Methodists’ Long Arc Toward Orthodoxy

The UMC may be bending toward the long arc of orthodoxy as it chose to maintain a stand on biblical sexuality, and reversed its longtime support for abortion.

But perhaps most encouraging, delegates at General Conference reversed the denomination’s long-established support for abortion. First, they voted 425 to 268 (61 percent to 39 percent) to withdraw from the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC). The UMC helped found the pro-abortion lobbying group in 1973, and two church agencies—the General Board on Church and Society (GBCS) and United Methodist Women (UMW)—still actively supported the group.

 

For years, the United Methodist Church (UMC) appeared poised to follow in the footsteps of other Mainline Denominations toward liberal theology and declining cultural relevance. But the last few weeks have proved otherwise.

In a shocking turn of events, the nation’s third largest religious body—with 12.1 million adherents worldwide—has chosen to maintain its stand on biblical sexuality, became more pro-Israel and reversed its longtime support for abortion. We may be seeing the UMC bend toward the long arc of orthodoxy.

The UMC held its quadrennial General Conference (GC) May 10-20 in Portland, Ore. As the church’s top legislative body, GC considered more than a thousand resolutions. LGBTQ activists, anti-Israel advocates, and pro-choice “reproductive rights” feminists all lobbied to liberalize the denomination, but to no avail. Instead, the denomination moved in the opposite direction, making substantive progress toward a biblically-founded social witness.

Most headlines about GC will inevitably highlight delegates’ decision to table the debate about sexuality pending recommendations from an official commission. The good news is that the UMC still officially holds that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” in its Book of Discipline. Despite disruptive protests and political maneuverings, LGBTQ activists failed to change that fact at GC. Rogue clergy can still be disciplined for performing same-sex weddings and for engaging in homosexual activity.

Another positive move at GC was to withdraw denominational support from the Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, a coalition that advocates for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction (BDS) strategy against Israel. In addition, proposals by anti-Israel activist at GC mandating the UMC divest its multi-billion dollar pension fund from Israel were soundly defeated.

But perhaps most encouraging, delegates at General Conference reversed the denomination’s long-established support for abortion. First, they voted 425 to 268 (61 percent to 39 percent) to withdraw from the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC). The UMC helped found the pro-abortion lobbying group in 1973, and two church agencies—the General Board on Church and Society (GBCS) and United Methodist Women (UMW)—still actively supported the group.

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