But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them: "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand. --- Matthew 12:25
It's a big year for the United Methodist Church. It's the time for the quadrennial meeting of the General Conference in Fort Worth, Texas, during the latter days of April 2008.
This is the group of lay and ministerial delegates that will consider thousands of petitions on a wide range of issues and by votes cast will attempt to chart the course of the denomination for the next four years.
The content of the petitions provide graphic evidence of the division existing within the denomination and from time to time this division has made headlines.
Thanks to German theologians, with some assistance from others of a different nationality, over a century and a quarter ago we have now come to the point of being sharply divided over such matters as:
- sexual morality and where God has established the boundary lines regarding sexual intimacy for human beings
- whether an unborn child should live or its life terminated by means of very violent "medical procedures" while still residing in what is supposed to be the "safe sanctuary" of its mother's womb
- whether or not murderers should be executed for violently taking the lives of other human beings
- what territory Israel should claim and the extent to which it can defend itself against its many enemies or even have the right to exist
Add to the above a host of other issues as well. But what you see above is more than enough to remind us that the United Methodist Church is clearly a house divided!
There was a time in the history of the former Methodist Church that a high degree of unity existed. Among pastors and laity was a significant agreement that the Scriptures were of supernatural origin - a volume of information produced by the direct influence of the Holy Spirit on a number of persons over centuries of time. One has but to look back in the earlier decades of the history of the United States to see how God blessed the efforts of pastors and laity with the result of a growing church -- the numbers tell the story!
Those days are long gone -- now we talk about celebrating our "diversity" and ignore the reality of a spiritual cancer which continues to destroy a denomination. One of the greatest proofs of this is seen in a most basic issue in the Christian faith -- is Jesus Christ exclusively the way of forgiveness, peace with God, and the hope of Heaven in eternity? Quite a number within the denomination take the position that other faiths have a legitimate claim on the issue of life's purpose and destiny for eternity. When you have a bishop of the UMC saying that we need to forget about this matter of going to foreign nations and trying to convert them to Christianity, then we are in far bigger trouble than we can even begin to imagine!
With that I rest my case -- the division and the compromising will continue -- there will be a continuation of those leaving the denomination, both laity and pastors -- and the membership will continue to shrink within the United States.
For those few who still believe the Bible means precisely what it says on such issues as stated above and choose to remain in the UMC, there are two main actions to take -- stand firm in one's witness that Jesus Christ is exclusively the way of salvation and hope (that shuts all the other "faiths" out!) and pray that God will do some supernatural surgery in removing the "spiritual cancer" which is destroying the body!
Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. --- Jude 1:3, 4