Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way (Proverbs 19:2).
Where I’m from when someone says, “Boy, he sure stepped in it” what is meant is that someone made a decision without thinking through the consequences. And those consequences ended up being disastrous.
When I was a kid the best fishing ponds were always on the property of a farmer or rancher with fairly decent sized herds of cows or horses. The catfish and bass in those ponds were pretty big because there were no paths or roads to them (meaning they weren’t fished much). We would crawl through the barbed wire and make a beeline for some good fishing. But if you got too excited thinking prematurely about the lunker you were going to catch, you stood a good chance of “stepping into it.” One of those large piles of manure deposited haphazardly by a large bovine or equine mammal. If you “stepped into it” your fishing trip was tainted for the rest of the day because those piles were so large and deep it didn’t just get on the bottom of your shoe. It got in your shoe and went through your socks. And depending on the digestive health of the cow or horse…the stench could be overpowering.
The episcopal leaders (bishops) of the United Methodist Church have “stepped into it.” For over four decades they have hemmed and hawed about ordaining practicing homosexuals as clergy. Every time a quadrennial General Conference would meet to determine language in the denomination’s rules and standards document (The Book of Discipline) homosexuals and their supporters would march into the business meeting demanding their supposed right to be ordained as clergy. And almost always a contingent of bishops would stand up to demonstrate their support for changing The Book of Discipline. But it never worked. Every time the actual vote was taken it affirmed the language that “The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in the United Methodist Church.”
So last year somehow or another a married lesbian who had been allowed to become a clergyperson despite the denominational prohibition against homosexual clergy was elevated to the office of bishop and consecrated by other bishops. The message seems to be, “the delegates of the General Conference never would follow our lead so we’ll just get this done without them.” There’s no point in going into a long spiel about how the bishops interjected themselves into the legislative process for the first time in the denomination’s history and promised “A Way Forward” and a special called General Conference in 2019. The reality is that the episcopal leadership of the UMC looked over the fence at how culture is embracing homosexuality and went racing blindly ahead looking for glory in the pond (cesspool). And now the evidence is accumulating that they stepped squarely in a big pile on their way.
Bishops, I’d like for you to meet Brian Cornell. Have you heard that name recently? You should have. He’s the genius in charge of the Target Corporation. He decided that all the world needed to know that Target wanted to fish in that same pond of sexual deviancy that culture has been extolling. So, in April of last year his company decided to tell everyone that they were now welcoming men into women’s restrooms and fitting areas. It didn’t matter if he sported a full beard and hair exploding out of his tank top, all a man had to do if anyone asked why he was in the ladies room was say that he felt like a lady. That would be good enough for Target.
A short week later more than one million families had signed onto AFA’s boycott of Target. A year later that number has swelled to 1.5 million. Target has lost billions of dollars in both sales and stock with no sign of recovering. Click here, here, and here to see other stories on what has happened to Target since their infamous bathroom/fitting room policy was announced to the world.
Two times the president of AFA (Tim Wildmon) has personally gone to Target headquarters and asked the powers that be to rescind its dangerous policy. Both times he was rebuffed. And the CEO, Brian Cornell, acts like he doesn’t know what hit the company he’s in charge of. Because he presided over this disaster he has taken a huge cut in salary even though he distanced himself from the bathroom policy decision when it didn’t pan out as expected. It scarcely matters. When you are in charge, you are held responsible and accountable. Try as he might, he can’t get the stink off.
Bishops, the exodus from the United Methodist Church is reaching biblical proportions now. One of the conferences that the lesbian bishop presides over has revealed that it faces an unprecedented financial crisis since her election and assignment. Sound familiar? We keep getting assurances in emails from the episcopacy that everything is going to work out and be just fine. I guess you’ve gotten used to the smell because you have clearly stepped in it. Two of the largest United Methodist churches in my conference just pulled out. One of them was one of the largest United Methodist churches in America! Were it not for the infamous “Trust Clause” many more who cannot afford to purchase their own churches that their families and neighbors built with their own money would have left by now.
In Matthew 15:14 Jesus said, “And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” I always thought that at a minimum, the task of a bishop was to lead the people away from the muck and the mire…the pit. But you’ve all led us right into it. You’re no different from Brian Cornell.
You hopped on board the sexual immorality train because you were sure that all signs were pointing to broad and sweeping acceptance. Boy, were you wrong. You’ve run the United Methodist Church into the pit. Target shoppers have found other places to shop because of leadership decisions and United Methodists are finding other places to live out their faith because of similar bad decisions by the leadership.
I’ve got news for the holier-than-thou episcopal leadership of the United Methodist Church. The only “way forward” for this once great missional denomination is if the lot of them (bishops) take their shoes off, wash their feet off, and acknowledge they made a huge mistake. It’s called repentance.
Toward the end of his life John Wesley famously wrote,
I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid, lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case, unless they hold fast both the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out (Thoughts Upon Methodism, 1786).
Spiritual leaders are supposed to guide the faithful in transforming culture and the world unashamedly embracing their doctrine and discipline. Instead, the leaders of Methodism have themselves been transformed by the world and are destroying the UMC much like Brian Cornell has single-handedly ruined the Target brand. God help us.