The Not So Simple Plan

 

I don’t know how many of you will read this post to the end because…..well because it is primarily about my Tribe, the United Methodist Church.  But I would encourage you to hang with this post because it will have something that is a reflection of our culture….and a challenge to those who are more than fans of Jesus.

Here’s a brief background for this post.  In the United Methodist Tribe, our “official” group that develops our official “beliefs” and “social principles” is called the General Conference and it meets once every 4 years.  These “beliefs” are published each 4 years in what we call The Book of Discipline, or called “The Discipline” for short..  Since 1972 our official “stand” on human sexuality is that all persons are equally in need of God’s grace and are people of worth and should be allowed to attend any United Methodist congregation (we turn no one away).  However, the only form of “sex” that has God’s blessings is that of a monogamous marriage between a man and a woman.  We further believe that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching and that no self-avowed or practicing homosexual is eligible for licensing, commissioning or ordination in the United Methodist Church.  This has been our stand since 1972.  Every 4 years attempts have been made to declare other forms of sexuality are OK and that the Bible is wrong.  Yet each time our wording, that I consider to be most gracious yet true to the Biblical Standards for sexuality, has been preserved by the General Conference.

However, in recent years, there has been open disobedience without much in the way of consequences for this rebellion.  Clergy and Bishops have broken their vows to support  and maintain the standards set in The Discipline.  In 2016, this General Conference was facing the same attempts to change our Discipline to declare that homosexuality is now OK.  Some attempts to change our stand had already been voted down by the body when a motion was presented and passed to form what we call the Commission On A Way Forward.  A group of individuals were selected by the Bishops to serve on this Commission with the charge to form a plan that would settle this issue once and for all.

After several meetings they formed 3 plans that will be submitted to a called session of General Conference in February 2019.  I won’t go into all 3 of those plans, but I refer you to the website and you can read for yourself. (Click Here for the Report of Commission on Finding A Way Forward).  But I will give you my summary of those 3 plans:

  1. The Traditional Plan:  Maintains our current wording and belief but with mandatory penalties for those who violate The Discipline.
  2. The One Church Plan:  Every church, every lay person, every pastor, every Annual Conference determines their own view of human sexuality–without fear of penalties for anyone who disagrees.  Summation:  YOU get to choose.
  3. The Connectional Plan:  Regional Conferences would be formed based solely on their views of human sexuality and then churches and pastors select which Conference they want to be aligned with.

I’ve said a lot and could have said even more.  At the risk of sounding like a late night Infomercial Hawker….but wait, there’s more!

Now a group has come up with and will present what they call “The Simple Plan” (Click here for that report).  It will remove all of what is termed “restrictive language” concerning homosexuality and ordination in the United Methodist Church.  Let me say this:  to my gay friends, you are my friends and I love each one of you.  I am not judging you or your relationship with Jesus if you have one.  I am, however, maintaining my conviction that the Bible IN CONTEXT is the source of authority for life and faith.    Furthermore I do not consider you or any gay person an abomination.  I reserve that term for churchians and tenured pew sitters.  After all, it was only towards the “really religious” folks that Jesus was ever tort or gruff.

Here is what The Simple Plan seeks to accomplish, in my humble opinion:

  1. The Elimination of The Bible as the source of morality, faith and life.  If it can’t be trusted in the arena of human sexuality, how can it be trusted anywhere?  Taken to its conclusion–God is nothing at all like the Bible portrays Him and this includes the concept of God being Gracious and Merciful.  The Simple Plan declares that The Bible is unreliable.
  2. It reduces the Creation Saga to a fanciful myth and pigment of the imagination of writers.  In the Creation Saga, God establishes all order, including human sexuality.  The gift of sex is reserved for husband (man) and wife (woman).  Only this act of intimacy has God’s blessings.  All other sex is outside the blessing and approval of God.  Notice, I did say ALL other sex, not just same gender sex.  The Simple Plan reduces the Creation Saga to a mythological context with no real application for today.
  3. It promotes feelings as the final determinant for what is authoritative for life in the Church.  For millennia, the people of God have relied upon The Bible.  Granted, it’s been misused and taken out of context to justify all kinds of immoral behavior and systems.  But it was, and should continue to be, the Guide for determining holiness of both heart and life.  The Simple Plan throws out this Sacred Writ for what we believe about ourselves–not what God says.
  4. It reduces humanity to the status of slaves and prisoners.  I know that some liberal-progressive-ProAgressive (a term a friend uses and I have to agree with it) will argue me that The Simple Plan doesn’t created slaves and prisoners–rather it liberates.  Not so fast, bucko!  You are defining people by whom they want to have sex with–i.e.–that humans beings are nothing more than sexual beings.  Sex creates bondage when it is engaged in outside the place that is blessed by God.  The Simple Plan says that a person is identified by their sexual partner, rather than the whole person.
  5. It closes the door for personal transformation.  This is akin to Point 2, but goes deeper.  The Simple Plan closes the door to the act of God’s Grace to change and transform us from sinner to saint.  It avoids even the hint of sin, ergo, without sin we do not need to experience change.  All we need is to declare that God has created and blessed who we really are.  There is no model for personal transformation, but emphasizes self-acceptance.
  6. Finally, The Simple Plan demonizes everyone who disagrees with the plan.  While insisting that they be heard, they refuse to listen to other views and resort to calling them bigots and declaring they really don’t know Jesus.

In reality, The Simple Plan is nothing really new.  In fact, it’s rather old.  I mean, really, really, really, really, really, REALLY old.  It goes back to Eden.  The Simple Plan promotes the lie that Satan told Eve and Adam.  “Look, you can be–you NEED to be your own God.  Forget what God said.  Be who you want to be.  This fruit is just what you need to be a complete person–and your own God.”

You see, in reality, nothing is simple about sin.  It is convoluted and destroys those who allow it to define them.  My prayer, and my hope, is that the Tribe for which I have been a part of for 62 years–The Tribe where God called me to serve–will adopt The Traditional Plan.  And if not–then I know God will lead me to where I can continue to experience transformation and offer transformation to a world led astray by The Serpent’s Lie.

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18 thoughts on “The Not So Simple Plan

  1. The Bible was thrown out by the UMC years ago when they began to ordain women which Paul strictly forbids. I asked the headquarters about this a while back and their answer simply was Scripture is not always the final say. In other words, they know they are going against Scripture and don’t care.

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    1. I know the ordination of women is a divisive topic. I respect your views, and I believe the Bible, in its entirety is completely reliable for all matters of faith and life. However, could it be that we read into the Bible certain cultural biases and human logic? When taken as a whole, I believe that ordination of women is completely within God’s plan. After all, Peter said it would happen in his Pentecost Message. Though we see this from different perspectives, I do appreciate your comment.

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      1. Where (reference please) did Peter say the ordination of women would happen? And no, I don’t think cultural biases and human logic are being read into it when Paul states: I do no permit a woman to have authority over a man.

        I don’t know how anyone could possibly see how ordination of women can be compatible with that. In fact, neither does the UMC. I contacted their headquarters about it a while back. What they told me was essentially that Scripture does not have the final authority on the matter and that we need to go with experience, logic and reason.

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        1. The concept of “ordination” of clergy was the result of recognizing specialized calling of God by church leaders. It was developed to identify those called by God to lead the church. So, no, there is no scripture that specifically talks about ordination. The references in places such as in Titus, the “husband of one wife”, has been understood through the lenses of culture. Most also take that passage to mean that they cannot be “divorced”. However, the Greek words used do NOT mean “divorced”. It refers to monogamy over polygamy, which was practiced back then.
          Now, to Peter’s reference in his message at the Feast of Pentecost. He was quoting from Joel 2, in particular, verses 28-29. The Promise of the Holy Spirit coming to indwell people changed everything. Human distinctions were “blasted” out of the water. Peter affirmed that men and women would prophesy. The Greek word used in Acts 2 is “prophēteuō” which means more than predicting the future. It also means to “speak under inspiration”. More than “foretelling”, prophecy is “forth-telling” (I got this from one of my N.T. professors, a great man of God).
          Now, a little cultural background/context, to some other teachings about women by Paul. Women were required at all gatherings to sit at the back. Would you think that God wants anyone to sit at the back for any reason? Anyways, without public address systems, those in the back could not always hear, so they would ask, “What did you say?” This was breaking the flow of the “teacher”, so Paul wanted them to wait until they got home to ask those questions. I use this as an example because though the Promise was given to all, including women, to prophecy, it was done in a time when cultural restrictions were in place. This would include slaves, and we know God does not approve of slavery–but it was happening.
          The Kingdom of God is about breaking down those cultural restrictions to a place where all are equal.
          Examples of women in leadership? Junia mentions in Romans 16:7. Philip has 4 daughters who prophesied in Acts 21:9. Then there is Euodia and Syntyche in Philippians 4:2-3.
          I am not trying to convince you that you are wrong. I simply am giving you something to think about. Remember, that the Kingdom of God is about establishing a new order where there is, in Paul’s words, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Blessings and great joy as together we all discover the richness and depth of God’s Kingdom.

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          1. I am trying to convince you are wrong because you are twisitng Scripture to fit a cultural view and abandoning plain biblical truths. Your cultural illustration about amplification systems is absurd by the way. That is not what the passage is saying at all.

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            1. Doesn’t historical context affect what the writers say? Of course it does. They, like Jesus, wrote and spoke in the context of their culture. It behooves us to try to understand that culture. When we read the texts without the historical contexts, we end up with pretexts. My friend, David, my brother in Christ, I am not trying to prove you wrong. I am asking that you look at the Scriptures as a whole–not just bits and pieces to prove our beliefs. I am not abandoning plain Biblical proofs. Here are some of my plain beliefs
              1. God is Sovereign–meaning He doesn’t need me to prove His points, nor does He need my approval.
              2. The Bible is a single story–of God’s intended design (Creation), of humanity’s fall (sin) and God seeking to restore us fallen sinners back to His intended design.
              3. Jesus is the perfect sacrifice for all sins, and when I believe this, my sins are forgiven.
              4. The Holy Spirit is the One who guides us through God’s Word and empowers us to live out that word.
              5. In the end, it doesn’t really matter what I think God meant. It is what God said Himself. I am judged by His standard, and not my own, and certainly not anyone else’s standard.

              Plain Biblical Truth is that there were women teachers and leaders in the first century church. Ordination of Clergy is a human invention. And God doesn’t need my approval of who He calls to teach, preach or lead.

              One final word, I am not judging you nor telling you that you’re wrong. Please take the time to see who whole picture of the Bible, and in particular, how Jesus came to establish a Kingdom without human distinctions. Peace and joy to you, my brother.

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  2. I have been serving in a Methodist church for over 30 yrs. I now attend church every day with John Hagee on TV. I am in FULL agreement with Pastor Hagee, in that, MAN’s Doctrine, is Mans Doctrine. It is time to get back to the very basics of The Word of God. You need to be Disciplined by no other book, but The Bible. I have served in two wars, served for 25 yrs, and God’s Word has never…. EVER…. changed. Watch, pretty soon the Methodist Church will be known as the church of Laodicea. It’s simple….. Churches Grow…. when people get SAVED.

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  3. If the Simple Plan is adopted, the Methodist Church will not longer be part of God’s family. Of they think they have been losing members now, imagine what they will lose then! This is a very sad thing, and we all must pray it does not come to pass.

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  4. Thank you for updating us on this pending change. If “the simple plan” is adopted, I will be forced to leave a denomination and a church family to which I have belonged for 40 + years.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for sharing this. I know it must be hard to watch the church you have loved take on this new humanism. I will pray with you that God will present himself in your conference and that His Spirit will guide toward the traditional plan.

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