Home/Rod Dreher/The Mainline (Re)Forms Further To The Left

The Mainline (Re)Forms Further To The Left

To the shock of no one, the Presbyterian Church (USA) approves of same-sex marriages. The votes — one to change the definition of marriage from “man and woman” to “two people,” and one to allow pastors in states were SSM is legal to officiate at gay weddings — weren’t even close. Excerpt:

A majority of the church’s 173 regional bodies, called Presbyteries, must now approve the decision before it’s official, a process that can take up to a year. But after years of failed efforts to get the church to approve gay marriages, LGBT activists and pastors said they were optimistic.

“This is a glorious day for the church and for LGBT people who have been seeking full inclusion here for decades,” Pittsburgh-based Rev. Randy Bush, the co-moderator of the board for pro-LGBT church group Covenant Network, said in a statement.

In a separate vote, 371 to 238, the church assembly also approved a measure to allow pastors in the 19 states where same-sex marriage is legal to officiate those weddings. That move is final and doesn’t need further approval.

Maybe this will turn things around the for PCUSA, which has lost 20 percent of its membership since the year 2000:

The Presbyterian Church (USA) continued its years-long trend of losing congregations and members in 2013, according to statistics released by the mainline Protestant denomination last week.

According to the data compiled by the PCUSA’s Office of the General Assembly, by the end of 2013 membership was approximately 1.76 million, compared to approximately 1.84 million by the end of 2012.

Additionally, the number of PCUSA congregations decreased during 2013. There were 10,038 churches in 2013, versus 10,262 in 2012.

Of the 224 churches no longer with PCUSA, 148 of them were dismissed to other denominations while the remaining number were dissolved.

So, of the biggest Mainline Protestant denominations, the Episcopalians have flipped, the Lutherans (ELCA) have flipped, and now the Presbyterians (USA) are in the pro-gay camp. That leaves only the Methodists holding the Biblical line — but for how long?:

“We can no longer talk about schism as something that might happen in the future. Schism has already taken place in our connection,” said Maxie Dunnam, chancellor of Asbury Seminary and leader in the Good News movement for evangelical Methodists, in comments to Good News magazine.

“There are conscience-bound persons who find it impossible to live in the United Methodist Church as we presently define ourselves in relation to human sexuality,” said Dunnam. “Forty years of wrestling with the issue is enough.” The first disagreements among United Methodists over homosexuality began four decades ago. Back in 2004, traditionalist leaders tried, but failed, to move forward a proposal for an amicable breakup of the denomination that traces its heritage to John and Charles Wesley.

I love this part from that story, which appears in Christianity Today:

In the meantime, many progressives are endorsing “A Way Forward,” a proposal to grant each local UMC church the authority, by super-majority vote of its members, to approve of same-sex unions and marriages and to “welcome” same-sex clergy. The plan also endorses giving each Annual Conference (regional administrative bodies worldwide) permission to decide on whether to ordain “practicing homosexuals.”

The plan has influential backers, including: Adam Hamilton, senior pastor of the 18,000-member Church of the Resurrection in Kansas, and David McAllister-Wilson, president of Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington D.C. Hundreds of local church leaders have signed the statement online, which describes itself as a “conversation starter, not a perfected conclusion.”

Ah, the old “conversation starter” or “dialogue” trick. Any time you see a progressive member of your church try this, you must understand that this is the wedge that they will use to pry the orthodox out. The “conversation” will be one-sided, and will not end until the orthodox have surrendered or left, because the progressives will never, ever take “no” for an answer.

The Methodists next meet as a national body in 2016. Question to the Methodists in this blog’s readership: what is likely to happen at that meeting on the gay rights front? What will you personally do if the UMC holds the line, or joins the other Mainline Protestant churches in liberalizing on homosexuality?

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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