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:
- The Traditional Plan: Maintains our current wording and belief but with mandatory penalties for those who violate The Discipline.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.