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Ethics & Religion
Column #1,959
March 7, 2019
United Methodists Vote Conservative
By Mike McManus

By a narrow vote of 53% to 47%, the United Methodist Church voted to maintain traditional moral standards that limit marriage to the union of a man and woman - and to oppose same-sex marriage and gay clergy.

However, it is important to note that most American clergy voted for the LGBT vision, but were outvoted by United Methodists from Africa!

Over the last 25 years, U.S. United Methodists have plunged from 11 million members to 6.8 million while African UM church membership has soared to 5.3 million members. Each year the U.S. church loses 100,000 members while African churches grow by 100,000 - and will outnumber U.S. churches in a decade.

However, Africans are still in a minority. How did traditional morality win? While about two-thirds of U.S. delegates voted for allowing gay marriage, 30% voted with African opponents, resulting in the 53%-47% split opposing the LGBT agenda.

African seminary president Jerry Kulah electrified a breakfast meeting at the General Conference by saying, "We are not children in need of Western enlightenment when it comes to our sexual ethics."

Mark Tooley, a United Methodist who runs the Institute on Religion and Democracy that fights for orthodox Christianity in many denominations, says that "Liberals inside and outside United Methodism have responded to the General Conference with outrage. Some liberals are now speaking openly of quitting United Methodism and creating a new progressive church." He notes that the General Conference "approved legislation allowing congregations to leave the denomination with their property intact."

(This is in sharp contrast with other liberal Protestant denominations such as the Episcopal Church, which supports the gay agenda, and refused to allow my congregation to leave and join the new Anglican Church of North America. It seized the assets of the Falls Church, after which Falls Church, Virginia is named. George Washington was once on its Vestry.)

One pastor leading a movement out of United Methodism is Rev. Adam Hamilton, pastor of Church of the Resurrection, in Kansas City. It is America's largest UM church with 22,000 members, 13,000 of whom attend weekly!

He was outraged that the General Convention "condemned the marriages of every same-sex couple in the UMC, many raising children," which implied that "these couples divorce and break up their family. This idea is repugnant."

Hamilton noted that the new legislation will suspend any pastor who performs a same-sex wedding without pay for a year. "On a second offense they will be defrocked."

He asserted "U.S. churches that disagree with this path backwards will not sit by quietly and watch as this takes effect. They will protest, live in disobedience to the Discipline or leave."

However, of 30,000 UM churches only 800 are associated with LGBT. While many straight pastors are sympathetic, the possibility of a major split of the UM Church into two denominations is unlikely, according to Mark Tooley. "Most people are prone to stay put, and the United Methodist Church will remain orthodox."

However, Will Willamon, a retired UM Bishop on the faculty of Duke University, argues that "The traditional plan is not enforceable. We will show that in the Christian faith, the law kills, but the spirit gives life."

He felt the General Conference "demonstrated we cannot have 800 delegates speaking 7 languages. There is too much disagreement. We are too complex culturally. We need to find a way to muddle through, and continue to be enriched by one another."

Bishop Willamon also predicted that the Judicial Council of the Methodist Church, the denomination's Supreme Court, might rule that the vote at the General Conference "may be found to be unconstitutional."

What I find interesting is that America's missionaries - who go to all parts of the world, preaching the Gospel and planting churches in such continents as Africa - have had a surprising impact. "Today, many of the millions of Christians and churches that resulted from those missionary efforts are more biblically based than their American forebears," as John Stonestreet put it for the Colson Center for Christian Worldview.

"These daughter-churches overseas" are concerned that their "mother churches are advancing sexual heresy - especially LGBT theology. And it would be accurate to say the churches they helped to plan, praise God, aren't budging."

The result is that the United Methodist Church chose to uphold marriage as being between one man and one woman.

That's a reason to cheer!

Copyright (c) 2018 Michael J. McManus, a syndicated columnist and past president of Marriage Savers. To read past columns, go to Hit Search for any topic.


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