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The ’Splainer: What happened at the United Methodist General Conference?

Some United Methodist delegates gather to pray before a key vote on church policies about homosexuality on Feb. 26, 2019, during the special session of the UMC General Conference in St. Louis. RNS photo by Kit Doyle

The ’Splainer (as in, “You’ve got some ’splaining to do”) is an occasional feature in which Religion News Service gives you everything you need to know about current events to help you hold your own at the water cooler.

(RNS) — A recent meeting of United Methodists in St. Louis caught the attention of everyone from Westboro Baptist Church, which picketed outside the meeting, to the presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, who recognized “these costly struggles are familiar from our own recent history.”

The special session of the United Methodist Church General Conference met Feb. 23-26 at the Dome at America’s Center in St. Louis to consider several plans to move the denomination forward despite deep divisions over the inclusion of its LGBTQ members.

In the end, the General Conference approved the “Traditional Plan,” which continues the denomination’s ban on the ordination and marriage of LGBTQ United Methodists.


RELATED: United Methodists pass Traditional Plan, keep ban on LGBTQ clergy, same-sex marriage


Still, not even everyone at the meeting is clear on what happened at the special session and what it means for the future of the denomination.

Let us ’Splain …

Why were United Methodists holding a General Conference this year?

A screen displays the results of a vote on the Traditional Plan during a legislative session of the special session of the General Conference of the United Methodist Church, held in St. Louis on Feb. 25, 2019. Photo by Paul Jeffrey for United Methodist News Service

The meeting was a special session of the global denomination’s decision-making body, which usually meets every four years. But at its last meeting, in 2016, delegates became locked in the same stalemate they have had for decades over the full inclusion of LGBTQ members in the church. They decided to refer all discussion about sexuality to a specially appointed commission.

That group — known as the Commission on a Way Forward —  presented three plans to delegates last week in St. Louis: the One Church Plan, the Traditional Plan and the Connectional Conference Plan. Ultimately, 53 percent of delegates voted for the Traditional Plan.

The General Conference also approved several petitions related to clergy and churches that might leave the denomination based on the decisions it made.

But I thought the bishops had recommended a different plan?

That’s because they did. The Council of Bishops recommended the One Church Plan, which would have allowed individual churches and regional annual conferences to decide whether to ordain and marry LGBTQ members

But the plan was voted down by the Legislative Committee, made up of the same 864 delegates who would vote the next day in the plenary session of the General Conference.

And a last-ditch effort to substitute the One Church Plan for the Traditional Plan was voted down again despite an impassioned plea from the Rev. Tom Berlin, the Virginia pastor and Commission on a Way Forward member who originally had submitted the One Church Plan legislation to the General Conference.

Berlin predicted that church members, congregations and even entire regional annual conferences in the United States would leave the United Methodist Church if the Traditional Plan passed.

Well, what does the Traditional Plan do?

In short, the Traditional Plan strengthens enforcement of language in the denomination’s rulebook regarding the ordination and marriage of LGBTQ members.

The Book of Discipline currently states that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” and that “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” cannot be ordained as ministers, appointed to serve or be married in the church.


RELATED: How denominations split: Lessons for Methodists from Baptist battles of the ’80s


The Traditional Plan, which originally included 17 petitions, adds language defining a “self-avowed practicing homosexual” as a person who is “living in a same-sex marriage, domestic partnership or civil union or is a person who publicly states she or he is a practicing homosexual.” The plan also bars bishops from consecrating, ordaining or commissioning “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” even if they have been elected or approved by the appropriate church body.

And it strengthens current complaint procedures and penalties in the Book of Discipline, including a minimum penalty for a clergy member who performs a same-sex wedding: a one-year suspension without pay for the first offense and a loss of credentials for the second.

Before the meeting in St. Louis, the Judicial Council, the United Methodist Church’s highest court, found seven of the 17 petitions that made up the Traditional Plan unconstitutional. The court also found portions of two other petitions unconstitutional.

Bishops confer over the issue of whether the Legislative Committee can refer items to the denomination’s Judicial Council for review during the 2019 United Methodist General Conference in St. Louis on Feb. 25, 2019. Photo by Mike DuBose/UMNS

That court again found all or parts of a number of petitions unconstitutional before the final vote at the General Conference. Delegates were unable to amend all the petitions before the plan passed.

The Traditional Plan will now go back to the Judicial Council in April.

John Lomperis — a delegate and director of UM Action, a program of the conservative Institute on Religion and Democracy — said he expects council members to “affirm what they have already said is constitutional and to invalidate what they have already said is unconstitutional.”

“The petitions that did pass that are constitutional are very significant, and have real teeth,” said Lomperis, who supported the Traditional Plan.

A key provision of the Traditional Plan that would have required bishops to sign a statement certifying “I will uphold United Methodist standards on marriage and sexuality in their entirety” was jettisoned before the vote.

Other petitions already found unconstitutional allow the Council of Bishops to recommend a bishop for an involuntary leave of absence or retirement and create a committee to hear those requests in order to establish a “process by which the Council of Bishops may hold one another accountable.” As part of the process to determine whether to ordain a candidate, another petition found unconstitutional allows the Board of Ministry “shall conduct an examination to ascertain whether an individual is a practicing homosexual, including information on social media.”

The Rev. Mark Holland — a delegate and executive director of Mainstream UMC, which advocated for the One Church Plan — called the Traditional Plan’s win merely a “symbolic victory” in a post on the Mainstream UMC website.

“In reality, we passed no legislation at General Conference. … We are essentially at status quo,” he said.

So does this settle things once and for all?

Probably not. Many United Methodists are waiting to see what the Judicial Council will decide. Any parts of the Traditional Plan that are found unconstitutional won’t be added to the Book of Discipline, according to the Daily Christian Advocate.

And some opponents of the Traditional Plan already have indicated they don’t plan to follow the new rules.

The General Conference meets again next year in Minneapolis.

The United Methodist Church is going to schism over this, right?

Alexander Dungan, of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary near Chicago, sits near an exit of the America’s Center after a vote to adopt the Traditional Plan at the UMC General Conference in St. Louis on Feb. 26, 2019. RNS photo by Kit Doyle

Some kind of split in the church seems inevitable.

Going into the special session, the Rev. Keith Boyette, the president of the Wesleyan Covenant Association and a supporter of the Traditional Plan, made clear if the General Conference passed another plan that allowed for the ordination and marriage of LGBTQ United Methodists, he would recommend the conservative group — which formed after the last General Conference and includes 1,500 congregations in the U.S. alone — leave and form its own denomination.

WCA leadership met afterward in St. Louis and released a statement saying “the debate cannot continue forever.”

The WCA is committed to restoring “good order and missional effectiveness” to the denomination and will work toward that at the next General Conference, according to the statement. But, it said, some United Methodists, pastors and churches are so frustrated with the denomination, they are prepared to exit. Some already have left.

While the Traditional Plan it had supported passed, it said, “We remain prepared to launch a new Methodist movement.”

The Rev. Adam Hamilton, a delegate who supported the One Church Plan, is pastor of the largest church in the denomination, Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan. Hamilton has said that since the vote he also has heard from many United Methodists in the pews and pulpits saying they’re ready to leave.

At a congregational meeting over the weekend, Hamilton said he wouldn’t want the congregation to become a nondenominational church. If anything, he said, it would join “lots and lots of other people forming the next United Methodism.”

“We are United Methodist, and I’m proud of that — not embarrassed and ashamed of it — but if we’re going to walk down this path and nothing changes, then I think we were pushed out of the church. We didn’t want to leave,” he said.

The pastor also discussed the possibilities of withholding part of the money the church regularly pays to the denomination or reconsidering the Connectional Conference Plan.


RELATED: ‘In this to the end’: LGBT United Methodists express hurt, hope after vote


The Rev. Alex da Silva Souto, a delegate and co-convener of the United Methodist Queer Clergy Caucus, said that some LGBTQ United Methodists will leave the denomination because “there’s just so much abuse human spirits can take — human bodies — until they have to find healthier places.”

Others, he said, will be even more motivated to stay and speak out.

Several groups advocating for the full inclusion of LGBTQ United Methodists in the church that had opposed the Traditional Plan have expressed a commitment to staying in the denomination.

Among them, the Reconciling Ministries Network released a statement urging its members to “stand your holy ground.”

“Reach out to your neighbors and community with love. Proclaim your welcome of God’s LGBTQ children with boldness. This Church does not belong to exclusionary forces, and we remain committed to reclaiming it for all God’s people,” it said.

(This story has been updated.)

About the author

Emily McFarlan Miller

Emily McFarlan Miller is a national reporter for RNS based in Chicago. She covers evangelical and mainline Protestant Christianity.

67 Comments

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  • What happened at the conference is that the issue is now officially out-in-the-open and ‘in the record book’. Prior to the conference it was a difference
    that was talked about, tolerated, and lived with.

    The conference has made it necessary for each congregation and each individual to openly choose a side.

    Any splits are going to be corporate in nature; about money and property — far removed from theology, comity, and the two great commandments.

    That seems to be what happens when there is too much concern about the sex, and not enough appreciation of the love.

  • Methodist’ Church Merges With Weight Watchers For The New “Go Away Plan”

    If the Bishops could just get the African Methodists to go away, they could easily topple the Bible. Traditionalist who believe it, and all its proponents within Methodism USA. Many, if not most, Christians in this country are cultural conformists who insist on denying God and His word at every turn.

    The Pulpits are corrupted where women serve as Elder/Bishop/Presbytery and even the men join the Bishops to see a “ONE PLAN” as anything more than LGBTQ collusion.

    Chaucer reminds us:
    “If gold rust, what then will iron do?/ For if a priest (Bishop–Pastor) be foul in whom we trust–No wonder that a common man should rust.”

    Leviticus 10:10-11
    “You must learn the difference between what is holy and what isn’t holy and between the clean and the unclean.
    You must also teach the people of Israel everything that I commanded Moses to say to them.

    Gay and Homosexuality are Adverbs, Not Nouns. Just like adultery, They are behaviors and both are condemned–not celebrated within the church. Just ask Pastor Pat. She will tell you what is ahead for the dying Methodist Church: https://openhandspublications.com/2019/02/26/transgender-methodist-pastor-wins-the-coveted-methodist-church-john-wesley-hermeneutics-award-tempers-flare/

  • The history is important. This is from an article written by Dr. Andrew Weaver at U Chicago Divinity School in 2006.

    A recent book, United Methodism @ Risk: A Wake Up Call by Leon Howell, a respected journalist, argues that mainline churches such as the United Methodist Church (UMC) can no longer afford to be naive about right-wing advocacy groups that are tightly organized, highly motivated and well-financed for a take-no-prisoners campaign against mainline Protestantism. He says that unless these denominations stand up and get in a “fighting mood” the political right-wing aims to take them over.

    The political right-wing, operating in the guise of a gaggle of so-called “renewal groups,” particularly one named the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD), has acquired the money and political will to target three mainline American denominations: The United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church USA, and the Episcopal Church. The IRD was created and is sustained by money from right-wing foundations and has spent millions of dollars over 20 years attacking mainline denominations. The IRD’s conservative social-policy goals include increasing military spending and foreign interventions, opposing environmental protection efforts, and eliminating social welfare programs.

    In a document entitled “Reforming America’s Churches Project 2001-2004,” the IRD states that its aim is to change the “permanent governing structure” of mainline churches “so they can help renew the wider culture of our nation.” In other words, its goal extends beyond the spiritual and includes a political takeover financed by the likes of Richard Mellon Scaife, Adolph Coors, the John M. Olin Foundation, and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation of Milwaukee.

    For example, the Scaife Family Foundation and the Sarah Scaife Foundation (promoters and benefactors of the “Ken Starr Courts”) made disbursements to the IRD totaling $1.6 million between 1985 and 2001 according to information found at http://www.mediatransparency.org. According to the Scaife websites, the IRD received $225,000 from the Sarah Scaife Foundation in 2002.

    The Lynde and Harry Bradley foundation, a family foundation with ties to the John Birch Society, gave $1.3 million between 1985 and 2001 to IRD efforts. The overall objective of the Bradley Foundation is to return the U.S. to the days before government regulation of business, before corporations were forced to make concessions to an organized labor force. In other words, capitalism with the gloves off. Why are these secular right-wing foundations interested in gaining influence in the United Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopal and other mainstream Protestant denominations?

    The answer is that, although the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church USA, and the Episcopal Church total only about 14 million in membership, they have been and remain a powerful and influential voice for moderate and progressive social values in American society. Almost 30 percent of the members of the U.S. Congress belong to one of these three denominations as well as disproportionate numbers of well-educated and progressive leaders who advocate for the poor, civil and human rights, environmental protection, and a responsible foreign policy. The activities and leadership of mainline Protestant churches are linked to the social conscience of the nation and contribute to civil discourse.

    The political right seeks to gain top leadership positions in the church by spreading misleading information and incendiary allegations against organizations and individuals. These groups employ the propaganda method of “wedge issues” like abortion and homosexuality to cause confusion, dissension, and division. Irving Kristol, father of William Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard and one of the “godfathers” of the political right, summed up this strategy in the Wall Street Journal: “Attack the integrity, not the words, of those with whom you disagree.” More recently, Grover Norquist, a conservative activist and long-time friend of top presidential aide Karl Rove, was even more blunt when he told the Denver Post that civility is out and nastiness is in among conservative activists. According to Mr. Norquist, “bipartisanship is another name for date rape.”

  • Matthew 12:25 states that a house divided cannot stand. The Methodist Church has had a divided house for years. Many of those in leadership, bishops and pastors, chose to ignore their own governing book, which was based on scripture. Will there be consequences, a schism or the same ole ignoring of what was decided in St. Louis? Only time will tell.

  • It was officially out in the open before the Conference.

    You can’t talk about “love” and at the same time look the other way at sin unless you’re completely clueless about what love means.

  • Exactly! For my part I was reminded of the verse right after the one you quoted from Chaucer:

    “And shame it is, if a preest take keep,
    A shitten shepherde and a clene sheep.”

  • It’s been late in my life, after being taught in my “Christian” youth, that I have met several people, through church, who happen to be gay.
    Some of the finest human beings I’ve ever known.
    That’s more important to me than anything any church committees decide.

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  • They may seem like the finest, but they are rebelling against Christ’s wishes for them and hurting themselves and others.
    They need our help, not our endorsement.
    “Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” Romans 1:32

  • Isn’t it interesting that, out of all the qualities that define a human being (including the qualities that Jesus emphasized) – love, compassion, honesty, generosity, caring for the least of these, … an obsession with the small part of our lives that involve sex overrides all of these in some “Christian” churches?

  • Wheezy,

    An ingrown toenail or a tooth ache shuts my whole body down, especially if it gets infected.
    Then there was the Rich Young ruler who got it all right except his devotion to greed.

    It’s not a competition for moral goodness and self-effort, unless that’s what I intend for it to be.

    Sex just happens to have its own overriding capabilities and priority according to the bible.

    “Don’t be immoral in matters of sex. That is a sin against your own body in a way that no other sin is. You surely know that your body is a temple where the Holy Spirit lives. The Spirit is in you and is a gift from God. You are no longer your own. God paid a great price for you. So use your body to honor God.” (I Corinthians 6:18-20)

    A church can rightly be called “Christian” when Christ and the Word of God are honored as truth.
    And yes, when this happens there will be love. But not a kind of love that glosses over truth on the way to cultural conformity.

    “If you love me–keep my commandments” –Jesus
    When this is an obsession in my life, I am willing for God and His Word to call me wrong.
    I am willing to agree with God, repent and ask for grace and forgiveness.

  • Christ taught against homosexuality from Genesis to the Book of Revelation. You do realize that He is God, no?

  • “Immoral in matters of sex” could mean a lot of things, and who is qualified to judge?

    And same sex issues were not important enough to make it into the red letters.

  • Christ said to Moses:
    You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination. Leviticus 18:22
    If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.Leviticus 20:13
    Christ taught through Paul amongst other things:
    Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. 26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts.Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.Romans 1:24
    Two examples of many,

  • Paul’s words, not Jesus’ words.
    How about the “greedy” and “slanderers” and “covetous” or the “greedy” (depending on the translation)? That would be a significant demographic, even among the most faithful? And “sexually immoral” has often been taken to mean sex only for procreation. How many Christians believe that?
    But at least you are apparently ok with female homosexuals. That’s progress.

  • Not Christ’s words of course, but if you are going to bring up Leviticus, I hope you aren’t wearing any clothes made up of mixed fabrics, and that none of the males in your family shave their sideburns.

  • For the Christian (certainly not the unbeliever) ALL SCRIPTURE IS INSPIRED towards an end–that of right living.

    “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 13 But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” II Timothy 3:12-16

    FAR FROM JUST MATTERS OF SEX–YOU ARE CORRECT. This list is meant to be exemplary–not exhaustive.

    “9 Don’t you know that evil people won’t have a share in the blessings of God’s kingdom? Don’t fool yourselves! No one who is immoral or worships idols or is unfaithful in marriage or is a pervert or behaves like a homosexual 10 will share in God’s kingdom. Neither will any thief or greedy person or drunkard or anyone who curses and cheats others. 11 Some of you used to be like that. But now the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and the power of God’s Spirit have washed you and made you holy and acceptable to God.12 Some of you say, “We can do anything we want to.” But I tell you that not everything is good for us.” (I Corinthians 6:9-12)

    thanks for the response Wheezy

  • You don’t know that Christ is God and I suggest then that you read Leviticus 18:1-5. I also suggest that you learn that Christ fulfilled the Law with the exception of the moral laws, which He brought into the New Testament.

  • It answered your comment. Did you bother to read the scripture and get a basic understanding of your errors?

  • The gay friends I have are committed to feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, and looking out for “the least of these”
    More “Christ-like” than many straight friend I know.

  • You still haven’t told me what Jesus said about gay human beings.
    How many of us are always “moral”, or never “worship idols” (money, new car, status, …). Does “unfaithful in marriage” include our thoughts? How many of us never experience “greed”?
    And didn’t someone important say “judge not, lest ye be judged”?

  • I see you didn’t look up the scripture that I recommended. As you appear to be more content with the lies, I won’t trouble you any longer with the truth.
    Enjoy your deception.

  • I’ve told you what Christ taught and you chose to ignore it.
    Christ taught that we are supposed to judge – I’d say that is another scripture that you wilfully choose to misunderstand

  • I’ve read scripture, and I have a different interpretation.
    Do either of us have absolute knowledge of the mind of God?
    (I’ll answer – I don’t)

  • First-May I ask you if you consider yourself a born again Christian–A dedicated follower of Jesus Christ (in red)?
    My answers vary according to ones profession and belief system. Forgive me if you have stated this in earlier writings on this post and I missed it.

  • I do – the Bible. It is God’s revelation of Himself.
    How did you interpret the scripture differently?

  • So Jesus was wrong?:
    Matthew7: Judge not, that ye be not judged.
    2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
    3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

  • With multiple (and non-identical) Bible translations, probably thousands of “Christian” denominations and churches, untold numbers of “Christian” books, “Christian” sermons, “Christian” study groups, … how are you certain that your interpretation is the absolute one?
    Are you fluent in Classical Hebrew and Aramaic?

  • “Christ said to Moses”?!?!?!? Words fail.

    You have heard of the New Testament, have you not? It has this Jesus guy in it and he is quoted as saying stuff. Check it out sometime…

  • I was raised a Methodist. Glad that I’m long gone, this is another sad failure in a long series… Five thousand year old superstitions and the wacko doctrine of biblical literalism remain a powerful force in the world, quite obviously.

  • That is a logical fallacy, using (one of the many) books words to “authenticate” others. But really, there’s nothing that I or anyone can say to move you an inch from superstitious belief. So just keep worshiping that golden calf…

  • I can relate Tim. I was raised to be a Baptist–baptized twice in fact. (first one didn’t take) Then one day while I was minding my own business I was confronted with Jesus Christ–not Baptist–not doctrine (didn’t know what that was). Not morality or religions “Earn-Or-Burn” proposal.

    It was similar to Jesus encounter with the Rich Young Ruler. All the superstitions and wack-o-doctrines of religion meant nothing and still mean nothing to me. I was “Born Again” (something admittedly strange to anyone not knowing what this is and personally experiencing it.) (John chapter 3)

    Now then, I see Denominations like Baptist and Methodist with great appreciation. I see them just as I see my State flag and my Nations flag. One belongs under the other.

    Denominations, without good leadership, will drift into building personal and Corporate Empires instead of Gods Kingdom. This is true historically and often what we still see today. Interestingly, Non-Christians everywhere can see it even when those so engrossed cannot.

    Whether or not you ever took to the Methodist way is of little consequence. And when you left (whenever that was) millions have done the same. My prayer is that you know Jesus and love Him.

    “Jesus Christ remains the same, yesterday, today and forever.” His love for you and me will never fail.
    When I kneel before Him I will not be asked if I was a Baptist or Methodist. That will not matter in the slightest.

    Her is one of my favorite verses,
    “You have never seen Jesus, and you don’t see him now. But still you love him and have faith in him, and no words can tell how glad and happy you are to be saved. That’s why you have faith.” (I Peter 1:8-9)

  • You obviously don’t know that Christ is God. Take some time to learn what you are trying to talk about

  • “Judge not” is in reference to judging for the same things that you do.
    Christians are to judge.

  • No one is born homosexual. Christ has termed homosexuality to be “abnormal”, a “shameful act” an “error”. Romans 1

  • First-May I ask you if you consider yourself a born again Christian–A dedicated follower of Jesus Christ (in red)?
    My answers vary according to ones profession and belief system. Forgive me if you have stated this in earlier writings on this post and I missed it.

  • Not Jesus words.
    The gay people I know did not choose that.
    Have you asked the gay people you know?

  • Christ said zero about same sex relationships, so you’ll have to find another source.
    We can all learn, no matter how old we are.

  • Back in the 1970’s, then President Jimmy Carter brought the phrase “Born Again” to prominence. As far as I know, he is the only US President to say the words, then claim them as true for himself. He was essentially unashamed of Jesus Christ and named Him as his personal Savior. (still does)

    REFER TO JOHN CHAPTER 3 for the following. It’s all there.

    To be “BORN AGAIN” is to have God’s Spirit change you into a child of God.

    All people are created and loved by God–But only the Born Again are His children with the promise of Eternal Life.

    To be born again is to Confess–Ask–Believe-on–Turn Away.
    To Confess Jesus is to Believe ON Him–not just IN HIm. It means unfeigned allegiance, not surface loyalty.
    To Ask is to hear and believe OR NOT.. Jesus said, “If you don’t believe when I talk to you about things on earth how can you possibly believe when I talk to you about things in heaven?”

    Go to an alone place and pray–asking God to be loved and forgiven.To turn away from your old life (repentance) is the dedication to give up your life in exchange for true life, love and forgiveness.

    To receive Christ then in this way is to be Born Again.

    Why do you think we resist giving up our pet sins, pride and greed? Because until we are born again, nothing Christ says or offers has any value. It is only “restrictive nonsense”.

    To Be Born Again is to see the light! Jesus said it this way.

    “The light has come into the world, and people who do evil things are judged guilty because they love the dark more than the light. People who do evil hate the light and won’t come to the light, because it clearly shows what they have done. But everyone who lives by the truth will come to the light, because they want others to know that God is really the one doing what they do.” (John 3:19-21)

    The most famous verse in this chapter is 16.
    “God loved the people of this world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who has faith in him will have eternal life and never really die. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn its people. He sent him to save them!”

    Not everyone will place their life/faith in His care–many will perish– but it won’t be because God did not love and provide. Some do not believe they need to be saved from anything.

    Remember that the Devil believes in Jesus Christ. Many people believe that He existed and walked this earth. Such believe does not convert the soul–it mertely exercises the mind.

    Let go of gay-straight-red letter-black letter. These are but mere deflectors from a heart that longs to be loved and converted. Until Christ resides in your heart and mine (by our personal invitation–God has no grandchildren), we will dodge, fight, argue and self-justify.

    Being Born again is not about changing your perceived wrongs to rights–It is leaving all the changing up to Him. Don’t fear it and don’t fight it. With Christ in your heart, you will gladly obey His desires for you because they are the highest and most nobel. Most of all–they give life-not a deadening spirit within.

    ” We believe what people tell us. But we can trust what God says even more, and God is the one who has spoken about his Son. 10 If we have faith in God’s Son, we have believed what God has said. But if we don’t believe what God has said about his Son, it is the same as calling God a liar. 11 God has also said that he gave us eternal life and that this life comes to us from his Son. 12 And so, if we have God’s Son, we have this life. But if we don’t have the Son, we don’t have this life.” (I John 5:9-12)

    Life begins when we die to ourselves–confess Christ–Turn from our old way of living–Invite Him to be the Lord of our lives–then grow as His child/disciple. This now becomes a two-way love because we love God in a way we never could. This is being Born Again.

    Religious people, agnostic and atheist alike–all have probably heard about Jesus Christ. But if the Son of God remains on the outside, merely as a belief ABOUT someone–they remain lost.

    It is not about how good or bad a person may be (by any standard). God loves you and me while in a sinful estate. We are not allowed to WORK our way to Him or become a goody-goody self-righteous snob. Jesus Christ is God’s GIFT to you and me. We can never earn this–not possible–not allowed.

    “Money paid to workers isn’t a gift. It is something they earn by working. But you cannot make God accept you because of something you do. God accepts sinners only because they have faith in him.” (Romans 4:4-5)

    Wheezy–please forgive the length. More and more complete explanation here.https://openhandspublications.com/2017/11/07/letter-to-a-new-christian/
    Blessings to you and yours.

  • Thank you.
    I’m Christian, but never had the singular “born again” experience that seems to define the term. If I become “born again” by reciting the Sinners’ Prayer, for example, gaining n irrevocable ticket to heaven even though I may go on living the way I had lived before (or worse), I applaud the intent , don’t place much eternal credence in the “one and done” exercise. Attempting to live the life that Christ taught is more important to me.
    And I find it impossible to believe that a just and loving God would condemn the majority of His human creation to eternal hellfire if they are good people who happen to be Muslim or Hindu or atheist.
    I’m much more focused on attempting a “Christ-like” “love your neighbor” type of life here on earth than I am in an eternal afterlife that no human can really define.

  • Understood. You are in the vast majority of people who identify with a religion. All religions (not Christianity) have a WORKS-BASED qualification for determining STATUS.

    I wish I could say this was a good thing but it is actually quite ugly. It promotes fanaticism (see how hard a Jihadist will work for Allah) and it instills Comparisons as well as self-righteous snobbery. Don’t you hate it when you blog with those who use MORALITY as a weapon?

    RELIGION is defined as “What I do in good deeds to reach God”. Christianity is “What God did and does to reach a sinful me.–apart from my goodness and works.”

    Paul called religion- SALVATION BY WORKS OF THE LAW. Here is what the bible says about those of us who hope to do it on our own as if God will be impressed, “I refuse to reject the grace of God. But if a person is put right with God through the Law, it means that Christ died for nothing!” (Galatians 2:21)

    I am either a Saint or a Sinner. I am either saved by God’s grace alone or I am a do-gooder-religionist denying that Jesus’ death means anything to me. The bible doesn’t give an option for both. Either Grace or Law–Either Works or Gift.

    Read more here:https://openhandspublications.com/2016/09/20/saints-and-sinners/

    also watch:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1IAhDGYlpqY

  • I don’t think the binaries “Works-Based” and “Faith-based” are the only options, and I’m not really interested in “status”. I try to treat others as I would want to be treated, and help the “least of these”, not out of some belief that those “works” will get me into heaven, or even to please God, but because that’s how I was raised and I think it’s the right thing to do and, as a Christian I believe it is how Jesus wants us to live. And I’ve found that being part of an outward-focused Christian church community helps encourage those behaviors.

    To use a ridiculously extreme example – I don’t think a just and loving God has sent Ghandi to eternal hellfire because he never converted, or that (as some have speculated) Hitler asked forgiveness before he died and is now taking harp lessons in heaven. I would not want to worship such a simplistically rigid god.

    The Bible does not explicitly define heaven or hell, but my own vision of eternal life is how we live on in the people we have impacted during our lives. If I have had a lasting and positive impact on the people I’ve encountered in my life, that will be heaven for me.

    You mention “fanaticism” and “morality” used as weapons. To me, both of those extremes are examples of committing what I would consider the ultimate heresy – believing that they absolutely know the mind of God.

    Thanks for the thoughtful comments.

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