Wednesday, June 11, 2014

About two decades too late.

Is gay marriage destroying the United Methods Church:

//"Irreconcilable" disagreement over same-sex unions is once again prompting debate over splitting the historic United Methodist Church (UMC), one of America's largest denominations.

"If we are one church, we cannot act as if we are two. If, in reality, we are two churches, it may not be wise to pretend any longer that we are one," concludes a statement last month from 80 traditionalists from across the UMC, which has 7.7 million U.S. members. (An additional 4.4 million members are overseas.)

The statement says the UMC is facing a crisis in four areas because:

* Pastors have violated or said they are willing to violate the Book of Discipline ban on same-sex marriages. (The Book of Discipline is the church's most authoritative guide.)

* Pastors and other leaders realize that there are no "meaningful consequences" for violating the Book of Discipline by officiating at a same-sex union. (In one instance, two clergy were given a "24-hour suspension without pay" for marrying gay couples.)

* More church leaders believe "significant parts of the Scriptures do not provide an accurate understanding of God's heart and mind and may be discarded as uninspired and in error."

* Among top leaders, "there are dramatic differences in how personal and social holiness is lived out and taught."

"We can no longer talk about schism as something that might happen in the future. Schism has already taken place in our connection," said Maxie Dunnam, chancellor of Asbury Seminary and leader in the Good News movement for evangelical Methodists, in comments to Good News magazine.

"There are conscience-bound persons who find it impossible to live in the United Methodist Church as we presently define ourselves in relation to human sexuality," said Dunnam. "Forty years of wrestling with the issue is enough." The first disagreements among United Methodists over homosexuality began four decades ago. Back in 2004, traditionalist leaders tried, but failed, to move forward a proposal for an amicable breakup of the denomination that traces its heritage to John and Charles Wesley.

Many traditionalists say their differences with progressives are now "irreconcilable." The UMC, the largest of the historic mainline denominations, has been holding the conservative line on homosexuality for years. Two other major mainline groups, The Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), permit the blessing of same-sex unions and credential openly gay clergy. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) now allows ordination to occur without reference to its fidelity/chastity clause. In 2012, conservative PC(USA) members created the Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians to uphold bans on same-sex unions and openly gay clergy.

The statement by Dunnam's group follows the controversial actions of UMC bishop Martin McLee of New York. In March, McLee announced that he was dropping formal charges against Thomas Ogletree, an 80-year-old retired pastor and former Yale Divinity dean who was accused of breaking church law by officiating at his son's same-sex wedding ceremony in 2012//

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