June 21, 2016 Tom Berlin

Getting to Church Vitality

At the Virginia Annual Conference, I shared a presentation describing some of the conversation that occurred before and during General Conference in meetings called by Bishop Warner Brown, former president of the Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church (UMC). These meetings were forthright and insightful and a great example of what we call “holy conferencing.” My goal was to share observations about where United Methodists are on two issues related to human sexuality: same-sex marriage and the ordination of self-avowed practicing homosexuals. These issues are important in the life of the church because they apply to real people. These are our children, church members, friends, parents, neighbors and relatives. Ideologically we are a big tent church, so we don’t all think the same about these matters.

These slides have categories that I first heard from Tom Lambrecht, the vice-president of Good News. I agree with these categories, understanding that they apply in this discussion only to the two issues listed above and to people in the United States. I think Tom has attempted to create simple frameworks that are not simplistic. Since these issues are unusually divisive, I find the categories useful to understand the views of others.

Below is my definition of these categories:

  • Traditionalist Non-Compatibilists: People in this zone are satisfied with the current restrictive wording of the Book of Discipline on same-sex marriage and the ordination of people who are practicing homosexuals. They want to see the church live out what they feel are obvious prohibitions in Scripture regarding homosexual acts. For them it is an issue of personal holiness. They are concerned that if these passages are compromised, all passages related to practices of sexual ethics and personal holiness will be compromised. Their concerns about change are of such importance to them that they would rather be in a church where all agree on these matters than feel personally compromised by a church with a diverse view on human sexuality.
  • Traditionalist Compatibilists: These people hold traditional views on human sexuality but understand that other pastors or churches would like to have the option of offering marriage ceremonies to same-sex couples. Some Annual Conferences want to have the ability to ordain people who are practicing homosexuals. While they do not want to be forced into performing such a marriage, they can live in a denomination where this occurs, understanding that there are many issues beyond this where they find unity in our connection.
  • Progressive Compatibilists: Many of these people have moved from Traditionalist Compatibilists into this area in more recent years. They would like to see the church offer ordination to all people and same-sex marriage to committed Christian couples. They understand that their friends on the right are not where they are and believe that the unity Christ prayed for the church can be upheld despite this difference. They respect the right of their traditionalist friends and do not want them to be forced into situations that would violate their personal beliefs. Most United Methodists are compatibilists. I would guess that 70% or more of us fall into one of these two areas.
  • Progressive Non-Compatibilists: People in this space have deep concerns for the call of Scripture for justice to all people and Jesus’ deferential care of the marginalized. These two points of biblical interpretation, among others, lead them to work for full inclusion in the life of the church. This is such a high value for them that they only want to be in a church that reflects this belief and will work for change as long as the church does not.

The Book of Discipline states the boundaries of belief and practice of the United Methodist Church. Every four years delegates from around the globe come to General Conference, our worldwide meeting, and have the opportunity to examine and change our book of governance. Since the 1970s we have been debating these two issues.

In theory, the Book of Discipline binds us together in a common faith and practice as Wesleyan Christians.

Difficulties have arisen in recent years as Progressives have violated the Book of Discipline. Clergy have performed same-sex marriages. Conferences have ordained people who are self-avowed, practicing homosexuals. Progressives see these as acts of civil disobedience that lead to greater justice and mercy. When charges have been brought against clergy who have performed these ceremonies, there has been a wide variance in the consequences spelled out in the just resolution process. The consequences tend to depend on the category that describes the presiding bishop of the Annual Conference where the infraction took place. Traditionalists find it bewildering when progressive pastors or conferences get out of bounds with the Book of Discipline and willfully break the covenant that it creates.

One of the key frustrations for traditionalists is that the decision of progressives to perform same-sex marriages has consequences in their lives. People in their churches leave. This demonstrates the power of connectionalism. People in Oklahoma may leave their church because of a marriage performed by a UMC pastor in Maine. Losing members is a painful event in the life of a pastor and a church, and they are frustrated that this is the consequence they bear for keeping the Book of Discipline and remaining in the UMC connection. Traditionalists are more frustrated when bishops do not bring any real consequences to pastors’ decisions to violate the Book of Discipline because they are in agreement with these pastors who perform the marriage ceremonies.

Traditionalist Compatibilists find that members of their churches, which are often more ideologically diverse on these two issues, also leave. This is equally painful when it occurs, even if it is less likely to happen broadly in these congregations.

One reaction to this is to change the wording of the Book of Discipline to create definitive consequences to these acts of disobedience. An example was legislation at the 2016 General Conference that would have required bishops to give clergy performing a same-sex marriage one year of unpaid leave. A second offense would lead to the surrender of ministerial credentials. While the Judicial Council of the UMC ruled this legislation out of order, it is an example of an attempted change to the Book of Discipline to require conformity to its practices.

Progressive Non-Compatibilists argue that they are also facing consequences to the lack of change in the Book of Discipline. Their members are weary of language regarding human sexuality that they find offensive. They are also weary of the debate, especially now that national law in the U.S. has moved beyond the practice of the church regarding marriage rights to all people. The work they have done for justice in this area has not had any impact on the Book of Discipline, and they are also losing members who are discouraged by the lack of progress. Their friends and family members are leaving the church, which is painful.

Because the Book of Discipline has not changed, Progressive Compatibilists are losing members as well. The difficulty of being a centrist in this conversation, no matter whether you lean right or left on these two issues, is that people are always disappointed in you or the church. I describe myself as a Progressive Compatibilist. After General Conference I received two emails from church members within a week of each other. One expressed disappointment that no changes were made regarding human sexuality. It was from a couple in our church with an adult child who is gay. They wondered how the church could be so conservative as to exclude their son. Another church member contacted me to say that he would be leaving the congregation because I was so liberal on these issues. In an ideologically diverse church, the center is frustrating to both sides.

This would be a small matter, except that it involves people. These people who are leaving are members of the church. After being the church with them, I have grown to care about them, even though I am aware that we don’t agree on every issue and sometimes disagree greatly on particular issues. Even then I don’t want to lose them. However, those impacted by the current practices of the church related to human sexuality are also people. As I stated earlier, they are our neighbors, children, church members, relatives and friends. So we have to talk about these difficult things and figure out how we live together or live separately from each other. But the constant conflict over these issues seems damaging to everyone.

But here is another truth, one that is often lost in the debate over human sexuality. It is lost because human systems are finite and only have a limited supply of energy. We forget that, but if you go to General Conference and begin to track how time was used, you discover that humans can only handle so many topics over a limited period of time. The truth is this: no matter how you would describe your views regarding human sexuality in the church, everyone is leaking members. Everyone. Your ideology on these issues is not a predictor of the vitality of your church. If we spend our time and energy on the conflict over marriage and ordination, we will have little left over to consider that our average worship attendance, along with every other metric of vitality, is diminishing over time.

It would be wise to focus on church vitality, because the prediction is that by 2050, we will be one-third the size we are today. That will have deep implications for the United Methodist Church. I am biased toward Methodism. I think we have the most sensible theology for the current time. What a shame to see it slowly fade away while we spend our time and energy fighting over human sexuality. It seems like it might be better to help each other have the future each desires on these matters so that all can move to other important matters in the church, like sharing Christ with a world that is lost in so many ways.

Here is another dynamic that impacts the United Methodist Church. When we look at the international United Methodist Church, most Europeans are somewhere in the center of the ideological spectrum. African and Asian United Methodists are predominately traditionalists. They are more conservative than the vast majority of traditionalists in the U.S. on matters of human sexuality. Many live in predominately conservative Islamic countries where homosexual acts are illegal and that are unsafe for people in the LGBT community.

The Asian and African delegates to General Conference tend to agree with traditionalists in the U.S. and are in more active dialogue with Traditionalist Non-Compatibilists. This means that they are more likely to be a strategic voting block around issues like human sexuality.

The reason the decline of the UMC in the US should be of great interest to those in Asia and Africa is that 97 percent of the denominational budget comes from the U.S. This means that if Centrists, who constitute the majority of all United Methodists in the U.S., fracture from the denomination, the economic model that sustains schools, clinics, hospitals and other denominational mission ventures across the globe will fail. This will have a dramatic impact on the UMC in Asia and Africa. At the current rate of decline, this model will probably fail due to what doctors call “a failure to thrive” in about 14-16 years. This is another reason it would be wise for the UMC to define itself clearly regarding same-sex marriage and ordination and then discern if there are ways people might participate in its ministry structure while finding a non-punitive way to exit the denomination.

All of us seem to be weary of the arguments. Few of us seem to be changing our opinions, especially the non-compatiblists. All of us need to get focused on the vitality of the local church. This would require us to reimagine what it means to be a global and connectional church while still retaining the largest number of United Methodists possible in a newly constituted denomination.

The Asian and African sector of the United Methodist Church is growing at the same time that the U.S. sector is shrinking. In four to eight years, it will be unlikely that the General Conference will do anything related to human sexuality other than make consequences for disobedience more stringent. This will probably lead those on the progressive side to withhold apportionments or leave the denomination.

There is a place everyone seems to agree should be the focus once these issues are resolved: making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. United Methodists have the opportunity to share the Christian faith in ways that makes sense in the multicultural and increasingly complex world in which we live. We have created first class educational institutions, mission centers, vocational training, clinics, hospitals and health initiatives that end ignorance and suffering and give people hope and a future. We have international relationships that enable us to travel and learn from other cultures. Our efforts, prompted and guided by the Holy Spirit, have given credence to the idea that the Christian faith is holistic and far more than a passive longing for life after death. Now is the time to invest ourselves so that we can share Christ, make disciples and, by God’s grace, transform the world. That will require a new level of creative thinking and a fresh investment of our energy that is currently applied elsewhere in our system.

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Tom Berlin

Rev. Tom Berlin is the Lead Pastor of Floris United Methodist Church. Tom was raised in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley and has lived in Virginia most of his life. He is a graduate of Virginia Tech and his Master of Divinity is from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University. He has co-authored three books and is the author of several small group studies. Tom and his wife Karen have four daughters.

Comments (23)

  1. I really appreciate all your work in communicating the human sexuality issues. I am a Progressive Compatibalist, and am not very optimistic about the survival of the UMC in any form I’d recognize. Maybe the UMC has run its course. Nothing lasts forever. Of course, when I think that, my pension comes to mind. And, the fact that it occurs to me as somehow relevant to the conversation makes me sad about my own selfish motives.

    Anyway, good work. I’m sure you would have been (and still may be) an excellent bishop. Who knows what that job will entail in the next couple of decades? Ted Smith, my DS, should also be excellent. Let’s see if excellent leadership amounts to a hill of beans in this crazy world.

    Take care, and deeply understand that you’re not out there alone.

  2. Gene Mims

    I too agree that Tom did a good job in presenting where we are as a denomination. My hope is that many will read the article and determine where they are. Personally, I am a Traditionalist Compatibalist and I’m a bit more optimist than my brother. I think there is room for discussion between the Traditionalist and Progressive Compatibalist. I think the discussion should begin with what we do agree on and work from there. Quite frankly I am tired of all the energy being sucked out of our denomination by a never ending argument over who’s right and who’s wrong. I also think that this matter while important is diverting our attention away from what should be our priority – making disciples for Jesus Christ. Pray hard my brothers and sisters and then be still and quiet long enough to hear what God is saying to you.

  3. Anne Leame

    The question is the wrong one. Homosexuals are called by God to practice chastity as a response to His Word. Many people are called to practice chastity. Only a man and a woman joined in holy matrimony can have sex. Our world does not recognize this truth. Unfortunately, I suspect there are only a few of us who live this truth. That is the sad truth. So is the fact that our preaching does not address this truth.

    • Douglas Asbury

      The idea that “only a few of us [heterosexual persons] live this truth [that ‘only a man and a woman joined in holy matrimony can have sex’]” is completely contradicted by, literally, billions of examples of “only” men and women having sex in marriage, and only in marriage. However, just as in the case of the long-standing misinterpretation of the Bible by light-skinned people that dark-skinned people were “under the curse of Ham” and could rightly be enslaved by light-skinned people with divine approval, so have not only many LGBTQ persons but also straight persons come to realize that the Bible has been misinterpreted for generations by straight persons to sanctify their own sexual sharing while denigrating that of same-sex loving persons; and we have decided that the issue for the Bible is not the sex of the partners but whether the relationship is marked by fidelity and mutual self-giving. Yes, “chastity” can be practiced by same-sex loving persons no less than opposite-sex persons; and the fact that many in the Church refuse to recognize that is an offense to those who do practice chastity in their same-sex relations and to the God who created them to love another of their own sex and who drew them into partnership with one another. Some day – perhaps generations from now – the Church will look back and realize that, as with the genocide committed against indigenous people and the enslavement of many, the Church at one time had colluded with the unjust treatment of loving same-sex relationships and needs to repent of that abuse committed by their forebears of our present and previous ages. Until that time, those of us who recognize the truth of this will seek to live in a way that is faithful to the guidance of God’s Spirit, even though it may invite the criticism of present-day Pharisees and Sadducees who, like those of Jesus’ day, even conspire with the governing authorities to persecute the people of God who seek to follow Christ faithfully.

    • Chris R

      Amen sister! The question really comes down to obeying or not obeying Almighty God, for a christian follows Jesus Christ including in being holy in conduct even as He is holy. To compromise God’s Word for the sake of inclusion is not the Gospel of Jesus whose message is to repent of disobedience and follow Him into salvation from sins penalty and power and into a loving relationship with Almighty God as father. Show me a person who practices sin without remorse and I’ll show you someone who may not be a christian. A drowning man does not need applause or approval but a hand up out of the danger…but he must recognize the danger and want the hand up out into salvation.

      • Douglas Asbury

        I’d offer you a hand up out of your judgmental attitude, to aid you in obeying Jesus’ command in Matthew 7.1-5, “Chris R.”; but I doubt you’d recognize you’re drowning.

  4. Douglas Asbury

    I am a gay, ordained, retired United Methodist elder and am a progressive compatibalist. The major problem in all this, which no one talks about, is that the incompatibility clause was inserted in 1972 at a time when no one really knew anything about homosexuality, and thus, was a jumping to conclusions about its nature and the reality of the lives of those of us who were/are LGBTQ. Sixteen years later, the General Conference thought it might be a good idea to study homosexuality; so it took the UMC that long to realize that it hadn’t really known what it was talking about sixteen years earlier. The Committee to Study Homosexuality was formed and did its excellent and thoroughgoing work for the next four years, delivering its report to the General Conference in 1992. Since the majority of the committee – 17 persons – recommended removing the incompatibility clause from the Book of Discipline, and the minority of the committee – 5 persons – recommended keeping it, and since the majority of the General Conference delegates were on the traditionalist end of the spectrum, the GC did not “adopt” the report, which would have made it a guide for the policy of the denomination and would have resulted in the removal of the incompatibility clause and all subsequent insertions based on it. Instead, they merely “received” the report and instructed the Board of Discipleship to publish the report with a leader’s guide and to encourage a churchwide study of the report, so that what had been a point of ignorance might become a point of understanding. The materials were published in 1994 under the title “The Church Studies Homosexuality.” When I checked with the United Methodist Publishing House in 2005 regarding the number of student books sold, they indicated that fewer than 50,000 books in total had been sold – in a denomination of nearly 8 million members in the US alone! Does this suggest to you that “the Church studied homosexuality”? It doesn’t to me. In fact, after I discovered this lack of study, I spoke to a pastoral colleague and friend of mine who was a traditionalist incompatibalist about the data, and I made this observation: “I believe that we progressives want to continue talking about this issue, because we believe that in doing so, we will all come to understand one better and come to some agreement that will satisfy all of us in a way that the present situation does not; but that the traditionalists don’t want to talk about it any more, because they say, ‘The progressives are wrong, and they don’t care what the Bible says, and so there’s no use in our continuing to talk with them, because they’ll never change.” My friend responded, “That’s what I’m hearing from my conservative colleagues.” Furthermore, since that time, the General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns created a bundle of materials that included the Committee report as well as various other video and print resources on digital media and published it under the title “Can We Talk?…Christian Conversations about Homosexuality.” It costs $10.00 plus tax and shipping. http://shop.umc.org/can-we-talk-christian-conversations-about-homosexuality When I contacted Cokesbury about their sales figures on this item, they indicated that fewer than 500 copies had been purchased in the years it had been available leading up to 2014, when I made my inquiry. (If you go to the website and click on “Reviews”, you’ll see my remarks – and mine is the only review posted. All this is to say that the traditionalist incompatibalists are more like the Pharisees and Sadducees of Jesus’ day than they are like Jesus’ disciples who sought to “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,” in that they have their worldview and their position of power that they do not want to have challenged; so they resist even opening up opportunities for such a challenge to be lodged credibly. They don’t care if they force out of the UMC beloved LGBTQ children of God and those who love us who are faithful Christians, including in the way those of us who have same-sex partners love them; and because of their hardheartedness, they are allowing the UMC to die a slow death. Perhaps it is what must happen in the plan of God, so that something new and alive might take its place. It’s difficult to watch it happen; but it won’t be for lack of multiple attempts on the part of many of us to encourage the kind of vulnerable sharing together than might both have stopped such a death from occurring and have brought new life to the UMC and Good News to a dying world.

    • Carla S.

      Douglas, so much was unknown at the time that the Bible was written. Thousands of years ago people died of illnesses that, now, have been eradicated, thanks to vaccination, antibiotics, infection control, and knowledge unavailable then.
      Homosexuality was not understood, plus with the high maternal and infant mortality, it was a necessity to expand the population.
      Today, we know, although some traditional incompatibles deny this, being LBGT or straight is a matter of one’s birth. You cannot be “transformed into a heterosexual,” any more than I can be “transformed into being a lesbian.”
      The admonition to “only have an intimate relationship in marriage,” is laughable. I am 80, my husband and I met in our senior year of high school, and dated exclusively for five years as we both wanted to complete our educations prior to marriage. Yes, we were intimate prior to marriage. I became a nurse, my husband became an engineer. I know of no one who was celibate until marriage, our three daughters were not, nor were our married and engaged grandchildren.
      When you were ordained, and since you mention that you are retired, I gather that it was in the 1960s or before 1972, no one cared about your sexual orientation. Sexual orientation was not even “on the radar.’
      As I read about the UMC I, happily, note that there are several annual conferences that are defying the BoD. I, truly, believe that one by one most annual conferences in the west, and northeast will all be Reconciling Conferences. The south may take a bit longer. However, I may not live to see the day, but it will come to pass that the UMC will join the other mainline churches and be “Open and Affirming,” as the UCC would state, or Reconciling as the UMC would say.

  5. Beth

    Tom, would you clarify this statement?

    This is another reason it would be wise for the UMC to define itself clearly regarding same-sex marriage and ordination and then discern if there are ways people might participate in its ministry structure while finding a non-punitive way to exit the denomination. – See more at: http://revtomberlin.wpengine.com/church-vitality/#sthash.arof7enf.ZAkEesY8.dpuf

    As I read it, it seems that you are directing “non-punitive way to exit the denomination” as an invitation for noncompatibilist progressives to leave the denomination. Is that your intention, or am I misreading?

    • Tom Berlin

      I have not seen any plan so far that would enable all non-compatiblists (traditionalist or progressive) to have the ability to remain in the same denomination and feel that they are honoring the integrity of their position. I hope the commission can think of such a plan, but I do not know what it would be. It would probably look more like an affiliation that utilizes common resources (like the Board of Pensions) than a denomination as we currently think of one. If there is no resolution, I think non-compatiblists will either leak away slowly or they will leave loudly with lawsuits over the trust clause, when entire congregations want to leave the connection. I think we would be wise to find a way for people to consider what their share of the unfunded liability would be (things like the pre-82 unfunded pension liability) and then exit with property. The costly and wounding fights of the Episcopal Church would be unfortunate for us to repeat. I want to be clear that I am not for division. However, conversation during the meetings at General Conference leads me to conclude that we are not going to convince each other to change our views (some movement in the centers but very little on the outside boxes), and people would rather leave than continue the energy-depleting argument. I also want to be clear that I am not suggesting, as you question above, that progressives should leave the denomination. I think it will be non-compatibilists of some type. Those that remain will need to decide if they can live with the center should further definition on these matters be reached. The goal is to find a renewed focus on church vitality as a whole rather than human sexuality as the dominant topic of conversation for the denomination.

      • Douglas Asbury

        It bears noting that underlying the question of the acceptability of loving same-sex relationships in which sexual activity is practiced is the basic question of what being a “disciple of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world” looks like. Can that include someone practicing faithfulness and chastity in a same-sex marriage? Can it include a pastor performing a legal same-sex marriage service for a couple who have been examined as the pastor would examine any opposite-sex couple he or she would be asked to marry and who had determined to her or his satisfaction that there was evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit in drawing these two people into a married relationship with each other? So, you see, we are not “being distracted from” the mission of the UMC in working through this controversy. Instead, we are actively engaged in it; and as a progressive compatibalist myself, I would suggest that until the UMC affirms that God can be at work in such relationships and pastoral actions and is, in fact, at work in many of them, we will be failing in fulfilling the stated mission of the UMC.

  6. Paul Morelli

    I have heard estimates of people in each of the camps (actually only 3, radical left, centrists or institutionalists, and radical right (their terms, not mine)) and that the percentage of members in each was maybe 3% left, 93% centrist and 3-4% right) …. while analyzing votes on various topics at general conference, I would tend to call into question those numbers? Even without the African votes, I believe the centrists are moving in both extreme directions and I believe the true centrists are smaller than assumed. The reason this is important in my opinion is that any plan to allow for exit may find it devastating to the stability of the institution if the extreme positions (left and right) are far higher percentages than imagined. It would be interesting for the appointed commission to poll the membership for accurate data prior to coming to any conclusions. How to poll the membership objectively is another issue. I believe there is a lot of push back starting to appear from the orthodox position (sleeping bear that has started to awaken) and because leadership has not heard from this group clearly may be biased by the views of leadership which seem to be more progressive at this point. the estimating incorrectly of the membership views, especially those on both sides who would leave the denomination over the issue, could be a fatal error. rather than deciding this important issue on rhetoric and feelings, it would be good to perhaps hire a professional group to poll the global and US church.

  7. Angelizabeth Altuzarra

    Creo que lo más importante es lo que Dios piensa y expresar al respecto. Empezamos una iglesia debido a que creemos que el contenido de la Biblia era sobre todo correcto. Esto, más allá de cualquier error de traducción que puede reclamar. Hay que tener en cuenta lo que dice la Biblia sobre la homosexualidad, cuando se dijo y quién estaba hablando. Si decidimos no creer lo que dice la Biblia, entonces no podemos creer otras cosas en la Biblia tampoco, y, como consecuencia por la que asistimos a la iglesia, si después de todo, si todo está bien y aceptado, y que no necesitamos para trabajar en el cambio de nada. ¿Por qué pagar ofrendas a una organización que sólo me va a decir que no hay nada que cambiar, y, sólo me va a decir lo que quiero oír. “2 predicar la palabra; instar a tiempo y fuera de tiempo; redarguye, reprende, exhorta con toda paciencia y doctrina 3 Porque vendrá tiempo cuando no sufrirán la sana doctrina;. Pero, teniendo comezón de oír, se amontonarán sí maestros conforme a sus propios deseos, a su vez, 4y apartarán sus oídos de la verdad, y se volverán a las fábulas 5Pero seas sobrio en todo, soporta las aflicciones, haz obra de evangelista, cumple tu ministerio “.. Si la Iglesia no sigue la Biblia se convierte sólo en una organización social, al igual que muchos. Así que, a veces, porque mi amor por los miembros de lgtb (también de la familia), realmente deseo que no es un problema, pero, hay un problema. Es un pecado como el adulterio es un pecado. Y sabemos muchos adúlteros y los amamos y, las aceptamos, pero, no podemos decir que una Iglesia que el adulterio es correcta. Es un pecado, como la envidia, pero no voy a matar a cada persona envidiosa en mi camino. A juzgar corresponde a Dios. Estamos aquí para amar y aceptar a los pecadores, Dios es el que ellos (nosotros) cambia, si bien, no podemos aceptar el pecado. Así que, o bien demostrar que no es un pecado, mediante el uso de la Biblia para demostrar lo que es el libro más importante de la iglesia, o que predica la verdad, incluso cuando para algunas personas implica pedir a Dios ayuda para cambiar su vida. No estamos aquí para juzgar, estamos aquí para ayudar. Es difícil en este momento para predicar la verdad, porque no hay tanta gente que nos gusta hacer otras cosas, pero yo prefiero para alinearse con Dios y ser juzgado por el mundo, que a alinearse con el mundo y ser juzgado por Dios. Lo que hace que una iglesia es la idea de seguir a Dios y su Palabra. Si no vamos a seguir la Biblia, entonces, estamos a sólo un club social. Todos somos pecadores, no sólo a los homosexuales, o lgbt, pero, la diferencia es cuando un pecador se va delante de Dios y, le pide ayuda para cambiar lo que no pueden. Y que para algunas personas, tendrá un día, para otros tomarán años. No podemos ir delante de Dios y, por ejemplo, aquí estamos, no quiero ser cambiado. Entonces, no hay punto de formado parte de la iglesia. Yo prefiero una persona que dice que estoy haciendo esto y estoy orando para que Dios me ayude a cambiar de una persona que está diciendo que la derecha está mal y, lo malo es bueno sólo para complacerme o complacer a los demás. En pocas palabras, sin la Biblia o la enseñanza directa de Dios, la Iglesia no tiene razón de ser. Nos encanta el pecador, mucho, pero lo que es malo es malo. lgbt sido no es el único pecado el adulterio, la fornicación, la blasfemia, falso testimonio, la ira, el asesinato, etc. son pecados a todos y debe pedir ayuda a Dios para cambiar. Lo que está mal está mal. Hay que respetar la casa de Dios.

  8. Donna Fowler

    Thanks for a well-thought and well-presented article. You are right that it is hard to be anywhere close to the “center” and that there are lots of hurting, angry people on every side. I do not know what the future holds for the UMC, but I pray that we will find unity that provides a big enough umbrella.

  9. There is another example of human sexuality and ethics that can inform our way forward on this issue: Divorce & Remarriage. That issue nearly divided the church in the 1930’s and 40’s. Would we welcome the many people who came to church who were D&R? Would clergy be allowed to perform a second marriage for someone who was D&R? Would we allow clergy to be D&R? The Scripture, especially the New Testament is very clear on this issue than it is on LGBTQ issues. Yet the Methodist church found a way. For the Traditionalist Non-Combatibilist: how many in your ranks are D&R? Why not extend the grace you have received to LGBTQ?

  10. Chris R

    If money and meeting a budget is the motivator for compromising God’s Word then change the name to the Methodist club because it is not part of Jesus Christ’s body, it is just another social club. No use fooling yourselves, God is not fooled.

  11. Donald Haynes

    Tom Berlin and Tom Lambrecht, your mutual agreement on the definition of positions regarding sexuality is most helpful to “shape the debate.” It will probably, even in Boards of Ordained Ministry questioning be like Albert Outler’s “quadrilateral” was to WEsleyan doctrine in the last century–a shibboleth! The labels will become definitive of our discipleship, both in our loyalty to the Church and our faithfulness to the Lord Jesus! Whatever the fallout, you have done us a service to define the postures.

    One challenge with me personally, at age 81, is that I don’t know my own category! This one thing I know–I am a compatiblist. I cringe at the thought of my beloved United Methodist Church dividing as it did in 1792, 1816, 1820, 1843, 1844, c.1851, and 1894. Tom Berlin might be using Don Hauser’s numerical projections that by 2050 will will have less than a million members. Even now, we are closing more churches than we are planting in most conferences. Adam Hamilton has given the number of 68,000 for our typical net annual loss in worship attendance. Lyle Schaller once taught me in a class that the vote no one monitors is the “feet vote” with which people quietly go down our aisle for the last time. “O God of hosts, be with us yet; lest we forget; lest we forget.” So much has been done with gain for the Kingdom under the aegis of Methodism; are we will to lose it in order to have our way?

    What your analytical work has not done is to give us much, if any, hope.

  12. Randall L. Robinson

    The greatest invitation in this article, which I have just now discovered by way of another friend’s blog, is the author’s estimation that 70% of United Methodists are “compatibilists,” whether traditional or progressive. I am praying that the Commission on A Way Forward will recognize that the greatest hope for The United Methodist Church will be found by holding the center compatibilitists together, and allowing each of the incompatibilists freedom to decide whether to stay or leave. It would be a shame for 70% of United Methodists who desire church unity and sustained focus upon our mission to be harmed by extremists on either side.

  13. Roy Miller

    Gee, all this talk about the center concept. Kinda reminds of where it says, I would that you were hot or cold. Because of your lukewarmness, I will spew you out of my mouth. Can’t find anywhere that Christ bent his directives to satisfy those wanting him to do so.

  14. Jim Sutton

    As soon as he mentioned that he got this from the “Good News” group I knew it would be wrong-headed. Bt associating himself with them he has already positioned himself on the conservative side of the UMC.

  15. Hi! I appreciate your’re traveling around the world on behalf of this issue, and for visiting our church. I wrote a blog post how I might get the rights to share the image? While it seemed like every scenario seemed to fail – I think it accurately described the fears of the church – but maybe, perhaps not the hope. Thank you for visiting our church, and for sharing your presentation and data with us.

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