The United Methodist General Conference just voted to accept the "traditional" plan in relationship to same-sex marriage unions in their congregations, and same-sex relationships and sexual activity among their clergy. There is a lot to say about this, the nature of church institutions in relationship to their membership and more. I will leave that for another day and another time.
What I find interesting about the whole process is the interplay of the global church with the American/Western church. If left to itself, the Methodists in the USA would have adopted a more LGBTQIA friendly plan. However, because the denomination makes decisions globally, it adopted a plan that maintains its discipline on sexual morality, with plans for more strict enforcement of the denomination's covenant.
Having been involved in a Methodist fellowship a few years ago, I was party to some conversations between a bishop and clergy leaders. This bishop, at the time, chaired the congregation of bishops in the UMC, and thus was the "lead" bishop. (Not sure what all that entailed) In that discussion, the bishop shared that although he knew the global church was more conservative, he believed that those churches who were historically founded by Western mission work would not vote for a measure that would lead to division in the Methodist fellowship. He believed this because the conservatives and liberal churches in the USA were like parents to the global church, and they would vote for family preservation instead of their "parents" divorcing. Furthermore, it was implied that the global church would not want division because they were dependent on a "united" support of the churches in the USA.
The non-American churches, especially those in Africa, by voting for the traditional plan, rejected not only a more liberal interpretation of Scripture and human sexuality, they rejected the paternalistic rule of the Western church that the bishop I heard articulated. No longer willing to have their theology and ethical standards dictated to them by the powers that be, they decided that they could read the Bible, discern what it said, and continue in obedience to the Scripture and the historic stance of their fellowship.
This is a lesson for both conservatives and liberals in the church as they seek to develop global relationships in years to come. Christianity, whether it be Catholic, Pentecostal, Methodist, or nearly any other denomination, is going to be centered more in the southern hemisphere in the years to come. The people groups that were reached in years past are now going to become the leaders of the global church, and the United States and Western Europe are going to become less a mission leader and more of a mission field.
We need to speak about, engage with, and work with our ministry partners around the world as partners instead of thinking of them "children". We need to realize that their voice matters, that they have truth to speak to us, and that our parners from all around the world have leadership to offer and truth to speak. The same Holy Spirit leads us all.
Wednesday, February 27, 2019
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