Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Mighty Move of the Spirit is Headed to the UMC

The "mighty move of the Spirit" is a phrase that our revisionist friends came up with once to explain their political scheme to swing a vote (I think it was a Bishop election) at an Episcopal convention.

From comes a commentary by Riley B. Case, associate executive director of the Confessing Movement Within the United Methodist Church that illustrates the tactics behind the spread of theological revisionism through denominations other than the Episcopal church. Riley Case is up against the political tactics of those who try to change church doctrine through legislation. There are interesting parallels between what he is seeing and what we in the Episcopal church have been through.
"The United Methodist Church is the last of the mainline churches to hold to the biblical view on marriage and the practice of homosexuality, and the pro-homosexual lobby knows that getting the UMC to alter that stand would greatly advance the homosexual agenda. To that end hundreds of thousands of dollars — much of it from outsiders not connected with the UM Church — have been poured into an effort to overturn United Methodism’s present stance."
Outside money... That sounds familiar. Recall that the Episcopal Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music got a $404,000 grant from the Arcus Foundation to support the development of resources for same-sex blessings. Arcus money has been spread around a number of "mainline" groups (as well as the Catholic Church) for this purpose.

Riley Case's commentary echoes another of the things we Episcopalians have had foisted upon us over the years,
"A vocal group in the church — those who call themselves progressives — agrees with the secular world. As one person said: 'Society around us is leading the way about accepting of homosexual practice and the church is lagging behind.'"
The use of the term "progressive" tends to give the false impression that those opposed to their new ideas might be "repressive." 

Whenever I read or hear that society is leading the way and the church must catch up, I shudder. Our leader is not the ever changing wind of society and its temptations. We are called to follow Jesus. Religious "progressives" who wish to follow society's lead have learned to bend Jesus and the words of scripture into pretzels in order to get the Church to follow their lead.

Once people are sufficiently confused about what is actually written in scripture, politics comes into play. The UMC is going to have a "General Conference." Petitions can be brought there much in the same way that "resolutions" are brought to the Episcopal "General Conventions."

"So we come to General Conference 2012. While there are many petitions seeking to change the church’s historical stance in regard to human sexuality, three groups of petitions bear special watching.

1) Petitions that would have the church redefine marriage so that it is no longer a covenant between 'a man and a woman' but between “two persons” (see an example here—PDF).

...The main religious argument is an inclusion/exclusion argument — i.e., we should not deny two men or two women who love each other the privilege of marriage because to do so is judgmental and restrictive..."
I think the religious argument is "how can the modern Church redefine something that Jesus and the Apostles understood to be between one man and one woman?" The moral argument is "inclusion/exclusion" based on the human experience of love between two persons. How we formulate our moral arguments about the appropriateness of all types of sexual behaviors as well as same sex attraction is a serious question for all Christians and is not something that can be changed by petition..

2) Petitions from several annual conferences would place disclaimers in the preamble to the Social Principles (see an example here—PDF).

These petitions want the preamble to state that unanimity of belief, opinion, and practice has never been characteristic of the Church. Therefore when there are significant differences of opinion in the church (such as around the practice of homosexuality), these differences should not be covered over with false claims of consensus, but embraced with courage as the people of God continue to discern God’s will.
The important thing is “celebrate our differences” and stay together.
Ah yes, agree to disagree as long as the agenda moves forward. The actual conclusion reads,
"In that confidence, we pledge to continue to be in respectful dialogue with those with whom we disagree, to explore the sources of our differences, to honor the sacred worth of all persons, and to tell the truth about our divisions as we continue to seek the mind of Christ and to do the will of God in all things."
That sounds like a variation of something we Episcopalians called "The Listening Process." It winds up being a process that only serves the progressive cause.
3) At least two petitions direct the church and the world to refrain from judgment regarding homosexual persons and practices “until the Spirit leads us into new insight” (see pages 273-276 of this PDF file).
As long as that insight helps to move the agenda forward. This is another way to play "kick the can down the road" when you are actually playing games with the Holy Spirit. The Church got it wrong, and when we finally do see the change we want we will give credit to the mighty move of the Spirit which as we all know when talking about church politics is the mighty move of political machinations.

Discerning what is and what is not an authentic movement of the Holy Spirit is made more challenging for us when outside money, politics, and secular moralism enter into an equation that is supposed to involve the prayerful study of God's Holy Word by believers in that Word. When a spirit of the age is in conflict with scripture, it is the new spirit that is to be revised, not Holy Scripture, but when powerful forces want a new spirit to be legalized, and the Church has been sufficiently weakened in its confidence of what we used to call the "Gospel truth," the progressive strategy works amazingly well.

We are also easily misled when people talk about the "movement of the Spirit."  We forget that ever since the ancient days of sacred poles, altars in the high places, and the golden calf, that we are more likely to be moved by a wrong spirit than by the Holy Spirit.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. - Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr


  1. Funny how God never seems to change His mind. Men, however, seek to change Scripture or Doctrine to fit whatever whims are currently in vogue. God help us lowly congregants and help those "leaders" who seem to be carving larger millstones for their necks by the hour.


  2. Ultimately, the progressive movement as described above winds up removing, devaluing, or assigning a new value to God in the discernment equation. Only in this way can the predetermined result on the other side of the "=" sign be obtained.

  3. It looks like the "conversation" has found a supportive Baptist group in the "Cooperative Baptist Fellowship." See Andrew Walker's report from the IRD.