Monday, April 8, 2019
Where go the Methodists?
If Methodists split, the fracture will surely leave the denomination weaker than ever but it would at least offer some measure of homogeneity to each group. The vote was significant but not resounding (438-384) and it probably signals the leanings of Methodists -- at least the ones in the US. Though clergy who violate the ban could face loss of income or suspension, it seems unlikely that those committed to the GLBTQ agenda will stop what they are doing. It also seems unlikely that they will fight all that hard to stay in a church body they cannot support.
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung of the Wisconsin United Methodist Conference said, "We are a wounded church. We are a divided church. We are a church in pain, and we are doing harm to each other." That is certainly an understatement. No one is entirely happy with the way things turned out. Some believe that this vote will come up again and again and again until the progressive wing gains the upper hand. Furthermore, it was another case of the leaders on one side of the issue and the folks in the pews on the other side.
The denomination’s bishops and many of its most influential clergy pushed hard for a choice that would have allowed local congregations, conferences, and clergy to make their own decisions about conducting same-sex marriages and ordaining LGBTQ pastors. This proposal was called the “One Church Plan” and it had, as one of its goals, the hope that the denomination might be kept together. In the end, Methodist delegates rejected its recommendations and chose the "Traditional Plan," which affirmed the denomination’s current teachings against homosexuality -- a stance already flagrantly and defiantly ignored by many within the denomination.
Underneath this all is another issue. That is the fact that, in essence, this church body had a referendum on the teachings of Scripture and the teachings of Scripture lost. More than 40% decided that the Bible was wrong and they did not want to be on the wrong side of a culturally defining issue. We always say we cannot vote on what the Scriptures say and yet that is exactly what we do too often. Since it is by vote, a vote can just as easily say that the Bible's position is either no longer relevant or tenable OR that this was not the correct reading of the Scriptures in the first place. It is a tenuous victory, not that we should ignore it but neither should we be too comforted by it. Stay tuned for more. . .