On January 1, 2020, the United Methodist Church USA will see a strengthening of the rules and regulations surrounding the issue of sexuality, ordination and the church. As we all know, a special session of the General Conference of the UMC met in 2019 to address the pressing issue of sexuality and the division it has brought forward. This issue had been a hotbed of dissension within the UMC for many years. At that special general conference, the opposite of what was thought actually happened. The regulations and restrictions against LGBTQI+ individuals were solidified and enhanced. Not only were the restrictions not relaxed but they will now be held even more accountable come January 1,2020.
Recently the Western Jurisdiction of the UMC has rejected the rulings set down at this special conference. Five of their active bishops have promised to provide “a safe harbor” for LGBTQI+ clergy. OK, let me stop and ask a really important question: I though the Bishops were supposed to stand up for our denomination and our discipline, not violate it. Besides, where do they get the authority to violate the established discipline of the UMC? If I did it, I’d be out of a job!
In a recent interview Bishop Elaine J.W. Stanovsky stated the following: “We make this statement out of a position of conscience with the clear affirmation that we don’t think the church has the authority or the power to limit the way God works in people’s lives.”
I agree! I don’t think we have the right to try and limit the way God works either, but I also don’t think we have the right to change what God has communicated. He’s God, we’re not! We don’t have the right to change Gods Word, its meaning, its context regardless of how hurtful or exclusive we find it in 21st Century culture. Don’t get me wrong, I love all people, and wrestle with what to accept and what not to, but I believe that for the church to manipulate God’s Word for what “it” sees as how God “wants” to work in people’s lives is just plain wrong. If God can create the universe by His will alone, if God can create life from dirt, if God can create a woman from a rib and if God knows how many hairs I have on my head at this particular moment, then I don’t have a problem with Him authoring a set of text and publishing them in the Bible, in fact, I see it as quite easy for the almighty!
All that being said, it doesn’t resolve a thing. My opinion verses your opinion. So where will it all end? It appears that 2020 is going to continue to be a year plastered with strife. There will be arguments, people violating rules and church law, and yet we wonder why the church seems to be so disjointed and ineffective. This coming year promises to be a year of church disaffiliation with the UMC and continued struggles. In my lifetime, I’ve never seen the Christian church in such need! Let’s all pray and ask God for the wisdom and attitude of heart to get through this as faithful witness for Christ.
Remember, its not about right or wrong, its about what God has ordained. Its not about what I want or think really, its about God’s responsibility to make His creation aware of what He says is holy and what is unacceptable. Especially since He is holding us accountable to live as holy a life as possible. Again, I ask you, pray with me for God’s resolution to this dilemma!