It’s pretty rare to see conservative, orthodox Christians win a battle against the American demons of progressivism these days, so it was with some pleasure that we saw what happened in the United Methodist Church this week. At the church’s General Conference in St. Louis, delegates for the church’s American branches voted decisively to reject the One Church Plan currently being promoted by the majority of bishops throughout the country. That plan would have overturned United Methodism’s definition of marriage as being between one woman and one man, thus allowing each individual church to embrace whatever definition of marriage suited them best.
The delegates decided to uphold a basic principle of tradition instead, voting 55% to 45% to keep the current definition of marriage on the books.
As Powerline Blog pointed out, the adherence to scriptural tradition got a big boost from the African Methodist Church, which has grown to encompass more than 40% of the larger United Methodist church. In a speech this weekend in St. Louis, academic theologian Dr. Jerry Kulah had this to say about the definition of marriage:
Friends, please hear me, we Africans are not afraid of our sisters and brothers who identify as lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgendered, questioning, or queer. We love them and we hope the best for them. But we know of no compelling arguments for forsaking our church’s understanding of Scripture and the teachings of the church universal.
And then please hear me when I say as graciously as I can: we Africans are not children in need of western enlightenment when it comes to the church’s sexual ethics. We do not need to hear a progressive U.S. bishop lecture us about our need to “grow up.”
Let me assure you, we Africans, whether we have liked it or not, have had to engage in this debate for many years now. We stand with the global church, not a culturally liberal, church elite, in the U.S.
Religious experts predict that the vote tally will ultimately lead to a split in the church – at least as far as the United States is concerned. United Methodists are often regarded as one of the more liberal denominations in American Christianity – the Southern Baptists, they are not. On the other hand, there is a thick braid of conservatism even within United Methodism, and that braid is unlikely to come unraveled even in the face of what liberals like to call “social progress.” If there is a coming split, we have to imagine that many conservative Methodists will be more than happy to divorce themselves from the more liberal sects of the church.