The people called the Methodists are the wisest and most gracious among the Christian denominations in the United States.
Whatever they do, or put aforethought behind every action, considering whether the results will reveal grace and mercy as is required by the Holy Spirit.
Now, this is a big deal. To achieve such a desirable result, when Methodists are faced with an acrimonious debate, they hold a sacred conclave in which all sides are heard.
After such a hearing, the Bishop, or the lay leader will ask for a period of discernment, say thirty days or more. This has worked very well for Methodists since 1963 when a group of churches came together and called themselves United Methodists.
Among them were the African Methodist Episcopal, United Brethren, Methodists without an adjective, Wesleyans and Southern Methodists who had been expelled from the greater communion for holding on to the sin of slavery in 1863.
But the devil has found a way to confound the Methodists and all that I have said above has been thrown away, and anger and acrimony has been allowed to tear the fellowship in Christ to shreds.
I shall share with you a few causes that are at the heart of the break-up of United Methodism today.
The devil first reared his head in 1965 or thereabouts. In that year, the US Psychological Association passed a resolution to say same sex attraction was not a sickness and that it should be removed from a rooster of diseases. This was a reaction from the severe and heartless treatment with which homosexual people had been treated by society, some of them, brilliant minds driven away in shame from their jobs.
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Alan Turing, OBE, FRS, considered a pioneer of computing science, died in 1954 of a self-administered dose of cyanide, fearing exposure of his homosexual lifestyle.
After many such examples, the churches were almost unanimous in extending a hand of fellowship to gays and hoping that mercy and grace would by itself show the way forward. But the devil saw an loophole with which to divide the body of Christ.
The United Methodist Church of the Servant on Oklahoma City, is a case study in the way the devil works.
Formerly, an urban church, downtown, it was famous for extending its hands to the widow, the orphan and the homeless, the marginalised of society.
The devil told the lay leaders that gays were marginalised too. Thus far, so good. But as the Church of the Servant moved to the suburbs of Oklahoma City, and the church pews were filled by snooty privately educated yuppies, and some pastors with academic titles, the Reverend Mr. Matt Judkins, D. Div., the devil found a fertile ground. Mastering all the words and all the nuances of speech, the devil said that gays must be “fully accommodated in the body of Christ” as befits all the children of God.
Now, dear reader, you need to sit down and be in a safe seat. That is doublespeak. Let us say that “fornicators must be fully accommodated in the body of Christ” you will appreciate the heresy of such a statement.
Take another step forward. I was once sent for a Methodist Conference in Los Angeles where we were welcomed by Bishop Karen Olivetti, a very pretty sister in Christ.
She welcomed us warmly, showered us with love and even offered us a sunset swim on the beach. At lunch, however, I asked my neighbor who the woman who shadowed the bishop was.
Her wife is Susannah Tilton and they have adopted one son and three girls. Olivetti has inspired the founding of an Intercultural Ministry which answers the “call and willingness to claim our prophetic (mission) to make the gospel vision of radically inclusive love and grace.”
No Christian will argue with these words, but what Bishop Olivetti is advocating is the tolerance and perpetuation of sinful habits specifically prohibited by St. Paul.
When adulterers join the church, they do not commit themselves to perpetuate their adulterous lifestyles.
That is the point, you sluggard. Bishop Olivetti says: “Who are you to judge?”
In the Church of the Servant, now used as a case study of Methodism, there were 3 000 members. The Book of Discipline forbids a gay life. Dissenters say that gays have been allowed to take leadership positions.
The majority at Servant Church asks the question. Why are the rules in the Book of Discipline not being followed?
I can answer that question. As one climbs the ladder in any organisation, in the church or any other, one finds leaders who do not believe what they preach.
A Californian Methodist clergyman married a gay couple. The matter was brought before the Judicial Council. The judicial council debated the matter to death and then tabled it. The pastor returned to his former activities unscathed.
The answer is that the bishops are probably sympathetic to the gay life. The more educated and wealthier one is, the more likely one is exposed to Jeffrey Epstein’s Island in the Caribbean. Jeffrey Epstein’s customers where Prince Andrew od Britain, former president Bill Clinton, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Amazon’s Jeff Bizos.
So, in the Oklahoma situation, the congregations were ahead of the bishop. They wanted a church and a leadership that believes what it preaches, that Jesus is Lord, and that adulterers, fornicators, murderers and wicked judges will not have a place in heaven.
After two of the largest churches in Oklahoma have voted to withdraw from the conference Bishop Jimmy Nunn has written a “kind” letter to the body of Christ in the Oklahoma Conference. Nunn is pleading with them to postpone all fractious thoughts for the time being and be “on the lookout for what God is doing in our midst,” give themselves time for discernment.
The devil is far from being impressed by Nunn’s kind words.
- (Ken Mufuka served for eight years as a Commissioner in the South Carolina Equitable Compensation Commission, four years as chairperson. The Commission advises the bishop on clergy standards and salaries)
- Ken Mufuka is a Zimbabwean patriot. He writes from the US.