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.
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.
In a little more than eight months the United Methodist Church will hold a Special General Conference Session to consider plans to divide into separate churches. This historic meeting has been triggered by the adoption of LGBT favoring hermeneutics similar to the NAD’s Principle-Based, Historical-Cultural (PBHC) approach to biblical interpretation. In several respects, the Methodist issues are remarkably similar to our own. While the Methodist split looks unstoppable, Adventists can still avoid a similar outcome. This extremely instructive presentation by UMC minister Thomas Lambrecht is offered here for insights Adventists might glean in order that we might “press together!” First 35 minutes is Lambrecht talk, last ten Q&A answered by Lambrecht.