Jerry C. Brewer
Nineteen years ago, the United Methodist Church (UMC) was in the midst of a battle over sodomy at its General Conference. That battle was the focus of an article in a western Oklahoma area shopper. The writer was obviously a member of the UMC and, rightly, lodged strenuous objections to the proposal that Methodists accept “same-sex marriage”:
…this week the United Methodist Church at the General Conference will either divide or reaffirm the doctrine of the church on same-sex marriages and homosexuality. I say divide, because the majority of the members believe in the Methodist Discipline statement on the subject, which prohibits it (“Methodists To Vote…”, The Penny News, May 3-9, 2000, p. 2).
The writer, who signed the article with the initials “e-l-s,” went on to chastise, “many of the officials, which includes some Bishops because they do not follow the Book of Discipline.” The irony of the writer’s position is that it is correct on the issue of sodomite “marriage,” but bases that position on the wrong authority. It takes as great authority to alter or abolish a law as it does to enact that law in the first place—a fact of which the writer is obviously ignorant. The Methodist Book of Discipline is a man made document. It did not come from God and, since men made it, men have the right to alter or abolish it. That is not true of the Bible. It came from God and man has no right to change it in any fashion (Deut. 4:2; Matt. 24:35; John 12:48; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; Rev. 22:18-19).
The issue addressed in the article is the bitter fruit of man’s attempt to subtract from, add to, or “improve” upon the word of God. If men have the right to create a religious document, they certainly have the right to alter that document. It should come as no surprise to Methodists—or anyone else—that when men presume to legislate spiritual and moral laws, this will be the result. The Bible condemns sodomy in no uncertain terms, and God does not need a Book of Discipline, or any other human instrument, to ratify what His eternal wisdom has already decreed. The Book of Discipline is not the word of God. It is the foundation of a human system of religion that shall be rooted up (Matt. 15:13-14).
The article continues,
…how they acquired their ideas that God would sanction this is beyond the rest of us and how they came to believe that they should speak for all of us is even more far-fetched. They need to know that they have not been given any Divine authority to defy the Word of God and if they choose to continue this disobedience, they should get out of the Methodist Church and find one that will allow them to practice their own version of ???? religion (Ibid).
When the writer and others became Methodists, they subscribed to the tenets of the Book of Discipline. In so doing, they placed themselves under the authority of Methodist Church officials, including their Bishops. They subscribed to a religious system that was founded upon the will of men, so it should not seem “far-fetched” to them that their officials should “speak for all of us.” Creeds that are written by fallible men can also be altered by fallible men. That includes the UMC whose Book of Discipline specifies government by a general conference that has full power to make rules and regulations for the church.
Morally decent and upright Methodists who find the proposal repulsive should repudiate their unscriptural arrangement for church government. God has spoken through His Son and made no provision in the New Testament for men to alter His authoritative decrees (Heb. 1:1-2; Matt. 28:18). Neither does the Bible authorize a “general conference” to make rules and regulations for the church. All legislative, executive, and judicial authority in religion belongs exclusively to Jesus Christ (John 14:26; 16:12-13; Acts 2:36; Eph. 1:22-23; Acts 17:30-31). Methodists can easily remove any and all authority for humans to legislate in spiritual and moral matters by abandoning their Book of Discipline and submitting to God’s will expressed in the all-sufficient, God-breathed, Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
The writer is correct in saying, “they have not been given any Divine authority to defy the Word of God,” but that objection is more than 200 years too late. The UMC is the direct descendant of The Methodist Episcopal Church of the United States, which originated Dec. 24, 1784 in a Baltimore conference. That conference adopted the Book of Discipline which John Wesley prepared. In it, he reduced the 39 articles of the Episcopal Prayer Book to 24 articles, added one covering the rulers of the United States, and incorporated the “Apostles’ Creed”—which Anglicans borrowed from Roman Catholicism—into Methodist worship. John Wesley was not “given any Divine authority to defy the Word of God” but he did so anyhow. No person ever became a Methodist except by subscribing to Methodist doctrines and regulations expressed in the Book of Discipline, which came from the minds of fallible men. The Bible only makes only Christians, but the Book of Discipline makes only Methodists, and its very existence defies God’s Word.
“E-L-S” writes that those who promote same-sex marriages should, “get out of the Methodist Church and find one that will allow them to practice their own version of ???? religion.” The fact is they they are already in a church which allows that. Methodism—a very poor counterfeit of Christianity—was created by men who have the authority to practice any “version of religion” they choose. If Methodist officials accepted the Bible alone as their rule of faith and practice, they would give up “their own version” expressed in the Book of Discipline. In the last 2,000 years, the New Testament has never made a Methodist, and during those two millennia, no man has ever found the Methodist Church in God’s Word, nor will he ever find it there. Methodism is a product of man’s wisdom. It did not come from God.