The United Methodist Church has been my church all my life. I was baptized at Pelahatchie Methodist Church as a child and professed my faith in Christ as a member of McLaurin Heights United Methodist Church in Pearl, MS as a teen. I proclaimed my calling to ministry at Avondale United Methodist Church. As a life long Methodist and with Methodism going back generations in my family, what is happening in our beloved church breaks my heart. What breaks my heart even further is the realization that I will soon be making a decision regarding leaving or staying with the UMC. This decision does not come lightly or without prayer.
However, I will unequivocally state that I am not United Methodist to the core nor will I commit myself to staying a member of the UMC. Let me be very clear, I am a Jesus follower to the core! I will not follow the United Methodist Church or any Church to the pit of hell for my soul.
I am broken and I recognize how completely worthless I am of my own accord. It is only through the grace of Christ that I can be made whole. I am not where God desires for me to be in my life. I’m trying. Knowing that, there are things in this world that I have to remove myself from the presence of, the temptation of, and the influence of so that I can continue to grow toward Christ.
The guide for my life is the Holy Scriptures. It is the foundational support that I stand upon. No, I have not mastered its teachings and each day I fall flat on my face, seek forgiveness daily, make an intentional decision to turn away from the things in life that lead me astray, and I try to be a little more like Jesus each day. I’m not perfect and never want to come across in that way. It is my belief that every day we make decisions through the gift of free will, to be intentional about our faith journey and each day we are called to make a stand in some way, shape or fashion. Here’s my stand in regards to the church.
The moment the UMC adopts doctrine that is contrary to my understanding of Holy Scripture and will result in the compromise of my Christian beliefs, I will begin the process of stepping away. I will make a stand in my life based on the Word of God (Scripture), the historical teachings of the church (tradition), my experiences in life (experience) and the use of reasoning.
I love God more than I love the United Methodist Church. I love the Bible more than I love the United Methodist Church. I love my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ more than I love the United Methodist Church.
I believe in the Body of Christ but the United Methodist Church is not the only expression of the Body. The UMC has always been for me the expression that I most closely relate to and its teachings I have been most closely aligned with. If that should change, I will not hesitate to leave. I will be broken hearted and it will be a difficult move. Yet, it will be a move I will make because my love and loyalty to God is greater than my love and loyalty to the United Methodist Church.
So, with this in mind and as the United Methodist Church approaches what may be billed as the most important General Conference in the 52-year history of the United Methodist Church, I feel that it’s important for me to document exactly where I stand on the issues that so divides us.
1. Very simply, I stand upon the Word of God found in the Old and New Testaments of the Holy Bible. The 2016 Book of Discipline, ¶105, page 83 states, “that Scripture is the primary source and criterion for Christian doctrine.” In his sermon “The Character of a Methodist” Wesley writes, Scripture is “the only and sufficient rule both of Christian faith and practice.” (2 Timothy 3:16 – “All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness”). I find Scripture to be comforting, strengthening but i also find myself offended by it. I am offended when God’s Word reveals my brokenness! However, my spiritual growth comes from me being corrected and my eyes being opened to the truth. I long to be made whole, I am repulsed by my sinfulness and I crave God for the truth. Truth is revealed in God’s Holy Word.
2. It is my conviction ALL sin creates distance from humanity to the Father and homosexuality is a sin.
3. I do not believe homosexuality is any greater nor any less of a sin than any other sin such as stealing, adultery, disgracing our parents, lying, cheating, lust, coveting our neighbors possessions, taking the Lord’s name in vain, the love of money, greed, disobedience, breaking an oath, not keeping the Sabbath holy, murder, bearing false witness, etc.… I believe ALL sin creates distance to the Father.(Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”)
4. I believe we are to love one another. All persons are children of the most-high God and all are welcome into the house of God. I have a mandate and responsibility to make disciples. A large part of becoming a disciple is recognizing and acknowledging our own personal brokenness and we must be lovingly honest regarding said brokenness to one another.
5. In order for humanity to draw closer to the Father, one must recognize and acknowledge ones brokenness (Prevenient Grace), seek and accept forgiveness (Justifying Grace), and repent (Sanctifying Grace).
6. I believe when the church tells someone that a sin is not a sin, the church is stealing the opportunity for the grace of Jesus to make him or her whole. Holy Scripture warns of such a thing, (2 Timothy 4:3-4 “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 they will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”)
7. I believe in the Day of Judgment when we will all stand before the throne of God and answer for our lives. I believe it would be better to have a millstone tiled around my neck and be thrown into the sea than to face God’s judgment for being an obstacle to someone from receiving God’s grace. (2 Corinthians 5:10 “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”
8. I believe this fight over this issue is being used by Satan to destroy the church and prevent the Good News of Jesus Christ redeeming grace to be silenced. What better way to remove redeeming grace than to have others believe there is no need to be redeemed? (Ephesians 6:12 “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”)
9. Many of those who disagree with the existing doctrine of the UMC have flagrantly broken the Ordination Covenant, which all UMC Pastors freely entered with the church and God. Pastors and Bishops have not been held accountable and our leadership has allowed their disobedience to be celebrated and emboldened. How can there be unity when individuals or a group are allowed to break covenant and not be held accountable?
10. There has been a great deal of talk about the schism that is already very present and evident within our church. However, I don’t believe schism is always a bad thing. Here are my reasons
a. Separations, schism, divorce, or breaking up (whatever term one desires to use) is not bad when both parties are damaging and devaluing one another. This is true in cases of physical, mental, and spiritual damage. I believe the case can be made that it is bad when two parties who are damaging to each other stay together for the sake of “staying together.” All the while hurting one another at the cost of bringing glory to God and rest assured, what the fight within the United Methodist Church is NOT bringing glory to God.
b. Separating ministries is Biblical. When Paul and Barnabas could not come to an agreement on how to work together, Acts 15 tells us they separated. “39 They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. 41 He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.” After their separation, churches were strengthened.
c. Would it not be best to stop the fighting, go separate ways and both sides go about bringing glory to God? I really don’t see a great deal of glory being brought to God through our current struggles.
d. Here are the words of John Wesley regarding schism in his sermon “On Schism.” “To be more particular: I know God has committed to me a dispensation of the gospel; yea, and my own salvation depends upon preaching it: “Woe is me if I preach not the gospel.” If then I could not remain in the Church without omitting this, without desisting from preaching the gospel I should be under a necessity of separating from it, or losing my own soul. In like manner, if I could not continue united to any smaller society, Church, or body of Christians, without committing sin, without lying and hypocrisy, without preaching to others doctrines which I did not myself believe, I should be under an absolute necessity of separating from that society. And in all these cases the sin of separation, with all the evils consequent upon it, would not lie upon it, would not lie upon me, but upon those who constrained me to make that separation, by requiring of me such terms of communion as I could not in conscience comply with.”
11. My last point is to ask a very important question…Why would we desire to stay together in a church where there is so much dysfunction, venom, name calling, demonization (from both sides), and such a divergent view on what Scripture says or does not say? I personally long for a day when I can exit this battle and share my Wesleyan view of Scripture in a way that brings glory to God. I believe that even though it’s hard to go our separate ways, this is the time to do such.