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Presbyterians’ Latest Sexuality Showdown Follows Methodists’ Historic Shift

Por Richard Ostling
presbyterian mcneill PCUSA
On Oct. 12, 2019, Alex Patchin McNeill was ordained at First Presbyterian Church of Asheville, North Carolina, affiliated with The Presbyterian Church (USA). (Photo: Facebook)

(ANALYSIS) Making history last week, delegates at a United Methodist Church General Conference in Charlotte agreed to allow same-sex clergy y marriages. Each UMC conference the past 52 years had upheld centuries-old heterosexual restrictions, most recently in 2019.

Since then, 7,658 conservative congregations — one-fourth of the prior total — have left the UMC in the biggest U.S. schism since the Civil War, which enabled lopsided support for change.

Instead of the requirement that UMC clergy honor “fidelity in marriage and celibacy in singleness,” they are now expected to practice “faithful sexual intimacy expressed through fidelity, monogamy, commitment, mutual affection and respect, careful and honest communication, mutual consent, and growth in grace and in the knowledge and love of God.”

As noted in my April 9 análisis, this sets the stage for what conservatives have called the “scramble for Africa.” Unlike America’s other “mainline” Protestant denominations that have lately repealed traditional moral tenets, the UMC encompasses millions of members in Africa and the Philippines who believe what the U.S. branch has now left behind.

The UMC hopes to head off any serious walkout overseas through “regionalization,” which Charlotte delegates aprobado for ratification votes by area conferences. Instead of uniform worldwide policies on clergy or marriage (which American progressives refused to obey), the conservative foreigners could continue traditional teaching while the American branch is free to go its own way. 

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gay clergy UMC united methodist
Bishop Tracy Malone, president of the United Methodist’s Council of Bishops, in purple suit, joins a large crowd of LGBTQ people and allies celebrating the striking down of a ban on the ordination of gay clergy at the General Conference of the United Methodist Church in Charlotte, N.C., on May 1, 2024. (RNS photo/Yonat Shimron)

The Rev. Scott Field, president of the Wesleyan Covenant Association, which  fostered the U.S. split, hopes Africans will also leave the UMC and join American conservatives in the new Global Methodist Church, which will be organized at a September 20-26 conference in Costa Rica. It’s now clear, he said, that “the New UMC is substantially at odds with the faith and practice of many African United Methodists.” 

After Charlotte, he thinks, Africans’ decision “about their relationship with the UMC will be unavoidable” and “the day of rising up is just ahead.” Another leading Methodist conservative, Mark Tooley, escribió that “many African bishops, who depend on U.S. dollars,” favor continued ties with the U.S.-based UMC under regionalization, “but I doubt most Africans will be persuaded. Ultimately, millions of Africans will likely quit United Methodism,.”

Well, we’ll see. While that drama develops, the sexuality spotlight shifts to America’s Presbyterian Church (USA), which has already approved gay clergy and marriage but is heading into a different sexuality fuss that carries some risk of another church split. 

This is the deadline week to submit legislative bills (known as “overtures”) to the denomination’s June 25- July 4 General Assembly in Salt Lake City. No doubt the hottest issue there will be proposed amendments to the Book of Order that affect remaining Presbyterians who oppose the new sexuality. The proposal comes from Olympia Presbytery in Washington State, with concurrences filed by regional presbyteries in six other states. 

One amendment would add “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” to the categories in which discrimination has “no place in the life of the Church.” The PC (USA) guarantees members in such designated groups “full participation and representation” in “governance” and other aspects of church life. A second amendment would require that the approval for ordination and installation of clergy includes “the candidate’s ability and commitment to fulfill all requirements” specified by the first amendment. 

inclusion LGBTQ
In June 2023, Lyndhurst Community of Faith Church in Lyndhurst, Ohio, which is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA), hosts an inclusion event. (Photo: Facebook)

After conservatives lost the long-running PC(USA) sexuality battle, their Fellowship Community organization has carefully avoided further advocacy on denominational issues. But that changed on April 5 with a cry of alarm from the group, which declared that the Olympia amendments would be “devastating” by mandating “one interpretation of Scripture” and ignoring “freedom of conscience.” 

This caucus contends that “thousands of PC (USA) pastors and elders would be excluded — and if enforced, driven out of the denomination.” Hard to tell on the numbers, but this suggests a potential fourth conservative split from “mainline” Presbyterianism, following formation of the Presbyterian Church in America (1973), Evangelical Presbyterian Church (1981) and Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians or “ECO” (2011). These three denominations combined have grown to encompass 2,666 local congregations, compared with a decline to 8,705 in the PC (USA). 

The next political move will be the response to conservatives’ concern from the Covenant Network of Presbyterians, which helped lead the PC (USA) into full sexual inclusion. Its executive director, the Rev. Brian Ellison (also administrator of the synod covering Kansas and Missouri), has said that a policy statement on the Olympia proposal will be forthcoming soon. 

Whatever the assembly decides, it will be providing a special “space” for gatherings of LGBTQ+ delegates. The PC (USA) publishes resources to promote full participation in church. And its newly established Equity Advocacy Committee urged Presbyterians to “celebrate the diverse identities of transgender and non-binary individuals” on this year’s Transgender Day of Visibility, which happened to fall on Easter Sunday.

Esta pieza apareció originalmente en Religión desconectada.

Richard Ostling, a contributor to Religion Unplugged, is a former religion reporter for the Associated Press and former correspondent for TIME Magazine. 

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5 Respuestas

  1. PCUSA is far ahead of UMC in terms of Progressive thought and politics. What was once merely permissible in thought and practice concerning the LQBTQ+ agenda quickly becomes mandatory. Under the Olympia Presbytery’s overture, clergy and leadership would be required to endorse same-sex marriage and full LGBTQ+ recognition. The overture would elevate such endorsements to a clergy test of faith. New candidates for pastor would have to sign off on such statements. Existing pastors who refuse to conduct same-sex weddings and celebrate Pride Day would be defrocked. Congregations that refuse to elect LGBTQ+ elders and leadership would risk having their pastors and leadership deposed. Even their property could be seized. The conservatives in PCUSA see this clearly. This move mirrors the Progressive Left’s efforts to compel speech compliance from those who don’t support the cause. That’s how a cake baker has been repeatedly harassed with bogus civil rights complaints. The few remaining conservatives in the UMC should be paying attention. This kind of enforcement is required to maintain UMC branding as a welcoming, affirming denomination.

  2. As a prophecy, I’d like to state that the new definition of biblical morality will continue to evolve. The founder of this evolution has absolutely no desire for it to remain static, and will therefore have these “churches” eventually become temples of Canaanites. I’m not a gambling man, but it’s way better than even money, this won’t end up looking like a Hallmark card.

    1. Most likely they’ll look like Unitarians with different vocabulary about the trinity. Paul referred to a form of godliness that denies the power of the gospel. Such “godliness” sounds like something nice that doesn’t ruffle too many feathers, ignoring the many things Jesus said that should make all of us uncomfortable.

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Su donación deducible de impuestos ayuda a nuestros periodistas a informar la verdad y responsabilizar a los líderes y organizaciones cristianos. Haga una donación de $30 o más a The Roys Report este mes y recibirá una copia de “¿Y si Jesús hablara en serio acerca de la Iglesia?” por Skye Jethani.