Methodist tradition degraded by anti-LGBTQ plan

Will Bannister, Guest Columnist

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In the last week of February, the United Methodist Church met for its general conference, and the question of human sexuality was at the forefront of debate and discussion.

The church was set to vote on a series of plans that would determine the church’s stance on homosexual marriages and ordainment. Although the bishops of the United States had voted to accept homosexual marriage and ordination by over a 2/3 majority the international body voted for the traditional plan instead. This imposed stricter enforcement on the ban on homosexual marriage and ordination in the church is present in the book of discipline, as well as giving individual churches and conferences the ability to leave the church if they can not enforce this.

Despite these actions Methodist doctrine is clear, and the church will continue to accept ALL who wish to be lay members of the church regardless of their sexual orientation. This is demonstrated most clearly in the Methodists’ practice of open communion, in which anyone can partake, regardless of the type of person they are or the week they just had. The official position of the church is still that all are welcome, and if you are a member of the LGBTQ community know that you are beautiful, you are loved, and you are a child of God.

With this in mind, I now diverge from this prelude of facts to state my opinion, which is not an official position of the Methodist church in any capacity. This ruling was a disgrace and failure of Methodist governance. Full stop. Despite how an individual might feel about the religious implications of homosexuality, the willingness of the church to impose an overarching doctrine that is binding refutes the core beliefs of Methodism. The name Methodist was a term used to mock early members of the church because of the large swaths of time they dedicated to methodical debate and witness.

The core doctrine of the church is the Wesleyan quadrilateral, which states that each individual should use scripture, experience, tradition and reason to establish their personal theology.

There has been a proud tradition of civil disobedience against the book of discipline. This decision by the general conference stifles the ability for future debate and witness within the church, it stifles the individual expression of theology and it stifles the tradition of disobedience in the church.

Regardless of your position on homosexuality, if you are a United Methodist you should be deeply saddened by the degradation of our tradition. If the church can not uphold its core traditions and instead chooses to limit theological debate and witness then there is nothing that separates mainline Protestantism from evangelicals or Calvinists. If this is the case then maybe it is inevitable that the Methodist church will die out and be segmented into evangelical, Calvinist and non-denominational churches. The attraction of the Methodist church is that the Wesleyan tradition insists that one should never be satisfied with their faith and should always encourage debate around their faith. The outcome of the church’s debate on homosexuality or any given issue is not as important as the attempt to be in witness in faith and the willingness to discuss theology openly.

With this I’ll leave all the readers of this column, Methodist or not, a piece of advice from the founder of the Methodist Church. “Do all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can, In all the places you can, At all the times you can, To all the people you can, As long as ever you can.” – John Wesley

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