I don’t belong to the Methodist denomination or tradition,
but I am a Christian. And like many of
my fellow believers, I watched the recent drama at the United Methodist Church
special session of General Conference with an overriding sense of surrealism. The debate was ostensibly about whether the
UMC would continue regarding homosexual romantic or sexual relationships as,
“incompatible with Christian teaching.” But
clearly that is only the manifesting issue on the periphery of a far more
fundamental question: what would serve as the foundation point for UMC doctrine
going forward – the testimony of Christian scripture or the spirit of the age?
That this is even a question to anyone who pretends to take Biblical
authority seriously is, as I said, surreal.
And here’s something even more depressing: had the session been populated
only by delegates from the United States, it’s likely that Scripture would have
lost out. But since the vote included
800 delegates from diverse regions, cultures, and countries around the world,
the General Conference voted to stick with Scripture.
For now. I don’t
think I’m overstepping my bounds to say that once a denomination begins even
debating whether or not Scripture is sufficient for their doctrine, the (to use
a Biblical reference) writing is on the wall. This issue will surface again, and the voices
demanding the church compromise with the culture are vowing to make it soon.
These voices include the usual suspects: mainline Protestant
blogger Rachel Held Evans was distraught, Brian McLaren sorrowful, and John
Pavlovitz wrote the same scathing blog post he’s been writing for the last five
years (though in all their iterations he still hasn’t been able to include any
Scripture to anchor his finger-waving opinions).
But the most striking reaction came from progressive
Christian activist Jim Wallis who bizarrely complained at his Sojourners blog that the
United Methodist Church had chosen to be a “mirror of the culture.”
Say what? The truth
is that Wallis and his fellow progressives have been lobbying for years that
the church mirror the culture on left-wing social issues like sexual
orientation and gender identity. The culture
has embraced and promoted homosexual romantic and sexual relationships, and
Wallis wants the church to do the same. What
has Wallis worked into a lather is that the UMC chose that their doctrine would
mirror the counsel of Scripture instead.
So what gives? What
could he possibly mean by this suggestion?
Well here’s the explanation:
“The vote showed again how divided the church is, as the vote was nearly split down the middle. That split shows, painfully, that the church is no better place to heal division than anywhere else in our culture.”
That’s really something.
A true Christian understands that there is no true healing apart from
the reconciling work of Christ in the life of an individual. And that reconciling work can only occur when
the true repentance of a sinner meets the matchless grace of a relentlessly
loving God. Then and only then is
division united, a soul mended, and healing realized.
What Wallis peddles is not Christian healing. His is a theology of man that teaches worldly
social policy as an adequate agent of reconciliation. He is wrong, and his efforts to urge the
church away from preaching the righteousness of God in deference to a feel-good
affirmation of man’s carnal desires is not only sinful, it devastatingly places
a spiritual stumbling block in front of so many precious but confused souls.
As but one example of these troubled souls, consider the one
belonging to pastoral candidate J.J. Warren, a gay young man who attended the
General Conference. Rather than being properly
discipled about Christ’s call to crucify the flesh and all its desires, rather
than being taught the surrender of passions and urges to the Lordship of
Christ, and finding liberation in obedience, Warren has been convinced by his
“allies” and “friends” that he should see the church as something to be fixed
through social activism. He wrote after the Conference:
“WE WILL NOT BE SILENCED. JUSTICE WILL RAIN (sic) IN THE UMC. Thank you all for your witness and for paving the way for queer young people like me to enter the General Conference. No matter what happens I plan to drag this cross (in heels if it comes to it) as far as we must #Forward”
How sad that a man like J.J. studying to become a minister
tragically fails to even understand what Christianity is. It’s not some proving grounds for your activist
acumen. Warren desperately needs a
trusted Christian brother or sister to express to him that the cross he
callously jokes about carrying in drag, isn’t about him being a victim, and it isn’t about him needing
to overcome social challenges.
That cross is about his need to surrender – surrender his temptations, his desires, his pride, his agenda,
his thoughts, his worldview, his sexuality, his dreams, his plans, his
attitude, his purpose, his will, his life to the will of Another. A Savior whose wisdom and love are embodied
in the truth of His Scripture. Shame on
those who would preach a different gospel.