Beginning on Saturday, nearly one thousand United Methodist delegates gathered in St. Louis to debate the issue of whether the UMC should revise their church’s doctrine and practice regarding same-sex marriage and LGBT clergy. They will consider several proposals, including one favored by the United States bishops called the One Church Plan, which drastically redefines marriage to include same-sex unions and allow for LGBT clergy and attempts to carve out exceptions for conservative clergy and laity that disagree with such a radical departure from church tradition. For more information on the One Church Plan, see this earlier post.
On the first day of the conference, United Methodists heard a convictional and pointed address against the proposed liberal reforms from Dr. Jerry P. Kulah, an African delegate who is a professor at the United Methodist University in Liberia. You can read his entire remarks here.
One of the themes of Dr. Kulah’s address is the specter of what has been called ideological colonialism in the current debate in the UMC on LGBT issues. Kulah could not have been more emphatic about his and the African delegates’ defiance in the face of such progressive strong-arming:
“Friends, please hear me, we Africans are not afraid of our sisters and brothers who identify as lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgendered, questioning, or queer. We love them and we hope the best for them. But we know of no compelling arguments for forsaking our church’s understanding of Scripture and the teachings of the church universal.
And then please hear me when I say as graciously as I can: we Africans are not children in need of western enlightenment when it comes to the church’s sexual ethics. We do not need to hear a progressive U.S. bishop lecture us about our need to “grow up.”
Let me assure you, we Africans, whether we have liked it or not, have had to engage in this debate for many years now. We stand with the global church, not a culturally liberal, church elite, in the U.S” (emphasis added).
If the UMC adopts the One Church Plan or something like it, some have wondered if the unity of global Methodism can be preserved. If schism occurs, progressive Methodists in the US have suggested that African Methodism would not be able to sustain itself without US financial aid. Kulah was vigorous in his rejection of such a contemptible suggestion:
“[W]ith all due respect, a fixation on money seems more of an American problem than an African one. We get by on far less than most Americans do; we know how to do it. I’m not so sure you do. So if anyone is so naïve or condescending as to think we would sell our birth right in Jesus Christ for American dollars, then they simply do not know us.
We are seriously joyful in following Jesus Christ and God’s holy word to us in the Bible. And in truth, we think many people in the U.S. and in parts of Europe could learn a great deal from us. The UM churches, pastors and lay people who partner with us acknowledge as much.
Please understand me when I say the vast majority of African United Methodists will never, ever trade Jesus and the truth of the Bible for money” (emphasis added).
Praise God for Dr. Kulah and the African Methodists. And pray for the UMC, that the Lord would lead them into all fidelity and truth over the next four days, and that he would protect his flock from the ravenous wolves in wool.
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