The Real Heresy In United Methodism
by Roy E. Jacobsen
The danger we face in United Methodism is far more serious than the presenting issue of homosexual practice. GC 2000 will undoubtedly hold fast to the Biblical and traditional understanding that homosexual practice is incompatible with Christian teaching. Chances are the prohibition on pastors doing homosexual unions will be tightened and added to the chargeable offense section of the Discipline. But the issues are far deeper and more significant. We have whole sections of the church's leadership, including many bishops and clergy, who no longer believe or hold to orthodox Christian doctrine and practice. Believe what you will is the message. Don't make any waves and pay your apportionments. For the latter, as Ed Robb says, is the only real heresy.
Fundamental scriptural teachings that Wesley called essentials are no longer held as the unifying basis of our connection. It is the trust clause that holds us together. The trust clause that Wesley felt was necessary to keep the local churches faithful to the witness and doctrine of Methodism. But what happens when the whole denomination has drifted away and only local churches remain faithful. What good is the trust clause then? Many United Methodist Pastors, Bishops and lay people no longer believe in the deity of Christ, the salvation that Christ alone offers, the reliability and authority of Scripture. What Tom Oden has called the "ecumenical consensual" teaching of the church that was worked out in the first four centuries of the church's life is no longer held to be absolute truth by many who call themselves United Methodists. We have lost our "catholic spirit and unity." How can our church speak persuasively and convincingly to his present generation. There are too many conflicting voices. We espouse too many truths even if they conflict with the one truth who is Jesus. We do not need more than Bishop's letters. We need Bishops who will speak the truth. Bishops who are not afraid to take the risk to stand on the uncompromising truth of Christ even if it means taking a stand against a collegiality that seeks an empty unity. We have heard from the 15 and now from Tuell. But where are the voices of the faithful bishops? So concerned are they with unity for unity's sake that they are willing to forget or compromise what cannot be negotiable. How can there be real unity when pastors and Bishops preach and teach doctrine that strikes against the very root of the apostolic witness? Brothers and Sisters beware we can win the battle on the presenting issue of homosexuality but lose a far greater one, the unity of the faith "once delivered." As Jude exhorts us: Let us not grow weary in contending for this faith in all its fullness.
Lord Jesus, you grieve as you see the church divided and torn asunder. Encourage those in the battle for the life and truth of the church you love. Give us your wisdom Holy Spirit. Help us be faithful to you Lord Jesus so when you come again to bring us to the Father you will find faith on earth. Amen.
Roy E. Jacobsen, Pastor
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