Africa's Methodist Bishops to Colleagues: Uphold Biblical Teachings on Marriage, Sexuality

Participants sing during the opening worship of the 2012 United Methodist General Conference held in Tampa, Fla., April 24.
Participants sing during the opening worship of the 2012 United Methodist General Conference held in Tampa, Fla., April 24. | (Photo: UMNS/Kathleen Barry)

The United Methodist bishops in Africa this week released a statement urging all bishops of their denomination to uphold the church's teachings on marriage and sexuality, saying they are "deeply saddened" that the Bible and the Methodist Book of Discipline are being ignored by some clergy.

"We are deeply saddened that the Holy Bible, our primary authority for faith and the practice of Christian living, and our Book of Discipline are being grossly ignored by some members and leaders of our Church in favor of social and cultural practices that have no scriptural basis for acceptance in Christian worship and conduct," the bishops said in a statement released this week at the Council of Bishops' fall retreat in Lake Junaluska, North Carolina.

"We support laws in civil society that define marriage as the union of one man and one woman," the United Methodist Church says. "The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching."

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Since the early 1970s, the denomination is drifting away from its call "to a warm embrace of practices that have become sources of conflict that now threatens to rip the Church apart and distract her from the mission of leading persons to faith and making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world," the statement says, pointing out that one such practice is the LGBT.

"We submit to the teachings of Scripture that God designed marriage to be between man and woman, and the procreation of children is a blessing from God," the bishops add, referring to Genesis 2:24-25 and Psalm 127:3-5.

"Scripture also teaches that all persons are sexual beings, whether or not they are married. However, sexual relations are affirmed only within the covenant bond of a faithful monogamous, heterosexual marriage, and not within same-sex unions or polygamy. The Christian marriage covenant is holy, sacred, and consecrated by God and is expressed in shared fidelity between one man and one woman for life. In this vein, we denounce all forms of sexual exploitation, including fornication, adultery, sexual commercialization, slavery, abuse, polygamy, etc."

The statement, which was originally signed in September in Zimbabwe, also highlights "massive human rights abuses" by Islamist terror groups, including Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab, and Islamic State, or ISIS, in Africa and elsewhere.

"Young men and women are being manipulated to carry out suicide bombings in order to destroy innocent lives and property. The Al-Shabaab also continues to unleash untold havoc against innocent civilians in Somalia, Kenya, and other parts of Africa," it says, adding, "As a consequence of these crises, thousands of families have been ripped away from their homes and made homeless. Thousands of others have died from starvation, disease, lack of shelter, and crossfire bombing and shooting between warring factions."

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