In late June, 2021, the governing conference of the Methodist Church of Great Britain, the British Methodist Church, redefined its understanding of marriage to include same-sex couples. But the bigger news may have been the British Methodist Church’s sanctioning of fornication and adultery as acceptable practices among the Body of Christ.
The Conference affirms the following summary understanding of cohabitation: The Church recognises [sic] that the love of God is present within the love of human beings who are drawn to each other, and who enter freely into some form of life-enhancing committed relationship with each other, whether that be through informal cohabitation or a more formal commitment entered into publicly.
As a Church we wish to celebrate that the love of God is present in these circumstances, even if that grace is not responded to or even discerned by the people concerned.
The Church has an important calling, therefore, to point to the presence of God’s love within such relationships, and to encourage people to respond to it in the renewing and deepening (by whatever means) of their commitment.
With this one statement the Methodist Church of Great Britain has affirmed that if two unmarried individuals wish to live together as a committed couple—or even two married individuals who no longer wish to remain with their spouse but be united with a new partner—may do so with the blessing of the British Methodist Church.
In response to this denial of Christ’s holiness, how might we in the UMC of the U.S. respond?
First, we need to express our sorrow to the Father. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians that, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret.” (2 Corinthians 7:10) Sorrow-filled cries to the Father over our sin will always reach his ears.
Second, recommit to pray for the United Methodist Church. “Tell the people: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Return to me,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the Lord Almighty.'” (Zechariah 1:3) When we turn to our Father in prayer, he turns his face towards us. On knees and in tears we should confess our sins, the sins of our leaders within UMC, the sins of members within the UMC that affirm sin, and ask that our Father give us repentant hearts.
Third, focus on our holiness. “Let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” (2 Corinthians 7:1) It’s fine to be concerned about the sins of others, but before we correct our brother or sister, we should check our own spirit. “For it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.'” (1 Peter 1:16)
Finally, hunger and thirst for God. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:6) What becomes of the United Methodist Church should have no impact your thirst for God or my hunger for our Father’s words. “Jesus rebuked Satan with this simple truth: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4)
“Let marriage be held in honor among all. Let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” (Hebrews 13:4)
Years ago Christians brought the institution of slavery from Great Britain to the American Colonies. Let us reject this growing expansion of slavery to sin. Who knows but if we confess, repent, and pray for mercy that God may yet act and save the United Methodist Church in America.
Books I support—authors I trust.