William Hinson, president of a major renewal organization, dropped a bombshell during May's United Methodist General Conference: "I believe the time has come when we must begin to explore an amicable and just separation that will free us both from our cycle of pain and conflict".
Most Methodists, left and right, responded with shock, rallied around the flag of unity, and declared their dismay. This is an understandable reaction and shows a good instinct for one's church. But Hinson's idea is one worth considering—and for more than just United Methodists.
Since liberals gained control of key national posts in the 1960s, mainline Protestants have spent increasing amounts of time and money on leftist politics instead of classic evangelism and discipleship. Since the 1970s, we've seen a slow but steady pressure to change each church's traditional sexual ethics—especially in the area of homosexuality.
It was charitable and wise at first to "study the issue," as each denomination did. And did again. And again. Conservatives were convinced that such studies would reveal the lack of support in Scripture and church history for such a move. Liberals believed conservatives would eventually empathize with the plight of homosexuals. Indeed, conservatives have become more sensitized to the nuances of homosexuality, and many liberals have become increasingly aware that the Bible, as such, doesn't justify homoeroticism. No matter: Revisionists have simply drifted toward new theological ground.
Theologian Leander S. Harding says, "The quintessential American Religion is the quest for the true and original self. Finding the true self requires absolute and complete freedom of choice unconstrained by any sources of authority outside the self. ...1
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