Dividing The United Methodist Church on PBS

Please be sure to watch the new documentary called “Dividing The United Methodist Church” by Bonnie Erbé, host of PBS’s program “To The Contrary.” It features extensive discussion about the 40-year-old debate within our denomination over marriage and sexuality.

Rob Renfroe

Rob Renfroe

“You can fault the United Methodist Church for many things but one thing you cannot fault us for is an unwillingness to discuss this,” the Rev. Rob Renfroe observed in the documentary. Renfroe is the president of Good News and author of The Trouble with the Truth and A Way Through the Wilderness.

In addition to Renfroe, other commentators include traditionalists such as the Revs. Kenneth Levingston, senior pastor of Jones Memorial Church in Houston; and Madeline Carrasco Henners, pastor of First UM Church in Luling, Texas. Progressive clergy include the Revs. Karen Oliveto, senior pastor of Glide Memorial UM Church in San Francisco; Ginger Gaines-Cirelli, senior pastor of Foundry UM Church in Washington DC; and Amanda Miller Garber, founding pastor of Rise in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

Here are a few soundbites from documentary:

Ginger Gaines-Cirelli

Ginger Gaines-Cirelli

• “From the day that I was ordained, in which I said I would support the doctrine of the church I knew that I would be working to change what the Book of Discipline says about homosexuality.”

– The Rev. Ginger Gaines-Cirelli, pastor of Foundry UM Church, Washington DC.

Madeline Carrasco Henners

Madeline Carrasco Henners

• “What has been troubling to me is that in the United States we have had some pastors who have disobeyed their covenant that they entered into and, in a way, disenfranchised the voice of our global body. Our African brothers and sisters – and those in Asia and Eastern Europe – we all share in a voice of discerning together what Scripture calls us to that supersedes the culture we are currently living in, even the generation we are living in. What is the truth of Christ that transcends all of that? That is the voice of our global church.”

– The Rev. Madeline Carrasco Henners, pastor of First UM Church, Luling, Texas.

Amanda Miller Garber

Amanda Miller Garber

• “The number one thing that has changed me, that has transformed me, that emboldened me to marry Brittany and Lindsey is relationship, and stories and sitting with people who have shown me the cut marks on their arms, who have shown me the scars from where they attempted suicide. Who have left me speechless, who have trusted me.”

– The Rev. Amanda Miller Garber, founding pastor of Rise, Harrisonburg, Virginia.

Kenneth Livingston

Kenneth Levingston

• “When a clergy from the UM Church performs a same sex marriage it breaks my heart… we took a vow to uphold the discipline of The United Methodist Church and it clearly states that we will not perform these types of ceremonies.”

– The Rev. Ken Levingston, senior pastor of Jones Memorial Church, Houston.

You can watch it HERE.


  1. This documentary was pretty even-handed. I did note that the narrator implied that the UMC is losing members because it opposes homosexuality and associated issues. If she had tested that with conservative representatives, such as Renfro, I believe they would have explained that in fact it is the progressive strongholds that are losing members and the evangelical churches are generally gaining. A few other impressions I had: a pastor who had conducted a same-sex marriage acted surprised when he was told that he had broken covenant with the church. A gay activist described her impressions of conservative actions at GC 2012 as “venom,” “rhetoric,” and “fear,” and this convinced her to be more determined (she ended up performing a same-sex marriage). Another said what convinced her in her opposition to the Discipline were the “stories,” the “relationships,” and the “cuttings.” No mention of doctrinal reasoning. I noticed one pastor who performed a same-sex marriage was suspended for one month. I also watched the other video on GC 2012. I noted one lesbian who told a subcommittee: “I’m not going to repent.” Her implication was that she did not need to do so. I was a little disturbed that the video on “Dividing the [UMC]…” ended with a mention of the proposal from the Connecting Council (“a third way”) without much detail and no response from conservatives. All-in-all not much is gained from these videos except a deep sadness–sadness that we have reached an impasse that will either lead to formal schism or a de facto (chaotic, leaderless, and one that tramples on confused laity) schism.

    • “one that tramples on confused laity”

      This is already happening! My current relationship with the local church is strained because, after rocking along for 20+ years, since 2001, we have had a series of pastors who could not be more different from each other and the church has started blowing in the wind with whoever walks in the door. I can’t even decide what the current pastor believes. He went from concluding a sermon series on Wesley one week to announcing the next week he was hosting a study by Marcus Borg of the infamous Jesus Seminar. I walked away from one service knowing more about the fact he wore a fitbit and was going to Disney World and somebody had made all the pastors a tote bag than I did about his sermon topic which was about putting on the amour of God.

    • Steven Zinser says

      ***All-in-all not much is gained from these videos except a deep sadness–sadness that we have reached an impasse that will either lead to formal schism or a de facto (chaotic, leaderless, and one that tramples on confused laity) schism. – See more at: https://goodnewsmag.org/2015/11/dividing-the-united-methodist-church-on-pbs/#sthash.1LNIHMf0.dpuf***

      I’ll Amen that.

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