ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI—the United Methodist Church (UMC) met this week for a special General Conference to deal with unavoidable questions regarding the LGBTQ agenda.
The United Methodist Church is the last mainline Protestant denomination that has not yet fully surrendered to cultural sexual deviancy. Methodists have debated this issue for 15-years, with liberals advocating for capitulation while a slim conservative majority still held to a biblical view of marriage and sexuality.
The Road to St. Louis
The road to St. Louis began in 1956, when the Methodist Church began ordaining women to the gospel ministry. A decade and a half later, liberals began pressing for the normalization of homosexuality, eventually demanding the ordination of gay clergy. They used—unsurprisingly—the same ethical arguments for LGBTQ ordination as they did for the ordination of women.
When the delegates arrived at the St. Louis General Conference, they faced three different proposals: the liberal option, the traditional option, and a middle option. The middle option, known as the “One Church Plan,” boasted the overwhelming support of the bishops in the church. Like the NAD’s requests for territorial latitude in the ordination of women, and the moral surrender of the 2014 Third Way option in the Adventist church, the UMC middle option (One Church Plan) promoted a local option, where congregations and conferences (regional jurisdictions of the UMC) could decide for themselves which direction to take. It was calling for theological pluralism in the Methodist Church. The UMC stood at a crossroads. It would have to go one way or the other—a decision that would assuredly lead to a massive division in the church and culminate in a denominational split.
Furthermore, 93 presidents of historically Methodist universities petitioned the General Conference to join the sexual revolution. These presidents represented universities like Duke, Boston University, Emory, and American University in Washington D.C. They—of course—demanded the liberal option.
On the first day of the conference, United Methodists heard a convictional and pointed address against the proposed liberal reforms from Dr. Jerry P. Kulah, an African delegate who is a professor at the United Methodist University in Liberia. You can read his entire remarks here.
One of the themes of Dr. Kulah’s address is the specter of what has been called ideological colonialism in the current debate in the UMC on LGBT issues. Kulah could not have been more emphatic about his and the African delegates’ defiance in the face of such progressive strong-arming:
Please hear me when I say as graciously as I can: we Africans are not children in need of western enlightenment when it comes to the church’s sexual ethics. We do not need to hear a progressive U.S. bishop lecture us about our need to “grow up.”
Let me assure you, we Africans, whether we have liked it or not, have had to engage in this debate for many years now. We stand with the global church, not a culturally liberal, church elite, in the U.S” (emphasis added).
Thus, the battle lines were drawn. Liberals and conservatives marshaled their forces, counted votes, wrote articles, preached sermons, and descended on St. Louis for a historic showdown over the future of America’s second largest Protestant denomination. But liberals within the United Methodist Church have been thwarted in this effort—as the LGBTQ agenda and their militant allies were delivered a stinging defeat yesterday. The debate and discussion were vigorous—notice the arguments in this video montage. Notice the similar spirit to what we are seeing in North American Adventism.
The Vote Outcome
By a vote of 438 to 384 (or 53% to 47%), the UMC not only rejected the liberal option, but defeated the One Church Plan as well.
Like the Adventist Third Way Option, the middle option was illogical and unethical. The UMC’s bishops would willingly sacrifice doctrinal and moral clarity on the altar of denominational unity. The “One Church Plan” surrendered theological conviction for a loosely defined and weak ecclesiology.
After yesterday’s decision, the UMC will most likely endure a schism between conservatives and liberals, with the conservatives holding onto the UMC while the liberals start a new denomination made in the image of the sexual revolution.
What now? The UMC will probably split. There is no going back for the two different religions now striving for mastery of the United Methodist Church.
Perhaps the most important decision taken by the General Conference centered on its rejection of the middle (compromise) option. Even though an overwhelming number of UMC bishops called for the “One Church Plan,” the delegates decided that unity at the expense of doctrine is no unity at all—if the church does not present a unified and clear teaching on something as basic as sexual morality then it isn’t a church at all. It cannot stand as one body, unified by its faith in Christ, if almost half the church upholds biblical sexuality while the other half joins the sexual revolution. This decision by the delegates took an enormous amount of conviction and fortitude. It sent a clear message that the UMC will not join the sexual revolution.
Even though the UMC remains a generally liberal denomination, that will likely change as the ripples of this decision spread outward.
A Lesson For All of Us
We are in a time when churches must decide which path they will take—biblical or cultural. The forces of liberalism and secularism have swept many churches and denominations away. The UMC, however, drew a line in the sand yesterday. Not only did they refuse to join the sexual revolution, but they may—in time— return to their theological roots that reach back to men like John and Charles Wesley.
The UMC General Conference’s decision amounts to a surprising and stunning victory for this major denomination. It contradicts the wisdom of the world, which demands that all churches yield to the demands of sexual license. Historically, denominations that have surrendered their theology to cultural relevance are now dying. Churches that are growing are those who have held fast to the clear teachings of Scripture.
This is both a warning and an inspiring motivation for the Seventh-day Adventist Church, who faces a cultural feminist onslaught from within the western sectors of the Church. In this hour of trial, we will either remain true to the Word of God, or sell our amazing birthright to the lowest bidder—cultural capitulation.
No church or congregation can move in two contradictory directions at once. Next year in Indianapolis (at GC2020), the Adventist Church must deal with these internal liberal challenges ourselves. Let us stand firm on the Bible that defines our Message, and repudiate the unbiblical notion of female elders and pastors. Let us rebuke rebellion in the spirit of Galatians 6 and 1 Timothy 5:20. This will establish our historical place as the Remnant, and give hope to biblically-minded Adventists everywhere.
“And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Ephesians 5:11).