“Stipulations in the Traditional Plan approved by General Conference 2019 are unacceptable, said the executive committee of The United Methodist Church in Germany, and the church in Germany will not impose the stricter penalties laid out in the plan.” This is a direct quote from the executive committee of the United Methodist Church in Germany. I have provided the link to the full statement below and encourage you to take the time to read it.
There are times that even in the pew the discords of the day find their way in. I have written other posts on this subject and I started to pass by this latest bit of news from Germany but I find some things here worth discussing and to use an old term, worth pondering. I again encourage you to go to the link above and read the full statement from the brothers and sisters in Germany. One point I will make at the outset here is at least we are talking about this situation but I fear it is to little to late. The damage to the UMC is overwhelming in regard to the time money and effort spent over, pay attention here, the last four decades. I want to be as accurate as possible and for that reason I will be including some research material here at different spots in this blog. With that said the following is added for your consideration.
The Council of Jerusalem or Apostolic Council was held in Jerusalem around AD 50. It is unique among the ancient pre-ecumenical councils in that it is considered by Catholics and Orthodox to be a prototype and forerunner of the later ecumenical councils and a key part of Christian ethics. The council decided that Gentile converts to Christianity were not obligated to keep most of the Law of Moses, including the rules concerning circumcision of males. The Council did, however, retain the prohibitions on eating blood, meat containing blood, and meat of animals not properly slain, and on fornication and idolatry, sometimes referred to as the Apostolic Decree or Jerusalem Quadrilateral. (note information below**)
**Accounts of the council are found in Acts of the Apostles chapter 15 (in two different forms, the Alexandrian and Western versions) and also possibly in Paul‘s letter to the Galatians chapter 2. Some scholars dispute that Galatians 2 is about the Council of Jerusalem (notably because Galatians 2 describes a private meeting) while other scholars dispute the historical reliability of the Acts of the Apostles. (Wikipedia)
As you read this, understand it is not the first time that an issue of doctrine versus the word of God has happened and won’t be the last. One point here is that they are looking to the Law of Moses and how it would pertain to those coming into the church. The Church is still young and many of its members are Jews who have accepted Jesus Christ but still look to the first five books of the Bible for guidance and remember there was no New Testament writings at that time. We must also remember that Social Justice causes have always been a part of the Methodist Church. This situation of same-sex discourse, being driven in my opinion by those within and outside the Methodist Church and by social justice warriors along with cultural changes is quite the norm of a denomination which has always been at the forefront of meeting the needs of God’s children, Scripturally and otherwise. So what is different here? Let’s start with Church leadership. The Book of Discipline for many years has stated the position of the Methodist Church in reference to same-gender unions and “self-avowed practicing” gay clergy. There have always been penalties and accountability for transgressions of those bans. The Church in Germany has stated that they will not accept the Traditional Plan because they will not follow the chosen way of controlling people in their chosen lifestyle by imposing stricter penalties. The words they use for chosen lifestyles is disposition. They have some very compelling reasons for this decision. Here again I quote direct from their article.
“There is hardly any region on the (United Methodist) map of the world where, according to the decision of the General Conference, shards, break-ins and deep trenches did not emerge,” said Germany Area Bishop Harald Rückert in opening the session of the executive committee.
The area Bishop shared that there was a “great sadness” concerning the state of the unity of the Church. I find them to be genuine in their desire to find a way to preserve the unity of their church. This issue of same-sex relationships reaches into all areas of the church all over the world. Back to the LEADERSHIP THING. There has been none as to the enforcement of the Book of Discipline. We have seen and continue to see an outright disobedience to the Church polices and doctrinal standards or rules of behavior if you wish. I do not want to be harsh but this extends to the highest level of leadership, the Bishops themselves. We have among us a culture that accepts guidance and direction only if fits their opinions, beliefs and agendas. I believe that the pressures of social change, culture change and the desire to be relevant in the changing world has created a culture within our church that minimizes the place of Scriptural guidance, discounts Christian compassion and in our rush to be at the table of societal change, not truly seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Having read their statement several times I am certain they are in a great deal of pain and uncertainty but are resolute in their determination not to accept the Traditional Plan that was passed last year.
“ Even so, we want to stay together as a church where people of differing opinions can live with each other. We don’t want to let go of each other and we don’t want to separate from each other, but we want to hold on to each other and to be there for each other. For we are convinced that Jesus wants to use us and our gifts jointly and together.”
The above is taken from the statement of the German Executive Committee and was sent to all the congregations. Some items of interest here are the recognition that there are many differing opinions but they wish to find a way to co-exist. They feel that the many diverse gifts can be of benefit to the whole. They follow that up by the realistic admission that they must be able to come together even if they can’t agree on the important questions. They then make very plain what their expectations are.
“We therefore want to be a church where people with homosexual sensibilities can be ordained and blessed in a marriage ceremony, and also where traditionally minded people can uphold their ideas and lifestyles. The “Kirchenvorstand” has reached agreement on this objective.”
This is an interesting approach to an issue that really has no middle ground, for years the church has “kicked the can down the road” and the laity has for the most part not been a part of the discussions. Now we find ourselves scrambling to preserve the financial obligations of the Church such as properties and other assets and the point we are at now is how do we split and retain, who gets what? These brothers and sisters in Germany do have what seems to be an inflexible position, putting that aside it is a blessing to see what seems to be their most important goal is how do we stay together, how do we remain a family of God?
I do not believe there is a clear path for those such as myself who have a problem with the same-sex issue in relation to how we have been lead by prayer and seeking of the Holy Spirit. Then there is the inescapable fact that Jesus Christ came to offer salvation to all people, no one is to be turned away from the Lord’s table. Sin is anything that drives a wedge between a person and God. Simple fact is any sin is incompatible with Christian teaching. The Book of Discipline puts it this way.
Regarding the ministry of the ordained
- ¶ 304.3: The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church¶
- 341.6: Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.
The whole situation is fluid and it is no wonder we have been decades working through this. Consider this….
- Methodist viewpoints concerning homosexuality are diverse because there is no one denomination which represents all Methodists. The World Methodist Council, which represents most Methodist denominations, has no official statements regarding sexuality. British Methodism holds a variety of views, and permits ministers to bless same-gender marriages. American Methodism concentrates on the position that the same-sex relations are incompatible with “Christian teaching”, but extends ministry to persons of a homosexual orientation, holding that all individuals are of sacred worth.
So there you have it. I think I have a way out of this. No Christian should ever condone or fail to recognize the cost of sin but we must never become judgmental of others…. What….? It is the Christian obligation to welcome all to the Lord’s table and community of faith. I would suggest that when we allow sin to be put aside or leave unchallenged we fail in our responsibility to lead people to Christ. It is not our task to judge, it is our calling to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all people. We do an injustice to the Faith when we look the other way in regard to Christian values and discipline. I say we remove this language from the Book of Discipline and instead simply attach the caveat that the Methodist Church believes same-sex practices are one of many sins but the Church welcomes all people to the community of faith and leaves God’s judgement to just that….God. We pray for all people to find peace, dignity, love and forgiveness within the community of faith. Let’s get on with the calling of the Church….Salvation and forgiveness through the redemptive power of the Holy Spirit.
Life is Good