Repent, Pray, and Stand for the UMC
No matter your position of influence in the United Methodist Church, your hope in Christ is needed now.
Response to Jeffrey Warren’s Speech at the 2019 General Conference
Yesterday I heard that a Mr. Warren gave a speech at the UMC General Conference that a lot of people liked. Reports said that he is a young man who wants to serve as a minister someday in a Methodist Church that openly embraces LGBTQ lifestyles. This morning I woke up with the following words I would like to speak in reply if I were given the microphone.
Jared Buswell, Tulsa, OK, 3 minutes…
Mr. Warren wants to serve in a Methodist Church where he can minister to people struggling with LGBTQ lifestyles. He can do that now, and it sounds like he is. Methodists have been ministering to people of all kinds since there have been Methodists, and there never has been and especially in this day and age never will be a policy of excluding some people from receiving our love because of who they love. People struggling with LGBTQ lifestyles are all made in God’s image. If you are worthy of God’s attention by His grace and free will choice – then you are more than worthy of mine. And you will receive it. The history of the church in ministering to people with LGBTQ issues has been spotty, just as it has been spotty ministering to people with other sins. That is a discipleship problem, not a let’s-change-the-fundamental-meaning-of-Christ’s-words problem.
People struggling with LGBTQ issues have had it especially hard, because for the majority of time these sins were not as culturally acceptable as, say, divorce, gossiping, lying, mismanaging money, etc. You’ve had the hammer fall on you from the culture and from the church, a church too much in bed with the culture selected you for special ire. For that I am truly sorry and repentant. It’s wrong. And because it’s wrong, the answer today is not to continue lying in bed with the surrounding culture by embracing homosexuality just because they have, but as always, the solution is found only in corporately abiding in Christ at all times. Just because the elites of the western world have shifted to embrace homosexuality does not mean that the answer for healing people struggling with LGBTQ is found in going along to get along. Do not be captive to the world’s thinking, because by doing so, God’s instrument for bringing real healing, reform, and peace to the world is made useless.
Please do not bring up any argument that the church should “wise up” and follow the world’s lead on this issue. The “arc of history” is powerless against the life-giving truth of the Gospel. It was sin, the devil, and the world that was against you and caused this pain, as well as the church to the degree to which it was living by the world’s standards. Jesus and those following in His footsteps to humbly love all people did not do this to you.
Do you want the church to become just another force enforcing the world’s preferences? Let’s see who the western world wants to hate today: racists and bigots. Do you want to relegate to the shadows those people who are struggling with racism and bigotry? Do you want to put them in the closet, and tell them they’re not worthy to be called human? No, such people are made in the image of God and are worthy of our love and attention. On the other hand, should the Methodist Church promote to positions of leadership those people who openly embrace racism and bigotry, who will not repent of those beliefs, and who teach and lead others to follow in the same sins? No, you would not do that. Yet you are asking this General Conference to do exactly that.
There is another way forward besides this false dichotomy. To deny the possibility that love can still be love without tolerating what is evil not only rebukes 1 Corinthians 13, but it defies God’s nature and the whole reason we’re even able to be here today. The childish notion that toleration is the fundamental nature of “love” and that calling sin a sin is “hate,” is, like I said, childish. It’s not only silly, but it’s dangerous and deadly too. It’s ruining people’s lives. That false dichotomy has been used to weaponize Christian compassion to advocate for what real love would never do. Real love comes first from experiencing God’s real love for us. He is love. Love disciplines, corrects, hates what is evil, rejoices with the truth, it pays the penalty for our wrongs, and walks with us to overcome sin by the means God has provided. Love gets in your face and in your life and doesn’t leave you the same. Because the truth is that we all need to change. There cannot be any reconciliation without repentance on someone’s part, because there has been a real wrong committed against God.
The clear revelation of scripture from beginning to end is that one way or another, sin always leads to death and tragedy. Real love hates sin, because it hates the thing that destroys the object of its love. It is normal, natural, moral, and scriptural to hate sin and to love people who are ensnared by it. That’s what real love looks like.
Homosexuality is a choice, not a trait. LGBTQ is a choice as much as lying is a choice, or abusing others in anger, or sexual promiscuity, or hating others because of their race or gender is a choice. But most of these chosen sins were not our choice: we were born with them, or inherited patterns from our parents, or trauma ingrained these habits in us before we reached the age of moral responsibility around 11 or 12. The honest truth is that homosexuality is not chosen, just as these other sins are not chosen, but it is a choice to remain in these sins when God reaches His hand out toward us and offers cleansing, freedom, and the power to live a holy life in Christ. The reality is that homosexuality is difficult to overcome, and that is why we need the grace of God and the clear teaching of the church and love lived in authentic, holy community.
It is also a choice when we who have experienced this freedom from sin in Christ choose to deny it to others by calling what is good evil, and what is evil good. You think, “I’ve got my salvation and my relationship with Christ by His grace,” and you think nothing of withholding teaching a part of God’s law because others will misunderstand you, and you might lose some dollars. But doing so and leaving a portion of the population struggling with LGBTQ alone without a clarion call to freedom is a disservice to them and to the whole world because of the missing contribution God wants to make through people with LGBTQ desires.
The lie that some people are just homosexual and can never change is a chain and shackle the devil wants to keep on those suffering from it, use them to enslave more, and use the stories of such people who can “never change” as leverage to intimidate the leadership of this church to change what should never be changed. Satan has weaponized your and my compassion against us. The UMC should make a commitment right here and now to not participate in this scheme. And Mr. Warren, our mutual enemy wants to use you to achieve outcomes that are harmful to you and the world, and then he plans to discard you. As a fellow young person, I implore you to leave this false notion of love and the world’s expectations of what people our age are supposed to believe. You are welcome to talk with me anytime, and you are welcome in my home for dinner.
UMC progressives, centrists, and traditionalists: God’s law that sex is holy only within a marriage between one man and one woman is a challenge to all of us. But He gives it for our good and for our freedom, not to deny us from who we truly are. Every word of Psalm 119 exalting God’s ways applies to this teaching as well. You have no idea the glory and fullness God wants to work in you until you see the fullness of who Jesus already is. But homosexuality is not a part of your design or anyone’s. It is simply incompatible with God’s presence and with the teaching of this church right now, today. God hates what the enemy wants to do to people through this abomination. God loves us too much to let His standard of holiness go, and we Methodists in love need to be just as tenacious about God’s standard for human sexuality for the benefit of others.
If Mr. Warren and others moved by his speech are going to claim the moral and institutional authority of being adults, I am going to treat you like adults. I’m not going to mince words: homosexuality is a sin, and it is not compatible with Christian teaching.
The fact that there are no easy answers should challenge us to pray and study scripture with humility and love face-to-face the people He brings into our lives. Instead, too many people in this room and on Twitter are engaging in soundbite theology to drive an armchair revolution. We are coming up with cleverer and cleverer sayings and scholarship to defend a childish preference without any regard for a holy God. That behavior is shameful, and it is a shame that that behavior has been allowed for decades to grow unchecked to enter not only this very room, but to invade our homes and schools and churches, and the Council of Bishops.
The fact that many, many people have practiced homosexual lifestyles and have experienced freedom in Christ from homosexuality is a witness against the lie that homosexuality is a natural part of some people’s design. If no one in world history had ever overcome lying, then maybe I’d be tempted to think I don’t need to change either. In fact, maybe I should believe everyone else has to tolerate my lying, and the church should ordain me, even though I openly and proudly lie to get what I want. If they prohibit my desire to lie and to be a Methodist minister, it’s them who are hating. But no! The truth is many people have permanently overcome lying, and that fact stands as a witness – in addition to the clarity of scripture, which should be enough on its own – that I am responsible for overcoming the same myself. Will I fail sometimes? Yes. Am I utterly helpless without the grace and power of Jesus working in my life? Yes, and that’s why a dying world out there needs this church to be clear on this teaching, so that we can say that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has power over sin, death, and even LGBTQ desires.
Sexual preference is not permanent in a person like race or gender. No one with white skin ever woke up one day with black skin. No one changed skin color as part of his or her sanctification process. Yet many have overcome LGBTQ lifestyles. That’s because sexual preference is not a permanent trait. The stories of these overcomers should be celebrated. They should be shouted from the rooftops, not to score political points, but to glorify God who is powerful and loving, and to celebrate their faithfulness, and to announce to a hurting world that the God of the Bible loves you and has the power to heal you.
Some of you hear those words and inwardly yell, “I don’t need to be healed!” You may think so, but for every one of you with that reaction, there is someone who is quietly yearning for hope that there is a way to get rid of these homosexual desires. You don’t speak for them, and to say that you do is hubris. They are people made in the image of God who want to be everything God has in store for them, whatever that looks like and however He can do it. It hurts, but there is an inner witness in our spirits, an alert conscience, that something very deep is very wrong, and we need help. Have you not experienced that pain and seen God’s – not society’s – solution to it on the cross and the resulting resurrection? Jesus’ ascension is my life. It’s the only life I can hold onto. The other one had to die long ago, because it was irrevocably on the path to destruction. There was no way to reform it. The old life has to die, and the new life in Christ has to be born again.
This healing requires an authentic relationship with Jesus and not the false jesus the world offers, who tolerates divorce, porn, homosexuality, and wasting time watching too much television. Jesus accepts you and loves you just as you are. You won’t stay the same in His presence, but He loves everyone right where they are. Read Romans 5:6. The question for the whole world riled up about LGBTQ is not whether Jesus accepts you for who you are, but whether you accept Him for who He is.
The legislative matter today is not whether people dealing with LGBTQ can attend and serve in the Methodist Church, but whether people who embrace homosexual lifestyles can lead in the Methodist Church. Some allude – or explicitly state – that it’s inherently wrong for the church to make such a distinction. The truth is that it’s necessary for the church to have boundaries for membership and ordination. There are standards of moral character, of education, and of doctrine. That’s okay and necessary – not evil. Correcting those who don’t meet the standards is in itself an act of love, because it maintains the integrity of Christ’s church, even if some individuals who execute the correct don’t do it in love. But that is their problem, not yours or the church’s. The church won’t ordain me if I don’t meet the educational requirements, if I preach the supremacy of Allah instead of Jesus, or if I proudly live an unbiblical lifestyle. That is the church’s rightful prerogative. We can debate the fine lines of where the biblical standard lies, but to call any kind of enforcement “hate” just because it is enforcement is a dangerous and diabolical idea. The progressive church does not hesitate to enforce its beliefs when push comes to shove, so don’t be selective about who should set aside their book of discipline.
The ultimate question is whether this portion of the body of Christ will remain standing with Jesus for who He is. Is Jesus going to remain head of this church, or are we going to participate in Satan’s rebellion against it, trying to thwart God’s plan to share the Good News of the Kingdom through Christ’s body? If the UMC decides to promote homosexuality as permissible and desirable for some people, then there won’t be a distinctive reason for the UMC to exist. There won’t be a Methodist Church for Mr. Warren to serve in if he gets everything he’s asking for today. We’d just be another social club, not as funny as the comedy club, not as smart as the rocketry club, and not as good of cooks as the Food Network, though many here would have good reason to beg to differ.
And to the Traditionalists, I’m going to treat you like adults too, because you’re used to it. You’re used to being slandered and libeled by many powerful people, and so I’m not going to mince words with you either: cowardliness is just as much a sin as homosexuality. Both sins are listed in Revelation as being practiced by those who go unrepentant into the lake of fire. This inordinate amount of effort placed into defending your own little ministry kingdoms with an exit plan should not have received as much leadership as defending the whole church and our international family from this cultural onslaught coming from our shores. For every person working on an exit plan, there should have been two devoted to unequivocal defense of the truth and the proliferation of the Gospel into every cultural institution. 2:1 ratio – where is it? Show me one Methodist leader who has been calling the whole church to prayer and action, and I’ll show you dozens who were working on exit plans.
Will the press speak badly of you if you lift up Jesus’ standard in practical life? Of course, because that institution long ago lost its Biblical moral roots. Where is the long-term plan to take that ground? Your disciples should be owning the media with excellence, or else what are we here on Earth for? Has rampant progressivism, the worldly thinking of our age, infiltrated your seminaries, where we are paying God’s enemies to slaughter His sheep? Yes, so where is your plan? After you have achieved your gracious exit, the spirit that is driving this homosexuality-for-all movement won’t stop with the Methodist Church. It’ll come immediately after your little ministry fiefdom. The spirit driving the progressive agenda today is committed to the total destruction of all human life, conservative and progressive. Don’t stop fighting now and protecting your own, because then in the end you’ll have only yourself for your defense.
Now I’m going to listen to that Warren video…
After listening to this speech, I will say that Mr. Warren brought up some points regarding division and unity that I have not addressed here. But I would have to respond to that part with another “three minutes.” Everything else written here stands, and I would love to hear it spoken from the convention floor.
Thank you for your time.