The “Progressives” Are Desperate, the “Conservatives” Are Weary, but God Is Still Holy

Friday, October 2nd, 2015

The United Methodist Church is in the full throes of a crisis, with deep divisions over our response to homosexual practice and the ordination of self-avowed homosexuals.  The latest attempt to resolve this crisis is a plan known as “a local option proposal compromise.”  This plan has emerged through the good faith efforts of a group of conservatives, progressives and moderates who have worked hard to find common ground.  The long awaited plan was finally released.  The basic thrust of the plan is as follows:

1) We all agree to change the Discipline to say that “sincere Christians disagree” on the issue of homosexuality and we remove the language which says that homosexual practice is incompatible with Christian teaching.
Congregations spend a year in prayer and discernment as to whether they will allow same sex weddings on their property or receive a practicing gay or lesbian person as their pastor.  A 2/3 vote would allow it.
2) Pastors, even when churches oppose, may conduct same sex weddings off site.
3) Congregations who cannot accept the new Discipline or the new practices in the church may, after a year of prayer and discernment, leave the church with a 2/3 vote.
4) If a church leaves, they must repay any loans to the conference and also pay two years of apportionments in full.
5) If the payment is made, the church retains their buildings and other assets.

In my view, this plan should be rejected.  Despite the cultural wave flowing against the church, the “progressives” have already been looking at the make-up of delegates who will be attending General Conference in 2016.  They do not have the votes to change the Discipline. The African delegates will be 3% higher than in 2012, and the U.S. delegation – as a whole – is actually more conservative than in 2012.  We must understand that the progressives agreed to this plan because they are desperate.  They also know that we are weary of fighting.  Of course, there will be more public shaming of the conservatives than ever before, and the demonstrations in Portland will be the stuff of daily news.  Welcome to life on the margins of a post-Christendom society.  But, we cannot forget that the Discipline will not be changed unless we can be enticed to cast our votes for that change.  This latest proposal is an attempt to find “a way forward” to get the conservatives to raise their hand and vote for a change in the Discipline.  This plan calls for an agreement by conservative delegates to permit homosexual practice and ordination in the church and then wait for a year before we can leave.  We then make a payment at the exit door (two years of apportionments) and receive our buildings as a consolation prize.

Brothers and sisters, it is never right to do wrong.  How can we vote to change the Discipline after forty years of faithfulness on this issue?  The UMC has voted eleven times on this issue, and all eleven times, the progressives have been defeated.  They now propose a Faustian deal whereby we surrender our conscience and raise our hands to give them the votes they cannot produce on their own.  They get the UMC, they get a progressive Discipline, they get our absence as we will no longer be around to impede their further dismantling of historic Christian faith, and, don’t forget that we will also be publicly betraying much of the African delegation.  What do the conservatives get for all this?  We get our buildings.  Really?

We should remember a lesson from the last General Conference in Tampa.  The few hopeful votes which took place were later vacated by the Judicial Council.   How will it feel after we have agreed to change the Discipline and permit homosexual practice in the church, yet during the “year of discernment” the Judicial council determines that the Trust Clause (par. 2501) makes it unconstitutional for the UMC to allow exiting churches to retain their buildings?

There is also a powerful pragmatism which is at play when we say, “OK, we have to vote for something unconscionable, but, in the end, we get to keep our land and buildings and we can keep on ministering to our people.”   But, again, it is never right to do wrong.  What good will the buildings be to us if we only receive them through these means?   Let’s be inspired by those faithful Episcopalians and Presbyterians who have already walked this painful road.  I personally know of many congregations who walked out of multi-million dollar facilities and found themselves in a school cafeteria.  Now, ten years later, they have rebuilt new buildings and, in the process, have re-discovered the true meaning of the body of Christ.

We must not allow this compromise plan to loosen our resolve or divide us.  We must keep voting with our biblical, historic convictions as we have been.  If the UMC decides to keep allowing covenant breaking, then we have the wonderful New Room Covenant which will allow us to stay in the church, keep all of our assets and preach the gospel, disciple new believers, etc.  Why should we be the ones who leave the church?  As long as our official Discipline reflects historic Christian teaching (as it currently does) then we are on the right side of the line, and all the squawking and disobedience by the progressives over the next four years can just be background noise as we move on in the work of the gospel.

Comments

  • gene yotka says:

    Thank you Dr Tennan

  • gene yotka says:

    Thank you Dr Tennent

    • I agree that we should not and CANNOT give in on this. It is going against Biblical teachings to compromise on subjects that are clearly sinful. For way too many years the conservatives have fought and we have not lost too many battles officially but we have lost lots of conservative, godly, Christian Men and Women because of the direction that is being pushed by the progressives and liberals. If we do continue at this pace in 4 or 8 years we won’t have the option of a compromise we will lose because the only ones left will be liberals.

  • James C apps says:

    This is the stupidest plan I’ve ever read in my life. I am not going to compromise on Scriptural truths, nor will I ever pay any Annual Conference that is pulling the rug out from under me any apportionments. The trust clause will be null because it’s no longer the church with the standards and beliefs and signed on for. Plus we won’t have the money to pay because the exodus of members to other churches will be to big.

    I am sincere Christian who became a member and a an Elder in the Methodist Church and later United Methodist Church under the understanding we were church who respected and held to the authority of Scripture. I don’t give a flip about those who believe different than me because I know that 2000 years of church history and thousands of years of Judaism have held this to be true.

    What we are hearing the death knell tolling for the United Methodist Church.

  • James C apps says:

    This is the stupidest plan I’ve ever read in my life. I will not compromise on Scriptural truths, nor will I ever pay any Annual Conference that is pulling the rug out from under me any apportionments. The trust clause will become null and void because it’s no longer the church with the standards and beliefs and we signed on for. Plus we won’t have the money to pay because the exodus of members will be to big.

    I am sincere Christian who became a member and a an Elder in the Methodist Church and later United Methodist Church under the understanding we were church who respected and held to the authority of Scripture. I don’t give a flip about those who believe different than me because I know that 2000 years of church history and thousands of years of Judaism have held this to be true.

    What we are hearing the death knell tolling for the United Methodist Church.

  • Patricia Taylor says:

    So who was involved in drafting this proposal? It isn’t actually a compromise, and it is pretty dishonest to call it that…even if the dishonesty was honestly unintentional.

    • Joyce Gaines says:

      I think Adam Hamilton was one of those who came up with this plan. If so, I am seriously disappointed in him.

    • I don’t think it’s fair to criticize those evangelicals who worked with moderates and progressives to come up with a plan that might help us resolve our extensive differences. As Dr. Tennent stated, “This plan has emerged through the good faith efforts of a group of conservatives, progressives and moderates who have worked hard to find common ground.” Most other mainline denominational churches have experienced a very painful separation process, and all are in decline. This proposal was an attempt to avoid some of that pain, and it was offered for public comment and scrutiny. Clearly, it won’t be a plan enough traditionalists can sign onto, but I’m grateful they tried to offer something.

  • Betsy says:

    If you think there should be no concern about “straddling the divide” then read this article about the dwindling Presbyterian Church (USA) who has valiantly attempted to straddle the divide:

    https://juicyecumenism.com/2015/09/25/theology-demography-killing-pcusa/

    For me, this response to the article sums up our current problem with theological diversity:

    “…An organization will decline when the beliefs and narratives that once
    supported it become too diverse to hold it together: this is where the
    PC(USA) is today.”

    The quote above says it all. How can a session have elders coming from all theological positions? Can an evangelical Presbyterian really accomplish anything with a Therapeutic Moralistic Deist? No… both agendas are frustrated. Regardless of the convictions surrounding LGBT concerns, there has to be some sort of unifying theology other than the a la carte model we have visibly embraced.

    In addition to having no real theological tethering, we as congregations are equally committed to 1. Not having to embrace any sort of uncomfortable change in style, structure, etc… and 2. Not offending anyone – except when they get transgress no. 1 above, or they get too theologically defined, or both.

  • “It is never right to do wrong”. Stated another way – “It is always right to insist that my opinion on an issue should always be the only acceptable opinion on the matter, and I should insist that my personal opinion be accepted by all regardless of how much harm it causes.”

  • Absolutely right! An excellent analysis in all respects.

    • You’ve laid it out well. Seems we have some internal work to do as well in deciding what our seminaries teach, and what the screening process allows as candidates move rhrough the system. We’re many years late on monitoring the entire system that brought us the “progressives” in the first place.

      • Phil Duvall says:

        Amen! Dr. Tennent. I believe that the Bible is God’s Word. I want to obey God. If the Bible says something is wrong, then I believe I shouldn’t do it. We must not change the Methodist Discipline. If others cannot abide by that, then they should go to another church where they can do what they want. I should not be forced to leave the Methodist Church because of them.

  • There is a saying in Hindi, “Elephant keeps walking, when dogs are barking, around”…. i think we Christians need to have that attitude.

  • There is a very simple fix to this whole situation. Those who support Homosexuals and Gay marriage should leave the church and form their own denomination. They are clearly in the minority and are on the wrong side of scripture. Least we become the Church at Laodicea.

  • Phillip says:

    So often we forget;
    Who is the head of the Church?
    That the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
    Only an almighty arm can preserve us from these unseen foes who are seeking to destroy us. Such an arm is involved in our defense. He is faithful who has promised, and He is able to keep us from falling, so that with a deep sense of our utter weakness, we may cherish a firm belief in our perfect safety and say with joyful confidence
    Against me earth and hell combine,
    But on my side is power divine;
    Jesus is all, and He is mine!
    Taken from Alistair Begg Blog.

  • […] and became more public than some at the meeting had hoped.  Details of the plan appeared in a critique by Timothy Tennent, President of Asbury Theological Seminary.  Tennent’s comments reflect the […]