said the New York Conference policy constitutes a clear misapplication of Paragraph 103. The policy “unilaterally changes the [UMC’s] definition of marriage” without the approval of General Conference, he said.

Paragraph 161F of the United Methodist Book of Discipline states that “sexual relations are affirmed only within the covenant of monogamous, heterosexual marriage.”

Further, according to Paragraph 161B, the United Methodist Church supports “laws in civil society that define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”

The full five-case docket for this week’s meeting of the United Methodist Judicial Council is here (PDF). The nine current members of the United Methodist Judicial Council are listed below.

  • Susan T. Henry-Crowe (Council president, clergy, South Carolina Conf.)
  • — Dean of the Chapel and Religious Life at Emory Univ. in Atlanta

  • Jon R. Gray (Council vice president, lay, Missouri West Conf.)
  • — attorney, former circuit court judge

  • Angela Brown (lay, California-Nevada Conf.)
  • — asst. district attorney in San Francisco, board member—National Center for Lesbian Rights (PDF-see page 7), past vice president—NIA Collective, an organization for lesbians of African descent

  • William B. Lawrence (clergy, North Texas Conf.)
  • — Dean of SMU’s Perkins School of Theology

The alternate members:

  • Joe May (first clergy alternate, Mississippi Conf.)
  • Jay Arthur Garrison (first lay alternate, Holston Conf.)
  • J. Montgomery (Monty) Brown (clergy, West Virginia)
  • Thomas K. Byerly (lay, West Michigan Conf.)
  • Mary A. Daffin (lay, Texas Conf.)
  • John Harnish (clergy, Michigan Conf.)
  • James D. Karblee (clergy, Liberia Conf.)
  • Raymond Mande Mutombo (lay, North Katanga Conf.)
  • Deanell Tacha (lay, Kansas East Conf.)
  • William F. White (lay, Wisconsin Conf.)
  • Rodney E. Wilmoth (clergy, Rocky Mountain Conf.)
  • Vicki Woods (clergy, New England Conf.)
Related posts
United Methodist Judicial Council convenes for fall 2010 session
Why the United Methodist Church cannot condone homosexuality
Judicial Council overturns bishop’s ruling on sexuality statement
Board of Church and Society sex-ed writer: Sex outside of marriage can be ‘moral, ethical’
Maxie Dunnam: Amendments outcome reflects ‘sense of the faithful’
In Mississippi Conference, testimony from lesbian couple stirs controversy
Judicial Council says no to same-sex marriage
Billy Abraham on United Methodism: ‘There is no common faith among us’

Related information
Docket for the April 27-30, 2011 meeting of the UM Judicial Council (PDF)
RES 10-5: Request Judicial Council reconsider Decision 1032 (PDF) | California Pacific Annual Conference (June 20, 2010)
Decision 1032 | UM Judicial Council (Oct. 29, 2005)
A pastoral letter to the people of The United Methodist Church | UM Council of Bishops (Nov. 2, 2005)
Judicial Council Decision 1032 and ecclesiology (PDF) | William J. Abraham, General Board of Higher Education & Ministry Consultation on Decision 1032 (February 2007)
Petition #2010-305: Policy concerning marriage of all clergy and Article of Religion XXI (PDF) | New York Annual Conference (June 2010)
Court takes up membership, marriage | Linda Bloom, United Methodist News Service (Feb. 4, 2011)
Jurisdiction and powers of the UM Judicial Council | ¶2609, Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church — 2008
Rules of practice and procedure (PDF) | UM Judicial Council (Revised April 2010)
New membership vows and ritual (revised and corrected) | Taylor Burton-Edwards, UM General Board of Discipleship (effective Jan. 1, 2009)
The services of the Baptismal Covenant in the United Methodist Church (as revised to align with the 2008 Book of Discipline and Book of Resolutions) (PDF) | UM General Board of Discipleship/United Methodist Publishing House (2009)
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)
Five new members are elected to Judicial Council | Neill Caldwell, UMNS (April 28, 2008)
Judicial Council election excludes Africans (PDF) | UMAction (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’ response to Cal/Nevada’s dismissal of complaints against 68 clergy involved in same-sex covenant | James V. Heidinger II on behalf of the Good News Board of Directors (Feb. 14, 2000)
‘Good News’ says push to accept homosexual practice threatens to split United Methodist Church | United Methodist News Service (May 6, 1997)

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Each of the four gospels — Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John — offers an account of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. These accounts contain several divergences in detail.

Was there one angel who appeared at the tomb (Matt. 28, Mark 16), or two (Luke 24, John 20)? Did Mary Magdalene go to the tomb alone (John 20), or with others (Mark 16, Luke 24)?

Critics have raised questions about these and other areas of divergence:

  • Was it still dark out? (Yes – John 20); (No – Matt. 28; Mark 16)
  • Did Mary Magdalene tell anyone? (Yes – Matt. 28, Luke 24, John 20); (No – Mark 16)
  • Were the angels (or angel) inside the tomb or outside? (Two angels inside – Mark 16, John 20); (One angel outside – Matt. 28)
  • Was the first appearance to the disciples in Galilee? (Yes – Matt. 28); (No – Luke 24; John 20).

How do we account for these variations? Are they a stumbling block to believing that Jesus rose from the dead?


A logical whole

According to an established rule of investigative practice, if a reasonable explanation fits the available evidence then divergences in detail do not necessarily constitute contradictions.

Click for full Holy Week timeline in PDF

So the real question is not, “Do the gospel accounts diverge at points?” but, rather, “Can those divergences be put together into a logical whole?”

In his book, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (College Press, 1992), retired judge Herbert Casteel, a trial judge for 26 years in Missouri, offers one example of how the various accounts could fit together:

Very early a group of women, including Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Salome, and Joanna set out for the tomb.

Meanwhile two angels are sent; there is an earthquake and one angel rolls back the stone and sits upon it. The soldiers faint and then revive and flee into the city.

The women arrive and find the tomb opened; without waiting, Mary Magdalene, assuming someone has taken the Lord’s body, runs back to the city to tell Peter and John. The other women enter the tomb and see the body is gone. The two angels appear to them and tell them of the resurrection. The women then leave to take the news to the disciples.

Peter and John run to the tomb with Mary Magdalene following. Peter and John enter the tomb, see the grave clothes, and then return to the city, but Mary Magdalene remains at the tomb weeping, and Jesus makes His first appearance to her.

Jesus next appears to the other women who are on their way to find the disciples. Jesus appears to Peter; He appears to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus; and then appears to a group of disciples including all of the Eleven except Thomas.

False testimony?

According to Judge Casteel, the minor variations found in the four gospel accounts actually argue for their reliability as containing eyewitness testimony:

People who conspire to testify to a falsehood rehearse carefully to avoid contradictions. [This is why f]alse testimony appears on the surface to be in harmony, but discrepancies appear when you dig deeper. [On the other hand, t]rue accounts may appear on the surface to be contradictory, but are found to be in harmony when you dig deeper….

From ‘Evidence for Faith’
by John Warwick Montgomery

[In addition,] the Gospel accounts of the resurrection…[contain] numerous details of the very type that false accounts would be careful to avoid.

For example, it is related of the Lord’s appearances to His followers, that at first they did not recognize Him.

A false story would never have been made up this way, because it is obvious that this would support an argument that the disciples were mistaken and didn’t see Jesus at all.

Why did the Gospel writers tell it this way? Because their purpose was simply to tell what happened, and that is the way it happened.

Moreover, many witnesses to the resurrected Christ went to their deaths rather than recant their testimony.

Indeed, from the time of the resurrection forward, these witnesses devoted themselves, no matter the cost, to the proclamation that Jesus the Messiah rose from the dead.

We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power
and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

— The Apostle Peter in 2 Peter 1:16

Related post
Podcast: Bill Bouknight on ‘The Resurrection of Jesus Christ’

Related resources
Chapter 12 from Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (PDF) |Herbert C. Casteel, College Press (1992)
The Jury Returns: A Juridical Defense of Christianity | An excerpt from Evidence for Faith: Deciding the God Question by John Warwick Montgomery, Probe Books (1991)
The testimony of the evangelists | Simon Greenleaf (1846)
The Easter sermon of John Chrysostom (~400 A.D.) [NOTE: This sermon is read aloud in Eastern Orthodox churches on Easter (“Pascha”) morning.]
How Easter killed my faith in atheism | Lee Strobel, Wall Street Journal (April 16, 2011)
Celebrating the Resurrection | Mark Tooley, The American Spectator (April 22, 2011)
Of first importance: The Cross and Resurrection at the center | Albert Mohler (April 22, 2011)

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The MethodistThinker Podcast has returned from hiatus with a new, shorter format. Rather than featuring longer-form presentations, as it has for the past two years, the refashioned podcast is only five minutes long.

Each “mini” podcast will feature a brief teaching excerpt from a Methodist leader.

We hope the shorter format will make the podcast more user-friendly for busy pastors and lay people.

Dr. Bill Bouknight

The first installment of the new bi-weekly MethodistThinker Mini-Podcast features Dr. Bill Bouknight preaching about the atoning work of Jesus Christ.

Listen below, or download an mp3 file. To subscribe, use the “Subscribe to Podcasts link near the top of the right column.

William R. Bouknight retired from the pastorate in 2007 after more than 40 years of serving United Methodist congregations in South Carolina and Tennessee. He became an associate director of the Confessing Movement Within the United Methodist Church in 2008.

Dr. Bouknight is the author of The Authoritative Word: Preaching Truth in a Skeptical Age (Abingdon, 2001), and If Disciples Grew Like Kudzu (Bristol House, 2007). He was educated at Duke University, the University of Edinburgh, and Yale Divinity School.

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