Defiant rainbow warriors in UMC jubilant over a 'fictional' Jesus

Defiant rainbow warriors in UMC jubilant over a 'fictional' Jesus

Defiant rainbow warriors in UMC jubilant over a 'fictional' Jesus

Apologists for homosexuality and sin claimed victory last week at the UMC General Conference, leaving many stunned by the Sodom-like celebration in which the biblical Jesus was unwelcomed.

United Methodist Church, the nation’s second-largest Protestant denomination, voted 692-51 last week to strip a rule about "practicing homosexuals" from its Book of Discipline.

That decision was no surprise considering 7,000 churches have fled the UMC, leaving mostly rainbow flag-waving delegates to affirm sin in the name of love.  

The Rev. Effie McAvoy, a UMC pastor in Hope, Rhode Island, called the General Conference votes “so very healing” while speaking at a news conference, The Associated Press reported.

McAvoy was part of the “Queer Delegate Caucus” at the General Conference, AP reported.

According to the AP story, another attendee was Rev. Frank Schaefer. He was famously defrocked by the UMC in 2013 for presiding over the same-sex marriage of his son before being restored on appeal the following year. 

Schaefer told the AP he was unable to contain his excitement over being on the “winning” side of the argument.

“A part of me still doesn’t believe it,” Schaefer, whose decision helped split the UMC farther even more 11 years ago, said. 

But what does winning that argument mean? So many local congregations have fled the liberal UMC that the remaining delegates participated in little debate and self-reflection last week.  

In effect, Jesus was watered down by a count of 692-51.

Backholm, Joseph (FRC) Backholm

“There were some holdouts still within the denomination but that, of course, is an overwhelming super-majority of people to abandon the biblical position on the issue,” Joseph Backholm told the Washington Watch program last Friday.

Backholm is the Family Research Council’s senior fellow for Biblical Worldview and Strategic Engagement. 

African delegates calls out 'liberals and progressives' 

According to the AP story, conference attendees from Africa, where UMC has significant influence with 4.6 million members, were not impressed with the unbiblical stance they were witnessing. 

“From the tradition of the church in Africa, marriage is between a man and a woman, period,” Bishop John Wesley Yohanna told fellow delegates. 

In a clip that went viral on X, Jerry Kulah, a UMC leader from Liberia, took his turn at a microphone to denounce the then-pending vote on homosexual leaders. Holding a Bible above his head, the African delegate was promptly stopped by the moderator who asked why Kulah was speaking against the amendment.

"I am speaking against the amendment because we do not have another Bible apart from this Bible," the African leader replied. 

With liberal delegates sitting stone-faced, Kulah concluded his one-minute speaking time by summing up his David-versus-Goliath fight. "Today we have a majority General Conference, characterized by liberals and progressives. who are doing everything to change the Bible to something else." 

In the AP story, other African delegates said they were encouraged by a plan for greater regional autonomy. Many will keep their marriage and ordination bans while remaining part of the denomination.

“Our decision to stay in the United Methodist Church is not conditioned by what happens in America," the Rev. Ande Emmanuel of Southern Nigeria said.

Deep South: UMC’s cultural holdouts

The Associated Press, with no mention of the still-conservative Southern Baptist Convention, called UMC the “last of the major U.S. mainline groups to liberalize its policies on sexuality.”

James Hudnut-Beumler, a professor of American Christian History at Vanderbilt and a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) pastor, said UMC’s delay is tied to its roots in the rural South.

“That’s why they were the last to go,” he told the liberal wire service. 

In the Washington Watch interview, Backholm told show host Jody Hice the vote means that people seeking Jesus at a UMC congregation won’t find an authentic Jesus.

“It’s important that if somebody does listen to us talking about Jesus, that we are talking to them about the actual Jesus," he observed. "And I would argue what the remaining United Methodists are arguing for is creating a fictional Jesus... in the hope that their audience likes that Jesus better.

“As Christians, we do want to evangelize, to tell people about Jesus because He is the way, the truth, and the life. He is the path through which we are reconciled to God, and we can deal with our sin problem. People need to meet the real Jesus, and the way they meet the real Jesus is that they have an encounter with the real Jesus,” Backholm said.

The UMC vote now amends Christ’s teachings, His doctrines, His way of life and “obscures what He said about himself and what He said about sin,” Backholm said.

A different version of Jesus might very well be more accepted by larger numbers of people, but presenting Jesus in that manner is not the responsibility of Christians, Backholm said.

“As disciples, it's our job to present Him as he actually presents Himself, and then people will have to deal with Him as he presents Himself,” Backholm said.

It is true cultural changes that embrace same-sex attraction and gender confusion are pushing for changes in Christian churches of all kinds, the FRB biblical analyst said, but bowing to those demands is not the correct response.

“The culture is changing but God is not changing," Backholm warned. "As Christians, if we are anchored to the truth, there can be wind, and there can be currents, and there can be shifting sand and all of those things, but we don't need to be moved by those things.”

Cultural changes are not new. Jesus and his disciples dealt with them while Christ walked on earth.

“The culture has always changed. That is not a new phenomenon. The disciples experienced that phenomenon. Jesus lived through that experience, through a culture that was not entirely receptive to the reality of the gospel and what that meant for the culture that we lived in. So, none of that is new,” Backholm said.

“We need to come to terms with the fact that conflict with the world is part of the cost of discipleship," he added. "That's what happened to Jesus. Not everybody loved Jesus. That's why they killed Him, right, because the things that He believed and testified to threatened the dominant cultural structures in the power structures of that particular religious environment and culture.”