June 1996 – The pro-homosexual movement sweeping most old-line denominations made perhaps its greatest gains at the recently completed United Methodist Church’s General Conference in Denver. Despite having their plea for ordination turned down 60% to 40%, some observers felt the homosexuals moved a major step forward.
The greatest push toward the acceptance of homosexuality as being morally equal to heterosexuality came when 15 UM bishops called for a repeal of the church’s ban on the ordination of practicing homosexuals.
Shortly after the action of the 15 bishops, the entire Council of Bishops took a “neutral stand on gays,” according to the Rocky Mountain News. The Council issued a statement that the bishops “acknowledge the serious differences that exist among United Methodists on issues related to homosexuality. These differences are also reflected within the Council of Bishops. We have been praying together and have been talking with one another in a new spirit of honesty and openness that is both painful and hopeful.”
The 15 bishops – 11 active, four retired – publicly expressed their “pain...over our personal convictions that are contradicted by the proscriptions in the [Book of] Discipline against gays and lesbians within our church and within our ordained and diaconal ministers.”
Statements from the Book of Discipline with which the bishops specifically disagree are:
➤ The church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers the practice “incompatible with Christian teaching;”
➤ …“self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be accepted as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve The United Methodist Church;”
➤ No churchwide money may be given to any “gay caucus or group” or be used to “promote the acceptance of homosexuality.”
The 11 active bishops signing the statement were: Judith Craig, Ohio West Area; William W. Dew, Jr., Portland; Calvin D. McConnell, Seattle Area; Susan M. Morrison, Philadelphia Area; Fritz Mutti, Kansas Area; Donald A. Ott, Michigan Area; Sharon Zimmerman Rader, Wisconsin Area; Roy I. Sano, Los Angeles Area; Mary Ann Swenson, Denver Area; Melvin G. Talbert, San Francisco Area; and Joseph H. Yeakel, Washington Area. Sano is the President of the UM Council of Bishops and Talbert is Secretary of the Council.
Retired bishops signing the statement were: C. Dale White, Newport, Rhode Island; Jesse R. DeWitt, Naperville, Illinois; Leontine T.C. Kelly, San Mateo, California; and Melvin G. Wheatley, Jr., Laguna Hills, California.
Bishop Swenson said, “We shouldn’t be fearful of controversy,” adding that the declaration was “freeing. We need to make the barriers between us visible, so we can overcome them.”
Donald E. Wildmon, president of AFA and an ordained UM minister, said that he agreed with Bishop Swenson that we should not fear controversy. “Those who stand for historic Biblical Christianity should not fear the controversy their stand brings when they oppose the radical path down which these UM leaders would take the UM church,” Wildmon said.
Wildmon said the strongest, most effective stand which United Methodists who oppose the radical agenda of the homosexual movement in the UM church can take is to withhold their giving to the General boards and agencies of the church until those boards and agencies cease promoting an agenda in conflict with General Conference policy and Scripture. “Such a move by local UM churches will surely create controversy, but UMs who believe in the Scripture should not fear controversy,” he stated.
The homosexual movement has been making steady gains in their efforts for approval in the UMC since 1972. It appears that, should the growing support continue, they will win their battle at the next UMC General Conference in 2000, or in the 2004 General Conference. The General Conference meets every four years. The United Church of Christ already approves the ordination of homosexuals. Homosexuals are also moving closer to acceptance in other old-line Protestant churches.
Wildmon said that homosexuals should be shown the same love which others are shown, that they are persons of worth for whom Christ died, but that their sinful acts cannot be condoned anymore than other sinful acts are. “The sins of the homosexual are no greater than the sins of the heterosexual. Just as Jesus told the woman caught in adultery to go and sin no more, so must the church send the same message to homosexuals,” he said.
Phil Granger of Kokomo, Indiana, argued that UMs should adhere to a “message of redemption, grace and transformation,” rather than the acceptance of homosexual practices.
Bishop Swenson told a Denver newspaper that she supports “gay marriages.” Senior UM ecumenical official Jeanne Audrey Powers, who publicly announced her lesbianism last year, saluted the bishops’ “historic moment.”
She compared them to earlier church leaders who opposed segregation and fought for the ordination of female clergy. Professor Barbara Troxell of United Methodist Garrett Seminary near Chicago blessed Powers in the name of the goddess “Sophia.” Powers afterwards urged the ecstatic crowd to “take your holy rage and stick it.”
Bishop Fritz Mutti of Kansas led a pro-homosexuality worship service at Warren UM church in Denver on April 19. Called “Friends, Allies, Lovers and Saints,” the “celebration” was sponsored by Affirmation: United Methodists for Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Concerns.
Mutti denounced church leaders who opposed homosexual ordination as “mean-spirited” because they will not “share the light” with “incompatibles” like homosexuals. “Jesus changed his mind,” said Bishop Mutti, who urged that the church follow Jesus’ example and change its policy about ordination.
Mutti cited the Gospel story of the Canaanite woman who seeks help from Jesus for her daughter but is rebuffed. The woman responds that “even the house dogs eat of the crumbs from their Master’s table. Jesus commends her faith and heals her daughter. “Is it too much to hope that the church like its Lord will change its mind?” said Mutti. “Jesus was corrected and His mind was changed and His circle was wider. The church needs to widen the circle.” The bishop noted that “not all of the Bible says the same thing,” so it consequently “must be related to our times.”
First Lady Hillary Clinton joined the effort for acceptance of homosexuality when she spoke to the Conference. “Throw open the doors of our churches and welcome in those who (sic) John Wesley sought out,” she told the delegates towards the end of her speech. “Open The Doors” is the name that pro-homosexual caucus groups gave their lobbying campaign to overturn the church’s official position.