What the Methodists Really Said

It’s now been two weeks since the General Conference and the twitterverse is still atwitter.  Moving beyond some of the hype and hyperbole, however, here’s what the Methodists actually did and did not say:

Methodists did not say that LGBTQI persons and their allies are not welcome in our churches, for they always have been and will continue to be. Across our global church, we count as treasured sisters and brothers those who are both gay and straight, as well as those from diverse cultures, backgrounds, and ethnicities, proclaiming that we are all equals at the foot of the Cross, in need of God’s redeeming love.

Methodists likewise did not say that LGBTQI persons are not dearly cherished children of God, for we wholeheartedly believe that all persons are made in the image of God and of sacred worth, deserving of respect and the protection of their civil rights.

Methodists did not try to tell anyone who they can love, or suggest that somehow their love may be less than that of others.  For the truth is, there is a shortage of love in this world and folks should be happy whenever and wherever it is found.

And Methodists did not suggest that LGBTQI members and their allies should simply leave the church if they can’t agree with the doctrines and policies of it.  The “gracious exit” provisions were intended not to throw anyone out, but to throw a lifeline to those from either side of the question whose conscience may not allow them to stay within the denomination.

They did not even proclaim that having a same-sex attraction is a barrier to ordination, for there have long been celibate gay pastors who chose to value ordination over self-expression.

What Methodists did say, however, was that after careful consideration of the biblical witness that they cannot affirm that the practice of homosexuality represents God’s ultimate will for His children, all the celebrations of it notwithstanding.

They did say that they will remain in continuity with the teachings of both the church through the ages and the vast majority of the church world-wide today, rejecting the accommodation to culture that has been made in many quarters of the American church over the past few decades.

They did proclaim that Methodism, once the most American of all churches, is now a truly global movement and that the voices from Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and other places are equally valid to those of Americans. They accordingly rejected the colonialist attitudes of some progressives that we in the West know best and that those elsewhere need to simply “grow up,” as one prominent liberal leader has said.

They did affirm that marriage is an institution designed by God and that despite instances to the contrary in parts of the Bible, that the overall tenor of the whole scriptural witness is that it was intended to be a sacred covenant between one man and one woman.  Again, that is not to say that civil unions and domestic partnerships should not be allowed; it is simply to say that in the Methodist understanding, the word marriage itself has a particular meaning that cannot be changed. So Methodist clergy are not allowed by church law to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies even in nations such as our own where they may be otherwise legal.

Likewise, they suggested that sexuality is a gift of God that is to be exercised only in such a heterosexual marriage.  For long ago the Ten Commandments reminded us that adultery–no matter what expression it may take, straight or gay– is not what God has intended for his children to practice.

And the General Conference agreed that ordination is not a civil right, but a holy rite, a bestowal of the church granted to those who are willing to meet all of the educational, personal, and social requirements that the church believes should be found in any woman or man before they stand before others to proclaim God’s Word.

In short, what the Methodists said in St. Louis was that they will continue to try to be the positive force for God in this world that for three centuries they have been, feeding the hungry, caring for the poor, digging water wells in some places, building Habitat homes in others, visiting those in prison, working for social justice, teaching both young and old, and offering God’s grace and redeeming love to all. They said that they will continue to struggle with how to be both faithful to God’s Witness and open to God’s Spirit.  No matter how difficult that task may be.

Just in case you’ve heard someone say that we said something else instead.


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49 Responses to What the Methodists Really Said

  1. June Traylor says:

    Thank you – this Biblical, concise and accurate accounting is deeply appreciated.

    June Traylor, Director of Ministries

    Christ by the Sea UMC

    3755 Highway A1A

    Vero Beach, FL 32963

    Phone: 772.231.1661 x302

    Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Proverbs 3:5

  2. Becky Love Roberts says:

    Chappell, Thank you for this clear and balanced account. You have a beautiful gift for communicating clearly and effectively. As always, your warmth, your compassion, and your reassurance shine forth as you speak into a difficult and often confusing issue.
    Again, thank you.
    Becky Roberts

  3. Clayton L. Smith says:

    Thank you for this positive and faithful observation! Lowers my bloodpressure and spiritual trauma! God bless our church with love and truth!

  4. Brandye Scotton says:

    Per usual, you are spot on in the most gracious and accurate way. Thank you for your leadership and clarity.

  5. Nollene Denton says:

    Thank you for making this very clear. We truly miss you at Lakewood!

  6. JR Ewing says:

    Thumbs up, Pastor Temple. I am glad we have you leading our church.

  7. Steve Daniels says:

    I am not able to find instances of homosexual “marriages” in the Bible. Is this what you meant with your comment “marriage is an institution designed by God and that despite instances to the contrary in parts of the Bible”? My apologies if I have misinterpreted your words; not my intent.

    • Thanks for the question, Steve. My reference was not to any scriptural endorsement of same-sex marriages (which does not exist) but to the often-cited occurrences in the Bible of other heterosexual arrangements, including multiple wives and concubines. While those are indeed descriptive of some practices by the patriarchs, for instance, my argument would be that they are not prescriptive of God’s original intention for marriage which was for one man and one woman.

      • John W Marsh says:

        Yes, I have looked hard for that Concubine loop hole to no avail.

      • Paul Dunham says:

        Yes. There are examples of polygamy and concubines in the Bible, but those examples often end up as good examples of how brokenness invades life when unrighteousness abounds. They are not good examples of healthy marriages.

  8. Pastor J Larry Smith says:

    Well said Chap! Clarified down to the smallest detail. Thanks.

  9. Gene Steel says:

    Hey Chap, Thank you so much. Very helpful! New email address for me.  genesteel52@gmail.com Blessings,Gene

  10. Arthur Dan Gleckler says:

    Not meaning unkindly, I wonder why you did not call us what we have been … by General Conference vote … since 1968, i.e., United Methodists. This was a specific gesture acknowledging the Evangelical and United Brethren tradition in our history and communion. Beyond that, the tone overall of your description of what General Conference did lacks identification with LGBTs as fully accepted members of the body of Christ. There is no grieving, there is no expressing of a sense of brokenness, there is no admission of having designated one form of humanity as separated or as the cause of this vote. No allowance is made for such things as divorce in contrast to homosexuality, nor are the scriptural bases for full acceptance of LGBT’s acknowledged, or the fact that outstanding scholars and spiritual leaders among us have made prayerful and courageous witness for it. Only “the secular trend of modern society” or some such cause is presented. Can we continue to pray for a better attitude among ourselves about this? Are more relationships between us, in the deepest Christian sense, now possible? Arthur Dan Gleckler, Baltimore

  11. Ted Lukeman says:

    Thank you Chap! What an eloquent way to express the the true meaning of Methodism and also the outcome of the conference. My feeling is that the LBGT does not have the right to force their views upon us. Freedom of religion in the first amendment stands behind that outcome. I realize we have separation of church and state, however our founding fathers had faith.

  12. Sally Mc Knight says:

    Nice confirmation of what I thought I saw. Hope it clears things up for others who might have had a different understanding.

    I have been worried about you. The conference seemed to take a serious toll on you.

    Praying for your recovery and that you will be able to continue serving as our delegate.


    Sent from my iPad


  13. Becky Monto says:

    Thank you so much for this very clear summary. This event has been extremely painful, confusing, and exhausting. Your words offer clarification and I find them comforting. Praying for healing for all of us.

  14. Pingback: UM Fallout: A Compendium – People Need Jesus

  15. Ned Weller says:

    Well stated!

  16. Pat Davis says:

    The voice of reason. Chap always speaks so eloquently. Thanks for educating us all.

  17. Malcolm says:

    Thank you, Chap

  18. Jan Baughman says:

    Thank you for clearly stating how I feel but just couldn’t put it into my own words. God bless you Chap.

  19. Penny Wilson says:

    Thank you for direct wording and clear clarification, awesome.

  20. spbaccus says:

    Thank you for finally putting into words what actually happened! I was a delegate and I’m so tired of being told I’m hateful and hurtful and that I don’t love anyone!!! What a breath of fresh air!!!

  21. William Harrison says:

    I read your response and truthfully still not clear. Did the Methodist accept same sex marriage as being ok and can be performed in the Methodist church and did they approve or disapprove of bishops and pastors being homosexuals and can live together and openly live that lifestyle and still hold those positions.

    • The General Conference reaffirmed our longstanding position that prohibits self-avowed practicing homosexuals from being ordained or appointed as clergy in the UMC, as well as restrict our clergy from doing same-sex marriage ceremonies. Many across the connection, however, have already announced their intention to ignore those provisions of the BOD and continue not following our discipline. And if they are in areas in which their view predominates, there appears to be no will to enforce our collective understanding as a denomination.

      • Brandye says:

        This is what I don’t understand if our beliefs do not fit with someone, why wouldn’t that person make another choice? There are other denominations. It’s quite literally the choice we make every Sunday morning, with every donation, with every committee membership, etc. I guess I technically know the answer but am still at a loss.

  22. Anthony W. Stevenson says:

    Just curious as to what will happen to a Pastor/or UMC Church if they do NOT follow the confirmed BOD regarding this issue?

    • According to the plan passed, clergy who perform a same-sex wedding ceremony are to be suspended without pay for one year on the first offense, and lose their credentials on the second such time. But again, conferences which have agreed to ignore those provisions will not bring charges against clergy who do so, or they will not find them guilty. And so how to hold people accountable remains the prevailing issue.

  23. Don Nelson says:

    From science we’re learned that homosexually is not necessarily a social choice but determined by the chromosomes we got at birth. Women also get different chromosomes than men. Doe that mean that we should put women in their God given place. according to biblical teaching and keep them out of the pulpit? Also what about Jesus saying, “what you do to the least of mine you do to me?”

    • Doreen Morgan says:

      Bwoy, what a confusing mess!!! The church’s stance is as “clear as mud” to me!

    • paul says:

      Not true, please don’t twist both science and God’s word. Science has not found a genetic link. Even if there is a genetic predisposition found someday, the argument is about marrying practicing homosexuals in a UMC church, etc.

  24. Jack Adair says:

    Excellent post, Pastor Temple. It is something that really needed to be said considering all of the garbage in the media which has come out since the conference.

  25. Audrey Moen says:

    I grew up in the Evangelical United brethren church. Been following this issue now for years. I am a sinner, but by God’s grace have been saved. I love the sinner, but not the sin . Your article has answered so many of my questions.
    I do believe if one wants to lead God’s people they need to do so according to the scriptures and the BOD. What good is it to have a BOD if it is not being followed?
    We need to stay the course and pray for healing in our denomination. Marshfield, wis.

  26. roy wrather says:

    best explanation I’ve read. Thanks so much.

  27. Pastor Randy says:

    Bravo! The best way to explain the mess. And good lessons for how we Traditional Orthodox should respond when attacked by those loving and accepting progressives!

  28. Barry Justice says:

    Thank you for the conciseness comprehension explanation and clarification of the conference.
    The United Methodist Church is a church that has grown globally,glorifying God and bringing people together to worship

  29. Jon Burk says:

    Thank you for the clear words of truth and grace in this post, Pastor Temple. May God richly bless you! The misinformation, uproar, and name calling that has characterized the weeks since the 2019GC hurts us all.

    Even with the vote, it appears that the Western Jurisdiction will remain in schism at the level of bishops, annual conference hierarchy, and among many pastors, but not all. I am saddened as a long time member of the UMC in Cal-Pac Annual Conference (and lay representative for my church several times) to be among the traditional and in the minority. Because of this I seldom attend UMCs (3 times in the past month after not attending a UMC for a year) but I have a safe haven in a nearby Four Square church. My faith is in God over the man-made institution of the UMC, but my spirit is heartened that the denomination is still part of the bride of Christ.

    I will also note that the homosexual marriage and practicing homosexual ordination were peripheral issues for my no longer attending my home church of 28 years. The real problem came from the pastor of my longtime church who is teaching other than the Affirmations of Faith regarding many foundational things: Jesus is not God, the Canon of Holy Scripture is open, The Gospel of Thomas is canon, Jesus is not the only way to the Father, Holy Scripture is man made, not God-breathed, universal salvation and other heresies. His faith is more in line with Unitarian Universalism than the faith tradition of John Wesley and United Methodism The issues in the UMC are very deep. If we cannot agreed on the Affirmations of Faith, then there are obviously multiple faiths under the UMC banner, which means schism is present even if separation is not.

  30. Mary Grace Randerson says:

    Thanks, Chappell. I do appreciate your helping me understand the conference and what really was the outcome. Margaret and I count you as a friend. God bless you.

  31. stephanie berryman says:

    “What Methodists did say, however, was that after careful consideration of the biblical witness that they cannot affirm that the practice of homosexuality represents God’s ultimate will for His children.” That’s a very eloquent way to express your belief that homosexuality is fundamentally sinful, i.e. against God’s will. That’s also what the Westboro Baptists believe. At least the Westboro church shows some integrity here: they call out loudly that they believe it is a sin, and act with all conviction to end its practice. You have dressed your belief in some lovely words of empty welcome, but I don’t see how your beliefs are any different when stripped bare. I’m sure those pretty words make you feel better, though. I doubt they bring comfort to anyone who is actually gay.

    • Dear Stevie, there is an important difference between homosexuality as an orientation and as a behavior. I do not believe that sisters and brothers with a same-sex attraction are any more sinful than heterosexuals who may have a natural inclination towards promiscuity. It’s what we do with our sexual inclinations that matters, whether we are gay or straight. The Westboro folks, at least from my conversations with them in St. Louis, do not draw that distinction; to use the common idiom, they would seem to hate both the sin and the sinner. My gay friends can tell you that is not the case for me, however. There are all kinds of conditions and challenges that face all of us, none of which are more intrinsically sinful than others in my mind. But if I believe in the power of God to transform each of us by the renewing of our minds, it would be dishonest indeed not to reflect that in my words. In the end, the post was not intended to argue the merits of either side of the issue, only to try to faithfully reflect as one who was there what was actually said and done. I’m sorry if you found my expression unartful and even hurtful, but it was not intended to simply make me “feel better” at all. After working together, I would have hoped you knew my heart better than that, but then I know there were other issues too. At any rate, I wish you and your family well.

  32. Luke Brawner says:

    With all due respect, my friend, much of what was said, the most painful parts in particular, was said not in words. It’s not nearly as simple as this post, eloquently written as it may be, makes it seem. I’ve always loved and respected you Chap, and I’ll always be grateful for the role you played in my life, but the stance you’ve taken on this makes me incredibly sad. As does the damage that stance has done and continues to do to many of the folks I love and with whom I serve today.

    • I appreciate your kind words, Luke, and I was grateful to have the chance to work with you as well. I’m sorry that you feel that my views on this truly difficult issue do damage to others, but I truthfully feel that to argue otherwise does damage to the words and promise of the scriptures. Likewise, to argue thus is to break continuity with the majority of the church world-wide, and with the church of the ages. More significantly, it is to deny to those who may wish to hear it the power of God to change all of us into what He would have us be. From my perspective, speaking the truth in love is not easy as I too have many whom I love within the LGBTQ community. But to do otherwise is to ask me to set aside what I believe is the scriptural witness in order to appear compassionate to those who may not fully understand it. That is something I cannot do and I hope my friends will understand and allow me the room to try and follow faithfully as I think God is leading me. I don’t require anyone to agree with me in order to remain in community with them and I hope such will be the case with you as well, brother.

  33. Diane Naquin says:

    Appreciate the clarity of this article and the positive way it was written so very much.

  34. Doreen Grieve says:

    Your words were so gentle and provided clarity. Thank you for your courage and your kindness in the face of so much divisiveness. It is a hard task. I have friends and relatives who are gay and it is biological, though it may be a fad for many others in our culture. I do not want them to live a life condemned to be without a partner or seen as a sinful person or unwelcome in the church. But I don’t want to see our culture or our church promote leadership that shows this as a lifestyle ‘choice’ and ‘experimental option’ either. It is a painful life for those predisposed to it. I hope we continue to have Methodist Churches that do serve gay couples. Prayers for God to provide guidance to all of us.

  35. Bryce Robertson says:

    I fully understand that the Bible refers to marriage as a covenant relationship between a man and a woman. Are you willing to consider that a marriage between two consenting adults would be acceptable if they would agree to the phrase ‘Fidelity in marriage’?; and that singles would agree to the phrase: ‘celibacy in singleness’. I am not completely comfortable with these phrases, but they
    would allow some ethical teeth that does not now exist in their statement. Thanks for a beautifully worded statement.

    Bryce Robertson
    Retired Clergy NTC

  36. Pastor Deb Harvey says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. Very well said and truthful; and this truth will set members free if they will just accept it as the truth.

  37. Paul says:

    Chap, we miss you at LUMC. Keep up the good work. Your argument is a good way to explain that some of us are genuinely looking for truth in the Word and not looking for someone or something to hate (In fact it can be a painful position to take). I may not be right about everything, and I am probably wrong about many things. That being said, the arguments that the richest churches in America should get more votes, that Africans should be more enlightened, that Paul just some wishy washy guy with problems, that the Bible reflects only social context and can only be legitimized through “the Golden rule,” that we need to change so we have millineal leaders, etc. – all leave me unconvinced and even a little more leery of certain leaders. Keep praying for the truth.

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