By Mike Willis
Fox News (June 6, 2022) reports that the United Methodist Church (UMC) in Georgia is experiencing a split over the issue of homosexuality: “Seventy churches in Georgia split from the United Methodist Church (UMC) last week over LGBTQ issues, marking the latest in a growing divide within the third largest Protestant denomination in the United States.”
The report explains that the UMC split was in keeping with a “process of disaffiliation” agreement laid out by the 2019 General Conference of the UMC that lasts through 2023. It allows the churches to leave the denomination through 2023 “for reasons of conscience regarding a change in the requirements and provisions of the Book of Discipline related to the practice of homosexuality or the ordination or marriage of self-avowed practicing homosexuals as resolved and adopted by the 2019 General Conference, or the actions or inactions of its annual conference related to these issues which follow.”
Seventy churches in Georgia chose to disaffiliate with the UMC, representing 9% of the state’s UMC churches and 3% of their membership. It always is regretful when those claiming to be Jesus’s disciples split asunder. However, what is most depressing to me is that only 9% of their churches chose to separate themselves from the UMC over this issue.
The fact that 91% of their churches remain affiliated is evidence of the influence of religious liberalism in American religion. For over 100 years, the influence of religious liberalism has undermined the Bible. The seminaries and the bishops of the UMC long ago rejected belief in the inspiration of Scripture, denying a six-day creation, a universal flood in the days of Noah, the miracles of Jesus recorded in the New Testament, and His bodily resurrection. The rejection of the inspiration of the Bible had clearly foreseeable consequences, eventually leading to a rejection of Christian moral values.
What the Scriptures teach about homosexuality is irrelevant to the majority of those affiliated with the UMC. Paul’s writings about the sexual morality in Romans 1 are lucid enough for all to understand: “For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting” (Rom. 1:26–28).
Paul did not display hatred and bigotry toward homosexuals. He shows that the gospel welcomes homosexuals in the church: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:9–11). Homosexuals and sodomites were welcomed into the Lord’s church on the same condition as fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, thieves, covetous, drunkards, etc.—on the condition that they repent of their sins and cease the practice of those sins. But those who refused to repent and cease their sins were “purged” from the Corinthian congregation because, as Paul explained, “a little leaven leavens the whole lump” (1 Cor. 5:6). What Paul said about fornication is equally true for homosexuality. Therefore, Paul explained to the Corinthians that they should not “keep company with” (fellowship, to be affiliated with) brothers who were sexually immoral, idolaters, drunkards, extortioners, etc.
One of the founding fathers of the Methodist Church, John Wesley, taught that genuine faith produces inward and outward holiness. The name “Methodist” is derived from the methods of lifestyle Wesley taught for achieving holiness in character. Here are Wesley’s comments on Romans 1:26–28 saying, “26. Therefore God gave them up to vile affections—To which the heathen Romans were then abandoned to the last degree; and none more than the emperors themselves. 27. Receiving the just recompense of their error—Their idolatry; being punished with that unnatural lust, which was as horrible a dishonour to the body, as their idolatry was to God” (Explanatory Notes on the New Testament, 364). His comments on 1 Corinthians 6 show Wesley’s view that holiness required that the Christian cease the practice of such sexual sins. John Wesley would be stunned to see what has become accepted practice in the UMC.
So, why are 91% of their churches, whose memberships represented 97% of their state membership, choosing to stay affiliated with a church that accepts homosexual conduct and homosexual marriages? Why are they ignoring the writings of their founding father and, more importantly, repudiating the foundation documents of Christianity, the inspired words of the New Testament? It is sad to witness the split in the Georgia UMC, but what is most tragic is not that 9% of their churches in Georgia are leaving the UMC, but that 91% of their churches choose to stay affiliated with the UMC!
Brown, Jon. “Dozens of Georgia Churches Split from United Methodist Church over LGBTQ Issues.” Fox News. June 5, 2022. https://www.foxnews.com/us/georgia-churches-split-united-methodist-church-lgbtq.
Wesley, John. Explanatory Notes Upon the New Testament (Twelfth Edition). New York: Carlton and Porter, 1856.