by Robert L. Kuyper
Annual Conferences in the United Methodist Church have met this past Spring, electing delegates to the every four-year General Conference. Evidence is that this will be a conservative conference, although delegates can be influenced and can vote their minds. Annual Conferences have passed resolutions on homosexuality also, and from news reports, most were conservative.
This General Conference and its delegates will be subjected to a massive effort to change our stands on homosexuality. An equally monumental campaign will be mounted in opposition. All this will probably generate more heat than light. In the end, we are likely to be just where we started, no changes.
Why is this? We need to understand that people's opinions are very fixed on this subject and have changed little over the years since the modern gay rights movement began in 1969. Homosexuality is a symptom of a deeper divide over morality and authority in our society. For Christians, the ultimate issue is the authority of Scripture and the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Without these, there can be no transformation, either personal or societal.
Our society is in the midst of a "culture war." No one declared war. As far as I know the term goes back to a sociological study by James Davison Hunter, Culture Wars: the Struggle to Define America, making sense of the battles over the family, art, education, law and politics, published in 1991 by HarperCollins. I recommend it highly for those who are wanting to understand our current situation in church and society. He makes the very valid point that ultimate values cannot be compromised, but must be decided one way or another by church and society. Hopefully this war can be decided by arguments and votes, not violence and actual warfare.
There is a Trojan Horse hiding amongst the confusion. Many of the pro-gay resolutions passed by the various conferences are really compromise resolutions which have been placed before past conferences. Essentially this was the strategy of the left at the last two conferences, defeated in 1992 and in 1996. The following has been defeated twice:
You will recognize this as a sociological description of our church today, a statement which originated with the Committee to Study Homosexuality which reported to the 1992 conference. It is not a statement of ethical principles which belongs in the Social Principles. Yet, it is very attractive like the Trojan Horse - and deceptive. Since 60% voted against it in past years, obviously the hope is that past majorities can be slowly whittled away until they are no longer a majority.
This compromise solution offers a number of false promises. One will be to say to conservative delegates, "Your views are represented here as well as ours." But they are stated in a pluralistic way which indicates that there is no ultimate authority in morality. In this form, the statement cannot be accepted by conservatives who hold to the authority of Scripture. It will be said that it favors dialogue. I am not opposed to dialogue. I submitted a proposal for a conference dialogue committee in my annual conference which passed, and I am participating in an on-line dialogue in our conference. There is value in talking to understand each other better. Yet when the time comes, we must choose whom we will serve and cannot compromise basic values.
Secondly, delegates will be told that they can vote for this and go home and announce that our stands have not changed. This little bit of subterfuge will not work because the press will correctly interpret this as a change in stands. Given the vivid interest of the press in this one issue, delegates will be sure to return home to face great consternation. A victory for the compromise resolution will be used by the left in the next four years to continue the battle.
Finally, delegates will be tempted to vote for this to end the battle of which everyone is getting weary. Realize that the battle will not end. The church is only one battle in a general war which affects everyone. Even leaving the United Methodist Church will not let you out of the battle. And if this passes in 2000, you may expect the same forces to return in 2004 to remove the "incompatible" language and to make other changes.
Simply put, changing our stands in this direction destroys transforming ministry. Just about every testimony of change I have read begins with obedience. The Twelve Steps start with a surrender to a "higher power." It takes authority to make a change in one's life. Without authority, there will be no transformation.
Those whose lives have been changed by the grace of God hang in the balance. They will be counting on us in the transforming movement to support them at General Conference 2000.
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