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

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

Bishop Talbert speaking in May in Tampa, Fla.

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

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

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

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

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


July 19, 2012

Dear Bishop ________________ ,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We acknowledge that these are challenging days in The United Methodist Church. We affirm our commitment to the Book of Discipline, including its statement “that all persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God. All persons need the ministry of the Church in their struggles for human fulfillment, as well as the spiritual and emotional care of a fellowship that enables reconciling relationships with God, with others, and with self.”

We fully support the Discipline’s affirmation [in ¶ 161F] “that God’s grace is available to all. We will seek to live together in Christian community, welcoming, forgiving, and loving one another, as Christ has loved and accepted us. We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons.”

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

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

Yours in Christ,


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


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

Related articles and information
Bishop accused of urging disobedience | Heather Hahn, United Methodist News Service (Aug. 24, 2012)
United Methodists uphold policy that calls homosexual acts ‘incompatible with Christian teaching’ | Daniel Burke, Religion News Service (May 3, 2012)
The church addresses marriage and sexuality | Thomas A. Lambrecht, Good News (January/February 2012)
Outsider influence over homosexuality at General Conference | Karen Booth, Good News (January/February 2012)
Book Review: Forgetting How To Blush: United Methodism’s Compromise with the Sexual Revolution by Karen Booth | James V. Heidinger II, Good News (March/April 2012)
UM clergy vow to wed homosexual couples | Sam Hodges, UM Reporter (July 15, 2011)
Eros defended or eros defiled — What do Wesley and the Bible say? | Ben Witherington, The Bible and Culture (Patheos.com) (Feb. 14, 2011)
Christianity elevates sexual morality (a historical overview of the Christian church’s teaching on sexual morality) — Chapter 3 of How Christianity Changed the World | Alvin Schmidt (Zondervan, 2004 — via Google Books)
Book: Staying the Course: Supporting the Church’s Position on Homosexuality (ordering details) | Maxie Dunnam and H. Newton Malony, ed. (Abingdon Press, 2003)
Anyone who works under the authority or auspices of the Church must be held to the highest standards of behavior, free of misconduct in any form | UMSexualEthics.org
United Methodist churches perform same-sex weddings with one foot in the closet | Amanda Hess, TBD.com (Sept. 30, 2010)
UM Judicial Council backs clergy dismissal over affair | Linda Bloom, UMNS (April 27, 2010)
What the evidence really says about Scripture and homosexual practice: Five issues (PDF) | Robert A. J. Gagnon (March 2009)
Slavery, homosexuality, and not being of one mind | Riley B. Case, via The Sundry Times (July 1, 2008)
How churches can refine message on homosexuality | Robin Russell, United Methodist Reporter (May 19, 2008)
United Methodists uphold homosexuality stance | Robin Russell, United Methodist News Service (April 30, 2008)
United Methodism in crisis: Scriptural renewal through the Good News Movement | Chapter 4 of Public Pulpits: Methodists and Mainline Churches in the Moral Argument of Public Life by Steven M. Tipton (University of Chicago Press, 2008 — via Google Books)
Methodists strengthen stand against homosexual practice | Christianity Today (May 5, 2004)
Homosexuality and the Great Commandment (an address to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh) | Peter C. Moore (November 2002)
‘Good News’ says push to accept homosexual practice threatens to split United Methodist Church | United Methodist News Service (May 6, 1997)

Bill Bouknight

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

From the UM
Book of Discipline

¶161B Marriage

— We affirm the sanctity of the marriage covenant that is expressed in love, mutual support, personal commitment, and shared fidelity between a man and a woman…. We support laws in civil society that define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

¶161F Human Sexuality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Against the grain

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

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

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

Chick-fil-A founder Truett Cathy in 2003

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

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

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


Related posts
Chasing away young people by being faithful to the gospel?
What is at stake in the battle over marriage
Should United Methodists agree to disagree on homosexuality?
Bishop Mack Stokes: Holiness in human sexuality
A word from Mr. Wesley: Holiness in singleness
Renewal & Reform Coalition responds to retired bishops’ call to alter UMC’s sexuality standards
Renewal & Reform Coalition releases letter to Council of Bishops
Why the United Methodist Church cannot condone homosexuality
In embracing homosexual marriage, Foundry UMC rejects UM boundaries, breaks with 2 millennia of church teaching
Judicial Council says no to same-sex marriage

Related articles and information
United Methodists uphold policy that calls homosexuality ‘incompatible with Christian teaching’ | Daniel Burke, Religion News Service (May 3, 2012)
The church addresses marriage and sexuality | Thomas A. Lambrecht, Good News (January/February 2012)
Book Review: Forgetting How To Blush: United Methodism’s Compromise with the Sexual Revolution by Karen Booth | James V. Heidinger II, Good News (March/April 2012)
UM clergy vow to wed homosexual couples | Sam Hodges, UM Reporter (July 15, 2011)
Eros defended or eros defiled — What do Wesley and the Bible say? | Ben Witherington, The Bible and Culture (Patheos.com) (Feb. 14, 2011)
Christianity elevates sexual morality (a historical overview of the Christian church’s teaching on sexual morality) — Chapter 3 of How Christianity Changed the World | Alvin Schmidt (Zondervan, 2004 — via Google Books)
Book: Staying the Course: Supporting the Church’s Position on Homosexuality (ordering details) | Maxie Dunnam and H. Newton Malony, ed. (Abingdon Press, 2003)
United Methodist churches perform same-sex weddings with one foot in the closet | Amanda Hess, TBD.com (Sept. 30, 2010)
What the evidence really says about Scripture and homosexual practice: Five issues (PDF) | Robert A. J. Gagnon (March 2009)
How churches can refine message on homosexuality | Robin Russell, United Methodist Reporter (May 19, 2008)
Truett Cathy tosses cows, mesmerizes North Georgia UMs (PDF) | Alice M. Smith, Wesleyan Christian Advocate (North and South Ga. Conferences) (July 4, 2003)
Homosexuality and the Great Commandment (an address to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh) | Peter C. Moore (November 2002)
‘Good News’ says push to accept homosexual practice threatens to split United Methodist Church | United Methodist News Service (May 6, 1997)

August 6, 1801: Revival hits a Presbyterian camp meeting in Cane Ridge, Kentucky (as pictured in sketch below). Within a week, 25,000 were attending the revival services.

Cane Ridge became the largest and most famous camp meeting of the Second Great Awakening.

Although the revival at Cane Ridge grew out of a Presbyterian gathering, it helped spark the Methodist camp meeting movement, as noted by theologian Fred Sanders of Biola University.

Preachers from numerous denominations arrived [at Cane Ridge], set up pulpits in tree stands, and preached; sometimes as many as seven preachers at once addressing different crowds throughout the woods. There was a lot of fainting, swooning, shouting, and dancing as the days went by.

In the aftermath, Presbyterians pretty much washed their hands of it and backed away. It was the Methodists who, while denouncing the excesses of the event, nevertheless were proud to claim ownership. They retroactively dubbed it a camp meeting staffed by circuit riders, and promoted similar revivals elsewhere.

August 7, 1771: Francis Asbury answers John Wesley’s call for volunteers to go to America as missionaries. He would become the father of American Methodism.

A biography of Asbury was released in 2009, American Saint: Francis Asbury and the Methodists (Oxford University Press).

August 10, 70: Roman troops, sent to put down a Jewish rebellion, break through the walls of Jerusalem and destroy the temple.

August 21, 1741: Composer George Frideric Handel (left) shuts himself up in his home to write the oratorio, Messiah. He finished the composition only 23 days later.

“Whether I was in the body or out of the body when I wrote it, I know not,” he later said.

August 27, 1727: Count Nicolaus von Zinzendorf‘s Moravian community at Herrnhut, Germany, begins a round-the-clock “prayer chain.” At least one person in the community prayed every minute of the day — for more than 100 years.

August 31, 1688: English Puritan writer and preacher John Bunyan (right), author of Pilgrim’s Progress, dies at age 69.

Though one of England’s most famous authors even in his own day, he maintained his pastoral duties until his death, caused by a cold he caught while riding through the rain to reconcile father and son.

Adapted with permission from ChristianHistory.net.

Related posts
July in Christian History
June in Christian History
May in Christian History
April in Christian History
March in Christian History

The following post is by the Rev. Rob Renfroe, president of Good News, the flagship renewal ministry of The United Methodist Church.

The Rev. Rob Renfroe

He is also the pastor of discipleship at The Woodlands UMC, a 9,300-member congregation in The Woodlands, Texas.

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

He is a past member of the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society.


A few weeks ago, I spoke to members of the Southwest Texas Conference, encouraging SWTX evangelicals to be faithful to the the Gospel and to continue in the work of renewing their Conference. I mentioned this year’s General Conference and the issue of homosexuality only briefly.

Afterward, I received a Facebook message about my talk from the pastor of a “reconciling” congregation in Austin, Texas.

For non-Texans, let me explain that Austin is Texas’ most liberal large city. Its adopted motto, seen on bumper stickers everywhere, is “Keep Austin Weird.” The University of Texas is one of the most “progressive” universities in the state, if not in the country.

The pastor who contacted me serves a church just off the UT campus. In his note, he reiterated an assertion I had heard many times at the General Conference in Tampa: If we don’t change our stance on homosexual practice, “we’re going to lose the young people and the church will have no future.”

In my response to him, I related a true story:

Ten years ago we had a young man on our staff at The Woodlands UMC. He was one of our youth workers and we all loved him.

But we know he wouldn’t be with us long. He had a Baptist background and felt God wanted him to start a new Southern Baptist congregation. He is from a small East Texas town, he is more conservative than any of the pastors on our staff, and he is a proud graduate of Texas A&M University.

A contextual note for non-Texans: A&M is as conservative as UT is liberal. And they are fierce rivals! I continued:

Would you believe that Matt felt called by God to start his new Southern Baptist church in Austin to reach University of Texas students? Makes no sense, right? But he followed what he believed God called him to do.

Now, 10 years later, Matt’s church — Austin Stone — has 3,500 persons in attendance each weekend. I did some checking and it turns out that this one conservative church has half as many people worshiping with it every Sunday as all of the UM churches in Austin put together.

If a liberal, progressive Gospel was going to be effective anywhere, you’d think it would be in one of our most liberal cities with one of our most progressive universities. But [liberal Christianity simply is] not reaching great numbers of people, young or old, where you would expect it to thrive.

So, no, I am not afraid that if we preach the truth with love that we will lose the young people or doom the future of the church. I think God honors churches that are faithful to his word and I believe the Gospel still has the power to convert and save the lost, no matter their age.

If God can use a conservative Baptist Aggie to reach liberal UT students, we don’t have to worry about the Gospel. It can take care of itself.

Our hope is built on…?

What is the UMC’s hope for the future? Our hope is not a progressive gospel that denies the cross or the authority of God’s Word. Our hope is not liberal pastors who adopt current cultural values because they don’t want to offend the beliefs of 18-year-olds.

Rather, the hope of the United Methodist Church, and of the world, is Jesus Christ — his life, death, and resurrection. What is needed is UM pastors who will be faithful to proclaim the truths of God’s Word — to the young, to the old, to all.


Related posts
Rob Renfroe of Good News on General Conference 2012
Should United Methodists agree to disagree on homosexuality?
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
Religion and the bad news bearers (“[A] study by the Barna Research Group [erroneously] claimed that young people under 30 are deserting the church in droves.”) | Rodney Stark and Byron Johnson, The Wall Street Journal (Aug. 26, 2011)
On flocking (An essay refuting the notion that “young people will flock to the churches [if] churches [forsake] the original objects of their existence.”) | G.K. Chesterton, All is Grist (1934)
The deeper issues of United Methodist renewal | Rob Renfroe, Good News (via The Sundry Times)
45 years of vision for United Methodist renewal and reform | James V. Heidinger II, Good News (web posted May 2012)
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)
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)

June 3, 1905: Hudson Taylor, English missionary to China and founder of the China Inland Mission, dies. “China is not to be won for Christ by quiet, ease-loving men and women,” he once said.

June 9, 1834: William Carey, often called “the father of modern Protestant missions” dies, having spent 41 years in India without a furlough. His mission could count only about 700 converts, but he had laid a foundation of Bible translations, education, and social reform.

He also inspired the missionary movement of the 19th century, especially with his cry, “Expect great things; attempt great things.”

magcartJune 15, 1215: King John signs the Magna Carta (right), which begins, “The Church of England shall be free,” setting forth the principle that the government had no right to control the church.

June 19, 1834: Baptist preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon, one of the greatest pulpiteers of the 19th century, is born in Essex, England.

In 1850, the teenage Spurgeon was converted during a service at a Primitive Methodist church, as a lay preacher spoke on Isaiah 45:22: “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is none else.”

Mr. Spurgeon described the event in his Autobiography:

[The speaker] had not much to say, thank God, for that compelled him to keep on repeating his text, and there was nothing needed — by me, at any rate — except his text. Then, stopping, he pointed to where I was sitting under the gallery, and he said, “That young man there looks very miserable”…and he shouted, as I think only a Primitive Methodist can, “Look! Look, young man! Look now!”….

Then I had this vision — not a vision to my eyes, but to my heart. I saw what a Savior Christ was…. I no sooner saw whom I was to believe than I also understood what it was to believe, and I did believe in one moment.

June 22, 1714: English Presbyterian pastor and Bible commentator Matthew Henry dies. His work is still published as Matthew Henry’s Commentary.

Methodist co-founder Charles Wesley based one of his most famous hymns, A Charge to Keep I Have, on Mr. Henry’s comments about Leviticus 8:35:

[The priests] attended to keep the charge of the Lord: we have every one of us a charge to keep, an eternal God to glorify, an immortal soul to provide for, needful duty to be done, our generation to serve; and it must be our daily care to keep this charge, for it is the charge of the Lord our Master, who will shortly call us to an account about it, and it is at our utmost peril if we neglect it.

neroJune 24, 64: After the Great Fire of Rome, Roman Emperor Nero (left) begins persecuting Christians.

According to Tacitus, Nero ordered Christians to be thrown to dogs, while others were crucified. Some were even set on fire “to serve as a nightly illumination when daylight had expired.”

June 25, 1744: The first Methodist conference convenes in London and begins to set standards for doctrine, liturgy, and discipline, thus giving an organizational framework to the “Evangelical Revival” that began in 1739.

John Wesley later wrote:

In June 1744, I desired my brother and a few other clergymen to meet me in London, to consider how we should proceed to save our own souls and those that heard us…. I invited the lay Preachers that were in the house to meet with us. We conferred together for several days, and were much comforted and strengthened thereby.

Adapted with permission from ChristianHistory.net.


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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.


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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)

A Monday afternoon tweet by Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, received sharply negative responses from several United Methodist tweeters.

Dr. Albert Mohler

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Why the United Methodist Church cannot condone homosexuality
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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)