The Story: The United Methodist Church voted on Tuesday to retain a ban on homosexual clergy and same-sex weddings.
The Background: The United Methodist Church (UMC) held a special session of their General Conference this week to determine the denomination’s policy on ordaining practicing homosexuals and blessing same-sex unions. (For more on the structure and background of the denomination, see 9 Things You Should Know About the United Methodist Church.)
The support for these issues within the denomination has put them at odds with the church’s official position on homosexuality, which was adopted in 1972:
“We affirm that sexuality is God’s good gift to all persons. We call everyone to responsible stewardship of this sacred gift. Although all persons are sexual beings whether or not they are married, sexual relations are affirmed only with the covenant of monogamous, heterosexual marriage.”
Because of the disagreement, in 2016 the UMC’s Council of Bishops appointed a commission to submit a recommendation to a Special Session on how to resolve the issue in a way that would maintain unity.
The commission considered three plans:
(1) the One Church Plan, which would have removed the language on homosexuality from the Book of Discipline but would not require local churches to perform or host same-sex weddings,
(2) the Connectional Conference Plan, which would reorganize the regional conferences around shared beliefs about sexuality rather than geography, and
(3) the Traditionalist Plan, which would not only maintain the current language but also broaden the definition of self-avowed practicing homosexual to include persons living in a same-sex marriage or civil union or persons who publicly state that they are practicing homosexuals. It would also require bishops and every annual conference to “certify that they will uphold, enforce, and maintain the Discipline’s standards on LGBTQ marriage and ordination.” Clergy who could not maintain the Discipline’s standards on LGBTQ marriage and ordination would be encouraged to join the “autonomous, affiliated, or concordat church.”
Although the Council of Bishops recommended the One Church Plan, a majority of the 863 delegates at the Special Session (53 percent) voted in favor of the Traditional Plan.
What It Means: For decades faithful members of the denomination have attempted to maintain unity with LBGT-affirming apostates. But because their churches were not united on the gospel, they could not long remain united as a movement. No denomination can be truly united when some of its churches and members are condemning unbiblical sexual behaviors as immoral, sinful, and in need of repentance while others are treating the same behavior as moral, accepted, and worthy of being celebrated.
Faithful Christians recognize that God has spoken clearly in condemning sexual immorality, including homosexual behavior (Rev. 22:15; 1 Cor. 6:9–10; Gal. 5:19–21; Eph. 5:5; 1 Tim. 1:9; Heb. 12:14). Yet many leaders in the UMC—mostly Americans—chose to align with the sexual revolution rather than with Scripture. Fortunately, other UMC leaders—including many Africans and Asians—still have a high view of the Bible, and so refused to sell out their faith for acceptance by the world.
Whatever outcome was chosen this week, it has long been obvious that United Methodists were not united, and were headed to an inevitable schism. The split will be painful and rancorous. But it is necessary. The “go along to get along” mentality that infected other mainline denominations has led to the destruction of wayward churches and the damnation of misguided souls. By dividing now, faithful United Methodists can save themselves from being dragged down by churches that continue to be in open and unrepentant rebellion against God.