The Madness of Marriage in Methodism
The Methodist Church of Great Britain Annual Conference is meeting in Birmingham this week and next it will debate a report titled “God in Love Unites Us.”
The report will be approved, unless something spectacular (or miraculous?) Happens, as it has already been approved by 29 of the 30 Methodist synods.
The report recommends that the Methodist Church approve of cohabitation and extend its understanding of marriage to “two persons” rather than “a man and a woman.”
I have Methodist friends who are now wondering if they can stay in the Church and feel a sense of mourning when their Church seems to have been hijacked. But are they overreacting? What does the report actually say?
I have read the whole document and am afraid it is worse than what has been reported.
It starts with a pretty sentence: “We believe that God created us to be in a relationship and showed us how to thrive through those relationships.” Sadly, he then continues to ignore what God has shown us and relies more on Stonewall than on the Scriptures.
There are endless pages of meaningless “theological” waffle. This is, indeed, Alice-in-Wonderland, post-modernist theology where words mean “whatever I want them to mean”. There is a lack of confidence in the scriptures, which are misused and abused as much in this report as in everything I have read. For example, how can the teaching of Psalm 139 that we are all âdone in a frightening and wonderful wayâ be considered a justification for marriage or same-sex cohabitation? And the report speaks with such authority of Isaiah 56 and Acts 8 that it positively affirms other sexualities.
Rather than seeing Scripture as authoritative, the report tells us it relies on “authoritative commentaries” on sexuality from the World Health Organization (WHO) which it naively describes as “independent.” . And among other things, the report praises âqueer theologyâ; tell us that sex is assigned at birth, based on “perceptions” of biology; and that sexual desire is part of the larger desire for just and loving relationships! In a crowded world, sex should no longer be about procreation; gender is a social construct, and although only 2% of people in the UK identify as LGB, the report’s authors believe – without any evidence – that there will likely be many more.
There is no concept of our identity coming from God, being made in his image, and, for Christians, being restored in the image of Christ. Instead, we are told that our identity is given to us at birth by “those who take care of us”. Nothing to do with God or biology apparently. But the simple truth is that my parents, doctors and nurses didn’t decide when I first came into the world âoh let’s make this a boyâ!
And then, of course, there is the other great doctrine of awakened progressives: everything has to be determined by âlived experienceâ – as long as it is the right kind of lived experience.
âWe also urge The Methodist Church to recognize the lived realities of how relationships are practiced today,â the report read.
“Failure to do so can ultimately be seen as hypocrisy, if it simply ignores how its members and adherents actually lead their lives.”
So now we have the Church of John and Charles Wesley, the Church of George Whitefield, which tells us that doctrine should be determined by what people want and how they live their lives; not what God says. Nothing here of repentance, renewal, or the idea that what we want might not be what God wants – and might not be good for us.
âWe believe that in awe and humility the Methodist Church must recognize that it is called by God to take the next steps in developing its understanding of relationships and marriage,â he continues.
“These steps include enabling people of the same sex to engage with each other in Christian marriage services.”
They say this is done on the basis of “the impulses of the Spirit in light of the evangelical values ââand developmental trajectories that are recorded throughout the scriptures.”
But that has nothing to do with fear, humility, the scriptures, or the Spirit. To claim that the Spirit is leading them to go against what the Spirit guided the early church to is about as close to blasphemy as it gets.
It is a form of awakened fanaticism – or as John Wesley says, âTry all things by the written word and let all bow down to it. You are in danger. [fanaticism] every hour, if you stray so little from Scripture; yes, or from the literal and simple meaning of a text, taken in relation to the context “(Works, 11: 429).
Resorting to Stonewall, the WHO, the “lived experience” of some, and the doctrines of the current secular Zeitgeist, leads the report to the error of dismissing what the Bible teaches in some places as a mistake. Again, Wesley summed up traditional Methodist doctrine well: âNo, if there are errors in the Bible, there can also be a thousand. If there is a lie in this book, it is not from the God of truth. (John Wesley, Journal, July 24, 1776).
Once you reject what Jesus says in the scriptures, it makes you less rational, not more. For example, the report rightly suggests that no one should refuse to marry someone because of their race. Yet they go on to say that the clergy will be allowed to do so because of sexuality. Given that the Methodist Church will allow same-sex marriage, how can this be seen as anything other than discrimination? If the Scriptures do not prohibit it, then why should individual churches or ministers be allowed to do so? This is an argument that will undoubtedly come back in a few years as Methodism continues to “evolve.”
That is, if the Methodist Church is still there, because it seems to be in terminal decline. There are now only 164,000 people in the UK who are members of the Methodist Church – a drop of 6,000 in the past year. The trajectory is downward – despite surges in immigration. If Methodist leaders continue to be guided by the awakened ideology of today’s elites, rather than the Word of God, this decline will accelerate.
The Methodists were involved in the Great Awakening. Yet they are now turning into the Church of the Great Awakening. The saying “go wake up, go bankrupt” also applies to churches.
But all is not lost. Some evangelicals are taking a stand – although this is provided for in the report. As in the Church of Scotland and Church of England, those in politics and in control of the denomination need evangelicals to stay, and so there are the usual calls for “unity” and ” disagreement in love â- even as the denomination changes its doctrines and moves further away from the Christian faith.
Perhaps the strongest argument against the report came from Reverend David A Hull, who wrote The Runaway Train – A Message to Methodists. At the end of the book, he makes this plea: âThe British Methodist Church faces a moment of profound decision. It must choose one or the other: to reaffirm the traditional teaching of the Christian Church, the teaching of the Bible and its position; or abandon it in favor of a secular worldview that is shaped by political pressure groups. Either decision will have far-reaching consequences for the future. “
Some will have to leave. The Methodist clergy must affirm that they adhere to the doctrines of Methodism. If these doctrines have changed – as they will if this report is accepted – then to say that you assert them when you do not, would be a lie. Liberals can find ways to make words mean the opposite of what they say, but no evangelical should play this stupid and deceptive game.
This weekend would be a good time for all Christians to pray for our Methodist brothers and sisters. May the Lord strengthen what is left and is about to die. May he grant repentance and a return to the gospel of the Wesleys and Whitefields – the gospel of the apostles, the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the only method that works.
David Robertson works as an evangelist with churches in Sydney, Australia. He blogs at The Wee Flea.