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Taking a Hard and Firm Stand for God’s Truth by David Unkles

On May 2, our United Methodist Church will begin its General Conference in Cleveland, OH. This is the top legislative body of our church. Every four years they meet to discuss the numerous issues facing our denomination. Representatives come from all over the world. It is truly a global gathering and has the potential for being a grand example of giving glory to God. This year, our South Georgia Conference will be sending around a dozen representatives. The General Conference is supposed to be the only body which can "officially" speak for our denomination concerning doctrinal and social issues, but more and more, others are choosing to raise dissenting voices

Over the past few months, I’ve tried to bring to your attention some of the issues facing our church. The recent debate and scandals over the sin of homosexuality are just a reflection of deeper issues and problems which confront our Christian faith today. A lot of people seem to be confused on this issue, but I want to state here I am in complete agreement with the wording and intent of our church on this subject as it is presently stated in our Book of Discipline.

I am writing this article because for many years now, our United Methodist Church has been moving closer and closer to a split, with this particular issue being a lightning rod for conflict. It has become clear that those who promote acceptance of homosexuality as a legitimate Christian lifestyle, (under the guise of "dialogue", "tolerance" and "conferencing"), have strayed away from God and will not back down. The time for repentance is before all of us.

These sound like harsh words, and they are, but I say this to share a story, or vision, which has been on my heart recently concerning my United Methodist Church, which I love.

I’ve never done any serious mountain climbing myself, but I’ve seen and read enough to learn a few things. In general, it is safer to climb a mountain with a group rather than go at it alone. If there is an accident, there are others there to help. There are more "heads" available to determine the right trail to take, and other advantages. Whenever there is a particularly difficult section, or the group is traveling along a knife-edge ridge, where both sides drop off sharply, it’s a common safety procedure to attach the entire group to a lifeline.

At first, this sounds simple enough, but it is how this lifeline works on a sharp ridge which keeps repeating itself in my head. If someone slips and starts sliding down one side of the ridge, its possible the "inertia" of the entire group will stop his fall, if they are paying attention and are prepared. The real danger comes when one person starts falling, the line pulls taught and the next person in line is pulled off the ridge, and so forth until the whole group goes down like dominos. In this case, the safety procedure which is taught, is for the person who sees this happening, to throw themselves off the ridge in the opposite direction. That way, their weight, along with others, will compensate for those who fell first. It is a dangerous and risky procedure, and an option of last resort, but at that point, inaction will most definitely be worse.

I suspect you are probably beginning to see why this image keeps flashing in my head in regards to the present situation in our Church. There are a minority of United Methodists (individuals and churches) who have fallen and are slipping fast down the ridge crest of God’s righteousness; in this case, the left side. Whether they, or we, realize it or not, we are all attached to the same lifeline. And a minority, if unchecked, can bring down the whole group. Those of us who are aware of this disaster in the making are faced with a difficult choice. We do have the option of cutting ourselves loose, but that could very well mean the continued and complete destruction of those who are falling; those whom God values greatly. Or, we could throw ourselves off the other side. This, in essence, would mean taking a hard and firm stand for God’s truth against those who refuse to stop falling, at the risk of appearing "compassion-less." The fine "ridge" we are called to walk as Christians to love the sinner and hate the sin is not wide and easy, but it is the only way to reach the top! Throwing myself off a ridge line is something I desperately want to avoid, but it may be what we have do to prevent the complete dissolution of our Church in the end. Either that, or we cut ourselves loose and watch more of our brothers and sisters fall to their destruction. If (or more likely when) I slip and fall, I know I would want someone to remain attached to my lifeline. I imagine you could extrapolate further lessons from this picture.

I hope and pray that our General Conference will address these issues and questions decisively and faithfully. As long as we remain indecisive, at the very least, little climbing of God’s mountain will be done.

Rev. David W. Unkles

Daisy-Union United Methodist Churches

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