Tuesday, June 4, 2024

It’s Tuesday, June 4, 2024. 

I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

The Great Exodus: The United Methodist Church Loses More than 1 Million Members in One Day as African Conference Rejects Liberal LGBTQ Stance

The United Methodist Church, which after all these days is not so united, it lost more than a million members over the course of just the last several days. Now, how in the world could you do that? How could a denomination lose more than a million? We’re talking about 1.2 million adherence just in the course of a few days. Well, what happened in United Methodism is that one of its largest conferences, in this case in Africa, pulled out entirely from the United Methodist Church in open and vocal protests of that church’s absolute embrace of the LGBTQ agenda just a matter of a few weeks ago. So, what was the cost of the action that was undertaken at the recent general conference of the United Methodist Church?

Well, even at the time they were talking about losing well over a thousand congregations and now they’re talking about losing more than 1 million United Methodists, in the course of just a matter of hours. As Rob Plaster reports, “United Methodist’s largest overseas jurisdiction has voted to quit the denomination in response to the church’s divorcing sex from marriage at its governing general conference earlier this week.” He goes on to tell us, “The United Methodist Church in the Ivory Coast voted on May 28th to exit the denomination. In 2022 this conference reportedly had over 1.2 million members, so its departure means over one-tenth of United Methodism has in one day left the denomination.” In one day, more than 10%. This isn’t an accounting correction, this isn’t a statistical aberration. This is the loss of 10% of the church in just one day, and it is a direct result of the theological liberalization and the absolute surrender of the United Methodist Church to the moral gender and LGBTQ revolutions.

It took just a matter of days at that conference, for the United Methodist Church to turn its back on scriptural authority and the Christian consensus of the believing church for nearly two millennia. It took only a matter of days, but now it took even less than that for the largest jurisdiction overseas of the church to say, “As for the United Methodist Church, we’re out.” This development really does demand our attention. We’re going to need to think through some of these issues and trust me, it’s only going to get more interesting. I think it’s important to cite the actual decision in the wording undertaken by the Methodists there in the Ivory Coast.

They said, “Considering that the new United Methodist Church is now based on sociocultural and contextual values which have consumed its doctrinal and disciplinary integrity, considering that the new United Methodist Church has preferred to sacrifice its honorability and integrity to honor the LGBT, considering that the new United Methodist Church, which distances itself from the Holy Scriptures is no longer suitable for the annual conference of the Ivory Coast. The annual conference of the United Methodist Church in the Ivory Coast gathered in its extraordinary session at the Jubilee Temple of Concody for reasons of conscience before God and before his word, supreme authority and matters of faith in life decides to leave the United Methodist Church denomination.”

It’s dated Abidjan, May 28th, 2024. You need to hear something like an earthquake in the background there. That’s 10% of United Methodism leaving almost instantaneously. This is the largest overseas conference of the United Methodist Church saying, “We want out of the United Methodist Church.” And not only that, I think it’s really important to recognize that these faithful Christians there in Africa stated the reasons, the scriptural reasons, the doctrinal reasons, the gospel reasons why they withdrew from the United Methodist Church. Again, they said that, “The LGBTQ revolution has consumed the United Methodist church’s doctrinal and disciplinary integrity.” It’s exactly what it did. They changed their discipline. That’s why the word disciplinary there is so important. The discipline, which is the moral order of the church, that has been completely transformed in order to abandon historic Christian biblical teaching and embrace the new gender and sexuality ideology. The next statement they said is that the United Methodist Church, “Has preferred to sacrifice its honorability and integrity to honor the LGBT.”

I think that’s really interesting language. It’s morally weighty language. These Methodist there in the Ivory Coast I think have reached and they’ve taken just exactly the right language here saying that the liberal denomination has sacrificed its honorability and integrity. That’s very strong language. I think it’s absolutely true. That’s absolutely true in both counts, sacrificed its honorability and its integrity, and the next line is to honor the LGBT. So, think about that. It has sacrificed its honorability to honor the LGBTQ revolution. Let’s just think about that for a moment. There’s something deeply biblical about that sentence that we might miss if we don’t think about it, and that is the fact that, as for example, we are told to give to those to whom honor is due. So, we also understand that there are people who’ve dishonored their bodies and we understand that idolatry is dishonoring the Lord.

So the word dishonor in this case is not a small word. It’s a massive word, it’s a weighty word, it is a biblical word, and it does remind us of something else that’s very important to the Christian worldview. Every single person is going to worship something. Every single person is going to give honor to something, or to someone. And in this case, I think these Christians have very deliberately and very carefully chosen the word, honorability here as that which they have sacrificed that is the United Methodist Church in order to honor the LGBT. That makes another point. That’s just the way they put it as I quoted it. And here’s what’s important, if you’re going to honor the LGBTQ revolution, you are going to dishonor God. You’re going to dishonor the Christian tradition and you’re going to dishonor Scripture. But they go on to make that very point saying that the new United Methodist Church as they call it, distances itself from the holy scriptures, and they say that means that it’s no longer suitable for the annual conference of the Ivory Coast.

Which is to say they’re out, they’re leaving simply because the United Methodist Church has now distanced itself from the holy Scriptures. And then in the last statement, they say that they’re taking this action, “For reasons of conscience before God and before his word [meaning the Holy Scriptures] the supreme authority matters of faith and life.” Now, that’s incredibly strategic language. It’s so important. We need to take the time today to understand that this is going to be one of those days that ought to be remembered in terms of church history. Now, when it comes to the conference of United Methodists and the Ivory Coast leaving the United Methodist Church, I don’t know that that’s going to be given a lot of historical attention. To be honest, it should be, but I’m not sure that it will. I think though that the larger issue of the resistance to those who are leading a revolution against scriptural authority and the clear doctrinal teaching of the Christian Church based in Scripture, I think that is a big story and I don’t think there’s any way that people are going to be able to avoid it.

And if nothing else, the loss of 1 million members in one day ought to be something that requires not only historical documentation, but an honest accounting of what took place and why. But I think in order for us to get a bit of the background here, we need to just remind ourselves of what we talked about a matter of just a few weeks ago when the United Methodist Church did, after so many American congregations left over the same issue. So, the result of so many conservative churches leaving the denomination is that even though it was basically lost to liberalism already, it’s true that most of the leading conservative churches have simply pulled out and left. So that means that by the time the United Methodists met just a matter of weeks ago, the conservatives had basically given up and they’d gone home, they’d gone with their churches to do something else.

And that’s by the way, exactly what these Methodists in the Ivory Coast have just done. They just did it as an entire conference in the largest overseas conference of the entire church. But, what we need to understand is that the United Methodist Church in one meeting, in this special conference that was held just a matter of weeks ago, they basically reversed every single moral principle they had on the LGBTQ issue. Whereas, their book of discipline had stated just a matter of a few weeks ago that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with the Christian scripture and with Christian tradition, they just reversed that a matter of a few weeks ago. When it came to whether or not you could have all kinds of things happen such as gay weddings and gay clergy and gay bishops, you just go down the list, the entire LGBTQ revolution showing up in a parade. It was basically all either morally suspect or under the discipline of the church a matter of weeks ago, it is now openly celebrated.

And that’s why this United Methodist Conference just withdrew in toto days ago. Now, back when the United Methodist Church took that action, and it was just in the beginning of last month, you had headlines such as this, “United Methodists Embrace a Big Tent After Historic LGBTQ Inclusion Vote,” and that again was a headline that was published just back in May claiming that the United Methodist by making this decision had embraced a big tent. Well, you know what? It’s a big theological tent in terms of doctrine, but it turns out they have a much smaller tent in terms of membership. So in this case, big tent was referring to liberal theology. But you know what, liberal theology doesn’t produce a big tent when it comes to people who actually show up. 1 million, I repeat, leaving in one day. 

It’s also interesting that the news article that I cited with the headline, “United Methodists Embrace a Big Tent After Historic LGBTQ Inclusion Vote.” This article actually includes the statement made by one of the bishops of the United Methodist Church claiming that this change towards LGBTQ inclusion, “Opens the church to a worldwide conversation.” Well, let’s think about this for a moment. Opens the church to a worldwide conversation. Well, about 1.2 million of those people involved in the conversation said as their message, “We’re gone.” How’s that for a conversation starter?

Part II

The Bible Does Not Allow Normalizing and Celebrating LGBTQ Behaviors: How the Revolutionaries Distort Scripture

But I think something that helps us to understand what’s going on here is actually an article published as a Q&A with a figure identified as a New Testament scholar and dean of the chapel at Boston University. This is the Reverend Robert Allen Hill, the article’s entitled, “Point of View: Schism in the United Methodist Church Explained.” And so here, the dean of the chapel in this United Methodist affiliated university who also teaches New Testament goes on to say that this started decades ago, that’s certainly true and had been, “Debated, avoided, postponed, and dreaded since before,” he says, he entered the ministry in 1979. He acknowledges that the schism is really over. The presenting issue of what’s identified in the article is LGBTQ+ Rights and same sex marriage. 

And right after acknowledging that, he basically gives what he sees as a defense of the liberal move of the church. He’s very clearly for all the LGBTQ inclusion, even at the cost of losing all those congregations that had left over the last two years, that is a sizable percentage of the entire membership of the United Methodist Church. And the decision undertaken by the African United Methodist hadn’t even happened yet, but listen to how he justifies the change in the church’s doctrine and discipline. Here’s what he writes. “There are, in the full stretch of the Bible in all 66 books, both Hebrew scriptures and New Testament some 30,000 verses.” He goes on, “Exactly 6 of those 6 out of 30,000 arguably have anything directly to say about same-gender relationships.” He goes on to say, “It’s not exactly a central theme for the biblical writers.” But let’s just pause for a moment. That’s the kind of absolutely intellectually insipid argument that would justify anyone leaving the United Methodist Church, just because that kind of argument has been made. But in this case, this is the argument that in the 66 books of the Bible, 30,000 verses, “Exactly 6 of those 6 out of 30,000 arguably have anything directly to say about same-gender relationships.” Now, number one, that’s just patently false because that is a reductionism that basically says, you eliminate all the context of those verses that some of the people on the left call “clobber verses” when it comes to LGBTQ issues, behaviors, activities, relationships, and of course, it’s a part of a larger context.

You look at Romans 1, you can’t just talk about one or two verses. You’re talking about a sustained argument, which is basically the entire chapter. But there’s also another bit of intellectual dishonesty here that’s just even more massive, and that is the fact that when the Bible defines marriage, it defines it as the union of a man and a woman. It doesn’t have to say that it’s not the union of a man and a man. It doesn’t have to say that’s not the union of a woman and a woman. That’s so clear. It didn’t have to be said, and it never had to be said until it all of a sudden had to be said. Only in extremely recent times when you have the moral and ideological, doctrinal, and disciplinary revolt of theological liberalism. No one had to say such things before.

But you know what, the Bible’s really clear about marriage, and by the way, Jesus is really clear about marriage as saying, “Did you not know from the beginning that marriage is to be a union of a man and a woman?” And as a matter of fact, this dean says, “The Bible actually teaches the opposite.” In other words, not only does it not give credit to the argument against the normalization of homosexuality. He says that there are verses that actually point to the opposite, and he mentions Galatians 3:28. Now listen to this quote. “For instance, in Galatians 3:28, Paul often, ironically, a favorite for conservatives writes ‘In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek. There is neither slave nor free. There is no male and female.’” That’s the quote from what he wrote. And then he says, “In this letter, what theologian Martin Luther called the Magna Carta of Christian faith. We have the setting aside of religious, economic and sexual distinctions on the power of the unity of faith, of baptism and the gospel of Christ. There is no male and female, but rather the unity of faith, hope and love in the person of Christ crucified and risen.”

Now, does that sound biblical to you? Is that even in a fairly recent translation, an accurate translation of Galatians 3:28? Well, the words are pretty much there, but this is an absolutely ridiculous interpretation of what’s meant there. Because even as you read the words written by this New Testament theologian, he says that sexual distinctions are gone. The setting aside of religious, economic, and sexual distinctions. You know what, even in most of the churches that say they have bought into the entire idea of the LGBTQ revolution. You know what, they still have a distinction between men and women.

They may confuse the distinction. They may get the distinction wrong, but you know what, no one can plausibly with a straight face and with honest intent say that the distinctions have been removed much less than that was the point of Galatians 3:28. That rips it out of context, which is our equal need for the gospel, and the provision equally made for men and women in the gospel of Jesus Christ. It strips it out of that context where it makes perfect sense, and instead presents it as something which is absolutely ludicrous. And then he even goes on, because he’s going to press this, “The fundamentalist leaving the denomination purportedly on biblical grounds have not read the Bible, or at least have not read it carefully, faithfully, and fully, especially as regards to Galatians 3:28 and similar passages within the full and liberating arc of biblical theology.”

Okay, hold on a moment. We’re not going to let that pass. This is the trajectory hermeneutic. It’s the idea that there’s an arc of development that starts in Scripture, but it doesn’t end in Scripture. It’s going to end with human liberation worked out by the Christian Church in its liberalizing way over the course of successive generations. This is the argument that we’re not tied to, we’re not limited to the words of Scripture. No, we find an interpretive arc, and then on our own freed from the text of Scripture, we develop the arc, the arc of development. It’s like a rainbow that leads to the promised LGBTQ paradise. This particular writer goes on to say that this decision’s going to require hard work from the denomination, the United Methodist Church. “It means the ongoing struggle to support urban ministry with poor and underprivileged people. The struggle to support growing churches in Africa and Asia.”

Well, you’re going to have to redefine that, church in Asia, by the way. “The struggle to support summer camping ministries, campus ministries, elder care ministries, and many other forms of service that our connectional system has effectively and efficiently provided over decades with fewer people, churches, and far less money.” “We will have to cut in all these areas and others.” Well, you’re actually going to have to cut more than you thought.

Part III

Great Moral Divide Between Republican and Democratic Parties on Display: Largest LGBTQ Rights Group in Our Nation Launches $15 Million Effort to Re-Elect Joe Biden

And as we’re coming back to the United States next, just to think about the LGBTQ revolution here, and of course this is where the United Methodist Church finds most of its members and most of its churches even now, it’s important to note that in the larger culture, there are some developments that we ought to pay a bit of attention to. For example, headline from NBC News in recent days, “America’s largest LGBTQ Rights Group Plans $15 million Swing State Blitz to Reelect Biden.” And this is just another reminder, what’s at stake in today’s political and cultural context when you get to a presidential election.

And of course, we expect that Joe Biden, the incumbent President of the United States is going to be the Democratic candidate, and that Donald Trump, the former Republican President of the United States will be the Republican candidate. And so the press is already at this stage, which is a little early in most election cycles, jumping to what would the election of Joe Biden mean? What would the election of Donald Trump mean? And on LGBTQ issues, well, a lot of what it means is made clear in the headline, that the largest LGBTQ rights group in the nation is willing to put millions on the line, trying to reelect Joe Biden. So as you’re looking at the great cultural conflict in our country defining these issues, here’s the biggest group, it is the Human Rights Campaign, and it’s launching this $15 million effort to try to reelect Joe Biden as president precisely because they know what we are looking at as the great divide between the two parties, which is a great moral divide in the United States.

One of the interesting questions is whether or not we will get to the election in November and the divide will be as clear as it is now. And the big question there is not whether Joe Biden’s going to move. He’s not. The big question honestly is whether former President Trump stands by the policies and the positions that he had when he was elected president in 2016. And we can only hope that that’s the case because we are looking at a real threat to religious liberty. We’re looking at a real threat to human flourishing with a government that the human rights campaign wants to make certain will put all of its coercive power into forcing the LGBTQ revolution. And that means forcing it, as we talked about yesterday, when it comes to the public schools and say children who are claiming transgender identity, doing so even not only against biology, but against the authority and the rights of parents.

This is turning out to be one of those issues which is not just a wedge, it’s turning out to be a sledgehammer in the larger culture, and it’s just important to look at this and recognize that the largest LGBTQ activist group is putting multiple millions, and it’s not necessarily even limited to $15 million, in swing states, with an explicit effort to try to reelect Joe Biden. It’s also important to step back and recognize that in this particular news story from NBC News, the Human Rights Campaign, which is an activist organization, and they often claim higher numbers than would be justified in order to make their point. But nonetheless, they make the claim that this year there will be 75 million voters, they call equality voters, “Who will vote based on support for LGBTQ rights.” They say that’s up from 62 million in 2020, 52 million in 2016. Now, I’m going to say that those numbers may be dubious, but I’m going to acknowledge that that pattern is probably true.

I think the LGBTQ revolution has been steamrolling through the culture, to the extent that I wouldn’t even argue with or question the claim that there in 2024 will be a greater percentage of voters who are probably activated by LGBTQ activism. And that is because the activism has been so successful, and it just helps us to understand the challenge we’re up against, and the real challenge we face and underlines again, the stakes in the 2024 election.

Part IV

The Federal Courts and Pride Month: The Sexual Revolution Continues Its March Through Our Institutions

Finally, as we close on a related story, Dan McLaughlin at National Review offers an article entitled, “Flying the Transgender Flag in the Federal Courts.” He begins by making an obvious point. “You might think it would be obvious that a federal court should not take sides on a divisive social issue that is likely to come before that court, but in the name of inclusivity during Pride Month, the federal courts are doing just that.”

So what’s going on here? You have, in the federal courts, an administrative office that is declaring a Pride Month reading list and is also offering these books in order, “To educate, enlighten, and entertain,” but also as is reported here, “To be used as part of a larger fairness in employment program.” And again, we’re talking about the federal courts. It’s just a reminder to us that everything is connected, and thus when you’re talking about the federal courts, it’s not just the judges who sit on the court, it’s also the administrators who run the courts, and in this case, this is a very, very important point. These are the very courts that are going to have to consider these issues as cases come before the court. They’re supposed to decide it as a matter of law and constitution. But you know what, the table’s already being tilted.

If the administrative employees of the court are being taught, and are being instructed during Pride month, we take a position on these issues, and that position will be limited to Pride Month. There’s something else that’s implicit in this article, and that is that when you have the administrative state, the federal government offering training sessions on these issues, one of the big thing we need to note here is that the memorandum cited in our article is again written by an administrator. It’s to those who work within the courts. “Employees can choose from two training sessions and the times are listed accessing this link and indicating a preferred date.” “Participation is entirely optional, and each court may decide whether it wishes to share this opportunity.” Okay, here’s something you need to know. When you have this kind of DEI policy put in place, you have this kind of declaration being made by a senior administrator, when the official language says participation is entirely optional, I don’t think anyone believes that participation is entirely optional.

Or to put it another way, they’re insinuating that it’s optional, whether you’re on the right side or the wrong side of the boss. I think you and I both know that anyone who claims that those are equally valid positions is lying to you. Finally, this is also a reminder that every single sector of our society is one way or another going to declare on these issues, going to take one side or the other on these issues. Here’s an indication that in the name of the American people, this is being done for the administrative staff of our federal courts. Well, that’s an issue we’re going to have to continue to watch.

Meanwhile, let me ask, are you driving to Indianapolis for next week’s meeting at the Southern Baptist Convention? I’d like to invite you if you are to visit Southern Seminary in Boyce College here in Louisville, Kentucky, on your way or as you travel home.

Visit our world-class bookstore. You’re going to love it. Meet our faculty, see our newly renovated library, enjoy a drink in our coffee shop, and just come and enjoy being on this beautiful campus and being thankful for what the Lord has done here. We want to thank Southern Baptist for your generous support, for your prayers, and for your faithfulness to this institution. For details, and we’ll also send you a free drink coupon. Visit sbts.edu/roadtrip. That’s simply sbts.edu/roadtrip. I hope to see you here. 

Thanks for listening to The Briefing. 

For more information, go to my website at albertmohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter or X by going to twitter.com/albertmohler. For information on the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College, just go to boycecollege.com

I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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