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Bishop Will Willimon on why no plan can unite United Methodists

Will Willimon of Duke Divinity School. Photo by Les Todd/Duke University

(RNS) — Will Willimon, a prominent theologian and a retired bishop of the United Methodist Church’s North Alabama Conference, has some choice words for a denomination in disarray over its views on sexuality.

Willimon, like other bishops, couldn’t vote on any of the plans presented this week at the special denominational session in St. Louis — one that would continue to restrict church leaders from ordaining or marrying LGBT people, and another that would allow local congregations to make their own decisions. Church rules don’t give bishops a voice or a vote. The session’s 864 delegates are made up of clergy and lay people from around the world.

But as a lifelong Methodist, he said, he saw an unmistakable change in the attitudes of the delegates at the special session in St. Louis. People on either side of the issue talked of breaking away from the 12 million-member global denomination. Willimon, who now teaches at Duke Divinity School in Durham, N.C., left St. Louis on Tuesday (Feb. 26) before the final vote.


RELATED: United Methodists pass Traditional Plan, keep ban on LGBTQ clergy, same-sex marriage


He talked to Religion News Service by cellphone from St. Louis. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What are you seeing and hearing from the delegates?

It occurred to me there are people in the auditorium who don’t care what plan passes or how it passes. They’re withdrawing. Once you’ve made that decision, what difference does it make what plan you’ve got? Someone was saying, “Unless the Traditional Plan passes exactly as it is, unamended, we’re leaving.” That’s kind of like announcing, “We’re leaving.” Imagine having a meeting in a local church where people say “Hey, before we have the discussion and all, if this vote in session doesn’t go my way, I’m leaving.”

Delegates attend the first day of the special session of the United Methodist Church General Conference in St. Louis, Mo. on Feb. 24, 2019. RNS photo by Kit Doyle

Traditionalists organized the Wesleyan Covenant Association and made clear their intention to separate from the denomination if the rules regarding LGBTQ people are changed. Are progressives also organized?

The traditionalists did a bang-up job of political organizing and counting the votes. The progressives were all busy talking about unity and community and listening and loving. The conservatives were on the floor getting the votes.

Do you expect some bishops to leave, too?

I’d be surprised, but I don’t know. If we’ve shown one thing, it’s that what bishops do — or don’t do — is almost irrelevant. The bishops labored for two years and came up with these three plans and backed the One Church Plan (which would allow local congregations to decide about LGBTQ ordination and marriage) and pushed that. But the General Conference seems united: We don’t trust bishops. I tried to advocate for the One Church Plan and found out that many progressives felt it didn’t go far enough in providing affirmation and protection for LGBTQ people. On the other hand, traditionalists said, “This is a power play by the bishops to throw this on us even though we’ve demonstrated through many votes we don’t want it.”

Is division necessarily a bad thing?

We need to remind ourselves that what’s passed for church unity for the last 40 years in the Methodist Church is a kind of bureaucratic, rule-driven, top-down, corporate-America type unity. If that unity is disrupted, that puts us back to where we’ve always been: That’s a gathering by Christ of all kinds of people that make up the church. I say to my seminarians, “Remember, the General Conference as it is now, the Book of Discipline as it is now and our notions of unity and connection — that’s only 40, 50 years old.” When we started the Book of Discipline it grew by a third with additional rules and regulations. If that’s being dismantled, I don’t know that that’s a bad thing.

Some United Methodist delegates gather together to pray before a key vote on church policies about homosexuality on Feb. 26, 2019, during the special session of the UMC General Conference in St. Louis, Mo. RNS photo by Kit Doyle

Would a split take place over time, rather than in one fell swoop?

That’s my guess. But I’ve been wrong before. If the Traditional Plan passes, will it be constitutional? I don’t think it will be.  There are a number of problems with it, particularly in its punitive parts. However, I don’t know that it will make a lot of difference. There are people, left and right, progressive and conservative, who just say, “This is it. We’ve waited. We’ve watched. We’ve tried. And now we can’t stay.”

To me, that’s the story, more than which plan passes.

That’s kind of new. We spent time yesterday openly discussing, “Now, how much do we have to pay to have to leave? Is a third of a property assessment OK?” It was just weird hearing us talk that way. That’s not the way we’ve talked previously.  If you talk that way, it means the debate is almost moot. This may be a bad analogy, but as a pastor, when a couple comes to me and says, “We’re talking about getting a divorce. We’d like to hear your views on our marriage,” I say, “If you’ve gotten this far, you’re going to divorce. What do you want from me?” I kind of feel that way here.

What will the 93 affiliated colleges and universities do?

I think there are going to be stresses — not only because we could violate many colleges’ statements of inclusion and affirmation by our actions here. Just as important for me, I think, is that we’re turning away everyone under 40. The average Methodist is 61 years old. What we ought to be talking about is “What in the world can we do to reach the generations we’ve lost?” Our colleges are going to say, “We still feel called to be connected to and in ministry with 19-year-olds. You appear to have no interest in that. We’re going to have to evaluate where we are with you.”

If we have congregations leaving, we’re going to have huge financial stresses and they won’t be felt in clergy salaries. They’ll be felt by the institutions and the money we give them, which has been shrinking rapidly. It will shrink even further, thus aggravating that situation.

Where do you find hope?

The hope is that Jesus Christ is Lord. There is a God, and our God is a redemptive God. I can’t decide if the Lord is saying now, “You created the structure and polity of the United Methodist Church. I didn’t. You wrote the Book of Discipline. I didn’t. If that’s being dismantled, that’s OK.”

I teach at Duke Divinity School and God is still calling some great people to lead the Methodist Church. My message to students is, “If you ever wonder why God calls people like you in the ministry, look at the General Conference. God has called you to save us, redeem us, lead us. Now step up and lead.”

I’m hoping that is our hope.

About the author

Yonat Shimron

Yonat Shimron is an RNS National Reporter and Senior Editor.

106 Comments

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  • A few years ago UCLA conducted a study to determine why some people are so threatened by gay people and gay marriage in particular.

    http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/why-people-oppose-same-sex-marriage

    Their conclusion:

    Opposition to same-sex marriage may be strategic by people who are seeking to protect their marriages and the marriages in their communities, and are fearful that changing the definition of marriage is threatening to their way of life, because they view gay people as promiscuous, they view the idea of same-sex marriage as undermining the institution of marriage.

    Protect their marriages? I find it curious that changing the definition of marriage to include more people is somehow threatening. I also find it incredibly galling that for eons the straight majority has ensured that gay people not marry, forcing us to the margins of society, where gay men like me were left to find some semblance of love wherever we could find it. These contacts were mostly fleeting because we knew that if we were seen too often in public with the same man we could risk tongues wagging and ultimately the loss of our jobs, housing, and in far too many cases, even our lives. Lesbians have traditionally been pitied as “old maids” when they shacked up together, but even they weren’t spared various indignities if their truth was discovered. And now it’s the alleged “promiscuousness” that has been forced on us that’s being used against us now. How convenient. Sometimes in life you just can’t win for losing, especially if you’re gay or lesbian.

    After the AIDS crisis we gay people learned firsthand how important being a legal partner of someone is when you’re denied hospital visitation rights as your partner lay dying alone in an empty hospital room. I’m old enough to have witnessed this and more. And I find it terribly ironic, and at the same time downright cruel that some people would deny us the right to marriage as guaranteed to us as U.S. citizens in the 14th Amendment of the Constitution because our marriages somehow threaten theirs.

    Do what you will, Methodists. This is a test to see how well you welcome the stranger. You will either pass or you will fail.

  • I’m well under 40 and happen to think the Traditional Plan most closely aligns with the ultimate Christian authority, the Bible. The Bible has always separated believers from non-believers, and has always caused a “split” between those willing to align with what Scripture teaches and those who prefer to align with what society teaches.

  • Oh, so I assume you never wear clothes made of mixed fabrics as Leviticus 19:19 instructs, or that you never eat bacon for breakfast which is outlawed in Leviticus 11:7 and Deuteronomy 14:8, have rare steak for supper as outlawed in Leviticus 17:10-14, or cheeseburgers for lunch which is prohibited in Exodus 23:19, Exodus 34:26, and Deuteronomy 14:21. Since cheeseburgers are mentioned thrice they must be three times a sinful as homosexuality. But I’m sure you’ve never defiled your pure lips with a cheeseburger. I’m also assuming that you never get your hair cut, which is outlawed in Leviticus 19:27 or take your animals to the veterinarian, which is outlawed in Leviticus 22:4. And of course I’m sure you’ve never committed adultery like Donald Trump, which requires the death penalty as Leviticus 22:10 mandates. And since I know you have never committed adultery by lusting after another according to Matthew 5:28 or by getting divorced (Luke 16:18 & Matthew 19:9) and indeed since you have lived among us yet without sin – I think you should be the one to cast the first stone. (John 8:7)

  • I’m going to copy this, Elagabalus, because it’s wonderful and will save me time to look for all of this.
    I find the literalist nonsense to be so tiresome.

  • Be my guest. I must admit to copying it myself. Years ago when I lived in Boston a letter appeared in the local rag “Bay Windows” signed by one Sister Polly Esther which was wickedly funny. I included only a small part of fit here.

  • The Pharisees also believed that they would gain salvation by following the Scriptures to the letter.

  • I can say “Never heard of the Jerusalem Council.”

    Why this same nonsense keeps coming up 2000 years after the disciples settled it is beyond me.

  • Christians do not follow scripture to gain salvation but to draw closer to the Savior, because we love Him.

  • “This may be a bad analogy, but as a pastor, when a couple comes to me and says, ‘We’re talking about getting a divorce. We’d like to hear your views on our marriage,” I say, “If you’ve gotten this far, you’re going to divorce. What do you want from me?’

    I’m glad you are not my pastor, friend, for you are not fit to pastor if that is how you treat marriages in trouble.

  • He should be opening another way to them. The model of Matrimony proposed by Jesus Christ himself. There are ministers who not only don’t preach and advocate for that model, they openly do not live it…

    And then some wonder aloud why there is debate in these denominations over what constitutes marriage and whether marriage should consist of this, that, or the other.

  • Model of Matrimony? What model? You mean because Jesus accepted an invitation to attend a wedding in Cana his mere attendance somehow created a “model?” I’m afraid I don’t follow you.

  • He brought the wine – that is the model. It is all about keeping just the right amount of wine in the marriage. Of course, a really lusty marriage requires the occasional Jack Daniels.

  • I’ll take a stab as a person under thirty. While I supported the traditionalist plan, I was torn in my support due to additional punitive actions that would occur. I’ll try to outline why I supported the plan.

    1). In analogizing this to slavery, there seems to be is false equalization. If the argument is Jesus didn’t outright disapprove of slavery therefore as a Christian I am skeptical of what he might say regarding marriage then I applaud you for your consistent beliefs.

    2) Two the church as displayed during slavery and Jim Crow is an independent institution. If the U.S. government were to act as it previously did which violated the 14th amendment, I’d support what you are criticizing the UMC for. However as the UMC is a religious body supported by tradition, scripture, reason, and experience which is not bound to change its procedures due to the wishes of some outside the church or broader society for that matter.

    3) The main passage that I look to is not found in the Old Testament (Leviticus/Numbers) or Paul (not the biggest fan of his) but Jesus. Specifically the passage on divorce.

    Matthew 19:4-6 (NIV), “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’ 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

    While this may pertain to divorce, what this tells me is that (a) Jesus believed that there were two genders and (b) Because of that he states that regarding marriage he believed that it was between a man and a woman.

    Jesus never stated anything explicit about homosexuality nor do I believe that being gay, bi, or transgender means you are a flawed creation or an abomination. Essentially not a sin. However I do believe that if you happen to be attracted to someone of the same sex and act on those feelings that that would be a sin. The same way that people who have premarital sex are committing sin, those who get divorced, and those who masturbate either looking at porn or just fantasize about someone to whom you’re not married. Why am I not mentioning sins listed in Leviticus/Numbers you may ask – I’ll talk about that below.

    3) Some of the sins I listed in the previous point I stated because Jesus explicitly mentions them in the New Testament.He also says in Matthew 22:37-40 (NIV), “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

    Essentially he is looking at the Ten Commandments and condensing them into two commandments. So (a) because I’m not Jewish, (b) because Jesus came with a new covenant, (c) because Jesus also said that he didn’t come to abolish the old new but fulfill it, leads me to only follow the Ten Commandments in the Old Testament as well as what Jesus prescribed we do which is LOVE. Love G-D and Love all our brothers and sisters.

    Scripture referencing point c. Matthew 5:17-20, 17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

    4) Regarding sin, while Jesus never mentioned homosexuality (not attraction but sex/marriage) it does state how he treated others and what he recommended. I believe that if Jesus was here today he would admonish a lot of pastors, bishops, deacons, priests, and christians for the unholy graceless way they treat other while not shedding their old skins/sins. He would be out in the street ministering to queer homeless youth, loving on queer and lgbtia persons in the church. However what I believe he would say is repent. Basically, what you may be doing is not right therefore go and sin no more. The basis for that is below.

    John 8:1-11 (NIV), “1 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 “No one, sir,” she said.“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

    John 4:15-21, “15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” 16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” 17 “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” 19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

    The first passage tells of a woman accused of adultery about to be stoned. Jesus intervenes and prevents her from being killed. However he also says at the end that she should and sin no more. Referring back to point 2, the scripture tells me that Jesus who Christians (lbgt or hetero) view as the son of G-D sees marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman. Additional support was provided in the sins that he specifically mentioned regarding premarital sex, lust, and adultery. The second passage shows Jesus speaking a Samaritan woman who has admitted to sinning and Jesus shows grace and mercy to her. Unlike the first passage whereas he doesn’t explicitly say go and sin no more, it is implied by the way the woman accepts him as a Messiah, tells people in the town, and becomes a changed woman in latter verses. Which brings me to point 4.

    4) If the dispute is that same sex marriage or same sex relationships are not sinful then I would disagree with that based on what Jesus said about premarital sex and his words regarding marriage (in the context of divorce but still applicable). However I also am angry that the church elevates same sex marriage or relationships as the ultimate sin. The bible teaches that we have sin and will sin, but as Jesus told the woman about to be stone we are to turn from our old ways. The conversation regarding same sex marriage and ordination lgbt individuals in relationships within the UMC tells me that either proponents of “full inclusion” don’t see this as sin or they don’t care.

    I understand that it can be infuriating having people talk about you, your desires and sexuality in a setting as if you have no agency. Or they are limiting your agency. I was inspired by JJ warren even thought I may have disagreed with what he was advocating. For those who are lgbt and in the UMC, being gay, lesbian, bi, trans, or queer does not define the totality of who you are. It may a critical part of who you are the same as me being hetero is but it is not all of you.

    You are loved even though it may not feel like it now or perhaps what I wrote may taken as offensive. As I stated in the beginning if you are lgbt you are a good creation full of G-D’s image. However, the question is whether the UMC has fidelity to Jesus while acting in compassion and love to everyone. Regardless of whether you may be in a relationship now or not, ultimately G-D is the judge. On earth it is the duty of Christians to become more like Jesus and that means examining critically what he said, then following that truth.

    Right now what the UMC is dicussing/bickering/fighting about is how to define truth according primarily to scripture and experience. Also being debated is how to live out holiness according to what Jesus taught us. The tricky part as evidenced by this process and John 8:7 (“When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”) is how to counsel brothers and sisters who may be sinning without being judgmental. The best that I can say is reminding people lovingly of how to live according to what Jesus displayed and taught. Reading some of the statement at GSC 19′, I believe some statements made could be interpreted as harsh and not stated in a loving manner.

    It is my hope that despite the traditional plan passing that you will stay and continue to challenge us to be more inclusive and loving where we can be (coming from someone who supported the traditionalist plan). Where we agree let us agree, and where we disagree (such as issues like this) may be part with grace and love.

  • “Jesus never stated anything explicit about homosexuality nor do I believe that being gay, bi, or transgender means you are a flawed creation or an abomination.” Christ called homosexuality “unnatural”, a “shameful act”, “error”.
    “The tricky part as evidenced by this process….is how to counsel brothers and sisters who may be sinning without being judgmental. “:
    2 Timothy 3: 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness

  • Can you refer to scripture where Jesus referred to homosexuality as “unnatural”, “a shameful act”, and “error”?

    I agree with the verse from 2nd Timothy however I stand by my assertion that how you counsel someone will be reflected to you on judgment day. We know that sins Jesus particularly abhors are an unforgiving heart full of anger and a judgmental spirit.

    In saying that I hew to Jesus’ teachings and the Ten Commandments in the Old Testament is not saying I don’t find instruction and value in scripture such as James, Corinthians, and Proverbs. What I am saying is that the Gospels and the Ten Commandments hold sway and prominence in my walk before other scripture found in the Bible. If there is a problem I seek the Gospels first then the other books such as Proverbs.

  • Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts.Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. Romans 1:26-27

  • It’s okay if you or I or anybody copies this. The reality is that ANY attempt to rationalize church acceptance of gay self-identity, gay marriage, and/or practicing gay clergy can be totally shot down (in a respectful manner) using the Bible anytime, anywhere. Given today’s very surprising vote in St. Louis, it is now clear that there’s not even an immediate hurry in shooting it down. Young folks like Tim Tripod and Kiumbi (and even some young African folks at the actual meeting) aren’t bowing down to this gay activist stuff.

    (But despite today’s good news, Bible-believing Methodists know they can’t grow complacent and silent again. Today is NOT the end of the Methodist War, it is merely the beginning.)

  • Respectfully, I mentioned in the long screed posted I look to Jesus first in all matters not Paul. Because as a Christian to me he is divine, holy, and the truth incarnate. Therefore if there is no scripture that you can point out to me or lead me to go read that Jesus actually stated, then I believe that this may not be a fruitful discussion.

    I may agree with you that Paul was inspired by G-D (the trinity), however in weighty matter such as this I find it instructive to go the direct source. It’s not like we disagree on the matter at hand anyway however I was curious if I genuinely missed something that Jesus stated in the Bible.

  • Also thanks for your insightful comment regarding Africans and colonialism in the other article. In decrying discrimination and lack of understanding, people are applying weird standards.

    If you’re going to call Africans homophobic, just do so without attributing a child-like attitude to them. Disagree with them but give them respect.

  • How about that little thingy in Ephesians where it says that a man shall leave his mother and father and cling to his wife….

  • ? Threatened? I suppose Scripture’s straightforward condemnation of homosexuality has nothing to do with it? This is Christ vs. culture. Christ doesn’t capitulate to cultural trends (white liberal Westerners seem to think God revolves around their ever-shifting mores). Christ stands over and against all cultures and calls them into account.

  • Plenty of scripture condemning homosexuality: Rom 1, 1 Cor 6:9, 1 Tim 1, for example. I suggest reading Richard Hays’ Moral Vision of the New Testament for a great treatment of this subject.

  • This same comment gets so old when you people type it out again and again and again. You do it to make excuses for your sin that you refuse to repent of in your life. Plain and simple.

  • The Sadducees believed in following the Scripture to the letter.

    The Pharisees advocated their interpretation of the Scriptures, and most of modern Judaism follows in that tradition.

    Only a few strict Orthodox schools follow the Scriptures to the letter.

  • “When we started the Book of Discipline it grew by a third with additional rules and regulations. If that’s being dismantled, I don’t know that that’s a bad thing.”

    That makes it rather clear why the proposal supported by the bishops was such a limp wet rag.

  • I just cant for the life of me understand after having attended seminary and served in ministry for nearly 30 yrs how Gods people could be so certain of what the Bible says about homosexuality in its few questionable contexts but miss what the Bible says about justice and righteousness from cover to cover. I’m not so worried about God “getting the gays”, I waiting to see when Gods going to fix the hearts of these very people that cant see white supremacy and certainly don’t give it the attention they give LGBTQIA.

  • No, it’s not, actually. I have a seminary degree and I often study Christian Ethics in my spare time, so yes, I could have explained why your attempts to act like I’m wrong “because mixed fabrics” fails so utterly. But I perceive from your chosen profile name (apparently you find immorality appealing) and the disjointed mess of an “argument” that you put forth (which included a reference to Donald Trump) that you were just an angry person who was trying to bait me, not someone with whom a productive discourse was likely to occur.

  • This all begins with the Bishops and their being theologically ambiguous, as if doing so would unite the Methodist clan.
    They became like a hung jury where “Reasonable Doubt” applied to the scriptures–not the LGBTQ mantra that claims Homosexuality is a Noun or a new kind of human–protected /privileged category that has no choice (because of genetic predisposition) but to live a lifestyle contrary to the scriptures. —NOT an adverb (chosen activity)

    Otherwise a ONE PLAN (which was really a 6 in 1) would have been either collectively for or against—and don’t come out of the deliberation room until you are ready to face the public with a unified front.

    No one is marching to establish the same for theft, adultery, gossip, swindeling and the like. Why can’t we legalize polygamy and ordain polygamist ministers? Why not?—There are many millions more men who would support this activity/lifestyle and claim it to be a birthright (we were born this way) than acting homosexually.

    The Bishops ARE the problem because they are luke-warm, if not outright liberal concerning what makes the church the church. They became as the insecure teen-aged girl raising he skirt in increments hoping to be accepted by a boy–any boy. Please just don’t reject me/us. Please love me/us.

    Prognostication: The Bishops will lay down further as the declining, fragmenting Methodist denomination mimics their proclivity to cultural assimilation in exchange for popularity and continuance of paycheck. Result:https://openhandspublications.com/2019/02/26/transgender-methodist-pastor-wins-the-coveted-methodist-church-john-wesley-hermeneutics-award-tempers-flare/

  • It keeps coming up because people keep insisting the Bible, the whole thing, not just the New Testament is the word of God and must be obeyed. IF they want to follow the”Jerusalem Council’s New Covenant” they need to stop referring to the passages in the Old Testament that support their position.

    OH but they can’t do that because it is only selected passages in the Old Testament that support their beliefs about Jesus being the Messiah!

  • A split was/is inevitable. Many, if not most, longtime members saw it coming for a number of years now. It seems closely related to the growth of the African branch of the UMC. The African branch is now the tail wagging the dog — and is going to be the dog in short order.

    I suspect the split is going to be nasty, on-going, filled with lawsuits, all about money rather than theology, and incredibly challenging to friendships.

  • The whole thing IS the word of God, not just the New Testament. Jesus taught from the “whole thing” and called it the word and commands of God — He also said that the “whole thing” testifies of Him.

    The Law was given to Israel, never to the Gentiles, but within the Torah we also find what WAS required of the Gentiles, and what God judged them for.

    That is why the disciples and the Jerusalem Council kept those provisions for Gentile believers and declined to impose the others. It was essentially Gentile status-quo, NOT a new covenant. What was “new” was the Holy Spirit sent by Jesus to indwell those who receive Him.

  • As an observer from a sister denomination, this looks a little like the GC called the Bishops’ bluff. Talk of “graceful exit” was really saying to the large and growing congregations, “if you don’t agree with us, go away, but leave your money behind.” Now the “progressive” minority talks big about withdrawing and starting their own church, but I would be very surprised if these small and dwindling liberal congregations can afford to buy back their own buildings, or to sustain themselves without support from the conference.

  • Not Christianity–rather the goats among the sheep and the tare colluding with the wheat. Christianity is Christ and in Him there is no shadow of turning. He is faithful even when we are not. The church, however, (His bride) acts in unseemly ways when she does not reflect His interests. “If you love me, keep my commandments.”

  • I’ve long ago left behind the notion that the Bible is to be read as the last word from God. If folks continue to insist that thoughts and notions about sexuality and cultural practices from 2000 years ago are forever binding, go ahead and preach that to the soon-to-be nearly empty sanctuaries. In the meantime, other folks, inspired by the Holy Spirit, will proclaim the Good News of the love of God in Christ for ALL. Oh, Jesus didn’t die for your sins, either. He was executed by a military empire with the encouragement of a small group of “true believers”, hidebound to traditions they didn’t fully understand or adhere to anyway (“You have heard it said….But I say to you”-Jesus) who couldn’t see or understand that the Spirit moves where it will.

  • They are all welcomed to their Mother Church! The episcopal Church. As in the Middle name of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Remember the Wesley remained in the Anglican church until death.

  • You don’t read the Bible much, do you? Understand, I mean that as no insult, but I promise you that the Methodist theologian in this article would know exactly what I mean:

    Mark 10:1-12:

    And he left there and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan, and crowds gathered to him again; and again, as his custom was, he taught them.

    And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce, and to put her away.” But Jesus said to them, “For your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one.’ So they are no longer two but one. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.”

    And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

    This is the model of Christ. He didn’t say this at Cana. This is not the model most of these supposed ministers of the Gospel preach, let alone live before their people.

    I see the same sort of thing with some of these folks who will advocate for gay “marriage,” or for any other thing in the name of Christ that has no root in traditional Christian practice. I have come to the conclusion that there are two kinds of people who are of this mind. The first group just doesn’t care about the moral law at all and see church as primarily a social justice outreach and social club. Bring up the moral law to these folks and they will say you are hateful, unfeeling, and unwelcoming of the stranger (don’t judge them, by golly, but they’ll sure judge you!). The second group who are of this mind are more dangerous, actually. They mean well, but are biblically and theologically illiterate (and I’m talking basic knowledge here). I’ve actually had people say things to me like “this or that isn’t in the Bible” or “that isn’t in the New Testament,” and then you point out to them that whatever they think isn’t in there actually IS…and it is like “a deer in the headlights.”

    Not everyone is called to be an academic scripture scholar, but if people are going to engage in discussions that really involve theological matters and have consequences for ecclesial bodies, they had better at least read the Good Book.

  • MOTHER EPISCOPAL
    1.5 million remain on the rolls and less than half of those can be found sitting in a church on a given Sunday.
    Over half of these people are over 50.
    Seven out of 10 congregations have less than 100 in attendance.

    Mother is not healthy. In fact, mother is sick spiritually–and it shows.

    Mother decided that thumbing nose at God and promoting a man who openly practiced the homosexual lifestyle—
    coddling and conforming to culture as if to be pseudo-righteous and Not Bigoted–
    or as to have homophobia–
    was more important than remaining alive and representative of Christ as His bride.

    All poor judgements in carnality that we hope the Methodist clan will not copy. If so, they will die the same death of the Episcopal churches.

  • Jesus was certainly more concerned that his followers not waste their energy judging others than he was about homosexuality. It seems to me that such judgmental people are not truly comfortable in their own daily walk with Christ.

  • How? Should we not read the scriptures first and foremost through the lens of Christ? Too often we treat Paul like God and treat Jesus as an afterthought.

    To that end: Lead with love, and let God sort it out.

  • Yeah, I scarcely think God is going to toss someone into eternal hellfire for loving someone. The clobber verses in the Bible don’t apply to today’s social debate because they weren’t addressing loving, committed relationships. More often than not they were addressing exploitative and abusive situations. Context is important.

  • The only difference between heterosexual people and homosexual people is what happens in the bedroom. I don’t talk to my heterosexual friends about what I do in the bedroom and I don’t talk to my homosexual friends about what I do in the bedroom. Every other aspect of our lives is exactly the same. We pray, we meditate, we read the bible, we attend church, we are gods children, and we carry the message to those who might benefit from knowing Jesus Christ. We have jobs, we’re recovering alcoholics, we go to the movies, we have pets that we call part of our families, we have children, we’re teachers and mentors to our young people, we’re garbage men and we’re Pastors. Bottom line is that we are all part of Gods children, the herd, so to speak. We all want to love and be loved, to forgive and be forgiven. We are really not very different at all. I believe that we all want to have that special person that we can grow old with. Does it really matter who that person is?

  • Didn’t this guy “Will Willimon, a prominent theologian and a retired bishop of the United Methodist Church’s North Alabama Conference”, just throw The Christ Jesus under the bus, in this statement?!

    “I can’t decide if the Lord is saying now, ‘… The United Methodist Church … wrote the Book of Discipline. I didn’t.'”

  • If “it really [doesn’t] matter … [who] we all want to have that special person that we can grow old with [to be]”, how come, then, “unlike other mainline denominations, Methodists are not solidly in favor of accepting homosexuality and they are split over same-sex marriage”?!?!?!?!

    Source: Tobin Grant, “How do Methodists view homosexuality and same-sex marriage? Some poll results”, Religion News Service, May 18, 2016.

  • WHAT “soon-to-be nearly empty sanctuaries”?!?!?!

    “Evangelicals Once Again Dominate List of Top-growing Large UM Congregations”, Juicy Ecumenism”, November 20, 2018.

    “Some U.S. Christian Groups May be Declining, But Not Evangelicals”, Facts and Trends, March 22, 2018.

    “‘Mainline’ churches are emptying. The political effects could be huge”, Vox, July 14, 2017. Note: “[NOT ‘Evangelical’] churches are emptying”!]

    “Liberal churches are dying. But conservative churches are thriving”, Washington Post, January 4, 2017.

    “Examining the Sources of Conservative Church Growth: Where Are the New Evangelical Movements Getting Their Numbers?”, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Volume 36, Number 1, March 1997, pages 71-80.

  • HEY YOU, DID YOU JUST CALL US “DOG[S]”?!

    “We Africans are not children in need of western enlightenment when it comes to the church’s sexual ethics. We do not need to hear a progressive U.S. bishop lecture us about our need to ‘grow up.’ … We stand with the global church, not a culturally liberal, church ELITE, in the U.S. We stand with our Filipino friends … our sisters and brothers in Europe and Russia … our allies in America … [our] Sunday School teachers in Nigeria, biblical scholars in Liberia, pastors in the Congo, United Methodist Women in Cote d’Ivoire, and thousands of other United Methodists all across Africa who have heard no compelling reasons for changing our sexual ethics, our teachings on marriage, and our ordination standards! We are grounded in God’s word and the gracious and clear teachings of our church. On that we will not yield! We will not take a road that leads us from the truth! We will take the road that leads to the making of disciples of Jesus Christ for transformation of the world!”

    Source: Jerry P. Kulah, “African United Methodists Won’t Trade Bible for Dollars”, Juicy Ecumenism: The Institute on Religion & Democracy’s Blog, February 23, 2019.

  • While “this just shows that [Atheism] is its’ own greatest enemy!”

    For according to:

    (1) “Sociologists Ariela Keysar and Juhem Navarro-Rivera’s review [in 2017]”: “Atheists and agnostics [make up] 7% of the world’s population”! HA-HA.

    (2) “The 2015 Pew Religious Landscape survey”: “Of the American population … atheists made up 3.1%”! HA-HA.

    (3) “The World Factbook [of 2013]”: “Non-religious people [in the U.S.] make up 9.66%, while one fifth of them are atheists”! HA-HA.

    (4) “The Encyclopædia Britannica [2013]”: “2% of the world’s population self-identify as atheists and the average annual global change for atheism from 2000 to 2010 was −0.17%”! HA-HA.

    (5) “Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project [2009]”: “In the United States, only 5% of the population did not have a belief in a god and out of that small group only 24% self-identified as ‘atheist'”! HA-HA.

    (6) “A 2004 survey by the BBC in 10 countries”: “8% of the respondents … consider themselves to be ‘atheists'”! HA-HA.

    (7) “The World Factbook [2004]”: “Of the world’s population … about 2.4% are atheists”! HA-HA.

  • If “the Bible says about justice and righteousness from cover to cover”, where does it say that in Luke, Acts & Revelation? You have 48 hours to cite chapters & verses. GO.

  • NOPE.

    “Acceptance of homosexuality in society does not mean that [UMC] members believe that it should be accepted in the church. … In the UMC, the membership is split with 49 percent favoring same-sex marriage and 43 percent opposing it. … The Pew Religious Landscape Study poll[ing] more than 35,000 Americans in 2014 … did not ask about the ordination of LGBT clergy [because it would] assume that the membership would be evenly divided or lean against ordination. [If anything] the poll shows that the division at the general meeting reflects a division within the church membership. Unlike other mainline denominations, Methodists are not solidly in favor of accepting homosexuality and they are split over same-sex marriage.”

    Source: Tobin Grant, “How do Methodists view homosexuality and same-sex marriage? Some poll results”, Religion News Service, May 18, 2016.

  • Again with “Donald Trump” as this Romanian Empress’ Muse in a Bible Study? Somebody, top this topsy-turvy, please!

  • The mere fact that you literally thought this to be an intelligent and serious reply puts Christ to open shame as Paul would say. However, i will indulge you. Lk 7:22, Lk 14:13, Lk 20:46-47. Acts 17:31, Rev 19:11. I would say your first problem is you are to much a literalist. Cover to cover simply means the Bible speaks more about justice than homosexuality but your initial aim at being righteous missed the simple truth of the statement.

  • (1) TRUE OR FALSE: “[In the phrase] what the Bible says about justice and righteousness from cover to cover … cover to cover simply means the Bible speaks more about justice than homosexuality” (to quote Nathan Hoaxer from the present Jussie Smollett era).

    FALSE: According to Oxford Universities Dictionary, the “phrase … from cover to cover [‘simply means’] from beginning to end of a book or magazine.”

    (2) TRUE OR FALSE: Here’s “what the Bible says about justice and righteousness from cover to cover”, for instance in: (1) “Lk 7:22” – “And He answered and said to them, ‘Go and report to John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have the gospel preached to them.'” (2) “Lk 14:13” – “But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind”. (3) “Lk 20:46-47” – “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets, who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.”

    FALSE: You don’t know your bible!

  • I’ll assume your opening sentence is an intentional misinterpretation of an idiomatic phrase, rather than ignorance of what an idiomatic phrase is. If indeed intentional, well, a poor attempt at humor, or a slur, or whatever your intent was. And if ignorance then Google is your friend.

    Now, predictable as you are, I expect a comment in return, most likely one using the word ‘idiom’ with the last letter changed. Such would not be all that clever, but would be quite self-reflective.

    Why can’t you play nice?

  • You could make the same argument for pedophiles. I am NOT suggesting that homosexuals and pedophiles are similar. (Practicing) pedophiles are predators and should be treated as such in the eyes of the law.
    All of that said, it’s generally true that pedophiles don’t talk to their friends about what they do in the bedroom, many of them pray, meditate, read the Bible, attend church, and take part in the ministries of the church. They were all created by God. They have jobs, they’re recovering alcoholics, they go to the movies, they have pets and they have children, they’re teachers and mentors to young people, they’re garbage men and pastors. They want to love and be loved, to forgive and be forgiven.
    BUT — all of those commonalities do not in any way, shape or form make pedophilia okay! In general, you probably have thousands of things in common with every person you meet on the street, but that does not justify various sinful behaviors.

  • It’s important to understand the Pharisees were imposters who had appropriated Judaism- that was the gist of it not legalism- – with Jesus steering Judaism back to its roots and proper understanding.
    You have to have some historical context of the crisis of Judaism at the time of Christ to see the big picture.

  • Pick up your Greek NT
    Read the context as it shapes interpretation of the text
    finally, get to know the God of the bible its apparent you think the bible is God.

  • What is surprising about the low number of confirmed Atheists? Brilliance strikes few in a population!

  • Or the orthodox may decide Christianity has been subverted beyond repair going underground to obey the call of Revelation to ‘ ‘Come out of her my people that you don’t partake of her sins and share her plagues.’

  • Of course you are making the connection. Saying you don’t wish to do that and then doing it is exactly the way hyper conservatives approach this.

    Obviously, you don’t understand the words “consenting adults” and “mutually fulfilling relationships.” And then, there is this deal about winking at divorce and having female ministers and bishops, while at the same time insisting that the understanding of people 2000 to 3000 years ago should supersede everything we have learned sine they first began having those very. Ague ideas about something or other.

  • Loving your neighbor while simultaneously ignoring actual knowledge and attacking them, their lives, their families and their faith are also different.

  • What it conveys to me is that there was a heretical Jewish sect that won the debate over the small-o orthodox Jews and they began writing the story. History is always written by the victors.

  • Sure, I made the connection. I could have said “thief” or “adulterer” or “drug dealer,” and my point would have remained the same — living a normal life in general doesn’t have any bearing on particular behaviors that may be in question. Seeing that you buy into the “consent above all” frame of morality, I suppose you would have been happier if I’d used something like “polyamorous relationships” instead?

    I completely agree with you that we shouldn’t wink at divorce (personally, I am opposed to all remarriage after divorce for Christians, unless it’s remarriage to your former spouse, based on the words of Christ) and I believe that having female ministers/bishops also goes against the biblical model. The clear difference, of course, is that the Bible never prescribes the death penalty for divorcees & female ministers (OT), nor does it suggest that they are headed for eternal punishment as a result of those behaviors (NT). As such, I regard those items to be within the realm of good faith disagreement within the church — second-order or third-order doctrines, if you will.

    I’m afraid I didn’t understand your last couple of sentences, since there appear to be several typos present.

  • I want to know; if we read the bible, does that give us a license to hit other people on their proverbial heads w/it? Did god sit @his desk n write the bible, or did men write it? Was it inspired by god? well, so was that fellow who just detonated a bomb in a busy marketplace. Do we judge others when their life choices make us uncomfortable, or do we follow Christ’s teachings on the matter of judging? Are the following passages god’s words?…”do unto others as u would have them do unto you; before u point out the speck in your brother’s eye, remove the plank from your own; he who looks upon another n says ‘thou fool’ stands on the edge of the abyss.” On the other hand, “a man who lays w/another man shall be stoned to death” is simply not compatible w/the aforementioned verses. Which position is an example of god’s word? If the instruction to murder homosexuals is god’s word, then he’s a false god, and I openly denounce him. My intuition tells me that stoning people to death for homosexuality is what frustrated, confused, hateful people want; if we take Jesus’ teachings as the way of truth, then the shunning, condemnation, and punishment of people we don’t fully understand (or of anyone, for that matter) is not the design of the Person who’s the 1st Source n Center of all being in the master universe. Until we’re reasonable enough to employ logic, and courageous enough to confess that the Bible’s not infallible (thus not entirely composed of the Word of our infallible god), then we will remain at odds with the divine, and in conflict w/ourselves

  • “Luke 11:37-54 for one” is proof you’re bluffing! Because: no mention of scriptures being used, handled, referenced, or whatever else, by the Pharisees and their lawyers is there at all in this FakeProofText of yours. REPEAT: “Luke 11:37-54” does NOT confirm your LAME HYPOTHESIS that “the Pharisees … believed that they would gain salvation by following the Scriptures to the letter.” WATCH:

    “37 Now when He had spoken, a Pharisee asked Him to have lunch with him; and He went in, and reclined at the table. 38 When the Pharisee saw it, he was surprised that He had not first ceremonially washed before the meal. 39 But the Lord said to him, ‘Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the platter; but inside of you, you are full of robbery and wickedness. 40 You foolish ones, did not He who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But give that which is within as charity, and then all things are clean for you. 42 But woe to you Pharisees! For you pay tithe of mint and rue and every kind of garden herb, and yet disregard justice and the love of God; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. 43 Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the chief seats in the synagogues and the respectful greetings in the market places. 44 Woe to you! For you are like concealed tombs, and the people who walk over them are unaware of it.’ 45 One of the lawyers said to Him in reply, ‘Teacher, when You say this, You insult us too.’ 46 But He said, ‘Woe to you lawyers as well! For you weigh men down with burdens hard to bear, while you yourselves will not even touch the burdens with one of your fingers. 47 Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets, and it was your fathers who killed them. 48 So you are witnesses and approve the deeds of your fathers; because it was they who killed them, and you build their tombs. 49 For this reason also the wisdom of God said, ‘I will send to them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and some they will persecute, 50 so that the blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the house of God; yes, I tell you, it shall be charged against this generation. 52 Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you yourselves did not enter, and you hindered those who were entering.’ 53 When He left there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to be very hostile and to question Him closely on many subjects, 54 plotting against Him to catch Him in something He might say.”

  • Wanna know how IN-significant or use-LESS or LAUGH-able 3% is? WATCH THIS:

    (1) “ONLY 3% of American shoppers regularly buy groceries online”, CNN, February 7, 2019.

    (2) “ONLY 3% Of Technicians Are Certified To Work On Electric Cars”, InsideEVs, November 28, 2018.

    (3) “ONLY 3% of Russians say they believe Moscow poisoned Skripal”, Euromaidan Press, October 31, 2018.

    (4) “ONLY 3% of Gaza water is fit for human consumption”, Near East News Agency, June 17, 2016.

    (5) “[Of] the proportion of Americans who call themselves ‘unaffiliated’ … [ONLY] 3% of the total population … call themselves atheists”, The Economist, May 16, 2018 (“The elusive phenomenon of churches without God”).

  • It ALL depends upon what the 3% is of. As i said 3% of Americans being Atheists is proof that ONLY the few have the intelligence to be so enlightened!

  • The African UMC members could only be the tail wagging the dog if their numerical superiority was discounted because they were considered impoverished ignorant “darkies” in a white man’s church.

  • Psst, #MeToo victims would like to know from you how Atheists the likes of David Silverman, Lawrence Krauss & Al Franken qualify as “ONLY the few [that] have the intelligence to be so enlightened!”

  • But with these 2 faces of Atheism next to yours & those 3 – isn’t Atheism “obviously … enlightened” STILL ?!

    Devin Patrick Kelley
    Craig Stephen Hicks

  • They are not yet numerically superior, but I admit it is really close with the likelihood that the African branch will, in short order, be numerically superior. Hence my comment.

    As for the last half of your sentence — it was not necessary to phrase it as you did. I expect a person of your experience in comment boxes can do better; same meaning in adult language ought to be easy.

    Finally, I pose the same question to you that I did to HpO. Why can’t you play nice?

  • • Jesus did not write the Bible.
    • Jesus did not teach from the New Testament (Jesus lived before most of the events occured with the Gospel stories being the exception.)
    • The Bibles most of us read are translations. Each reflects the cultural norms and biases of the time and the individuals translating.
    • The books to include and exclude from the Bible varies in some versions. Ex: The King James Version originally included 14 books of the Apocrypha. In its first printing, it used an alternative font for commentary by the translators. Later versions did not distinguish the Greek/Hebrew from the notes.
    • The commissioned Bibles are political – as adoration pieces or subtle and not so subtle rejection of the king, church, etc.

    My point, faith based on “the law” as written down by humans, translated by humans, expanded by translator commentary, and excluded by humans — is enhanced by holy inspiration, human interaction, and those gifted to interpret the word of God.

  • Christ did teach from the Old Testament. What Old Testament passages did he cite in reference to marriage?

    Those who believe Christ in any way affirmed something other than a marriage institution that was of one man and one woman are adding their own wishful thinking – nothing holy or inspired.

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