Saturday, June 11, 2016
The Methodist Conundrum
Amid deep divisions over Scripture and the plethora of sexual issues facing most churches, The United Methodist Church has been brought to the brink of the unthinkable -- a divorce!
At the quadrennial United Methodist General Conference in mid-May, Bishop Bruce Ough was quick to deny that the leadership is "advancing or advocating any plan of separation or reorganization of the denomination." Such a division might be unthinkable except that there is great pressure upon US Methodists to ordain LGBT clergy, to allow same-sex weddings, and to embrace the full spectrum of gender issues so often in the news here. That is strongly opposed by conservatives within the US but most of all by the congregations in Africa. Here is the growing edge of Methodism which refuses to be moved to favor the sexual issues considered normal by many American Methodists. There are 12 million Methodists worldwide, including the 7.2 million in the U.S., but it is in Africa where Methodist growth is coming and where most of the opposition to the GLBT agenda is strongest.
Methodism has shrunk significantly in America and is but a shell of its former size. Yet the pressure to conform to a liberal Christian social agenda remains strong -- even among those who acknowledge that it will not come without great cost. Will Methodists decide to split up? Who can tell! Even if they paper over their differences in the short term, this division will not be overcome nor will the tensions disappear in the future.