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.

Larry Kirkpatrick compares two viewpoints on human sexuality: the creation viewpoint (or essentialist or complementarian), and the constructionist. One view holds that humans are fundamentally male or female and that this is part of the created order. Another view holds that human sexuality is humanly constructed and therefore shifting, flexible, mash-up-able and humanly redefineable. Does the constructionist approach led itself to targeting institutions with an agenda of societal “transformation”? Part one opens this discussion.

FIND THE ARTICLE HERE: Women in male roles, pt. 1.

Prs. Larry Kirkpatrick and Mike Lambert discuss the theological movement of denominations which approve women’s ordination and their inevitable drift into approval of same-sex unions. They consider how one and only one denomination so far has turned back from this—by reestablishing a historical-grammatical interpretive plan at their seminary. Discussion turns, with some regret, to the current situation of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary located in Berrien Springs, MI. The women’s ordination-favoring theological approach of the current dean is investigated, the core presupposition identified. 13 minutes.

Readers of OrdinationTruth.com know that we have a Seventh-day Adventist Church focus. Still, happenings in other churches often forecast what we will face as a body. The United Methodist Church is now in disarray over issues of same-sex marriage and church polity. Hundreds of their pastors are acting in insubordination toward their General Conference, and in several jurisdictions, leading Bishops are refusing to support their GC prohibition on conducting same-sex “wedding” ceremonies. There is now very open talk of separating an already divided church into separate bodies.

There are groups of Methodists seeking to set in order these matters, yet with little success so far. In peeking into the present battle within Methodism, we hope that are not seeing a near Adventist future. The following links will give readers a flavor:

http://goodnewsmag.org/

http://www.wesleyancovenantnetwork.org/what-we-believe.html

http://www.confessingumc.org/schism-has-happened-what-about-division/

http://www.umc.org/news-and-media/bishops-seek-to-help-church-find-way-on-homosexuality


Above: Yet another take on the volatile current Methodist situation.

By Many Hands

“[T]he question of homosexuality now presents evangelicals in the United States with a decision that cannot be avoided. Within a very short time, we will know where everyone stands on this question. There will be no place to hide, and there will be no way to remain silent. To be silent will answer the question.

“The question is whether evangelicals will remain true to the teachings of Scripture and the unbroken teaching of the Christian church for over two thousand years on the morality of same-sex acts and the institution of marriage” (Albert Mohler, “God, the Gospel, and the Gay Challenge—a Response to Matthew Vines,” http://www.albertmohler.com/2014/04/22/god-the-gospel-and-the-gay-challenge-a-response-to-matthew-vines/).

The church stands on a precipice. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, is seeing clearly on a crucial issue. The tides of culture are washing in on the church. Mohler warns we are now living in the midst of what is essentially a revolution. Society-wide conceptions of morality are rapidly changing, and “. . .our answer to this question will both determine or reveal what we understand about everything the Bible reveals and everything the church teaches—even the gospel itself” (Ibid.).

If Mohler is right, much more is at stake for Adventists than a mere attempt to hold together opposite wings as one church. The actual question for us, is whether or not the Seventh-day Adventist Church will continue its commitment to following the Bible, that is, whether or not the Seventh-day Adventist Church will continue to exist as we know it.

The larger context of Mohler’s article is the threat posed by the teaching of Matthew Vines. Vines, an evangelical Christian, began a few years ago to publicly argue that one can both be Christian and also engage in committed same-sex “relationships.” He has gone on to develop and publish his viewpoints. Mohler warns that Vines “specifically seeks to argue that the basic sexual complementarity of the human male and the female—each made in God’s image—is neither essential to Genesis chapters 1 and 2 or to any biblical text that follows.”

This will have a familiar ring to Seventh-day Adventists who support our longstanding use of the Historical-grammatical method, who see evidence in Genesis two as does the New Testament’s apostle Paul. Under inspiration, Paul looks back to Genesis two, before the fall, for divinely-revealed insight on male and female roles. Opposite this Genesis two understanding we find Adventists advocating what the NAD has recently designated as the “Principle-based, Historical-cultural” (PBHC) method of Bible interpretation. Theirs is a view holding that these male and female roles arise not from Genesis two but from chapter three, after Adam and Eve had disobeyed God.

The difference is enormous. If male and female roles of headship and submission are part of the Creator’s design from a sinless world (as are Sabbath and marriage), they remain forever normative. But if headship entered only after sin, it is temporary and not part of the created order.

It is interesting to ponder which approach is consonant with current cultural claims of role interchangeability and same-sex “marriage”? Mohler warns:

“There are a great host of people, considered to be within the larger evangelical movement, who are desperately seeking a way to make peace with the moral revolution and endorse the acceptance of openly-gay individuals and couples within the life of the church. Given the excruciating pressures now exerted on evangelical Christianity, many people—including some high-profile leaders—are desperately seeking an argument they can claim as both persuasive and biblical. . . . the Bible insists on a difference in roles. In order to overcome this impediment, biblical scholars and theologians committed to egalitarianism have made arguments that are hauntingly similar to those now made by Matthew Vines in favor of relativizing the Bible’s texts on same-sex behaviors” (Ibid.).

The warning is clear. Denial of male and female complementarity opens the way for the denial of sexual complementarity. There are risks and potholes all over this road. If the Seventh-day Adventist Church would remain on the path of faithfulness to Scripture, it must step carefully. It must look beyond short term “gains” (keeping the church “together”) to the longer-term perspective.

The church is not “together.” There are differing approaches, differing hermeneutics, different views concerning the authority of Scripture. But there is a movement toward clarity. In due course we will have clarity. As in the larger evangelical world, soon everyone will know where the Seventh-day Adventist Church stands. One pathway compromises with culture; the other, although painful, maintains the counter-cultural biblical witness of an Eden to be restored. This witness is God’s Eden corrective, not man’s compromise with culture.

We stand on the precipice. The only question is whether or not we recognize it. Clarification on sex-roles in the church is not coming one moment too soon. If Mohler is right, “within a very short time, we will know where everyone stands on this question.”

Netherlands Union again places itself in opposition to the Seventh-day Adventist Church

Pastor Larry Kirkpatrick considers recent developments in Netherlands Union and the threat they pose to the mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The Bible and the world church says that same-sex intimacy is immoral, but the Netherlands Union has another idea. They are again acting unilaterally to oppose the position of the world church. Read why their approach cannot continue. FIND THE ARTICLE HERE.

By Many Hands

Nothing is standing still. The Council of Adventist Pastors continues to observe developments in other communities of faith. One such is the Methodist church. The United Methodist Church (UMC) is experiencing a historic meltdown right now. As you read these words a significant number of North American Methodist Conferences are in one way or another refusing to support the agreed discipline of that denomination with reference to homosexuality.

The Methodist Church states its position on human sexuality thus:

“The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching” (Book of Discipline, p. 126). This statement and three similar, have been subject to relentless attack within the UMC by their homosexual lobby. Yet at each General Conference session the Church has continued to uphold this biblical statement.

Methodism began in the mid-1700s and shares a variety of similarities with the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Ordination of women pastors has been the policy since 1956. Today—predictably—the issue in the Methodist Church is over homosexuality.

On March 10, 2014, the New York Annual Conference, Methodist Church dismissed the case of a retired Methodist minister who officiated at a “wedding” between his son and and another male (see http://www.umc.org/news-and-media/new-york-conference-court-dismisses-ogletree-case, accessed 2014-03-11). In response, UMC pastor Rob Renfroe offered the following editorial comments on the website of Good News ministry:

The truth is we may not be able to live together as one church. The truth is if our bishops do not act swiftly and decisively to uphold our process of holy conferencing and enforce our Book of Discipline, The United Methodist Church will be lost. God’s church will continue and the Gospel will go forth, but we will have squandered the beauty and the power of Wesleyan Christianity as embodied by the UM Church.

Knowing that they will not be able to change our official UM positions regarding human sexuality and marriage at the next General Conference, progressives have begun a campaign of disobedience and are now publicly performing services of holy union for homosexual couples. How our bishops respond will determine if this defiance is the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end (http://goodnewsmag.org/2014/02/editorial-methodisms-late-hour/#sthash.QyXRhbsO.dpuf).

According to Renfroe,

Since 1972, the UM Church has waited in vain for our bishops—our shepherds who are charged with defending and promoting our doctrines—to create statements, resources and teaching materials that explain and promote our balanced position that all persons possess sacred worth but not all sexual practices are compatible with Christian teaching. Perhaps if the Council had fulfilled its responsibility at some point in the past forty years, we would not be in the confused and divided place we now find ourselves (Ibid.).

There are lessons here for the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Methodists did not hold their appointed leadership accountable. They trusted without verifying. Today that church is in the throes of an amazing conflict. Adventists have opportunity to learn from Methodist mistakes. Here, our General Conference president Ted N.C. Wilson in his 2010 inaugural message offers a good plan:

Seventh-day Adventist Church members, hold your leaders, pastors, local churches, educators, institutions, and administrative organizations accountable to the highest standards of belief based on a literal understanding of Scripture.

If we unite on the authority of the Bible and the Historical-grammatical method of interpretation highlighted in the 1986 Annual Council Methods of Bible Study Document, we can find unity. Those Methodists who compose the homosexual lobby within that denomination are running far afield of the Historical-grammatical method. For example, William M. Kent, a member of the United Methodist Committee to Study Homosexuality, stated

. . . the scriptural texts in the Old and New Testaments condemning homosexual practice are neither inspired by God nor otherwise of enduring Christian value. Considered in the light of the best biblical, theological, scientific, and social knowledge, the biblical condemnation of homosexual practice is better understood as representing time and place bound cultural prejudice (William M. Kent, op. cit. by R. Albert Mohler, Jr., “Homosexuality in Theological Perspective,” part two, http://www.christianpost.com/news/homosexuality-in-theological-perspective-part-two-6458/, accessed 2014-03-12).

In Kent’s view the plain reading of Scripture is rendered non-authoritative while the group-think of current culture is determinative. “Best” is determined based not on what the Bible says but on what “we” think. This is the road to oblivion and dissolution. In a similar but more subtle manner, the pro-women’s ordination lobby in the Seventh-day Adventist Church is engaged in creative ways of discarding texts which stand in the way of their preferred approach. As one such Adventist recently wrote on another website, “Can someone explain why the opinions of Paul of Tarsus, an individual living roughly 2000 years ago in a totally different culture and social system, should be considered as authoritative concerning what a small Protestant Christian faith community functioning in the 21st Century should do or not do with regard to whether women should be ordained? Please enlighten me.”

The Methodist Church is crashing on the homosexuality issue. As a random sample, of 20 stories on the United Methodist News Service website on March 25, 2014 the headlines or summaries mentioned gays, homosexuality, same-sex, wedding (referring to homosexual unions), 10 times.

While it is amazing to see what is transpiring in Methodism’s late hour, what some are engaged in in Adventism is equally alarming. Let us hold our leaders, pastors, local churches, educators, institutions, and administrative organizations accountable. Let us reaffirm our commitment to sound biblical interpretation which will very largely prevent the problems other groups are facing and aid us in keeping focused on our mission of sharing Jesus’ third Angel’s Message with the world.

Our pastors have given thought to an article recently published on the internet and offer this little response. The article in question proposes that the Seventh-day Adventist Church not follow the path of other churches by not splitting over the question of women’s ordination. We certainly desire that the church not split! But what is the truly pivotal question, the one which determines whether we are united or divided? And why does the author avoid it? We address this in “A New Path?” FIND IT HERE.

If homosexuality cannot be overcome, we have no business forbidding its practice; or so the argument goes. Then the same interpretive methods which when applied to women’s ordination open the way, will certainly be used also to de-categorize homosexual practice as sin. Lee Roy Holmes looks at the problem. FIND IT HERE.

In May 2012, delegates of the United Methodist Church gathered for their General Conference Session in Tampa, Florida. A key item in the meeting was the question of whether or not to retain language in their Book of Discipline (their Church Manual) stating that homosexual practice is sin. When the main attempt to remove this language failed to pass final committee, the pro-homosexuality group turned to plan B, a compromise position. On that, the vote was… Well, you’ll know the answer if you watch this short video. The Methodist Church in General Conference voted to ordain women as pastors in 1956. Theology has consequences, and what paves the way for one practice also paves the way for future changes when cultural trends are ripe.