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
Many years ago in personal conversation with a district superintendent I posed this question -- "Do you believe there is apostasy within the United Methodist Church?" His response was instant -- "Yes, no doubt about it!" I then asked if he would spell out some specifics. On this he chose to decline and not point any fingers in any direction regarding the issue of apostasy within the UMC.
It has been shouted from the housetops on a regular basis -- one of the distinctives within the United Methodist Church is the fact that it is a connectional system. Its very structure with episcopal leadership and clergy who understand that they are in what is known as "itinerant ministry" testifies that there is a definite connection -- there is no place for a "lone ranger" approach to ministry within the ranks of the United Methodist Church -- if you want to be independent, then start your own kingdom in some other place, but you can't do it within the UMC!
However, the one thing that a majority refuse to recognize by way of crisis within the denomination is this -- we have been plagued with "infection within the connection" for quite a few decades!
"How so?", you may ask. Over time it has been pointed out that pastors have a number of identities when it comes to this thing known as "theology." There is a spectrum involved here -- ranking from radical fundamentalist to conservative to evangelical to "middle-of-the-road" to "moderate" (whatever in the world that is supposed to mean) to liberal or ultra-liberal. One's view of the Scripture lays the foundation as to what one's position will be on matters of faith and the expression of that faith in today's world.
As has been pointed out in other postings and certain areas of my web site, the problem began in the later years of the 19th Century. Certain facts as reported in the Scriptures began to be called into question with the conclusion being that certain events could not be interpreted as taking place in a literal sense!
As this "infection" began to spread into a number of denominations more information as reported in Scripture was questioned until we came to the place where a lot of facts as revealed about Jesus were questioned or flat out denied!
Evidence of infection? Consider these "symptoms" --
- Jesus' birth -- literally the son of a young woman who was a virgin and who had never been sexually intimate with a man prior to the birth of Jesus and that His conception was a miraculous act of the Holy Spirit? In the UMC you will find those who say it couldn't have happened that way!
- Jesus' sacrifice -- literally His death on the cross fully satisfied God's demands for justice regarding our numerous sins of rebellion against Him -- He paid the penalty in full so we could be forgiven completely and restored to righteousness! In the UMC you can hear voices say that other religious "faiths" are also legitimate in today's world -- and the "Great Commission" as given by Jesus is not to be taken literally, nor His claim that He is exclusively the Way, the Truth and the Life and that no one can come to God the Father except through Him!
- Jesus' resurrection -- His literal return from the dead and eventual ascension back to heaven to take His place at the right hand of God the Father until His enemies are made His footstool (Psalm 110)? In the UMC it has been said at times by some that it really doesn't matter whether He was raised from the dead or not -- it is the "spirit" of what He represented and taught that is important! This one is a bit tricky -- while there may be reference to Jesus' "resurrection," exactly what is meant -- a real, literal return from the grave in a body or something else?
- Jesus' return to earth again -- not in humility by being born as a baby, but as King of kings and Lord of lords to take full control of the planet and to rule it permanently? In the UMC it seems there is a lot of fancy foot shifting as though some have moved into the "soft-shoe" dance mode -- a lot of hemming and hawing coupled with double-talk! Why is it so difficult to believe Jesus meant exactly what He said about returning to earth again? Could it come from the infected crowd who really do not want Him to come back to this world?
That's just a sample -- the "infected" element wants to change the standards of sexual morality as originally spelled out by God over centuries of time. And there are other matters that provide proof that that there is a serious "infection within the connection" which ranges all the way from the pew to the level of the episcopacy!
How do some persons attempt to justify this? We are a denomination of "diversity!" It is a perverted application to be sure and boils down to this -- believe about anything you want to believe and live about any way you want to live, and it's OK -- because we are a denomination of diversity and we respect each other's positions and beliefs -- and whatever one does, one must never suggest that there really is a problem of "infection within the connection!"
But there is good news, folks! One of these days God is going to interrupt the flow of human history and the infection (in whatever form it has existed) will be addressed and terminated forever!
For a related commentary on this issue see But doctor, I feel good and people say I look great!
We also have the prophetic word made more sure, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber. --- 1 Peter 1:19-20; 2:1-3