The United Methodist Church not only refused to mutilate clear biblical teaching on same-sex couples and gay clergy, it voted to strengthen its adherence to biblical sexual ethics.
At the end of February, the United Methodist Church bravely dodged what would have been a self-inflicted kill shot. Pushed to definitive action by gay activists within their ranks, they not only refused to mutilate clear biblical teaching on same-sex couples and gay clergy, the UMC voted to strengthen its adherence to biblical sexual ethics.
We must appreciate just how against-the-tide this move is for a mainline denomination, and they should be roundly celebrated for their bold fidelity. But here’s the spin.
Many media stories are going with the “United Methodist Church Positions Itself for a Massive Split” angle because of the “hard-liners” inflexibility—as if all would have been hunky-dory if the denomination acquiesced to LGBT demands. The media is getting this one all wrong. (Why stop now, right?) The UMC did nothing short of averting its own death.
They did so at this year’s General Conference in St. Louis by choosing to adopt what was called the Traditional Plan over the manipulatively named One Church Plan. (Oh, you’re not for one church?) The latter was hawked as the best for everyone because it would not compel anyone to go all-in for gay ideology. But those who wanted to could. What could go wrong, right?
Thankfully, the majority of delegates didn’t fall for this Kumbaya ploy. If anything has been made clear over the last few years, it’s that gay politics do not “coexist.” Instead, the UMC tightened things up to make sure this chicanery would no longer be an issue for them.
Yes, God Wholeheartedly Loves Gay People
The adopted Traditional Plan strongly asserts the value of all people without exclusion, each being “of sacred worth, created in the image of God.” It proclaims that “All persons need the ministry of the Church” and affirms that “God’s grace is available to all.”
Those of us in the traditional camp know this is not mere happy talk to just make people feel better. It is basic Christianity. But just as basic, the plan also affirms a traditional sexual and marital ethic in line with what the Methodist church, and Christianity itself, has always held without doubt or contest.
Better yet, it gives real teeth to the matter, requiring every bishop to submit an official and public statement declaring whether they can or cannot fully uphold and enforce the church’s biblical standards around marriage and the ordination of clergy. This will halt the shenanigans LGBT agitators have been playing within the church to move their ball inch-by-inch down the field. If these leaders cannot affirm church teaching, a protocol is established for them and their congregations to go somewhere else so they can create some other faith from their own wishes.
Church Split or Church Reinvigoration?
So what about a split? Yes, some of the theological and ecclesiological innovators will take their rainbow flags and go home crying bigotry. One person’s split is another’s purge. That’s the risk of mounting a revolution, which the gay lobby certainly has done. Just don’t blame the ones defending themselves against the revolutionaries as the instigators of a split. That’s rich.
It is clear that the leadership of the United Methodist Church has been paying close attention to what happened to the Episcopal/Anglican Church as they gave gay ideology a long, full-body hug. Ever since, the Anglican faithful have been running for the doors as if the buildings are on fire, which highlights a great irony. Put up a rainbow “We Welcome All” banner across the doors of your church, and folks start going elsewhere.
It’s not just the old blue-hairs who are leaving in a huff. Research conducted jointly at Columbia University and the University of California at Los Angeles examined the church choices of same-sex-attracted men and women. The findings floored the pro-gay authors of the study, as such individuals were 2.5 times more likely to attend churches that took a more conservative view on homosexuality—churches that these scholars derisively called “non-affirming”—over the rainbow flag-waving ones.
The folks at Pew found largely the same. Thus, the UMC under the Traditional Plan is more likely to actually attract those needing to hear the clear teaching of God’s Word and see it practiced. Research shows this is not by coincidence.
Churches That Stand Firm Grow
Some Canadian sociologists of religion wanted to see which mainline churches have been declining and which are growing. The strength and clarity in their findings wrote the study’s title: “Theology Matters.”
These scholars found that, while most mainline congregations have long been hemorrhaging members by the millions, a few have actually been growing. The primary difference? Theological conservatism. People are voting with their feet, hoofing it to the mainline churches that still teach, preach, and practice historic Christianity.
Another fact the UMC leadership clearly learned from the Anglican debacle was that their faith is not just a white phenomenon of the Northern Hemisphere. Both churches, along with most all other Christian traditions, are exploding (not literally, but almost!) in the global south, particularly on the African continent.
The wing of the Anglican Church led by these brave, resolute African bishops now outnumbers those identified with England. They have more churches, larger and more lively ones, and more seminaries. The power base of the Anglican Church has undeniably shifted to Nigeria, that tradition’s most dominant body.
These African bishops are having tremendous success here in the United States, also, as more U.S. Anglicans align themselves under their faithful oversight and care. The Guardian could not help noting in 2016 that the African bishops who left the Church of England were not so much “leaving the Anglican Communion, but walking out of its funeral.” The UMC leadership noted it also.
Will the Real Colonialist Please Stand Up?
For all the talk coming from the left about the evils of Western colonialism, they are zealots enforcing their sexual colonialism upon the developing world, with a dose of racism. At a meeting of liberal clergy in San Francisco some years ago, it was pointed out by one conferee that it was “those African bishops” who were the primary obstacle to accomplishing their agenda and that they needed to be dealt with.
At another gathering in New York City on the topic of blessing gay sex in the Anglican Church, a deeply frustrated white, gay Episcopalian announced in his session that the African bishops must stop “monkeying around” with the rest of the church. He also said these words: “All I have to say to these bishops is: Go back to the jungle where you came from.”
This paternalism continues full-bore today. Just before the UMC vote in St. Louis last week, Dr. Jerry P. Kulah, dean of the Gbarnga School of Theology at the United Methodist University in Liberia, spoke these powerful words to his fellow church leaders:
“Friends, please hear me, we Africans are not afraid of our sisters and brothers who identify as lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgendered, questioning, or queer. … But we know of no compelling arguments for forsaking our church’s understanding of Scripture and the teachings of the church universal.
[W]e 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.’”
No they do not, and neither does the rest of the body of Christ throughout the world. As the gay lobby works overtime to construct a whole other gospel, they should have the integrity to admit their project is at great odds with mere Christianity and go join the Unitarians. There’s all kinds of room over there.
This article was written by Glenn Stanton and originally published on March 5th, 2019 by the The Federalist.
Director of Family Formation Studies at Focus on the Family