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

David S. Fischler

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Bishop Mack B. Stokes (UMNS photo)

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

David Fischler

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some of the grants listed for 2010 alone:

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

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

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

Here are several other Arcus grants from last year:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From LGBTfunders.org

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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The following commentary is by Wesley Putnam, a full-time evangelist in the UMC and former president of the National Association of United Methodist Evangelists.

Wesley Putnam

Below, Mr. Putnam provides an eyewitness account of a Feb. 27 church conference at University United Methodist Church in Austin, Texas, at which the church voted to affiliate with the pro-homosexuality Reconciling Ministries Network.

RMN seeks to change the United Methodist Church’s position on same-sex relations, which is rooted in the historic Christian teaching that sexual contact between two men or two women falls outside the boundaries of acceptable moral conduct for disciples of Jesus Christ.

RMN also seeks to end the UMC’s prohibition on accepting sexually active homosexuals as candidates for ordained ministry (¶304.3 of the UM Book of Discipline).

Links in the commentary below have been added by MethodistThinker.com. — Ed.


I got up early on Sunday, Feb. 27, and headed out from Bedford, Texas, to Austin. This was the day that had been advertised by University United Methodist Church as the day they were going to vote on becoming a Reconciling Congregation.

“A local church or any of its organizational units may not identify or label itself as an unofficial body or movement.

“Such identification or labeling is divisive and makes the local church subject to the possibility of being in conflict with the Discipline and doctrines of The United Methodist Church.”

Judicial Council Decision #871

“[A]nnual conferences may not legally negate, ignore, or violate provisions of the Discipline with which they disagree, even when the disagreements are based upon conscientious objections to those provisions.”

Judicial Council Decision #886

The primary problem with this vote is that it is clearly forbidden by Decision #871 of the United Methodist Judicial Council [see excerpt at left]. In addition, Judicial Council Decision #886 has bearing on this matter [also excepted at left].

As soon as I found out that University UMC was planning this vote, I notified the pastor, the Rev. John Elford, that he was moving the church in a direction that seemed to be in clear violation of the United Methodist Book of Discipline. He indicated he was determined to continue and had already discussed it with his District Superintendent.

I then contacted the office for the District Superintendent in the Austin District, the Rev. Bobbi Kaye Jones, citing the relevant Judicial Council Decisions. I never received a response.

Next, I contacted Bishop Jim Dorff of the Southwest Texas Conference and informed him of the plans of UUMC. He excused the action because, in his view, the congregation was only “affiliating” — not “identifying” — with the Reconciling Ministries Network.

I fail to see the difference. Affiliating with a group is identifying with a group. And Judicial Council Decision #871 simply says that Annual Conferences, local churches, and units within churches (Sunday School classes, UMW groups, etc.) are forbidden to “identify or label” themselves as “an unofficial body or movement.”

After weeks of back and forth emails, I decided to attend the Feb. 27 Church Conference at University UMC as an observer. I also attended the morning worship service just before the church conference.

A first-hand account

The sanctuary at UUMC is lovely, and the bottom floor was comfortably full with between 250 and 300 worshipers. The congregation that gathered was multi-generational. I was met by friendly greetings from several members as I made my way to my seat.

University UMC — Austin, Texas

I noticed that rainbow crosses and pink triangles were displayed on many lapels.

The pipe organ was belting out a rousing call to worship and the sound reverberated off the ample hardwood surfaces of the room. The atmosphere was celebratory as the congregants anticipated the purpose of this day.

The style of worship was traditional. There was a lot of liturgy and an assortment of ancient hymns, plus also a couple of more recent songs from the hymnal supplement.

Everything in the service was designed to lead up to this historic vote. Even the children’s sermon was a call to remember that there are many different pieces that make up a puzzle.

“When God’s peace is at work, even though we are going in lots of different directions, God brings us together and gives us God’s love,” the pastor told the children. “To love each other, care for each other and be reconciled to each other. We want to be with all different kinds of people, not just people just like us,” he said.

The last statement was directed to the adult congregation more so than it was to the children.

University UMC’s pastor, John Elford, is a tall man with a quiet and conversational speaking style. In remarks sprinkled with humor, he emphasized that UUMC is a “welcoming congregation” and the people there are “learning more and more every day” about all that term means.

Ironically, the Scripture Pastor Elford chose to speak on was “Blessed are the peacemakers” — on a day when he was leading the church to take a divisive action.

Audio of John Elford’s Feb. 27 sermon (19 min.)

I certainly didn’t disagree with everything he said. He spoke of the hard work Jesus calls us to of reconciling the world to God. He said it is not always easy to make peace. Peacemaking can be back-breaking work in which we must trust God’s providence for success.

Pastor Elford said we need not fear as we do this work because evil is being overcome with good. He declared that the forces we are up against are what Paul called “principalities and powers.”

Regrettably, the context of the day infused Pastor Elford’s words with a meaning that differs from church’s historic proclamation of the gospel. Ultimately, the pastor of University United Methodist Church was challenging his congregation to “make peace” with what God’s Word has declared to be sinful. In this new meaning of things, a person cannot be truly “welcomed” unless his or her behavior is affirmed and even endorsed.

The Rev. John Elford (standing, blue shirt) awaits the vote

Pastor Elford was calling his church to celebrate behavior that has been condemned for thousands of years — including in both the Old and New Testaments.

Further, he was asking them to violate the spirit of our denominational Book of Discipline and the clear intent of the UM Judicial Council by joining an unofficial group whose statement of purpose is opposed to church law.

The controversy over how the church will treat homosexual behavior has been “front and center” in every General Conference for four decades. The United Methodist response has been consistent, clear, and gracious. We view homosexuals — as we do all people — as being of sacred worth, but we recognize homosexual behavior as being contrary to the teaching of Scripture and the established body of doctrine held by the church. That is our stand.

It is not the prerogative of a pastor or local church to purposely rebel against settled church law, while suggesting that everyone who opposes them (including, by implication, the UM Judicial Council, the General Conference, and every orthodox UM member) is a part of the “principalities and powers” of darkness.

But led by their pastor, and with the district superintendent present, this is precisely what University United Methodist Church did. After the 11 a.m. service, by a vote of 228 to 15, UUMC became affiliated with the Reconciling Ministries Network.

Why this matters

The wording of the ballot (shown below at right) makes it clear that the ruling of the Judicial Council has been violated. By calling itself “a member of RMN” and placing the phrase “A Reconciling Congregation” on its website and other communications, UUMC has identified or labeled itself as an unofficial body or movement.

Click to enlarge

There are several possible chargeable offenses inherent in this action.

I believe in presiding over this vote, the Rev. Bobbi Kaye Jones failed in her job as a District Superintendent. When this Church Conference was called for, she should have ruled the meeting out of order and refused to place the power of her office behind this action.

Moreover, because Bishop Jim Dorff was made aware of this action and refused to intervene, he has, in my opinion, failed to do his job in upholding and defending the faith and enforcing the Discipline.

Why does the action of University UMC matter? In a word, it’s all about covenant. As an elder in the United Methodist Church, I am in covenant with all other elders, bishops and district superintendents included.

From the UUMC website

The Discipline defines that covenant in Paragraph 306: “An order is a covenant community within the church to mutually support, care for, and hold accountable its members for the sake of the life and mission of the church” (emphasis added).

This is serious business.

This whole debate began in the 1990s when my home conference in Northwest Texas voted to become a “Confessing Conference.” This action was challenged and the Judicial Council rulings cited above were made. Any church or conference that had declared itself as affiliated with the Confessing Movement or Reconciling Movement were asked to remove any mention of it from their signage and printed materials.

The Confessing Movement churches and conferences complied. But as the Reconciling Ministries Network continues enlisting churches in its cause, the bishops are turning a blind eye.

Because of the vows I took as a member of the order of elders, I am compelled to speak up. I will not be silent.


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

Related information
Eros defended or eros defiled — What do Wesley and the Bible say? | Ben Witherington, The Bible and Culture (Patheos.com) (Feb. 14, 2011)
A reply to Wesley Putnam | Adrienne Trevathan, MOSAIC blog (March 21, 2011) — Note: MOSAIC is a student-focused extension outreach of the Reconciling Ministries Network, “affirm[ing] all sexual orientations and gender identities as gifts of God.”
University United Methodist Church moves to become part of larger reconciling network | Joshunda Sanders, Austin American-Statesman (Feb. 26, 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)
Why bother becoming “reconciling”? | The Rev. John Elford, Keeping Jesus Weird blog (Jan. 15, 2011)
Why bother becoming “reconciling”? (part 2) | The Rev. John Elford, Keeping Jesus Weird blog (Feb. 7, 2011)
Three steps to affiliate with RMN (PDF) | Reconciling Ministries Network
Methodists to vote on GLBT inclusion | Audrey White, The Daily Texan (Nov. 22, 2010)
United Methodist churches perform same-sex weddings with one foot in the closet | Amanda Hess, TBD.com (Sept. 30, 2010)
What the evidence really says about Scripture and homosexual practice: Five issues (PDF) | Robert A. J. Gagnon (March 2009)
Slavery, homosexuality, and not being of one mind | Riley B. Case, via The Sundry Times (July 1, 2008)
How churches can refine message on homosexuality | Robin Russell, United Methodist Reporter (May 19, 2008)
United Methodists uphold homosexuality stance | Robin Russell, United Methodist News Service (April 30, 2008)
Judicial Council Decision 1032 and ecclesiology (PDF) | William J. Abraham, General Board of Higher Education & Ministry Consultation on Decision 1032 (February 2007)
The church and homosexuality | Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker, e-Review (Florida United Methodist News Service) (July 12, 2006)
Methodists strengthen stand against homosexual practice | Christianity Today (May 5, 2004)
Debate at the 2004 General Conference on various legislation related to homosexuality (includes audio) | 2004 General Conference Archive
Resources list: Ministry for and with homosexual persons (requested by the UMC’s 2004 General Conference) (PDF) | United Methodist Publishing House
Homosexuality and the Bible (PDF) | R. Albert Mohler Jr., Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Homosexuality and the Great Commandment (an address to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh) | Peter C. Moore (November 2002)
Good News’ response to Cal/Nevada’s dismissal of complaints against 68 clergy involved in same-sex covenant | James V. Heidinger II on behalf of the Good News Board of Directors (Feb. 14, 2000)
Good News board urges bishops to preserve unity of church | United Methodist News Service (Feb. 2, 1999)
‘Good News’ says push to accept homosexual practice threatens to split United Methodist Church | United Methodist News Service (May 6, 1997)

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This post is by the Rev. Paul T. Stallsworth, president of the Taskforce of United Methodists on Abortion and Sexuality and editor of the Lifewatch newsletter.

The Rev. Paul Stallsworth

Mr. Stallsworth has served as the editor of three books: The Church and Abortion: In Search of New Ground for Response (Abingdon, 1993), The Right Choice: Pro-Life Sermons (Abingdon, 1997), and Thinking Theologically About Abortion (Bristol House, 2000).

This post is adapted from Mr. Stallsworth’s remarks at a May 2010 public forum on The Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience, a manifesto issued by Protestant, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic leaders in November 2009.

The forum, held at North Carolina’s Carteret Community College, was sponsored by the Carteret County Ministerial Association.

Links in the text below have been added by MethodistThinker.com — Ed.


The first contemporary matter addressed at length by The Manhattan Declaration is human life and abortion. The Declaration puts this issue in historical, political, and legal context.

In the years leading up to 1973, American society had reached a basic consensus on abortion: state laws, more or less, restricted abortion. The states, just before 1973, were routinely turning back legislative attempts to legalize abortion; so the consensus held.

But on Jan. 22, 1973, this national consensus on abortion was shattered. On that day, the United States Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision knocked down all state abortion laws and made abortion available on demand throughout all 50 states of the union.

In 1973, one institution in American public life that stood against Roe v. Wade and against abortion on demand: the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. All the other major institutions in our society — public education, colleges and universities, the movie and music industries, prestige journalism, the mainline Protestant denominations — favored Roe. Even the Southern Baptist Convention backed abortion rights.

But since 1973, the abortion debate has continued. And over the years, the American people have become increasingly pro-life. Just over a year ago, a Gallup Poll found that more Americans now identify themselves as “pro-life” than as “pro-choice.”

Today in American society the greatest ally and advocate of the pro-choice position is the United States government:

  • The U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, in their final version of the health-care overhaul bill, refused to include legislative provisions that would protect unborn children from federally funded abortion;

Those supporting the pro-choice position have helped to create what John Paul II called the “culture of death.” The culture of death renders some human beings, especially the weak, “imperfect, immature or inconvenient” — as the Manhattan Declaration puts it — to be “discardable.”

Abortion is ground zero in the culture of death — but that culture now extends far beyond abortion. The “slippery slope,” which some feared would be created by abortion, has become a reality. The Manhattan Declaration speaks to the fact that many human lives are now at risk.

  • “[H]uman embryo-destructive research and its public funding are promoted in the name of science” and compassion.
  • There is “an increasingly powerful movement to promote assisted suicide and ‘voluntary’ euthanasia.”
  • Eugenics, advanced in Europe last century under the doctrine of lebensunwertes leben (“life unworthy of life”), is now advanced in America under the doctrines of “‘liberty,’ ‘autonomy,’… ‘choice'” and compassion.

In frontally challenging the moral truth of the dignity of the human person, abortion has opened wider the door to massive human indignities around the world.

As the Manhattan Declaration declares, “Genocide,” “ethnic cleansing,” “the neglect and abuse of children, the exploitation of vulnerable laborers, the sexual trafficking of girls and young women, the abandonment of the aged, racial oppression and discrimination, the persecution of believers of all faiths, and the failure to take steps necessary to halt the spread of preventable diseases like AIDS” are made possible by a diminished sense of the dignity of the human person.

This diminishment begins with abortion.

So what are we to do about this culture of death — at home and abroad? We begin, at ground zero, with abortion. In the words of The Manhattan Declaration:

We will be united and untiring in our efforts to roll back the license to kill that began with the abandonment of the unborn to abortion. We will work…to bring assistance, comfort, and care to pregnant women in need and to those who have been victimized by abortion….

Our message is, and ever shall be, that the just, human, and truly Christian answer to problem pregnancies is for all of us to love and care for mother and child alike.

At the same time, the Declaration calls on the government to exercise its first duty: “to protect the weak and the vulnerable.”

The Bible, reinforced by reason, demands that the people of God defend those who have no defense, to speak for those who have no voice. So we must defend and speak for the unborn child, the disabled girl, the elderly man.

The Manhattan Declaration boldly challenges: “We must be willing to defend, even at risk and cost to ourselves and our institutions, the lives of” the vulnerable — no matter their ages, no matter their circumstances.

Read and sign the Manhattan Declaration here.

The Rev. Paul T. Stallsworth helped Richard John Neuhaus launch the Center on Religion and Society in 1984 and the Institute on Religion and Public Life in 1989.

Mr. Stallsworth, a clergy member of the UMC’s North Carolina Conference, founded Taskforce of United Methodists on Abortion and Sexuality/Lifewatch in 1987.

In addition to his work with TUMAS/Lifewatch, Paul Stallsworth is a member of the National Pro-life Religious Council and serves as the pastor of St. Peter’s United Methodist Church in Morehead City, N.C.

Lifewatch holds its annual worship service and board meeting today at the United Methodist Building in Washington, D.C.

The group rents the space used for the service and the meeting. Use of the facility is not donated by the UMC’s General Board of Church and Society, which is a member of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, a group that supports legalized abortion.


Related posts
United Methodists praying, speaking, and marching for life
Why aren’t UM leaders supporting the Manhattan Declaration?
UM pro-life group urges Sen. Ben Nelson: ‘Do no harm’
Bishop Timothy Whitaker: Abortion and the gospel of peace
Party platforms and the UMC

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

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This Saturday (Jan. 22) marks the 38th anniversary of the United States Supreme Court’s decisions in the cases of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton. Taken together, the two rulings (authored by Justice Harry Blackmun, a United Methodist) effectively voided dozens of state laws aimed at protecting unborn children from abortion.

Since then, abortion providers have performed 50 million abortions in the U.S. — primarily for purposes of birth control rather than for medical reasons. On average, five abortions occur in America every minute of every hour of every day.

Many churches will observe this Sunday as Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.

The pro-life prayer guide below, designed for use as a church-bulletin insert, is adapted from material prepared by Lifewatch, also known as the Taskforce of United Methodists on Abortion and Sexuality. A PDF copy of the prayer guide is here. (UM pastor Chris Roberts has prepared additional material that can be used as bulletin insert.)


On Monday (Jan. 24), Lifewatch will host its annual worship service at the United Methodist Building, next door to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Rev. Dr. Edwin King, a Methodist clergyman instrumental in the civil rights movement in Mississippi, is scheduled to deliver the message.

Ed King in 2009

In the early 1960s, King — then a chaplain at Tougaloo College near Jackson, Miss. — worked (unsuccessfully) to convince white pastors in the area to issue a statement against racial segregation.

He then helped students to stage a series of sit-ins and other protests in Jackson, according to the 1998 book, Lift Up Your Voice Like a Trumpet: White Clergy and the Civil Rights and Antiwar Movements, 1954-1973 (UNC Press).

Denied membership in the white Mississippi Methodist Conference because of his racial views and civil rights activism, King joined the conference of black Mississippi Methodists, part of The Methodist Church’s Central Jurisdiction.

In a 2002 address (PDF) in Charlottesville, Va., King — now a professor of Sociology and Medical Ethics at the University of Mississippi Medical Center — spoke about legalized abortion’s negative impact on black Americans.

Today in Mississippi, two-thirds to 75 percent of the abortions are done for black children in the womb…. [Across America,] the majority of the children whose [lives are] snuffed out in the womb [are] black or Hispanic…. Is that freedom for somebody — or is something else going on?

Fannie Lou Hamer was the first person to talk to me after Roe vs. Wade came down and she said, “Rev. King, this is another racial thing — this is the answer to the civil rights movement, they are going to get rid of black babies.”

Previous speakers at the annual Lifewatch gathering have included Bishop Scott Jones (Kansas Area), Bishop Will Willimon (North Alabama), and Bishop Timothy Whitaker (Florida).

At the 2004 service, Bishop Whitaker said a church that supports abortion undermines its proclamation of the gospel.

“[W]e who are United Methodists…have a responsibility to live according to our first rule [of the Methodist General Rules], which is to do no harm,” he declared. “Do no harm to the unborn! Do no harm to the witness of the Church as a peaceable people! Do no harm to the Gospel of peace!”

(UMNS photo)

Shortly after Monday’s Lifewatch service, the annual March for Life begins on the Mall in Washington, D.C. (map showing route).

The event, which draws tens of thousands of pro-lifers each year, will be aired live (beginning at 11 a.m. ET) on EWTN, the Roman Catholic cable/satellite TV channel. (EWTN’s coverage will be repeated at 11 p.m. ET.)

Go here for live audio and video online.

The March for Life has been held annually since 1974.

In 2008, the United Methodist General Conference passed legislation acknowledging “the sanctity of unborn human life” and noting that United Methodists are bound to “respect the sacredness of life and well-being of [both] the mother and the unborn child.”

The United Methodist Book of Discipline also states that the UMC “cannot affirm abortion as an acceptable means of birth control” (¶161J).


Related posts
Bishop Timothy Whitaker: Abortion and the gospel of peace
‘Church and Society’ decries pro-life amendment to health bill
Party platforms and the UMC
Bishop Mike Watson: ‘The Methodist Christian Way’

Related articles
How a pastor might first broach the abortion issue with his congregation | UM pastor Paul T. Stallsworth, Remarks at the 2010 Convention of National Right to Life, Pittsburgh, Pa. (June 2010)
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)
Abortion opponents speak out during national rally | United Methodist News Service (Jan. 24, 2008)
Pro-choice? Pro-life? | A sermon (text and audio) by UM Lay Speaker Joseph Slife, Gateway Church (UMC), Athens, Ga. (Jan. 22, 2006)
Dr. Billy Abraham tells abortion opponents not to give up | Mark Schoeff Jr., United Methodist News Service (Jan. 24, 2007)
Mainline churches participate in abortion rights march | John Lomperis, Good News (July/August 2004)
UMC holds ambiguous stand on abortion, speakers say | Melissa Lauber, United Methodist News Service (Jan. 24, 2002)
Roe ruling: More than its author intended | David G. Savage, Los Angeles Times—via HispanicPundit.com (Sept. 14, 2005)
Justice Harry Blackmun was active United Methodist | United Methodist News Service (March 4, 1999)
Justice Blackmun and the little people | Mary Meehan (originally published in Human Life Review, Summer 2004)
The sanctification of human life (a historical overview of the Christian church’s position on abortion and other issues related to the sanctity of human life) — Chapter 2 of How Christianity Changed the World | Alvin Schmidt (Zondervan, 2004 — via Google Books)
Why is the New Testament silent about abortion? | Michael J. Gorman, Good News (May/June 1993)
‘Durham Declaration’ asks for ‘Scriptural approach’ to abortion in the UMC; Signatories include Bishops Ole E. Borgen and William R. Cannon | United Methodist News Service (March 12, 1991)
Text of the Durham Declaration (January 1991)
42 years later, clergy who fought racism to reunite | Associated Press (June 6, 2005) — Related: The “Born of Conviction” statement, published in the Mississippi Methodist Advocate, Jan. 2, 1963 (PDF)
Religion and the Civil Rights Movement (PDF) | An address by the Rev. Edwin King (Feb. 22, 2002)

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