030419umc

The Rev. Dr. Eliezer Valentín-Castañón serves communion on Sunday at Trinity United Methodist Church. The local pastor says a recent decision by the Methodist church to ban LGBTQ clergy and same-sex marriage may force him out of ministry.

In a room whose typical Sunday function is to host the after-church coffee and doughnut hour, members of Trinity United Methodist Church sat discussing the future of their congregation and denomination.

With Bibles held on laps and cups of coffee sitting on white plastic folding tables, the nearly 40 people listened to their pastor describe the recent decision of their denomination. Less than a week earlier, a multinational conference of Methodist Church leaders voted to toughen its stance on sexuality, banning gay clergy and same-sex marriage.

“We still are now on uncertain terrain,” said the Rev. Dr. Eliezer Valentín-Castañón, senior pastor, during the information session. “We are not exactly sure what will be the end result of all this conversation.”

The debate over sexuality has long been a wedge among the faithful and one that has increasing fractured the Protestant church. The congregation of Trinity on Sunday was no different.

During the presentation, some church members questioned why the church’s decision was an issue given the Bible’s denunciation of homosexuality. One member said she saw the “devil’s hand” in the debate causing the divide.

Others felt despair in the decision, saying it sent a signal to LGBTQ people that they were not welcome in Methodist pews.

Denise Berry, who has attended Trinity since 1982, said she had streamed the conference, which became increasingly difficult to watch. Good people are debating both sides of the issue, she said, but she wanted a more inclusive final decision.

“This is a vote that says you have to have a certain belief, what they call the ‘traditional belief,’” Berry said. “If you don’t have that, you need to leave the United Methodist Church. And I’m disappointed by that.”

The meeting last week in St. Louis focused on several paragraphs in “The Book of Discipline” of the church regarding sexuality. Outlined in the book, “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” and practicing homosexuals are not allowed to be ordained or serve in the church. Same-sex marriages are not allowed in Methodist churches and ministers are not allowed to conduct same-sex ceremonies.

The conference was intended to bring a resolution to the church whose position on sexuality had become increasingly ambiguous. Previously, local churches and jurisdictions have cut their own path on whether to advocate for gay rights. In 2016, 500 LGBTQ Methodist clergy wrote a letter supporting the sexuality of other church members in training. A few months later, the U.S. church’s western jurisdiction elected the church’s first openly lesbian bishop. Some pastors served for same-sex marriages.

Leaders at the conference voted on three plans for the future of the church in its stance on sexuality. One would include all LGBTQ members in the church. The second would allow churches and local conferences to decide whether LGBTQ members could marry or be ordained, a plan that had widespread approval from church bishops.

The conference rejected those two plans, voting in 53 percent favor of the stricter “Traditional Plan” on sexuality.

The informational session at Trinity on Sunday was meant to explain what had been decided and answer questions on the new plan, not decide how the Frederick church would respond. There is concern among Methodists that if the decision to ban gay clergy is implemented the church could fracture into separate denominations as church leaders and churches who do not comply with the decision would be kicked out.

Valentín-Castañón counts himself among those possibly outcast pastors.

He believed the conference would vote in favor of the plan allowing individual jurisdictions to decide. He was distraught following the decision. However, clergy or churches that do not follow the agreed-upon stance will be removed, Valentín-Castañón told his congregation on Sunday.

“I do support gay and lesbian people being part of the life of the church, at all levels of the church. I do support that,” he said. “You need to be clear where I stand because part of that is if General Conference sustains this it means that I will not be able to continue being a pastor in the United Methodist Church.”

Valentín-Castañón has spent decades in the Methodist church and said it had been trending in a more progressive and accepting direction.

Demographically, members of the United Methodist Church across the United States are most likely to be white, be more than 50 years old and lean Republican. However, the majority of church members hold progressive views on social issues. For example, half of Methodists want stricter environmental regulations and about 6 in 10 believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases, according to the Pew Research Center.

At the same time, 6 in 10 say homosexuality should be accepted and nearly half favor same-sex marriage in the church, according to Pew. Support for these positions in the Methodist Church has grown in the last decade, too, but church attendance and participation is declining.

The decision from the conference could still be reversed. In April, the church’s Judicial Council will review the plan voted on last week to determine if it is constitutional. If the decision is upheld, the stricter rules will take effect on January 1, 2020.

In the meantime, Valentín-Castañón said the church will continue its mission of acceptance.

“We are still in a ministry to all,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what the sexual orientation is, who they are, where they come from. We are in ministry to all. So, that does not change. Our mission does not change.”

Follow Wyatt Massey on Twitter: @News4Mass

(50) comments

Reader1954

religion is such a scam

phydeaux994

The Methodist Church did not end segregation until 1968, the year they became the United Methodist Church. Our Pastor resigned and half the congregation went elsewhere. My wife and I were shocked. We were 28 years old. I grew up in the Methodist Church and we had never heard any overt racism expressed. I guess they didn’t feel the need, at least at church, because they didn’t have to worry about Black people coming to their church. We left that church and joined another but the damage was done for us. That was 50 years ago. We never joined another church. I guess I stopped being a Christian at that time. I believe in God but stopped believing that Christianity was the only road to heaven. I now believe that there is one God for everyone born on this Planet, and that there is no one way to Salvation.

jsklinelga

phydeaux994
Your comment is sad but so typical.. The Methodist Church in America has had factions that resembled the culture surrounding the church, that is fact but like our country not all held to the John Wesley, the founder was the first to baptize slaves, in America, in the 1750's and the early church was 20% African. Interesting to note is that some of the first African's baptized helped spread the growth of the church through other countries. The African contingent of the present day church were instrumental in withholding to the Traditional plan. Here is a quote from the founder:{John Wesley dies. His last letter is one written to anti-slavery crusader William Wilberforce, urging him to) “Go on, in the name of God and in the power of his might, till even American slavery (the vilest that ever saw the sun) shall vanish away before it."

DickD

It's so strange that grown up people would worship God, who we profess caused all human beings and then want to exclude people on the basis of their skin color. You just can't get any more ridiculous than this.

public-redux

Dick, It makes perfect sense if you start from the premise that people invented gods. (Like the god Jhol I mentioned last week -- it just so happens that Jhol happens to agree with everything I think). There are, of course, people who don't care about skin color and, lo and behold, neither do their gods.

DickD

Makes sense to me, Gladys, but why do some of the overzealous still insist on discrimination? If God considers all equal and they state they believe in God - Christian or not, why do they discriminate? Never mind, I know the answer. Jim wouldn't like it, so I will not state it.

DickD

Makes good sense to me, Phy. I too believe in God,the only thing that makes sense to me, but all of the religious hypocrites might as well sing Dixie, as far as I am concerned.

Robbbobb4863

The sin of homosexuality is one thing....yea I get it "sin is sin" But.....NEVER be proud of sin...confess it and repent....so since stealing is just a sin as other sins are...should we steal from others purses in church...I think not

MRS M

How exemplary. Nothing like going back in time in an attempt to support Making America Great Again, UMC. Unsure how this fits with "Corinthians 1 13:13: And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love". But I am sure why churches are struggling with lack of membership beyond the 50+ crowd, with poor attendance, old buildings rotting away from lack of member support. and inability to pay the heating bills. Leaves me wondering, of those who remain in the UMC "family"......how they will now continue to worship in their faith, if their son, daughter, sister or brother will no longer feel welcomed within it's "hallowed" walls. It's too bad, really. But those who don't fit the UMC's definition of what is acceptable in a search for one's Christ, and in one's service to one's church and community, will find other welcoming places to worship, and to seek, and hopefully find, God's abundant love. (Now, on a related matter, when do we get busy preventing the liars, adulterers, thieves, and cheats from marrying in the UMC congregations)?

jsklinelga

MRS M
There is one extremely enlightening sentence in your post that may explain why you do not understand the UMC's decision": " of what is acceptable in a search for one's Christ," Many folks wish to create their own God. A designer God. One that is tailored to their thoughts. That is not the same as Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

public-redux

Thank goodness all Christians have the same ideas.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Christian_denominations

DickD

You missed the most important part, Jim, but I am not surprised.

jsklinelga

DickD
No I don;t believe I did. I said myself in other post all our sinners. But we don't condone the sin. We strive. I believe you missed the important part. But, unfortunately, I fear no amount of words in this section will change that

DickD

Jim, we all are sinners, so why do we discriminate against some and not all?

DickD

Good one, Ms. M, you nailed it. Why pick on one type of sin, but it is not just the Methodist Church that does that. Look at some of the responses below.

des21

Bravo UMC! I was an Episcopalian when they went the "you tell us you want us to believe" and that denomination has withered and died since. I miss the kneeling, the smells and the bells but, at the end of the day, a church ought to believe in SOMETHING! Well done UMC.

jsklinelga

des21
Your comment is interesting. Truthfully I have wondered if this will not increase membership in the UMC. Trying to change the Word to bend to the culture has turned many away. I am curious how many UMC pastors were contacted before the FNP found the one that matched the story they wanted to write.

des21

I think you may be right jsk. Good to see them take a stand and say, "listen, at some point we need to be based on the Bible" warts and all.

public-redux

What warts?

jlichtman

I have heard from Methodist friends at various churches around MD and across the country, and they are all appalled at the "Traditional Plan". Their churches are already welcoming to LGBTQ members, they have gay clergy, and they perform same-sex weddings, despite the official prohibition. Those churches are not going to revert now.

drumda

Agreed. And I have to ask, why is this pastor in this denomination. The UMC position is nothing new; it was just reaffirmed. If he is so at odds with this church's stance on same-sex marriage, why didn't he enter a denomination that he agrees? It appears that there is more of an activist mission among many of the clergy, bishops and the seminaries to take down one more traditional istitution. When you look at Eliezer Valentín-Castañón's Facebook page and others like him, they are more invested in political activism than pastoring.

That guy

How is being more exclusionary and judgmental a good thing?

That guy

Okay, so let's break this down.

1. Let's say homosexuality is a sin. "Thou shalt not lie with a man", etc etc. (Leviticus 18:22).
2. All sins are considered equal in the eyes of God. (Matthew 7:1-5, James 2:10).
3. All humans are already guilty of sin. Romans 3:23, 1 John 5:17.
4. All sins, if confessed, will be forgiven by God. (1 John 1:9, Matthew 12:31).
5. God will forgive all people who sin (Romans 2:11).

So if all sins, including homosexuality, will be forgiven, and if everyone commits sin, and if all sin is the same, why does the type of sin matter?

The only answer I can see is "because it's icky and we don't like it", which means the church is putting human belief before the Bible itself, and is therefore not a valid authority on the word of God.

bosco

Where did the so-called word of God come from? When was it wriiten and for what purpose? Why is the so-called word of your god any more valid than anyone else's?

That guy

You'll have to ask a religious scholar, I'm an atheist. I was just running a simple thought experiment to demonstrate how easily Christianity contradicts itself. Guess I didn't make that clear in my original post.

drumda

Because everyone else was created by God.

DickD

Absolutely right, Guy. Look at those here, if you want a good example of a bad example.

drumda

The difference comes from one side saying homosexual acts are sinful and can be repented for. The other side says it's not a sin and no repenting is needed.

drumda

The issue is not the sin. It should be obvious but, so many people don't get it. No sin is forgiven unless the sinner repents and asks for forgiveness. Forgiveness is available to all, just ask. And that is all the UMC is saying.

sevenstones1000

Why are all the churches so concerned about people’s consensual sex lives, and so unconcerned with actual sex abuse by their clergy?

DickD

If you ever get an answer to that question, seven, let me know the answer. The Catholic Church is one of the worse, if not the worse. Yet , they cover up and do little to change. Saying they will pray and turn the cheek accomplishes nothing.

des21

Why are so many people who clearly think that religion is stupid concerned with what the religious believe? We may pray for you but, other than that, we're good with you letting us be and vice versa.

public-redux

Well, if the religious believe that crimes by clergy shouldn't be reported to police, that would be of concern to everyone.

public-redux

"...we're good with you letting us be and vice versa."

If only that "vice versa" part were true. I'm pretty sure it is the religious who advocate for prayer in public schools, crosses on public lands, and civil marriage laws that accord with religious beliefs.

jlichtman

And inflict their religious beliefs onto others in laws about private healthcare decisions, including end-of-life, child marriage laws (age of consent), civil rights for LGBTQ people, equal rights for women, public school funding and vouchers, scientific research grants, adoption and foster care agency funding, public prayer at school events and local, state, and federal government sessions, divorce law, housing law, employment law, commerce, and every other sphere of life!

DickD

You said stupid, Dave, no one else did.

public-redux

I suspect the most likely outcome over the next 10 to 20 years will be the disuniting of the United Methodist Church. About one-third of the UMC is outside the United States. One-third of American Methodists are 65 or older. The more progressive Americans are dying off and not being replaced (only 9% of American Methodists are 18 to 29; one of the lowest fractions of any religious group in the US).

The weight of non-American Methodism is moving to Africa and they tend to be both younger and more theologically traditional. The more theologically progressive American Methodists will do what Protestants do best: split off.

des21

Yup- the developed world has the $$$ and the developing world has the numbers. Interesting to see if the one person, one vote rule will apply for progressives here. Probably not because they view the opinions of those non-whites in the developing world as "icky." (i.e., conservative theologically.) (I liked that Guy.)[beam]

I'm off for Lent. God bless all!

DickD

Jesus in Luke 6:39-42
“Remove the wooden beam from your eye first”
Jesus told his disciples a parable:
“Can a blind person guide a blind person?
Will not both fall into a pit?
No disciple is superior to the teacher;
but when fully trained,
every disciple will be like his teacher.
Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye,
but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?
How can you say to your brother,
‘Brother, let me remove that splinter in your eye,’
when you do not even notice the wooden beam in your own eye?
You hypocrite! Remove the wooden beam from your eye first;
then you will see clearly
to remove the splinter in your brother’s eye.”

Dwasserba

Jesus embraced outcasts, was an outcast Himself. WWJD How could this possibly be it.

MRS M

[thumbup].....yes, exactly. Praise the Lord!

DickD

Here is a site listing pros and cons, read it Jim, I am sure you will be able to identify yourself.

https://www.christianbiblereference.org/faq_homosexuality.htm#GayMarriage
Does God Hate Homosexuals?
That is a slogan used by some hate groups, but it does not come from the Bible and it is not consistent with Bible teachings (Genesis 1:31, Psalms 145:9, Matthew 5:43-45, John 3:16, Romans 5:8).
How Should I Treat a Gay or Lesbian person? Should I Shun a Gay or Lesbian Person?
Cultural Attitudes
We often assume that the attitudes we grew up with or heard from other Christians represent Biblical values. However, the negative attitudes that many people hold toward homosexuals originate primarily from deeply rooted cultural prejudices, fears and misconceptions rather than from the Bible or Christian teaching. If we think we are better or more holy than those we consider to be "sinners," then we ourselves are guilty of the sin of self-righteousness (Luke 18:9-14).

jsklinelga

The UMC decision will stand. The judicial review will not alter the basic decision. The stance against homosexuality is a fundamental Judeo-Christian belief/ It has been a central tenet of the church's teachings from the beginning/ The following is a passage of the Didache: The Teachings of the Twelve Apostles. This is one of the earliest known Christian Manuscripts and served as a basis for Church rules throughout all the early churches..

Chapter 2. The Second Commandment: Grave Sin Forbidden. And the second commandment of the Teaching; You shall not commit murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not commit pederasty, you shall not commit fornication, you shall not steal, you shall not practice magic, you shall not practice witchcraft, you shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill that which is born. You shall not covet the things of your neighbor, you shall not swear, you shall not bear false witness, you shall not speak evil, you shall bear no grudge. You shall not be double-minded nor double-tongued, for to be double-tongued is a snare of death. Your speech shall not be false, nor empty, but fulfilled by deed. You shall not be covetous, nor rapacious, nor a hypocrite, nor evil disposed, nor haughty. You shall not take evil counsel against your neighbor. You shall not hate any man; but some you shall reprove, and concerning some you shall pray, and some you shall love more than your own life.

The last lines are of upmost importance. The UMC is not banning members for their views on homosexuality. They still embrace these folks as fellow children of God. Every Methodist knows they are personally sinners of a sort. But the greatest calling a UMC member can have is to Love God, the Lord Jesus Christ.and his Word.

DickD

When you get done with that diatribe, Jim, check and see what the reality has been found thousands of years.

sevenstones1000

And just to back that up, here is what Jesus had to say about homosexuality: (crickets).

public-redux

I think that's an example of Red Letter Syndrome. It isn't in keeping with Christians' views of the bible (actual word of god; inspired word of god, etc.) to restrict what Jesus thought to the handful of words ascribed to him (the Red Letters). For people who buy into the Trinity and who also think the Christian bible is god's message to people, everything in the bible could be attributed to Jesus. The Sermon on the Mount were the words of Jesus as was the order to commit genocide against the Midianites. To limit what Jesus had to say to just the Red Letters diminishes the divinity of Jesus.

des21

Look what he said about marriage 7. Man and woman. One of each.

DickD

Where does it say; "Tell your neighbor to leave and go back to where you came from, if you haven't lived here for five generations like I have."?

public-redux

Gaffesions 3:14-17

shiftless88

When churches get similarly interested in banning people for the other sins described in the bible then they will have more credibility in their argument that this is about religion and not bigotry.

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