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Religious Tolerance logo

The United Methodist Church and Homosexuality

Part 2 of three parts

2016 General Conference (Cont'd).
Schism possible. Compromise
reached. Response to compromise.

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This topic is continued here from the previous essay

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We use the acronym "UMC" to refer to the United Methodist Church.

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Activity at the 2016 General Conference (Cont'd):

During this conference, some progressives had proposed changes to the Book of Discipline and saw them voted down in committee. Some conservatives proposed measures to enhance discrimination and were successful at the committee level.

On MAY-17, rumors circulated that some UMC bishops and other leaders were meeting secretly to create a plan to split the UMC into two denominations which would take opposing positions on sexual orientation.

Michelle Boorstein, writing for the Washington Post, said that on MAY-18:

"After a heated 24 hours of protests, emotional testimony, and group prayer, the United Methodist Church decided ... to delay a series of contentious votes on gay equality and instead create a body that will examine possibly rewriting church rules on human sexuality and restructuring to allow regional differences." 1

That might mean the creation of some multiple sections in the Book of Discipline, one to be followed by most American congregations and an other to be followed by congregations in the southern and midwestern U.S., Africa, and Asia.

Webmaster's comment:

The result would be one denomination with two versions of the "Truth." That would raise the question of why members of the church cannot simply assess the will of God through prayer, and thus resolve all differences over homosexuality. After all, the two verses in Proverbs 3:5 & 6 state:

"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths."

A pilot study performed some years ago by workers at this web site, assessing the will of God through prayer does result in a strong belief that God's will has been determined via prayer. However, the process may not be particularly reliable.

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Part of the text of the bishops' proposal read:

Partial text of 2016 resolution 2

The proposal continued:

"We believe that our unity is found in Jesus Christ; it is not something we achieve but something we receive as a gift from God.  We understand that part of our role as bishops is to lead the church toward new behaviors, a new way of being and new forms and structures which allow a unity of our mission of ‘making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world’ while allowing for differing expressions as a global church. Developing such new forms will require a concerted effort by all of us, and we your bishops commit ourselves to lead this effort.  We ask you, as a General Conference, to affirm your own commitment to maintaining and strengthening the unity of the church.  We will coordinate this work with the various efforts already underway to develop global structures and a new General Book of Discipline for our church."

The resolution was narrowly approved by the delegates with a vote of 428 to 405.

Rev. Frank Schaefer, an equality advocate and Methodist pastor, commented:

“I count this decision as a victory for the LGBTQ cause, though our division is not yet reconciled. There is much work to be done on our way toward full inclusion of our LGBTQ members in the United Methodist Church. It’s a small step in the right direction that gives me hope and strength. I hope that our bishops will take their mandate very seriously and will be able to lead us toward reconciliation and unity."

A special General Conference may be called during 2018 or 2019 to deal specifically with this one issue. The next regular conference will be held during 2020 in Minneapolis, MN.

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Laurie Haller, writing for the United Methodist Insight forum, eloquently wrote:

"We are not of one mind around human sexuality, and unless we change the way we address this issue, we will surely separate and perhaps die. We have faithful United Methodists who will not budge from their conviction that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching and scripture. And we have faithful United Methodists who will not settle for anything less than full and immediate inclusion of all LGBTQ lay and clergy in the life of the church.

For far too many years our bishops, clergy, local churches and General Conference have all hesitated to do the hard work of listening to one another’s stories and opening our hearts to the possibility that we may not know the entire mind of God ..."

"My hope has always been that we will find the collective (if not unanimous) will to compromise in a way that honors all. Now is the time, for we are already tired, returning to our places of ministry practically dead. The gifts of every person in The United Methodist Church, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, are desperately needed in order to fulfill our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world." 3

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What the readers of the Washington Post article think about the 2016 General Conference's compromise:

Some readers of the article in the Washington Post posted comments. 1 Most did seem to have reacted negatively towards the special Commission. From their postings, it is obvious that most fully accept the conservative interpretations of the Bible's "clobber passages" as condemning all same-gender sexual behavior as a major sin. Many may not even be aware that other contrasting interpretations of the same passages exist.

Some postings are listed below. Spelling and grammar have been changed in order to increase clarity:

  • Randy Miller posted:

    "So what's next? Rewriting God's word on homosexuality??? Are we going to change it to: 'man shall not lay with dog' and 'a woman shall not lay with a cat???' Maybe people's morals have changed, but God's words haven't. 1

  • Charles Sparrow posted:

    "What any religious screwballs say or do does not matter. Funny how religion is always having to adjust itself to fit in with reality."

  • "Free Man in the Republic of Texas" posted:

    A "NEW way of being ??? ??? ???"
     
    "Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.  
    For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled,  
    they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires,  
    and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths." 2 Timothy 4:2-4. 1

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This topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

  1. "With talk of schism over gay issues, United Methodists vote to pursue a ‘new way of being’," The Washington Post, 2016-MAY-18, at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/
  2. From a screen projection of part of the bishops' proposal at the Conference.
  3. Laurie Haller, "The Pachydermic Problem," United Methodist Insight, 2016-JUN-01, at: http://um-insight.net/"
  4. Carly Hoilman, "Methodists Elect 1st Openly Gay Bishop in Defiance of Ban," The Blaze,
  5. Bishop B.R. Hough, "COB President Addresses Western Jurisdiction Episcopal Election Results," UMC Press Center, 2016-JUL-15, at: http://www.umc.org/

Copyright 2016 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Last update: 2016-JUL-15

Author: B.A. Robinson
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