The United Methodist Church, wracked by a generation of controversy over human sexuality and LGBT issues, faces a pivotal decision this year. A General Conference Session to be held in Minneapolis in just three months will likely see delegates vote to split the denomination. A plan has been proposed by which LGBT favoring Methodists will acquire full control of the denomination while Methodist members upholding the biblical position rejecting the normalizing of sexual sin will be free to leave with churches and assets and form a new Methodist denomination.
The above television news report highlights the enormous divide within the United Methodist Church (UMC). The UMC as a global denomination has voted a different view than several Methodist Universities in North America. The University Methodist Church in Austin, TX is allowing same-sex “weddings” in its chapel halls, defying the General Conference Session vote results from February 2019. In response to that vote, KXGN Austin reports that the pastor of the church has declared the church will operate “as if these new rules never existed.”
The UMC is a divided church, but parents continue to send children to be educated in universities where the church associated with the school are not only inculcating in students aberrant theology but attitudes of rebellion.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church is similarly divided. Some of the loudest voices favoring cultural accommodation emanate from our Universities in North America. We seek to operate so that no entity is a power to itself, but rather our denominational entities are interdependent and do not determine their own status.
Will students in our universities strengthen the world church and its decisions, or permit themselves to be led to disregard their world church. Are Adventist students different, basing their decisions on inspired counsel? Time will tell.
Readers of OrdinationTruth.com are likely aware that, similarly to the divided situation within the Seventh-day Adventist Church over women’s ordination, the United Methodist Church is locked in schism over LGBTQ practice. Click on the link below to read the full article.http://ordinationtruth.com/poc-q-t-methodists-declare-rebellion-to-general-conference/
The United Methodist Church Special General Conference Session held February 23-26, 2019 resulted in the passage of “Traditional Plan.” This plan upheld the many decades-published position in the Methodist Book of Discipline–the authoritative church policy of the Methodist church—which states,
“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” (Paragraph 304.3).
Since the 1980s the strong LGBT faction in the church has fought to remove this language from their Book of Discipline–language which they say “causes harm” to LGBT members of that denomination. This divide has deeply fractured that church.
The 2019 Session resulted in the passage of a plan that not only continues the Book of Discipline language, but takes new steps toward correction. Now, after the session, the pro-LGBT faction is distraught and angry. One leading pastor publicly weighed the options:
- Leave to form a new United Methodism.
- Stay, resist, give the Good News/Confessing Movement/Wesleyan Covenant Association the gracious exit they’ve been looking for in hopes that they will leave, and then reform the United Methodist Church for mission and ministry for the 21st century.
And when it comes to this issue, why should conservative United Methodists abandon their church when the LGBT faction has again failed to convince? Pastor Thomas Lambrecht writes that actually,
“Traditionalists have not been eager to leave the denomination. It is a mistake to think traditionalists have ‘been looking for’ a gracious exit. For over 50 years, Good News has enthusiastically encouraged evangelicals to remain in The United Methodist Church and help reform it” (https://goodnewsmag.org/2019/04/why-traditionalists-are-not-leaving/).And
“Traditionalists believe we have the votes to fully pass and implement the rest of the Traditional Plan at General Conference 2020. With Africa gaining votes and the U.S. losing votes, and with the full ten-day time frame available, revised versions of the provisions that failed to pass in St. Louis or are declared unconstitutional by the Judicial Council can be passed and implemented.”More interesting is the offer by conservatives to liberals of a “gracious exit”:
“Traditionalists would be open to a mutually agreed separation that multiplies Methodism into two or three new denominations. In that case, no one would be ‘leaving’ the UM Church, but everyone would be on the equal footing of deciding on a new affiliation with a new denomination.
“A scenario of multiplying Methodism would seek to treat everyone fairly and equally. There would be no winners or losers. All annual conferences and local churches would be able to make an informed choice about which new Methodist expression they want to be part of. The consciences and convictions of all would be respected because all could belong to an expression that embodies their convictions.”Both sides seem see the impossibility of continuing together. The tide of the world and the tide of Scripture do not mix. In the absence of a change of view and heart, separation is an option that, more than ever, can be expected to be front and center in May 2020 when the next General Conference Session of the Methodist Church meets.
Adventists are thoroughly divided over women’s ordination. While there appears to have been no substantial action on the topic at Spring Meeting this year, our own 2020 General Conference Session is now about a year away. Then, the world church will elect new leadership for each of our 13 world divisions. A wise work by the nominating committee can help the Adventist Church address the church governance issues that have arisen because of the insubordination of some leadership in the NAD and their disregard for the 2015 world church decision refusing to permit individual divisions to decide for themselves whether to ordain women.
Adventists can avoid the Methodist path by refusing to ordain women to the gospel ministry, and, at the same time, avoid the catastrophic divide over LGBT which has the Methodist denomination on the brink of schism.
Diversity failed in the Mennonite Church USA on December 31, 2017 when its largest group, the Lancaster Conference, left the denomination over same-sex “marriage.” The Lancaster Conference opposes same-sex “marriage” as unbiblical.
The “official” Mennonite Church USA definition of marriage continues to affirm “We believe that God intends marriage to be a covenant between one man and one woman for life” (Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective, Article 19, Marriage, http://mennoniteusa.org/confession-of-faith/marriage/, accessed 2018-01-04). However, the Mennonite Council has encouraged “full inclusion” for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons in the church since 1976.
On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5–4 in Obergefell v. Hodges, that states cannot prohibit the issuing of marriage licenses to same-sex couples, or deny recognition of lawfully performed out-of-state marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The ruling invalidated same-sex marriage bans in individual states. That decision was followed almost immediately by the Mennonite Church USA Biennial Convention, held June 30-July 5, 2015.
Delegates at that meeting voted the following resolution:
“The ways in which we have engaged the decades-long conflict in the church over issues related to human sexuality have diverted us from our central mission, divided us from each other and damaged the name of Christ in the world. While acknowledging different interpretations, we affirm the centrality of Jesus Christ and the authority of Scripture as an essential part of our collective discernment. We also affirm the goodness of marriage, singleness, celibacy, sexual intimacy within a marriage covenant, and fidelity for all people, and we acknowledge that there is currently not consensus within Mennonite Church USA on whether it is appropriate to bless Christians who are in same-sex covenanted unions. Because God has called us to seek peace and unity as together we discern and seek wisdom on these matters, we call on all those in Mennonite Church USA to offer grace, love and forbearance toward conferences, congregations and pastors in our body who, in different ways, seek to be faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ on matters related to same-sex covenanted unions” (http://mennoniteusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/ForbearanceResolution.pdf, accessed 2018-02-04).
Mennonite Universities had not remained neutral. “Eastern Mennonite University and Goshen College, both schools affiliated MC USA, adopted policies to protect faculty in same-sex relationships in 2015” (“Biggest Mennonite Conference Leaves Denomination,” http://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2018/january/biggest-mennonite-conference-leaves-denomination.html,” accessed 2018-01-04).
Lancaster Conference Mennonites describe what happened:
“At its annual conference in Kansas City earlier this summer, Mennonite Church USA attempted to stake out a compromise position on the role of homosexuals within the church.
“At that meeting, delegates affirmed membership guidelines that disallow same-sex marriage while at the same time asking that individual churches be allowed to dialogue, discuss and pray on the issue. Mennonite Church USA also placed a four-year moratorium on further discussion.
“The Lancaster conference held eight regional meetings with leaders and members to discuss options after July. More than 1,800 people attended those meetings” (http://lancasteronline.com/news/local/lancaster-conference-votes-to-leave-mennonite-church-usa/article_06b9765a-8f94-11e5-aa0c-1f0717d08474.html, accessed 2018-01-04).
A two-year period of discernment soon began, and when the split became effective at the last day of 2017, more than 180 churches had joined with the Lancaster Conference in leaving the Mennonite Church USA.
The same-sex “marriage” debate of the last two decades has left a trail of shattered denominations. Numerous Christian bodies have refused to sustain the clear Scriptural teaching that homosexual practice is sin, and that authentic marriage is only between a man and a woman. Instead, denominational bodies have repeatedly voted themselves exempt from two thousand years of Christian understanding and then sought to suppress their brethren upholding Scriptural views.
Two large local United Methodist congregations in the Mississippi Annual Conference recently voted to leave the United Methodist denomination. According to Walter Fenton, “Ninety six percent of the parishioners at Getwell Road UM Church in Southaven and 99 percent at The Orchard UM Church in Tupelo supported separation on Sunday, February 5.” Getwell church averages over 800 people in worship. The Orchard church on average sees an attendance of over 2,700 people to its weekend services.
The churches and their staff have been considering taking the step for some time. Church members were invited to consider the possibility of departure. Most notable is what Fenton says about how those congregations arrived in this place where thousands of members are now leaving the United Methodist church. According to Fenton,
Both pastors cited their congregations’ frustration with the denomination’s long and acrimonious debate over the church’s sexual ethics and teachings on marriage. Going forward, they said their congregations want to focus on kingdom matters so they are removing themselves from unproductive battles that distract them from their larger missions. Collier cited the Judicial Council’s (essentially the denomination’s “Supreme Court”) impending decision regarding the validity of the Western Jurisdiction’s July election of the Rev. Karen Oliveto as the denomination’s first openly gay bishop. “Either way, the Council’s decision is just going to prolong a bitter and divisive debate,” Collier said. “We don’t want to be part of the argument anymore. We have more important things we need to do in the Tupelo community and well beyond it.”
Other churches in the Mississippi Annual Conference are contemplating similar action.
The decisions at Getwell and Orchard came before the judicial Council decision regarding Western Jurisdiction-appointed lesbian bishop Karen Oliveto. In the April 28 decision, the United Methodist Church’s high court ruled 6-3 that while her lesbian status was in violation of the Church’s policies governed by the Book of Discipline, she could still retain her position as Bishop and the Church’s Western Jurisdiction would handle the matter. The Western Jurisdiction includes virtually every United Methodist church in the Western half of the United States. It issued the short video response above reacting to the April 28 decision. For more information, see Fenton’s original article at Largest Congregation in Mississippi Parts Ways with UM Church.
The UMC recently commissioned a “non-binary” person who uses “they” pronouns as deacon: Transgender person commissioned as deacon.
Report after conclusion of meetings: Major change has come to the Netherlands Union. Persons on the Executive Committee who have led away from the world church have been replaced. The news is very good, and a fuller report will follow. Praise be to God!
In an unusual constituency meeting of the Dutch Union of Churches, laypeople are seeking to change the direction set by leaders there. Netherlands leaders have opposed the decision reached by delegates to the San Antonio General Conference Session in 2015. And in 2014 Dutch leaders announced support for LGBT members:
Although we acknowledge the biblical ideal of a monogamous, heterosexual relationship, we continue to emphasize that it is an ideal. The basis of Christianity is that all people fall short of God’s ideal; this is why we require God’s grace and Christ’s sacrifice. This leads to the conclusion that we, as Christians, must welcome all children of God — who all fall short of God’s ideal — into our churches with love.
We advise the churches in the Netherlands to fully commit themselves to ensuring that LGBTI individuals feel safe in the church. We would strongly advise against any steps to revoke the membership of LGBTI people, given the unsafe environment this would create in churches.
On Friday many committees will be appointed, including the new Executive Committee. Please pray for the Church in the Netherlands.
Update: Persons were elected on Friday who will help guide the Union into closer harmony with the world church! Details to be added when they become available.