Tag Archives: LGBTQIA+

When the Annual Conference Opposes the Global Denomination

Last week, at Lake Junaluska Assembly, the 2019 Western North Carolina Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church elected General Conference delegates and passed petitions related to the denominational debates on sexuality and gender identity. Overall, the votes of the Annual Conference body of clergy and lay delegates showed strong support for the progressive agenda, and corresponding opposition to the official position of the United Methodist Church. All clergy and lay delegates to the 2020 General Conference are progressive. Traditionalists only garnered three reserve lay jurisdictional delegates.cross

The Annual Conference also passed petitions to ask the General Conference to remove the statement that “the United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching” from The Book of Discipline. The rationale given was that there is no clear Christian teaching to which this statement applies and that there is teaching from some scholars that some homosexual relationships can be justified from the Bible. The truth is the “teaching” that the official statement refers to was the univocal teaching of the universal Church that was really only questioned by pagans outside the Church until the sexual revolution of the 1960’s. This is a fact acknowledged by progressive scholar Dan O. Via in a book called Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views (Robert Gagnon presents the other view). I heard progressive scholar Phyllis Tickle say in a lecture on her 500 year cycle theory of church history that it is a “fool’s game” to try to prove that any form of homosexual relationships are justified from the Bible. Yet people continue to try.

As I shared from the floor during the debate, even some of the best progressive/liberal scholars admit that the Bible is actually clear in its absolute prohibition. Most scholars like this end up rationalizing their rejection of “the straightforward commands of scripture,” as Luke Timothy Johnson puts it, by dubiously pitting “Jesus” or “the Gospel” against the law and/or Paul. This is what Adam Hamilton does. Yet their vision of Jesus is not one that is actually in harmony with Jesus as he is revealed in the New Testament. There Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount no less, affirms the entirety of the law and the prophets and warns about those who might lead others to even “relax” the commandments (Matt 5:17-20). For Jesus obedience to the will of the Father revealed in his written word is the fruit to look for in godly teachers and his true disciples (Matt 7:15-23).

William Loader, a progressive scholar, who has written a few thousand pages on ancient Jewish and Christian beliefs about sex, acknowledges that the biblical teaching throughout the history of ancient Judaism and early Christianity was that marriage between male and female was the only appropriate place for sexual expression, which was the good gift of the Creator. The foundation of this view was the creation story in Genesis. The creation of male and female for what was intended to be a permanent, life-long marital union set the norm for what was only appropriate within the marriage covenant. Anything outside of that was seen as contrary to the commandments given in Torah, beginning with the summary found in the Ten Words (Ex 20; Dt 5). Homosexual practice, which clearly violates the “natural,” God-given male/female complementarity evident in the structures of creation, was seen as especially egregious (Loader, Making Sense of Sex (2013), 146). According to Loader it is not surprising that Jesus makes a point about the intended permanence of the marriage covenant based on the creation texts in Genesis (i.e. Mark 10; Matt 19) (Loader, 46). These texts were viewed by many as revealing God’s design for sex and marriage in a general sense that would have specific application to any number of specific issues that might come up.

Loader, nonetheless, believes that the prescriptions and proscriptions of the Bible are simply outdated for the modern world wherein there is access to effective birth control. He also assumes a modern absolute, essentialist nature argument for sexual orientation for which, however, there is not a modern scientific consensus. The evidence actually indicates that it is not entirely genetic like race, to which it is so often falsely compared. It is, nonetheless, simply historically untenable and absurd to insist that Jesus must have approved of some same-sex relationships, but failed to pass that message on to his apostles. But progressives continue to try to distance themselves from the Bible while claiming to still cling to Jesus for justification of their rejection of God’s commands.

One progressive lay delegate, who was elected to General Conference, made it a point to declare that she believes Jesus is the Word of God, the clear implication being the Bible is not. But what does she—or anyone else—know about Jesus apart from the Bible? According to Luke 24, on the first day of the resurrection Jesus led his disciples in a study of the entirety of the Bible to show them how it all pointed to him for its fulfillment. Without the Bible, we will never recognize Jesus for who he truly is; apart from the Bible we are likely to create an idol and call it Jesus really in order to worship Aphrodite.

When it comes down to it, it seems progressives do not really care what the Bible says. That’s why when they are pressed to justify their views from scripture, they will often begin by maligning scripture by taking the most harsh sounding passages out of context. This is clearly the modus operandi of Adam Hamilton and his followers.  And that is what actually happened on the floor of Annual Conference when progressives were pressed to justify their position from the Bible. The Bible is clear and Jesus insisted he was in harmony with it. Moreover, it is not justifiable for progressives to declare that the Holy Spirit is leading them to something new, because the Bible clearly indicates that the Holy Spirit brings obedience to the just requirements of the law (Rom 8:4), which was one of the central promises of the new covenant (Ezk 36:27). If there is a spirit leading progressives to reject the straightforward commands of the Bible, it cannot be the Holy Spirit.

The Western North Carolina Annual Conference also passed a petition “Endorsing the Commitments of UMC Next and Supporting the Full Inclusion of All People.” This petition declares the traditional plan, which reaffirmed and reinforced the longstanding official position of the United Methodist Church, to be evil, unjust, and oppressive to the LBGTQIA+ community and to be “inconsistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ.” It also commits the Western North Carolina Conference to actively work toward the “full inclusion” and “full participation” of LGBTQIA+ persons in membership and leadership of the church. In the context of the progressive movement this undoubtedly means regardless of whether such persons are living within the framework of the United Methodist and Christian standard of fidelity within the covenant of opposite-sex marriage or celibacy in singleness. From the floor progressives acknowledged that gender-identity can include multiple different genders and that the sexual identities along the entirety of the spectrum of the LGBTQIA+ acronym can be virtually endless. Progressive activist and lay delegate to General Conference, Hellen Ryde, explained, what all the letters and the + mean: there are many, many possible expressions of sexual and gender identity and the + stands for those things that we haven’t yet found a name for.

In other words, this petition declares the teaching that God created sex for marriage, and marriage to only be between a man and a woman, to be “evil, unjust, and oppressive” and “inconsistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ.” And it commits the Annual Conference to resist the implementation of the traditional plan, which reaffirms and reinforces that view. It also declares that the church is to include and affirm the expression of the entirety of the  LBGTQIA+ spectrum, at least among all consenting adults. This must of necessity include polyamarous relationships (like open marriages) and pan-sexualism, where a person is attracted to people of multiple gender identities and sexual identities. There is ample evidence to demonstrate that a free-for-all of sexual “liberation” is exactly what they demand.  Note that I personally was called a liar in February for saying this is where the progressive movement in the church was headed, despite the fact that I provided plenty of evidence.

What this means is the church is being asked to reject not only the straightforward commands in the word of God concerning homosexual practice, but to renounce as “evil, unjust, and oppressive” the entirety of the biblical and traditional Christian sexual ethic set in place by Jesus himself. It was clearly Jesus himself that raised the bar and tightened the restrictions on sexual conduct for his disciples. The progressive petitions completely reverse the trajectory set by the teachings of Jesus and the apostles in a way that even goes far beyond what the early Marxists did by promoting the “free love” movement. They say they are fighting for justice, but they are moralistic sexual and cultural revolutionaries, who, like the revolutionaries in the novels of Dostoevsky, are hell-bent on bringing down the two pillars of western society, the orthodox Christian Church and the traditional family. Both of which, they see as main pillars of the “evil patriarchy” they so despise. But I do know that some are caught up in this movement, who do not realize what they are actually supporting in totality. May God open their eyes!

So it seems pretty obvious that the Western North Carolina Conference has declared its opposition to the global United Methodist denomination. It is also obvious that the Annual Conference has been, is, and will continue to use conference resources not only to promote the acceptance of homosexual practice, but to vilify the traditional and official position of the United Methodist Church, and to promote sexual licentiousness in all of its consensual expressions. Most of the conference leadership has worked to create an atmosphere of intimidation for traditionalists. The deck is certainly stacked against traditionalists when it comes to going before the board of ordained ministry. The conference summer youth event, Spirtus, had to be canceled due to controversy because the main speaker chosen was an LGBTQIA+ activist. During the opening worship service of the Annual Conference there was a choral hymn that was obviously promoting “justice” for LGBTQIA+ persons. The chorus used the tagline “For Everyone Born” straight from the progressive caucus groups that proclaim they are fighting against the “evil, injustice, and oppression” of not affirming the entirety of the LGBTQIA+ spectrum.

They have falsely argued for decades that because people are born with fixed sexual orientations therefore the church must accept committed same-sex relationships, when in reality it really seems they just think people ought to be free to have sex with whoever and however and whenever they want without restrictions and negative judgment. The Bible teaches that fallen humans are born with sinful desires, but by the grace of God do not have to be slaves to them. Progressives seem to share the philosophy of Alfred Kinsey that unfettered, mutually-consensual expression of almost any sexual desire is natural, good, and healthy and that sexual repression is bad and, as one of the petitions (Petition 21) put it, “has been the source of tremendous harm to countless people within The United Methodist Church and beyond.”

Progressives have declared the traditional teaching of the Church—what is clearly biblical teaching—to be evil, unjust, and oppressive. Isaiah 5:20-24 (ESV) warns:

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight! Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine, and valiant men in mixing strong drink, who acquit the guilty for a bribe, and deprive the innocent of his right! Therefore, as the tongue of fire devours the stubble, and as dry grass sinks down in the flame, so their root will be as rottenness, and their blossom go up like dust; for they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts, and have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.

During the discussion on the floor regarding the UMC Next petition, an elderly African American gentleman, Coley Hooker, who was a lay delegate to the 2016 and 2019 General Conferences, basically asked who are we to tell God his word is wrong? Mr. Hooker also insisted that when he voted for the traditional plan that he did not vote for evil and hate, he voted for love. He said sometimes the most loving thing God does is to say NO! to what we want. Indeed, getting what we want, when it suits the sinful desires of the flesh, is a dangerous thing.

Conservatives, individuals and churches, must say NO! to the progressive agenda. We must stand firm for what is right and stand against and resist the resistance as we submit ourselves to God.

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. ~James 4:1-10

When Traditional Christianity is Incompatible with the Progressive State

A friend and pastor colleague, knowing that I’ve read a lot of the work of N.T. Wright, asked what he thought about the marriage and sexuality debates. Although Wright hasn’t written or said much about the topic specifically , it is no secret that he holds a traditional view of marriage and Christian sexual morality. Once when asked about the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples, he warned that anytime major terms like that are redefined by government or pressure groups  we need to really “watch out.” He compared it to how communists and Nazis in the first half of the 20th century redefined major terms and imposed those new definitions through coercive force. He said because marriage has for many thousands of years, up until very recent times, only been seriously considered to be between people of the opposite sex, for the government to redefine it to include people of the same sex is like the government insisting that black is white (see interview clip here) (Also hear his more recent discussion of the sexuality and gender identity debates here).

When powerful cultural forces redefine terms like marriage and also gender as radically as they have today, you can be assured they will also seek to impose those definitions on society, including the church, through force if necessary. When the power of persuasion fails, force will be applied if and when it is possible. At first there are calls for tolerance of the new views, but when those wielding the radical redefinitions and neologisms gain, or think they have gained, the upper hand, there will be little to no tolerance for traditional views. This is exactly what we have seen the past few years.

For many years now secular forces have sought to use the force of the legal system to punish people who express traditional views or who refuse to join in the celebration of the new “expanded” definition of marriage and gender. Kevin Cochran, the former Atlanta fire chief, was fired for traditional Christian views that he had expressed in a self-published book. After a long court battle he did win a wrongful termination due to religious discrimination settlement in court. The state of Georgia fired physician, Dr. Eric Walsh, because of the content of sermons that he preached in his Seventh Day Adventist church. Walsh also eventually received a settlement in an unlawful termination suit. Others like Jack Phillips and Baronelle Stutzman have been sued and charged with discrimination for refusing to lend their artistic services to celebrate same-sex weddings. Phillips was sued for refusing to make a wedding cake; Stutzman declined to do floral arrangements. For both it was a matter of conscience. They did not want to contribute to the celebration ceremony of something they believe to be immoral. Both have won at least partial victories in the Supreme Court, but continue to face ongoing harassment. Phillips is now being sued for refusing to make a cake celebrating someone’s gender transition.

As David French put it, what each of the above cases (and there are many more) has in common is that government officials sought to use ” their power to send a clear message: Traditional Christianity is incompatible with the progressive state.”  The setbacks that secular progressives have had in court, however, have not really deterred them. The House of Representatives recently passed the ironically named “Equality Act” that would in effect make traditional Christians second class citizens in America who would have to live under constant threat of punishment for publicly expressing traditional Christian beliefs regarding marriage and gender identity. The political left is determined to be able to use the force of law to punish the expression of traditional views. The Equality Act would make it open season again on Christians like Cochran and the others mentioned above.

If you don’t think the promotion of gender confusion through drag queen story time for elementary school students is a good idea, the left thinks you need to be punished and reeducated. If you don’t think it’s a good idea to allow biological males to shower in the same locker room with biological females and vice versa, the left thinks you need to be punished and reeducated. The left has decided that gender is merely a social construct upon which biological sex has no bearing. If you don’t think it’s fair to allow biological males who identify as females to participate in women’s sports, they want to punish and reeducate you. Some on the left argue that it is harmful, insidious even, to “assign” gender to an infant at birth.

The left also wants to use the coercive power of government to force people to use other’s preferred gender pronouns that include he, she, they (applied to individuals), ze, and zer among many others (they say there can be dozens and dozens of different gender expressions, which may also be “fluid,” i.e. change from time to time) . They want the power to punish people who express any disapproval of same sex marriage and any consensual expression of LGBTQIA+ identity. The plus stands for the endless possibilities on the spectrum of gender identity and sexual orientation, and even denotes “everything on the gender and sexuality spectrum that letters and words can’t yet describe” according to a New York Times article.  By falsely comparing LGBTQIA+ identity with race they have gained a strong foothold in government and have now clearly have the cultural headwinds at their back. And any claim on the right for religious freedom in the First Amendment will be quickly dismissed as a cloak for bigotry and discrimination. For those who hold out hope that a compromise can be reached, don’t hold your breath, progressives are not at all interested.

The debates in the church are not separate from the secular battles. The mayor of Atlanta that fired Kevin Cochran was a United Methodist. Progressives in the church are really just fighting another front on a battlefield of the same war. And it is a war, political and ultimately spiritual. Progressive Christians have made it very clear that they see traditional Christian views as harmful, and not just to people’s feelings. They say they believe conservative views are literally deadly. At times the same people have argued that views on sexual morality and marriage are really indifferent matters on which we can all just agree to disagree, live and let live. But their relentless mantra that conservative views are doing “great harm” to the LGBTQIA+ community belies their claim that those views should be treated as an indifferent matter. Progressives seem to appeal to tolerance only to weaken conservatives’ defense of their own views until they can gain more control. Conservatives do tend to fall for it to appear “reasonable” as it is so framed by those on the radical left. We must be cleareyed! If progressives see conservative views as being as harmful as they have claimed, they will seek to suppress the expression of those views through force if necessary.

At the 2019 United Methodist General Conference in St Louis a progressive pastor declared that the traditional plan was like Ebola and that it would make the UMC very sick. He was a major proponent of the liberal “One Church” Plan that would have redefined marriage and allowed for the ordination of practicing homosexuals upon the approval of the clergy session of Annual Conferences. When Rev. Berlin compared the traditional plan, which reaffirms and reinforces our longstanding position on sexual ethics, marriage, and ordination standards as it relates to the those issues, to Ebola, I realized that the One Church Plan was intended to be a quarantine plan for conservative views. In light of all the rhetoric about traditional views doing so much harm to LGBTQIA+ people what else could it be?

You don’t quarantine people that have a harmful disease in order to allow the disease to continue to flourish. The One Church Plan, if adopted, would have given progressives the power and the time necessary to eliminate the conservative views that they see as being so harmful. I know many of them argued that differing cultural contexts require adaptable doctrine, but I don’t think they really believe that conservative Christian views are less harmful in Africa than they are in America. Again they employed the “contextual” argument in order to gain more control of the denomination in order to continue to work to eliminate the “disease” that they believe is doing such great harm to the LGBTQIA+ community. I’m not really offended by the rhetoric, I appreciate how revealing it really is. With the passage of the Traditional Plan it has become obvious that progressives see traditionalists as enemies of the institutional church. And they gladly work with secular progressives to see that traditional Christians are declared enemies of the secular state.

BarronelleStutzman2
Washington State Florist, Baronelle Stutzman was declared to be an enemy of the progressive state. ADF Media

Another pastor friend of mine recently wondered whether progressives in the church realize the implications of what they are saying when they claim to be keeping the baptismal vow “to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves” by applying that to their fight for the full acceptance and affirmation of LGBTQIA+ identity and expression. She wondered if they realize they are firmly placing traditionalists on the side of evil. I think they do. They have long compared conservatives to those who defended slavery and to racists, haven’t they?

We need to be sober about this. Progressives see traditionalists as enemies to be converted to their viewpoint or to be defeated. Even though on the one hand they try to persuade us to believe we are just arguing about minor differences, on the other hand they declare they are resisting evil, injustice, and oppression that is causing great harm. These two things don’t go together. Progressives in the church are fighting for what they see as a more just society, and they are working with secular progressives to achieve that end. It is no secret that leftwing politics is of utmost importance to progressives in the church. And it is certainly no coincidence that undermining the traditional Christian sexual ethic and traditional marriage has been part of the left’s agenda since Marx and Engels. They well knew the connection between the family, the economy, and the state. Marxists and Neo-Marxists have always tried to blur gender lines and undermine the influence of the Church and the stability of the nuclear family in society, even if their views on gender and sexuality have mutated since the days of Marx and Lenin.

Make no mistake about it though, progressives—secular and religious—want to be able to use the force of government to suppress traditional Christian views by punishing traditional Christian people that refuse to comply. Any claim to religious freedom protections will be blithely dismissed as an excuse for hate and bigoted discrimination. Those who are working toward this end see traditional Christians as being on the side of evil, injustice, and oppression. Scripture warns us about those who call evil good and good evil (Isaiah 5:20). The book of Revelation in particular warns about those who seek to oppress faithful Christians through the power of the state for refusing to compromise with an idolatrous and sexually licentious society. It also severely warns Christians about the danger of compromising in either of those categories, whether out of pleasure or pressure.

Traditional Christians are enemies to progressives. Progressives are enemies to traditional Christians. On this we must be clear. But we also need to be clear that Jesus calls his followers to love their enemies. It is also clear that by love Jesus did not mean unconditional affirmation or even tolerance. He chastised a church for tolerating false teaching that led the church of Thyatira into sexual immorality and idolatry (Rev 2:18-29). By love Jesus certainly meant speaking the truth about the kingdom of God and the repentance that is required to enter into it. By love he also meant being willing to speak the truth in the face of threats even if it means losing one’s life. The love of Christ was expressed in his willingness to speak the truth about both the danger of sin and temptation and the forgiveness and transforming grace of the Father. He calls us to the same.

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. ~ John 15:18-20 ESV