BLOG: 200 Africans Save the Day

Written by
Melissa H. Strautman, LMT

Last week the Global United Methodist Church (UMC) held a “special” General Conference in St. Louis to settle two issues for the whole denomination:

  1. Same-sex marriage
  2. LGBTQ clergy

Don’t hit the snooze button just yet…

I know we are all tired of hearing about these siliceous issues…so I won’t go there. This blog is actually about how 200 African Christians traveled to this conference and positively affected the lives of 12-13 million people. It’s also about how God can and will use the weak to shame the wise.[1]

864 UMC delegates from 136 countries approved a conservative measure known as the Traditional Plan that strengthened the UMC’s prohibitions on “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” from ordination as well as same-sex marriage. With a slight modification, the plan passed in a 438-384 vote.[2] This 53% won because 200 African delegates were on a mission for Christ.[3]

At first, I thought it was strange to call out the bishops specifically, but then I read the UMC.org website link to The Council of Bishops Office of Christian Unity and Interreligious Relationships. I was shocked at their focus on ecumenical ministries that give money to Muslim and Jewish organizations. They publish opinions on politics and social justice, Islamophobia, climate change and immigration. Then there is their heresy of universalism …

The original “Traditional Plan” began in 1972 when the UMC declared the practice of homosexuality as “incompatible with Christian teaching”. The “modification” that was added seeks to strengthen enforcement for violations by holding UMC bishops accountable to the sexuality standards outlined in their Book of Discipline. Despite the stated governance, there are many openly LGBTQ pastors in UMC pulpits[4] and even a gay bishop.

At first, I thought it was strange to call out the bishops specifically, but then I read the UMC.org website link to The Council of Bishops Office of Christian Unity and Interreligious Relationships. I was shocked at their focus on ecumenical ministries that give money to Muslim and Jewish organizations. They publish opinions on politics and social justice, Islamophobia, climate change and immigration. Then there is their heresy of universalism …

“I am not so sure that being blessed by the good news and learning from Jesus’s teachings lays upon each person [in the world] the requirement that they become a disciple — a Christian…What I will say is that I do not believe that Christians have salvation and no one else does.”

G. Messer [5]

The majority of the bishops, all 93 UMC colleges/universities, and the other liberal UMC delegates failed to get their One Church Plan passed at this conference. This plan sought to redefine marriage and then dared to suggest that each local UMC church and pastor should make up their own minds about whether or not homosexuality is right. All of this was in the name of preserving the unity of the church organization, not the church itself.

Check out Todd Friel’s Wretched Radio Broadcast (audio mark 41:55) with a recap of what some of the African pastors and delegates said during the conference. In fearful divorce-style-preparation, “exit plans” were drawn up for churches wanting to split from the UMC if they didn’t like the outcome of the vote. African pastors voiced that they would not sell God out for building deeds and pensions because the Lord was their provision and strength.

Stand up, stand up for Jesus……la, la, la, la, la, la. Ahh, I can smell the musty ole Cokesbury Hymnal now.

260 delegates from African UMC churches were privately sponsored and traveled to the U.S. ten months ago to learn the nuts and bolts of how to vote on the conference floor, understand the complex protocol and use proper parliamentarian lingo for last week’s vote. These industrious and dedicated Africans represent a whopping 1/3 of the whole UMC; thanks to decades of Christian missionaries focused on the real cause of Christ. God bless the private individuals that fronted the money for this delegation’s travel and instruction.

United Methodist churches in Africa don’t currently have equal representation in the highest offices of church governance, but are we really shocked at this? They have an unequal number of bishops and a heavy financial burden when it comes to overseas travel.[6] Despite these roadblocks, the Africans have formed a large number of conferences (churches grouped demographically).[7] This gives them a significant amount of delegates. If it weren’t for those 200 delegates standing up for truth, the vote would have allowed LGBTQ clergy and same-sex marriage in this, the second-largest protestant denomination.

I can clearly see that the UMC has done some excellent secular things since its inception. Its global arm has spent over 2 BILLION dollars in charity care for financially weak countries. This consists of disaster relief, building schools, and sometimes things like school supplies and HIV testing.

The Love of Money

When I look closer at its procurement of UMC funds[8] and remember how that was done when I was a kid sitting in a Methodist pew, I can tell you it is shameful. The UMC actually has propaganda kits for its pastors to enhance congregational giving. So much of this material is particularly bothersome because it intentionally takes scripture and twists it.

“It can be challenging to ignite a culture of giving. But the good news is that God has entrusted us with abundance and has promised to create a new heaven and new earth. This guide contains resources to help you spark that passion and to invite your parishioners into a partnership that together builds God’s vision in your community and the world. This toolkit is framed around God’s vision for us as told through Isaiah 65:17-25.”[9]

UMC New Heaven and New Earth Resource Guide

Isaiah was not talking about making things better for people now on earth. He was talking about God’s eternal kingdom, a new Jerusalem. Even worse, the videos would lead congregants to believe that they are using this money for evangelism, but if you follow their published money trial and read their goals[10], it’s all about solving poor people’s temporal needs, social justice and making ecumenical connections with religions dedicated to the opposition of our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus.

Saints Unaware

Growing up as a rural Methodist pastor’s kid, I grew to love many of these dear saints. I saw the love of Christ lived out in ordinary lives. If you told them they had an opportunity to help those less fortunate or share the gospel, they couldn’t get their wallets out fast enough. That’s what I saw then…I’m a little older now, and I see with more discerning eyes when it comes to the manipulation of the innocent.

Take, for instance, the letter that the UMC bishops recently wrote apologizing to the LGBTQ community for its people who [present tense] “dishonor, objectify and dehumanize” them. I’m sorry, but this is insane!!! I’ve set in tons of Methodist churches from 1975-2009, being very involved in the church, and I never once saw discrimination against anyone because of their sex, skin color, age or open sin. This letter and its intention is sheer pandering, and they will get away with it because the sweet little ole ladies knitting prayer shawls have no idea that their church is calling them hateful bigots. 

Fox in the Hen House

The problem is clear to me. Listen to UMC Pastor Kenneth Livingston from Houston Texas discuss his heartfelt Biblical convictions toward upholding The Traditional Plan. At minute 5:54 the problem reveals itself. The UMC church allows, and more specifically, encourages those living in open rebellion to God to continue to fellowship and serve among its congregation with no correction whatsoever. I saw this all the time as a kid… or maybe I should say, “I had big ears, and we lived in small parsonages.”

I know now how un-loving it is not to call out sin and help restore a brother back into right relationship with God.[11] When I was about 10 years old, I remember a preacher saying that Matthew 18 (church discipline/biblical restoration) was judgmental and hateful. She was flat wrong.

So, the Methodist will have to deal with the sin they won’t rebuke. Please join me in praying for the United Methodist Church. May God help them raise their view of all Scripture, not just the parts they cherry pick about love and unity. Help them to understand how Christians should deal with other believer’s sinful actions and words from the start so that the flock can be protected from evil. Help them to realize that the censure of Bishops is a day-late-dollar-short idea and that discipline/restoration starts in the pews, as God instructs. Give pastors courage to teach and follow these instructions for the glory of God.



[1] 1 Corinthians 1:27-28

[2] United Methodist Church: 3 takeaways from vote on same-sex marriage, LGBT clergy, by Holly Meyer, Nashville Tennessean, published February 26, 2019

[3] https://www.umnews.org/en/news/africa-initiative-gathers-delegates-before-gc2019

[4] See photos: United Methodist Church: 3 takeaways from vote on same-sex marriage, LGBT clergy,by Holly Meyer, Nashville Tennessean, published February 26, 2019

[5]  Perfecting Unity, written by Dr. Glen Alton Messer & published by The UMC Council of Bishops, May 2016

[6] https://www.umnews.org/en/news/africans-poised-for-clout-at-gc2016

[7] http://www.umc.org/who-we-are/united-methodists-at-a-glance

[8] http://www.umcgiving.org

[9] http://s3.amazonaws.com/Website_UMCGiving/resource-files/2019_TWDM_NewHeavenNewEarth_Resource_Guide.pdf

[10] http://www.umc.org/how-we-serve/four-areas-of-focus-overview

[11] Relationship Primer for the Christian, Views from the Pew Blog, written by S. Wilson & M. Strautman, published October 5, 2017