Same-sex marriage and a sad lesson for church conservatives

Jan 11, 2020 by

by Dr Campbell Campbell-Jack, TCW:

The second largest Christian denomination in the USA, with roughly half of its 13million global members living in the United States, has agreed to split over the issue of same-sex marriage.

The United Methodist Church, a denomination long home to a wide mix of theological opinion, has been experiencing tensions for decades. The split is the inevitable outcome of long-lasting institutional reluctance to maintain doctrinal clarity. It will take formal effect after the denomination’s General Conference in May.

Why did it take so long? Probably because theologically conservative United Methodists were doing everything they could to try to bring about reformation and renewal within their denomination. And, whilst upholding the historic theology of the church, they were trying not to appear divisive in the face of unrelenting progressive activism.

Last February it appeared that the conservatives had gained a decisive victory. At a fractious General Conference in St Louis, 53 per cent of church leaders and lay members voted to tighten the ban on same-sex marriage. The GC restated the historic Christian position upheld throughout the existence of the denomination and declared that ‘the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching’.

Yet less than a year later the conservatives are leaving the denomination in the hands of the revisionists. Like other denominations, the United Methodist Church has been caught by what Bradley Longfield in his history of 20th century Presbyterian conflict describes as a denominational trichotomy of Fundamentalist, Modernists and Moderates. 

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