UM Bishops Respond to Supreme Court Decision

 By Walter Fenton –

Three weeks have passed since the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling, and a number of United Methodist bishops have weighed-in on the decision. Their responses have ranged from reaffirmations of the UM Church’s teachings to barely veiled celebrations of the Court’s decision.

Bishop Warner Brown, president of the Council of Bishops (COB), released a statement that clearly fell into the latter category. “Throughout the history of the United States, the Supreme Court has been called on to ensure equality, liberty, and justice for all people,” Brown wrote. “Today, in a 5 to 4 decision, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality for all people.”

United Methodists scouring his statement for an affirmation of or even a reference to the UM Church’s official teaching on the matter were left to search in vain.

Bishop James R. King

However, Bishop James R. King, Jr. of the South Georgia Annual Conference did offer a word of affirmation. “The polity of the United Methodist Church did not change. Our Book of Discipline in paragraph 341.7 states, ceremonies that celebrate same sex unions ‘shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.”

“May the church always seek to be in line with the will of God so that we do not conform to the world but are transformers of the world,” King continued. “Stand strong in your faith in God. Hold to the timeless values of faith rooted in the love of Christ. I will uphold the discipline of the church and expect you to do likewise.”

Bishop Robert Hoshibata of the Desert Southwest Conference took the occasion to trot out an old stereotype. An unabashed supporter of liberalizing the church’s teachings on same-sex marriage, he welcomed the Court’s decision. “Where there is fear of the changes, let’s speak to our church and our neighborhoods a holy word of compassion and understanding, to calm those who are fearful and to encourage those who are doubtful,” he said.

As some progressives are wont to do, Hoshibata can only assume United Methodists who oppose same-sex marriage are “fearful,” “doubtful,” and have a tough time with “change.”

Bishop Robert Hoshibata

This attempt to psychologize people and diagnose their maladies allows one to evade their convictions and the arguments they have for them. Conservatives can appreciate Hoshibata’s “compassion,” but they’re justifiably dubious about his “understanding.” To “understand” another person requires engaging what they regard as their thoughts, ideas and feelings, not what another presumes them to be.

The UM Church’s teachings on the practice of homosexuality and same-sex marriage are not grounded in “fear” and “doubt.” They are grounded in biblical truth, and the traditions of the Christian church around world and across the millennia. They are neither unreasonable nor indefensible.

Faithful United Methodists expect that from time to time other people will mischaracterize their beliefs, and they are prepared to gracefully and patiently defend them. However, they are mystified by UM bishops who do not back them up and even feed the stereotype that they are driven by fear.

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


  1. Tony Stevenson says

    At the FUMC in Boerne, Texas, the Associate Pastor preached a sermon that included her going to and supporting a same sex marriage.

  2. Matthew5 says

    Those Bishops who put mans laws above God’s, and who have ignored the scripture and the Book of Discipline need to be excused.

  3. Ian McDonald says

    I see a majority of the Bishops responses were lukewarm after surfing the web. It is a sad day when the majority in leadership of any denomination can only write political correct non – committal responses to such an important decision. What would be wrong with a committed statement along the lines of regardless of what the Supreme Court decided the United Methodist Book of Discipline is clear on our position of marriage and performing same sex marriages and all those in pastoral leadership are expected to follow it no exceptions.

  4. Donna Grassmid says

    Man’s laws and ideas change. God remains the same yesterday, today and forever. I have to put my trust in an eternal, holy, prefect, loving, and just God. However, that does not mean I have no compassion and cannot love my neighbor. God is God and I am not.

  5. Yes it is amazing how others want to ascribe “fear” of change etc. to others they disagree with, it is so condescending. The truth is that we have seen outward homosexual behavior for many years. We have been accepting, loving, understanding in the work and social environment. But now we are called to answer what is our belief? How do we interpret the word of God? This is different than tolerance, love and caring without judgment of the prostitute and other sinners (including ourselves). We look at two males who divorced women at younger ages, discerned a same sex attraction, found surrogate mothers, paid them lots of money to have their child so that two males can parent children. Is this the will of God/ Are we inclusive of this so that motherhood is banished? There are many laws of the Old Testament that we should embrace in fear of God. Many of them relate to treatment of the poor. Land laws that distribute land to the poor especially in poor countries with agricultural economies. Land reform is what Leviiticus teaches and it is relevant today. But we are turning our backs to God. The LGBT movement is not a Christian movement, it is secular and it is against the will of God like many laws and practices of wealthy nations against the poor. See Rueben Archer Torrey III Biblical Economics.

  6. The Apostle Paul writes in II Cor. 4: 3 – 4 ” If our Gospel is hid, it is hid to them that are lost:In whom the god of this world (Satan) hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. Selah

  7. William T says

    A number of our “leaders” are surely following Satan on this and have been doing so for a long time. Many lied their way through ordination, and through disception and manipulation, wormed their way up the ladder. They see this age and this court decision as the grand opportunity to fulfill their true calling. Not one of them, however, has been able to identify any Scripture that supports in any way their political, secular position. They are, indeed, of this secular world. Again, General Conference 2016 is building to be the most significant conference since the Civil War. May God save the United Methodist Church.

    • Jim Hosey says

      John Wesley the father of the Methodist Church stated that he tested everything through the Word of God. God Word is truth and we are made whole as we walk in the truth. We do not let society test the Scripture, we stand upon God’s word. Paul states that we are not to let the world mold us into it’s image. We are to be the reflection of Christ to the world. Jesus told us that we are the salt of the earth. What happens if the salt loses it’s usefulness. It is good for nothing. The United Methodist Church must stand on the Word of God! There has been too much double standards when it comes to marriage to the world and being the bride of Christ. We are called to be a Holy People and to walk blameless before the Lord in a fallen world. Pray for a moving of the Holy Spirit that will call all leadership to conform to the call to Holiness before the Lord. Without Holiness, the scripture tells us that we will not see God. We are brought into this experience by walking in the light of God’s word. May we hold forth the Word of God and not deny the truth. Our Lord and Savior stated that He was the way, the truth and the light. I would rather stand on the solid rock of Christ than be politically correct and embrace the agenda of satan.

  8. Pastor John Monroe says

    I believe that it is about time that the Bishops in the United Methodist Church come to a realization that they are not a god in the administration of the Church. We believe in and hold onto the Holy Bible of God and not the decisions of them. These liberalized decisions are ruining the foundation of the Wesley Churches.
    We are not hate mongers, we want the truth of God to be taught to everyone. And we will continue to do that, but we will not change what God says to please a few who want to be included without having to change

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