A Troubling Proposal

By Walter Fenton –

The United Methodist News Service’s Heather Hahn recently reported that members of the UM Church’s 59-person leadership group called the Connectional Table (CT) have claimed to have found a “third” or “middle way” for resolving the denomination’s decades long debate over homosexuality.

According to Hahn’s article, the CT’s proposal would allow for the ordination of openly gay clergy and extend to all pastors the right to preside at same-sex services. At the same time, the church would note that it “historically has not condoned the practice of homosexuality and has considered the practice incompatible with Christian teaching.” Additionally, it would retain the denomination’s ban on using church funds “to promote [its] acceptance.”

For many years General Conferences have repeatedly affirmed the church’s disciplinary statements on human sexuality and marriage. At both the 2004 and 2008 General Conferences, approximately two-thirds of the delegates supported both the prohibitions against the ordination of self-avowed, practicing homosexuals and pastors presiding at same-sex services. And similar results would have been reached in 2012 had the conference not been disrupted by pro-gay advocates who forced the tabling of numerous petitions.

The CT’s proposal is asking the vast majority of the church to allow practices it believes are contrary to Scripture and not in keeping with Church tradition. In exchange, moderates and conservatives are evidently to find satisfaction in a statement that essentially says, in the past the church used to find the practice of homosexuality incompatible with Christian teaching.

True, under the CT’s proposal church funds still could not be used “to promote the acceptance of homosexuality.” But this will be regarded as an empty gesture, given that openly gay clergy would be serving in the church and UM pastors would be presiding at same-sex weddings. Under such a scenario, GLBTQ advocates will have achieved most of what they wanted without yielding anything. And soon enough, they would be demanding other concessions.

The CT’s proposal is not a third or a middle way, but a request that the majority of United Methodists around the world simply capitulate and allow the minority to engage in practices it, in good faith, believes are contrary to Scripture and church teaching.

Unfortunately, over the past 15 months the Connectional Table has undermined its own authority on the issue.

At its November 2013 meeting it allowed a few radical GLBTQ advocates to disrupt its proceedings and hijack its agenda for a day. It then invited the activists back to make a formal presentation at its April 2014 meeting.

It created a Human Sexuality Task Force that invited Bishop Melvin Talbert, who was still under complaints for performing a same-sex service and undermining the ministry of a colleague, to serve as a panelist at one of its three-roundtable discussions.

At its most recent roundtable, the individual it chose to represent the annual conferences of the Philippines was the Rev. Israel Alvaran, a Filipino who actually lives in San Francisco and works for the Reconciling Ministries Network, a pro-gay advocacy group dedicated to changing the UM Church’s teachings.

And finally, as if to add insult to injury, the liberal dominated CT decided to announce its “third way” in the African nation of Mozambique. It is no secret that United Methodists in African countries overwhelmingly support the church’s gracious and balanced teachings that are now in the Book of Discipline. It will be very interesting to learn what they think of the CT’s purported middle-way.

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

Comments

  1. This proposal is not a third way and it is problematic, but not as problematic as the makeup of the CT itself. The CT is stacked with people from from jurisdictions with less membership but more of a Bible revisionist theology and practice, to the exclusion of orthodox UM believers and the much larger-membership jurisdictions they represent. This makes a mockery of the idea that the CT is supposed to fairly represent the membership of our denomination worldwide.

    What is needed is some sort of proposed legislation to GC 2016 that would provide for a more fair representation of our worldwide membership, maybe according to the amount of members in each jurisdiction.

    • Paul Black says

      Victor:
      The Connectional Table’s membership is dictated by The Book of Discipline (2012). Its membership is already proportional to the membership of each jurisdiction. The current formula was established in 2004 when the Southeastern Jurisdiction grabbed 40 additional seats on general church agency boards at the expense of the Western and Northeastern Jurisdictions. The South Central Jurisdiction gained a smaller number of seats and the North Central Jurisdiction remained unchanged. Prior to this, each jurisdiction had an equal number of membership. The prescription you have written for what ails you has already been provided. I would merely like to see that a multiplier effect be put in place where the allocation would be multiplied against percentage of paid apportionments. I still believe, as I did in 2004, that the fight between the two jurisdictions that have the worst record on general church apportionment payments should fulfill the other end of the covenant as well. If you want to have your say by stacking agency boards, you ought to at least pay for the privilege.

      • Paul, just a note that the jurisdictional members on the CT are proportional, but the central conference members are not. Therefore, there are 21 U.S. members, while there are only 7 from outside the U.S. The African UM Church has 40% of the total UM membership, but only 11% of the CT non-bishop members.

  2. Ian McDonald says

    According to Hahn’s article, the CT’s proposal would allow for the ordination of openly gay clergy and extend to all pastors the right to preside at same-sex services. At the same time, the church would note that it “historically has not condoned the practice of homosexuality and has considered the practice incompatible with Christian teaching.” Additionally, it would retain the denomination’s ban on using church funds “to promote [its] acceptance.” –

    Well imagine the CT pretty much caving in to the culture and completely ignoring the scriptures. This not a matter of “civil rights” it is as matter of what does scripture say concerning “human sexuality” and “marriage”. What about the created order? Apparently the question of Who has been God’s counselor? has been answered by the CT with a resounding “We have!”

    I really appreciated your link in the above article that pointed to United Methodist Insight. net nice to know I support and belong to a group viewed as… “The anti-gay majority at General Conference – and their advance forces, the Good News authors of the current threat of schism”. by the quote progressives.
    I guess as long as I keep my mouth shut and don’t espouse any biblical truth I will not be seen as a hater or my favorite catch phrase” homophobic”.
    And they call us narrow minded.

  3. A simple analogy, please. Suppose there’s a traffic light and it is both red and green on all sides. How long would it be before there’s a wreck, another wreck after that wreck has been cleared, and etc, etc? Operationally, this would be a crippling church wreck. That would be the only outcome in attempting to implement such a convoluted solution. But, that’s probably not being considered because those proposing it are so obsessed in seeing the gay agenda being taken church wide as a result of this FIRST step that they’re blinded from the practical implications. Yes, this is nothing but a very bad idea — an idea with the delusional view that it could help achieve the gay agenda. General Conference 2016 must vote this down if it should make it to a vote.

  4. This approach by the CT is either the most cynical or the most brilliant proposal, depending on your point of view. The brilliance of the proposal is that good-hearted, traditional UM’s are very reluctant to be perceived as agents of discord and confusion; therefore, they are likely to go to extremes of compromise and reconciliation before they press to implement a church division. If they “buy” the absurd solution brought forth by the CT, the UM’s stay the course, traditionalists are branded as throwbacks and luddites and the progressives continue to socialize the church into oblivion. If rejected, traditionalists are still faced with the dissolution of the tangible assets of the denomination and will be pilloried as the cause of the divided church. If it is not apparent to UM traditionalists yet, let me suggest the following: The Time Has Come! We need a new church, deeply rooted in Holy Scripture and Wesleyan theology. The vestiges of the UM church will be a mill stone around our necks, if we do not break away from those who espouse societal integration at the expense of biblical obedience. The future will not be decided by the progressive UM’s; rather, it will be decided by the action or lack thereof of traditional UM’s.

    • There are other Wesleyan and orthodox/evangelical bodies out there. Think of churches such as Free Methodist, Wesleyan, Nazarene just to name three.

  5. Add this to the ever increasing list of demonic activities conducted by the CT.

  6. We have a major disconnect between the CT and Scripture. No where in Scripture is homosexuality seen in a positive light. Those who hold to scriptural authority cannot coexist with those who believe otherwise. It is time for a decision to be rendered in regard to this issue once and for all. Why can’t we learn from the Episcopal church? We are the same track if we don’t stand firm on biblical principles and truth.

    • Wade, these Bible revisionists are modern Gnostics. They believe the have superior “spiritual” knowledge and have nothing to learn from us unenlightened and hateful traditionalists who believe what the Bible plainly says and what the Church has affirmed in its beliefs and practices for 2000 years.

      They know very well what has happened in the Episcopal Church as well as a number of other mainline denominations. Simply put, they don’t care. If they do they would listen to General Conference and to the great majority of United Methodists, who want to continue to follow what the Bible says.

      You are right, we cannot coexist. Bible revisionists will not budge, and those of us who hold to the authority of the word of God and its Author cannot budge.

      There is hope that the seemingly impossible can happen with much prayer and fasting, but not if our leaders and others continue to rebel.

      This is why plans for separation are also being prayerfully considered.

    • Matt.11:20 “Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent.

      Matt.11:21 Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackloth and ashes.

      Matt.11:22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgement than for you.

      Matt.11:23 And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in SODOM, it would have REMAINED to THIS DAY! (Jesus is saying it did remain to this day, speaking to a people not yet born?)

      Matt. 11:24 But I tell you that it will be MORE BEARABLE FOR SODOM on the DAY OF JUDGEMENT than for YOU.”

      ********* So then how do you lift sheep that fall into a pit on a Sabbath Day? Do you wait for the Sabbath Rest? Never ending Jubilees? The CHRISTIANS I prayed for to receive good, have now turned against me and attacked me! How confusing, thank God for his DIVINE APPOINTMENTS and no more side steps.

  7. It is my hope and prayer that Orthodox Methodists, the Wesleyan Church, and the other evangelical Wesleyan demonitations worldwide will one day merge thus becoming, perhaps, a church called The Wesleyan Methodist Church.

  8. This is just more gobbledygook by those that want to circumvent the accountability of the B.O.D and the Bible. This lacks substance to a an end that John Wesley envisioned for the Church. The U.M.C. is headed for a Spiritual crossroads at G.C. 2016. We need to ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it and find rest for our souls and Church. Lord teach us to number our days aright that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Selah.

  9. I have a question – why does the UMC permit divorce? Why not treat people who have been divorced the same as it treats gay people? “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” Matthew 19.

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