As church delegates convene, American liberals clash with conservative Africans.
By Mark Tooley, Wall Street Journal.
As 864 delegates gather this week and next in Portland, Ore., for the United Methodist Church’s quadrennial General Conference, they face a fork in the road: Will United Methodism turn inward and remain a mostly liberal Protestant church? Or will it become increasingly evangelical and global?
United Methodism, with more than seven million American members, is the largest of the big seven mainline Protestant denominations. Nearly all the mainline churches in recent years have officially affirmed same-sex marriage and actively gay clergy, followed by schism and decline. The United Church of Christ, once a flagship mainline denomination, recently predicted losing 80% of its members over the next 30 years.
Methodists have not followed that path. Yet in the 1970s, as the late Catholic intellectualRichard John Neuhaus once recalled, United Methodism was expected to become the first major denomination to adapt to post-1960s sexual mores. Of the great Protestant communions, Methodism was arguably the most democratic and American, and the least tied to tradition.
Methodists have debated Christian sexual ethics at every General Conference since 1972, but delegates have repeatedly affirmed traditional teachings.