Sunday, November 27, 2016

A Divided United Methodist Church: How We'll Fail at the Main Thing

     I’ve blogged quite a few times about our fragile United Methodist Church, making the case for, but really just pleading for unity.  I’ve reflected on how our Book of Discipline functions, on why Robert’s Rules of Order create dysfunction in the Body of Christ, on how we relate to fellow members in that Body who think differently.

     I have tried to point out that sexuality, while enormously important, and at the core of what it means to be holy, is not at the center of our theology.  Our cardinal beliefs, which pertain to salvation, are about God, not us – and our sexuality is always a bit broken, fallen, bedeviled by subterranean forces we hardly understand.  I would exit the denomination if it declared Jesus was just a man, or we are saved by works.  But not over a single practice among hundreds.

     Most importantly, I’ve explained how splitting up would be the worst conceivable witness to the unchurched, and to our cynical world.  If we can’t do any better than the division and rancor in our country right now, we prove we have nothing to offer.

     Now, during this hazy time when the Bishops’ Commission has been named, and when all we can do is pray for them, and for ourselves – and as many of us feel gloomier than ever, fearing or even expecting a split, I keep drifting in my mind to utterly practical questions.  Like, if there is the dreaded split right down the middle: What will I be doing for a living and where?  Where will my pastor friends wind up?  What signage will need changing?  What won’t get paid for any longer?  And in a way, the most pressing question of all:  What will become of the church where I am serving?

     Suppose we get the divorce.  One denomination becomes two, a conservative, brooking no deviation from straight or celibate sexuality, and a progressive, allowing and even affirming same gender marriage and LGBTQ ordinations.  What then?  The General Conference sends a memo to me and our board chair, giving us ninety days or six months to select which way we go?

     Our case is pretty interesting, indicative of why there will be more carnage than we anticipate, utterly harrowing and heartbreaking to me and the people I love.  Just the property: our trustees hold, in trust for the conference, massive neo-gothic structures sitting on prime real estate in Charlotte.  Both of the new judicatories would covet the property, and the apportionment income.  Our contributions are a significant percentage of our conference’s income now.  But that amount will shrink drastically for whoever winds up with our facility.
 
     Because internally we would be forced to make a choice we do not wish or need to make.  We have engaged in the arduous labor our denomination as a whole has never engaged in: a prayerful, thoughtful, respectful conversation on the theology and practice of sexuality.  With broad and strongly felt disagreement on the matter, we have chosen to stay together, to love, and by our very unity to be a witness to the world. 

     And yet we would be compelled to make a choice.  How would that happen?  Is it simply an item on the agenda of the next Administrative Board meeting, and majority wins?  Do we take a congregational vote, with each member getting to cast a ballot?  Would there be campaigning within? Or even from outside groups lobbying to win Myers Park?

     I’ve tried to guesstimate what the tally here would be.  We have 5,200 members.  We treat the children like members, and also the super active adults, especially young adults, who’ve never actually joined.  But let’s leave them out for now.  Of the 5,200 official members, I’d guess 1,600 wouldn’t pay attention or open their mail.  Of the 3,600 left, I’d imagine 1,400 would rally to the progressive side, and about 1,000 would go conservative.  Or maybe it would be roughly a tie.  Or maybe 1,400 to 1,000 the other way.  What would happen to the "losers"?  Of course, the remaining 1,200 would be too disgusted to vote at all.  Our young adults would, quite simply, be done with us.

     Many – several dozen, I'd estimate – would exit and become Southern Baptist, or Episcopalians.  I’d suspect that many more, though, in the hundreds, would just give up on church altogether, if the one they loved and trusted couldn’t do any better than this sorry state of affairs.  And I would not blame one of them.  We’d suddenly have more Sunday School classes, since they’d have to split too.  Families would be divided over which way to go.  A 5,200 member church gutted, with maybe 1,500 left.

     We would quickly have to lay off two thirds of our staff, and hack our mission spending down to a small fraction of what it’s been.  Within months, a clinic in Haiti would shut down, families moving out of homelessness would head back to the streets.  We’d be the laughingstock of Charlotte.  The new conference of the new denomination wouldn’t even be all that glad to have us, as we’d have so little money left to send in.

     Then where would the clergy we’d have to let go wind up?  Not only would the financial decimation reduce the number of pastoral jobs out there.  We would also have a rash of mismatched clergy and congregations.  If congregations get to choose which denomination to go with, I’d imagine the clergy would get to pick too.  At least in my part of the world, and I suspect all across the United States, on average the clergy are far more progressive than their congregations.  In Western North Carolina, for instance, out of 1,000 clergy I’d estimate at least 500 would choose the new progressive institution; but no more than a few dozen churches would do the same.  Where would the clergy work?  And who would pastor the conservative churches?

     I’m not a pessimist by nature.  But I do sense there is considerable naivete about how neatly a split might proceed.  I know those who think that basically the Southeast and the Midwest would overwhelmingly go conservative, and the West and Northeast would go liberal, or there might be a semblance of an urban/rural split, like the one we see now in presidential elections.

     But it’s way more complicated state by state, and even church by church.  The unforeseen ripple effects of a forced division, even in a single parish like mine, would be catastrophic.  A split in United Methodism, beyond the heartache, the lost relationships, and the embarrassment of theological surrender, would create a black hole of practical disaster.  We would be the butt of church humor for the next generation.  And whatever shared mission work we cherish would evaporate. 
 
     Purists will say you should do the right thing, no matter what the consequences are.  But within our denomination, aren’t we picking one right thing, which isn’t really the main thing, and then by picking that one right thing to be right about, we render ourselves incapable of doing all the other right things that really are the main thing?



57 comments:

  1. James, this blog reminds me of what happened after the Methodist Church split in 1844. Anyone who has studied the history of that event knows it was anything but an "amicable separation." Scores of churches were dormant while divided congregations went the route of litigation. People in both the church North and the church South demonized the other. The vitriol and rancor in local congregations and regionally make what we've just experienced -- and are still experiencing -- in relation to the presidential campaign look like child's play. In a number of places, pastors were attacked by "the other side," and in some places pastors were actually lynched. All in the name of Christ. We Methodists already "have that T-shirt." We don't need another one like it. Neither does the cause of Christ.

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  2. Thank you for a sobering depiction of a probable future reality. And then there are out denominational gems such as Walk to Emmaus, The Upper Room, and our Volunteers in Mission. So much to lose.

    Unfortunately using torture and executions as means of coercion over differing views is part of our Christian heritage. Denominations are at least a better choice but nonetheless painful and heart wrenching as they split. Lord have mercy.

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  3. Huh? I read Pastor James' blog as an appeal to stay united and not separate. What made you leap from there to man-made Armageddon? Schism, no matter which side commits it, will be horrendous, just as you paint it from 1844. Why not stay united?

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  4. God has not finished with us, yet. I believe that prayer is the key to our remaining united. I love my church. It has enabled me to be the person I have become by God's Grace. Splitting would break my heart. God has already solved this matter. We are all God's family. Why can't we choose to act like it.

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  5. This is easy. You cannot stay united. When you decided to invite and entertain the gay community, you set this all in place. Now you are reaping the whirlwind of that decision.

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    1. As United Methodists, we are about inclusion, not exclusion. I do not want to be part of a church that defines itself by who it leaves out. As far as I can tell, God is about accepting all.
      If we decide that we are a denomination that excludes gay people, then we'll need to begin excluding people who have committed adultery, who have been less than honest at home or work,....the list goes on. That's a lot of focus on ourselves and on sin, rather than a focus on making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

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    2. The "gay community" as you put it are our nurses, doctors, lawyers, secretaries. "They" are our sisters, brothers, aunts and uncles, and people whom you see everyday.
      "They" are no different from you, other than those to whom they may be attracted."
      God loves all of us, yes, even "them."
      The UMC need not split, if the church realizes that we should never exclude those who love God, but just may love someone of their own gender. "They" have families, raise children, or may be childless, work in our community, and have the same desires for a good, productive life, just as you have.

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    3. We decide to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ...who makes no mention of homosexuality and based his ministry on what was in a man's heart...what true purpose was...So maybe what we should do next to bring the rest of our United Methodists to Christ since it appears many do not know him.

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    4. I have witnessed this discussion for over 40 years as my father, a lay leader, member of Global Ministries, etc. went to conference after conference in SC and around the world discussing this. It is time for the UMC to accept homosexuals completely and allow them the same rights that ever other non-homosexual has. I am not a homosexual, but I have friends who are. They are no less a Christian than I am and I resent anyone saying that because they are homosexual they need to be brought to Christ. They were born this way. They did not choose to be this way. United Methodist Church, it is time for you to come into the 21st century.

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    5. Also, thank you Carla for your words of wisdom.

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    6. With an attitude like yours, "Hillclimber," I don't know what "hill" you think you're "climbing," but it isn't Calvary or the "Mount" on which Jesus delivered his "Sermon." Jesus is the one who "invited" everyone (including the "gay community" and people like you). We're just following his example. Maybe you should try it.

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  6. Thank you for stating what I've wondered about since GC2016 here in Portland. I pray that the Commission on a Way Forward can bring this issue 'out' in the open so that folks can see the big picture and not just as an issue on sexuality.

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  7. Thank you for stating what I've wondered about since GC2016 here in Portland. I pray that the Commission on a Way Forward can bring this issue 'out' in the open so that folks can see the big picture and not just as an issue on sexuality.

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  8. Thanks for a clear picture of what schism would be like. There is a lot of elephant attached to the ivory to be gained by seeking control through division. Unity without uniformity has been a significant part of the Wesleyan Way. Surely there is a way forward that can move us back toward "the main thing.:

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  9. When will we learn. We are supposed to be followers of Christ, disciples of His. The object of our faith is Christ Jesus, not denomination(s). They fall, merge, dissolve and reinvent themselves. Only God is permanent and unchangeable. I have never loved a group of humans as my love affair with members of my Methodist Church. I have learned what it means to love God and humanity. Nevertheless, we, and all true disciples of Christ, must not put what we prefer or follow our conscious as the deciding factors in our great calling. Jesus, the absolute expression of God Jehovah and His Glory, is where must turn completely to. We have relied too heavily on credentials and works, turning Christ's love of His Church into a slogan while seeking church membership, and not intentionally making disciples. We have allowed distractions and wandered off Christ and His Great Commission and false doctrines have taken hold. I pray every day that God fix us. We have made a mess. My prayer is, Lord Jesus, please help us, we Methodists are a part of your body and we are deeply sick. Please Lord visit us.

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    1. I'm so happy to see your post. Social and bedroom issues should have no bearing on the church, and the pastors need to embody Christ - and leave those false doctrines aside. I don't care what you do with your private life - just don't bring it to church.

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    2. Amen. Bring it to church only if seeking guidance on how to overcome, but not expecting a church to change its faith to condone or promote your sin (whatever sin it is). If a vow was taken by our clergy to support the UMC and its beliefs, then the lifestyle is disobedience and being unfaithful. <><

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  10. So institutions, jobs, money, signage, possible humiliation is more important than treating others as you would wish to be treated? You really need to consider what kind of witness that presents.

    I'm a former American Baptist who is now a Unitarian Universalist that no longer sees himself as a Christian in any orthodox sense because of people who consider themselves followers of Christ, but seem to place institutions above people.

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  11. I understand the anti-institutional remarks, but Christians do better when they are organized for mission and have a place where they meet up with people who are different, who challenge them. So it isn't institutions vs. following Jesus. Institutions can follow Jesus. They don't always, but that's the purpose of at least the one institution I'm talking about in my blog

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  12. Just a question: Did Jesus try to maintain unity or did He intentionally say and do things that made some walk away from Him?

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  13. I think this is a fairly accurate picture of where the Methodist denomination will be should it choose to move away from the current statement on sexuality. Those who want to change have to prayerfully consider is it worth it.

    It's not about the sexuality or condemnation. It's more about if we are going to align ourselves with the Word or are we going to walk away from it.

    We are not under the law if course but the law is there to show is how much we need Jesus. If we declare the law as wrong or purposefully ignore it, we are also saying that we don't need Jesus, forgiveness, or grace.

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    1. But Jesus never said anything about excluding gay people.

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    2. Molly, I think you present a good example of adultry. Would you be alright if the our denimination held that adultry is a lifestyle? One that allowed ministers to have mistresses.

      That is the diffeerence to me. We all sin but Jesus forgave and said, "Sin no more." He didn't tell the woman at the well to go back and continue her behavior. He forgave her and told her to put it behind her.

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    3. Michael, if one takes a "pure" biblical approach to sexuality, most divorced people are guilty of adultery (Jesus words). Why do you think "we" (the UMC) are considering splitting over homosexuality but not over divorce? It seems that "we" are being selective. I am really interested in your thoughts on this perceived oxymoron.

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    4. I agree with Michael, if we are taking the stand that we are not under the law, so there is nothing unlawful anymore, than we would have to allow those who are living with someone who isn't their husband/wife be clergy. There are people who would argue that they just can't see them-self in a single relationship for their whole life. Where do we pick and choose? We are called to live a holy life. What are we to lean on to what that is? Culture or the Word of God? I pick the Word of God, which means trying to live up to law...even though we are totally forgive when we miss the mark.

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    6. William, I always try and take a pure Biblical approach. Whether you believe the Bible is infallible like I do or not, I guarantee you cannot be misled by following it too literally. Leaving it open to wide interpretation however, can cause real problems. I think that is what the UMC is experiencing today.

      To your point, I don’t know anyone who celebrates divorce as a lifestyle. That is a struggle to many and all of us struggle with something. I do believe that Jesus went through Samaria specifically speak to the woman at the well and He forgave her for past indiscressions.

      Divorce, even when Biblicaly justified, is always tragic to a degree but we are called to receive forgiveness and move on. The Lord understands we mess up and we are not condemned for mistakes as long as we seek Him to get through it.

      The conflict comes when we declare that the Lord is wrong on an issue. The equivalent would be to frivolously go into marriage with the intent of later divorce or intentionally not honoring the marriage. I would not be part of a church that did that either. I would not be a part of a church that had leadership in adulterous relationships.

      Also, I would stay away from logic that somehow, since we seem to accept one sin, another is acceptable. All sin is wrong. We are to acknowledge that and do our best to overcome and move away from it.

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    7. Michael,
      Thank you for your reply. I don' think I framed my comment and question correctly. I agree that divorce is not and should not be celebrated. But I want to know your thoughts on divorced individuals remarrying, something the UMC certainly does not condemn. May UMCs actually have a "singles ministry" that welcomes divorced individuals and encourage people to marry instead of, as Paul says, "burn with lust." So do you feel that we have failed to "align ourselves with the Word" by not speaking out against divorced individuals (who don't have a biblical justification to be divorced) since they are living in adultery?

      Cathy,
      I believe even people who state they want to and try to "live up to the law" pick and choose, because they don't follow the whole law (e.g. all the food related laws). Jesus and Paul both cautioned against trying to live up to the law because NO one can. Scripture clearly states that the law brings brings death, just like sin can lead to death. Love leads to life, and leads us to holiness (i.e., being separated unto God). We are to be different from the world in how we love unconditionally. The early churches struggled with this too. They asked the Apostles what "laws" needed to be followed. It was amazing the response. Many of the Jews really thought the Apostles had gotten it wrong because they did not say that the new believers had to follow the law. Think about it, many of the new churches probably didn't even have access to the Torah (the Old Testament), so they wouldn't even know what laws to follow. Would that have made then any less a lover and follower of Jesus. Thoughts?

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    8. William, you compared a homosexual relationship and marriage to divorce through the lens of the law and sin. We do celebrate the joining together of two people in marriage so to complete the comparison we would have to also celebrate divorce. That was my point.

      As you know, Christians believe that any sin can be forgiven. Christ paid for us in full, freely. Therefore, He can completely wash away, remove it, if you seek forgiveness with sincerity in your heart. Even God himself doesn’t remember the sin once you are forgiven. One who steals and even one who commits murder, if he/she takes that to the Lord with sincere sorrow and repentance, the Lord promises forgiveness, to wipe the slate clean as if it never happened.

      In the case of divorce, that is breaking a covenant. God takes the marriage covenant very seriously and hates divorce. It is sin of course but still a one-time event like stealing or a homosexual act. If the person doesn’t seek forgiveness, then he/she may still be considered married in God’s mind and still bound to that covenant. To remarry without being fully repentant and forgiven for breaking that covenant, would indeed be adultery as Jesus tells us.

      As you alluded to, there is a real purpose to marriage to help people stay anchored and focused on the Lord. Because of that, I think it is appropriate, as forgiven, to move forward in marriage.

      God calls homosexual acts “an abomination.” Paul is clear on the subject as well. Therefore, in my mind, the lifestyle is inconsistent with what God wants for us based on what He says in
      scriptures. Someone who struggles with this and seeks to overcome it, can absolutely be forgiven, and saved.

      So, that is essentially the difference. We can and are forgiven for EVERY misstep if we acknowledge it IS a misstep and sincerely work to overcome.

      We as a church shouldn’t condemn people either as you state about divorce. I think we as Christians are called to not judge one another. To me, that means to not condemn one another. You have to make judgements of what is appropriate using the scriptures though and we have to support each other in that way. I can’t say with any measure of absolution who is saved and who will receive rewards and by no means want to. That is the duty of God alone.

      But when we as a denomination start endorsing a behavior/lifestyle that is inconsistent with Biblical teaching by codifying it in our Book of Discipline and/or accepting it in our leadership, that is when I will have to separate my family from the Methodist Church.

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    9. Michael,
      I am so thankful for forgiving God but believe that the forgiveness is greater than our remorse of lack thereof. God forgive us even before we recognized our need for forgiveness - but that is a discuss for another time. :-)

      Back to the topic at hand. :-) God calls eating shrimp an abomination as well, but many feel that specific law is no longer in effect. The UMC's doctrinal statements have changed over the years from forbidding a minister from marrying divorced individuals (unless there was marital unfaithfulness) because they would be living a life of adultery, to allowing it. So haven't we already "endorsed" behaviors and lifestyles that don't strictly follow the rules of scripture?

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    10. William, you certainly challenge me. 

      I am also thankful that that God forgives freely.

      I will never intentionally contradict God and that is the rub for me on this issue. The law is there as a measure to show everyone how they fall short without Jesus. If you start erasing parts of it, it loses that intent. Denying parts of the law opens all kinds of implications including what I think God HATES most of all, pride. How proud must we be to deny something stated so clearly in our Bibles?

      To your specific example of eating shrimp. I think that in Peter’s vision in Acts 10:9-16, God lifted food restrictions.

      Also in Matthew 15:10, Jesus tells us, “Hear and understand: Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.”

      To your example on divorce, I have already addressed that. If you view divorce as the breaking of a covenant that you are never forgiven for OR you are forgiven for it but somehow there is a residue of marriage, then you would be correct, I suppose, that to remarry would be committing adultery for as long as that marriage existed.

      However, God gives us marriage and the model of marriage as a man and woman coming together as one flesh until death do them part. I believe that breaking the covenant of marriage as with practically everything, Jesus can forgive in full. From that point, the two parties are no longer married. Furthermore, God can bless a new covenant of marriage. Remember, God can neither lie nor learn anything. He knew the first marriage would fail before the universe was created.

      As you know, under the law, divorce is only allowed with infidelity and still not the preferred resolution. In keeping with the point at hand, I would never tell anyone that divorce is NOT a sin.

      Yet, if we change our book of discipline as proposed by our more Liberal brothers and sisters, that is exactly what we are doing. We are taking an activity that God calls and abomination and disagreeing with Him. We will be stating that not only is this activity NOT a sin but indeed it is actually a lifestyle to be celebrated even within the covenant of Marriage.

      So let me ask you, what if the denomination decided that adultery was very common and some people were born prone to infidelity and therefore we must accept this within our congregation and clergy. What if you had a pastor that publicly carried on an affair. Would you support that?

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    11. Michael,
      Great question, and I will answer you shortly. But before I do, two quick things. After rereading and thinking more about all of this, I do want to say that although I think we have incorrectly labeled all homosexuality sin, there are definitely times where I do think it is a sin. And I believe ANY sexuality (hetero- or homo-) that becomes a "lifestyle" outside of a loving committed relationship probably falls into the definition of sin. I think I have a VERY conservative definition of sin - ANYTHING outside the will of God, even it if might not be a "typically" defined sin AND anything short of acting in love. I think I also have a very liberal view of grace and acceptance - God is the judges so I will try my best to allow the Holy Spirit to be the "sin convictor."

      With that said, I would argue that a pastor being engaged in an affair is NOT acting out of love, so by my definition of sin (and I think God's), that would be sin. As you probably know, scripture says that love covers over a multitude of sin. Therefore I think it safest to consider sexuality, in a loving committed relationship, ok. That is why I don't label divorced individuals who remarry adulterers nor married homosexuals as "living in sin." Thank you for being willing to engage with me in a loving honest way. I think the entire church would be a 1000 times better off if all of could discuss and debate our differences in such a way. I pray that we all grow in grace, peace, love and understanding. Merry Christmas, friend! :-)

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    12. Ah, James, I’m not going to let you out that easy. A pastor can be in love with a mistress. In some cases the wife may approve. How about that?

      I would define sexuality outside of marriage as sin. That's how I read it in the Bible.

      There are two issues as I see it.

      1. Is the sin itself. That is a struggle over the behavior. I struggle with things that are not pleasing to God. Everyone does.
      2. To declare that something that God says is sin, as not sin is even a greater offense I think.

      So, personally, I of course struggle with things as we all do but I always acknowledge the wrong and work to overcome it. I think God’s grace does cover that. Yours or anyone else’s struggles with sin are none of my business. Unless you bring them to me for counsel, they are between you and God exclusively.

      For me, should our denomination to declare that any sexual relationship outside of marriage as defined by Jesus, himself as one man and one woman coming together as one flesh, is contradicting the Word of God. It is adding and taking away from the Word as warned about in Revelation 22:18-19.

      And even greater, for our leaders to contradict the Word of God; they are judged by a higher standard.

      A divorce is like other sins. Christ paid for it in full and is therefore able to completely remove it. Jesus can then bless a a new marriage. Jesus can’t bless sin, He can only remove it.

      I too have enjoyed our back and forth. You certainly challenge me.

      I hope you have a wonderful Christmas!

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    13. There are certainly some people on this thread who are in love with the digital representation of their own voice.

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  14. From one who has been in the UMC for only twenty years, I love the people and much of the way of doing church. But it seems to me the issue is how to fend off a militant homosexual agenda brought to the church by a decadent culture. Should that agenda prevail we will have the same outcome described in this fine post.

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  15. Some people miss the entire point of Christianity, and that is to invite *everyone* to the table. Politics should be checked at the door to the church.
    As for "militant homosexual agenda"?
    That's almost cute. I urge you to expand your social circle to include, rather than exclude. Jesus did. :)

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    1. The homosexual agenda is more than a live-and-let live approach. Those business owners who are no bankrupt would attest to that.

      Also, Jesus never prescribed to accepting sin. He wants us to overcome it. Again, we all do it. They key is to understand what it is and never accept it I think.

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  16. Thank you Rev. Howell, I am a life long Methodist and once a UMC local pastor. I go to a Reconciling UMC and it invites all gender to join us and participate in every thing. I go there because my son and his partner were there and 10 years ago it was a fabulous look at what acceptance can mean. We have been suffering for about five of our ten years for lack of God the father, Jesus the son, and emphasis on the Holy Spirit. You speak of missions, causes have completely sucked all of the God feeling. Everything is political. Our son and his partner have already left and they say that they want Bible, relief from being part of a place that they are noticed for their gayness. The very idea of a division of our church is more than sad. All of the questions in your blog need to be asked in every church in the United States. I was originally from Mississippi and I can almost guarantee you it will split. You are right about the west. I lived in Arizona for a few years and it would go the other way. We live with our son in Texas now and go to a welcoming church, but, we will have to leave because of the ever moving away from Spiritual teaching. My church has changed into something I would never want. My husband finds it difficult to leave because he is part of the musical program. Please make it your destiny to let people know what will happen in the split.

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  17. We are now the Untied Methodist Church.

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  18. Re: church attendance. As someone said, Going to church does not make one a Christian anymore than standing in a garage makes one a car.
    The Christian church began plastering onto Jesus almost from the beginning creeds and doctrines that Jesus did not teach or claim. It is a very human institution subject to all the foibles and follies of humans. To make homosexuality the central issue is foolishness when there are so many more worthy issues that should occupy us. For me, Jesus was about love and inclusion, first and last. I think Bishop Spong was right when he said Christianity must change or die. There are more and more Nones and church Alumni as membership in Christian churches of all persuasions declines. In Europe the institutional church is all but dead already. We need to get back to the way of the earliest followers of Jesus, perhaps like the Didache community, before there were the Apostolic Fathers and the organized institution, before orthodoxy, which specified who was in and who was out Which was so very wrong then and still is now.

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  19. James, in a most articulate way you have described the reality that we face. But to diagnose an ill is a whole lot easier than to prescribe a cure. You offered no recommendation. What's up?

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  20. James, thank you for stating so well what I have been wanting to articulate about the current plight of our UMC. I am a long-retired pastor who has enjoyed the responsibilities and benefits of our church for many decades. I believe that those who seem oblivious to the price that will be paid if we divide into two or more denominations, need to give prayerful attention to what you have said. Perhaps God has not spoken the last word to any of us yet about the sexuality issues that provoke such anger and division, perhaps even hatred among the brothers and sisters.

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  21. I think some in the Methodist denomination are confusing grace and forgiveness with approval. The Bible is clear that a homosexual act is sin. We all know the verses that get thrown around by those on both sides of the issue.

    But, are they saved? I believe that Jesus loves all and WANTS all to be saved. Those who accept his grace at no charge and turn away from sinful behavior, are saved 100%. Those who struggle with sin their whole lives but never accept it AND also accept salvation from our Lord are saved 100%.

    However, when you start rejecting the idea that any activity is not sin when Jesus clearly tells us it is, you are in a dangerous space. The line is crossed in the acceptance of what our Lord tells us is sin. That standard applies to any sin: coveting, adultery, murder, and on and on.

    To see what Jesus himself thinks, read His letter to the church at Pergamos. (Rev 2:12-17). The Nicolaitans also accepted doctrine that was counter to the Word.

    I worry about those who declare the Bible is wrong on this subject. I worry even more about leadership that misleads on the subject because they will be judged to a higher standard.

    Test everything against the Scriptures:

    Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. - (Acts 17:11)

    I pray that the Holy Spirit will lead us.

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    2. Thanks Michael, this is one of the clearest and simplest post, for me, that contends and gives a defense and a reason for your hope in Christ and confronting sin. If I may, your remarks remind me of Jesus asking the Disciples, ...“Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets. But what about you? he asked. Who do you say I am? Simon Peter answered, You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God. Jesus replied, Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven (Matt 16: 13-17). Your post also spoke to me, proclaiming the words, Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all (Ecclesiastes 12: 13). Thank you sir for holding to the faith with humility, gentleness, and respect

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  22. There are some great points here, but you lost me at, "The new conference of the new denomination wouldn't even be all that glad to have us, as we'd have little money left to send in." It sure sounds like you are suggesting the value of the connection can be summed up on an adding machine. I pray we will find a way through this together, but if even such a well-written and inspired post reflects a deep disconnect with and devaluation of our rural and financially strapped churches, I admit my hope is faltering. Praying for the UMC.

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    1. I also noticed a lot of worrying about embarrassment and being the "laughing stock of Charlotte." Reading these posts prove that sides will never agree and the UMC will need to split again. History has shown us that progress is happening and will always happen and I like to think it's all part of God's plan for us. Everyone does realize that God created gay people too, right? To think that he wanted 1 out of 10 people to suffer a life of unfulfillment and loneliness is incredibly selfish of us. And everyone here knows that the word "homosexual" didn't appear in any Bible until 1946, right? You all realize that there are babies born with both a penis and a vagina, right? God is mysterious. Before anyone labels anyone else a sinner for loving anyone...you better check your Christianity..

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  23. As an ELCA Lutheran, these discussions bring up a lot of painful memories. In 2009, we decided that matters of sexuality did not have to be church dividing and put the issue in the hands of the congregations. It, of course, was dividing nonetheless, and we lost about 10% of our churchwide membership. As a traditionalist who remained, I have been blessed with a bishop who truly is committed to the "big tent" philosophy. Colleagues in other synods are not so fortunate and there are many congregations who would like to have a traditional pastor, but their activist bishops would not consider a candidate like me. It will be the role of leadership to prove that the church is bigger than the issue as things move in the likely direction. My prayers are with you.

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  24. This article is dedicated to the Doctor Osemu Okpamen. I have been married with my wife for 5 years and recently she broke up with me and it hurt me deeply when she told me to leave her alone and that she does not love me anymore when i was always faithful and honest to her. I tried all the ways to get her back buying her what she wants like i always did and she still left me heart broken and she even has a new boyfriend which destroyed me even more until a friend of mine from high school directed me to this genuine spell Doctor called Osemu Okpamen. This man changed my life completely. I followed everything he told me to do and my wife came back begging for me back. I had faith in everything he told me. Also he was there every moment until i got my happiness back and he also provides spells that cures impotence, bareness, diseases such as HIV/AID E.T.C. You can contact him via email at { Doctorokpamenspelltemple@yahoo.com } or call me for more info +1 (914)-517-3229.

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    1. James, this comment by Mayor Vargas is an obvious piece of spam. Please remove it.

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  26. While sexuality is not at the core of our theology, holiness is. Was. Should be?

    Yeah, should be. Think of what John or Charles Wesley would say if they were to come back today and find lesbians and homosexuals in Methodist pulpits. Vigorous apostles like Asbury and Coke would denounce what we have become.

    The evangelist D. L. Moody was once asked how a series of preaching meetings had fared. He is said to have replied, "The meetings were successful; three people got saved and five people left the church!"

    I would suggest that we worship unity over God.

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    1. the Wesleys would be shocked by electric lights, and they would be mortified by our Sunday behavior.

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  27. The church property would remain in the UMC. If you leave then we should be willing to sell it to you. We could give good terms and will use the money (maybe as much as $10B) to grow the church by good works in the USA for those who did not leave and for the unchurched show our social principles in action here and in Africa.

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  28. Dr. Ekpen Temple Your spell worked and brought my husband back to me. You gave me support when I was feeling hopeless. I feel truly blessed to have found your email address. I sincerely hope others will take that leap of faith and let you help them as you have helped me, for those of you who want to contact him reach him on his email address: ( ekpentemple@gmail.com ) OR WHATSAPP +2347050270218 you will never regret contacting him… He is capable of restoring your relationship and marriage problems like he did for me.

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