Let’s Not Repeat St. Louis

By Rob Renfroe –

General Conference 2020 is less than a year away. There is much work to do if we are to avoid a repeat of St. Louis when we gather in Minneapolis. Legislation that can end our fighting needs to be written in the next few months to be properly before the Conference. And then those of us supporting it must work hard to promote it and convince those who want to continue our nearly fifty-year self-destructive battle that there is a better way.

The conversations that need to occur among conservative, moderate, and progressive leaders must be honest, direct, and built on reality. An enhanced traditional plan was passed in February, and in April it was ruled constitutional by the Judicial Council. Our dialogue about the future needs to begin there. The Traditional Plan is not going away. In fact, unless a way for amicable separation is devised in the next few months, traditionalists are likely to have the time and the votes in Minneapolis to close even more loopholes and strengthen accountability to our covenant, which of course would be unacceptable to centrists and progressives. The clock is ticking. The truth is we do not have the luxury of squandering time with wishful thinking, name-calling, or an unwillingness to admit where we are in the aftermath of St. Louis.

It does not help the conversation for centrists and progressives to act as if GC 2019 did not occur. Some, though they were against it when they thought they might pass the One Church Plan, are now floating solutions similar to the Connectional Conference Plan (CCP). The models they propose would place United Methodists in different central conferences or jurisdictions leaving us, they believe, as one church but with different sexual ethics and practices. Had they supported such an option before St. Louis, there might have been room for a discussion. But St. Louis happened. The most respected leaders of the centrist movement charged us with bringing a virus into the church that would make it sick, harming the witness of the church, bribing African delegates, and with being a politer version of the hateful and despicable Westboro Baptist members who shouted vile homophobic slurs at the delegates each day in St. Louis. It is hard to understand why those with such a low opinion of us would want to remain united to us. And, for the life of me, I cannot think why we would want to embrace a faux unity with persons who despise us. Conversations about how a plan similar to the CCP might work in 2020 are simply a waste of time. Almost no traditional U.S. delegates will vote for such a plan and neither will most of the delegates in Africa or The Philippines.

Neither does it help when centrist leaders misrepresent what we traditionalists believe. The Rev. James Howell, senior pastor at Meyers Park UM Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, told the traditional members of his congregation that those of us who supported the traditional plan “aren’t your conservatives – the people that you know and love and work with. … This traditional plan, its goal is clearly to stamp out homosexuality from the church and to stamp out even those who are sympathetic to it. … They wish to be rid of centrists, of moderates, certainly progressives, even thoughtful conservatives. It’s sad. There is a real meanness to this – severe penalties that are imposed on anybody who … doesn’t act severely towards the LGBTQ community.” Of course, that’s not who we are and that’s not what the Traditional Plan does. And Howell knows it. When centrist leaders purposefully vilify us and lie about our views, it makes real, honest, meaningful conversations – the kind we need to be having right now – very difficult. 

It also hurts our dialogue when centrist leaders distort the numbers. Mark Holland, the Executive Director of Mainstream UMC, has written repeatedly that two-thirds of the UM Church in the U.S. want to change our position on sexuality. I’ll give Rev. Holland the benefit of the doubt and say that he actually believes this. It is usually accepted that close to two-thirds of the U.S. delegates to General Conference voted for something other than the Traditional Plan. But does that mean two-thirds of the people in our churches favor changing our definition of marriage? Of course, not.

One-half of U.S. delegates to GC are pastors who as a group are much more liberal than the laypersons they pastor. Holland even has a partisan joke he likes to tell, “What do you call a Democrat in a Methodist church in Kansas? Pastor.” As the former mayor of Kansas City and a Democrat, Holland is attempting to use levity to point out that pastors all over the country tend to be more liberal than their congregations. But liberal pastors, numbering in the tens of thousands, elect the pastors who go to General Conference which are fifty percent of U.S delegates. Our laity, roughly  six and a half million in number, are represented by the same number of delegates at GC. Using the vote at GC to determine the percentage of United Methodists who want to change our sexual ethics is, to put it charitably, a very flawed methodology.

A more accurate understanding of where our U.S. membership stands is found in the results of a recent United Methodist Communications survey in which 44 percent identified themselves as “conservative-traditional.”

Not only is it incorrect to state that two-thirds of U.S. Methodists want change, it is also completely dismissive of our brothers and sisters in Africa, The Philippines, Europe, and Asia. Do we discount the votes of our brothers and sisters around the world because they are not “our kind of people”? The Rev. Mark Holland has carried his thinking to a very sad, shocking really, conclusion and has argued that there are five reasons for the UM Church in America to rid itself of other United Methodists around the world who are “both fundamentally disconnected from and disapproving of the culture of the United States.” It is rich in irony that progressives who are so often critical of American culture now want nothing to do with delegates around the world whom they perceive to be “disapproving” of our culture.

We simply do not have time to spend misrepresenting and demonizing those who see things differently than we do. It’s time to stop playing games, trying to get the upper hand and putting forth plans that have no chance of passing. People of good faith must decide NOW if we want to repeat St. Louis or if we want to create a solution that stops our fighting and the damage that has been done to the church.

A pastor friend of mine had a member in his church who ruined his marriage, his relationship with his children, and his finances through years of alcoholism and drug addiction. By God’s grace he finally got clean and sober. As the years passed, he began to wonder if maybe he could drink again in moderation. His life had been working and he was in a very different place than when he was an active alcoholic. After all, had it really been all that bad? He took some time to think about how low he had sunk, how many people he had hurt and all the mistakes he had made. He then placed a sign on his front door that he saw every day before he stepped out into the world. It simply said, “Yes, it really was that bad.”

St. Louis. Some time has passed, but please remember. Yes, it really was that bad. No, we can’t go back and do the same thing all over again. We should never sink that low or hurt that many people ever again. And honest conversations among people of good will need to happen now to make sure we leave Minneapolis excited about the future rather than condemned to repeat the past.

 

Comments

  1. I think you are right. Not in your theological approach, but in that the lots have been cast and all that’s left is to divvy up the clothing.

    I’ll leave you to it. I don’t plan to return to a Methodist church once my commitments this year are done (which would be Pentecost). I have doubts on returning to ANY church after this debacle.

    And to be clear, it’s not because of the way the vote went. While I expected it to go the other way (I was in my own echo chamber on that, I guess), it’s the behavior of the Church before, during and after that has me walking. The more I’ve read, the more I’ve been sorely disappointed that the moments when I’ve felt the hand of God as a Methodist have been wholly overcome by the lack of grace and love and forgiveness exhibited by so many people that call themselves Methodist.

    • I am sorry for your sentiments. American secular society is no better and in fact much worse. It is because of God’s grace and eternal love that so many UM clergy and laity are resolute and determined to uphold the historic doctrines of the Christian faith, the texts of the Bible, and the historic legacy of Methodism as promulgated by Charles and John Wesley not to mention so many other faithful men and women.

      God’s will has not changed nor has his divine will. Human society and popular opinions are always in a state of flux and when the church of Jesus Christ tries to accommodate and replicate the same values and morals of any given human society it begins to loose its particularity to divine truth and opposition to falsehood in whatever guise it presents itself.

      • I find it hard to respond to you here without doing so harshly.

        Thus it is better that I simply acknowledge that fact and move on.

        • Barbara Homrighaus says

          I have no idea what happened in St. Louis and could not actually get a firm take on where your sentiments lie, Pastor Renfroe. I do know you well and know you have a deep and abiding love and dedication to our Lord Jesus Christ, a passion for sharing the Gospel and God’s love with everyone and great love and care for all those you have been given to lead. The Bible is very clear that acting on homosexuality is a type of sin but feeling that attraction is not. I do think we need to be welcoming to EVERYONE who seeks out Christ. I do NOT want us to perform Gay marriages or have Gay ministers, because it goes against the word of God. I also have to say that I totally agree that we need to have sensitivity to those Methodists around the world who are not American progressives. Our Church covers the entire world and the entire world needs to be represented. I do believe that many more Methodists want to stick to the Bible than don’t. Finally, I have a relative who I love who is being led astray and it makes me angry. He is gay and married and I love him absolutely and love his husband, my brother-in-law, dearly too. They have a strong relationship and truly love one another. They are wonderful family members. I believe their lifestyle is a sexual sin but I don’t believe it is the worst sin. We all sin and fall short of God. There is no one without sin, thus our need for the Redemption of Christ. But he goes to a church that tells him that what he is doing is in accordance with Biblical teaching. He is living in sin and DOES NOT KNOW IT. To me, THAT is a sin and a shame on that church and it’s leaders. They will stand before God and answer for that someday. Making someone feel fine about sin on earth without preparing them for eternity is the WORST sin of all. I don’t want us to go that way. Stay strong in Christ and know that you are being lifted up and supported in prayer by many, many people.

          • Tatiana Daniels says

            Yes, Barbara, I completely agree with you. Sinners should be welcomed in the church. Christ called the church the hospital for sinners, which we all are. But the Bible and its commands have to be upheld also. It shouldn’t be interpreted and reinterpreted, and twisted around to fit the view of a certain group of people. I also don’t really know what happened in St Louis. Judging by this article and by what our pastor said in 2016, this conference was full of disgrace and awful, ungodly behaviors on the part of progressive movement. But I would like to know more.

    • Rev. Jezreel J. Saceda says

      This is sad. If only we can think more of what we can give to our church than what we can get, then, maybe, we’ll find it in our hearts to stay. Yes, we are divided and yes, there are unbecoming attitudes, but we can stay and pray. We can stay and be an instrument of love and reconciliation. We can stay and continue to share amongst us and outside of us the saving gospel of Jesus Christ. God bless us all.

      • Tanya Daniels says

        When I come to the church, I would like to pray and to worship with the group of like-minded people. Lately, it feels like instead of unity of the believers, there is constant fighting and struggle in the church. There are awful silences, endless discussions of subjects that shouldn’t even be discussed, because the answers are already clearly given in the Bible. I teach my teenager to obey the Bible and to obey the democratic rule. And what do I see? As soon as the latest conference votes in favor of traditional approach, our own bishop comes with the call to defy this vote and to fight until a certain group of people gets their way. How do I explain this to my daughter? I don’t want her to be confused. Church shouldn’t be a place of confusion. We have the world for this.

  2. Douglas Roller says

    I have heard Adam Hamilton recommend trying to harass conservatives out of the church and withholding apportionments to show disapproval of the decision.
    “By their fruits you will know them” is true; I believe it is also true that their character will be revealed by the methods they use. I do not believe Godly results can be achieved by unGodly means.

    • It would be helpful if you could point us to where Adam Hamilton says these things. Thanks!

      • Doug Roller says

        I apologize that I cannot find the exact quotes. I read it in a report of one of the meetings of Progressives/Centrists which was held after the February Conference. As I recall, the method of harassment was to be unending resolutions at annual and general conferences to make it impossible to conduct business. This would seem to mirror the tactics used on the last day of the February conference.

  3. May I suggest …

    Is this really an issue regarding same sex unions (marital or otherwise) or is it about what the written Word of God has to say about sin? Are we focused on a specific when we might ought be considering a broader perspective?

    Scripture repeatedly tells us to “flee,” “avoid,” “abstain from” sexual immorality. Call it “homosexuality,” “adultery,” “fornication,” or even “beastiality,” “sexual immorality” is what it is, sin. As is thievery, gossip, drunkeness + according to Paul.

    Can we just STOP the name calling and the finger pointing and realize what the truth of our divisiveness really is? Some recognize the Scriptural perspective of “sin,” others do not. Are we a people of the Word or are we not?

    I? Am.

    • Jeanne Devine says

      So would you favor imposing the same strictures and penalties in the Traditional Plan to all forms of sin enumerated in the New Testament? If so, fine. Consistency would be a good corrective to the Traditional Plan’s laser focus on homosexuality. I doubt any members in good standing would be left in the UMC.

      • Cathy Lott says

        It’s the refusal to admit that homosexuality IS a sin… by God’s Grace we are forgiven…. go and sin NO more…

      • George Johnson says

        Jeanne Devine. You hit the nail on the head. The Methodist church needs to be consistent and quit conforming to changes in society/culture that contradict biblical requirements. Doesn’t the Bible say you should not be a part of this world but focused on the Word of God and spiritual things. I wouldn’t crack down on homosexual behavior any stronger than other sin behaviors by Methodists members. The Methodist church can easily end up with no clothes. I don’t think the Bible ranks sin from 1 to 10. Sin seems to be sin. As an example, is homosexual sin any worse than the sin of divorce? We can all be forgiven no matter the sin. Consistency is key. We need to be consistent even if the doors eventually close from the lack of church members. If I remember right at one time Noah and maybe his family were the only ones left on the earth that were righteous and holy. Everyone else had fallen into terrible sin.

    • Peter Jermey says

      I think that the trouble is that there is no agreement on what is sinful in this context

      Some believe its a sin to be gay
      Some believe its a sin to be gay and in a relationship
      Some believe that relationships for gay people are no more sinful than those for straight people.

      Your understanding of this will depend on your social group/geographical location, favoured translation of scripture and experience of life.

      • Peter, I agree up to a point. However, I think it is settled within the UMC that the status of simply being gay is NOT a sin. (Granted, there will be individuals believing otherwise). I think the disagreement right now between the two sides is whether a sexual relationship between two people of the same sex (even in marriage) is inherently sinful.

        • “The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.”

          Incompatible.

          Logically, if you are homosexual, you cannot be Christian, per the UMC.

          • The practice of homosexuality—not the state of being homosexual. There is a difference.

          • Biblical homosexuality relates to the physical act of sex between people of the same gender. Men are not to lay with men, women are not to lay with women.
            Modern society has redefined homosexuality as an emotional relationship, with the physical act being a secondary consideration.
            The UMC has clearly stated it’s belief that it is the physical act of the homosexual relationship that is incompatible with Christian teaching and that practicing homosexual (sexuality active) homosexuals are not to be in positions of leadership. It is my understanding of the doctrine that celibate homosexuals are not prohibited from leadership.

          • EC, there’s no real difference.

            I’m not (as a heterosexual male) defined by how I have sexual relations. There’s not a single act of sex that homosexual couples can do that heterosexual couples cannot do. Not one.

            It’s not about the action.

            RSC: “Modern society has redefined homosexuality as an emotional relationship…”

            Uh, change ‘homosexuality’ to ‘marriage’. Mary wasn’t married to Joseph because she loved him (nor because he loved her) – it was ARRANGED. It was a contract among families, with financial considerations involved. While there are marriages in the Bible that are recognized as being loving, and inspired by love (Jacob and Rachel – of course, he was tricked into marrying Leah first) there are financial considerations included there too.

            And yes, LGBTQIA+ people have loving, emotional relationships too. Are you implying that they do NOT have such relationships?

            “The UMC has clearly stated it’s belief that it is the physical act of the homosexual relationship that is incompatible with Christian teaching and that practicing homosexual (sexuality active) homosexuals are not to be in positions of leadership.”

            I’ll repeat what I said above.
            “There’s not a single act of sex that homosexual couples can do that heterosexual couples cannot do. Not one.”

            So it’s not about the ACT. It’s about the person, the orientation. We aren’t trying to bar candidates for ministry who have engaged in certain sexual acts with their spouses – UNLESS those spouses happen to be of the same gender. Maybe we should have a checklist to exclude those folks? [If you have had sex with anyone other than your spouse and in any position other than the missionary position, you may be excluded from ordination. Please indicate if that is so; we will be following up with more questions.]

            As much as you want to deny it, it’s about the homosexuality of the person, not the action.

            From the BoD:
            G) Human Sexuality—We affirm that sexuality is God’s good gift to all persons. We call everyone to responsible stewardship of this sacred gift.

            Except, of course, if you are homosexual. So all persons, everyone – but not the gays.

          • JR, I will have to admit I am really not following much of your latest argument. What I can tell you is that I agree that LGBTQ relationships can be emotional, loving and still not be sinful so long as there are no sexual relations involved. I think the church would agree to this as well. There is a community of gay Christians (commonly referred to as Side B) who fit this description exactly–for a major part of my life, I have been one of them.

          • Hi EC,

            I probably went into some rambling there, sorry about that.

            From the BoD (pg 112):
            “G) Human Sexuality
            —We affirm that sexuality is God’s good gift to all persons. We call everyone to responsible stewardship of this sacred gift.”

            God gave you a gift. Paul mentioned that celibacy is best, but might be impossible for most.

            Choosing a celibate lifestyle is a calling few can manage. If Traditionalists require celibacy from some pastors, they should require it from all. No exceptions.

            But EC – even by remaining celibate, by the definitions from GC2019, if you admitted to being LGBTQ+, and were married but claimed to still be celibate – they wouldn’t believe you. [Example, you could get married for benefits coverage with a loving companion – no sex involved.]
            https://goodnewsmag.org/2019/04/judicial-council-affirms-the-traditional-plan/

            You are just as excluded in that case as another who does have sex.

            And this case is also one of those ‘slippery slope’ issues that seems to be true. The Traditionalists aren’t going to stop with just tweaking the terms a bit, tightening the screws a bit on those non-compliants. They are already talking about taking a firmer grip on the seminaries, getting more control at the top (look at their proposals for forcing bishops into involuntary leave of absence), modifying processes within the church to drive out those who don’t ‘fit’ via just resolution processes… etc etc ad nauseum.

            I’m not saying you are wrong for being who you are. I admire it, to be quite honest. But I doubt that admiration will be felt widely under the UMC as the Traditionalists tighten their grip.

    • Barbara Homrighaus says

      P. – Thank you for your clear and strong words of Biblical truth. Sadly, apparently it takes courage just to proclaim the word of God. Thank you for being honest and courageous.

  4. Robert A Combes says

    it seems that we as Methodists have forgotten the words on page #410 in the Hymnal. The message is being proclaimed once again, that is the reason for Christ

  5. Phil Brewster says

    It seems that both sides of the divide are operating without a clear understanding of US laity opinion and values. I suspect that Pastor Renfroe is right that at least a plurality of the people sitting in the pews are deeply frustrated that the clergy and hierarchy of the US church do not hold their same values. Modern polling techniques and the easy-to-define population of US UMC membership data certainly provides the opportunity for rigorous and accurate polling. I for one would like to know by US totals and by conference, what percentage of laity support gay church marriage and ordination of gay clergy. I would like to know how that percentage differs from opinion in the UMC clergy and seminaries, both nationally and by conference. I would like to know what percentage of the laity wants leave the UMC under the traditional plan. UMC Communications certainly demonstrated it has the capability to hire polling contractors as evidenced by the poll done before the general conference. It is important to note that polling is not the same as voting and church laity may eventually have to vote on these issues. Polling in Africa and the Philippines may have to be accomplished manually. I would think bishops, governing agencies, and pastors would want to know what the consensus of values is among the laity before any restructuring decisions are permanent. The decision-making process of UMC is appears increasingly as “inside baseball” and those in the pews are effectively left out. In my opinion both sides would want want hard data at the critical juncture.

    • Absolutely agree that those of us in the pew are on the outside of this discussion. I’m just sick of the whole mess. My problem with many progressives is not what they believe but their intolerance of and anger at those of us who disagree with them. I am stunned that they are viewed by many as being a viable expression of what it means to be a United Methodist. Plus, I am no longer in synch with my local church because it keeps blowing in the wind with whatever pastor or staff walks in the door. Most recently we went from a pastor who hosted a Bible study by Marcus Borg and supported the concept of liberation theology to a pastor who feels blessed that she was able to attend the Billy Graham School of Evangelism. It is absolutely insane for the person in the pew!

      • Phil Brewster says

        For decades I have quietly sat in the pew and bit my tongue while a UMC pastor sermonized the liberal position on any number of political issues (abortion, war, LGBTQ, immigration, etc.). These pastors were of course secure in the fact the laity was too polite to debate and would cough up the weekly offering without comment. The blessing of the Sunday service was no greater than having stayed home and watched the Sunday tv talk shows. The traditional pastors uniformly avoided contemporary social commentary and focused on the good news. I have often thought that a simple way out of this morass would be to establish a “truth in advertising” website at the UMC level. The website would be color-coded and searchable by state and zip code. The color codes would indicate how politically and theologically liberal/conservative the pastor is, the bishop, the conference, conference representation, etc. The codes could also show if the pastor or bishop has or will support their ordination vows. The website could even indicate if the next week’s sermon would be social commentary or “old time” religion. Such a website could be quickly built on the UMC website after an electronic survey of clergy attitudes, and would allow the laity to make a more informed decision on where to attend UMC service. The laity could then “vote with their feet” long before any structural changes are made to UMC and place laity and clergy in a more informed position before the next conference. Apologies in advance for the apparent cynicism of this post but it is certainly in keeping with the current state of the UMC.

      • Sister Betsy and Bother Phil hit the nail on the head. Their statements concerning those of us in the pews are on the outside of this discussion, and those of us in the pews will not challenge any proclamations coming from the preacher- because we know they have their marching orders from the hierarchical Bishop. Unfortunately, that is how our denomination is set up to govern. Orthodoxy Christianity did not have a hierarchical system until around the mid of the second century.
        We need to dissolve the terms clergy and laity, which have effectively canceled out “the priesthood of all believers” and separated the body of Christ. We need to we get back to local autonomous churches with a group of elders called and consecrated to guide the flock, not by compulsion, and the congregation will follow the direction of our pastors/elders/under-shepherds without an outside group of elite “Christian” lording over our called, local leaders. I do not expect this deviation to be corrected by 2020.
        It was stated that we would have to have a new book of discipline. I’m praying since we are calling for fidelity with the word, that the whole counsel of God is considered. I am looking forward to being lead by a group of ministers that are true to their calling, not their appointment by men and women, who have not labored among the local assembly. Please, allow the holy spirit, not tradition, to inform and guide our faith, and we will have victory. Remember, the Apostles never saw themselves as unique, and above the congregations they planted. Furthermore, they taught the men they chose to appoint and lead local churches to follow in their footsteps because they followed Christ’s.

      • jerry reingardt says

        excellent comment

      • Barbara Homrighaus says

        Betsy – Jesus called Peter his Rock and he founded his church on a Rock on purpose. There are so many references in the Bible about not building on shifting sands but upon a firm foundation. Our firm foundation is the word of God in the Bible. I’m sorry your church is so easily swayed.

  6. Dave Nuckols says

    Rob, you write “The truth is we do not have the luxury of squandering time with wishful thinking, name-calling, or an unwillingness to admit where we are in the aftermath of St. Louis,” and you proceed to engage in wishful thinking, name-calling and unwillingness to admit your own mistakes whilst blaming others. The five-or-so major “sides” all made major mistakes. I certainly did myself. Today, there is little mutual understanding and charity towards others’ differences. The mutual recriminations and misrepresentations will make amicable separation very difficult. Even if suitable legislation can be crafted, it will be for naught if we can’t understand, trust and love each other. Let’s work on that at the same time.

  7. Jim Wolfgang says

    JR, I do hope you pray long and deeply before leaving the United Methodist Church, or as you alluded the body of Christ in general. We likely do not realize that when we leave the church because we are frustrated about someone we have actually put them closer to God than we are. Be certain that nothing comes between you and the Lord, not wealth, politics, emotions, nothing! The United Methodist Church is not perfect because it is made up of imperfect people, just like every other part of the body of Christ. The church is your Christian family and like any family, a healthy dose of tolerance and forgiveness allows us to move past the rough patches till we can regain our balance. Pray that God will guide us through our differences and have the faith to wait for the answer.

    • Hi Jim,

      I appreciate the advice. I’ve been heavily involved for years, and I’ve really found a great deal of benefit from being so involved.

      But I cannot in good conscience and through my understanding of Christ simply wait this out.

      If I cannot in good faith bring a neighbor to church because of the actions of the UMC and the unwillingness of my church to stand up and say that those actions are wrong – well, then I should not be sitting in that pew either. And I shouldn’t be ‘going through the motions’ in missions, youth ministry, etc.

      I’ll visit a Reconciled church, because I can.
      I’ll even visit another denomination.
      I just don’t feel like either of those is going to stick.

      And maybe someday the rock I’m standing on won’t feel so lonely.

      I hope, for my wife and kids sake, that Jesus leads me somewhere that I can find that fire again. Right now I’m deeply depressed by all of this.

  8. I posted the article on the UMC clergy Facebook page to elicit dialogue, but the majority of comments were that progressives would fight for the denomination. Some, even as they denigrated and demonized traditional views, still said we needed to stay together which was nonsensical to me. I truly hope this is not representative of general views in the progressive camp. The UM-Forward group met this weekend and judging from photos this is what I saw:
    Track 3 work group: Birthing holy/wholly new connection—huge crowd
    Track 2 work group: Movement from in between and through in/out—sizeable group
    Track 1 work group: Resisting from within: small group

  9. Mary John Dye says

    It is correct, I believe, and more Christlike to stop vilifying others who disagree. That is no way to treat brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. But it is head-spinning, Brother Renfroe for you to say so without any acknowledgement or confession that you —and Good News have consistently been the villifiers, those who misrepresent and denounce. I was in Wilmore when Good News began. Dear family friend were part of that beginning. I have read and heard your fiery—and often very unfair portrayals of those you oppose. Good advice to tone down the rhetoric. Hardly convincing until you can give such advice with humility, confession and repentance.

  10. Peter Jermey says

    I think if TP supporters don’t want gay people and allies to be removed from the UMC then you need to keep saying so publicly, because that is the impression that you gave us. Saying gay people cannot marry or be ordained is not a welcoming statement so if you want to welcome gay people then you need to actually say it.

    Communication is key and if TP people only use negative rhetoric against gay people then we won’t feel like you want us in your churches

    • I agree that in fighting the fight traditionalists have not done a good job of clearly explaining where they stand on sexuality and why. However I question if it would even be possible to clearly state the traditionalist view with any sort of positive impact. I have experienced being blasted and demeaned because I simply stated that I disagree with the progressive perspective and it would happen even when I included an acknowledgement that people are free to disagree with me and I will defend their right to do so. And there is probably another reason traditionalists and their verbiage that sometimes comes across strong: I have been monitoring this since GC2012 and every time traditionalists took a firm stance on anything dealing with this they were summarily ignored by leadership. And it did not help when, after the WCA clearly stated the feelings about the One Church Plan, Bishops trotted it out as the be all to end all. Bottom line is progressive leaning leadership has not shown any respect for the traditionalist perspective; in fact, I would have to say they blatantly ignored them. So form that perspective I do not blame traditionalists for feeling like they had to “yell” to be heard.

      • You mention that people were free to disagree with you and you would defend their right to do so. That is what the One Church Plan allowed. It allowed disagreement, the Traditional Plan does not.

        • The one church plan did not allow disagreement. It changed the definition of marriage in the UMC to allow church sanctioned same-sex weddings; only individual persons were allowed to disagree with this- just like any individual today is allowed to disagree with the teaching on marriage as between man and woman.

      • Peter Jermey says

        I can suggest three things

        1. Admonishing TP advocates who go further than your stance. I didn’t hear it in context, but I know that a progressive delegate had to complain about another delagate calling for lgbt people to be drowned. If you disagree with this sort of OTT violent rhetoric then don’t just assume that lgbt people know that – speak out against it.

        2. Not supporting plans written with deliberately vague language, such as the TP. If you have a nuanced view then that will be lost unless the language you use is detailed and accurate. Don’t just assume that others know what you mean – we don’t even agree with your theology so how would we know what you mean by “self avowed homosexual”?

        3. Demonstrate some positive speech/action – if the TP is all you have to say to lgbt people then all you have to say is negative and you can’t really complain about people assuming that you are an anti gay person.

        4. Actually talk to gay people in your church (and other lgbt people) and understand what the TP says to them

        Those are my suggestions about how you can oppose gay marriage and ordination without coming across as simply hating lgbt people

    • Barbara Homrighaus says

      Peter Jeremy – our church can be welcoming to all to come and learn the teachings of Christ and at our church, we are. However, welcoming gay people to be part of the body of Christ does not mean we should go against the Bible and have gay ministers or gay marriages. Neither of those are Biblical or in Christ’s teachings. Doesn’t mean anyone “hates” gay people, just means we are a church that follows our founding document. To teach otherwise would be to lead people away from God’s word. I have no problem, obviously, with people of any sexual preference. I have a gay family member and I love both him and his husband. It’s not about that. It’s about being true to the word of God.

  11. This entire debate is so clearly spoken of in the Word of God. Satan prowls around and finds willing accomplices in those who do not know the Word of God, nor do they want to now the Word of God. Jesus is the Word, the Word became flesh, the Word dwelt in the world and the world did not recognize Him. True believers read Gods’ Word, believe God’s Word and strive to be obedient to God’s Word. God has not redefined any sin, and particularly not the sin of one man lying with another man, as a man lies with a woman. All sin violates the Word of God, we should strive to avoid all sin. We should not advocate bringing any sin into the body of Christ and then even going so far as to make that sin acceptable in our church leadership’s behavior. God admonishes us to be holy because He is holy. Living in sin is not holy. We are told to resist the devil and he will flee, we are told to hate evil, we told to go and sin no more. Trust Jesus, obey His commands, and take your cross daily and follow Jesus. Do not follow man.

  12. Rev. Renfroe states “ Legislation that can end our fighting needs to be written in the next few months to be properly before the Conference.”

    I kept reading to see what he proposed to end the fighting, but I didn’t see his solution.

  13. Gary Bebop says

    Anybody still asleep and in denial about what Progressives think of Traditional Plan support and what they intend for GC2020 should read Rebekah Miles’ May 20 UM Insight piece. It’s classic pasquinade, intended to scorch and humiliate and belittle. There are no kind words or thoughts here. She uses supercilious scorn and fantastic parody to portray the Traditional Plan as cockeyed nonsense and its authors as pursuing a monstrous delusion down a rabbit hole. Let’s not make the mistake of thinking that the last day antics of GC2019 will not be repeated in 2020.

  14. Traditionalist – Conservative -Progressive – Liberal – Moderate -Centrist.

    What label for the word of Jesus Christ?

    https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+19%3A4-6&version=NIV

    • You want to kick all the divorcees out of the UMC?

      Bold.

      Care to silence all the women while you are at it?

      • I would have to refer you to Jesus on that with relation to his spoken word as recorded in the Bible.

      • JR, we don’t want to kick anyone out of the church. The church belongs to Jesus Christ alone, only He will kick the truly lost sinners out of His Kingdom. Your anger and bitter spirit are evident in many of your comments. I pray that Christ will lead you to a God honoring church where Christ is glorified and acknowledged as Lord, Savior, Creator, Life Giving Spirit. I know how you feel. I felt that way until January of this year when I first learned of the Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA). I too had to leave my home church because the pastor advocates for acceptance of the progressive, centrist stance on inclusion of LGBTQAI+ practicing people. And my church council actually voted to not allow me to share WCA or Good News Magazine with the congregation through our church newsletter or Sunday Bulletin. Talk about being afraid of truth! Jesus is not going to be found to be a centrist or progressive. Read the Gospels and Revelations again. I found a local church affiliated with the WCA that is ALIVE with Christ leading the way in everything this church is involved with. Please don’t base your church attendance on other believers who are sinners just like you. True Christians worship Christ, believe the bible means what it says, and know that we are imperfect human beings and are all on the daily path of following of Jesus. I know you can tell from reading all the articles published daily which ones seem to be most identified with faith in Jesus. The words used, the expressions used, the anger, the hatefulness, and the misuse of God’s word is clearly evident in those messages which are not aligned with Jesus Christ. Locate a church in your area affiliated with the WCA, Good News Magazine, Confessing Movement, or one that simply believes the bible, teaches it faithfully, and honors God the way He should be honored. Don’t give up. Hope I have helped you a little.

      • Hi JR,

        Please enlighten us as to how people in the church who support the Traditional Plan can witness/minister to all people in the name of Christ?

        If you believe those people who support the Traditional Plan cannot minister to LBGT… people then tell us what they can do to minister to them.

        My fear is that your answer will be something along the lines of ‘change your beliefs about human sexuality and proclaim that LGBT… behavior and practice is normal, healthy, blessed by God and is good.”

        If positive sanction of certain behavior is what has to happen then I think we can all see how the gulf between both sides is impossible to bridge.

        If that is the case then forgive those who disagree with your beliefs, accept them as a Christian like you are, and let’s put this subject in the rear view mirror.

        • Hi jk,

          “Please enlighten us as to how people in the church who support the Traditional Plan can witness/minister to all people in the name of Christ? ”

          I don’t think they can. That’s my point. ALL people is a pretty big lift – nigh impossible, and yet it’s the goal. But codifying that some people are excluded? That right there means ‘not ALL people’. And as fundamentalist movements always do, it’s not going to stop with this group. There’s always going to be another group to exlude, to point to as being ‘not good enough’.

          Traditionalists are free to believe what they want. They can even think that there isn’t a single problem with SAYING that they are fully welcoming and loving, while not really being fully welcoming and loving, isn’t a problem at all. I can’t make them see the hypocrisy.

          But I also won’t be a part of it.

          By the same token, the accusations and bickering between the leadership of the factions, the writers of articles, the folks in the pews, the commenters on boards like this – I don’t see an expression in Jesus in ANY of it.

          So I’m moving on.

          • Hi JR,

            Thanks for your kind reply, and I hope you find a way not to leave the UM church, I am fearful you may not find a place anywhere in the Church universal where you will find what you are looking for.

            Just so I understand you correctly without putting words in your mouth, you are saying that those who believe in the Traditional Plan and support the language of the 2012/2016 Discipline cannot minister to people who are LBGT…

            Does that mean that disagreeing with ordaining LBGT… clergy and not allowing LBGT weddings to be performed by UM clergy is disqualifying and a large number of faithful people cannot minister to LGBT… people?

            I grieve for us all if that is what you are saying and many people agree with you.

          • Hi jk,

            Here’s how I see it:

            If you believe that homosexuality is an inherent sin that is incompatible with Christian teaching, and therefore someone who is LGBTQ+ has to ‘repent’ for who they are, then there’s not any way you can realistically include them in your church and/or minister to them. The best you can probably do is send them on their way and say you’ll pray for them that they’ll find Jesus and change their ways.

            You can certainly engage in ministries that can help them – food pantries, homeless shelters, community events, etc. But you can’t turn them into disciples of Jesus the way you want to. You’ll be keeping them at arms reach because of the ‘incompatible’ issue.

            You can’t keep them at arms reach and love them, in my opinion.

            If you love a person the way Christ wants us to love them, would you attend their wedding if invited? Would you want to celebrate with them? See the blessing of God in their union?

            If you do, except when a person is gay, then you are holding them at arms reach.
            If you do, even when that person is gay, but won’t have their wedding in your own church, then you are holding them at arms reach AND being hypocritical.

            A couple of side points:

            I make no claim about whether someones LGBTQ+ identity is a choice or not. To me it does not matter; opinions may differ.

            There is a difference between monogamy and various other sexual expressions. I am of the opinion that monogamy fits with the Christian ethic, even though there’s an awful lot of Biblical reference to polygamy. In all cases I would agree that promiscuity does not fit with the Christian ethic.

            I’m not delving into translational or sociological points here, but those can be found by better writers than I if you look.

            Let me know if you need me to elaborate on anything in particular. I appreciate honest discussion, even if it means nobody changes their minds. The more we can understand each other, the better we can be.

        • Fact of the matter is that there are credible ministries run by Christians who identify themselves as being gay (not ex-gay) and whose mission is to work with churches which follow a traditional sexual ethic that wish to set up outreach to LGBTQ. We may be talking about blazing new frontiers in the Methodist world, but it is not a new topic in many other evangelical churches.

  15. Hi JR,

    Thanks for your reply. I hope you do not move on, anywhere in any church you will sadly find that as sinful human beings there are always going to be problems, disputes, and sometimes they get ugly. And without the church, these disagreements are only worse. At least in the Church or church, reconciliation is possible.

    It is a very sad thing to see that disagreement over what constitutes a good minister and how to conceive what marriage is causes such horrible division. Sadly it is not the first time something like this has happened, nor is it the last.

    I would simply say that your very well written point about ‘SAYING that they are fully welcoming and loving, while not really being fully welcoming and loving’ is a very hard slap at people who are faithful to Christ but disagree with you. Accepting behavior that is anathama to them before ministry can begin or witnessing is possible is a very hard standard to hold people to.

    I would submit to you to consider many of the Old Testament prophets, and even Paul, to see if they held to that standard.

    Let’s keep talking.

    • Hi JK,

      I hope I caught some of the point in my response just above, but I can put a different spin on this one here.

      “I would simply say that your very well written point about ‘SAYING that they are fully welcoming and loving, while not really being fully welcoming and loving’ is a very hard slap at people who are faithful to Christ but disagree with you. Accepting behavior that is anathama to them before ministry can begin or witnessing is possible is a very hard standard to hold people to.”

      I think you are correct in that comes across as a pointed shot, sometimes I get caught up in the idea and don’t take the time to try to be a little more gentle. The point I’m trying to get to is this – people use all sorts of things to justify their opinions and actions. Internalized bias is a big thing.

      Do you find LGBTQ+ anathema because of what the Bible says, or is it anathema to you because of your cultural upbringing and the Bible lends some support to that view? Those are interwoven in many cases and can be tough to discern.

      If you believe it because of what the Bible says, then if it could be shown that the words used in the Bible maybe aren’t well translated into common vernacular, then your attitude could change. And if you also saw some examples of people who were clearly ‘caught by God’ and were also LGBTQ+, then there could potentially be a change in your view.

      But if your cultural upbringing is the dominant piece, that’s very hard to pull back from – it’s strongly internalized in who you are. And even the examples above probably wouldn’t be enough to shift your opinion.

      For me, it was lightly on the cultural side, and stronger on the Biblical side. As I grew older and met some truly amazing people who countered the Biblical narrative, as I read deeper into some of the translational issues in the Bible and as I understood the sociological impact and changes, how they applied to different times and how they can be applied now… I’ve changed.

      I strongly disagree with Biblical literalism as an overall worldview, but there are certainly sections that can and should be taken literally and others that should not. Many are indeterminate.

      But if you honestly agree with a biblical literal view regarding homosexuality, how can you in good conscience not have an even stronger view towards divorce? Shouldn’t that trigger your ‘anathema’ button? My guess is that it does not, because divorce is more culturally acceptable (at least within your lifetime) than homosexuality has been. I don’t mean to put words in your mouth on that, but instead I’m trying to delve into where the issues can be held and inspected without perhaps the volatility of LGBTQ+ references.

      Worthy discussion, thanks for helping me to keep civil throughout!

      • jerry reingardt says

        Divorce is not acceptable to me except in cases where the scripture says it is ok to remarry, alcoholism is not ok with me LGBTQ is not acceptable to me . You are correct i cannot change anyone’s opinion, but scripture can and does. This is why I say those who practice those things which i think displeases God belong in the church where they can here a Scripture message and repent and praise God. But not teach and preach and lead while practicing those things mentioned. Jesus began His message with repent the Kingdom of God is at hand. May God bless the church as it moves forward in and under His direction.

        • “By 1972, the U.S. had embraced no-fault divorce laws, and The United Methodist Church had adopted the statement, “we recognize divorce and the right of divorced persons to remarry.” Rather than constructing a theology of marriage that could account for these difficult new social circumstances, however, Methodists abandoned divorce as a moral issue and refocused their collective moral gaze on homosexuality and homosexual marriage.”

          https://www.umnews.org/en/news/commentary-legal-challenges-to-unlawful-marriages-in-methodism

          Don’t you have to accept divorce if you are a Methodist? It’s in the BoD that it’s acceptable to divorce and remarry. Could you accept a divorced and remarried pastor in your church?

          I’m honestly curious here. This is where I see the UMC falling to fundamentalism, as there’s a lot more support for your view of divorce in the NT than there is against LGBTQ+.

      • Hi jk,

        So I ran across this today, which applied directly to some of my points:

        Consider –
        “Do you find LGBTQ+ anathema because of what the Bible says, or is it anathema to you because of your cultural upbringing and the Bible lends some support to that view? Those are interwoven in many cases and can be tough to discern.

        If you believe it because of what the Bible says, then if it could be shown that the words used in the Bible maybe aren’t well translated into common vernacular, then your attitude could change. And if you also saw some examples of people who were clearly ‘caught by God’ and were also LGBTQ+, then there could potentially be a change in your view.”

        Then read this.

        https://www.forgeonline.org/blog/2019/3/8/what-about-romans-124-27?fbclid=IwAR18iBoxqP1kQPYteD4_WSAYIM8_rYtESiqI5YUUQvXStmBN1VFkt9ITQ7w

        As always, I appreciate open dialogue.

  16. I am a non-straight/SSA member of the church who has long believed in the traditional sexual ethic. I agree that “it’s time to stop playing games” but I am not so sure I am on the same page as Rev. Renfroe (maybe yes, maybe no). I think there is some warranted wariness of the traditional side for the reason that it has never quite addressed how to minister to people like me. As much as I theologically disagree with Reconciling Ministries, I have to admit they openly are willing to address the topic. When they are gone, how is the remaining UMC going to openly address the topic in ministry? If the answer is sending folks to camp in order to “pray the gay away”, we are not only walking back into the 1970’s, but also proving the opposition’s point in large part. My greatest fear is that the remaining church will do nothing more than legislate a few proclamations of hospitality to gay Methodists and be done with it. Fact of the matter is that younger generations of LGBTQ+ are not staying in the closet, are strongly identifying as gay, but SOME are striving to lead God-centered lives within the context of a traditional sexual ethic. And then there are many others that may be persuaded, but are “still on the fence,” theologically. If the traditionalists make concrete plans early on to effectively minister to these groups, much of the fear of a conservative takeover may pass.

    • “If the answer is sending folks to camp in order to “pray the gay away”, we are not only walking back into the 1970’s, but also proving the opposition’s point in large part. My greatest fear is that the remaining church will do nothing more than legislate a few proclamations of hospitality to gay Methodists and be done with it.”

      https://goodnewsmag.org/2019/04/why-traditionalists-are-not-leaving/#comment-95002

      http://tomlambrecht.goodnewsmag.org/bio/

      Thought you ought to be aware.

      • I do pray that our church leaders be given wisdom in the restructuring and ministry focus. The comment which you highlight from Tom Lambrecht does not reflect wisdom, in my opinion. God’s healing can mean many things—and it is not up to us to dictate how the Holy Spirit will heal us; I have learned that the hard way. I also know that many if not most who have been through ex-gay therapy still have same sex attraction, though many will say they have been “healed” for appearances sake. The former president of Exodus International, Alan Chambers, has said as much. The most tragic consequence of this “cure” has been the suicide rate of participants. I hope and pray we will not go down this path.

        • EC, I agree with you.

          Recognize that Lambrecht is a major part of Good News, had a huge part in writing the Traditional Plan, and helped work it through GC2019.

          His may not be the only voice on this issue from the Traditionalist side, but his is a very noteworthy one.

          I’m not spinning his words here. *Supporting the Traditionalist Plan is supporting those who advocate for conversion therapy for homosexuals*.

  17. Houston Parks says

    Please, someone needs to take the lead and start crafting a good plan for either total separation or separation under a common umbrella. I’m willing to do my part in promoting such a plan’s adoption.

  18. Steven Zinser says

    My memory said that the UMC in the US had about 10 million members in 1975. It has about 7 million now. That’s a loss of 3 million for some reason or other. It’s actually a far worse loss than that, because the US population has gone from about 220 million to 320 million. Ideally we’d have about 13.5 million, if we’d kept our own…and many more if we had reached out.

    I’ve known this for the last 40 years, and I’ve always attributed it to the fact that there was a covert war raging that both our people and outsiders saw. It helped push many out the door and it prevented many others from entering.

    It has been unhealthy the entire time, evidently.

    Now it has finally come to a head. Is it hopeful that we could soon have 2 or 3 offshoots of the old UMC? Will they launch out into mission and ministry and recapture that old Wesleyan momentum? Or will they continue their slow descent until the last door is closed in about 2050 as the statisticians have told us.

    Well, we know it’s dying right now, Hamilton’s large aggregation notwithstanding.

    Better to have the lab experiment with the 3 new concepts to see if one of them works. My money’s on the traditionalists, because who wants a religion that rejects its own authoritative scripture. But the centrists might wake up and take a few steps backward and recover their identity.

  19. There is nothing else to discuss except SEPARATION. All dialogue must shift to that. Petitions must be brought before the 2020 General Conference to AT LEAST form a Commission For An Amiable Separation with a deadline for it to complete its work and a deadline for the next Special General Conference. Anything other than this, or a separation plan itself at the 2020 General Conference, is a waste of time and resources, and a repeat of St Louis would be a SIN against God.

    • I agree, William. Unfortunately, it looks like the winds are shifting in the other direction (as numerous Annual Conferences have been apparently electing more moderate and progressive representatives to go to GC2020) – I think this is going to look more like a battle for the denomination than an agreeable separation.

      And I think that is a mistake.

      • While the progressive conferences have lost representation, they’re electing more delegates to 2020 General Conference? Can we have a look at the factual and actual math that confirms that?

        Should liberals reverse what happened in St Louis, it is a blessing to us traditionalists that the Wesleyan Covenant Association has the mechanics in place to form a new denomination immediately thereafter. WCA already has a Central Conferences Ministry Fund, in place initially to help offset the threat of the inclusive and non-racists liberals of cutting off their apportionment payments going mostly to Africa. Traditionalists and maybe some so called moderates will go to this new denomination with their property and money as opposed to staying in what would remain of the current church and beginning a next fifty years of defiance and church lawbreaking. That’s called the integrity road.

  20. Gary Bebop says

    Progressives are cackling about successful delegate elections boosting their odds of flipping the church at GC2020. If that happens it will be by the razor-thin margin they repudiate of GC2019. Meanwhile, Traditionalists have been paying attention to all the prattle touting defiance and disobedience of General Conference rule. Traditonalists will not agree to obey the edicts issuing from a flipped GC2020. Progressives will be served a cold dish of noncooperation; they will have earned their just deserts.

    • And it all comes tumbling down.

      I would suggest that this is a show of force – IF the Progressives have enough potency, this becomes the driver to split equitably and peacefully. There are only two options here – either we battle until it’s all dust, or we take a breath and move apart.

      But right now, if the UMC were to split, the Traditionalists hold the upper hand. With a strong enough presence at GC2020, the math changes.

  21. Today, I am unchurched.
    Today, I feel separated from God.
    Today, I feel no joy. There is only sorrow.

    But I shall carry on.

    I grew up in another denomination, but I found my faith in the UMC. I felt the hand of God at times – not in church, not teaching Sunday School or singing in the choir, but on mission trips and retreats and youth events. In the births of children, in the deaths of friends and family members. God was THERE.

    I found friends, I found role models, I found joy in the UMC. I worked and worshiped with members of a sister church and found a common love for each other that surpasses understanding. Spread the circle wide, I sang, spread the circle wide.

    But I can not stay.

    When the vote at GC2019 came through, I was shocked and angry. I had been aware of the controversy, I had heard the debates, and I was sure that the vote for the One Church Plan would win the day, despite it’s flaws. I was perhaps naïve on that point, but surely the unity and love within the church would overcome the challenges.

    Then I waited for my congregation to stand up and say ‘This is Wrong!’

    I waited through Pentecost. But the longer I waited, the more I realized that such a proclamation was not coming. ‘We don’t have to say it, we know who we are’ was the word passed down to us.

    I have read from both sides about the events that led up to, and occurred during, GC2019. I found very little of ‘Christ’ in the accusations. I found very little compassion, forgiveness, grace, and love. Even now, as the battle continues, the eyes and teeth are being counted. I see no one offering to turn the other cheek or lead us to the promised land. Instead all I see is strife and discord.

    My faith has been shaken.
    Where once I walked confidently, now my steps are unsure.
    Where once I had a community, now I am alone.

    I’ll spend the coming weeks looking for another church. This is a chance for a clean slate – finding what I want, what I need, what I can give. I’m doubtful that I will be able to embrace a new church without reservation. My heart has been wounded, and the scars will not heal easily.

    Today, I feel no joy.
    Today, I feel separated from God.
    Today, I am unchurched.

  22. George Johnson says

    We have debated, argued, strategized, etc. too long. It is time for an amicable separation. No other viable way forward is apparent. We need to get on with it ASAP so both organizations can get back to God’s work of leading people to Christ. The settlement needs to be equitable to both sides. The side with the most power needs to look out for the other side in a “love your neighbor” manner which may require bending over backwards to protect the other side. Independent consultants can be used to work all this out. We need some thinking outside of the box and legal assistance so that it can be expedited. As an example can a general conference be held more often to work on this.

  23. Once Jane can convince God to compromise on his Word and decrees, then the conservatives would join in as a third party.

  24. ……join in as a third party and follow God’s lead.

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