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

Jim Garlow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Earthly marriage is but a shadow

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

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

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

We have it backward.

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

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

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

A satanic strategy

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

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

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


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

Related articles and information
United Methodists uphold policy that calls homosexuality ‘incompatible with Christian teaching’ | Daniel Burke, Religion News Service (May 3, 2012)
The church addresses marriage and sexuality | Thomas A. Lambrecht, Good News (January/February 2012)
Book Review: Forgetting How To Blush: United Methodism’s Compromise with the Sexual Revolution by Karen Booth | James V. Heidinger II, Good News (March/April 2012)
UM clergy vow to wed homosexual couples | Sam Hodges, UM Reporter (July 15, 2011)
Eros defended or eros defiled — What do Wesley and the Bible say? | Ben Witherington, The Bible and Culture (Patheos.com) (Feb. 14, 2011)
Christianity elevates sexual morality (a historical overview of the Christian church’s teaching on sexual morality) — Chapter 3 of How Christianity Changed the World | Alvin Schmidt (Zondervan, 2004 — via Google Books)
Book: Staying the Course: Supporting the Church’s Position on Homosexuality (ordering details) | Maxie Dunnam and H. Newton Malony, ed. (Abingdon Press, 2003)
United Methodist churches perform same-sex weddings with one foot in the closet | Amanda Hess, TBD.com (Sept. 30, 2010)
What the evidence really says about Scripture and homosexual practice: Five issues (PDF) | Robert A. J. Gagnon (March 2009)
How churches can refine message on homosexuality | Robin Russell, United Methodist Reporter (May 19, 2008)
Homosexuality and the Great Commandment (an address to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh) | Peter C. Moore (November 2002)
‘Good News’ says push to accept homosexual practice threatens to split United Methodist Church | United Methodist News Service (May 6, 1997)
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A Monday afternoon tweet by Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, received sharply negative responses from several United Methodist tweeters.

Dr. Albert Mohler

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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Mark Tooley

Mark Tooley, author of Taking Back the United Methodist Church (Bristol House, 2010) discussed the UMC’s 2012 General Conference in an interview Tuesday on Issues Etc., a daily program produced by Lutheran Public Radio.

You can listen to the 10-minute conversation below. (If the audio player doesn’t work, use this mp3 file.)

Mark Tooley is the president of the president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, founded in 1981 by United Methodists Ed Robb and David Jessup.

IRD describes itself as “an ecumenical alliance of U.S. Christians working to reform their churches’ social witness, in accord with biblical and historic Christian teachings, thereby contributing to the renewal of democratic society at home and abroad.”

Tooley was named president of the organization in 2009.

Mark Tooley’s writings have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Frontpage, The American Spectator, The Weekly Standard, Touchstone, and The Washington Times.

His second book, Methodism and Politics in the Twentieth Century (Bristol House) was released earlier this year.


Related posts
Podcast: Mark Tooley, author of ‘Taking Back the United Methodist Church’
Mark Tooley profiled in WORLD magazine
Podcast: Rob Renfroe on ‘The Deeper Issues of Methodist Renewal’
Podcast: Charles Keysor – ‘How then should UM evangelicals fight?’

Related articles and information
Same-Sex Marriage for United Methodists? | Mark Tooley, The American Spectator (June 27, 2011)
Mark Tooley discusses the Wisconsin Conference church trial of Amy DeLong | Issues Etc., Lutheran Public Radio (June 24, 2011)
Mere-O Interview: Mark Tooley | Mere Orthodoxy (March 14, 2011)
United Methodist ‘Call to Action’ finds 15% of UM churches highly ‘vital’ | Mark Tooley, UMAction—IRD (July 17, 2010)
Wesleyan surge: A review of Taking Back the United Methodist Church | William Murchison, Touchstone (May/June, 2010)
Mark Tooley Remarks to the IRD Board (March 14, 2010)
From CIA to IRD: Advocate Mark Tooley knows that ‘God often has surprises for us’ | WORLD (Oct. 10, 2009)
A conversation with Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy | The King’s College (New York City) Distinguished Visitor Series (Sept. 9, 2009)
Review: Taking Back The United Methodist Church (2008 ed.) | Ray Nothstine, Acton Institute Power Blog (April 10, 2008)
United Methodism in crisis: Scriptural renewal through the Good News Movement | Chapter 4 of Public Pulpits: Methodists and Mainline Churches in the Moral Argument of Public Life by Steven M. Tipton (University of Chicago Press, 2008 — via Google Books)
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 Junaluska Affirmation: Scriptural Christianity for United Methodists (PDF) | Forum for Scriptural Christianity (Good News) (July 20, 1975)

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

The Rev. Rob Renfroe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

A proposed ‘compromise’

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

From the UM
Book of Discipline

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another approach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The way forward

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

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


Related posts
General Conference 2012: More attempts to change UM standards on sexual behavior
If defiance continues, United Methodism may come crashing down
Podcast: Mark Tooley, author of Taking Back the United Methodist Church
Outcome of DeLong trial likely to exacerbate disunity of UMC
Bishop Mack Stokes: Holiness in human sexuality
A word from Mr. Wesley: Holiness in singleness
Why the United Methodist Church cannot condone homosexuality
Pro-homosexuality foundation pours millions into Catholic and mainline Protestant dissident groups
Breaking the covenant: Why aren’t ‘Reconciling’ churches being held to account?
Renewal & Reform Coalition responds to retired bishops’ call to alter UMC’s sexuality standards
In embracing homosexual marriage, Foundry UMC rejects UM boundaries, breaks with 2 millennia of church teaching
Board of Church and Society sex-ed writer: Sex outside of marriage can be ‘moral, ethical’
In Mississippi Conference, testimony from lesbian couple stirs controversy
Judicial Council says no to same-sex marriage
Billy Abraham on United Methodism: ‘There is no common faith among us’

Related articles and information
The church addresses marriage and sexuality | Thomas A. Lambrecht, Good News (January/February 2012)
Outsider influence over homosexuality at General Conference | Karen Booth, Good News (January/February 2012)
Book Review: Forgetting How To Blush: United Methodism’s Compromise with the Sexual Revolution by Karen Booth | James V. Heidinger II, Good News (March/April 2012)
UM clergy vow to wed homosexual couples | Sam Hodges, UM Reporter (July 15, 2011)
Eros defended or eros defiled — What do Wesley and the Bible say? | Ben Witherington, The Bible and Culture (Patheos.com) (Feb. 14, 2011)
Christianity elevates sexual morality (a historical overview of the Christian church’s teaching on sexual morality) — Chapter 3 of How Christianity Changed the World | Alvin Schmidt (Zondervan, 2004 — via Google Books)
Book: Staying the Course: Supporting the Church’s Position on Homosexuality (ordering details) | Maxie Dunnam and H. Newton Malony, ed. (Abingdon Press, 2003)
Anyone who works under the authority or auspices of the Church must be held to the highest standards of behavior, free of misconduct in any form | UMSexualEthics.org
United Methodist churches perform same-sex weddings with one foot in the closet | Amanda Hess, TBD.com (Sept. 30, 2010)
UM Judicial Council backs clergy dismissal over affair | Linda Bloom, UMNS (April 27, 2010)
What the evidence really says about Scripture and homosexual practice: Five issues (PDF) | Robert A. J. Gagnon (March 2009)
Slavery, homosexuality, and not being of one mind | Riley B. Case, via The Sundry Times (July 1, 2008)
How churches can refine message on homosexuality | Robin Russell, United Methodist Reporter (May 19, 2008)
United Methodists uphold homosexuality stance | Robin Russell, United Methodist News Service (April 30, 2008)
United Methodism in crisis: Scriptural renewal through the Good News Movement | Chapter 4 of Public Pulpits: Methodists and Mainline Churches in the Moral Argument of Public Life by Steven M. Tipton (University of Chicago Press, 2008 — via Google Books)
Methodists strengthen stand against homosexual practice | Christianity Today (May 5, 2004)
Homosexuality and the Great Commandment (an address to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh) | Peter C. Moore (November 2002)
‘Good News’ says push to accept homosexual practice threatens to split United Methodist Church | United Methodist News Service (May 6, 1997)

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

Dr. Riley B. Case

Dr. Case served for many years as a pastor and district superintendent in the UMC’s North Indiana Conference (now the Indiana Conference), and he has been a delegate to five UM General Conferences.

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

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

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


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

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

From the UM
Book of Discipline

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What to watch for

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related articles and information
Outsider influence over homosexuality at General Conference | Karen Booth, Good News (January/February 2012)
UM clergy vow to wed homosexual couples | Sam Hodges, UM Reporter (July 15, 2011)
Eros defended or eros defiled — What do Wesley and the Bible say? | Ben Witherington, The Bible and Culture (Patheos.com) (Feb. 14, 2011)
Christianity elevates sexual morality (a historical overview of the Christian church’s teaching on sexual morality) — Chapter 3 of How Christianity Changed the World | Alvin Schmidt (Zondervan, 2004 — via Google Books)
Book: Staying the Course: Supporting the Church’s Position on Homosexuality (ordering details) | Maxie Dunnam and H. Newton Malony, ed. (Abingdon Press, 2003)
Anyone who works under the authority or auspices of the Church must be held to the highest standards of behavior, free of misconduct in any form | UMSexualEthics.org
United Methodist churches perform same-sex weddings with one foot in the closet | Amanda Hess, TBD.com (Sept. 30, 2010)
UM Judicial Council backs clergy dismissal over affair | Linda Bloom, UMNS (April 27, 2010)
What the evidence really says about Scripture and homosexual practice: Five issues (PDF) | Robert A. J. Gagnon (March 2009)
Slavery, homosexuality, and not being of one mind | Riley B. Case, via The Sundry Times (July 1, 2008)
How churches can refine message on homosexuality | Robin Russell, United Methodist Reporter (May 19, 2008)
United Methodists uphold homosexuality stance | Robin Russell, United Methodist News Service (April 30, 2008)
Methodists strengthen stand against homosexual practice | Christianity Today (May 5, 2004)
Homosexuality and the Great Commandment (an address to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh) | Peter C. Moore (November 2002)
‘Good News’ says push to accept homosexual practice threatens to split United Methodist Church | United Methodist News Service (May 6, 1997)

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

Dr. Riley B. Case

Dr. Case served for many years as a pastor and district superintendent in the UMC’s North Indiana Conference (now the Indiana Conference), and he has been a delegate to five UM General Conferences.

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

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

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


Every four years the General Conference of The United Methodist Church meets to set programs and visions for the next quadrennium (the coming four years), approve legislation that will revise the church’s Book of Discipline, accept a four-year budget for the general church, and consider the church’s position on various issues. The next General Conference will occur in less than three months — April 24-May 4 in Tampa, Fla.

Two proposals “hover near the top of the controversy list” for the conference, according to a recent article by United Methodist News Service (UMNS). One proposal (PDF) calls for restructuring the denomination by, among other things, consolidating nine of the church’s 13 general agencies into a Center for Connectional Mission and Ministry under a 15-member board. The other (PDF) would end job guarantees for ordained elders.

(The UMNS story failed to mention the elephant in the room: homosexuality. Issues related to homosexual relationships, including the church’s general view of moral standards and its understanding of family, have the potential to fracture the denomination. But that is another discussion.)

Restructuring is sorely needed

Evangelicals have been calling for restructuring for 40 years! The 1972 restructuring of the UMC, which came about in the wake of the 1968 merger of The Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren, institutionalized the radical social agenda of the day.

Just four years after its founding, the UMC adopted doctrinal pluralism, depreciated evangelism at the expense of social action, mandated social engineering by way of quota systems (PDF), created independent superboards, and created impossibly huge and expensive boards of directors for the agencies (the General Board of Global Ministries originally had 160 directors).

The underlying assumption of the 1972 structure seemed to be that the “real” United Methodist Church was to be found in its boards and agencies and the local church existed to support those agencies.

Under the 1972 structure, The United Methodist Church in the United States has lost 3.3 million members.

As has been pointed out, if the church were a corporation run by a competent board of directors, the leadership of the church would have been fired and the corporation re-organized long before now.

Finally, within the past few years, the church is facing up to its problems. Even without restructuring, the agencies are facing a 6.5% cut in funding. Staff has already been reduced from 3,139 in 1971 to 1,384 in 2010. The average age of a United Methodist Church member is now 57.

Faced with these facts, the Connectional Table and the Council of Bishops ordered independent studies (here and here—both in PDF) to assess why our present way of doing things is not serving us well. The studies came back with several conclusions. Among them: the agencies are out of touch with local churches; the boards of directors are too big (and costly); and there is much duplication of efforts.

Out of the studies came a “Call to Action” report (PDF), laying out principles and a process. Out of the Call to Action process has come an Interim Operations Team that has prepared the legislation for General Conference 2012.

The proposed legislation (PDF) calls for combining nine of the program agencies into four “ministry centers” (a new word for a general agency). Over the ministry centers would be a group — the Center for Connectional Mission and Ministry — that would be directed by a 15-member board. (This body would replace the present Connectional Table which coordinates the work of the agencies.)

The four ministry centers would operate with reduced-sized boards of directors, and, presumably, with less money and probably fewer staff than they presently have. Meanwhile, the overseer body, the Center for Connectional Ministry, would be able to align and reallocate funds in order to focus on increased local church vitality. All of this will be done in consultation with the Council of Bishops.

Battling over turf

The church seems to be dividing up sides on the restructuring proposal.

  • There is a group that thinks that something (anything!) should be done, and that this proposal is as good as can be hoped for.
  • The general agencies themselves are critical of the IOT legislation; a number of agencies are preparing alternative legislation. The agencies believe that their interests will receive less money and some present staff would lose their jobs. The heads of the agencies have made a public statement (PDF) saying that vital services to the church will suffer.
  • The Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA) believes the church’s social witness would be compromised.

In other words, turf battles abound. There will be winners and losers. There will be smaller boards, less money to work with, and a different accountability process.

Especially troubling for some is the proposal that the Center for Connectional Mission and Ministry with its 15-member board will be able to reallocate up to $60 million in program funds during the quadrennium. For some, this concentrates too much power in the hands of too few people.

If there are winners it would appear to be the Council of Bishops. The bishops believe the church is suffering from lack of strong executive management, and that the (controversial) 15-member committee can provide that management voice.

But lurking in the background would be the bishops. The plan calls for the 15-member committee to be “in consultation with the Council of Bishops.” That troubles many people. It has been pointed out that bishops do not do “in consultation with” well. Plus the bishops will have a strong hand in deciding the makeup the 15-member board.

Would a new structure be good for the church — or does it have the potential to make things even worse? The answer to that question appears to be based on a prior question: How much do we trust our bishops?

An evangelical view

No place in the current official structure of The United Methodist Church is particularly receptive to evangelical influence, so evangelicals are in some ways disinterested observers in this process. Because they have no real turf to protect, nothing much can be lost. But cutting the power of the boards and agencies and allowing more funds to be used by local churches for mission and ministry would be a positive outcome.

Of course, many UM evangelicals believe the foundational problem in the UMC isn’t structure, but rather theological and moral integrity. None of the restructuring proposals address the underlying issue of United Methodist doctrine.


Related posts
Mission-minded conservative leaders in Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) launch new denomination
Should we turn control of UMC over to the Council of Bishops?
United Methodists are well-liked, but to what end?
Call to Action member: We must foster vital congregations or ‘we do not have a future with hope’
Podcast — George Hunter: Can the once-great Methodist movement become a movement again?
Podcast — Bishop Lindsey Davis: Will the UMC have the courage to do what needs to be done?
‘Assessment’ report: United Methodism faces compound crisis
Riley Case: ‘Operational Assessment’ shows UMC has lost its way
Renewal & Reform Coalition releases letter to Council of Bishops

Related articles and information
2012 General Conference Visitors’ Guide (PDF)
General Conference to weigh merits of adopting a New Method | Ed Tomlinson, North Georgia Advocate (Feb. 3, 2012)
2 big disputes ahead at General Conference | Heather Hahn, United Methodist News Service (Jan. 9, 2012)
Connectional Table proposes legislation to implement the Call to Action recommendations | news release (Sept. 2, 2011)
Interim Operations Team Report, as amended by the Connectional Table (PDF) | (Aug. 2, 2011)
UMC renewal demands vital local congregations | Andrew C. Thompson, UM Reporter (June 7, 2011)
Bishops seek change in presidency | Heather Hahn, United Methodist News Service (May 5, 2011)
Call to Action: Reordering the Life of the Church | Website of the UMC’s Call to Action Steering Team
The complete “Operational Assessment” report (PDF) and Appendices (PDF) | Call to Action Steering Team (June 29, 2010)
Tone deafness and the Call to Action | Rob Renfroe, Good News (September/October 2010)
United Methodist ‘Call to Action’ finds 15% of UM churches highly ‘vital’ | Mark Tooley, UMAction—IRD (July 17, 2010)
Call to Action offers signs of crisis and hope | Heather Hahn, United Methodist News Service (July 13, 2010)
Momentum builds for major church change | Bishop John L. Hopkins, United Methodist News Service (April 12, 2010)
Call to Action seeks to increase church vitality | J. Richard Peck, United Methodist News Service (April 9, 2010)
Church leaders seek consensus on plans for change | Kathy L. Gilbert, United Methodist News Service (Nov. 12, 2009)
Connectional Table OKs new plan to study church | J. Richard Peck, United Methodist News Service (Nov. 9, 2009)
Unity Task Force Meeting: Dialogue with Renewal Leaders (PDF) | Meeting with the Council of Bishops Unity Task Force, Lake Junaluska, N.C. (Nov. 5, 2009)
Committee assesses life of church | Linda Green, United Methodist News Service (July 22, 2009)
Bishop Palmer says church is in ‘sweet spot’ for change | Kathy L. Gilbert, United Methodist News Service (May 14, 2009)
Methodism’s coming death spiral | Donald Sensing, WindsOfChange.net (Nov. 15, 2007)
40 years of vision for United Methodist Renewal (PDF) | James V. Heidinger II, Good News (November/December 2007)
Statement in opposition to the 1972 Structure Study Commission Report (PDF) | Albert C. Outler, from the Journal of the 1972 General Conference (April 17, 1972)
UMC realities (video–see below) | Lovett H. Weems, Jr., Lewis Center for Church Leadership (March 2011)

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