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Commentary


The United Methodist Church Losses At General Conference


From: Floyd Marshall fmarshall@hot.rr.com 
Sent: Tuesday, May 11, 2004 1:10 PM
To: jwarrene@ucmpage.org
Subject: Regarding General Conference


Dear Rev. Warrener:

The following is a letter I just sent to my Bishop, Ben Chamness, and to several other pastors of my acquaintance. Please feel free to use this on your excellent web site if you think it worthy. Thank you for all you do.

In Christ,
Floyd Marshall
First UMC, Waco, TX
 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

A few unsolicited words (or more than a few) from a layman and lifelong Methodist who has watched the just-concluded General Conference with great interest:

In each of the last several General Conferences, the UMC has dealt with the same issue - homosexuality. Each time, resolutions and proposals for changing the Book of Discipline to be more permissive to that sexual sin have been introduced, and each time the Conference has voted to uphold the historic standards of the Word of God and the church. This General Conference was no exception. The standards were even strengthened a little, and that is all to the good. But after observing the situation as closely as I am able from a layman non-delegate's perspective, I have reluctantly come to a sad conclusion. Despite outward appearances, the pro-homosexuality forces are winning. They will win in the end. And make no mistake, that will be the end of the United Methodist Church. Churches will pull out, apportionments will be withheld, financial crisis will ensue, the trust clause will be fought in dozens of courts, brother going to law against brother, and millions of members will simply leave.

How can I say they are winning, when they lose every vote? First, consider how the votes went. The Conference this time voted by a margin of about two hundred votes to uphold the traditional standards. Was it a coincidence that there were about two hundred foreign delegates, mostly from Africa, who were overwhelmingly on the side of traditional standards? Take them out of the equation, and you find that American delegates are nearly evenly divided. Support for the Discipline and Biblical standards is eroding in this country. Not many more Conferences, and the balance, I believe, will be tipped.

Second, and most importantly, the pro-homosexuality side is determined, relentless, and single-minded. They get to be continually on the attack, while we are continually on the defensive. A quote I read in the United Methodist News Service is instructive. Rev. Troy Plummer, executive director of Reconciling Ministries Network, said, "We will remain in the United Methodist Church today, tomorrow, and however long it takes to have a fully inclusive church." Just so. They will not leave, and they will not quit. Their weapons are endless dialogue, "Holy Conferencing," continual conflict and disruption, outright disobedience, lately jury nullification, and many others. They have laid siege to us, as Titus did to Jerusalem. They will finally wear us down. The weak and the wavering will change their votes for the promise of peace and unity, but they will have neither.

Passing more laws and rules is not the answer. Just look at the secular world. We pass new laws all the time. Does crime go away? Obviously not. When renegade pastors flout the Discipline by performing homosexual union ceremonies, will more new rules stop them? Not so long as their conference refuses to enforce the rules. When rebellious and heretical bishops refuse to enforce the Discipline or teach doctrine in opposition to our doctrinal standards, will more new rules stop them? Not so long as the Council of Bishops spinelessly refuses to discipline one of its own. On what grounds should one be optimistic that any of this will change? I see none. These conflicts will not go away just because some feel-good unity resolution is passed. They are not effectively dealt with by people holding hands and singing, "Blest Be The Tie That Binds."

At this General Conference, Rev. Bill Hinson and Rev. James Heidinger did something unprecedented. They dared to point out the elephant in the room. They spoke what was until now unspeakable. They said that our differences are irreconcilable, and they proposed an "amicable separation" of the two sides; in other words, a schism. There was, of course, no hope of getting that done at this Conference, but that was not their intent. The groundwork is being laid for the next General Conference, or the one after that.

I agree with them. If anything resembling the historic UMC is to survive, we must go our separate ways. Our differences truly are irreconcilable, and all the dialogue in the world will not change that. One side believes that God approves of virtually any sexual behavior between consenting adults, while the other side believes that God still intends for sexual relations to take place only within a heterosexual marriage. That difference is irreconcilable.

But the differences go much deeper than that. One side believes that God is the same, yesterday, today, and forever, that the Bible is still His Word, and that the Holy Spirit illuminates and interprets His Word for our lives. The other side believes that the Holy Spirit speaks new truths through the collective will of any given body, and that the "truth" of today may supplant or even contradict the "truth" of yesterday. That difference is irreconcilable. One side believes in eternal absolutes. The other side believes in relativism. Irreconcilable.

It is time to split the UMC into two denominations, so that we may spend our time and energy on making disciples, rather than this continual conflict. We must do this before the pro-homosexual side destroys everything by winning this conflict. Let us suspend the trust clause and let everyone keep their property. Let us wish each other well and walk away.

Then we shall see which denomination God will bless with success. As in the days of Elijah and the prophets of Baal, we shall see whose god is the true God. I do not fear that test.

Yours in Christ,
Floyd Marshall
First United Methodist Church, Waco, Texas

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