The media and corporate intimidation aimed at Indiana and Arkansas over their Religious Freedom Restoration laws has justifiably alarmed many Christians and other defenders of conscience rights. Laughably, histrionic critics of these laws are concerned about "discrimination." This word has become demagogically the equivalent of "communism" during the heated McCarthyite era. But communism was a real, murderous force that merited alarm. The contrived concern about "discrimination" has become mostly a rhetorical weapon of intimidation against traditionalist dissenters from secularist orthodoxy.
Ironically, the real victims of "discrimination" under the new cultural regime of intolerance are politically and economically uninfluential small business owners lacking the resources and connections of their elitist opponents who wish to squash them and silence their faith convictions.
Some wonder if the culture war against religious traditionalists will amplify until any meaningful public dissent from the dictates of liberal secular elites becomes socially and economically impossible, even when legally protected in theory. Are we witnessing America's religious and speech freedom perishing before our eyes? Possibly, but there needs to be perspective. Religious and speech liberty has never been free from threats, even in America during its best times. The Constitution protects both, but the Founders had no illusions that written law would guard against lynch mobs, whether real or virtual. Protecting freedom requires constant vigilance. more >>
Len Wilson helpfully took the time to compile a list of the 25 fastest-growing large U.S. United Methodist congregations.
Growth was measured in terms of changes in average worship attendance from 2008 to 2013, the last year for which such statistics he found readily available. For Wilson's purposes he was only focused on "large congregations," defined as those having at least 1000 people in average weekly attendance (AWA).
Focusing on any one metric is always open to the critique of not painting a completely full picture. But as Wilson notes: more >>
For any church to function, it needs to have a certain level of basic doctrinal and moral standards (especially for ordained clergy and others in leadership), some clear policies followed with some degree of consistency, and a culture in which members can trust that those set aside for ordained pastoral leadership will have enough integrity to be men and women who keep their own word.
Yet now a wealthy unofficial caucus group is actually offering to pay United Methodist clergy who break their ordination vows.
My denomination's rulebook, the Book of Discipline, rather explicitly requires ordained United Methodist clergy to commit to a Christian lifestyle of abstaining from sexual relations outside of monogamous, man-woman marriage, and requires that no one gets fully ordained until they have vowed before God and the church that they personally believe, "[a]fter full examination" that the UMC's official doctrines "are in harmony with the Holy Scriptures," that they personally "approve" of our denomination's rules, and that they will "support and maintain" these rules. As readers are well aware by now, these UMC rules they vow to "support and maintain" include clear bans on "ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions." more >>
Wesley Seminary hosted a well attended panel on faith and race last evening, undoubtedly nobly intended, but frustratingly offering few if any clear pathways of hope. Several panelists mentioned the church's supposed "silence" about race. But I've attended official United Methodist governing bodies for my entire adult life, and this "silence" has actually been loud and repetitive across at least thirty years, doubtless much longer.
Repeated summons to remorse, confession, repentance, and reparation on race amid indignation and anxiety, have long been common fare in often guilt-ridden Mainline Protestantism, which remains not only overwhelmingly white, but the very whitest part of American Christianity, with United Methodism and its sister denominations having memberships less than ten percent racial and ethnic minorities.
Mainline governing bodies have tried to compensate by filling leadership positions disproportionately with minorities, sometimes instituting rigid quotas, yet still failing to racially diversify their overall memberships. And the Mainliners, in their political social justice witness, have advocated governmental policies aligned with the secular Left that end up hurting racial minority communities: larger welfare states, increased minimum wages, restrictions on effective law enforcement, resistance to private education, undermining traditional family structures and private charities rooted in churches. more >>
The arguments in many Western churches today over whether or not to abandon very clear biblical and historic Christian teaching against homosexual practice have raised the question of what other biblical boundaries for sexual ethics might also become up for grabs, after Scripture is abandoned as authoritative for morality.
Within America's second-largest Protestant denomination, the United Methodist Church, the main organization pushing the LGBTQ liberationist cause is the extraordinarily well-funded Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN).
In a recent article, RMN tackles the "slippery slope" argument, in its own way, in apparent hopes of refuting, "a few anti-gay Christians [who] have liberally used fallacious logic and hateful rhetoric." more >>
A LGBT activist group that seeks to change the United Methodist Church's official position on homosexuality has been accused of endorsing polyamory.
Reconciling Ministries Network, a pro-gay Methodist group, recently posted an article on its website that appeared to endorse polyamorous relationships.
Authored by the Rev. Dave Barnhart, the recent blog entry sought to argue against claims of slippery slope if gay marriage were legalized and embraced by the church. more >>