• Enforcement of our doctrinal standards
Though it is unlikely that core doctrinal standards would change at upcoming General Conference meetings, there is great concern over the enforcement of those standards with our various seminaries, Boards of Ordained
Ministry, bishops, and more.
All 16 people elected as bishops in November 2022 across our many jurisdictions, including the three persons elected in the Southeastern Jurisdiction, are either centrists or progressives and not one traditionalist was elected. This trend seems to show the shifting of the UMC denomination theologically.
• Clergy concerns
The primary concern in the area of human sexuality deals with clergy standards and not with lay persons’ activities or beliefs.
These clergy concerns are not just from activities in other jurisdictions of our denomination but are being evidenced also in the Southeastern Jurisdiction.
The Board of Ordained Ministry in the Florida Annual Conference approved and brought up for commissioning two self- avowed, practicing homosexuals in 2022. That conference votes on the entire slate of candidates, so 14 other candidates were voted on with those 2 persons.
The 16-person slate was voted down for approval since the 2 persons were not within our Book of Discipline’s guidelines for candidates. The fourteen candidates, who had not broken any rules, will sadly have to wait another year for commissioning. Recently the Illinois-Great Rivers Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church unanimously approved an openly gay and a publicly practicing drag queen as a candidate for ordination who (in drag persona) led the children’s sermon at a Florida UMC church on October 2, 2022.
Two practicing gay UMC pastors officiated the marriage of two gay men, one of whom was also clergy from the UMC, in October of 2022 in the North Texas Conference.
The bishop of the North Georgia Conference preached at the LGBTQ+ Pride worship service at Saint Mark UMC in Georgia on October 9 and said that gay weddings “should be highly encouraged.”
• Concern over the beliefs of many of UMC bishops ...
• On Scripture
On July 26, 2022, one of the bishops from the Southeastern Jurisdiction said, “and while I believe in our traditional, orthodox faith that’s rooted in the Scriptures, I also have always believed that we have to adapt our doctrine and our Scriptures to changing life circumstances that people have.”
• On Jesus
In writing about Jesus’s encounter with the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15, one bishop stated that to treat this woman rightly, Jesus had to give up “his bigotries and prejudices.” This person also said, “Like you and me, Jesus didn’t have his life figured out. He was still growing, maturing, putting the pieces together about who he was and what he was supposed to do. We may think of him as the Rock of Ages, but he was more like a hunk of clay, forming and reforming himself in relation to God.” And then the bishop warns us “too many people make an idol out of him (Jesus).”
One bishop has talked about his belief that “the Virgin Birth” is a “myth.” He went on to say, “I believe in the resurrection of Jesus, but I cannot believe that his resurrection involved the resuscitation of his physical body...” Lastly, he reported, “I must dissent from Christocentric exclusives which hold that Jesus is the only way to God’s gift of salvation.”
• On diversity of and kindness over differences of opinion
At the 2019 General Conference the One Church Plan was pushed by many bishops, and it was not passed. Instead, the Traditional Plan was adopted. One of the bishops said about that possibility, “At some point I shifted my own prayers to, ‘Lord, please melt the hardened hearts... (to) smite everyone who intends to vote against the One Church Plan.’”
One UM bishop said, “Delegates from Africa once again proclaimed that their anti- homosexual stand was what U.S. missionaries taught them. I sat there wondering when our African delegates will grow up. It has been 200 years since U.S. Methodist missionaries began their work of evangelization on the continent of Africa; long enough for African Methodists to do their own thinking about this concern and others.” His comment suggests that if you hold to a traditional understanding of marriage, you need to grow up, and he was willing to juvenilize and demean a whole continent of believers who are poor, who are being faithful in evangelism and disciple-making in a difficult context, and who are persons of color.
• On human sexuality
Several candidates who were elected as bishops in the Southeastern Jurisdiction this year promoted their hope for full inclusion for UMC pastors though that position is contradictory to our Book of Discipline.
A current Southeastern Jurisdiction bishop recently commented that gay weddings “should be celebrated.”
Though they had received the Judicial Council’s ruling that the office of bishop should be put under review and that those who consecrated Bishop Karen Oliveto could be charged with disobedience because she was a practicing homosexual, the Western Conference Jurisdiction voted at their next meeting to elect another practicing homosexual as a bishop.
• Concerns over staff and student activities in UMC seminaries and colleges or in seminaries and colleges that are supported by the UMC
One professor at Iliff Seminary disdains historic American Christianity as “satanic” and as a justification for “white supremacy” while another professor describes himself as a “lapsed Buddhist” and an “atheist.” Also, one of their admissions representatives describes herself as a “pagan priestess.” Two of their students recently elected to student government are Wiccans and the seminary teaches a class on that subject.
The president of Union Theological Seminary has admitted to not believing in the virgin birth, in the literal resurrection of Christ, or in heaven or hell. That school also had a chapel service in which students made confession to plants.
Duke Seminary had a chapel service in 2022 in which students described God as “mother, father,...drag queen, and transman, and gender-fluid.”
• Concerns over Jurisdictional Conference voting
Three resolutions were passed at the Southeastern Jurisdictional (SEJ) Conference, and at all other conferences but the Western Jurisdiction, and they can be found here: https://www.sejc4i.org/resolutions. One resolution calls for abeyance of any complaints for clergy breaking church law and requirements, though the Book of Discipline has not changed on that. Another resolution calls for the UMC to make the accountability structure of our denomination regional. The UMC has always been a global and connectional church. Some feel this stands in contradiction to our Wesleyan emphasis on accountability, and that it would quiet the voice of Africa and other global brothers and sisters to the USA church. The last resolution asks persons considering disaffiliation to resign from any leadership in the denomination, regardless of their faithful service. The SEJ basically voted 2 to 1 in favor all three resolutions. These votes, along with no election of a Traditionalist bishop in the SEJ or in any jurisdictional meeting, seem to signal a significant and clear turning point theologically within the UMC denomination and even in the Southeast Jurisdiction.
Francis Asbury was one of two preachers initially sent by John Wesley to America. In 1805 he addressed the Virginia Conference and said that their preachers were to “preach the same doctrine, (and to) approve and enforce the same discipline.”