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First Love: Schism in Methodism Occurred Long Ago

First Love

by Sheila Enstine

Some groups within Methodism claim that the issues surrounding same-sex covenant ceremonies are responsible for impending schism. Actually, the split occurred ages ago.

The debate concerning homosexuality merely reflects a decades-old apostasy by numerous Methodist theologians. Apologists for same-sex unions maintain that biblical condemnations no longer apply because they arose within the context of ancient pagan practices. Since pagan worship no longer exists, the condemnations no longer apply. But UM churches are awash with paganism

What is often referred to as New Age spirituality is really a repackaged variety of ancient monism, the philosophy that "All is one and one is all." In United Methodist churches, promotion of ancient monism with its attendant earth liturgies is common fare. An example of earth worship is in the following excerpt from a "Call to Worship" offered at a local UM church:

"The rocky crest, the meadow, the beasts and all the people, all belong to the same family. Teach your children that the earth is our mother…We are part of the earth, and the earth is part of us."

Biblical Christianity teaches that we are to worship the Creator, not the creation. But most United Methodists do not understand the difference between biblical Christianity and "all is one; one is all" monist philosophy. Monism says humanity is an expression of divine oneness, and each self is a source of truth. Hence, the current bent toward experience-based interpretation of Scripture and a moral-relativist attitude in the church. That’s why no one flinches when a United Methodist seminarian states, "A new God is being born in our hearts," and sees "...spiritual awakening as a new rapprochement between Christianity and paganism."

Further evidence of paganism is found in the ongoing "Re-imagining God" conferences, where Sophia and a plethora of other goddesses are worshiped in sexually explicit liturgies. Members of the Women’s Division who attended the first re-imagining conference in 1993 denied they sponsored the conference or knew of its contents in advance. But Methodist theologians continue promoting these conferences. Sophia theology is pervasive. A while back, I attended a "Bible study" at a United Methodist church where a participant lectured us on the ascendancy of "Sophia and the Age of Aquarius" in church and society.

Self-described lesbians and practitioners of Wicca, an ancient earth religion, are consistently present at these conferences. At the 1993 conference, Janie Spahr, co-founder of Christian Lesbians Out Together (CLOUT) said, "Sexuality and spirituality have to come together and Church, we’re going to teach you!" One commentator noted, "When beds become altars, altars quickly become beds." Such was the case in ancient paganism, and is the case now with the insistence that the Church "affirm" sexual identities.

Romans 1:18-32 depicts sexual perversion as the consequence, not the cause, of God’s wrath. First, God’s truth, revealed in creation and in conscience, is exchanged for a lie [monism]. Then, God gives persons up to depraved thinking [moral relativism]. Finally, depraved behavior, including homosexuality, results from depraved thinking. This is the truth that UM theologians and laity either deny or misunderstand.

Author Doug Groothius defines New Age religion as "A smorgasbord of spiritual substitutes for Christianity, all heralding our unlimited potential to transform ourselves and the planet so that a ‘New Age’ of peace, light and love will break forth." A reviewer commented, "That’s pretty intoxicating fare for a self-centered culture which hungers for spirituality without the price tag."

What is the price tag? Jesus Christ wants our identities. He asks that we die to self, that He may be Lord of our lives.

"If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it." (Matthew 16:24-25)

"… and He died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf … Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come." (II Corinthians 5:15 & 17)

Those who accept Jesus Christ’s redemptive work on the cross have their identity hidden in Christ -- not their sexuality. So the question is not whether we will perform same-sex covenant ceremonies. Rather, will the United Methodist Church return to her first love? As Elijah demanded at Mount Carmel, "How long will you go limping with two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Ba’al, then follow him."

(I Kings 18:21b) So what will it be dear Methodists?

Sheila Enstine
Danby Federated Church
Ithaca, New York

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