On June 13, 2015 the Great Plains Annual Conference met in Wichita at the Century II Convention Hall. It was our last day of Annual Conference. We had all waited for voting on some contentious petitions for General Conference. Included was Petition 7. It was, like so many of the petitions before General Conference, trying to change the church’s stance on homosexuality. It proposes to strike the line in the Book of Discipline, “The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching” and replace it with, “While a significant majority of United Methodists continue to hold the long-standing belief that homosexual practice is incompatible with Christian teaching, we acknowledge and respect differences of opinion of human sexuality.”
Sadly the vote passed the legislation on to the General Conference with the name of our annual conference attached to it. You can see the General Conference petition here.
On the floor there were speeches for an against this petition. I had prepared a statement to read against, and I read the following from the floor. I hold strongly to these views a year later. I want to share them again now as we approach General Conference in the hopes that those delegates headed there will hear them and heed them.
I am thankful for our church reaching out in diversity, diversity of location including a global church rapidly growing, diversity of age as we bring in new generations, diversity of ethnicity, race, and language as we reflect the day of Pentecost again, and diversity of sexual orientation. We as the church must always be open to all. We can all come as we are, and we are accepted as we are, and God loves us as we are, but we cannot stay as we are. We come to the church to be transformed. We come to be healed from our sin, which stands between us and holiness. We come to be saved, which must happen as we grow in God’s perfecting love to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
We have the one great resurrected hope of the world. That hope comes only from Jesus, who calls us to faithful service to all people. Our witness must be clear as we show the world a better way, and it is different than the world’s ways.
God’s justice shows us that his love calls us to be pure. We are called to walk in the light and flee from the darkness. We are called to live in God’s truth. 2000 years of our Christian witness, including our own Wesleyan heritage, and especially the infallible, absolute Truth of God’s Word in Scripture, speak clearly, lovingly, and honestly that marriage is between one man and one woman, and that the behavior or practice of homosexuality is sin. Jesus came that we might have freedom from sin so we can be live in joyful obedience to Him. This petition is confused itself as it says the majority opinion is against homosexuality and then goes to change our stance on the issue in every other way. We need a consistent, clear, scriptural position on this issue. This inconsistency of purpose and the Truth of our holy scriptures propels me to ask you strongly to keep our church together and vote against this petition.
General Conference is not about one issue. Nor does this one issue define who we are as a church. We are defined by Christ. We are to follow Christ. We must follow Christ’s Word.
I remember one of the comments that someone made in a following speech for the petition. In reaction to my statement including the “infallible, absolute Truth of God’s Word in Scripture” that person stated that the Bible is not infallible. That caused me to do some study. If we are to call ourselves Wesleyan, we must remember there is nothing more Wesleyan than Wesley himself. In his sermon “The Means of Grace” he states the following.
The same truth (namely, that this is the great means God has ordained for conveying his manifold grace to man) is delivered, in the fullest manner that can be conceived, in the words which immediately follow: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God;” consequently, all Scripture is infallibly true; “and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness;” to the end “that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”
God’s Word is infallible, at least according to Wesley’s own words and theology. If we are to confess to be Wesleyan we must hold God’s Word in high esteem. We must see it as Truth. Scripture is clear on this issue of homosexuality, so it becomes an issue of if we will submit to God.
In my view what is at stake at General Conference is this: Will we follow God or our own gods? Will we let God define us or will we define our own god? God does not let us define him. You are only a human being. Who do you think you are to talk back to God? Does the clay say to the potter, “Why did you make me like this?”(Romans 9:20) May God make us like clay that we might be formed by him, no matter how the world wants to shape us.
I am praying for revival. I’m praying for God to surprise us. I’m praying for transformed hearts and lives. And through it all I know this: God is still on this throne. Jesus is still the King of kings. I do not need to worry about a single thing. God is in control.