Opinion

United Methodists should acknowledge reality that they are no longer united

RNS photo illustration by Kit Doyle

(RNS) — “Lord of the church, we are united in Thee, in Thy church, and now in The United Methodist Church.”

With those words, spoken April 23, 1968, at the constituting General Conference in Dallas, the Methodist Church and a smaller Wesleyan denomination called the Evangelical United Brethren merged to form what was then and still is today the nation’s second-largest Protestant denomination, the United Methodist Church.

This weekend in St. Louis, a specially called General Conference convenes to consider a way forward for a global denomination locked in an intractable conflict over faith and order, especially around issues of human sexuality.

A copy of the UMC Book of Discipline rests on a table during an oral hearing on May 22, 2018, in Evanston, Ill. Photo by Kathleen Barry/UMNS

Whether they recognize it in the next days or push on pretending otherwise, the United Methodist Church won’t find a way forward without schism. They may stagger along in even more profound disunity and dysfunction, but we’ll look back at the special session as the end.

Schism is coded into the history of Protestantism. The Catholic Church, which understands itself to have been founded by Christ himself on Peter, his first vicar, will stand until the end of time. Denominations are not like that. They come and go, as the past five centuries have shown.


RELATED: The ’Splainer: What’s the United Methodist special session all about?


The 1968 merger itself stood at the crossroads of two currents. One trend, a 20th century impulse toward unity, had already peaked. Just before World War II, the Methodists united the northern and southern branches that had split over slavery nearly a century before. After the war, an ecumenical spirit based on a new confidence in Christian activism and dialog led to a number of church mergers.

But baked into the UMC from its inception was a theological divide between liberals who controlled the denomination’s institutions and conservatives who filled most pews and many pulpits. This mismatch showed up in disagreements over the UMC’s social witness on issues including the war in Vietnam, military ethics and intervention more broadly, abortion, environmentalism, feminism and, finally, questions related to homosexuality.

Artist rendering of John Wesley. RNS file photo

The United Methodists have nonetheless gone forward together, even as the unifying trend collapsed and Presbyterians, Lutherans and Anglicans divided and sorted into different denominations according to their theology. Their stick-to-itiveness — not to mention the church’s connectional polity and considerable assets — made schism seem not only impractical, but unthinkable, even as membership declined.

There was reason to think unity in diversity was possible. A famous John Wesley sermon on unity and universality uses an obscure biblical reference to give Methodists a well-known Wesleyan phrase: “If your heart be as my heart, give me your hand.”

Wesley was also known to use the dictum, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”

It turns out that human sexuality is not a secondary issue on which disagreement is inconsequential; it is an essential on which unity plainly does not exist.

Either the UMC will host same-sex weddings, ordain non-celibate LGBT pastors and allow clergy to solemnize same-sex marriages — or it will not. There is no middle ground. Either outcome will be unacceptable to the other side. Thus, schism is the only reasonable solution.

The mistake is thinking that a split is ungodly or sinful. Resistance to splitting up is often framed as a paean to Christian unity, but just beneath the surface of those admirable sentiments is a weighty inertia that has plagued and characterized the UMC: denominational life as nursing along an institution.

It’s time to let go.

And as a former United Methodist who has many clergy and lay friends on both sides, I have no illusions about how painful and difficult it will be for LGBT-affirming congregations and annual conferences to leave and for traditionalists to let them go.

But for the sake of United Methodists I love, whose considerable talents in ministry have been consumed in a conflict that has raged my entire adult life, I choose to focus on the positive aspects of accepting reality.

Supporters of LGBTQ rights in the United Methodist Church rally around the central Communion table at the close of the 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Ore. Photo by Mike DuBose, courtesy of UMNS

The new, LGBT-affirming Methodist group will be small yet mighty, and it will overnight become the most progressive denomination in the United States. It can forge new coalitions and pursue its version of social holiness without hindrance by American conservatives or by the African United Methodists whose beliefs it has so long abhorred.

As it and other institutions of progressive Christianity decline, there may be fascinating merger possibilities with Lutherans, Episcopalians or others.

The broader UMC will not be uniformly conservative, but it will have more credibility with other evangelical sects after the bulk of the LGBT-affirming progressives are gone. The UMC can focus its efforts on revivalist religion and, as Wesley commanded his ministers, “fleeing from the wrath to come.”

Its political witness will be socially conservative and economically progressive, perhaps giving the UMC greater influence than it had as a liberal mainline lobby in Washington.

Both denominations can engage in ecumenical and pan-Methodist dialogue and activism as they see fit. Both will operate with considerably more integrity and joy. Both can preach and teach the gospel as they understand it and order their denominational life accordingly. These are all good things! Jesus said, “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”

Freedom is coming, but first United Methodists need to face the reality that they are already two denominations living unfaithfully and unfruitfully inside one that is suffering needlessly.

Freedom begins in St. Louis. The differences are irreconcilable, and there is no third way. Unity is at best a delusion and at worst an idol.

Only through a schism and a gracious exit can all the people called Methodist earnestly work with integrity toward their vision of Wesley’s stated goal: “To reform the nation, and especially the church, and to spread scriptural holiness over the land.”

About the author

Jacob Lupfer

A contributing editor at RNS, Jacob Lupfer is a writer and consultant in Baltimore. His website is www.jacoblupfer.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jlupf. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily represent those of Religion News Service.

160 Comments

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  • Yes, Protestants are rebels against the one true, catholic church. God’s dissatisfaction is evident by their constant fracturing and dividing and lack of unity doctrine wise. It’s apparent Liberals are now poised to create yet another schism! Liberals ruin everything!

  • Wow, a political strategist writing for the Conservatives says that dividing the church is the only way. That just shows how far from theology this is.

  • Its about a minor facet of theology at best. Its really about control and the ability to change doctrine towards a southern baptist format.

  • “Either the UMC will host same-sex weddings, ordain non-celibate LGBT pastors and allow clergy to solemnize same-sex marriages — or it will not. There is no middle ground”

    I thought this is the crux, at least regarding theology.

  • The nature of man as created by God – Theological Anthropology – is hardly a “minor facet”.

    “the ability to change doctrine towards a southern baptist format”

    Actually, it’s the LGBTers who are seeking “to change doctrine” in the UMC.

    The conservatives want to maintain the original UMC doctrinal position about LGBT.

    “…towards a southern baptist format…”

    Oh, you mean the position on LGBT that the conservatives also share with Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, etc.?

    It’s hardly a “southern baptist” thing.

  • The split is about a deeply engrained and vicious social prejudice that has been sanctmonified into a theological argument so that one side feels better about it. With the Methodists, it used to be about slavery, but they got over it.

    The proof? no problem with women ministers, no problem with divorced people, no problem with conservative voting for Jabba the Trump, no problem with ecumenism.

    But treating gay people decently?

  • The split is about a longstanding Judeo-Christian prohibition against same sex physical congress and an attack on it by the LGBT lobby, armed with pseuo-theology and specious arguments.

    Among the non-arguments is comparison with slavery.

    LGBT propagandists who know absolutely nothing about Christianity stand on their little soap boxes and pontificate about women ministers, divorce, politics, and ecumenism blissfully unaware that the majority of Christians do not have women ministers, do not condone divorce, vote against abortion, and have strict limits on “ecumenism”.

    The goal, under the rubric of “treating gay people decently”, is to make “Christers” or “Christianists” genuflect at the neo-pagan shrine of same sex physical congress while urinating on the Bible.

  • I use the phrase “same sex physical congress” because it is polite and totally accurate.

    If you want descriptions in some detail, check out JoeMyGod{DOT}com.

    Some of the posts there even include pictures.

  • They are the ones demanding that the denomination should change its beliefs.

    If they do not accept what the denomination believes, they should form a new denomination that embodies their new beliefs.

    Not rocket science.

  • They’re the ones trying to hijack an existing denomination with an existing set of beliefs and convert it to their own purposes, ala what happened in the Episcopal Church.

  • Since That Certain Someone is such a Pierre, and has a number of times in the past few weeks alone referred to me on These Very Pages as “playing naked leapfrog”…

    I would say it is pretty obvious what he has in mind– me naked and having sex. Why he would be thinking of that, of course, is beyond my comprehension.

  • I would say it is pretty obvious what you have in mind – continuing to attack religious opposition to same sex physical congress, which “naked leapfrog” makes even clearer – with the usual half-baked dishonest LGBT propganda.

    Of course as it turns out anything to do with morality and/or religion is beyond your comprehension beyond knowing what you want and when you want it.

  • Many Methodists, including myself, disagree with your assessment that LGBT politics are a fundamental part of Christianity. It is non-essential. Important, yes, but our charge is to make disciples for the transformation of the world. This divisiveness is interfering with our social holiness and evangelism work. The One Church plan allows this issue to be addressed at a local level without coercion or interference from other UMC members who disagree. Most of us are committed to our church and making this work. Outsiders have no business “splainin'” that divorce is the way to go and who should get custody of the kids.

  • Jesus never said a word condemning same sex relationships. He did, however, repeatedly condemn the greedy and wealthy. Methodist should be debating whether rich people should be provided the sacrements of marriage and ordination, and treat LGBTQ people with the same loving tolerance that Jesus regarded all people who followed HIS teachings.

  • The real fight is about the assets in the UMC. The leadership of the denomination is terrified because they do the books and know how stretched everything and one is. Most of the clergy are terrified for their pensions since so many don’t pay into Social Security. The LGTBQI-accepting churches and clergy want, need, at least something from which to start with. And the traditionalists seem unable or unwilling to recognize the harm they do their brethren in their effort to purge the UMC of the accepting; in that purge, they expect to retain the monetary and property assets of the church, as they believe it’s theirs by right.

  • as usual, “christers” fall back on “judeo-christian traditions” and completely ignore the actual teachings of Jesus Christ in order to justify their bigotry.

  • We were just talking earlier today about the bigots who call Christians “christers” and “christianists” with no more to support their position then the buttocks they’re sitting on.

    As the Germans say “Wird der Teufel genannt, kommt er gerannt” – “name the devil and he comes running”.

  • I’ll let one of our other “christers” finish you off.

    Jesus never mentioned prostitution, genocide, bestiality, or a host of other sins. There is a reason for that and I believe the reason is over your pay grade.

  • The difference between Christians and “christers” are that the former follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, while the latter rely on whatever is handy (“judeo-christian traditions:; letters to Romans from someone who never even met Christ that a bunch of old men decided were “holy” well over a millenium ago; etc) to justify their bigotry.

  • The difference between you and a Christian is that Christians believe that there was a single revelation which concluded with the death of the last Apostle, while you think you’re getting messages from the deity on a regular basis which – no surprise – seem to support doing whatever it is you happen to want to do that the “bunch of old men” (.e.g, Paul, Peter, Luke, Matthew) who actually were commissioned by Christ threw cold water on.

    Other than occasionally throwing the phrase “Jesus Christ” into your comments you’re indistinguishable from the other neo-pagans.

  • Jesus accepted Mary Magdalene — and said that prostitutes would get to heaven before the Pharisees (the “christers” of Jesus’ generation). As for genocide, its covered under Jesus’s “golden rule” commandment. I have no idea whether Christ would consider beastiality anything other than distasteful given his lack of comment on it.

  • Mary Magdalene was a penitent.

    https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/penitent

    Jesus did not suggest prostitutes would get to heaven by turning tricks.

    Jesus did not invent the Golden Rule, he cited it from the Old Testament. He also said that he came not to erase one jot from the Law, and that if you loved God, you would keep his commandments.

    If your moral compass is sufficiently bent that at worst bestiality would be distasteful (“We find that sort of thing distasteful, along with eating oysters without an oyster fork.”), you’re in serious trouble.

  • the gospels provide a fairly consistent portrait of Jesus Christ that is completely at odds with the intolerant Christ of Paul. Paul represents a revisionist view of Christ endorsed by the conservative bureaucrats hundreds of years after Christ’s death.

  • its not a question of morality, its a question of what behaviors Christ would say would make someone ineligible for salvation. Greed and wealth are the ones he mentions most often (and the ones that “christers” never seem to care about); meanwhile, except for adultery, he doesn’t have much of anything to say about sexual behaviors being a problem when it comes to salvation.

  • It is nothing BUT a question of morality.

    Back 40+ years ago the now defunct National Lampoon ran an issue entitled the Joy of Sects.

    Among the jibes was a series of hells aimed at particular denominations.

    The United Methodist Hell was for allowing crabgrass to go to seed.

    Then it was considered snide humor.

    Who would have thought it was actually an omen of the future.

    You have no idea at all what you’re talking about.

  • No, the Gospels do not.

    Paul was a contemporary of the other Apostles, so he could hardly represent a revisionist view of individuals who lived hundreds of years after Christ’s death.

    Where did you study religion, Chuck E. Cheese’s?

  • Conservatives hate the UMC because it isn’t conservative and is an old school mainline Protestant Church.

  • Since Jesus required repentance from one guilty of the sexual sin of adultery, what makes you think he would suddenly not similarly require repentance from those guilty of other sexual sins?

  • So then the LGBT “progressives” must be “christers”, as they sure aren’t following the teachings of Jesus Christ!

    Further, the Apostles were taught by Jesus Christ himself, so they are far more knowledgeable about Christ than a bunch of modern day apostates.

    And for that matter, Paul, author of the letter to the Romans (note “letter”, not “letters”, so you won’t look as foolish next time), did indeed meet Christ and was taught by him.

  • So bringing your comment into the light, you are refering to anal intercourse.

    However, the latest anonymous surveys about sexual expression among gay/bi/MSM males in the US, less than 1/3 practice anal intercourse. So the other 2/3s aren’t engaging in same sex physical congress and so are in a position to escape your condemnation and the fires of hell.

  • I am sure that your interpretation and surveys are of interest to you and Ben in Oakland.

    Neither is of any interest to me.

  • The prostitutes and the tax collectors, according to Jesus, would get to heaven before the Pharisees because they were more than willing to acknowledge their own sinfulness and need for forgiveness and mercy.

    Who here is loudly protesting that they’re in no need of forgiveness? Oh, yeah…

  • It must be of interest to you. You post continually in every article where the subject is LGBTQ.

    If you had zero interest, we wouldn’t see you darken the comments even once.

  • There is no evidence that MM was a prositute. She is mentioned as one out of whom Jesus cast evil spirits, no more.

  • You will notice that your detractors aren’t even members of the UMC, but RCC apologists who think that they know everything about everyone.

  • They are IN the denomination. One of my friends is a lifelong United Methodist who is being forced out because no matter what the outcome, his annual conference will never ordain him.

  • I hadn’t noticed that, actually. I don’t spend much time in the RNS comments section to know their traditions. I’m not UM myself either, but have lots and lots of friends there.

  • You’ll also learn with David that he thinks he is a psychic with a direct line to God, who tells David how He is now contradicting His word.
    be careful

  • And they are seeking to CHANGE its official teaching.

    They should simply be honest, leave, and form a new denomination that conforms to their new beliefs.

  • Conservative Methodists can choose to become Biblical Christians and have no need for the denomination or it’s institution to worship God, which can be done any where at any time.

  • Here’s the drill for you, David. You have become rather cranky.

    https://disqus.com/home/discussion/religionnews/grief_hides_in_the_church_bathroom/#comment-4347804464

    You’re looking for an issue to spar over and for reasons known only to you have picked this one.

    Assuming for the moment you’re over 21, you already know your suggestion that it refers to “anal intercourse” leaves out a significant percentage of same sex activity, particularly female.

    So, let’s do it the hard way, term by term.

    I am assuming you know what “same sex” means. If you don’t, raise the issue now.

    “Physical”

    https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/physical

    adjective – Involving bodily contact or activity.

    “Congress”

    https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/congress

    mass noun – The action of coming together.

    So “same sex physical congress” excludes friendships, riding bicycles together, and belonging to the same book club.

    It includes anal intercourse, scissoring, and a wide range of oral and other activities, including forming geometric forms in groups of two and more with people of the same sex for the purpose of sexual gratification.

    It is inclusive, descriptive, accurate, and polite.

    The reason why it has significance is that the inclination to those activities is not immoral.

    For example, this is from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

    “2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.”

    Acting on those inclinations, however, is immoral.

    So back to your Freud or whatever person who was in need of mental health you adhere to.

  • I once told a wise older friend that I thought she had a red phone in her office that connected directly to Jesus.

    She told me, “We all do.” I got schooled.

    I don’t think God is contradicting God’s word. I think God is revealing God’s will to us in ways that contradict past human misunderstandings.

  • I’m sorry you believe that. I think you’re wrong, though. He is a wonderful man who loves Jesus in spite of people who have tried to insist that he shouldn’t call himself a Christian because he’s gay, and has been given wonderful gifts for ministry. He’s going to be an excellent pastor and is a gift to the church.

    However, the United Methodist Church’s loss will be another denomination’s gain.

  • By changing the essential teachings of a denomination YOU are in actuality creating a new denomination, all the while appropriating the original denomination’s name and financial and real estate assets, as well as forcing those who do not accept your new teachings to leave. That is simply not right.

  • “He is a wonderful man who loves Jesus…”

    Jesus: “If you love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)

    If he truly loves Jesus, why doesn’t he repent of his sexual sins as Jesus commands?

    Answer: He loves his sin more than he loves Jesus.

  • If one is following Jesus, David, they are not rebelling and partaking in what Christ has condemned. That is not following Jesus

  • God will not contradict Himself. He condemned homosexuality to death. He is not going to change His mind on that

  • I’ll correct your comment for you – Jesus is not recorded, during His incarnation – of having said anything about homosexuality, yet, He did teach on immorality which homosexuality would be synonymous with, His apostles taught against the sin, inferring that He didn’t change His mind and approve the sin.
    Also, if they were following Christ’s teachings, they wouldn’t be homosexual

  • Wait just a minute. A minute ago you said “change its *official* teaching.” Now you’re saying change its *ESSENTIAL* teachings.

    Teachings on marriage and sexuality are not essential teachings of any orthodox Christian tradition. You can’t elevate teachings on marriage and sexuality to “essential teachings,” though I admit I’ve always taken a sick amusement at the silliness inherent in attempts to do it.

  • An actually correct answer: He thinks he can love Jesus and at the same time call His Word a lie.

    He cannot.

  • Christ didn’t need to discuss s/s marriage – He taught what marriage is:

    1 Corinthians 7 – Now for the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” 2 But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. 3 The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife.” But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband.”

  • Teachings about marriage, sexuality, etc. -theological anthropology – are indeed essential teachings of the faith, witnessed to both by the 2000 year old liturgical/sacramental tradition of the Church, and the writings of the Patristic fathers, both of which recognize only heterosexual monogamy.

    I am sure that Catholics, Orthodox, and a number of Protestants would not consider the traditional teachings on marriage and sexuality to be optional, so you are quite wrong when you claim that they “are not essential teachings of any orthodox Christian tradition”.

  • Christ condemned homosexuality in the Old Testament (Leviticus), and in the New Testament the only form of marriage He recognized is that of a man and a woman (Matthew 19:5).

  • Were there other forms of marriage floating around in the time period in which Jesus lived? Foot travel and animals were the only form of transportation Jesus would’ve recognized, but you and I both have cars. If Jesus had spoken about same-gender marriage his followers would’ve been very confused.

  • Fine. Divide over any little thing you can find in the Bible. Go start a new denomination where everyone wears head coverings, or obeys the Sabbath, or still eats kosher, and say that ONE THING is worth dividing over. Subdivide the church of Jesus Christ until in the end, every single individual Christian is a denomination unto themselves because of the endless possibilities of things one could divide over that “The Bible is clear” about.

    Oh wait, all of those have already been divided over. >.<

    And here comes another division over something new, introduced on top of the impossibly huge number of divisions that have already happened, as conservatives in every single one of the already existing splits decide that this is cause to divide over too.

    Here we go again.

    And in 150 years when (I believe) most denominations have reinterpreted scripture to love people (as they did with slavery and divorce), I suspect ECO and the WCA will still exist as affirming denominations. Unless, within 100 years like the Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States, they seek unity.

    And Christ's heart breaks.

  • I interpret the clear teaching of God’s Word that homosexuality is sinful and an abomination as truthful.

    You consider it a lie.

  • Owning cars is not a matter of morality; it is not sinful.

    Homosexuality was around “in the time period in which Jesus lived”, as well as for thousands of years before. It was never considered as anything but sinful, in accordance to God’s Word.

  • Well, those divisions are the problems you have when you start interpreting the Scriptures on the basis of your own personal interpretation, not guided by the teachings of the Church over the past two millennia.

    “…no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation…” (2 Peter 1:20)

  • I consider the claim that homosexuality is sinful and an abomination to God untrue, yes.

    I do not consider that to be “the clear teaching of God’s word.”

    And yes, I know the verses. I know all the verses.

  • Then you have no knowledge of Paul, his past, his being appointed by the Lord to establish the Gentile church, the three years Christ taught him via revelation and that Paul was teaching for the Lord, or the simple fact that scripture is the Word of God?

  • Now you’ve changed the subject. You said heterosexual marriage was the only form Jesus recognized, as though there were other forms of marriage available for Jesus to recognize at the time, then when I said those forms of marriage weren’t available, you said homosexuality existed.

    Not the same thing.

    And I agree, same-gender sex was always considered sinful by the divinely-inspired humans who wrote scripture. Even though all scripture is inspired by God and profitable for reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness, that’s not the same thing as all scripture being an equally-transparent reflection of the heart of God on all topics it addresses.

    For example, I believe Psalm 137’s blessing upon those who kill the babes of Babylon demonstrates God’s heart to hear and honor even the awful prayers of the oppressed, not God’s will for all time (or any time!) that the babes of Babylon should be killed. Scripture requires interpretation.

  • Quoting 2 Peter 1:20 isn’t going to fix this. Just because there is one right interpretation that God knows doesn’t mean you should divide over an assumption that just because you have a Bible you have it.

    Not that that’s stopped Christians for literally the entire existence of the church, but whatever.

  • Then please show us, with scripture, where Christ affirms homosexuality in as clear a manner of:

    Leviticus 18:22 – 22 You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination.

    Leviticus 20:13 – If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.

    thanks

  • Nope. I spent my life in church, read scripture daily for years, was surrounded by biblical content, passed two very difficult Bible Content exams, a theology exam, and a Bible exegesis exam and after all that I came away completely clueless about any of that.

    (That was sarcasm, by the way).

    Scripture is the word of God, but affirming that doesn’t say anything about how to interpret it.

  • Then, David, you should not have needed to be reminded and make the silly comment that you did about: “Jesus didn’t write I Corinthians 7; Paul did.” – unless you are trying to avoid the obvious with 1 Corinthians 7
    I would say that you missed a few classes if you believe that Christ is going to change His mind on the issue of homosexuality
    Hebrews 13:8 – English Standard Version
    Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
    He will not contradict Himself

  • That’s a great example of interpretation right there 🙂 You are comfortable with keeping the “it is an abomination” part but want to “throw out” the part that’s on you: the word “shall” is an imperative, otherwise translated “must.” They “must” be put to death. You ignore that. In your language, you “say that the Bible is lying,” or “throw out the Bible,” by interpreting that to mean “It’s just an abomination, it doesn’t mean I have to kill anybody.”

    I agree with you that it doesn’t mean we have to kill anybody. I go one step further and say LGBTQ persons in committed same-sex relationships aren’t committing abominations and you say I’m throwing away scripture.

  • What is it with liberals trying to read minds?
    You are throwing away scripture.
    Your attempt at reading my mind missed the point as to why Jesus came and that is why they are no longer killed. Christ was very clear that homosexuality is a sin, worthy of death, like other sin

    Show me the scripture where Christ changed his mind written as strongly as Leviticus. Why did He not get the memo to Paul, Jude or John?

  • Wait, do you think Jesus wrote I Corinthians 7? You said Jesus taught what marriage is and then quoted Paul as though Paul’s teaching was identical with what Jesus taught when he walked the earth. Paul addressed situations Jesus never faced, and Jesus did not write Paul’s letters “through Paul” as though Paul was just a scribe or something. Paul wrote inspired scripture, but Paul’s writings are not the direct words of Jesus except when he quotes Jesus.

    Also, God did not change God’s mind about homosexuality.

    We’re just finally catching up, praise be to God.

  • Wait, so you DO want to kill gay people?

    Also Christ was not clear on any such thing and I challenge you to find a single verse that quotes Jesus as saying it.

    Also, as I said in a different comment, God did not change God’s mind, in the same way that God didn’t change God’s mind about slavery.

    We’re just finally catching up to where God has been all along.

  • Again, you are trying to read minds again, David.
    Do you think that is why Christ came – to kill people?
    You don’t understand that Christ is responsible for Leviticus, or did your Christ first appear in Matthew?
    Paul taught against slavery – try again.

  • I suggest you read where Christ commissioned Paul for the job.
    I suggest you read Galatians 1:11-18
    I genuinely suggest that you do some research on Romans 1: 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

    Where is your scripture condoning the sin equivalent to that condemning it in Leviticus?

  • Wait… what am I trying to read your mind about? Whether you reject the part of the Bible that says gay people are to be killed? Well, do you obey it or not? (If you’re really mad right now because that feels like I’m misconstruing what you believe, that’s what it’s been like for me for literally this entire conversation).

    No, Paul did not teach against slavery. Paul wrote for slaves to be subject to their masters (Ephesians 6:5, Colossians 3:22). Paul asked Philemon to release Onesimus, and told slaves to get free if they could, but nowhere did Paul condemn the institution of slavery or teach against it. That’s why before the civil war the abolitionists had such a hard time: the slave-holding Christians (now THAT’s a contradiction!) accused the abolitionists of denying the clear truth of what the Bible taught: that slavery was instituted by God.

    That’s one reason why I’m hopeful: the abolitionists won the day so soundly that today you can show up to this conversation confident that Paul taught against slavery.

    Maybe someday your kids or grandkids or great-grandkids will show up to a conversation and announce that Paul taught against excluding people.

    Maybe you will. But you’ll have to meet the faithful Christians you believe God calls you to exclude first.

    Which wraps us all the way around to our other conversation where I said you’ll need to meet them because you can’t believe they exist until you do, and it’s pointless to engage further, for both of us.

    I hope you have a good night.

  • You admit knowing the Word of God.

    You do not believe His Word.

    You should stop pretending to be a Christian.

  • The basic argument, which played out in the Episcopal Church over 40 years ago, is this:

    – The notion that the revelation concluded with the death of the last Apostle is scrapped.

    – The Latter Day Saints’ belief that guidance by Apostolic Revelation is occurring today just as it was when Peter, Paul, and other apostles wrote the letters that eventually became the New Testament is adopted.

    – There is an inexorable inevitable movement, as a result, towards a higher form of religion which does not just complement but supplants what came before it.

    – This was usually expressed as “the Spirit is doing new things”, although in today’s milieu it is more often expressed as “God, She is doing new things”.

    There are some minor problems with all of this.

    The first, of course, is that it is heretical at its core.

    The second is that it rather rapidly leads to a post-Christian if not neo-pagan church, e.g.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Shelby_Spong#%22Points_for_Reform%22_of_Christianity

    If the deity did not intend one man and one woman to unite as complements for life to raise families, two men or two women are satisfactory substitutes.

    But then two men and one woman, or two women and one man, or an indeterminate mixture of people for unspecified periods of time are as justifiable.

    It is, in fact, a dead-end.

  • “I go one step further and say LGBTQ persons in committed same-sex relationships aren’t committing abominations”.

    Actually what you’re saying is that the moral law is inapplicable.

    Why it is not for your particular vice is not very clear.

  • If the Scripture says “1+1=2”, and you say “But I interpret it to say 1+1=3″, there is something dishonest going on.

  • “We’re just finally catching up, praise be to God.”

    More correctly, John Shelby Spong and his ilk.

    There is nothing of God in this.

  • At the very least affirming that requires not contradicting it.

    If the Scripture says “1+1=2”, and you say “But I interpret it to say 1+1=3″, there is something dishonest going on.

    Unfortunately for your script we have seen all this before and know where it leads.

  • Homosexuality is condemned by the Lord Jesus Christ as a sinful “abomination”. Even if homosexual marriage were available in His time, He would not bless something that entailed sin.

    So, you believe that the Scripture was written by divinely-inspired men, and yet you reject it? Your own words condemn you.

    Yes, Scripture needs to be understood within the hermeneutical tradition of the Church – but you reject that, and fabricate your own. That is the source of your deviations.

    And understood within that hermeneutical tradition, Psalm 137 is a very moving and altogether spiritual Psalm. It is considered appropriate, and is so used, during the services of the Lenten fast.

  • “…holding the form of religion, but denying the power thereof. Have nothing to do with such people.” (2 Timothy 3:5)

    “So then, brethren, hold fast to the traditions you have been taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.” (2 Thessalonians 2:15)

    In the Church of God, truth must not be mixed with falsehood.

  • If you mean “inspired,” then yes, it is.

    If you mean “verbal plenary inspiration,” then no.

    Verbal Plenary Inspiration is a ridiculous dogma that can be proven nonsense simply by opening the Bible with one’s brain turned on.

  • I accept the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be, by the Holy Spirit, the unique and authoritative witness to Jesus Christ in the Church universal, and God’s Word to me,

    I reject both your interpretation of the Word of God and your false condemnation of me.

    If you wish to learn about my hermeneutic, I am willing to discuss it or link to blog posts where I discuss it, but if your aim is simply to ask me questions that you think will convince me or others that I am a godless, bible-rejecting heretic, then we have nothing further to discuss and I wish you a blessed day.

  • I try to make it a practice not to engage in discussion with people for whom the sum of their arguments is a series of out-of-context Bible verses. I’ve read everything you’ve cited dozens if not hundreds of times. Quoting random verses is not an argument that will impress me.

  • People themselves choose whether or not they are members of God’s Church.

    That’s the root meaning of the word “heresy”: “to choose”, to choose to believe something other than what the Church – in the Bible, the Creeds, etc., has believed.

    Basically what you are now doing.

  • Wait, so you differentiate between something called “the moral law” and.. whatever you call the law that says to kill the gays, and that’s not interpretation?

    Cool. I’m done here.

  • For those trying to follow David M Schell as he swivels back and forth running across the field trying not to step in cow pies of his own making, “verbal plenary inspiration” is a term used by some Christians that means “verbal” – every word of Scripture is God-given, and “plenary” – all parts of the Bible are equally authoritative.

    In general the largest bodies of Christians do not adhere to literal “verbal plenary inspiration”. For example, the Orthodox and Catholics believe that portions of the Bible are figurative, are poetry, or were written specifically to pre-literate nomads in words they could understand.

    In both those bodies the Tradition – which is they way the Church accepted and interpreted those Scriptures – are required to fully understand them.

    Mr. Schell’s attempt at slight of hand is to suggest that because he does not accept “verbal plenary inspiration” a passage which reads “1+1=2″ could interpreted (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) to mean “1+1=3″.

    That obviously is nonsensical.

  • Not just the Bible, David.

    There is also the 2000 year witness of the Patristic and later writers, the Liturgical tradition, the Ecumenical Councils, etc., all of which clearly teach that homosexual relations are sinful.

    The Bible needs to be understood in that hermeneutical context. It is not just a matter of “random verses”.

  • Of course you’re done here.

    You have no more idea of what Scriptures say and how to interpret them than the Man in the Moon does.

    Shoveling discredited unsustainable LGBT propaganda out is one thing, actually trying to defend the indefensible is another.

  • God made them, man and woman, appears to be essential.

    In fact Jesus in discussing divorce made that crystal clear.

    Let’s cut to the chase: from your perspective anything which stands in the way of engaging sodomy is not essential.

    It is no more profound or complicated than that.

  • You try not to make it a practice to engage in discussion with anyone who knows their stuff and won’t buy your zany “sodomy is A-OK” spiel.

    It’s no more profound than that.

  • My interpretation is not mine; it is simply the orthodox tradition of the Christian Church for two millennia.

    Your interpretation is simply that – “your interpretation”. It does not reflect the teaching of the Christian Church.

  • https://disqus.com/home/discussion/religionnews/united_methodists_should_acknowledge_reality_that_they_are_no_longer_united/#comment-4353396381

    “I try to make it a practice not to engage in discussion with people for whom the sum of their arguments is a series of out-of-context Bible verses. I’ve read everything you’ve cited dozens if not hundreds of times. Quoting random verses is not an argument that will impress me.”

    but apparently have no problem deciding all by your lonesome which texts are acceptable and which ones are not.

  • In the moral area it is nothing else but of the 1+1=2 variety.

    Or do you call them the Ten Fairly Strong Recommendations?

  • He knows that, btw.

    This is an LGBT tap dance, not an actual sustainable coherent interpretation of Scriptures.

  • No, Rick Brant, it is not about theology. In the United Methodist Church marriage is not considered a sacrament. We only have two sacraments in United Methodism: Baptism and Communion. Yet for some reason we tolerate all manner of variation in the practice of those sacraments (on both the “liberal” and “conservative” sides).

    Marriage is a social custom that long predates Christian practice. I don’t know of any evidence that we Christians even had a ritual for “Christian” marriage before the 11th century. It was a social tradition, we adopted, not a religious one we invented. It is a tradition Paul said was for the “weak” (I Cor. 7), not one he held up as something to be admired or aspired to. Yet we’ve made it an idol.

    And before you quote Matthew 19:4-5 at me: Remember, this was said in the context of an argument about divorce, in a time when marriage had more to do with property and progeny than love and commitment. Men didn’t leave their families to “cling” to their wives, women were basically bartered or sold off young to form ties with other families, produce kids, and keep house. In that context, Jesus pointed out that what the pharisees were claiming to defend to was never what God intended it to be in the first place. The irony is that patriarchal way of conducting marriage lasted well into the “Christian” era. We just didn’t get it. We still don’t.

  • Again, why do you think Jesus came here?

    For someone declaring an education, you sure seem to have forgotten quite a few important factors. Why do you think Jesus came? When you figure that out, you’ll have the answer to your question
    I think I’ve already answered this one for you Paul – 1 Corinthians 7:23-24 English Standard Version (ESV) 23 You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men. 24 So, brothers,[a] in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.”

    God hasn’t called us to exclude – He excluded them. Homosexuals are not Christian. God does not send Christians to Hell

    1 Corinthians 6:9-11English Standard Version (ESV)
    9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

    And, you still run away without providing scripture.

  • “Marriage…long predates Christian practice.”

    Of course it does. It goes back to Genesis, when God gave Eve to Adam, establishing God’s plan for heterosexual, man/woman monogamy. As part of God’s original plan for man, marriage is a proper subject for theological reflection.

    In the early centuries, the Church did not perform a special ritual for marriage. The marriage was recognized and blessed as a Christian marriage when the couple were admitted to Communion together by their Bishop. Later, when the Empire required the Church to perform and validate marriages, the Church necessarily devised an appropriate rite, one which combined the earlier crowning with a wreath and exchange of rings with the receiving of Communion together – which is the origin of the wedding crowns, rings, and common cup still used today.

    But even before the Christian Church developed any special rite for marriage, the Church was not indifferent to Christians’ behavior relative to marriage and sex, and any infractions of expected proper behavior (bigamy, adultery, other sexual sins such as homosexuality, etc) were addressed through disciplines such as temporary or permanent excommunication.

  • Interesting that you bring up the common cup. I’d be curious to see the the information about the practice of “admitting a couple to Communion together by their Bishop” (not a gotcha question – it’s simply the first time I’ve ever heard anyone mention it.) As things stand I have only seen communion served about twice in our entire history as a United Methodist – another way that our practice of the things we con

    Wedding crowns were a pre-Christian Greek practice, and there is evidence for the exchange of rings in marriage as far back as 6,000 years ago in Egypt – so while we “baptized” those things and came up with a post-facto theological significance for them, we Christians didn’t invent them.

    We also didn’t come up with the prohibition on bigamy/polygamy – that was part of greco-roman culture before Christianity and in place as a rule of the Empire long before Constantine. The New Testament doesn’t even strictly prohibit it for anyone but Bishops.

    Overall I’m not sure you’re really making your point. Marriage is as proper a subject of theological reflection as anything else, I suppose, but I stand by my statement that we’ve made it a bit of an idol (in spite of scripture’s skepticism about it). And as an excuse to break up a church – well – I find it embarrassing that in the midst of all the other things that are undermining faith today THIS is the hill we choose to die on. Not greed, which the scripture condemns far more often, not failed stewardship of creation, not our failure to love our enemies – but over our “right” to condemn the love-lives of others. It speaks a prurience that has long plagued the church.

  • A reference to admitting married couple to Communion together in early Church:

    https://oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith/worship/the-sacraments/marriage

    The first few paragraphs, from an Eastern point of view, but representative of the early tradition.

    Also in greater detail in some of the writings of John Meyendorff.

    The current use of the Common Cup derives originally from the Communion Cup.

    Yes, I am familiar with the history of crowns and rings.

    And it is not marriage that is the central issue dividing the Church today , it is homosexuality. Telling people that something which is a sin isn’t really one -go ahead and practice it!- is spiritual malpractice of the highest order, which endangers the souls of many.

  • These issues matter. What we believe matters. However, I believe that liberals and conservatives can worship and work together even when they disagree on important issues. As a member of the UMC I don’t want to see the departure of my conservative brothers and sisters or my liberal ones. I think every member of our church adds value. We’re all searching for the truth together and none of us are perfect.

    If we split I’m afraid that there will be no moderating conservative influence in the liberal side and no moderating liberal influence on the conservative side. We need each other. Going off and forming two separate echo chambers won’t help us grow. I fear that we’ll end up with two sets of extremists who will just grow more extreme over time. That is, until one or both of them splits yet again.

  • There is one additional impact that Lupfer doesn’t mention—the Traditional party will continue to be an expanding worldwide sect, while the LGBTQ party will become a declining regional sect.

  • Yes- it is the only way, what is it you don’t understand, if you’re in favor of unity for unity’s sake its your theology that needs attention.

  • Don’t forget the rich lobbyist groups behind the push all the while they say with a straight face there’s no agenda.

  • If you’re in favor of schism, then Paul would have a few things to say.

    I might be kicked out eventually if the Traditional plan passes, but that will not be my choice.

  • He called for unity for all those who are in Christ. His arguments with Peter show that doesn’t always mean like-minded. Otherwise, we would each be a church unto ourselves.

  • Um, the Pharisees were the ‘imposters’ of Judaism, the sons of hell Jesus fought against to restore Orthodoxy to its proper place and understanding. .
    Educate yourself about the state of Judaism at the time of Christ.

  • Dear DougH,

    Good point. Which are the essentials though? Maybe we should pause and reconsider just that question first. One of several definitions of the word essential is “pertaining to or constituting the essence of a thing”. That’s the one that I think applies. The issues that threaten to tear us apart are politically, socially, and emotionally charged. That alone doesn’t make them essential parts of Christianity though. I feel that we’d do better to define those essentials very narrowly. Restrict the list to things like the statements in the Apostle’s Creed. Then we can go on debating them as part of the same body. And when we do we should remember the “in all things charity” (i.e. in all things love) part of the quote.

    Our nation is becoming more and more polarized on social, political and partisan issues. It seems like we’re all turning our backs on each other and retreating to our own little echo chambers. I think it would be a great witness if the UMC resisted that tendency and stayed together.

    I hope that didn’t come across as disrespectful or hostile in any way. The last thing I want to do is add fuel to any fires.

    Kind Regards,
    Lewis

  • The conservative lobbyists trying to undermine mainstream sects to move them from largely apolitical and centrist further to the far right. Because it is far easier to get people to vote against their economic interests using religious appeals.

    Oh you were meaning to pretend that treating people as human beings was an expressly political agenda. My bad. Don’t speak fundamentalist wingnut

  • He should not be teaching the Easter Bunny, much less pretending to lead a congregation. This goes for anyone practicing adultery, theft, gossip theological heresy as well.

    It should be of great concern, moving forward, that the UMC had supposed Bishops who supported the OCP.

  • Let’s see, I accused conservative Christians if being malicious for its own sake and one gives me a malicious response. Proving my point. Yes to bigots, treating people as human beings comes off as some political agenda. To everyone else it’s just acting in a civil peaceable manner.

  • Rest assured the huge financial sponsorship of LGBT by lobbyist groups is not directed towards the goal of playing nicely…….but rather forcing others to play nicely? …….but then that’s what’s known as subversion.

  • Now you go with “The Big Gay Conspiracy”. Funny.

    But given the fact that people like yourself try to deliberately attack the lives of LGBT people in every single facet of society, I find it quite ironic that you are trying to play the victim here.

    Boo hoo, poor Christian bigot may have to deal with the fact that gay people exist in the world and should be treated like human beings. What a burden! Poor baby/

  • Generally speaking, I would say that the “essentials” are those principles or doctrines that one needs to stand by to be truly considered a member of the group—those things about which we cannot agree to disagree and remain a part of the same organization—and they are defined by the group itself one way or the other; for example, you can’t really call yourself a Christian if you don’t believe Jesus suffered and died for our sins and rose again on the third day, for instance. Sometimes that agreement is formal, such as the UMC is working through right now. Sometimes it’s an informal consensus reached after long debate, such as the decision of the 1st Century Jews that Christians weren’t Jews. I think there’s been something of a similar debate going on over the last few generations over whether someone that doesn’t hold to the Trinitarian “one in substance” doctrine of the Nicene Creed can be considered Christian—a majority of pastors/preachers/etc. say no, a majority of the laity says yes.

    As for how narrow that definition should be, you are right that you don;t want it too broad, or you degenerate into a form of legalism. OTOH you don’t want it too narrow, or you end up not being able to stand of anything. In the end, each group/organization will have to come to its own conclusions.

  • LOL! Oh no! The horror of treating people as human beings in a civil manner in public. How will they ever survive such hardship????

  • Thank you for taking the time to compose such a thoughtful answer to my comment. Those are great points for me to consider. I’m a relatively new member of the UMC so I’m still learning.

  • Yeah. Usually it means somebody is trying to use historic church teachings to defend their prejudice.

    I know what it’s supposed to mean, but in practice today it so very rarely means what it’s supposed to.

  • It does make a nice change of pace from the rancor that so often fills these comment threads, isn’t it? Thank you.

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