Every four years the United Methodist Church holds a convention.
Just like the Republicans and the Democrats.
This year Methodists affiliated with the UMC will convene in Tampa. (The vibrant Korean Methodist Church is not one of those affiliated.)
There are just short of 1,000 delegates apportioned, more or less, on the basis of membership.
Liberals in the United States have been trying for more than a decade to follow the example of other Mainline churches in their acceptance of homosexual behavior in society and religious leaders, specifically, clergy.
Because of the astonishing growth of Methodism in Africa, that effort was beaten back in 2004 and 2008.
Both sides think they have a chance to win in 2012.
Seared into my mind are the words (quoted as well as I can remember them below) of an African delegate from eight years ago:
“I don’t understand why we spend half our time talking about sin. I thought we were supposed to talk about saving souls.”
I’ve just finished reading a biography of the founder of Methodism, John Wesley.
Tucked into Footnote 13 on page 313 of Robert G. Tuttle, Jr.’s “John Wesley, His Life and Theology” is the following:
“…unity and holiness are the two things I want most among Methodists.”
The fight over the acceptability of homosexuality surely does not accomplish Wesley’s goal.
The goal of the liberals is get African votes out of the decision-making mix.
Four years ago they tried, but failed to segregate them.
In different contexts, the same fight will continue in Tampa for eleven days.
“The U.S. church, where all the liberals are located, is declining and losing representation, while the Africans, who are very conservative, will probably become a majority within the denomination within ten years or less,’ Tooley predicts. ‘So, this year, 2012, may be the last opportunity for the liberal side to win on sexual issues.’
“Since 40 percent of the delegates come from Africa and other overseas locations, Tooley estimates the liberal side would have to get about 80 percent of the U.S. delegates to prevail. He thinks that is unlikely, as conservatives plan to fight hard to keep the denomination aligned biblically in its policies.”
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Other articles that may be of interest:
- 4/24/12 Methodist Convention This Week in Tampa – Unity Not on the Agenda
- 4/27/12 The Disconnect Between American Liberals and Africans in Tampa’s Methodist Convention
- 4/28/12 Conservative Methodists Making Headway in World Conference, Big Fight on Homosexuality in Offing
- 4/29/12 Update from United Methodist Church General Conference in Tampa – Conservatives Winning Most Votes, Setbacks for Abortion & Israeli Divestment Supporters
- 4/30/12 Good News Reports Most Endorsed Candidates for Methodist “Supreme Court,” University Senate Win
- 4/30/12 Conservatives Take Three of Four Vacancies on Methodist Judicial Council, Vote on Homosexuality Imminent
- 5/2/12 Methodists Vote Almost 3-1 Against Ending Investments (Divestment) in Motorola and CAT, Proportional Representation for Africans on Ruling Bodies, Preacher Tenure Ended