Acting out of love for the church and its mission, the North Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church’s Central West District Board of Church Location and Building, the Bishop, and the eight District Superintendents have unanimously determined that “exigent circumstances” have threatened the continued vitality and mission of Mt. Bethel United Methodist Church. Given this determination, all assets of the local church have transferred immediately to the Conference Board of Trustees of the North Georgia Conference.
It seems only the United Methodist Church’s North Georgia Conference claims to cast out an entire congregation in an act of love.
For another perspective on this skirmish in the UMC split visit:
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.
In the early years of North Raleigh United Methodist Church, the congregation held a womanless wedding. We performed the ceremony in “the old metal building” which at the time was the only structure on the property. Rabbit trail: a whooshing sigh from the chairs in that early sanctuary served as entertainment—for boys like me, anyway. Each time the congregation stood to sing or hear the reading of the word, I knew a united Methodist “fart” would follow. The construction of the cushions in the chairs held air, and when pressed, the air escaped. The more we stood, the more I snickered.
I may be wrong about this, but I think Red Hewitt served as bride. Ed Smith might have been the groom, but I wouldn’t swear to this. Red was a large, gregarious, man who by his very nature caused people to laugh. At the time his role as bride seemed perfect.
Now nearly 5o years later NRUMC may soon have real womanless weddings.
During a June 25 online meeting, the UMC’s General Council on Finance and Administration voted to amend local churches’ forms to include the option of non-binary as a gender category. “Non-binary” will now be included next to“male” and “female.”
According to UM News, “The change will take effect with forms for the 2021 collection year and will only affect the denomination’s data collection in the U.S. The Book of Discipline, the denomination’s policy book, says all people are of sacred worth but states that ‘the practice of homosexuality’ is ‘incompatible with Christian teaching.’ However, GCFA staff confirmed that adding non-binary to the forms does not conflict with any paragraph in the Discipline. Board members also concluded the change is not in conflict with any legislation related to sexuality heading to the pandemic-delayed General Conference.”
I read the UM News report and thought back to that first womanless wedding and wondered if we had erred in our attempt to have a little fun. Deuteronomy 22:5 says, “A woman shall not wear a man’s clothing, nor shall a man put on a woman’s clothing; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God.”
I cannot imagine today that NRUMC would even consider such an event. A womanless wedding for the sake of humor would be offensive to those attracted to members of the same gender. Like those farting chairs I found so funny, had we mocked a sacred event for a few laughs and offended those who were gay? Had we offended God?
We can’t change the past, but with the help of God’s Holy Spirit we can change how we live in the present and future.
Lord, forgive me for mocking what you call sacred. Forgive me for making fun of all who are created in your image, loved by you, and worthy of your Son’s saving death on the cross. May you give me your eyes to see, ears to hear, hands with which to reach out, and a heart that breaks every time I choose my sin over your love.