One of the wonders of America is our tolerance for all faiths, recognized, but not established, in the First Amendment. Circa 2019, America remains a Christian majority nation, and Christians, unlike the hateful caricatures of them and their faith, are among the most tolerant people on the planet. According to Pew, 70.6% of Americans identify as Christian, with 46.6% identifying as protestant, and 20.8% identifying Catholic. “Unaffiliated” churches count for 22.8% and the largest non-Christian faith was Judaism, with 1.9%. None of the other non-Christian faiths reached 1%. Nearly 15% identified in that particular survey as “Nothing in particular,” whatever that might mean.
There are, in virtually every town, a variety of churches. There may be multiple churches of any denomination, and in larger cities, multiple Catholic churches, but until recently, one thing any Christian could count on was reliance on the Gospel. Multiple divisions in any denomination, and between denominations, were primarily the result of differing emphasis on specific doctrinal points, or in interpretation of the Gospel. However, various cultural issues necessitated multiple congregations of the same denomination, and ministers remain, to this day, important figures in building congregations, maintaining them or chasing them away.
In recent years, sociopolitical disagreements–heavy on the political side–have riven entire denominations. Presbyterians, Lutherans, Episcopalians and others have been sundered, resulting in acrimony, lawsuits, and endless legal wrangling. The most recent clash took place at the February, 2019 General Conference of the United Methodist Church. It may not be united for long as Christianity Today reports:
After days of passionate debate, deliberation, and prayer—and years of tension—the United Methodist Church (UMC) voted Tuesday to maintain its traditional stance against same-sex marriage and non-celibate gay clergy, bolstered by a growing conservative contingent from Africa.
The denomination’s ‘Traditional Plan’ passed, with 438 votes in favor and 384 against (53% to 47%), in the final hours of a special UMC conference held this week in St. Louis to address the issue of human sexuality.
That the decision was so close is telling.
The decision leaves a sizable, vocal opposition, ensuring the exit of many progressive pastors and churches from the largest mainline Protestant body in America. After the final vote, protesters began chanting ‘no’ and ‘stop the harm’ through the rest of the session until the conference ended over an hour later.
The Traditional Plan preserves existing UMC positions and adds further accountability measures for those who violate them by performing same-sex ceremonies or ordaining gay clergy.
Before we go further, gentle readers, here’s a brief and accurate primer on what the Bible has to say about homosexuality. That article ends:
Attempts to read these texts as anything other than prohibitions of homosexual behaviour do not ultimately work. The plain reading of each passage is the right one. It is homosexual practice in general, rather than only certain expressions of it, which are forbidden in Scripture. To attempt to demonstrate otherwise is to violate the passages themselves. Yet these very same texts list homosexuality alongside many other forms of behaviour that are also against God’s will. The very passages that show us that homosexual activity is a sin, make it very clear that it is not a unique sin. It is one example of what is wrong with all of us.
It should also be noted that the Bible clearly categorizes homosexuality as sin in the Old and New Testaments, and not merely once in each. Let’s return to Christianity Today:
It was not the outcome many Americans, including most UMC bishops, had been praying for. In the States, a large portion of Methodists wanted to see the church accommodate LGBT ceremonies and clergy, as other mainline denominations have done in recent years. One poll through Mainstream UMC reported at least two-thirds of US delegates supported the more-inclusive ‘One Church Plan’ instead.
But the growing global presence among the 12 million-member denomination held more sway. Methodists from outside the US, who favor more traditional positions on sexuality, made up 41 percent of the general conference’s 864 delegates. A full 30 percent were from Africa.
Clearly, more than a majority of UMC members and Bishops, are what might charitably be called “progressive.” The denomination is falling away from tradition. More on this shortly.
Horatio Vilanculo, a delegate from Mozambique, said that the Traditional Plan ‘keeps the church in the way of God’ and ‘is what God wants in the church in this world.’
Imagine that: trying to be faithful to the Word of God.
United Methodists in the US tend to reflect the church’s position at the more socially conservative end of mainline Protestantism,’ according to Pew Research Center. Though Methodist views have shifted, Pew reported that they are still less likely than mainline Protestants overall to say homosexuality should be accepted (60% of Methodists vs. 66% of mainline) or support the legalization of same-sex marriage (49% vs. 57%).
Again, there’s that nagging, outdated insistence on actually trying to live God’s Word as it is given in the Bible. This is a surprise:
Many leaders who favored options that would sanction greater LGBT inclusion pledged to leave if the denomination did not change its stance. The One Church Plan, backed by the UMC’s bishops, would have allowed individual pastors, churches, and regional bodies to follow their own conscience on the issues of homosexual marriage and ordination.
Let’s examine some of the commentary from Methodists:
Some people will leave because of feeling attacked, unwanted, and excluded. Some churches will leave seeking safer, more accepting, and less conflictual settings in which to do their ministry,’ said Frank Wulf and Cyndi Kent, co-conveners of the Love Your Neighbor Coalition. [skip]
Similarly, the Queer Clergy Caucus’s ‘Simple Plan’ was also defeated, though the discussion brought passionate testimony from gay delegates at the conference. ‘We have brought people to Jesus saying they had not heard this message before,’ said Jeffrey Warren, a Methodist college student. ‘They didn’t know God could love them because their churches said God didn’t.’ His speech was drowned out with applause from supporters among a crowd of 3,000 observers at the event.
And on the “traditional” side:
Rob Renfroe, a pastor at The Woodlands UMC in the Houston area, said he believes the exodus of churches under the Traditional Plan will ultimately be smaller than those that would have left under the One Church Plan.
‘But again, some are so frustrated by what has happened that they just want to be done,’ he said, citing cases where individual churches and leaders may have felt in conflict with their regional bodies after years of disagreement. ‘Every congregation will have to think and pray and go through a period of holy conference to discern what God is calling them to do.’
‘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,’ said Bishop Scott J. Jones of the Texas Annual Conference. ‘We are stronger together in serving God’s mission as a diverse body of Christ.
This is nothing new. The same issue has sundered other denominations. LGBTQWERTY activists speak of inclusion and love, using all the contemporary socialist/social justice terminology, but that’s not what they seek. They seek dominance in thought, word and deed.
The Bible is clear: homosexuality is a sin. It is not called sin once, in a glancing reference that can be interpreted multiple ways, but many times, with unmistakable clarity, in both the Old and New Testaments. It is not the only sin, but it is sin. This is the position of traditionalists, in other words, Christians that accept the Word of God as the Word of God, which means it must not be ignored, rewritten, or interpreted away. Nor may it be twisted to praise what it condemns.
I state the obvious in saying all sin. All fall short of the glory of God. We are all, at one point or another, hypocritical. But it is the willing acceptance of faith, the willingness to know science cannot prove everything, that we don’t need to prove everything–that’s faith–the humbling of oneself in accepting the Creator of the Universe that ultimately saves us. Fortunately, all may be forgiven their sins. And that’s the problem: how may one sincerely repent their sins, particularly those sins clearly delineated in God’s word, if they ask for forgiveness knowing they will commit the same sins over and over again, for a lifetime?
Some people will leave because of feeling attacked, unwanted, and excluded. Some churches will leave seeking safer, more accepting, and less conflictual settings in which to do their ministry…
No doubt some will leave, but the idea they’re being attacked, unwanted and excluded, to say nothing of the idiotic, contemporary social justice whine that they are unsafe, is misleading, at best.
‘We have brought people to Jesus saying they had not heard this message before,’ said Jeffrey Warren, a Methodist college student. ‘They didn’t know God could love them because their churches said God didn’t.’
The message referenced here is gay domination of the Methodist Church, and of Christianity. And again, the idea that gays, lesbians and others, whatever they may be, were ever told God did not love them is also misleading, and for the most part, entirely false.
The principle tenant of Christianity is Love. It’s God’s love, and the love all Christians are urged to practice for others. A common aphorism is “love the sinner, but hate the sin.” That sums it up nicely.
Is it possible some have felt unwelcome? Of course. There is, in life, no escape from the disapproval of others. There is no right to be universally accepted, loved, even praised for one’s beliefs and conduct, nor does one find such solace in Scripture, because all sin. Surely some feel disapproval where none actually exists; they see in the neutral gaze of others a reflection of their sin and their unwillingness to actually end it. They fear and hate and disapprove, and they project those self-destructive emotions on others.
Gay people may, if they wish, establish their own denominations that pick and choose from the Bible, or they may write their own religious texts. They can call this inclusion, feeling safe, feeling wanted, feeling accepted or anything else, but that’s not the point.
Putting one’s own virtue over God’s is expensive. National–international–church structures were built over centuries. Their legitimacy and their financial resources are likewise the result of the labor of millions over great stretches of time. Church facilities are very expensive to build and maintain. That’s why congregations of the “progressive” persuasion that have broken away from “traditional” congregations and churches usually sue to take every asset, worldwide, forcing traditional congregations/churches to divert billions from God’s work to fight off predatory lawsuits.
Starting from scratch is very difficult, particularly if the number of true believers in a new faith is small. This is only remotely possible because what is being born is not a new faith based on the word of God, but a new political faith based on social justice, the whims and desires of man to create a socialist utopia. This provides a great many socialists and progressives, etc., who while not being actively homosexual, see homosexuals as a favored victim group, and are willing to use some of their financial, and most of all, political, resources to bolster their cause. Such bolstering is always at the expense of their political enemies.
Sin and repentance are beside the point. They wish to remove homosexuality from the deadly pantheon of sin. They wish not to have their sins forgiven, they–human beings–want to wipe away that category of sin so they never again have to beg forgiveness, nor do they have to feel guilt for choosing never to honestly repent of that sin.
Even that is not enough. They don’t want only to be accepted in a congregation–that acceptance is reality throughout the nation–they want everyone to agree with their abolishment of the sin of homosexuality. Yet even that is not enough. They want to be universally praised for their courage and virtue in living the very sin they seek to abolish, and they want everyone else to pay for it.
Those with doctrinal arguments with a given denomination can easily seek another congregation, or another denomination. In so doing, they force nothing on others, they take none of their resources, and their fidelity in following God’s word is between them and God. But those who seek to transform a congregation, the beliefs of a denomination, or of Christianity, by force, will quickly discover the real meaning of disapproval, and like us all, will have to answer to God.
This is personal weakness and socialist politics. It’s not wise to try to include God in that.