I recently tweeted that American United Methodism no longer has integrity.  This observation came from reading a number of public statements by various United Methodist leaders and groups after General Conference 2019.  (If you are trying to keep track of who is saying what, for my money the best and most up-to-date source is “UM Fallout: A Compendium,” at Chris Ritter’s blog, People Need Jesus.)  A person asked me to flesh out my comment about lost integrity.

First, a definition: Look at a dictionary and you’ll see that “integrity” has two or maybe three meanings.  One says something about moral uprightness and honesty, treating the word in relation to individual character.  The other refers to organization or structure. “Integrity” in this sense refers to the quality or state of being sound or whole or undivided.  It is this latter sense that I intended.

A building has integrity or does not.  If the foundation is solid, if the frame is adequately squared and plumbed and the joints are solid, if the roof doesn’t leak, then one would judge that the house has integrity.  A ship deemed seaworthy has integrity.  A healthy body has integrity.  In these cases, having integrity means functioning properly according to intended purpose.

By this definition, The United Methodist Church does not have integrity.  Numerous bishops, annual conferences, agency executives, pastors, and lay people have publicly stated that they will effectively ignore the recent decisions of General Conference.  By these reactions they indicate that the body that speaks for United Methodism no longer speaks for United Methodism.  We are therefore split, not whole.  The framework is not sound.  No integrity.

Here’s a paradox: in order to keep their integrity as ministers, the signers of declarations, resolutions and open letters believe they must defy the church’s decision. And for just this reason, they demonstrate the fact that The United Methodist Church no longer has integrity.

Other even more grievous ramifications have surfaced.  Opponents no longer trust each other (save, perhaps, members of the Commission on a Way Forward who have said repeatedly how opponents became friends even though they remained opponents; I wonder what they’re thinking now).  All talk of goodwill and respectful disagreement has vanished.  Things have gotten personal.  Friendships have been deeply damaged.  And I’m not only talking about relationships among voting delegates.  Plenty of us have opinions and identify with one of the opposing groups.  It is by no means necessary for one to have been a voting delegate to feel the sting of damning judgments.

If you don’t agree with my assessment, try putting the shoe on the other foot.  Let’s say that you supported the One Church Plan and that it passed by a slimmer majority than the Traditional Plan, by a 51% majority.  Would you conclude that the church had spoken?  Take the exact same reactions we’re witnessing now from centrist and progressive United Methodists and put them on the lips and emails and tweets of traditionalists.  How would you feel about the accusation that some small bloc of politically powerful delegates managed to steal the vote by nefarious means?  How would you be feeling right now if you were reading some of the same things being said about your side?  How does the organization recover?

The moral outrage embedded in the language of public statements announcing refusal to comply is often laced with thinly-veiled contempt for people who think about marriage in traditional ways.  By the criteria used by centrists and progressives to characterize statements by traditionalists as hateful, their own statements qualify.  Which makes me wonder: how is it that people who voice such feelings for traditional-minded folk expect traditionalists to be willing to stay in the same church?  Again, reverse the roles.  How would it feel to be on the receiving end of such disdain?

Imagine General Conference 2020.  Unless by some stroke of divine providence that makes the way forward crystal clear, the vote is likely to be close enough that the “losing” side will be able to claim foul, dismiss the whole proceeding as illegitimate, and move to act independently of the decision.  We now have the force of precedent.

Whatever you think of the outcome of GC 2019, public reactions following it show that, from an organizational point of view, The United Methodist Church has lost integrity.  Denouncing the GC  decision and refusing to follow it are tantamount to pulling the house down on top of us.  Again, short of direct divine action, coupled with confession, repentance, and forgiveness, it may be time to recognize that the property has been condemned and move on.

A Church’s Lost Integrity

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83 thoughts on “A Church’s Lost Integrity

  • March 23, 2019 at 1:18 am
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    I imagine that you will encounter some considerable blowback for this bracing (and devastating) description of where we are as a denominational institution. This piece is a powerful impetus to forsake denial and embrace – and make peace with – reality. Thank you for speaking/writing the truth.

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  • March 23, 2019 at 3:25 am
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    Thanks Steve, This is why I left in 1992. My thought then was that the UMC had lost its spiritual integrity and became double-minded and unstable. Unfortunately, a house divided will fall, fall from grace, and the lampstand removed, because they have left their first love which is Jesus Christ.

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    • March 25, 2019 at 1:14 pm
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      Amen — the Bible vs. Social Engineering

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    • March 29, 2019 at 2:40 pm
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      It seems to me the widely understood definition of “integrity” is to have ones thoughts, words, and actions be consistent with an individual’s moral code. The United Methodist Church is made up of millions of individuals, many of whom are exercising the “integrity” of their conscience in defying what they believe to be an unjust law (even if it is church law) just as many United Methodists did in protest of Jim Crow laws. So contrary to the supposition of your article, I believe it would demonstrate a “lack of integrity” for United Methodists with strongly held convictions not to push back against (or defy) laws they perceive as unjust.

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      • March 30, 2019 at 4:56 pm
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        Doesn’t integrity have to do with the mission of the church? It seems to me we have failed to take into consideration of the Theological Task, The General Rules and The Mission of the Church, the work of the Holy Spirit and instead focused on the structure of the church to deal with an issue that cannot be dealt with in legislating that which is applicable for all United Methodists throughout the world when the task of the church is reaching out to people where they are and enabling them to “take up their cross daily and follow Christ”. I often wonder if we are willing to allow God, whom we see in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus to be the judge of that which is the best expression of our faithfulness to Jesus’ invitation to follow him. I often think of that time in Acts when Gamaliel spoke in response to the religious authorities imprisoning the apostles, “Let’s see if this is of God or not.” Didn’t we do this in relation to divorce in the church? How many church leaders and pastors have been divorced and yet Jesus was quite specific about persons who are divorced? How did we come to accept this as okay in the church and acknowledge that although we could exclude persons because of their past of current marital status on the same basis as we are excluding those who have anything to do with same sex relationships or relationships related to the rituals of the church? To me the measure of our integrity is based on fulfillment of the two commandments of Jesus which have to do with our love of God and our love of neighbors—::”in these two commandments is contained all the law and the prophets.”. Doesn’t integrity have to do with living out the concerns of Jesus’ prayer in John 17? This whole issue that is fracturing the church to me is a matter of whether we are willing to trust one another in responding to where we see God’s grace at work helping us to reach out, relate to and share with one another and those beyond the church in ways that invite all to allow the redeeming love of Christ to transform us so that we can be a transforming agent to the world.

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    • March 29, 2019 at 5:52 pm
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      Dwight, do you mind if I ask where you have landed (church) since 1992?

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  • March 23, 2019 at 10:17 am
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    Steve, you have spoken well, with integrity and thoughtfulness. As a life-long UM and an Elder, re-retiring this July, l mostly am saddened, at age 73, by the lack of the LOVE & integrity shown within the UMC. Change is difficult for all, and not changing can be blinding and a stumbling block for all. The UMC is BROKEN as Christ’s body was/Is broken for all. The pain of that reality is the driving issue for me, & the 13 congregations I served in 35 years. I have a covenant relationship with the UMC and a continuing Love relationship with God. That remains intact, may God’s Grace & forgiveness sustain us & heal broken hearts/lives in the UMC. My hope and faith in the people who call themselves United Methodist is diminished but not vanquished though the message heard at the 2019 GC will not be the last to be heard from God. I pray that we can all listen to God’s discerning Spirit.

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    • March 29, 2019 at 12:50 pm
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      It’s interesting that you “pray” for God’s discerning spirit to speak and be heard, but you cannot accept that it has, numerous times, because you disagree with what it’s saying. The obvious voice of hypocrisy right there.

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      • March 29, 2019 at 5:09 pm
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        Am I to assume, Ellen, that you have never read I Kings 22? Maybe you should. Four hundred court prophets unanimously told King Ahab to go with King Jehoshaphat to retake Ramoth-Gilead from the Kingdom of Aram. “The Lord will give it into your hand,” they said. But a single, brave prophet named Micaiah ben Imlah delivered a true word from God, telling Ahab not to go. Unfortunately for Ahab, he listened to the majority. And he died in the battle. And the dogs licked up his blood.

        So, according to the very same Bible you claim to uphold more faithfully than some of the rest of us, the majority doesn’t always represent God’s Truth. In fact, in the Bible it rarely does.

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      • March 29, 2019 at 5:14 pm
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        Ellen,
        I have read Don’s comments about the sadness, and brokenness, and the discerning spirit from Godand although he respectfully commented to Dr Rankins article, no where did he specifically address anything that was not true in his statement. And, what he said could be taken as either side of a coin- he did not name anyone side. However, your response and claiming his to be his hypocrisy seems very harsh. Is there not brokenness in the church? Is a way that Not changing CAN be a stumbling block ( he did not say change is always is right) and he prayed for ALL to have a discerning spirit. Shouldn’t we pray for ALL to do just that?

        I have a relative who has no faith bc he says the church is hypocritical. I answer yes, but humans being are working on it- one of the reasons I need the church. We are all hypocritical in one way or another, however I think you read Don’s statement as condemnation. I don’ t see that at all. It is an opinion based statement, with too many examples to support his theory- a lack of love, respect and understanding for people’s opinions in general.

        This is why the church is splitting- we have lost the ability to listen to one another, hear one another, and God- no matter what view a person holds.

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  • March 23, 2019 at 1:37 pm
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    We are divided we just don’t have guts enough to separate. It’s time we start talking about how to separate and not hurt anymore ministry’s than possible. If we could decide how to effectively do that by 2020 we might be able the move forward with a degree of integrity on both sides.

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    • March 27, 2019 at 5:23 pm
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      Thank you Roger. You are correct, a rational separation creating two church bodies that can minister as they feel lead by God is now the way forward. In order to minister to a diverse world, God has encouraged different denominations. This is just God making his house bigger. Let’s get on with that.

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  • March 23, 2019 at 10:40 pm
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    As I have heard, “we made a mess and now we have to clean it up. ” God is waiting. Don’t run, pick up a mop.

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  • March 23, 2019 at 11:30 pm
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    the author’s hypothetical question makes a seriously flawed comparison. The Traditional Plan penalizes and dismisses UM colleagues for practicing ministry according to a widely respected progressive understanding of the gospel of Christ. The One Church Plan allowed those of a progressive perspective the freedom to minister according to their faithfulness…. it did not coerce a particular practice of ministry from or inflict penalties on those of a more conservative perspective. After decades of struggle for what is fervently held as a Christlike posture on this issue, the decision of many committed UM pastors and laity to remain faithful to their more progressive understanding of ministry should come as no surprise.

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    • March 24, 2019 at 3:33 pm
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      My hypothetical does not speak to the issue you raise. You are talking about the merits of various plans. I was talking about the problem of dismissing a majority vote of General Conference as somehow not representative of the church. My focus is on an organizational problem, not which plan was the best.

      I completely agree with you that many progressive UMs believe that their sense of justice commits them to disobey the church’s decision. And, as you say, it shouldn’t surprise and it doesn’t. But again, that’s not what my post addressed, except to acknowledge this very point.

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      • March 27, 2019 at 7:30 pm
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        Let us remember that the vote of the General Conference incorporated the votes of our friends and family in Africa. Our friends and family in Africa are newer to the Bible and therefore, tend to take it more literally than we do in the USA. Perhaps if the vote incorporated only those of us in more developed nations the vote would have been to adopt the One Church Plan. This is not to say that our friends in Africa are wrong or should be diminished in any way, but their interpretation of the Bible is different from the interpretation held by the majority of us in the USA and more developed nations.

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        • March 27, 2019 at 8:11 pm
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          I live in the USA, and my interpretation of the Holy Word is the same as Africa !!!

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          • March 29, 2019 at 6:10 pm
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            But it’s wonderful that you can make up your mind about the interpretation of the holy scriptures In a country where you are free to do so of your own volition. African countries have not let that be the case yet. I don’t believe Jesus cares whom you love as long as you are faithful to God and to your significant other/spouse. If I lived in Africa, I might be an outcast for even thinking that- bc I would be aiding with the wrong side of the “law.” At General Conference there was a delegate from Russia who said they did not want to vote for the Traditional plan , but essentially had to bc Methodists were only 10% of the people in her area. I believe she said the large majority was Muslim and if they didnt vote this way they would be outcast from society. Again, free to vote where you feel God is leading you, or vote by coercion.

            All I know is that when we all get to see Jesus face to face, I believe he will day “Did you follow me the way you I told you too, and loved God and your neighbor everyday?” Each one of us should be able to answer honestly YES- because we believe to each be correctly interpreting his love. We all believe it to be God’s will, and even though we are on various sides of the fence- I pray Jesus will day, “well done, good and faithful servant.”

            Dr. Rankin, thank you again for allowing conversation on this. I’m am going to try to sign off and remove myself from getting comments. Everytime someone calls another hypocritical, not following the will Of God, or accuses someone of following their own desires instead of God- I think we lose more respect and integrity by the second. If we can’t agree to disagree in love, then we shouldn’t say anything at all. Disagreeing in love takes the “ugliness” out of persons’s words.

            Love and blessings to all my brothers and sisters in Christ.

          • March 31, 2019 at 5:13 pm
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            Amen

        • March 27, 2019 at 10:57 pm
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          The church in all times and all places has rejected homosexuality as normative. Where do you get this “newer to the Bible” nonsense? The churches in the Middle East could say that about your views – you are “newer to the Bible” than they and grossly mistaken.
          Actually, your inferred interpretation is new to the Church historically. Wow. What theological training are you getting at your UM Church?

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        • March 28, 2019 at 9:05 am
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          How condescending can you be to our African brothers and sisters…

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        • March 28, 2019 at 5:23 pm
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          You make it sound as if our brothers and sisters in Africa are naive and inferior in intellect……how condescending! God’s word hasn’t changed….people’s values have. We in the USA have a lot to learn from our African brothers and sisters. I’m thankful for their steadfastness

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          • March 29, 2019 at 6:31 pm
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            Phil, I’m not exactly sure values have changed. When I look at some of the most influential people in the Bible, they seem pretty human to me with flaws. I think of Abraham twice passing his wife off as his sister. I think of David taking another man’s wife for his own pleasure and then trying to have Uriah killed. I also think of the story of Rahab and how she was taken in even though she was a foreigner and perhaps a prostitute. However have we really changed? Perhaps. But I think it’s a stretch to say we have values that have changed a lot since biblical times. Context, yes. Culture, yes. We’re the same kind a human beings that people were back then. Sinners who have the need of the gift of God‘s grace and forgiveness. When I read the Bible, I see myself And a lot of other people that I know in the Scriptures. Times and context have changed.

            One of my professors in an early theology class said heresy defines orthodoxy. Our forefathers thousands of years ago struggled with concepts that today we claim. Concepts like the incarnation, the Trinity, all of those who were once considered heretical. But over time in years became orthodoxy within the church.

            We are so lost among ourselves. No one is breaking the doctrine of the church By interpreting a few scriptures differently. But there are people being harmed because even though they are told that they are loved by the church, they cannot be fully included as leaders or fully united in love and have the opportunity to marry the love of their life in the church.

            Heresy defines orthodoxy- Who is to say this still isn’t happening today?

            And please brothers and sisters, no one needs to remind me about iGod‘s will. Again, I pray every day for God‘s will as well as you do. God‘s will came to us in the form of Jesus, and God‘s will will be done. We know the ending. The kingdom of heaven will be here on earth. What did Rob Bell say? “love wins.”

        • March 29, 2019 at 4:53 pm
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          The majority of “developed” nations?? Take the Holy Word literally . . . this developed person certainly does.

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        • March 29, 2019 at 7:26 pm
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          I stand with Africa! We all have the same Bible. I feel like Moses has just returned from the Mountain, with the Ten Commandments, and has just found Aaron making the golden calf. Do we never learn from history? I think our more developed nation has become a more sinful nation! I will not worship the golden calf nor drink the cool aid the progressives in our country want to serve!

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          • March 30, 2019 at 2:04 pm
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            Matthew 22:36-40 New International Version (NIV)

            36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

            37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

            That is pretty clear. Loving is something done by choice. It is a decision you make. If you choose to follow Jesus, then you should follow his commandments. Jesus said the only way to heaven was through Him. In all of the Gospels, Jesus does not single out a group to hate. He commands us to love our enemies.

      • March 27, 2019 at 9:43 pm
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        Maybe the problem isn’t “dismissing a majority vote of General Conference as somehow not representative of the church.” Maybe the problem is thinking that voting and simple majority rule (especially such a slim majority) are adequate means of determining church policy on such a weighty matter. If even just 60% approval (not even what one would call a super majority, let alone anything approaching consensus) had been our standard for passing theological/doctrinal legislation all these years, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion.

        Isn’t it interesting to consider, though, if the conferences/jurisdictions in the USA were allowed to determine their own stance on this question (as the Central Conferences are), the One Church Plan would have passed with a true super majority. Or, better yet, the called GC wouldn’t even have been necessary because all anti-LGBTQ language in the Book of Discipline would have been previously removed.

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        • March 28, 2019 at 9:17 am
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          Following your logic, the United Methodist Church should shift its polity to something more like the Anglican Communion. I’m open to such a thought, but, of course, I’m not a delegate and have no vote, only an opinion.

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          • March 28, 2019 at 9:36 pm
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            Yes, I would favor a polity much more like the Anglican Communion (but without a prelate): autonomous, legally independent, regional/national Methodist denominations connected through a revivified World Methodist Council for shared ministry where possible. But many of the advantages of such a system could be achieved vital simply by making the UMC in America a Central Conference (needs a better, more accurately descriptive name), thereby granting it the same right to tailor its policies to its mission context as the Central Conferences have.

            But even under such a system, deciding vital theological/doctrinal policies by simple majority rule is inappropriate for the Body of Christ, led by the Holy Spirit.

    • March 24, 2019 at 4:36 pm
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      “The moral outrage embedded in the language of public statements announcing refusal to comply is often laced with thinly-veiled contempt for people who think about marriage in traditional ways. By the criteria used by centrists and progressives to characterize statements by traditionalists as hateful, their own statements qualify. Which makes me wonder: how is it that people who voice such feelings for traditional-minded folk expect traditionalists to be willing to stay in the same church? Again, reverse the roles. How would it feel to be on the receiving end of such disdain?”

      As a life long traditionalist laity. I have been monitoring the development of this situation since GC2012. At times I would respectfully put my perspective out there only to feel the sting of progressive intolerance. When the Western Jurisdiction Bishop characterized Africans as needing to “grow up” when it came to the question of sexuality, she was slamming all traditionalists everywhere. I am stunned to discover that such a strident and incendiary voice was viewed as a viable expression of what it means to be a United Methodist. And now, when I see that a progressive/centrist group are publicly apologizing for the “wrong, misguided” decision made at GC2019, I once again feel the sting of progressive intolerance because you are calling me wrong and misguided just because I think and believe differently than you. You can tout that the One Church Plan would have allowed traditionalists room to “do their thing”, but I have never for one second believed it because I am NOT some uneducated nobody that does not know how to reason things out for myself. But neither do I consider myself enlightened or of getting Christianity 100% “right”.

      One thing I have learned is that, as flawed as traditionalists are, I would rather be part of an organization run by them than an organization run by progressives; I don’t want to spend my life being angry and demeaning towards those who simply disagree with me. I do not believe that is how God intends us to behave towards each other.

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      • March 29, 2019 at 1:00 pm
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        AMEN! And AMEN!!!!
        No one with a brain believes that the OCP would have allowed traditionalists to continue their views for long.

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    • March 24, 2019 at 6:26 pm
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      “The moral outrage embedded in the language of public statements announcing refusal to comply is often laced with thinly-veiled contempt for people who think about marriage in traditional ways. By the criteria used by centrists and progressives to characterize statements by traditionalists as hateful, their own statements qualify. Which makes me wonder: how is it that people who voice such feelings for traditional-minded folk expect traditionalists to be willing to stay in the same church? Again, reverse the roles. How would it feel to be on the receiving end of such disdain?”

      I am a lifelong UMC traditionalist laity. Beginning with GC2012, I started cruised the internet, monitoring the development of the current situation. At times I would put my viewpoint out there only to feel the sting of progressive intolerance. I was stunned when a Western Jurisdiction Bishop said that when it came to the question of sexuality, Africa needed to “grow up”; which meant I needed to “grow up”. I was stunned that fellow United Methodists felt they had to “apologize” for GC2019 which means there are fellow United Methodists who feel like they have to apologize for who I am.

      I am disappointed that such a strident and incendiary voice is viewed as an acceptable expression of what it means to be a United Methodist. I am not an enemy to be demeaned, and run over just because I believe and think differently than you. I certainly do not feel that way about progressives. Progressives accuse traditionalists of dealing with the issue and not acknowledging there are people behind the issue; I can say the exact same thing about progressives with their thinly veiled contempt for traditionalists. Not for on minute have I ever believed that the One Church Plan would leave traditionalists in peace to “so our thing”; it was simply a way to get the church to change its sexuality ethic. If the One Church plan had passed I would have shook the dust of the UMC off my feet. For all their faults, I would much prefer to be part of a traditionalist run organization than one run by so called progressives because I don’t want to spend my life having to be angry at and demeaning towards those who simply disagree with me. I do not think that is how God wants me to live.

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    • March 28, 2019 at 1:18 pm
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      I agree Phil. Well-stated and TRUTH.

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    • March 28, 2019 at 4:31 pm
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      Has the opportunity to leave been removed? Oh no. “I want you to change to accommodate me.” Kind of self-serving wouldn’t you say. Membership continues to decline with the increased emphasis on secular divisive issues. Some of our nice old churches will make excellent restaurants. Maybe the change agents you can get a jobs as a waiters.

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    • March 29, 2019 at 12:53 pm
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      Many progressives stated that the OCP was simply a stepping stone to “full inclusion”. How does that equate to not “coerce a particular practice of ministry”??

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  • March 24, 2019 at 2:33 pm
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    The laity will not depend on a bishop telling them what to do. They will leave in droves. Will the assets be divided or will they be claimed by force?

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    • March 24, 2019 at 10:00 pm
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      Members have already been leaving in droves for years due to liberal progressives…

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      • March 27, 2019 at 5:26 pm
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        Then why is the South East and South Central losing members? For that matter why are Southern Baptists losing members?

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      • March 27, 2019 at 7:08 pm
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        Stephen, the reason that the UMC is experiencing an exodus of members, especially the younger members and the more educated members is that we will not tolerate our friends and family members being considered ‘sinners’ for who they are and how they were born. We want our LBGT friends and family members to have full inclusion just as we, who are heterosexual, have full inclusion.

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        • March 28, 2019 at 8:10 am
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          Thanks Stephen for stating this. As a progressive, I am tired of being told that I am what is wrong with the church. I believe God loves all of us equally and that he would embrace those in a committed loving homosexual relationship. Yes, there are verses in the Bible when taken literally and out of cultural context, would dispute this. But I understand that the culture of that time was very different and, like other Bible verses taken in context, I use experience, reason and love to choose a loving and inclusive interpretation. If you want to quote Bible verses at me, fine – but then take all of the Bible literally and remove the log from your eye.

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          • March 28, 2019 at 6:42 pm
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            Thank you ‘Cindy for your beautiful response. It echoes my sentiments. I believe the gospel and Jesus would be more concerned about monogamy in a relationship than gender. The reason that I becaMe a Methodist was because we interpret scripture in light of our reason, experience, and traditions. It wasn’t because the Bible says it and that makes it so. We have doctrine and articles of religion that Will not change. However, there are many many many scriptures in the Bible that contradict each other and that were written for a time and place. If we take the Bible apart piece by piece we will always be disagree, and Unfortunately continue to argue about “who’s right or wrong.” If we look at the Bible as a whole and remember that everything that we need necessary for salvation is in it, then we are able to agree or disagree on parts- Cherry picking is never good.

            Dr. Rankin, I understand your article and what you are saying about integrity and disrespecting the polity and structures of the united Methodist church. However when you look at history, change has never come easily. I am waiting to decide how to move forward as a pastor – because I feel the united Methodist church polity has lost integrity when it comes to truly valuing people, all people, as having sacred worth.

            Thank you for engaging people in conversation. Very much appreciative.

  • March 24, 2019 at 11:45 pm
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    Thanks for having integrity (and courage) to point out the structural failure of our denomination. Many of us were agog and disbelieving as we watched the ludicrous, operatic antics of an obstructionist elite on the last day of GC2019. (Like watching the fires of hell from afar.) And now the gyrations and glosses of insolent bishops in refusing the rightful authority of General Conference to govern The United Methodist Church!

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  • March 27, 2019 at 5:37 pm
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    We are now, and have been for a long time, the Divided Methodist Church. One portion wish to follow God’s desires. The other portion wish to follow their own desires. Unless we return to God’s leadership, we are doomed to fail.

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    • March 28, 2019 at 1:14 pm
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      Are you screening comments, Mr. Rankin? I posted a comment yesterday, and I see your answer to it in my email. But I don’t see either one here.

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  • March 27, 2019 at 5:55 pm
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    There is a fundamental asymmetry between the One Church Plan and the Traditional Plan. The former did not seek to coerce churches who disagree with progressives to change (in spite of comments above), whereas the latter explicitly (and in my view quite vindictively) seeks to coerce churches who disagree with traditionalists to root out any gay clergy that serve them and toe the line. No other issue (divorce, women in church, pacifism) over which people of faith have honest disagreements is treated this way. Progressives are outraged because this is not an abstract theological debate. We personally know many people of faith who followed their call to ministry but who are fearful for their future in a church whose official policy is now to root out all theological dissension. There is no reason for the church to split unless some members find it intolerable to worship God with people of different viewpoints.

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    • March 27, 2019 at 6:47 pm
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      Your comment nicely illustrates our basic problem. We don’t even begin to agree on how to define the issue. I can tell you what it is not. It is not that traditionalists don’t know any gay/lesbian, etc. people. They are our family members, friends, and co-workers. I desperately wish I could disavow those progressives who sincerely believe that we don’t know any such persons of this notion. We know them. We love them. We work with them. We live with them. And as crazy as it may seem, we have carefully worked through to our conclusions, anyway. I cannot prevent you from thinking that we’re just bigoted ignoramuses, but it is an easy and very misleading stereotype. Likewise with your statement about worshipping with gay/lesbian, etc. people. That is not the issue for traditionalists. And please don’t use some crazy, cranky conservative who says ridiculously extreme things as the exemplar of a traditionalist viewpoint. Thoughtful traditionalists (and there are plenty) decry the ugly things said. Whether you identify as a progressive or centrist or whatever, there are people who use the same label who say crazy things. You would not want to be associated with such statements. Give us the same benefit of the doubt. And if you think that traditionalist delegates at General Conference were guilty of such statements, then we have to go back to my first point.

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      • March 27, 2019 at 8:26 pm
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        The problem with “agree to disagree” is that one “side,” the traditionalist side, harms people. How can centrist/progressives agree to allow the church to be a place that causes such pain and suffering for our LGBTQAI+ siblings? Even if we individuals leave/form a new denomination the pain and damage continue as LBGTQAI+ children come of age in a denomination that calls them ‘incompatible with Christian teaching’ and makes them question whether God loves them as God created them. This isn’t an abstract theological discussion, or one of polity, this is literally life or death for people in this and other countries.

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        • March 27, 2019 at 9:07 pm
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          “The traditional side harms people.” Is this a view you are willing to have questioned, or are you absolutely firm in that conclusion? There is no point in having a conversation in which one side has concluded that the other side’s viewpoint is based in nothing more than ignorance and fear. I have been involved in these kinds of conversations off and on since the mid 1980s, since I was in seminary. The viewpoint is always the same – that I think the way I do because I don’t understand the issues, because I don’t know any gay people, and because I’m irrationally afraid.

          Traditionalists divide identity from behavior. I would guess you reject this viewpoint. But it matters to the other claim you make, that traditionalists are saying that gay, etc. people are incompatible. We don’t believe any such thing. If you reject the first point (our separating personhood from behavior), then please don’t put words in our mouth on the second point (gay/lesbian, etc., people are incompatible…). We believe no such thing.

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        • March 28, 2019 at 11:05 am
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          Since the Traditioalists hold a view that is consistent with the historic Methodist Church for hundreds of years why not leave them be and respect their integrity. Then join the Episcopal Church where there is common history and your integrity would not suffer and neither would those who on the other hand support the historic view. This is predicated on the idea that the word “integrity” actually means something and without it, “the salt has lost its savor and worthy only to be trodden under the feet of men”.

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        • March 28, 2019 at 5:40 pm
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          Doing harm? Is it harmful to be willing to to tell someone the truth? If a person holds a traditional view of scripture regarding sexual relations then they believe God forbids same sex relationships. Thus, the belief of a traditionalist is anyone in a same sex relationship is disobeying God and unless they confess and repent will face God’s judgement. Which is more loving….. to tell them them of the consequences or turn a blind eye? Which does more harm?

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          • March 28, 2019 at 9:25 pm
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            Is it harmful to be willing to tell someone the truth . . . the TRUTH AS YOU SEE IT, that is.

            If a person holds a traditional VIEW of . . . that is, an OPINION about

            they BELIEVE God forbids same sex relationships . . . but, as we should all know, OUR BELIEFS don’t determine what God thinks or does

            the BELIEF of a traditionalist is . . . yada, yada, yada, NOT NECESSARILY ANY CLOSER TO THE TRUTH than a progressive

            Which is more loving? Maybe just keeping your mouth shut and your opinions to yourself.

            Which does more harm? Well, assuming what YOU BELIEVE always coincides with God’s will or God’s Truth (or whatever you want to call it) ALWAYS DOES HARM.

    • March 27, 2019 at 7:22 pm
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      Thank you, Mr. Osborn, I am a progressive who wants full inclusion for our LBGT friends and family, but I am willing to agree to disagree with those who hold a more traditional point of view. I do not want to “throw our more traditional sisters and brothers out of the UMC”, so why do those who hold a more Traditional point of vies wish to throw me out because I support a person’s right to be who they were born to be. If someone who is LBGT is kind, compassionate, nonjudgmental, does not seek constant attention to him or herself, demand to always be the center of attention, loves their neighbor as themselves, and wants only the best for everyone they should be welcome in the UMC and be fully included. Full Inclusion means being ordained after they have graduated from seminary, and able to marry the person whom they love, even if that person is of the same gender, Since someone who is LBGT is ordained they should be able to perform weddings, both same gender weddings and weddings where the couple is of different genders.

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  • March 27, 2019 at 5:59 pm
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    I completely agree with your statements. This has been coming for some time and the minority will continue to refuse to comply with church doctrine.

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  • March 27, 2019 at 6:00 pm
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    Did the church lose integrity when the Good News movement arose to oppose actions of General Conference in relation to church school curriculum, United Methodist Women, global ministries, etc.? And did the majority become offended by such actions?

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      • March 27, 2019 at 8:27 pm
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        Why not answer these questions? Please don’t leave them rhetorical. By doing so you are not helping others who are not traditionalists understanding where you are coming from in relation to the interpretation of the Gospels? With all respect, I cannot get someone who believes in “traditional” marriage explain to me how traditionalists interpret all of the other scriptures that have been countered over the years. Why is this issue any different that all of the others mentioned above? If I could get someone to explain how all of the other things- divorce, women in leadership, slavery, biblical marriage – which kind? There are so many!

        Please Dr. Rankin, I would love to hear your thoughts instead of dismissing these theological questions. I say this very respectfully. I believe their should be room in the UMC for all Interpretations, yet No one from a traditionalist view has explained the dismissal (or approval) of all those other issues that have been debunked as sinful. Thank you for any insights you can give.

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        • March 27, 2019 at 8:52 pm
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          Becky, I’m not trying to dodge your questions. The issue is simply far more complex than one can answer in a single blog post and comments. It has to do with more than how certain scriptures have been interpreted. There are numerous theological and ethical questions involved. You are right. Actually many people have explained the traditional viewpoint. I’ll give you one example: Richard Hays’ chapter on homosexuality in The Moral Vision of the New Testament. If you can get your hands on a book edited by Jeffrey Siker, you can see a very civil disagreement between Richard Hays and Victor Paul Furnish on how they differ over scriptural interpretation. The book is called Homosexuality in the Church: Both Sides of the Debate. You also might want to look at viewpoints offered by gay people themselves who take a traditional view. Look for the works of Wesley Hill. He explains why, as a gay man, he believes in the traditional viewpoint.

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          • March 27, 2019 at 9:18 pm
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            Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I will certainly get copies of those books. I think progressively, but am always willing to listen to other views. I appreciate the resources.

  • March 27, 2019 at 6:23 pm
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    The Church > the church. Jesus’ actions endorsed that

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  • March 27, 2019 at 7:04 pm
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    Not only do I agree that the UMC has lost integrity, the UMC has lost my life-long (83 yrs) membership. That my former church publicly proclaims discrimination against my terrific (gay) son has just been too much, as I maintain my own integrity. I held out, with naive hope, that The Simple Plan would be accepted. The mantra, Open Doors, Open Minds, Open Hearts is null and void, a sham!

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    • March 30, 2019 at 1:41 pm
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      Agree, but not with leaving the church, at least not just yet. When my gay son came out to me many years ago, I was shocked. Immediately, I turned to God to resolve the problem. He was the only one who could tell me how I should feel about my son. Years of leading New and Old Testament classes left me badly conflicted. After a few days, God answered. I was to love my son.

      Now I think I would love my son despite a negative answer, but with the sorrow David felt for Absalom. Fortunately, God gave me ;joy rather than sorrow! My son and his husband are important members of our family. So are the relatives on the husband’s side.So much good has come of this love for my son and my extended family!

      The commandments that Jesus gave as his “yoke” have proven to be a real blessing in our lives.

      As what the Church should do, we are to do what Jesus commands. He our savior, no one else. We need to follow him.

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  • March 27, 2019 at 7:23 pm
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    The loss of integrity is exemplified by a person taking a job, promising to follow a clear standard of conduct, secretly deciding not to, then whining when the first pledge came due. We don’t promote bankers who take up thieving, do we?

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    • March 27, 2019 at 10:04 pm
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      Mary, I took a promise and plan on keeping that as long as I ama pastor within the church. However, I took That promise with the hope that change was in the Horizon. Hopefully change still is. However as a pastor called by God (like all pastors) I now have to make a theological, moral, and ethical decision on whether or not to remain a UMC pastor. My biblical understanding on the love of Jesus trumps my belief on a few scriptures thiiiat have no meaning on my salvation through Jesus Christ.

      Again, I took the promise with the Believe change was on the horizon. As we both have opposing views on scriptural interpretation, I realize it is time for me to stand up and speak out on what I have kept hidden- my views on same gender weddings- for me, there is no difference – traditional marriage is monogamy to the one you spend the rest of your life with. That’s traditional.

      I’m praying for the decisions I have to make regarding remaking the pastor God called me to be. However God is also calling me to advocate for those who others who have no voice. God called me in to formalized ministry- and this may not be the way I can live out that calling. In deep prayer about it- with God. Leading the way!

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  • March 27, 2019 at 7:51 pm
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    The UMC lost its integrity when it began choosing to preserve a structural shell rather than standing against theological, spiritual, emotional, and physical violence against LGBTQ+ members – and non-members harmed by our actions. This is just the latest episode of that longitudinal failing of the gospel. The UMC’s bigotry reveals how much of an irrelevant farce we are. To act in compliance with the worst of what’s left would be a far more egregious act of non-integrity than choosing instead to follow Jesus in the ways of love and inclusion.

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  • March 27, 2019 at 7:53 pm
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    Thanks for a balanced look at a critical issue.

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  • March 27, 2019 at 8:54 pm
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    Perhaps there are even now discussions going on in the face of the rancorous, broken 2019 specially-called GC to craft a resolution for the 2020 GC that would allow the UMC traditionalists and progressives to part ways amicably and equitably.

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  • March 28, 2019 at 12:46 am
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    As an observer at the General Conference in Saint Louis, I recalled the debate on this subject at the 1972 General Conference of which I was a member. On a positive note, compared to to the GC2016, I was impressed with the worshipful music and more careful leadership by both the Lay Chair and the Episcopal Chairs.
    There was grieving, frustration and anger expressed at GC2019. The American political landscape’s polarization easily colors church debates and suspicions.
    Yet, there was a thrill to hear differernt voices from Africa, Russia and other lands we would have never imagined would take the floor at a General Conference back in 1972.The emerging Global United Methodist Church is a gift of God. New churches with new vitality enrich us all. , By the grace of God, after a period of grief and anger, the Spirit will lead us in unexpected directions I hesitate to predict. One point that intrigues is a common value of covenant faithfulness. Our culture-wide confused and conflicted sense of sexual ethics revealed in the recent challenges of the “MeToo” movement and “The Sexual Depression” etc offer an opening Can we lay aside our honestly held disagreements, to join with a unified voice around the immense importance of covenant faithfulness in all sexual relationships?

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  • March 28, 2019 at 7:20 am
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    Can two walk together unless they agree? The question is not, will the Church split? That is a fact. Can we agree to continue areas of common concern while becoming two Churches joined by a loose Wesleyan confederation?

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  • March 28, 2019 at 8:42 am
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    I want to cry so hard, I don’t know what to do. I am a lifelong Methodist, brought up in a Methodist home, having Methodism instilled in me since birth. I’ve looked at other denominations and always felt called back to the United Methodist Church. I cried when I stood in Wesley’s home in England. I love everything John Wesley and the movement he started stands for. That being said, I am a liberal. I wanted the One Church Plan to pass. However, I do not berate my traditionalist brothers and sisters. I can empathize with their beliefs and understanding of the Bible. What behooves me is the belittling of those who think differently from ourselves. Where is the empathy? Where is the true discussion, not trying to persuade one to the “other side”? I will accept and abide with the decisions of General Conference. I will follow what it says in our Discipline. I do not side with those who go against it because of personal beliefs. Because above all, I am a United Methodist! I want to continue being able to decide what the Bible means to me – using scripture, tradition, reason, and experience. It’s the Wesley way. And, let’s face it, we won’t fully understand God’s intention and the true meaning of scripture until the day we see him face to face!

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    • March 28, 2019 at 9:14 am
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      Thank you for this heartfelt recognition of our brokenness. I can relate to the temptation to leave, but feeling called to stay. I’m a Methodist preacher’s kid and have been a UM all my life.

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  • March 28, 2019 at 9:44 am
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    Bro. Steve, Thank you for speaking truth in love. Until both sides of this conversation are willing to speak truth in love, and just as importantly, willing to hear truth in love being spoken to them; we will not be able to move forward with integrity. As we are all aware, there are hopeful, yet difficult conversations about potential future structures, taking place among lay and clergy leaders who are willing to speak truth in love. I wish every UM’s could read what you have written above, to help us move into our work of the Annual Conferences, with the integrity to speak and listen with truth and love. We have different beliefs. It doesn’t make those on either side of the conversation bad people. But it is past time for us to hear and accept this truth and to seek a win/win solution that stops the conflict and frees us all for joyful revival and renewal. I pray your voice remains strong and clear for all to hear. Blessings

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  • March 28, 2019 at 11:05 am
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    Frankly, I’m getting lost here. For me the question is “Why?” Why are we doing this to each other? The only answer I can come up with is we’ve somehow decided to commit Organizational Suicide. What a shame.

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    • March 29, 2019 at 3:37 pm
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      I agree with you, Jack. If I was more of a conspiratorial bent, I would classify it as a homicide, instead of a suicide, though. It was as though someone decided to do whatever they possibly could to destroy the church. And the church made it easy for them to accomplish the crime. The victims in this are not only the people in the middle who really don’t have a horse in the race on this issue, (which I believe to be a majority of the church membership), and those that the church SHOULD be ministering to, instead of infighting and destroying the means of future ministry. The UMC is not the only church to fall for this. Many others have broken up over this issue. Who wins? No one, except for those who like to see the church in disarray and being torn apart.

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  • March 28, 2019 at 5:36 pm
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    I have yet to hear anyone discuss the ramifications of not following the Book of Discipline “to the letter” as is specified in the Traditional Plan. Does this mean that if any church does not follow every and all of the paragraphs in the Discipline, that they will be brought up on charges as the Traditional Plan states? I’m not talking about Gay Marriage here, I’m talking about things like requiring each church to have a UMM and UMW group active, paying apportionments, following proper meeting protocol, having open and accessible financial records, etc.

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  • March 29, 2019 at 11:42 am
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    In a time when trust is a rare commodity, it is hard to see how we can hold the church together. We have bishops from Africa who live in countries that have made homosexuality illegal. How are they to vote with a free conscience when a “wrong” vote in the eyes of their home country could result in their imprisonment or death? That constitutes a severe conflict of interest, one over which they have no control.

    In the US and UK, trust is hard to find among the ad hominem attacks on people who hold responsible positions in government and the media. We are lost in a dark forest of mistrust. To make matters worse, some people foment anger and distrust with lies. Like the little boy who cried “wolf” once too often, we have put our selves in peril when help is really need it.

    There is harmony in life, but first we must put ourselves in tune with the source of that humanity: Jesus Christ. If we can put Him first, everything else, including the wisdom to find a way out of this mess will follow. The key thing is “to keep our eyes upon Jesus.”

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    • March 29, 2019 at 5:45 pm
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      Very true words of wisdom. Keep the focus on Jesus. I do feel fortunate to be in a country Where no one is telling me how I have to make up my mind or how to interpret scripture, and that we are free to do so In the way that we believe Jesus Christ is leading us. Keep the focus on Jesus. I believe it’s very, very sad that homosexuality is illegal in a country. I had not thought of not being able to vote with a free conscience, for or against one way or another. Wow!

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  • March 29, 2019 at 1:12 pm
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    The very lengthy and passionate responses on both sides clearly prove the author’s point. Instead of trying to get along, both extremes of the divide prefer to “take their ball and go home.” The majority of the church, which resides in the middle of the spectrum on this issue has no choice but to “pick a side,” as the church is deliberately ripped apart. What gets me is that the two “sides” do not seem to care that the church will be weakened, either way. As long as each side can get what they want…who cares if EVERYONE loses? Meanwhile, Jesus weeps. Well done, everybody!

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  • March 29, 2019 at 1:33 pm
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    For some reason, when I review this situation in my mind, I keep thinking about Moses. After he received the 10 Commandments from God, he returned with the stones, only to find the people had persuaded Aaron to make the golden calf. They wanted to live their life according to their own, desires, not God’s. I pray God’s will will prevail!

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  • March 29, 2019 at 4:37 pm
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    This is not an issue of “doing to one another.” It is an issue of an attack. Take a look at the howling self-congratulations upon the unlawful election of Ms. Oliveto: “We’ve stuck it to the UMC!”
    When you are attacked, it is only rational to defend yourself; if the bully then whines, well, too bad.

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  • April 3, 2019 at 7:04 am
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    Reviewing comments. A lot of people seem to give up pretty easily. Why not stay and fight for what is right? Fight for your faith! Some within the UMC are backing progressivism, which is social reform. I prefer to follow God’s word. Not society; and especially today’s modern liberalism.

    So, where do we draw the line? Accepting homosexuality as a norm and advancing that through Christian marriage and adoption of babies and children? Transgenderisim? Changing one’s biological sex and now we have reached an official third gender identity, Gender neutral. How about pedophilia? There is a very large organization and push to allow adults to legally have sex with preadolescent and prepubescent children.

    I really don’t care what people do in their private lives. It only becomes a concern when they shove their alternate life/styles and behavior down everyone else’s throats. When they “demand” acceptance. When they demand access to our impressionable children to further push their agendas. Surely, no Christian, one who follows God’s word, thinks any of this is acceptable.

    I have no issue with anyone belonging to the UMC and attending church and fellowship. But, we must protect our families and church. We must maintain Christian morals (personal) and principles (rules). Also known as integrity and ethics. We are facing a serious decline in both because of a liberal push for acceptance of anything and everything. The Traditional Plan was voted upon, but rejected by the progressives. There never should have been the need for a vote. We should not close our doors to anyone, but we should not accept official acts and leadership within the UMC that are contrary to God’s words.

    A perfect example of forced acceptance is the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, “private” organizations that were eventually forced to accept girls, as well as homosexuals and transgenders as both members and leaders. Will pedophiles be welcomed next? The Girl Scouts are changing as well. This had nothing to do with true social reform. It wasn’t progressivism. It was a legal and financial surrender. It happened because civil liberties organizations (liberals) sued and were forcing these “private” organizations into bankruptcy. They caved in.

    I suggest those who follow God’s word and the Bible, as a whole, stay and fight for the UMC. Let the progressives leave and form their own own church that does not officially identify in any shape or form with Methodisism. Don’t surrender to evil. Pray and fight back. God Bless the UMC worldwide.

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  • April 4, 2019 at 10:49 am
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    Even Jesus saw the problem, as in Matt. 25 He speaks of the sheep and the goats. The goats think they are sheep, until an issue reveals them. It is not new. How can our love fix this?

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