On the flight to Tampa, I changed planes in Atlanta. Dozens of delegates, mostly Methodist preachers from Virginia, Ohio, etc., were on the plane. I said (loud enough for all to hear), "If I had known this plane was going to be full of Methodist preachers, I would have taken another flight. I have known Methodist preachers all my life, and they're all a worthless lot!" Had an interesting visit with two of the Virginia preachers.
We hit the ground running in Tampa. The first night we argued until 10:30 p.m. over whether or not to end sessions at 9:30 p.m. Go figure!
The issue of homosexuality is front and center. Personally, I am convinced that the Bible teaches the homosexual practice is a sin. (1 Cor. 6:9-11, Romans 1:26-27). Homosexual practice is no worse than any other sin, but it is still sin. We must love and offer Christ's forgiveness to both homosexual sinners and heterosexual sinners, but we cannot grant approval of homosexuality without denying Scripture. That is why for forty years the United Methodist Church has declared that "homosexual practice is incompatible with Christian teaching", and we will not allow a practicing homosexual to be a United Methodist minister.
This General Conference will vote on resolutions to change that. We are debating resolutions that would not only approve homosexual practice, but remove all prohibitions of gay ordination and gay marriage ("covenant services"). Resolutions also call for redefining marriage to no longer be just between and man and a woman, but between any "two consenting adults."
The bishops and other leaders are clearly promoting this gay agenda. Gays are front and center in the General Conference worship services. The Worship and Music leader is a known lesbian. One of the three "Laity Address" speakers is a lesbian, who has openly campaigned for this agenda. In nearly every worship service, the bishop who preached has repeatedly declared that the church must "open its doors to all." That is a code phrase for accepting the gay agenda, and always draws applause from their supporters. All delegates were divided into small groups to discuss homosexuality, which began with a video presentation by a bishop. The bishop gave a hard sell for the homosexual agenda. Pro-gay demonstrators are always present.
Another important matter is the "Call to Action", which is a restructuring of the Church that will greatly increase the role and authority of bishops. Dr. Tim McClendon of South Carolina calls it a "power grab by the bishops", and I agree.
This week we are in committees (just like congress) dealing with all the proposed legislation. My committee (the Superintendency Committee) is dealing with the resolution that my church sent to General Conference concerning term limits for bishops rather than the present lifetime appointment as bishops.
Let me tell you how things are going. Remember, all these battles in committees will still have to be fought out next week before the entire General Conference. So far it is going well from my perspective.
In committee today, the delegates just said "No" to the bishops, rejecting their "Call to Action" restructure plan for "Plan B" proposed by a number of evangelical leaders.
The attempt to remove the statement that "homosexual practice is incompatible with Christian teaching" was overwhelmingly defeated.
Our resolution proposing term limits for bishops was not expected to have much support. Yet in committee it lost by just three votes (28-25). We have worked gathered the required signatures to bring it up before the entire Conference next week. So this battle is not over yet. We may not win this one, but certainly gave them a wakeup call!
By the way, a few weeks ago I told this story about a Methodist missionary in Vietnam. The communist government of Vietnam has been very hostile to Christian missions. It is very difficult to get permission to work there. Joseph Bishman, a United Methodist District Superintendent from southern Ohio felt called by God to begin missions in Vietnam. He met the Vietnamese official who had authority to permit or deny our mission teams into the country. This Vietnamese official was an atheist, and would allow not any Christian missions in the country. Joe Bishman was making no progress with him. Somehow it came up that this Vietnamese official's little daughter was very sick, and near death. So Joe asked for permission to pray for the little girl. With a stone face the official nodded consent. The Methodist minister prayed for the official's little girl to be healed in the name of Jesus. And in fact, the child was healed. That Vietnamese official approved the Methodist missions in Vietnam and cut through all the red tape. It was because a missionary minded DS boldly called upon great and awesome God who sits on the throne of heaven and rules all things!
I sat by this missionary minded DS in my committee at General Conference. Joe has a passion for winning souls for Christ. He shared that they have started 30 churches in Hanoi in the last 6 months. They have planted more than 200 churches in Vietnam in the last few years. In his words, "It is the book of Acts all over again!" I am so encouraged by this! God is not through with the Methodists yet!
So far, that is about all I have to report. The days are busy and hectic. Breakfast strategy meetings at 7 am are followed by committee meeting from 8 am to about 10 pm. Keep us in your prayers. We are fighting for the cause of Christ and the future of the United Methodist Church.
Jude verse 3 says, "Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints."