The United Methodist Church was formed in 1968 as a merger between Methodist Church and Evangelical United Brethren Church.
It was only a few years later that the church started to experience disagreements on human sexuality.
In 1972, at the General Conference in Atlanta, it was added to the Book of Discipline that “The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.”
Since then the subject of human sexuality has been a bone of contention at every general conference. At the 2016 general conference in Portland, delegates from around the world asked UMC Bishops to come up with recommendations on how the church should resolve divisions over this subject.
During the past three years, UMC Bishops developed three plans, among them, the One Church Plan, which would have allowed local congregations, conferences and clergy to choose their own definition of marriage, make their own decisions about conducting same sex marriage and ordaining LGBTQ+ clergy.
The One Church Plan was designed to keep the denomination together and so, it was supported by most USA Bishops.
The Traditional Plan retains the current UMC teaching on sexual ethics and marriage as male and female.
This plan seeks to strengthen enforcement for disobedience of this standard.
These plans were brought to the General Conference which was called specially to address divisions over LGBTQ+ issues. On Feb. 26 in St. Louis, delegates approved the Traditional Plan backed by global evangelicals over the liberalizing One Church Plan backed by most USA Bishops by a vote of 438-384.
A few lessons we need to learn here: First, the margin was not big — which means there are no winners and losers. But the truth is the church is divided. There are disagreements and differences in the church.
However, our differences are not political but theological. How do we deal with these theological differences? It is not our human opinions or reasoning; not even human sentimentalism that will help us to unite; but only the Scripture has the capacity to unite us.
We need to put aside our motivations and penchants and let the Scripture speak for itself. As long as we depart from God’s word, we will be a church divided.
Second, The UMC has become a global church.
John Wesley has been gone more than 200 years, but his words are still true today: “The world is my parish.”
Mark Tooley, president of the conservative Institute on Religion and Democracy, has observed the same: “The church is moving from its USA liberal mainline identity to a new global identity rooted in Christian orthodoxy.”
To me, this is something to be cherished. The day the UMC divorces its biblical teaching and biblical roots, it is that very day the UMC will cease to be the church.
Third, the Traditional Plan has been misinterpreted by many who seem to think our friends who identify as LGBTQ+ are not wanted in our denomination.
That is far from being true.
LGBTQ+ friends are people created in God’s image. We love them in the church, we value the and we are to treat them with dignity and respect as people of sacred worth.
The UMC Book of Discipline states that “We affirm that all persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God. We affirm that God’s grace is available to all. We will seek to live together in Christian community, welcoming, forgiving, and loving one another, as Christ has loved and accepted us…”
As we sat on Sunday, March 3 Stoddard UMC continues to uphold the biblical teaching of the gospel as far as sexual morality is concerned and the church believes marriage is between one man and one woman.
This being the case, as the church we will strive to live by what the Bible teaches so that we may leave a legacy of scriptural holiness for generations to come.
However, since Jesus loves all and He died for all, Stoddard UMC is open to all who want to grow in scriptural holiness. We will not judge, but we will let the Bible teach us, the Holy Spirit transform us, and God mold us into the people He created us to be.