Category Archives: Church Leadership

Go Home?

Once upon a time, a man decided he needed to get right with God… so he decides he’s going to read from the Bible everyday. But he doesn’t know much about the Bible… and has NO experience in looking for direction from the Bible.

Eventually he decides he will simply let the Bible decide what he ought to read. He will open his Bible randomly to a page and, with his eyes closed, he will drop his index finger onto the page where the Bible has opened… and this, he will have a message of direction from God through the Bible.

The very first verse he happened to turn to was Psalm 137:9 which says “Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.”[1]

This guy isn’t sure how that applies to him, so he closes his eyes and tries again. This time the Bible fell open to Luke 10:37 where Jesus said: “Go, and do likewise.”[2]

The man was quite upset and he did not know how he could ever obey that, so he decided to turn to one more place. Again he opened the Bible at random and to his horror his finger fell upon John 13:27 where Jesus says: “What you are about to do, do quickly.”[3]

This method of randomly opening the Bible and claiming it is GOD speaking directly to you… can really send a mixed or erroneous message… because there’s no context. Those three Biblical statements are Scripture… they are real and they are only a PIECE of a point or a message God has preserved through the written Word. But if you only take a piece of Scripture… you can very easily make the Bible say whatever you want it to say.

That happened again this past week at a celebration of a man named John MacArthur serving 50 years as a pastor. The emcee of the event decided to play a game. He would say a phrase… and MacArthur was supposed to respond in a short, pithy response… just a word or two.

The emcee said “Beth Moore…”

MacArthur, after taking a good 30 seconds or so to think about his answer replied simply: “Go home.”

In case you aren’t sure who Beth Moore is, she “is a prominent evangelical Bible teacher, author and founder of Living Proof Ministries.”[4] She is an excellent teacher, and best I can tell, she is on the mark theologically too. What she says, lines up with Scripture.

Well, back to MacArthur. He commented a minute or so later: “There is no case that can be made biblically for a woman preacher. Period. Paragraph. End of discussion.”

Later he added, “Just because you have the skill to sell jewelry on the TV sales channel doesn’t mean you should be preaching. There are people who have certain hawking skills, natural abilities to sell, they have energy and personality and all of that. That doesn’t qualify you to preach.”

The audience laughed and cheered with each of these pronouncements.

The idea that MacArthur and so many others are pushing here, is to “take literally” the Biblical passages where Paul says that women should be silent in church and not permitted to teach or have authority over a man.

Before we go very far…

Those words ARE in Scripture. But they’re being quoted without all the context… sort of like our deluded Bible reader in my story I started with.

One of the primary scriptures folks refer to when making claims like MacArthur did is First Timothy 2:8-15. I’m going walk and talk my way through those verses…

 Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing. 

OK… Verse 8 tells the men their focus in the Body of Christ, in the Church, is praying (to Whom? GOD!) And a warning that when you start getting angry in a church setting or start disputing and arguing in a church setting, then you’ve lost your focus. You’re like a train that is derailing… a nasty wreck is immanent. He says get back to focusing on the holiness and on reaching God in prayer. All that other male ego stuff just doesn’t belong in the church. Watch out for the one who always has to argue and watch pout for the one who always has to have the last word andwatch out for the one who looks for ways to bring division into the church.

The thing is, it’s not just MEN who get angry and start disputes and arguments and bullying others in the church is it? So why does Paul address it to men?

Here’s what I think is the reason. Paul, like he does in so many of his letters, is writing responses to questions that people wrote to him. And I THINK that Timothy, in the church he’s trying to pastor, is having trouble with some men who are feeding their anger and causing disputes… arguments and verbal sparring… and Paul specifically, for that situation, tells Timothy how to solve that situation with those specific people.

AND THEN in verses 9 and 10, he speaks to whatever questions Timothy has asked about the problems he’s having with some of the women in Timothy’s congregation…

I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, 10 but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.

Again, we don’t have the original letter that Paul received with the questions that he’s now responding to, but it’s pretty clear to me that there were women showing up who were dressed immodestly, trying to draw attention to themselves, when they should have been trying to draw closer to God… not draw the attention of the other people in the worship service.

Apparently, Timothy must have asked about women in leadership… and I think he must have been taking heat from some of the men who just want things to calm down… Maybe they’re tired of some of the women who were interrupting worship to ask questions or they’re up and down and back and forth… We don’t really know for sure… but we know they were being disruptive and we know that Paul felt the need to say they needed to be more modest and draw less attention. Part of his answer is that these women need to be quiet and just ask their questions later after worship.

But I think most of this next paragraph is for the guys who were complaining about the women in leadership positions… Let me keep reading and I’ll explain why…

11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 15 But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.

But I don’t think this can be a literal principle for every woman everywhere for all of human history. Some is specifically for THOSE women in that ONE congregation in that one moment of history… But it also sounds like Paul’s rehearsing the arguments put out by those arguing and disruptive men from back in verse 8.

Follow verses 11-15…

A woman:

  • Should learn in quietness
  • Should be submissive (to a man it seems)
  • Cannot be permitted to teach men
  • Cannot be permitted to be in authority over men
  • Must be silent.
  • WHY? Because Eve was created from the man and Eve’s the one who was deceived by the snake.

Up until now, from verses 11-14, it looks like Paul’s just nailing reason after reason that women ought to shut up and sit down… at least when the men are around.


Check out verse 15…

Understand, verse 15 is NOT a new thought. It is NOT a new paragraph. Rather, verse 15 sums up the paragraph we’ve been reading that started in verse 11… where Paul has been giving the reasons to silence those women. And the final reason that supports that argument?

15 But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.

The final reason to shut those women up and keep them out of the teaching positions and authority positions and preaching positions is: a women can be silenced because the way she has hope of getting saved is by having a baby… IF she’s good enough.

W H A T ? ? ? ! ! !

I believe wholeheartedly that we have either misread this silencing of women or else our theology is all wrong. For verses 11-14 to be taken literally as Paul’s reasons to silence women, then verse 15 has to be taken literally saying that no woman ever can get saved unless they have a baby… it says childbirth!! Not only is the pulpit forbidden to a woman, but so is the ALTAR! None of this believing in Jesus as Savior and Lord!

Rather, in the same way that an argument of logic will quote the oppositions’ foolish reasons to do something, so I believe Paul lists these STUPID arguments that say that a woman must be silenced and then takes those arguments to their ultimate end… I think he is taking the mens’ arguments against the women in their congregation to its furthest reaches by proving how ILLOGICAL their beliefs really are. To claim that a woman cannot be used by God is to diminish God… What kind of weak, helpless god do we have anyway?? The ONLY way a woman can be used by God is by having babies…

Paul highlights the stupidity and ignorance of that claim.

Silence the women??? Women can’t serve God??? What, is God not big enough or powerful enough to use a woman???

  • It was GOD… who used Miriam, right alongside of Moses, prophetically explaining in poetry and in song the meaning of the exodus from slavery in Egypt…[5]
  • It was GOD… who used Deborah, who ran Israel and all of its 12 tribes… and she was speaking and exhorting and teaching and prophesying.[6]
  • It was GOD… who invited both the Israelite men and the Israelite women to take the same religious vows to become Nazarites…[7]
  • It was GOD… who went ahead of Esther, who saved the nation as a leader whom GOD had put in place in power “for such a time as this” to save the Jewish nation and was responsible for the prevention of the slaughter of her people, the Jews…[8]
  • It was GOD… that sent King Josiah of Judah to the prophetess Huldah, to seek out godly counsel for returning his nation and his people to God……[9]
  • It was GOD… who handpicked a young uunwed teenage girl named Mary, who literally carried the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the GOOD NEWS, and God even her used to share a prophetic song about her Son and what He would do…[10]
  • It was GOD… that led Paul and his band to Lydia, who was the first person in what we now call Europe to be saved and baptized… not by childbirth, but by believing in Jesus Christ, and being baptized by water and the Spirit…[11]
  • It was GOD… who used Priscilla, to correct and teach the male, missionary evangelist, named Apollos, who had been sharing the gospel but had some of the details a bit off…[12]
  • It was GOD… that led and directed Mary Magdellan, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and also the mother of Zebedee’s sons… to be there with Jesus every step of his ministry, caring for the ministry needs, taking care of finances, and caring for Jesus himself, and followed all the way to the cross, even when every male disciple but one had all run away in fear…[13]
  • It was GOD… who led those same two Marys who followed the burying of Jesus’ body in the tomb…[14]
  • And it was GOD… that used those same women on that very first Easter morning, when every single male follower of Christ was in hiding… God used those women to serve as the very first preachers of the GOOD NEWS that that HE IS RISEN![15]
  • And when Jesus ascended to Heaven, Luke tells us in the book of Acts that the male disciples “all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers…”[16]
  • And, as we look ahead from the times of the Bible to our days, we read that it is God who “will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and your daughters will prophecy… Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days…”[17]

And, just to be clear about what Paul was really saying about women in the church… He gave us  the verse we are using as this month’s memory verse:


“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

It is time for the Church of Jesus Christ to STOP being sexist, expecting that it is only the men who can be called and used by God. What a pathetic god you must believe in if God can’t even use his own creatures…

It is time for the Church of Jesus Christ to STOP being condescending, lording our maleness over the women that God Almighty gave us in the church for the betterment and blessing of the Church, according to God’s own will!

It is GOD who calls people, both men and women…

If you are one that has been part of the putting down of women, or the bullying of women, or even the discouraging of women in the church, REPENT! If God called them, and you are the one who keeps them back, it is GOD you are fighting against! You. Will. Lose. REPENT!

If you are a woman, or a man, who believes God is calling you into ministry… whether that be as a preacher, or the head of a ministry project or a ministry committee, come and bow yourself before God… Surrender yourself to God’s will and God’s way… say YES!

You can even come to the altar rail to pray… If you want, I’ll pray with you as well…

It is time for people, both men and women, to speak out in defense of our Christian sisters and what the Bible says about their freedom to teach, to preach, and to lead.

It is time for Christian male leaders who regularly debilitate, denigrate, and dismiss Christian women doing Kingdom work to be confronted and removed as nothing more than stumbling blocks that are hindering the ministry of the Church.

If you are a woman who doesn’t know Jesus as your Savior, the Bible does NOT mean you have to go have a baby in order to be saved… We read in Acts 16 that to be saved, you simply need to “Believe in the Lord Jesus…”[18] You are welcome to come forward and talk with me and we’ll pray together.

Men, who don’t know Jesus as Savior… you are also invited to come and meet him.

The answer to a woman who is walking out the call of God in her life is not that she “Go Home” like this pompous radio preacher who mocks and scoffs one of Jesus Christ’s handpicked servants. But rather, we are to encourage those who hear God calling… to whatever ministry they’re being called to… whether they are male or female.

[1] Psalm 137:9 (NIV).
[2] Luke 10:27 (NIV).
[3] John 13:27 (NIV).
[5] Exodus 15:20-21.
[6] Chapters 4 and 5 of the book of Judges.
[7] Numbers 6:2.
[8] Check out the progression of events throughout the book of Esther, particularly the famous reply of Mordecai in Esther 4:12-14.
[9] 2 Kings 22:8-20 and following.
[10] “The Magnificant,” from Luke 1:46-55.
[11] Acts 16:11-15.
[12] Acts 18:18-26.
[13] Matthew 27:55-56; Mark 15:40-41; Luke 8:3; Luke 23:27, 49, 55-56; John 19:25.
[14] Matthew 27:57-61; Mark 15:47.
[15] Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20.
[16] Acts 1:12-14.
[17] Joel 2:28-29.
[18] Acts 16:30-31.

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Praying Hyde

I recently read a story from the life of John Hyde (1865-1912), a missionary to India in the end of the 1800s and beginning of the 1900s. Hyde was somewhat famous because of his effective and powerful praying. In fact, history has nicknamed him as ‘Praying Hyde.’

Hyde once shared how one of the most amazing and profound lessons the Lord ever taught him about prayer actually occurred when he was praying for one of India’s native pastors who was both experiencing problems and was known to help create a few problems as well.

Hyde said he started praying something like this: “O God, Thou knowest this brother, how …”

Apparently, his next intended word was “cold,” with a description to follow about the problems of this man. However as he went to say “cold,” he felt a check in his spirit and just couldn’t go on. He reported that it was like a voice whispering sharply to him. “He that touches him touches the apple of my eye.” A great horror swept over Hyde, and he felt he had been guilty before God of “accusing the brethren.”

Falling to his knees, Hyde confessed his own sin, and he remembered the words of Paul, that we should think on things that are lovely and good. “Father,” cried Hyde, “show me what things are lovely and are of good report in my brother’s life.”

Like a flash, Hyde remembered the many sacrifices this pastor had made for the Lord, how he had given up all for Christ, how he had suffered deeply for Christ. He thought of the many years of difficult labor this man invested in the kingdom and the wisdom with which he had resolved congregational conflict. Hyde remembered the man’s devotion to his wife and family, and how he had provided a model to the church of godly husbanding.

John Hyde spent his prayer time that day praising the Lord for this brother’s faithfulness.

Shortly afterward, Hyde journeyed into the plains to see this pastor, and he learned that the man had just received a great spiritual uplift, as if a personal revival had refreshed his heart like a springtime breeze.

It turns out that while Hyde had been praising, God had been blessing.

(FROM: Morgan, Robert J. Preacher’s Sourcebook of Creative Sermon Illustrations (Thomas Nelson Publishers: Nashville, 2007), 166.)

This great missionary known as “Praying Hyde” learned that the positive prayers of praise and blessing others are far more effective than griping and complaining in your prayers. And since God looks at us all together as part of the same team, you know… the Body of Christ… when you or I are complaining or badmouthing another Christian, we are hurting our own team… we are bringing curses upon ourselves. It’s like our arm punching ourselves in the face! No good can come from that kind of behavior! That’s NOT how we are to behave as the Body of Christ!

We read in the book of James:

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.

–James 3:9-10 (NIV)

How many of us need to be on our knees repenting of such sinful behavior of speaking against our fellow Christians instead of praying for them? And THEN we need to be praying for their good, for their blessings, for their spiritual strength, for their finances and ministries and their families!


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Still True To Plumb?

Eleven years ago in 2008, in my Reynoldsville Church, we started the year with a slogan for the year… “Get It Straight in 2008.” During that year, we reviewed the different committees and ministry teams, as well as the way we did Sunday School, our monthly pancake breakfasts, our Vacation Bible school, the Men’s Ministry, the United Methodist Women, our library, our Missions Outreach Team, our youth group, we looked at how we did with our three worship services… and even the pastor’s weekly Bible Study classes. 

Some of the questions we were asking ourselves were like these: For those things and events and activities we already were doing, actually helping to bring people closer to Jesus and closer to each other? Did our teams and classes and committees, and even our Church Council meetings, faith based… did we pray, did we have devotions, did we thoroughly soak ourselves and all those administrative and ministry things in prayer? Or did we just have meetings like a business or Garden Club?

But then, of course, we had to eventually look back and ask ourselves: “How did we do?”

We ended up changing the way we did some of the things, our groups and committees started making sure there was a time of devotions and prayer at EVERY event… so that even going to a meeting could bring you closer to Jesus and closer to Jesus’s followers. We created two new Mission Outreaches and an annual short term mission trip to Guatemala. And A LOT of our things were doing really well and didn’t need much tweeking at all.

But in the midst of it all, I stumbled into the book of Amos at one point and got caught in Amos chapter 7, verses 7-8, where there is a prophetic vision where God Himself sets up a plumb line.

Now, for a non-construction kind of person like me, I haven’t seen a lot of plumb lines in my life. I am told that a plumb line is essentially a heavy pointed weight on the end of a string. I understand that a builder can ‘line up’ a vertical wall and make sure that his wall is exactly up and down straight by hanging a plumb line from the top and letting gravity pull the weight… and thus one can compare the building with the standard of what ought to be.

Amos sees God use a plumb line and then, prophetically, God declares that the lives of the Israelites are not measuring up to the standard God has set.

This is what he showed me: the Lord was standing by a wall that had been built true to plumb, with a plumb line in his hand. And the Lord asked me, “What do you see, Amos?”
“A plumb line,” I replied.
Then said the Lord said, “Look, I am setting a plumb line among my people Israel; I will spare them no longer…”
 (Amos 7:7-8, NIV)

As Christians, we believe the Bible can act like a plumb line for our lives as followers of Jesus. By reading the Bible we can learn of God’s ways & God’s standards. Then, with the power of God to help us, we can repent of the ways in which we haven’t lined up & we can adjust our behaviors & our attitudes to match his Biblical standard.

So, how about if we ask ourselves that same line of questioning? Are there areas in our lives that we need to “get straight” and make sure we line up with God’s Plumb Line. How about us as a congregation? How about us as individual Christians? Start by inviting God’s Holy Spirit to help you see what doesn’t quite line up with God’s “plumb line…”

AND, today there is one more application… You see, I need your help… I already know what God has spoken to me that I need to get straight in my life… How about you? Is there an area in life where you struggle and would like to understand God’s ‘plumb line’ for that area? Perhaps a particular teaching or Scripture that you are still not quite sure about?

Let me know… As I work on sermon planning and a possible Bible study, I need to know what would be most helpful to you in your Christian walk.

Then, together, even though it’s not 2008, we can have a ready plumb line so that we CAN keep it straight in 2008!

adapted from an original post in September 1, 2008.

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Rest and Relax

The Lord is My Shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

  –Psalm 23 (KJV)

Like many others, I love the Twenty-third Psalm. I read those words about “green pastures” and “still waters” and am reminded of the free spirited fun I had spending summers at my grandparents’ farm up a dirt road hollow in Potter County. Depending on the day, I’d go off on an adventure with our neighbor, or my cousins, or even my little brother, and we’d explore the pasture, the upper meadow, or the forest, staking out our claim to territory and finding great “undiscovered” camping sites.

But some of my best memories were the times I was alone, just me and God, out for a walk. Inevitably, I’d end up stopping and sitting alongside the banks of this one little stream that cut through the pasture behind the barn. I would just sit there and watch the water bubble along on its way down the stream… knowing that, eventually, that water would end up as part of the Gulf of Mexico via the Oswayo, Allegheny, Ohio, and Mississippi Rivers. It was peaceful. In the quietness of those moments, I found myself close to God and able to talk with Him and hear Him talk with me.

Summertime is here again, only now I’m more than 45 years older. And I don’t have a schedule of playing, followed by hiking and exploring. Not even sitting down by a stream. I’m adult now… I have a lot to do. I have expectations to meet for my job and my family. I don’t have the time to do that “kid” stuff… Or do I? The problem is just this: In losing the “play” time, most of us lose the quiet time… and lose the time to spend quietly with our God, as well.

The Bible is filled with times where God commands His people to rest and times that they were commanded to play!

The command to take time off and rest goes back to the Ten Commandments, requiring that one day out of every seven be spent doing no work… just resting. And if you violated that command even to go out and try to pick up extra food (the manna lying on the ground), God would see to it that that food went bad before you got to eat it. He knew that He made the human body needing rest. Even now, without proper rest and time off, our bodies still become more susceptible to disease and injury… as well as stress and burn-out.

The command to celebrate was extra-time off every so often where the people had a festival, special meals, special worship services, being together with extended family and friends that you wouldn’t get to see all the time. It renewed the mind and rejuvenated the spirit. You had something to look forward to once again, no matter how tough the year might have been.

This summer, let’s schedule in some time to rest and to play… the way God meant for us to do. Time off to relax and connect with God again and also time deliberately spent reconnecting with the people He’s put in our lives… our families… at home and at church.

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Connecting with General Conference

This weekend, starting on Saturday, February 23, 2019, United Methodist delegates from around the world will gather in St. Louis, for a special General Conference to discern what path their denomination will pursue in regards to human sexuality… in particular, LGBTQIA sexuality.

[LGTBQIA is an abreviation/label designated by those who believe they are themselves (L) Lesbian, (G) Gay, (B) Bisexual, (T) Transgender, (Q) Queer (or Questioning), (I) Intersex, or (A) Asexual (or Allies)]


For many, this is a no brainer because the Bible literally addresses this topic of sexuality and who may legitimately have sex with whom.

For others, it’s a no brainer because much of the Old Testament is no longer considered binding, and the references in the New Testament can be explained away, and the 21st Century is so different from the times of the Bible thousands of years ago, that we shouldn’t be bound by those passages of ancient Scripture.

Another group finds this whole topic to be a no brainer because Jesus taught us to love one another and God is Love, so as long as you love whomever you choose, there should be no other considerations.

And, of course, nothing is ever as easy as any one of those no brainer arguments, so there will be A LOT of different people with A LOT of different opinions showing up in St. Louis this weekend… and they all have four days to hear each other, and hopefully, hear God… and then create a path to ministry that (hopefully) keeps ALL of those varied opinionated United Methodists together in a church that can get back to the business of representing Jesus Christ to a fallen, hurting, hell-bound world.

No matter where you come from in the world or how you have arrived at your opinion, there’s one thing for sure… It WON’T be a no-brainer kind of weekend!

Part of the frustration is that of the more than 11 or 12 million United Methodists around the world, only 864 delegates get to come to General Conference and make decisions for the entire church denomination. (We are a representative body, not a congregational kind of church where every single member gets to have their say.)

So how CAN you or I (or anybody who has the slightest interest) connect with this General Conference? ESPECIALLY if you, like me, can’t go to St. Louis even to watch?

United Methodist News Service has an excellent article on that exact topic! Check it out!

GC 2019a


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A Way Forward

From February 23-26th, in St. Louis, Missouri, over 800 delegates from all over the world will come to represent their United Methodist Annual Conferences in an attempt to a make “A Way Forward” in the unifying of our denomination in regards to human sexuality.

General Conference normally meets once every four years and discusses any areas we want to change in our way of being the church and clarifying specific church “law” about how we will do the business of the church. The results of those “quadrennial” (every 4 years) conferences are published as the Book of Discipline and the Book of Resolutions. Topics include how to organize a local congregation, how to set up two or more churches in ministry together (called a “charge”), how to go into pastoral ministry, how we organize the annual conferences, the bishops, the district superintendents, the pastors, and even how to organize United Methodist Women, United Methodist Men, youth ministries, confirmation, baptism, Holy Communion, and more…

The problem has been (and currently is) the area of how do we agree that we United Methodists will try to live out the “holiness” the Bible talks about in so many places. We’re all in pretty much agreement about most areas of personal life and how we live as Christians EXCEPT in our practice of sexuality.

The United Methodist Church was formed out of the old Methodist Church and the old Evangelical United Brethren Church in 1968. Our very first General Conference was four years later in 1972. In between those two events were the Stonewall riots in New York City that became the beginning of the Gay Liberation movement. Therefore, at the 1972 General Conference, there was church legislation reacting to this new awareness of what was happening in our culture… and it became “church law” that, in the United Methodist Church, we would not ordain “self-avowed, practicing homosexuals.” In later years, as our culture continued to yield to those pressures, the Church would clarify that our pastors were not allowed to officiate, nor could our church buildings be used for, homosexual unions (or later same sex weddings). If you violated one of those rules, you were in “violation of the Discipline” and could lose your status as a pastor (called being “defrocked”) or even be kicked out of the church (as a clergy or as a lay person).

Every four years, at EVERY General Conference (1972, 1976, 1980, 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012) these issues were brought up again. And they always were voted down. The United Methodist Church continued to state that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” And lobbyists and protesters began to do more and more to make their voice heard in an effort to get the Church to change its beliefs. The final straw came in 2016 when every single legislative proposal to change church beliefs in this area was voted down before they even got out of committee. And someone suggested they ask the bishops to help us “find a way forward” and simply not address those sexuality questions until some planning had been made that could help us get off this merry-go-round of always having these heated disagreements about what we believe. The delegates at that General Conference in 2016 agreed and charged the bishops to conduct a study and a planning strategy and, if needed, have a special General Conference to respond to any recommendations that might come forward.

Meanwhile, in July of 2016, the Western Jurisdiction (the out west collection of Annual Conferences from Nevada to Hawaii to Alaska to Colorado) elected an openly lesbian pastor out of California as a bishop in defiance of church law. And many of the other bishops turned a blind eye and others began to openly defy the Church. And this follows a long series of rebellious clergy conducting same sex weddings and rebellious Annual Conferences ordaining those who claimed to be homosexual.

The Council of Bishops did appoint a group (called the Commission of a Way Forward) to try to find a plan to “unite” us. Three recommendations came out of those meetings and the Council of Bishops did issue a call for a special General Conference to deal with the recommendations. That’s what’s going on in a few weeks in St. Louis.

The most popular plan (in the eyes of the bishops) is called the One Church Plan. Essentially, we would drop all the language restricting homosexuality, gay ordination, and the prohibitions against same sex weddings and allow each Annual Conference, and each local church congregation, to decide for themselves what they want to believe. Under this plan, each local congregation will decide if it will recommend a gay person for the ministry and if (and when) a gay wedding can happen on their properties or in their buildings. Likewise, pastors will have to decide whether they will or won’t officiate same sex weddings. The idea is that we can stop all the fighting and be a “united” church because there’s nothing left to fight about. What isn’t said is that it moves the fight into every single local church congregation. And it requires those who believe the Scripture has already clarified that homosexual practice is not compatible with Christianity to either shut up or leave.

The second plan is called the Connectional Church Plan and it seems to be an amalgamation of local church and annual conference decisions that would hold the church together as a denomination, but apparently ends up with the same basic final situation, for the pastor and for the local church congregation, as the One Church Plan. Again, the options for those who disagree are rather limited.

The final plan, has been called the Traditional Plan. It’s the plan that holds to the view of the Bible’s teachings as they have been discerned again and again every four years by General Conferences for the past 47 years. But it also addresses the open rebellion of clergy doing their own thing in defiance of what the Church has decided, by implementing more clear cut consequences for those who say they will live in covenant and abide by the United Methodist Book of Discipline, but then don’t.

Before I, as a clergy person, was ordained, the Bishop point blank asked me if I had studied and understood what our doctrine and polity was as United Methodists. (Polity just means how we are organized and the way we have made church law). And then, before he would ordain me, he also asked “Will you follow them (the doctrines and polity)?” I, and every clergy person ever ordained in our United Methodist Church, said “YES.”  It’s what we call our covenant. We agree with each other to follow the United Methodist way of doing Church and living our Christian lives. My choices are: follow the rules and laws I already agreed to or go find a church organization I CAN agree with.

Since the late 1990s, there have been clergy and lay people alike thumbing their noses at the doctrine and polity of the Church. Now we are told that if we drop the Scriptural directions out of our Book of Discipline, then everyone will be able to be in covenant again.

Folks, it breaks my heart because I love this denomination. There is much in the United Methodist Church that is amazing and God has used us for His glory so many times in so many ways. In the past, General Conference has spoken (by taking votes, in good American democracy style)… and there are hundreds and more who openly defy the Church. What will change if the Church changes its official beliefs? I’m afraid… nothing. I’m afraid that the ones who could not be trusted to obey that which they vowed before God to obey, won’t change their stripes if they get their way in this area. What will change is the target of what they want to change next. Those who would not live in covenant before will not live in covenant in any new system.

IF the Church ends up in another impass (which has happened before), then NOTHING will change and EVERYONE will just keep doing their same old thing (obeying or disobeying).

IF the Church reaffirms the Biblical understanding that has consistently passed every four years since 1972 until 2012, then I believe we will see MORE rebellion, by laity, by clergy, and by bishops. Nothing will change.

IF the Church changes our standards on human sexuality, in either the One Church Plan or the Connectional Church Plan, then there will be no room for people like me who can’t affirm something so against the Biblical witness. But, if the standards ARE changed, I’m afraid the fight will simply move into the local churches where each congregation has to fend for themselves as to what will or will not be allowed in that church’s ministry.

Meanwhile, I’m also a pragmatic and practical person, so I understand going into this, that whatever happens, it could take a few years to implement the changes that are enacted (whatever plan passes). So I’m not packing boxes quite yet.




“Anyone who needs wisdom should ask God, whose very nature is to give to everyone without a second thought, without keeping score. Wisdom will certainly be given to those who ask.” — James 1:5

SECOND… PRAY FOR OUR CONFERENCE DELEGATES (7 clergy and 7 lay people from Western Pennsylvania).

 “Pray for … everyone who is in authority so that we can live a quiet and peaceful life in complete godliness and dignity.” — 1 Timothy 2:2


“Every scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for showing mistakes, for correcting, and for training character, so that the person who belongs to God can be equipped to do everything that is good.”  — 2 Timothy 3:16-17


By the way, IF YOU WANT TO FOLLOW ALONG WITH General Conference, you can go to this link for more information and directions.

    (This originally appeared in The Circuit Rider, the bimonthly newsletter of the First United Methodist Church of Carmichaels, PA, along with a side-bar story highlighting the Scriptural background that has led me to my understanding in this area. The contents of that sidebar appear as a separate post here.)


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What The Bible Really Says About Homosexual Behavior

    The words “homosexual” and “homosexuality” are English words introduced within the last two centuries, however, the behaviors those words refer to are addressed in the Bible. So what DOES it say that deals with those behaviors?

    The first reference is in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Two angels have come to warn Lot and his family they need to leave Sodom because God’s judgment is about to happen because of the sins of Sodom. (And, by the way, “to know” someone is the Genesis way of saying two people became intimate and had sexual relations with each other.)

  • GENESIS 19:4-5 “But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house. And they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.”

    Many now-a-days argue that the sin of Sodom was being inhospitable. But Jesus’ brother, Jude, writes of their sin as “sexual immorality” and “unnatural lust.”

  • JUDE 7 [speaking of the Lord destroying those Israelites in the wilderness who did not believe…] “Likewise, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which, in the same manner as they, indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural lust, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.”

    Likewise, in Second Peter, chapter 2, the apostle Peter writes about the way God judged various ones in the days of Genesis, including Sodom and Gomorrah, then the Lord knows how…

  • 2 PETER 2:9b-10 “… to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment — especially those who indulge their flesh in depraved lust, and who despise authority.”

    In giving the Israelites the laws concerning proper sexual behavior, sex with relatives and with animals are prohibited along with…

  • LEVITICUS 18:22 “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.”
  • LEVITICUS 20:13 “If  man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them.”

    The apostle Paul shares the same standard in the First Century…

  • ROMANS 1:26-27 “For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.”
  • 1 CORINTHIANS 6:9-10 “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”
  • 1 TIMOTHY 1:8-9 “…the law is laid down not for the innocent but for the lawless and disobedient, for the godless and sinful, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their father or mother, for murderers, fornicators, sodomites, slave traders, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching.”

    Many now-a-days argue that the rules back then also say we are not to wear clothing of two different materials, or eat pork, and even include a requirement to stone to death a disrespectful child, along with a whole host of other “laws” that we don’t feel it necessary to follow today.

    And that’s true. Here’s the difference… In Acts 15, in the very first ecumenical council, Christians from all over gathered together and sought God and asked if someone becoming a Christian had to follow all of the Old Testament laws. After discussion and prayer, they unanimously agreed there were four things from the Old Testament Jewish laws that would still be required of Christians:

  • ACTS 15:28-29 “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals, and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.”

    Notice, the requirement includes ALL of the laws about sexual immorality from the Old Testament. One of the frustrating parts of our conflict in this day and age is that the Christian standard is to be: “NO sexual immorality,” but many just want to focus on the homosexual sins. It was never supposed to be about homosexuality, but rather about faithfulness in marriage between one man and one woman.

    And while we’re at it… that ruling in Acts releases us from all the killing and stoning of sinners, too.

    One other thing that’s important in this context is the objection some raise that ‘Jesus never spoke about homosexuality, so why should we care?’

    In Matthew 19 (and also Mark 10), Jesus is given the chance to clarify and describe what marriage is supposed to be like, when he’s asked by the Pharisees about divorce. He does not talk about any two individuals (or one man and many wives or two same gender people), but rather speaks of God’s plan for marriage being one man and one woman.

  • MATTHEW 19:4-5 “ ‘Haven’t you read.’ he replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?’ ”

    The final consideration, in my understanding thus far, is this: Since the Bible clearly identifies homosexual behavior as sin, what should we do about it? After all, there are other sins and people with those sins can be ordained and get married and more. Why do we pick on this one sin?

    The difference is that in all of those other examples, as well as with homosexual sin, the difference is whether or not the sinner repents of their sin.

  • 1 JOHN 1:8-10 “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness, If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.”

    (This originally appeared in The Circuit Rider, the bimonthly newsletter of the First United Methodist Church of Carmichaels, PA, as a sidebar story to an article about General Conference 2019 describing a bit of the history and background of that historic meeting. The contents of that article appear as a separate post here.)


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