Why Must the United Methodist Church Split Over the LGBT Issue?

Traditionalist Methodist Questions and Answers

Question: Why Must the United Methodist Church Split Over the LGBT Issue?

Answer: Great question. Many Methodist have asked why those who support the LGBT community and want to preserve an inclusive nature within the United Methodist Church are at odds with those who oppose same-sex marriage and the ordination of gay clergy. Before answering, I thought it might be helpful to look at the UMC Book of Discipline.

Article IV of the UMC Book of Discipline states: “We believe the Holy Bible, Old and New Testaments, reveals the Word of God so far as it is necessary for our salvation. It is to be received through the Holy Spirit as the true rule and guide for faith and practice. Whatever is not revealed in or established by the Holy Scriptures is not to be made an article of faith nor is it to be taught as essential to salvation.”

Regarding Scripture, the UMC Book of Discipline states: United Methodists share with other Christians the conviction that Scripture is the primary source and criterion for Christian doctrine. The Bible is sacred canon for Christian people. We interpret individual texts in light of their place in the Bible as a whole.

Article VI—of the UMC Book of Discipline states: “The Old Testament is not contrary to the New; for both in the Old and New Testament everlasting life is offered to mankind by Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and man, being both God and Man. Although the law given from God by Moses as touching ceremonies and rites does not bind Christians, nor ought the civil precepts thereof of necessity be received in any commonwealth; yet notwithstanding, no Christian whatsoever is free from the obedience of the commandments which are called moral.”

The split within the United Methodist Church, while focused on moral issues regarding sexuality, is actually rooted in two diverse views of Scripture. The Traditionalists hold that the Bible is God’s living and final authoritative word on matters covered in Scripture. Progressives hold to the statement in the UMC Discipline that says, “We interpret individual texts in light of their place in the Bible as a whole.” Since the Law and Prophets were written at a time when women had few rights, slavery was condoned, polygamy among God’s people was acceptable (though marriage between one man and one woman was God’s stated preference), Progressives contend that sexual orientation was never correctly addressed in Scripture. If love is love and love among two members of the same sex is something God created, Progressives asks, how can it be wrong?

Traditionalist counter that if sins listed in the Bible are no longer considered sins and if acts in the Bible that God called “grievous, bad, detestable” are now “right and loving,” then all aspects of the Bible are called into question: including that Jesus is the son of God and is, in fact, God himself.

In the last chapter of the Bible, Revelation 22, Jesus says, “Outside are the dogs (not literal dogs, but the morally impure), those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” These are the ones Jesus says will not have the right to the tree of life and may not go through the gates into the new city.

For Progressives the split is over the issue of love as they define love. For Traditionalist the split is over obedience to God’s word and God’s instructions of how we are to live our lives. Traditionalist argue that there is power in God’s word and that the spirit of Jesus can transform everyone who receives him. Progressives argue we are all God’s children, he made us male, female and male-female-combined, and he loves us as we are.

The split will not resolve these two opposing views, but it will give both factions the opportunity to form community and worship God and Jesus as they see fit.

Why Do “Traditionalist” Have to Leave UMC

Traditionalist Methodist Questions and Answers

Question: Why Do “Traditionalist” Have to Leave UMC? Question: Why Do “Traditionalist” Have to Leave UMC?

Answer: Great question. Many Methodist have asked why those who support the teachings and tenants of John Wesley and believe the words and acts of Jesus, his disciples, and God have been asked to leave the UMC denomination. Before answering, I thought it might be helpful to look at a similar division of property from the Bible.

In Genesis 13:5-13, Abraham and Lot, due to quarreling among the two men’s families and flocks, agree to separate. Abraham lets Lot pick the territory he desires.

Now Lot was moving about with Abram but the land could not support them while they stayed together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to stay together. Quarreling arose between Abram’s herders and Lot’s. So Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herders and mine, for we are close relatives. Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.”

Lot looked around and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan toward Zoar was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt. So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. The two men parted company.  – Genesis 13:5-13

Currently the United Methodist Church’s global membership stands at 12.5 million. In 2016 it dropped to 6.95 million people, a decrease of about 1.6 percent from 2015, roughly the same percentage decrease seen in the last two years. U.S. average weekly attendance is less than 2.66 million, a 3.3 percent decline. If we assume in 2020 that membership declines have held steady at 1.6 percent, then today there are around 6.5 million UMC members.

Mark Tooley, President of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, believes around 2.5 million will join the conservative church, and 3.5 million will remain in the progressive, liberal UMC denomination. “Nearly all the 5.5 million overseas members, mostly in Africa, will join the conservative church,” Tooley says, “so the conservative denomination will have about 8 million members globally.”

On the surface it may appear that Methodist who hold to precepts in the Book of Discipline are consenting to a land-grab by the progressive, liberal faction, but I believe God will bless the new denomination in the same way he blessed Abraham. When it comes to church growth and making disciples of Christ, it’s not the land and location that matters but the God you worship and obey. Follow and serve him only and, be it a desert or a well-watered pasture, his word will not return empty.

One final note: the example sighted above regarding Abraham and Lot is in no way meant to pass judgement on those in the progressive, liberal faction of UMC or to call out those in the LGBT community. I selected that passage simply because it shows how two groups who are in conflict can agree to separate and still love and support one another.