The Issues Preoccupying The United Methodist Church

Editorial Comments

Historically, The United Methodist Church is well known for being a “holy conferencing” church. The phrase is typically employed “to encourage people to have polite conversation with each other, particularly around issues where people are going to disagree” (Emily Snell, Means of Grace: Christian conferencing, 2020). A Special Session of the General Conference of The United Methodist Church took place February 23-26, 2019 in St. Louis, Missouri. The purpose was to act on a report from the Commission on a Way Forward, authorized to examine paragraphs in The Book of Discipline concerning human sexuality and to explore options to strengthen church unity. The Special Session sought to put to rest an issue that had haunted the church for over five decades since the formation of the denomination. The General Conference delegates passed by a 438-384 vote the Traditional Plan, which retains restrictions against “self-avowed practicing homosexual” clergy and officiating at or hosting same-sex marriage ceremonies and requires stricter enforcement for violations of church law. What happened thereafter is common knowledge to all! By the look of things, it seems the debate is far from over.

As we continue to reflect on the future of our beloved church, we stumbled upon Bishop Kasap Owan’s  Statement of on the Issue which Preoccupies the United Methodist Church, 24 mars, 2021. The article is not only insightful and informative, but also very relevant as it seeks to engage the church on the contentious issue through the Biblical and cultural lenses.

By the Bishop’s permission, we hereby republish the whole article for the benefit of those who may have missed it when it was first released (in 2021).

Let’s get your views and comments about the issues raised herein.

Blessings!

Editorial Team.

My brothers and sisters, love to you in the name of the Lord,

May the peace and grace of our Lord be with you in this Easter season when Christians remember the death of Jesus on the cross for our salvation.

With much bitterness and distress the Methodist church wastes so much time and energy on discussing one question which should never have been discussed. We should be paying more attention to our people, our churches, but no, instead for the last 20 years, we cannot do anything else but box the air.

In the words to follow, we lay out our vision and that of the South Congo and Zambia Annual Conference. Based on the information I have, these are the genuine thoughts of Africans with regard to same-sex marriage.

According to Africans, homosexuality is incomprehinsible and a contradiction of all the teachings we have received from missionaries in the past century and from those of our United Methodist founder, John Wesley.

At the General Conference in 2000, it was decided that the Church forbade the practice of homosexuality. Why should the debate continue? Why must we revisit it in each quadrennium? What is the church looking for in all this divergence? Do we not have more important things to discuss? The big question is where is the UMC going?

For all faithful United Methodists, this subject is the still important to consider. Each pastor of the United Methodist Church, shepherd of God’s flock, is responsible for the care and salvation of the souls in his or her trust, with respect to the mission of Christ given to his disciples. Matthew 28:19 says, “Go make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” At verse 20, Jesus adds, “and teach them to obey all that I have commanded.” The verb, διδασκότες, means teach them to keep everything which I have commanded you. This verb means: to transmit all that I have said to do, or, that those who become believers should apply his teachings.

What are the teachings of Jesus on marriage? In Mark 10:1-10, Jesus responds to the Pharisees on the issue of divorce. Jesus says, “It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law. But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

Evangelism in the South Congo in 1910

a) Traditional African Worship

Let us remember with the arrival of the American missionaries, particularly, Bishop Springer and his wife in 1910, the Congolese already had a spiritual life. They had a traditional religion: ancestor worship. Mulago Vincent defined that religion as “all that made a relationship with invisible beings, those who were capable to produce either good or bad” (Mulago, An African Face of Christianity, African Press, Paris, 1962, p. 93). This paganism followed naturalism, sacred trees, wooden and clay idols. These items served to relate humans and their ancestors through essential offerings. (An anthropomorphic conception of the divine).

(Crisket A., Pagan statues in Mesopotamia began from human origins to the first Babylonian dynasty, 1968.)

This paganism is a perpetual communion between the living and the dead. It takes multiple forms: ancestor worship, clan worship, tribal worship

b) The family

In Africa, the family is the basis of the clan and then of the tribe. It prospers with many children. A childless marriage is considered a curse and allows a man to marry a second wife to procreate. He is the origin of polygamy. For other men, polygamy is the best way to have many children as a sign of wealth and to have many fields with each wife having a field. However, polygamy is the source of hate among women with the same husband. That is to say that it is not approved of everywhere.

c) The evangelization of the South Congo (1910-2020) The Gospel of Christ: since 1910,

Missionaries preached Jesus Christ to Africans to win their souls. The Congolese, like other Africans believed the gospel of Christ, notably, polygamy and other vices. . . the missionaries preached and taught that Christians should only have one wife.

Africans believed this teaching from then until this century.

Homosexuality is a human desire and not divine will.

The Roman Catholic Church teaches that homosexuality is a sin, a practice contrary to the will of God. What is the definition of homosexuality in the United Methodist Church?

It is a disgrace to the United Methodist Church to even discuss this issue. How can the United Methodist Church decide to vote on the doctrine, the law of God and the teachings of the church which we have held for the last century? We believe that even to put this question to a vote is an expression of doubt in the word of God, which is extremely clear and precise on this issue.

Certainly, the word of God does not teach homosexuality; however, in our church we keep putting this question to a vote. The majority voice substitutes itself for the authority of the Bible! This is a strategy to murder the church of God. The South Congo and Zambia will never be complicit in this work.

Christian marriage is always a man and a woman in the Scriptures (Genesis 2:23-24, Mark 10:7-8). This is marriage in God’s design which follows the commands of God, assuring the procreation of humanity.

What about Same-Sex Marriage?

Is it divine will or human practice? What is its objective? Homosexuality is not found in the design of God and it is not part of the divine cultural mandates. God created man and woman, Genesis 2:7, 22. Man will leave his father and his mother and they will become one flesh (one single being).

What is the point of view of the South Congo and Zamiba Annual Conference on the actual situation in the United Methodist Church?

In the last 5 normal Annual Conference sessions, all the members unanimously declared they will remain tranditional with respect to the authority of the Bible and our Methodist Book of Discipline. We are convinced that the practice of homosexuality is not compatible with the teachings of the gospel of Christ. And in general, homosexuality is not compatible with African culture.

For this reason, in my position as Professor of the Theology of the New Testament and Practical Theology, my wish is to see the the United Methodist Church return to its senses and respect the Bible’s teachings on marriage. And that no one presses Africa as a toy, a play thing, to be pushed around without regard to theological or doctrinal considerations.

Africa received solid teaching on marriage for the last 100 years. It is wrong to destroy that fundamental evangelistic foundation for which missionaries suffered, with some even dying of malaria and other African diseases, for the cause of the gospel.

Africa saved baby Jesus as a refugee in Egypt (Matthew 2:13-14), and Africa will save his United Methodist Church in this storm. The South Congo and Zambia Annual Conferences are ready to be Egypt against homosexuality. Never will the practice of homosexuality be accepted in the South Congo Annual Conference, and we believe in all of Africa.

Today, the United Methodist Church is divided in multiple groups: Centrists, Progressives and Traditionalists. And we talk of the “Protocol of Separation” and “Regional Conferences.” With all of this, where is the place for the Holy Spirit in the guidance of the church? Who directs the church? Is it the Spirit or people?

Certain plans speak of “maintaining the unity of the church!” In what unity will the church hold together? Financial unity? Building and property unity? We believe that it must be a unity of Spirit, Doctrine and Community. How can we stay in Spiritual unity if we resist the authority of the Bible? How can we stay in Doctrinal Unity if we resist the authority of the Book of Discipline?

What voice will the African church follow? The South Congo and Zambia Annual Conferences will follow the call and teachings of the gospel as we have since the missionaries brought it. The voice to follow respects the authority of the Bible and the Methodist Book of Discipline. The [new] Global Methodist Church meets the with the the spiritual and doctrinal aspirations of the South Congo and Zambia, THIS IS THE WAY!

We put out an urgent call to those who would want to sow the seed of the practice of homosexuality to Congo and Zambia that it is not fertile ground for that crop. That seed will fall among rocky ground and will never produce fruit. The teachings of the gospel for the last century push us upwards to obey Christ as the apostles says in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whosoever believes (πιστευο, pisteúô) in him, will not perish, but have everlasting life.”

We have believed in the merciful love of God for over a century. We will never abandon our faith for the beliefs and thoughts of humans.

The South Congo will follow a denomination which has total confidence in the love of God, the teachings of God, respect for the commands of God, that is to say, the authority of the Bible.

Explicitly, we believe that marriage is MONOGAMOUS, HETEROSEXUAL, and that was taught by Jesus Christ, the apostles, John Wesley and the missionaries. The South Congo will NEVER accept any change or DEVIATION in our THEOLOGY OF MARRIAGE. Our faith convinces us that humans were created to glorify God.

Remember Paul’s well-known words in Romans 1:17: “The righteous shall live by faith.” The pastor is ordained to worship and serve God. O God! What is the way to follow in this Division of the United Methodist Church? O Lord, may the Holy Spirit show us the way.

May the Lord Bless you all!

Bishop KASAP OWAN TSHIBANG ALEX

Assistant Professor

 

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