Liberals and the UMC · October 02, 2004
The surprising and novel comment of William Hinson during the General Conference session of the United Methodist Church (UMC) in May, 2004 (Christianity Today, July 2004), greatly intrigued me. “I believe the time has come when we must begin to explore an amicable and just separation that will free us from our cycle of pain and conflict,” he said. Hinson was referring to the conflict between liberals and conservatives in the UMC, including steady pressure to change church teaching on homosexuality. He suggested that the church split into two, each to follow its own theological course.
The UMC has been racked by conflict since liberals took control of key leadership positions back in the 1960s. The UMC has increasingly struggled with liberal leaders pushing the church farther from its historical beliefs. Sound familiar?
The idea of an amicable split caused quite a stir, but at the end of the conference, UMC delegates reaffirmed a middle-of-the-road commitment to “unity.” The idea of such a “divorce” now has the church looking for alternatives to keep everybody together, including more accommodation of the liberal element.
While more acceptance from the mainstream is the main purpose, what strikes me, is that the liberals, particularly those pushing the homosexual agenda, know that if they are isolated to themselves and their fellow liberals, they would lose their ability to project their agenda, and its inevitable conflicts, onto the main body. Their separate church would die out. Like viruses they need a host, the main body, in which to procreate their ideology. So long as the main body isn’t willing to kick them out, which isn’t likely, or “amicably” separate them, which is even less likely, the liberals will have plenty of ground upon which to continue the political slide into irrelevance. The disease only gets worse.
Unity is grounded in truth (See John 17). No church that looses its commitment to Biblical authority can long survive the steady pressure to compromise and yield to the forces of liberalism. As traditional services, music, and other historical beliefs and practices based in Biblical truth are replaced with contemporary concepts and feel-good techniques, the idea of unity shifts to feelings and emotions rather than on the “faith once delivered to the saints,” leaving only a sentimental unity.
If there is a split, will the UMC be free of “pain and conflict.” Not likely, for the remaining moderates will continue to press their moderately liberal agenda.
Do you think our church has experienced this kind of process? I wonder what would happen if we had an amicable “divorce” such as Hinson suggested to the UMC. The problems are much too complex for simplistic solutions. But the UMC experience may give us insight into what has happened in our own church.
No matter what happens to the UMC, liberal elements will continue to press their agenda politically. Likewise, the farther we stray from our biblical moorings, the more irrelevant our message will become and the more empty and sentimental our unity will be.
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