Category : Methodist

(JE) Chinese-American United Methodist Leaders Celebrate Traditional Plan, Reject “Resistance” Movement

At its recent biannual meeting, the General Assembly of the National Chinese Caucus of The United Methodist Church almost unanimously approved a resolution declaring support for the February 2019 UMC General Conference’s adoption of the Traditional Plan. The resolution also very broadly rejects actions of “resistance” to the decision that have been promoted by liberal white American caucus leaders and bishops in recent months.

The full text of this brief resolution, entitled “A Statement On Faithful Forward,” is as follows: “In light of the resistance to the decision of the 2019 Special General Conference in favor of the Traditional Plan, the National Chinese Caucus of The United Methodist Church makes this open statement: We support the decision of the 2019 Special General Conference and disagree with all actions contrary to the 2019 decision.”

This was approved on October 19 with 41 votes in favor, not one opposing vote, and just three abstentions.

The resolution was presented by the caucus’s Immediate Past Chair, the Rev. Dr. Peter Lau. Despite the same last name, he is no relation to the caucus’s current chair, Pastor Puong Ong Lau.

The National Chinese Caucus includes all of the Chinese-speaking United Methodist congregations scattered around the United States (mainly serving immigrant populations), as well as a number of Chinese American clergy and laity from other congregations. It convenes a General Meeting and Leadership Training Event for dozens of Chinese-American United Methodist leaders every other year.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Methodist, Religion & Culture, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

(UMNS) Bishop Kenneth H. Carter reflects on the journey to the United Methodist General Conference in 2020

UM News: What do you make of the responses to the special General Conference both in the U.S. and the central conferences?

Carter: I preached in three successive churches the next three weeks in Florida — Ft. Myers, Clearwater, Jupiter. And I found increasingly that many people felt like they needed to create a counternarrative, to say, but that’s not who I am, or that’s not who our church is in the U.S.

Now many people were in favor of the outcome. Many traditionalists were. I found that they needed a great deal of, at times, pastoral care. They just felt like they were the object of this response, this emotionally intensive response.

And then many LGBTQ persons and some who talked to me were wondering: Do I have a future in the church? Can I go through the candidacy process for ministry?

UM News: I’ve heard from a number of Africans who feel like they’re being blamed for what happened. But of course, Africans are about a third of the voters. What are you hearing?

Carter: So some of the African leaders have talked to me about a couple of things. One, just that their experience is that the U.S. church at times exports its divisions into the African context. The second thing they sometimes say is that they are more than one-issue people. The connection is important in Africa because, for many African leaders and people, mission is not ideological. It’s life and death.

It’s whether you have water or a hospital or access to education for a girl or child. And so that conversation is maturing. I would say the strength of the African relationship to the United States (and I wrote about this in the summer) is the incredible missional partnerships that exist between annual conferences of the U.S. and Africa, and they’re mutual.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Methodist, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), Theology

A Forward in Faith Statement on the Anglican-Methodist Proposals

In our own February 2018 statement, we noted questions about whether the proposals would lead to unity, and whether the office of ‘President-bishop’ (to be held for one year only) could be recognized as a ‘local adaption’ of the historic episcopate of the catholic Church. We are grateful to note some progress with regard to the question of unity, but our question as to whether what is proposed is in fact episcopacy remains.

Our third and greatest concern was about the proposal to set aside the requirement that those who minister as priests in the Church of England should have been episcopally ordained to the office of priest. In response to this concern, which was shared by others, the General Synod asked the Faith and Order Commission to ‘explore and elucidate further the relationship between episcopal ordination and eucharistic presidency’. That the Commission has not attempted to offer such an elucidation is a deep disappointment.

The requirement of episcopal ordination was fundamental to the 1662 settlement, which is in turn fundamental to Anglican identity. The Preface to the 1662 Ordinal makes clear that this requirement is a matter of doctrine. If this doctrine is set aside for a ‘temporary’ period that could last for sixty or seventy years, as is proposed, it will effectively have been abandoned. If a central tenet of Anglican doctrine can be abandoned in this way, what other tenets of Anglican doctrine might follow?

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Ecumenical Relations, Methodist

(UMNS) In-Sook Hwang on the Way forward for United Methodists

We wait for people to fill our pews. We say, “Our doors are open. We welcome you. We are friendly people IF you look and act like us. We accept you IF you agree with us about what to believe and how to live.” We have forgotten how Jesus reached out to people. He walked in towns and along seashores and visited people in their homes. Jesus ate with sinners, touched the untouchable and healed the sick. We also have forgotten how John Wesley reached out to people. He came out of the church building and became a walking church in the middle of fields where poor and marginalized people were.

Just as Jesus Christ was the bridge between God and all humanity through his incarnated life, the church’s role is to connect God and people. It takes risks, sacrifice and empowerment of the Holy Spirit to break down walls and barriers and to build bridges.

Inclusion is easy to talk about, but hard to practice.

Read it all.

Posted in Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

(UMNS) Stephen Mannion on the Way forward for United Methodists

Here is what I want to communicate to the reader: This denomination needs to unite! We unite, as United Methodists, around the Book of Discipline. That is what sets us apart as a denomination. I have never seen a denomination completely disregard their defining document to the extent I have seen in my short stint as a United Methodist. “A house divided against itself cannot stand” (Mark 3:25).

A relativistic, obey-it-if-you-like-it treatment of a denomination’s defining document leads to nothing but chaos. As someone who was reared Lutheran, was Roman Catholic, attended a Presbyterian seminary, was licensed with the Church of the Nazarene and ordained in a non-denominational setting, I have never seen such disregard toward a governing document, and such a lack of respect for the lawmaking body elected and charged to form that document. This is why we are in this position now.

This is my advice, for what it’s worth: United Methodists must decide who we are and begin to consistently uphold and enforce it. To do so is not unloving or ungracious, but orderly and consistent. The denomination went too long passively upholding its foundation of unity, and is now a hot mess.

My first impressions of The United Methodist Church: It is one dysfunctional family. But there is hope. God will have the victory! Praise be to God! His mercy endures forever! The gates of hell will not prevail against His Church!

Read it all.

Posted in Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

An NPR article on United Methodists and the Future

Many of the U.S. meetings were marked by sharp exchanges between progressive and conservative delegates, with presiding bishops trying in vain to keep the discourse civil.

“I beg of you, listen with open minds,” implored Bishop LaTrelle Easterling on the opening day of the Baltimore-Washington conference, as she convened a session on the divisive issues facing her Methodist family.

Before long, however, the deep disagreements over LGBT issues became clear. Rev. Kevin Baker of Olney, Maryland, representing the “traditional” UMC view on marriage and sexuality, objected to the suggestion that the church’s position means it does not welcome LGBT people. “The narrative that I know is that we want all people here,” Baker said, “but that we see that God calls us out of behaviors that are not in line with his words.”

A few feet away, Rev. Michele Johns of Silver Spring, Maryland, identifying herself as Queer, grew visibly upset at the suggestion that God does not approve of her behavior.

“I don’t know how much more I can bear listening to hate,” she said. “I don’t believe God hates me. I believe there are those in the Methodist church who do. And I feel it. Right now, I feel it.”

Read it all.

Posted in Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

(LC) Will debate over embracing a New Sexual Ethic Affect Episcopal-Methodist Communion?

Nearly a century of ecumenical dialogue between Episcopalians and Methodists is approaching a crossroad. In May, United Methodist bishops cleared the way for a 2020 General Conference vote on a full communion agreement that would allow the two churches to share clergy. If the Methodists approve the proposal, the Episcopal Church could take it up at General Convention in 2021.

But the proposal faces new obstacles in the wake of the Methodists’ bitterly contested Special Conference in St. Louis in late February. At that meeting, the UMC reaffirmed its stance barring “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” from ordained ministry and toughened sanctions for clergy who officiate at same-sex weddings.

Some now worry full communion could become a casualty of tense, politically charged times in churches at risk of breaking apart. But others say it is time to keep building on ecumenical momentum and not let sexuality debates interfere with a larger witness.

“There will have to be a great educational plan for people to understand it and to not let the one discussion derail the other discussion,” said Bishop Gregory Palmer, cochair of the Episcopal Church–United Methodist Dialogue Committee, which moved full communion forward at an April meeting in Austin.

Read it all.

Posted in Ecumenical Relations, Ethics / Moral Theology, Methodist, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

A pastoral word offered by the United Methodist Council of Bishops

There is a sense among the Council that we are in untenable times. To this end the Council is exploring models and plans of new forms of unity, including work being done in Africa, Europe, the Western Jurisdiction, a new Methodism, the gifts of the black church, among creative experiments in annual conferences and a connection of new expressions of United Methodism.

The Council has nominated a Servant Listening Team to accompany these conversations across the church. At the same time, the whole Council is called to a season of deep listening.

We grieve the brokenness in our relationships, and confess that we are complicit in this. Amidst pervasive dynamics of “evil, injustice and oppression” in the church and the world, we pledge to work for reconciliation in order to demonstrate the way of Christ, which is to love and serve one another. As we approach Pentecost, we call upon the gifts of the Holy Spirit to “make us one with Christ, one with each other and one in ministry to all the world.”

Read it all and there is a UMNS article there.

Posted in Methodist, Religion & Culture, Theology

(United Methodist Theologian) William Abraham–Mountains are there to be Climbed: The Next United Methodism

Our critics have effectively framed the debate in terms of inclusion and exclusion.[4]This is a godsend because it allows them to run a narrative about slavery and women in ministry that puts us on the defensive. It allows them to exploit the natural opposition to any idea of exclusion, for the default position will always initially be in favor of inclusion. It also allows a virtuous narrative about the moral arc of history which requires that we be identified as obsolete and out of step with the times. Add to these considerations that the default position in explaining the Traditional Plan will be to latch on to the ‘punitive’ provisions and the picture of the traditionalist makes everyone cringe. Add a further element, namely, the idea that the very discourse of exclusion is a source of pain, hurt, and even trauma, and we are dragged deeper into a black hole from which there appears to be no escape….

This whole way of thinking needs initially to be seen for what it is, namely, a toxic combination of persuasive definition, virtue-signaling story-telling, and fallacious reasoning. The ultimate issue for the conservative is none of these moves, much less a combination of them. The crucial issue at the end of the day is one of faithfulness to our Lord and to the tested tradition of the church. The failure to recognize this is an egregious error. It is the old game of Sein and Schein, much practiced by the mode of thought beloved of the Frankfurt School of philosophy, so that what seems to be true is not true. Of course, what counts as faithfulness is contested. And, of course, it would be wonderful if we could find a neutral ground on which this contested issue could be publicly resolved. However, the disagreement goes all the way to the bottom so that appeals to the Gospel, notions of justice and equality, scripture, tradition, experience, reason, inclusion, and the like, have been exhausted. To speak technically, ‘faithfulness’ is an essentially contested concept. However, to ignore that faithfulness is the real issue for conservatives is to poison the wells at the outset. Moreover, to frame the Traditional Plan as being essentially punitive is to miss the point at issue. The real issue is accountability to church teaching and practice. Failure to frame this issue initially in this way constitutes an elementary blunder in the interpretation of what is at stake. To put it simply, conservatives are not for sale precisely because they believe for better or worse that they cannot among other things walk away from our Lord’s teaching on marriage. So generally, we need to repudiate aggressively the persistent practice of describing our position in ways that we find utterly fallacious and unconvincing.

A couple of further points stand in the neighborhood. The whole effort to present our position as one of causing harm is also a toxic way to proceed. Thus we are constantly scolded and reprimanded because our discourse and speech is intrinsically harmful; merely to take the stance that we do and to speak as we do is the cause of pain and trauma. It is small wonder that in these circumstances we simply stay quiet and say nothing. Here we face an unavoidable dilemma. We speak, and we are accused of causing harm; we stay silent, and we are accused of collusion with oppression. At one level, the best policy is simply to stay silent, for this way we avoid causing pain; we simply take a hit on being accused of collusion. What is happening here is there we are forced to fight a blindfold battle because the terms of the dispute are never clarified.[5]

Perhaps we can make progress on this front by means of several distinctions. In this respect I intend to operate at a more neutral level.

What is at issue here is the complex nature of identity. At one level, it is perfectly obvious that gender identity cuts deeply into the experience and conception of ourselves as persons….[6]

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in Methodist, Theology

Terry Mattingly–After wars over Bible, marriage and sex: is Union possible for Reappraising Episcopalians and Methodists?

So far, leaders on the United Methodist left haven’t announced plans to leave. But that doesn’t mean that Episcopal clergy and other liberal Protestant leaders shouldn’t be prepared to help United Methodists who come their way, said the Rev. David Simmons of St. Matthias Episcopal Church in Waukesha, Wis., a leader in several regional and national ecumenical efforts.

“We have to start with the fact that lots of United Methodists are really hurting,” he said, in a telephone interview. “What we should be doing is providing a safe harbor. Our primary motivation shouldn’t be to grab members from other churches. … If we do that then we’re not being a safe harbor. We can’t go around saying, ‘United Methodists hare having trouble, so let’s recruit them.’ ”

Thus, Simmons recently posted an online essay entitled, “How to Deal With Methodists at your Red Church Doors” – referring to the front doors at most Episcopal parishes. His subtitle was even more blunt: “Don’t be a Jerk.” His suggestions to Episcopal leaders included:

* Remember that Methodists have their own traditions and history. It’s wrong to hand them a Book of Common Prayer and try to instantly “make them Episcopalians. … ANY language about ‘Coming Home’ or ‘Returning to the Mother Church’ is harmful, insensitive and historically inaccurate, since American Methodism and the Episcopal Church are both technically equal children of the Church of England.”

* “Lay off the smugness!” Episcopalians, for example, should not brag about “how much further ahead we are” on LGBTQ issues, noted Simmons. Some United Methodist congregations have “been way ahead of us in this in spite of the discipline of the UMC. … Don’t attempt to score cheap points….”

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Methodist, Religion & Culture, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), Theology

More analysis on the United Methodist Special General Conference–Riley Case

One would wish a report of the 2019 General Conference in St. Louis February 23-26 could be made that would go something like this:

The United Methodist 2019 special called General Conference is over. Charged with directing the church on a Way Forward and after nearly three years of discussion, meetings and prayer, the conference debated several options and finally chose the Traditional Plan as its directional path for United Methodism’s future. The plan calls for reaffirming the church’s historic stance on marriage and human sexuality but added several accountability features that should help to reinforce the church’s connectionalism in matters of faith and practice. The final decisions were painful for numbers of persons who wished the conference might have taken a different direction but there was a sense that because this conference was bathed in prayer, the decisions made represented God’s will for the church at this time. The conference closed with the singing of the Doxology and a commitment that United Methodism was now ready to walk in unity and direct its energy toward its mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

That report, unfortunately, is not the one being made. It is true the conference was held after nearly three years of discussion, meetings and prayer. It is true the Traditional Plan was chosen. But It is also true that the General Conference decisions were not the decisions preferred by bishops nor Mainstream UMC nor the Association of UM Theological Schools nor the presidents of UM-affiliated colleges nor a number of church agencies nor various progressive caucuses nor the several thousand visitors recruited by gay advocate groups who were in the stands to celebrate what they believed would be the church’s new movement toward sexual permissiveness. These people and groups were (and are) unhappy. The unhappiness was expressed on the final day when progressives sought to create as much confusion as possible in hopes that the Traditional Plan would not be able to come to the conference floor for a vote. The unhappiness was also expressed at the close of the conference when, instead of singing the doxology at the close of the final session with a prayer of blessing on the church, the chair of the session honored an earlier request by the “leadership team” of the Western Jurisdiction to be given the floor of the conference. It was at that time the “leadership team” basically announced as a Jurisdiction they did not intend to abide by the decisions of the conference. With that the conference ended.

Time for reflection.

The conference from the evangelical or traditionalist perspective.
The church has reaffirmed its historic stance. It was under great pressure to go in a different direction but the center held. The secular press and others may even pronounce the conference as a victory for conservatives. In the church we ought not to be talking about victories and defeats. We want the church to unite and be Christ’s presence in the world. We do not wish to be known for our infighting. Having said that, it can be said that the historic moral and doctrinal teachings of the church are still intact. And that is a positive.

Also a great positive; we are demonstrating that we are a global church. United Methodism outside the United States is growing and is in the process of assuming more leadership in the connection. The African presence had much to do with the outcome of the conference. In that respect the future for United Methodism is bright.

The conference from what should be a general unbiased perspective.
If the truth be known; the conference never had a chance to fulfill its purpose to bring together the church in unity. The expectations were unrealistic. There was good talk about A Way Forward and finding a solution that all groups in the church could live with but the goal was an impossible goal given the present divisions in the church. The one solution that might have promised some hope was one that would involve some form of amicable separation, but the bishops would not allow that solution even to be considered. It is premature to assess the General Conference as a failure (despite the cost of 6 or so million dollars and much time and effort) since it is quite possible that out of the ashes of St. Louis there may now be a willingness to consider options that previously have been ruled off-limits. But that is not apparent at the moment.

Read it all.

Posted in Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

A CNA Article on the recently concluded United Methodist Special General Conference

A major gathering of the United Methodist Church has reaffirmed its teaching on homosexuality, rejecting same-sex unions and the ordination of sexually active homosexuals, prompting predictions that some American congregations who reject this teaching will leave the denomination.

The international gathering, called a Special Session of the General Conference of the UMC, drew over 800 ministers and lay leader delegates to St. Louis Feb. 22-26.

The debate drew out different approaches to the authority of Scripture, marriage, and sexuality, but ultimately left the ecclesial community’s official teaching unchanged.

Scott Jones of the Methodists’ Texas Conference said the decision resolves a longstanding debate and is consistent with the ecclesial community’s teachings on human sexuality, which it has listed in its Book of Discipline since 1972.

That teaching states “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” It bars “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” from ordination.

“We will continue to welcome lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and queer persons to our churches and affirm their sacred worth,” said Jones, according to the United Methodist News Service. “I pray we, as a denomination, can now move forward, working with each other in the spirit of Christian love and joining together as one. We are stronger together in serving God’s mission as a diverse body of Christ.”

Read it all.

Posted in Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

More on the recently Concluded United Methodist Special General Conference (IV)–Thomas Lambrecht’s summary of the main points

  • By a vote of 438 to 384 (53.3 percent), adopted the Traditional Plan, parts of which will not be able to go into effect because they are unconstitutional. Parts that willgo into effect are:
  • Expanded definition of “self-avowed homosexuals” to include persons living in a same-sex marriage or union or who publicly proclaim themselves to be practicing homosexuals
  • Explicitly prohibits bishops from consecrating bishops, ordaining or commissioning clergy who are self-avowed practicing homosexuals
  • Requires all persons nominated to serve on the annual conference board of ordained ministry to certify that they will uphold and enforce the Book of Discipline’s standards for ordained clergy
  • Establishes a minimum penalty for clergy convicted of performing a same-sex wedding of a one year suspension (first offense) and loss of credentials (second offense)

Read it all.

Posted in Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

More on the recently Concluded United Methodist Special General Conference (III)–a UMNS postscript article

United Methodists tried to come to terms with a General Conference that was meant to unify but instead underscored divisions and had all sides acknowledging a high level of pain.

“Catastrophic” was the summary judgment of the Rev. James Howell, a Western North Carolina Conference delegate.

“The church as we’ve known it will not be. It’s going to fracture in ways — different ways,” he said.

Patricia Miller served on the Commission on a Way Forward that bishops appointed to help come up with legislative options for addressing the denomination’s impasse on homosexuality, and the Traditionalist Plan she supported prevailed.

“There is no joy for any of us in this whole debate,” said Miller. “It’s painful for all of us.”

The special legislative session was called by bishops to try to deal with the denomination’s long conflict over how accepting to be of homosexuality. General Conference is The United Methodist Church’s top legislative assembly, comprising delegates from around the world.

In the end, delegates passed by a 438-384 margin the Traditional Plan, which retains church law restrictions against…[homosexual practice] and seeks stricter enforcement.

Read it all.

Posted in Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

More on the recently Concluded United Methodist Special General Conference (II)–John Lomperis of JE

Here is what WAS passed in the Traditional Plan that the Judicial Council has already upheld as constitutional, and so which will be our new church law before too long:

First, we enacted a Traditional Plan petition (#90032) that clarifies the definition of what we mean when we say we forbid “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” to be ministers, candidates, or appointed pastors in our denomination. It was widely understood what the church meant by this. However, for many years, liberal bishops and others had treated this as a loophole, and claimed that unless even openly partnered gay ministers said the precise words “I am a practicing homosexual” or answered uncomfortable direct questions about their regular “genital contact” with someone of the same sex, then there was “no evidence” that they had actually violated our moral standards. Through such word games, some clergy in some liberal areas have been allowed to remain in good standing while knowingly violating our moral standards. This petition closes this loophole, by saying that from now on, anyone who “is living in a same-sex marriage, domestic partnership or civil union,” or “who publicly states that she or he is a practicing homosexual” automatically meets the definition of who is in violation of our ministry standards, with no required further questions about “genital contact” or awkward reliance on whether or not someone says the magic words. This will make enforcement of this longtime standard much simpler and easier to prove than it has ever been.

Secondly, we enacted another Traditional Plan petition (#90044) that limits the ability of bishops to dismiss complaints against clergy accused of wrongdoing. Our process for disciplining wayward clergy begins when someone files a complaint with his or her bishop. However, in recent years, we have seen liberal bishops simply dismiss complaints against clergy who violated sexual-morality standards with which the bishop did not agree. Such abuses of their ability to dismiss complaints had the potential to let each bishop unilaterally both nullify any part of our standards for clergy with which they disagree and also perhaps protect personal friends from facing accountability. But now this petition forbids bishops from dismissing complaints unless the complaints have “no basis in law or fact.” This petition also requires that any time bishops dismiss a complaint, they must share a written explanation with the person who filed the complaint, something which bishops had not always readily done. And all of this also applies to complaints against bishops.

Thirdly, we enacted another Traditional Plan petition (#90046) that reforms the “just resolution” process (the UMC equivalent of out-of-court settlements) that had been subject to such abuse by liberal bishops in recent years. This petition prevents how some liberal bishops had arranged “just resolutions” for violations of our sexuality standards that completely cut out the person who filed the complaint (the complainant) from the process. This new church law makes the complaint filer a party to the process, and requires that “every effort shall be made to have the complainant(s) agree to the resolution before it may take effect.”

Fourthly, we enacted half of another Traditional Plan petition (#90045) on “just resolutions.” This one requires that all just resolutions must “state all identified harms and how they shall be addressed.” This is an improvement over how previous “just resolutions” with clergy who violated our sexuality standards have avoided any pretense of addressing the concerns of the complainants.

Fifthly, we finally adopted another, particularly significant Traditional Plan petition (#90042), that has been filibustered for seven years since the 2012 General Conference, which requires mandatory penalties for clergy found in a church trial to have violated our covenant against performing pastorally harmful same-sex union ceremonies.

Read it all.

Posted in Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

More on the recently Concluded United Methodist Special General Conference (I)–A NYT Article

After three days of intense debate at a conference in St. Louis, the vote by church officials and lay members from around the world doubled down on current church policy, which states that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” The vote served as a rejection of a push by progressive members and leaders to open the church to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Now, a divide of the United Methodist Church, which has 12 million members worldwide, appears imminent. Some pastors and bishops in the United States are already talking about leaving the denomination and possibly creating a new alliance for gay-friendly churches.

“It is time for another movement,” the Rev. Mike Slaughter, pastor emeritus of Ginghamsburg Church in Ohio, said in a phone interview from the floor of the conference. “We don’t even know what that is yet, but it is something new.”

Read it all.

Posted in Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

(UMNS) 2019 General Conference passes Traditional Plan, upholding Christian standards for parish leaders

After hours of delaying tactics by opponents, the United Methodist General Conference 2019 delegates passed The Traditional Plan 438 to 384.

A last-ditch effort to bring the One Church Plan back was defeated in the morning and was followed by efforts to amend the Traditional Plan to address constitutionality issues raised by the Judicial Council, the church’s top court.

The Rev. Tim McClendon, South Carolina, called for a vote on the entire Traditional plan, which affirms the church’s current bans on ordaining [non-celibate] LGBTQ clergy and officiating at or hosting same-sex marriage.

When the vote was announced and flashed on the screen, the room erupted in singing, “This is My Story” from observers. Some delegates gathered in a circle and joined in with the singing.

The delegates on the floor and people in the bleachers went into a call and response, chanting in protest of the vote.

A handful of observers unhappy with the day’s legislative results tried to gain entrance to the plenary floor, but security officers blocked them and eventually moved them through turnstiles farther away from the doors. The protesters continued to chant their demand to be admitted.

Bishop Scott Jones of the Texas Conference said the vote resolves a long-standing debate about how the church “can best accomplish our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

“This decision is consistent with our denomination’s historic stance on human sexuality, outlined in the Book of Discipline since 1972,” Jones said.

“We will continue to welcome lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and queer persons to our churches and affirm their sacred worth. I pray we, as a denomination, can now move forward, working with each other in the spirit of Christian love and joining together as one. We are stronger together in serving God’s mission as a diverse body of Christ,” Jones said.

Read it all.

Posted in Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

The Latest United Methodist News Service story on today’s General Conference Developments

After approving the Traditional Plan in the morning, General Conference delegates spent the afternoon debating and ultimately voting against the One Church Plan and the Simple Plan.

Delegates opposed the bishops’ recommended One Church Plan by a vote of 436 to 386. The vote was 53 to almost 47 percent.

Delegates also voted against moving forward with the Simple Plan, submitted by the unofficial United Methodist Queer Clergy Caucus, by a vote of 494 to 323.

Dorothee Benz, delegate from New York, made an amendment to pull the Simple Plan from a motion to reject all remaining petitions.

The Rev. Adam Hamilton, a delegate from Great Plains, stood to speak for the motion, saying not at least discussing the plan would inflict harm.

“Yes, it’s going to be defeated, that’s clear. But this is the one opportunity to say we care enough to listen for a moment.”

Fred Sayeh, Liberia, argued that the Simple Plan should not be singled out for “special treatment.”

“Every plan had an opportunity. At this point it’s clear delegates are finding a way forward,” he said.

Posted in Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

A UMNS update on the Special United Methodist General Conference as of Last Night

Petitions meant to address pensions and the Traditional Plan topped the list of priorities for what General Conference delegates will work on in their legislative committee.

This was a key vote as delegates to the denomination’s top lawmaking assembly try to set the direction in the denomination’s longtime debate over homosexuality.

By 56 votes, the Traditional Plan topped the One Church Plan, supported by a majority of the bishops.

The Traditional Plan was second behind pensions, and the One Church Plan was fifth behind legislation that deals with disaffiliating churches.

The Traditional Plan would strengthen restrictions against officiating at same-gender unions and being “self-avowed practicing” gay clergy. The One Church Plan would leave questions of same-sex weddings up to individual clergy and congregations.

“We’re very happy the Traditional Plan received the majority of the votes,” said the Rev. Rob Renfroe, president of the unofficial advocacy group Good News, which has championed the legislation.

Read it all.

Posted in Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

Stephen Noll–“MEXIT”: Methodists, Anglicans and the Limits of Disagreement

In this post I shall address the “special General Conference” of United Methodists in St. Louis. Here is a brief preview of the agenda:

Last July, the Council of Bishops offered three possible plans for moving forward: the One Church Plan, the Connectional Conference Plan, and the Traditional Plan. The One Church Plan calls for removing language from the Book of Discipline that upholds traditional teaching on sexuality, and allowing individual churches and conferences to decide on the basis of conscience whether they will permit same-sex unions or homosexual bishops. The Connectional Conference Plan calls for completely reorganizing the regional conferences around shared beliefs rather than geography—in other words, creating traditionalist and progressive conferences and trying to hold them together. The Modified Traditional Plan calls for upholding the traditional teaching on sexuality and then offering an exit path for any local churches or conferences that disagree.

One might wonder why the Methodists are the last mainline church in North America to hold the line on biblical teaching on marriage and homosexuality. The reason is that, unlike the Anglican Communion, which granted autonomy to its missionary churches, the Methodists kept them together in one body – the General Conference. And the African churches have voted with conservatives in North America to uphold the Book of Discipline, which states that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” (sound familiar – see Lambeth Resolution I.10, clause d).

The revisionists, who hold the money and influence in the North American Methodist bureaucracy, have employed the usual Alinskyite tactics of “civil disobedience” to challenge the norm by ordaining [non-celiobate] gay pastors and now a [non-celibate] lesbian bishop. They are now calling for “good disagreement” under the One Church Plan, which would maintain formal unity while permitting radically different practices regarding marriage and ordination.

One proponent of the Modified Traditional Plan is Dr. William Abraham, a senior theologian from Southern Methodist University, who has written a paper titled; “In Defense of Mexit: Disagreement and Disunity in United Methodism.” Abraham proposes that the progressive minority be authorized to exit the Church (hence “Mexit”) with their property and to affiliate with another church or form their own “Progressive United Methodist Church” (Abraham suggests then renaming the majority body the “Evangelical United Methodist Church”).

What is interesting to me as an Anglican is how the Anglican experience figures into the theological discussion among conservative Methodists….

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Methodist, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Deseret News) Why the United Methodist Church seeks to end the decades-long battle over whether to change the standards of Christian behavior for leaders

Members of the United Methodist Church don’t agree on biblical teachings about homosexuality. More than that, they don’t agree on whether it’s necessary to agree about homosexuality in order to remain a unified denomination, church members and leaders said.

Participants in this special session of general conference on sexuality are tasked with determining whether it’s possible to avoid a denominational schism. They’ll debate policies on LGBTQ ordination and same-sex marriage, seeking to understand God’s will for the church.

“Our hope is not that this is an argument, but rather a way for followers of Jesus to develop empathy for each other and to listen to disagreements,” wrote Bishop Kenneth H. Carter, Jr., president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, in an email.

Conference delegates will vote on multiple potential paths forward, weighing whether to change church teachings stating that homosexual acts are sinful or provide an exit plan for those who don’t share this belief. Even creating room for pastors and congregations to hold a range of views on LGBTQ rights could lead to a schism, said Mark Tooley, author of “Methodism and Politics in the 20th Century” and president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy in Washington, D.C.

“This could potentially rip apart thousands of congregations,” he said.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Methodist, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), Theology, Theology: Scripture

William Abraham–In Defense of Mexit: Disagreement and Disunity in United Methodism

We might immediately take leave of O’Donovan by noting that what we really have to offer here is a new round of listening and theological debate to be carried out by a new commission to be appointed by the next General Conference. There is no chance of that option being proposed or implemented. We have already been down that road, and we are not about to turn the clock back and try that option one more time.

Ecclesial managers may understandably want to hold out for this option, but the days of ecclesial management are over. “Progressives” and others may publicly be in favor, but serious observers may legitimately see this as equivalent to one more attempt at stalling while more boots for change can be put on the ground. However, this is much too abrupt a way of disposing of what we might learn and conclude from an engagement with O’Donovan.

Let’s agree for the sake of argument on several of his observations and proposals. First, in the emergence of the gay movement, we face an unprecedented moment in history. Second, this recognizable novelty calls for sustained engagement with this new consciousness as understood from within the gay world that is inhabited by gay Christians. Third, Christians who are gay should be free to articulate and work through the description and assessment of their experience theologically and morally. Fourth, it may well be that, in the future, their deliberations will offersignificant improvements in our understanding and practice of mission. Fifth, it is indeedimportant to not only read carefully our biblical texts but to read carefully how we should apply such texts to our current cultural situation. However, once we get beyond these important insights, matters become much more complex and contested. For my part, I find O’Donovan’s critical comments on “liberal” forms of Christianity generally accurate as applied to the issues in hand. “Liberal” versions of Christianity have no monopoly on truth or intellectual virtue. Hence it is vital that Christians who are gay not follow their lead uncritically and embrace solutions that short-circuit debate by simplistic appealto immediate moral certainties or that reach for the first weapon of defense that lays to hand. Thus appeals to analogies with women’s ordination, or with racism, or appeals to generic moral notions like equality, justice, and liberation are not enough; we need deeper moral analysis and reflection. While I would provide a more robust role for intuition in the epistemology of ethics, I would entirely agree that we need to reach beyond intuition and try to understand the potential rationales, if any, which inform and undergird our intuitions. There are in-house, epistemological issues here that need not detain us. Having said all this, I recognize that many will disagree with this assessment of “liberalism….”

Read it all.

Posted in Ecclesiology, Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

RNS profiles a Flourishing South Carolina United Methodist Church ahead of the upcoming Special General Conference

(Please note: you may find basic information about this meeting there–KSH).

In November, with the blessing of his leadership team, Kersey sent out a congregation-wide letter explaining the various plans that will be up for a vote at the special session and declaring his support for the Traditional Plan, which would keep LGBT restrictions in place.

Out of a membership of close to 5,000 people, Kersey said he received three emails from people who said they disagreed with him.

Martha Thompson, who chairs the church’s leadership team and is a delegate to the special session in St. Louis, said she welcomed the letter.

“This was new to a majority of our membership. So I was glad Jeff did it,” she said. “There were some who weren’t in favor. But the overwhelming majority of people I’ve spoken to were glad that he did it.”

Thompson cited the success of the monthlong Advent offering after the letter was sent as proof of the congregation’s support. The church raised $313,000 for that one offering — more than many small Methodist churches’ entire yearly budget.

Both Thompson and Kersey said they don’t want to exclude anyone.

Kersey said he recognizes that there are LGBT people attending the church and said he sees them like he sees everyone else — as people of sacred worth.

“On any given weekend here, we see people struggling with adultery, pornography, same-sex relationship,” he said. “We don’t ask questions. Everyone is welcome to come here with the understanding that we’ll share with them God’s best plan for their life, which is based on our understanding of Scripture.”

Read it all.

Posted in Methodist, Parish Ministry, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

(1st Things) Charlotte Allen–Methodist Madness

….the fact that the UMC still officially considers homosexual conduct sinful (“incompatible with Christian teaching,” according to the Book of Discipline) is another surprise. All the other major mainline Protestant denominations—the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the United Church of Christ—have amended their canons over the years to permit gay and lesbian ordinations and same-sex weddings fairly freely (typically with a few hedges aimed at mollifying conservative churchgoers and clergy).

Nonetheless, anomalous as the UMC’s traditionalist stance on sexuality may seem when the other mainlines have capitulated to secular culture, it seems to have helped the UMC avoid the demographically catastrophic schisms that have plagued those other mainline churches. The Episcopal Church has seen breakaways of entire congregations and even dioceses over the past few decades, a trend exacerbated by the ordination of its first openly gay bishop in 2003. When the Episcopalians approved same-sex marriage in 2015, a still-unhealed rift opened in the worldwide Anglican Communion, 55 percent of whose 80 million members live in sub-Saharan Africa and hold highly traditionalist views on Christian sexual morality. The Lutherans and Presbyterians have also witnessed major hive-offs of their church’s conservative congregations into separate religious entities as their leaders have embraced increasingly progressive positions. One result has been a drastic and seemingly unstoppable decline in church membership for those mainline denominations. The PCUSA counted only 1.4 million active members in 2017, down from 2.3 million actives in 2005. The ELCA lost nearly a quarter of its membership between 1988 and 2016 (from 5.2 million to 3.5 million). The Episcopal Church’s number of baptized members fell from 2.3 million to 1.7 million between 2007 and 2017.

By contrast, the UMC, while not immune to declining membership, has held fairly steady at 7 million U.S. members (down from about 11 million in 1968), and there have been no major Methodist schisms. The UMC is currently America’s largest mainline Protestant denomination. Perhaps Charles Wesley’s beautiful hymns have kept the church reasonably intact, but another key factor may have been its willingness (so far) to allow religious conservatives and religious liberals to abide side by side in uneasy peace under a traditional ethos. The status quo is also maintained thanks to avid Methodist missionary work in Africa and elsewhere during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The UMC now boasts an additional 5 million overseas members, most of whom are theologically conservative like the overseas Anglicans and thus disinclined to support relaxations of traditional Christian ideas about sexuality. Proposals to modify the “incompatible with Christian teaching” language in the Book of Discipline have regularly surfaced at UMC General Conferences since at least the year 2000 but have been decisively rejected, thanks largely to overseas votes.

All of that seems poised for change, however….

Read it all.

Posted in Methodist, Other Denominations, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

Preparing for the Upcoming Major Special Session of the United Methodist General Conference (IV): An Article in the Star-Telegram

Dr. David Grant, a professor of religion at Texas Christian University, said the outcome of the conference will have a ripple effect on the entire church.

“The impact on the United Methodist Church will be great,” Grant said. “Whatever is decided, the chances are that a significant number of United Methodists will depart the denomination.”

Dr. Elizabeth Oldmixon is a political scientist at the University of North Texas who studies the intersections of religion, politics and LGBTQ identities. She said it’s too early to say how deep the effects of the issue will be on the United Methodist Church.

“This is the only issue where the language of schism has been elevated to this level,” Oldmixon said. “I don’t know how widespread it would be but it’ll definitely happen.”

She explained that it will be difficult to cater to everyone’s beliefs with the current plans, even if they are amended.

“If you’re a traditionalist, you don’t like that language will be taken out and changed,” Oldmixon said. “If you’re progressive, you’re not satisfied because there’s nothing new that affirms any other sexualities.”

Bishop Mike Lowry is the resident bishop of the Central Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church and oversees more than 300 churches. He noted that whichever plan is voted on will be debated and amended, and whatever decision is made will not take effect until January 2020, at the earliest.

However, he said he stands behind the current practices of the church, which say “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching,” and that “self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.”

“I’ve been clear that I do not endorse any of the three plans,” Lowry said. “I support the current stance of the United Methodist Church. Our understanding that love is for all, and Christian marriage is between a man and a woman.”

Read it all and there are comments by Bobby Ross on the article there.

Posted in Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

Preparing for the Upcoming Major Special Session of the United Methodist General Conference (III): Martin Davie

The first problem, which emerges in the statement by the Commission about its vision for its work, is the way the report uses the concept of ‘contextual differentiation.’ What it means by this concept is allowing people the freedom to adopt different approaches to the issue of human sexuality in different contexts for the sake of the Church’s mission.

What the report never explains, however, is why it is the case that undertaking mission in different contexts may require different approaches to the issue of human sexuality. The historic Christian view point has been that what it means for humans to live rightly before God as sexual creatures is determined by God’s creation of the human race (as described in Genesis 1-2) and that for this reason there is one sexual ethic that applies to all human beings at all times and everywhere. The Commission seems to disagree with this historic approach, but it never says why its preferred approach, of allowing there to be different approaches to sexual ethics among different groups of people, is preferable.

What the report also fails to explain is what it thinks the limits of contextual differentiation should be. It declares that it wants to allow for ‘as much contextual differentiation as possible,‘ but it never spells what the limits of differentiation should be. The furthest the report proposes going is to say that the Christian sexual ethic requires sexual relations to be within marriage, but that marriage can be between two people of the same sex. However, it never says why the possibility of contextual differentiation should stop at that point. Why shouldn’t the Christian sexual ethic be extended to include polyamory, or extra-marital sexual relationships, if that is what is appropriate in particular cultural contexts? If the contextual adaptation of the Christian sexual ethic is appropriate then at what point does such adaptation cease to be appropriate and why? The report does not say.

A second and very similar problem is raised by the Commission’s suggestion that those in the UMC should ‘recognize all contextual adaptations and creative expressions as valid expressions of United Methodism.’ This is problematic because it seems to imply that anything anyone claims to be doing as a ‘contextual adaptation’ or ‘creative expression’ for the sake of mission has to be accepted as legitimate. This would mean accepting that Christian belief and practice are infinitely adaptable.

However, if Christian belief and practice were infinitely adaptable this would mean the concept of Christian belief and practice was meaningless. If any form of belief and practice could be called Christian then there would be nothing that was not Christian and so the term Christian would have no meaning. In addition, for something to be rightly called Christian there has to be some connection back to the teaching and practice of Jesus Christ and this puts limits on the forms of belief and practice that can be regarded as Christian. For these two reasons the report’s idea that all forms of contextual adaptation or creative expression should be accepted valid needs to be rejected.

This problem is not just a problem with what is said in a particular part of the Commission’s report. It is a problem with the argument of the report as whole….

Read it all.

Posted in Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

Preparing for the Upcoming Major Special Session of the United Methodist General Conference (II): Ben Wetherington

There has been a lot of talk of late in my church, the UMC, about schism. How it is a sin, etc. etc. etc. This talk has usually come up in conjunction with the discussion of the ironically titled One Church Plan to resolve our difficulties, which rather than resolving them devolves them down to the Conference and local church level. So, perhaps it would be useful to talk about what the term schism actually means, theologically and ethically speaking. First, a little historical perspective.

Denominationalism is a post-Reformation notion, largely conjured up by the Protestant movement. It is not a Biblical idea, nor will you find its equivalent in the literature of the early Church Fathers. And when there has been talk about schism in the early church (for instance when the Orthodox and Catholic traditions went their separate ways), the issues were mainly theological (the filoque clause), rather than ethical by and large.

Schism was, and is caused, when one group within a church decides that it can no longer adhere to the orthodoxy or orthopraxy that is the de facto official position of a church. On this showing, those who are advocates for gay marriage and the ordination of self-avowed, openly gay persons would be the persons creating the schism today in the UMC. They simply refuse to accept what the Bible says about the nature of marriage and appropriate sexual behavior for various reasons, and as a result refuse to accept what the UMC Discipline says on these same matters.

Read it all.

Posted in Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

Preparing for the Upcoming Major Special Session of the United Methodist General Conference (I): John Lomperis

(Please note: you may find basic information about this meeting there–KSH).

At a press conference earlier today, outgoing Council of Bishops President Bishop Ough said that they would not publicly share the exact numbers of how the Council voted on matters related to this report. But in any case, the report that the majority of active United Methodist Bishops [approved it] confirms what many have long suspected about the liberal biases of our Council of Bishops as a whole. So while there are a number of individual faithful bishops we can appreciate, this report makes clear that at this point we cannot trust majority of the Council of Bishops, as a collective group, to offer much in the way of doctrinally, spiritually, or morally helpful leadership for our denomination.

But traditionalist United Methodists should not worry. This plan should be dead on arrival at next year’s General Conference. Under the leadership of the aforementioned Bishop Ough, the Connectional Table already tried submitting a multi-piece plan with the same basic idea to the 2016 General Conference, and this was defeated in committee after committee. And the delegates to the 2019 General Conference will largely be the very same people as the delegates who already rejected this idea in 2016.

Read it all.

Posted in Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

(Good News) Rob Renfroe on the Upcoming Methodist General Conference–Through a Glass Darkly

What will happen at the special General Conference this February? Right now, it’s anyone’s guess. We see through a glass darkly, not able to predict with confidence what the delegates will do and knowing that God can always surprise us and provide a solution to our problems that none of us imagined. Frankly, that’s what I’m praying for.

However, there are a few options that, at this point, seem most likely. Two that we can take off the board are the Simple Plan and the Connectional Conference Plan.

The Simple Plan goes too far. It redefines marriage as two adults, condones sex outside of marriage, prevents conservative annual conferences from refusing to ordain practicing gay persons, and allows pastors throughout the connection to marry gay couples. Whenever similar proposals have come before General Conference in the past, they have been defeated by a wide margin. The majority of the UM Church has not yet moved this far in a progressive direction.

The Connectional Conference Plan (CCP) creates three jurisdictions, each one with a different sexual ethic. No coalition has formed to support it and no group is doing the hard work of promoting it to the rest of the church. The CCP requires numerous constitutional amendments and there is little likelihood that a super majority of both General Conference delegates and then later of annual conference delegates around the globe will support it.

The plan with the greatest likelihood of passing is the Traditional Plan (TP). It maintains our present position of affirming the worth of and welcoming all persons to the ministries of the church without allowing for practicing gay persons to be ordained or for our pastors to marry gay couples. The Traditional Plan has several provisions that would allow the church to enforce the Book of Discipline more effectively when pastors and bishops violate our policies. Each of these provisions will need to be approved individually.

Why is the TP most likely to pass? Because it is most in line with what delegates have supported at every General Conference since 1972. It was the plan that the majority of the delegates supported less than three years ago in Portland – most of whom will be voting again in St. Louis. Whether all of the enhanced accountability measures can be passed remains to be seen. But it is most likely that a Traditional Plan of sorts will prevail. And a Traditional Plan provides the most hopeful path to a faithful future for The United Methodist Church.

It is also possible that no plan will be approved. If General Conference begins to approve a Traditional Plan, it is very likely that some progressives will move to keep the conference from passing a plan. Some will do so surreptitiously. There will be countless “points of order,” amendments, and substitute resolutions coming from the floor, bringing work on a Traditional Plan to a standstill. Others will be more blatant. In the past, scores of pro-LGBTQ supporters have entered the bar of the conference without permission and have brought deliberations to a halt with their chanting and protests. The bishops have been reticent to remove the demonstrators and the better part of a day has been lost before the protesters have been convinced to leave the conference floor.

Read it all.

Posted in Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

(UMNS) Seeing a Way Forward: The Rev Forbes Matonga on the Upcoming Methodist General Conference

The Rev. Forbes Matonga, a pastor at the Nyadire Mission in Zimbabwe, discusses possible implications that decisions made at the special 2019 General Conference could have for The United Methodist Church in Africa.

Matonga spoke with UM News as part of “Seeing a Way Forward,” a video series featuring different perspectives of church leaders on the work of the Commission on a Way Forward.

Way Forward discussions feel misleading to Africans
The Rev. Forbes Matonga feels the original discussion on The United Methodist Church’s stance on homosexuality has now morphed into a broader discussion of unity.

Traditional Plan is the only “legal” option for African delegates
As same-sex marriage is illegal in almost every African country, says the Rev. Forbes Matonga, the Traditional Plan submitted to the special 2019 General Conference is the only culturally acceptable option for African United Methodists to support…

Read it all.

Posted in Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)