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By Dr. Riley B. Case

While annual conferences of the Western Jurisdiction take action to defy the Discipline of The United Methodist Church by declaring themselves in support of homosexual marriage as a "civil right", the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), one of the most influential of the historic Civil Rights groups, is speaking out against the ideas that homosexual marriage is to be compared with the Civil Rights movements of the recent past, and that homosexual marriage should be seen as a civil right.

In a radio ad airing in the San Francisco area, CORE makes the following arguments:

In the 1960s, CORE organized the Freedom Rides, co-sponsored the historic March on Washington with Martin Luther King, Jr., and participated in the Freedom Summer project in Mississippi, where three CORE civil rights workers were murdered.

But today in California, an elite, well-funded group of activists have hijacked the proud, historic legacy of America's civil rights movement to advance their own radical social cause - "same-sex" marriage.

Same-sex marriage is NOT a civil right.

As the community that endured both slavery and segregation, African-Americans will always reject the lie that radical activists have a "civil right" to redefine marriage. That is because my community - perhaps more than any other - understands in very real terms the consequences of family breakdown. When marriage declines, children and society both suffer.

Gays and lesbians are free to live as they choose, but they don't have a civil right to redefine marriage for our entire society."

The Cal-Nevada Conference stands opposed to that position. Despite the actions of the General Conference, the teaching of The United Methodist Church since 1976, and the commonly accepted position of Christian bodies throughout the world, the Cal-Nevada conference basically rejected the view that Christians are called to celibacy in singleness and faithfulness in marriage, by passing a resolution supporting the "right to marry" of same-sex couples. The conference also passed a resolution in support of the eighty-two retired pastors who declared they would perform such "marriages." Bishop Shamana later ruled the resolution out of order (she actually should never even have allowed the resolution to be debated), but the action has been widely reported.

Meanwhile the Cal-Pac Conference passed a resolution of support for pastors who would perform same-sex marriages and declared its support-despite the clear position of the church--for the California Supreme Court's decision that gay "marriages" are a civil right.

The Rocky Mountain Conference also involved itself in a statement on homosexuality declaring it would not be bound by the actions of the General Conference in the area of homosexuality but by a "we agree to disagree" recommendation of a legislative group that was rejected by the General Conference.

Questions at this point have to do with whether disciplinary actions will be taken against those who seek to defy church teaching, and whether the bishops or any other group intend to address what many persons consider to be a crisis (the secular press is already reporting incidents of United Methodist pastor s who are "marrying" gay couples). Questions are also being addressed to The Confessing Movement and other renewal groups as to what response is being made (for the moment it is the hope that the normal church procedures will work).

The bishops, for their part, are saying very little. One bishop who did speak publicly, Bishop Melvin Talbert, took the floor of the General Conference during the demonstration after the votes on the issues of homosexuality, and berated the General Conference for its "wrong" actions. Talbert evidently spoke with the blessings of the bishops (despite the fact he was not given permission by the General Conference to speak), and compared the church's stand of the practice of homosexuality with the segregation of the Central Jurisdiction. It is this very linking of homosexual practice and racial segregation that the Congress of Racial Equity declared to be offensive and illogical.

Meanwhile, United Methodism in California continues it decline. In 1960, Methodism (including the former EUB Church) constituted 2.6% of the California population. In 2004, that percentage had declined to 0.5% of the population. While the California population was exploding, The United Methodist Church lost 180,000 members. The United Methodist Church in California lost 80% of its strength in just 44 years. For evangelicals the decline is directly related to the jurisdictional "corporate culture" which is basically hostile to evangelical faith. After the 2000 General Conference twenty-six evangelical pastors were purged or chose to leave the church in one conference alone (Cal-Nevada).

So goes the church.

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