United Methodist Crack-up Begins
This summer, United Methodist jurisdictional conferences are meeting to elect new bishops and assign all bishops to annual conferences. The Northeastern Jurisdiction, consisting of annual conferences from West Virginia to New England, is meeting this week, and in addition to its regular business, has declared war on the rest of the denomination over issues of sexual ethics. Mark Tooley of the Institute on Religion and Democracy reports at Juicy Ecumenism:
The declining, liberal dominated Northeastern Jurisdiction (NEJ) of United Methodism, meeting in Charleston, WV, this week, has declared defiance against the church’s teaching on sexual ethics.
Sixty one percent of the 227 delegates vowed their dissent. “Leaders of the conferences that comprise our jurisdiction, including cabinet members, bishops and members of boards and agencies of the annual conference, while bound to the Book of Discipline, are also bound to exercise their consciences and are bound by Jesus’s commandment to stand with the marginalized and the oppressed in our midst when called upon to enforce unjust laws, policies and procedures to the detriment of gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender individuals wishing to participate fully in the life of The United Methodist Church and those who minister faithfully to them; and be it further resolved, that the jurisdictional conference recognize that individuals who take punitive actions against others for offering the sacraments and rituals of the church on an equal basis do so contrary to the highest ideals of the United Methodist Church at the risk of causing grave harm to LGBT persons, their loved ones, their sisters and brothers in Christ, faithful clergy and the United Methodist Church itself.”
Translation from Methody-speak: damn the Book of Discipline, and full speed ahead on the ordination of sexually active gays and same-sex marriage.
Given that jurisdictional conferences are comprised of representatives of annual conferences, passage of this statement can only mean one thing. Many, possibly most, and maybe even all of the ten conferences that comprise the Northeastern have declared that they will not enforce the Book of Discipline and its prohibitions on ordaining sexually active homosexuals and conducting gay weddings. This is right out of the liberal activist playbook. For forty years they have used the tactic of disobedience to denominational rules to get their way by changing the facts on the ground, believing (as has already happened in the Episcopal Church, and likely will in the near future in the PCUSA) that institutional capitulation would eventually follow.
In Methodism, however, there’s a problem, which is that the growing African conferences actually get a vote on proposed changes to the Book of Discipline, which governs not just American but world-wide Methodism. That means two things:
1) Given the growth of the relative strength of evangelical Africa, it is virtually certain that the window for liberals winning their fight to overturn biblical standards on sexuality has already closed. Their only hope for victory was in somehow dividing the denomination into global regions, so that the primitives in Africa could no longer influence what America’s sophisticates did. That effort failed at the last General Conference.
2) That means the only recourse left to liberals is the one the Northeastern Jurisdiction has adopted, which amounts to a declaration of schism. The Book of Discipline is not a pick-and-choose document, at least not in its rules for governance. For a whole section of the denomination to state, in essence, that it will no longer observe rules of polity and ministerial practice that everyone else follows can only mean that the break-up of United Methodism has begun.
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