HOMOSEXUALITY DIVIDES UMC, AS BISHOP WESLEY CALLS FOR PRAYERS
By Christiana Babayo
For some time now, the United Methodist Church Nigeria (UMCN) Episcopal Area, has been in a heated debate over the issue of homosexuality. While a section of the church known as the traditionalists or conservatives claimed to maintain the doctrinal values of the church which states clearly that marriage should only be between opposite sex, another group, the progressives, claimed that marriage should not only be between opposite sex but also between same sex.
In the 2016 General Conference of the church, the debate was tense as the self-avowed “homosexuals” seek ordination license and official practice in the church against paragraph 341 of the UMCN BOD 2016 edition and equally sought to change the language of some sections of the BOD that affects them.
The “homosexuals” also allegedly went ahead to peddle baseless rumours against the church and the resident Bishop of the church, John Wesley Yohanna on all the various social media that Bishop John Wesley had exited the church.
However in a press briefing organized by the Resident Bishop of the church, John Wesley Yohnna recently, the man of God who takes side with the traditionalist re-established the stand of the church against marrying same sex. He also dispelled all the rumors peddling in the various social media platforms by the “homosexuals” that he had exited the church, maintaining that the decision to embrace a new Global Methodist Church would be a collective decision.
“As a clergyman and a bishop who understands the operation of our church, I maintain that it is impossible to be one church yet preach different understanding of marriage because we are connectional church. As a bishop, I stand strongly in opposition to this plan.
“Again it becomes expedient for me to debunk the fake information saying that I have already exited the UMC by reason of my attendance in the meeting of traditionalist including bishops, clergy and laity to determine if we stay in UMC when homosexuality is celebrated in our church”. He stated.
The bishop noted that in a bid to curb incessant protests by the homosexuals, some groups came up with some plans to resolve the long standing issue after the 2019 special called session of the General Conference of the church, which they planned to present before the General conference of the church comes 2022.
He identified one of the plans as the “Christian covenant” which was aimed at having one UMC with different practices with the American church, removing the incompatible language and African church maintaining the sacred vow of marriage between a man and a woman.
He said another plan was the “protocol of reconciliation and separation through grace” where the conservatives or traditionalist, supporters of Wesleyan teaching led by late Bishop K. Yambasu and the progressives agreed on separation. According to him, if the gracious protocol of separation passes the floor of the General Conference comes 2022; the progressives will retain the name UMC while the Traditionalist will come up with another name as a result of the separation.
He also noted that should the gracious separation of the protocol plan become a success; they would surely not be a part of a UMC that would change the language of the book of discipline to accommodate same sex marriage and ordination.
Bishop John Wesley debunked the purported claim by some individuals on the social media that he and his supporters were saints and had send sinners away from the church.
“We have not send sinners away from the church. Just as it is common in every church, there are drunkards, idolaters, liars, fornicators and other sinners who coexist until the coming of the Lord. Same way the gays and lesbians have lived in the ministry of our church with other sinners hence, nobody would be separated because of them”. He stated.
While the Church awaits the General Conference in 2022, the bishop urged members of the church to embark on fasting and prayers from 29th March, 2021 to 4th April, 2021 to enable God to lead them through the current challenge. He also implored families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends but commit themselves to be in ministry with all persons, maintaining that he was still a Bishop of the UMC and would continue to steadfastly support its ministries.
The bishop also enjoined his colleagues and entire UMC members to remain calm, peaceful and rejoice because he was positive that they would get through the crises and pains just as Christ roused in victory. The united Methodist church Nigeria Episcopal area central Nigeria annual conference, north east, northern it tight and bind me to support homosexuality which am not, I urged all not to support Christmas covenant plan but rather to support traditionalist plan.” He stated.
“Friends, it is no longer news that our global church connection is plagued by some debates globally over decades on whether or not to allow gay, lesbians and homosexual practice and ordination in the structure of our church the UMC” he stated.
Buttressing his stance, the Bishop said that the UMC is founded in their loyalty to Jesus Christ and the Holy Scriptures using Romans 3:23 as a reference where the Bible said “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”.
“Equally important, they sought to change the language of some sections of the BOD that affects the homosexuals. The issue was pushed to 2019 special called session of the general conference and thrown to voting where the votes recorded in favor of traditionalist meaning homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching”.
Following the 2019 special called session of General Conference, some groups laid out plans to resolve the long standing issue of homosexuality and apart of the plan was the Christmas covenant plan which suggested that they can operate as one church with different practices meaning the American church may remove compatible language and Africans can maintain the sacred vow of marriage between a man and a woman. But as a person who understands the operation of the church, the bishop maintained that it is impossible to be one church yet preach different understanding because it is a connectional church.
As part of the plans to curb incessant protests by the homosexuals, a group of traditionalists or progressives also came up with the protocol of reconciliation and separation through grace. According to him, “this group did not claim to send sinners away from the church, neither do they say, they are saints as purportedly claimed by some individuals on the social media. The progressives will retain the name UMC the traditionalists will come up with another name due to the separation.”
Also concerning the information saying that the bishop has already exited the UMC because he attended the meeting of traditionalists, he said that attending the meeting does not mean bringing in a new denomination ahead of the passage of the protocol plan in 2022 General Conference.