Is More Debate on Sexuality Necessary?

By Walter Fenton –

A recent United Methodist News Service article began as follows: “Resolving the denomination’s longtime debate about human sexuality requires more United Methodists to be part of a conversation, say denominational leaders” (emphasis added). The article reported on a November 1 online panel discussion on human sexuality hosted by the UM Church’s Connectional Table – the body charged with coordinating its mission, ministry and resources.

It is bad enough that some “denominational leaders” think – after 40 years of debates, conversations, studies, dialogues, and holy conferencing – further talk is necessary, but it is particularly sad that the body sponsoring this conversation is the Connectional Table. Over the past year the Connectional Table has discredited its leadership on the matter.

• After thousands of dollars were spent planning an agenda, securing meeting space, and securing food and lodging for the 60 member body, it willfully and submissively allowed a handful of protesters from a pro-homosexual fringe group to disrupt its November 2013 meeting and to hijack its agenda for the better part of a day.

• If that were not enough, it invited the members of this group back to its April 2014 meeting to talk some more. At that meeting the body approved a motion to draft legislation “to fully include LGBTQ persons in the life and ministry of the church” (i.e., affirm same-sex marriage and the ordination of openly gay clergy).

• And finally – to add insult to injury – the Connectional Table has invited retired Bishop Melvin Talbert to serve as one of the panelists for its live streaming event on human sexuality. Yes, that’s right, the very bishop who presided at a same-sex wedding in Birmingham, Alabama, against the wishes of the area’s presiding bishop and the Council of Bishop’s Executive Committee. The very same bishop who currently has a complaint filed against him for undermining the ministry of a colleague and for presiding at the same sex wedding.

We, like many United Methodists, are saddened and dismayed – but not surprised – that the Connectional Table is attempting to overturn the UM Church’s teachings on this matter. By this point we are used to general boards and national committees tasked with representing the church showing little respect for the views of the majority of United Methodists whose tithes make their work possible.

This debate is far from requiring more conversation; it has already gone on far too long. Indeed, the debate has grown so bitter that some in the minority have simply taken to breaking covenant with our time honored way of discerning God’s will for the community of faith, namely through holy conferencing at General Conference.

The Connectional Table’s insistence on more conversation is doing more harm than good.

Walter Fenton is a United Methodist clergyperson and an analyst for Good News.



  1. For the Connectional Table to call for more conversation when they have ended their own conversations and made up their minds to try to change the Discipline is hypocritical. I believe it is an attempt to distract and to keep those of us who want to follow the Bible and the Discipline from taking action.

    Melvin Talbert also wrote a chapter in the new book, out just recently, on human sexuality by the bishops, “Finding Our Way: Love and Law in The United Methodist Church”. We “discussed:” this book in a “Unity Dialogue” yesterday in the NCC, my conference.

    It doesn’t seem there is much interest in dialogue–or unity, at least not Biblical unity based on sound doctrine.

    That suits me fine. I agree with you Walter, we’ve had too much “conversation”. Our witness is damaged and getting worse and we are losing members by the thousands, annually.

    I won’t repeat what I’ve written in other places on this site, and in more detail in my blog. I’ll just say actions speak louder than words. Pro-gay lobby progressives are acting, and it is time for those of us who want to follow the word of God and the Discipline to act–before there is nothing worth acting for.

    • Nathan "Will" Bigelow says

      Debate is futile; we are now in the end times Jesus is coming!. What dose the Bible say, about willfull disobedience. It is sin, sin is sin there is absolutely nothing in the Bible that says its ok to to marry the same gender . And those who choose to ignore the Bible which is the Word of God do so to their own doom.

  2. Susie Dashner says

    No more discussion. I can’t believe that it has been discussed for 40 years. I’ve only been UM for 2 years. I didn’t know this was an issue until several months ago.

    The Bible clearly states that God hates homosexuality. Those that wish to go against God need to form their own church. God won’t like their church, though.

    That faction of the church needs to separate!

  3. James Rouse says

    It is true that we are losing members, true that we have talked this one to death, that there are some who will continue to disrupt events due to their agenda. They seem to feel that if they continue to disrupt and create problems, that the majority of us will get tired and give in. That is not going to happen, but many of us will walk away from the UMC. Why is it that those who are not satisfied with following scripture are not willing to walk away and start their own church where they could do what they want. Rather than tear down what the majority of us wish to do and follow scripture. Is it possible they believe we cannot do without them. They are trying to force the rest of us to accept what they want and are not willing to follow the rules. The book of discipline is pretty clear and so is scripture. Don’t break the rules as regards same sex, instead start their own church.

  4. Lawrence Kreh says

    Yes, this is a 40+ year debate. No, the discussion will not end until the current teaching is reversed. No, even if advocates for the change are in the minority, they will not leave to establish their own church. Nor will they comply with the current teaching. Yet the bigger issue is theological–view of scripture on a broad front.
    I am at least as frustrated, impatient, and perhaps angry that readers here and the Good News movement in general is also only talking and talking while orthodox theology in general and the UMC in particular has lost its mission and all this energy is devoted to one issue and not to evangelism and descipleship. A pox on both your houses!
    The Presbyterian Church USA has had the same issues for 40 years and despite its same connection all ties has established a process of “amicable separation” for congregations who dissent from its liberal doctrines and positions on social issues–allowing both segments of the divided denomination to pursue it’s vision and ministry unimpeded from years of division and acrimony. I love Methodist but in my area am a refugee in a more compatible congregation of the PCUSA–one of several of the largest congregations in Northern California separating from the PCUSA.
    I cannot return home to my tradition of John Wesley until that day comes, and regretfully have little in common also with my “kindred spirits” in the Good News movement of the UMC who continue the “endless and futile theologidialogue without having the courage to leave a church bordering on apostasy. Yet from outside the walls for now my prayers continue..

  5. Satan doesn’t want his own church; he only wants to destroy Gods church. He is not a builder; he is a destroyer!

  6. It is time for Christians to stand up for the gospel. Draw the line for the Lord has made it clear. We are to love all but we are not to go against God’s word. We should stop this nonsense and use our gifts for God’s will.

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