Pray for the United Methodists this weekend. At a special session, held in St. Louis, they will be making a decision that is likely to be critical for the future of their denomination, and for their witness in a lost world.
The issue, of course, is whether to embrace or reject the sexual revolution. Unless they put the issue off again, they will be choosing either to hold their present biblical position regarding human sexuality, or to revise it some way or another, affirming (in varying degrees) LGBTQ+ identity. Either result will probably mean the fracturing of their denomination, whether immediately or more slowly.
Religion News, a propaganda machine for liberal “Christianity”, has published a showcase of opinions regarding what some Methodists hope will result from the session. It is a very slanted piece of reporting (granted, it is labeled an Opinion piece), a collection of voices that are mostly liberal to very liberal, with a couple of very gentle conservative voices included to soften the one-sidedness. But, as a piece of liberal advocacy, the article does highlight what is at stake for the Methodists in this session.
It begins with a reminder that the denomination has already effectively caved to the sexual revolution, and only by repentance and submission to God will they be able to turn back from the precipice of paganism that looms before them. They already have an openly lesbian bishop. Having biblical standards regarding human sexuality on paper isn’t worth much if you ignore them in practice.
The voices that follow show the inroads of secularism and paganism in their denomination’s leadership.
Rev. Adam Hamilton says:
It requires patience, humility and grace to look at people with whom you disagree on an issue or theological point and say, “You are still my brother or sister.” It requires a willingness to say, “I don’t agree with you here, but I value what you bring to the table, and I need you.”
As though gross sexual immorality were a matter of adiaphora or theological minutia! Hamilton regards willingness to tolerate this sort of thing as a sign of patience, humility, and grace. The Scriptures regard that sort of tolerance as a spiritual failing, not a virtue (see 1 Cor. 5).
Rev. Alex da Silva Souto speaks in worldly terms of discrimination, framing this (as the culture has so effectively done) in terms stolen from the civil rights movement. He says:
Which is why I and thousands of other United Methodists support the Simple Plan, which would strike from our Book of Discipline all discriminatory language against LGBTQIA+ people. After decades of systemic harm, the only solution is returning to the first rule of United Methodism: “Do no harm.” The Simple Plan proposes exactly that. We must first stop the spiritual/physical harm against LGBTQIA+ people, and only then can we have a real conversation about “human sexuality.”
Very good. First, let the pagan culture set the agenda, then engage in theological reflection. Step 1, surrender, step 2, sit down at the diplomatic table. What could go wrong?
Rev. Beth Ann Cook begins insightfully. She recognizes that there is an underlying issue:
Our theological division is not limited to the issue of human sexuality. Sexual ethics are the presenting problem for a deeper theological division in our church.
But her following comment makes clear that she does not grasp what the underlying issue is:
The Commission on a Way Forward spent countless hours looking at every possibility. There is no perfect plan. Passing any of the plans will violate someone’s deeply held convictions in such a way that they will feel unable to remain part of our denomination.
Deeply held convictions are not worth defending simply because they are deeply held convictions. Atheists have deeply held convictions, but you shouldn’t let them guide your denominational policy.
The underlying issue is whether or not God should be believed and obeyed. A perfect plan, in this case, is one that says God should be believed and obeyed, and that those whose deeply held convictions disagree with this are welcome the to leave. The Traditional Plan probably approximates this closely enough.
The Scriptures are not unclear about the issues being debated here. This is not a matter of difficult biblical interpretation. Besides the clear condemnations of homosexuality in various biblical passages (e.g., Rom. 1:26-27; 1 Tim. 1:10), the opening chapters of Genesis lay the groundwork for a sound theological anthropology, and attendant doctrine of human sexuality. God created mankind in His image, male and female (Gen. 1:27). He made us man and woman, equal in dignity and glory as His image-bearers, immutably different from each other, and sexually complementary (Gen. 2:18-24).
That is, God created humanity in two genders, male and female; both men and women are fully human and equal; men and women are different, not changeable and not interchangeable; sexual intimacy is designed to be enjoyed by a man and woman within the covenant of marriage.
We could go on through the article, but it isn’t necessary. This is the issue, often buried beneath worldly rhetoric or the laudable goal of unity. Is God to be believed, trusted, and obeyed?
God’s Word is clear. The issue for the United Methodists is a question of whether to believe God’s Word and accept its authority; that is a question of whether to believe God and accept His authority. The alternative is the anthropology and sexual mores of an increasingly pagan culture. Ultimately, then, the United Methodists are deciding between God and idols, between Christianity and paganism.
I pray they make the right choice.