A GC2012 Conversation with Kathy Gilbert and Tita Parham

A protestor prays during yesterday morning's debate on changing Paragraph 161F of the Book of Discipline. A WVUMC photo by Adam Cunningham.

I sat down with Kathy Gilbert and Tita Parham this morning to talk briefly about what happened during yesterday morning’s plenary session at GC2012. Two items stating Christians have different opinions about homosexuality were not approved by the 2012 General Conference, which means the original language of the Book of Discipline, Paragraph 161F, remains in effect:

The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.

Also, if you haven’t heard it, yesterday’s GC2012Radio podcast was an audio montage of the day.

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  1. Lovemore Mango

    The issue of homosexuality in Zimbabwe, Africa is a very controversial one. The church here would not want to associate with anyone of a different sexual orientation,especially, homosexuals and lesbians. I’m happy that the Church’s General Conference has not changed the Book of Discipline on this issue.

    1. Karen Furno

      Thank you, Lovemore, for sharing your thoughts. I understand from news reports that many countries in Africa are struggling with the issue of gays and lesbians in their population. This seems especially true in Uganda, where a proposed anti-homosexuality bill includes provisions to execute gays and lesbians who express their love for each other physically. Not that long ago, many churches in this country did not want to associate with anyone of a different race other than white. And to this day, there are churches that refuse to allow women to vote or have any leadership role. I thank God that a spirit of renewal took hold here that allowed people of color and women could to take their rightful place alongside the body of believers. I pray that churches in Africa do not have to go through the terrible turmoil churches here experienced on their way to inclusion for all.

    2. Christy

      I am a (younger) United Methodist from the state of Georgia where I am proud to say that Methodism has its roots in America. I have a deep love for the church John Wesley began at what is known today as Christ Episcopal Church, the area of Epworth by the Sea and the John and Charles Wesley Memorial.

      I have been praying for God’s will at General Conference, not my will, but His, in every vote and in every aspect of this assembly in Tampa.

      I thank God for my Methodist brothers in Africa, such as Lovemore Mango, whom I believe has been appointed by the Holy Spirit for such a time as this. It is time we Methodists take back the church from any group who listens to lies of the devil that this sin (like any sin) is something we can’t control and do not have a choice about.

      We are each born into sin. Only Jesus has the power to heal us by His redemptive blood and by His stripes.

      The Holy Bible tells us that sin separates us from God. We must all affirm that sin of any kind– gluttony, smoking, adultery, homosexuality, an unkind thought or word to another, shopping addiction, alcoholism, drug abuse, murder, etc. has no part in our Christian teaching. The message should be to recognize and admit our sin, repent of it and turn from any unrighteous lifestyle choice that our sin manifests itself as.

      This message of the bullet we just dodged, (if we even did) as Methodists, is represented to me in the following song lyrics by Casting Crown:

      “Be careful little eyes what you see. It’s the second glance that ties the hands, as darkness pulls the strings. Be careful little feet where you go, for the little feet behind you are sure to follow. It’s a slow fade, when you give yourself away, it’s a slow fade when black and white are turned to gray. And thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid, when you give yourself away. People never crumble in a day. It’s a slow fade. It’s a slow fade.
      – Third Day, Slow Fade

      Peace and grace

      1. Ross

        Hey! Is your name really Lovemore Mango or are you pullin’ our leg?!

        Mr. Mango, I used to be a methodist. However, I believe God loves all people. Even Gay ones. What the heck is “Open Hearts, Open Doors, Open Minds” supposed to mean? What am I not getting?

        I will not associate with hateful, close-minded people. Christy, you are witnessing the disintegration of your once-proud denomination. How many others like me are there out there? Judging from the decline in North American membership, there are many.

        I’ll see you in Heaven, Lovemore Mango. I’ll just be seated in a different section. The section with open hearts, open doors, and open minds.

        1. pastorsmate

          Love does not include condoning sin.
          We have been part of a church that embraced and welcome a number of gay persons into our fellowship, and their feedback to us is that they have felt loved in every way. However, our love for them has not condoned their sin, but on the contrary, we have loved them enough to tell them and show them biblical truth regarding sexual purity, and then walk alongside them to support, love and encourage them as they struggle with the issue of forsaking sin. John Wesley’s principle of koinonia included “watching over one another in love”, which meant holding each other accountable for the ongoing purity of our lives and conduct.
          One of my gay friends was gracious enough to hold me accountable for my tendency to gossip, and she walked alongside me as an encourager while I grappled with that ugly truth about myself and forsook that sin to walk in purity of speech and conduct. It was hard for me, because gossip seems to be a natural tendency (remember, we’re born sinful) that’s been there ever since I can remember (I was the family tattletale from a young age!). But that was the reason Jesus came, died and rose, to bring forgiveness for my sin and to empower me to forsake it and live a life of steadily progressive righteousness according to the moral commands and principles of God’s Word. I loved her for calling me to account, for the sake of my ultimate righteousness before God — it was a true mark of love, because she risked our friendship to do something sacrificial for my ultimate spiritual wellbeing …. which, after all, is the actual definition of agape.
          Genuine agape risks itself and gives itself for the other person’s ultimate spiritual wellbeing. If I truly love a gay person, I must not allow her to pursue a sin that the Word says will ultimately exclude her from the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). Genuine love will sacrifice itself for the sake of the loved one entering the kingdom. Even when it means painfully speaking the truth, but always in compassionate love.
          Loving and welcoming gay persons into the life of the church does not mean we must condone their sin. It also does not necessarily include putting them into teaching or spiritual leadership positions in the church (or pastoral leadership). How could they urge us on to biblical sexual purity if they themselves are living a chosen, consistent lifestyle of sexual sin? We absolutely must welcome them among us in genuine compassion and friendship and love. But just like the rest of us hold each other to account, watching over each other’s lives in love, we must also hold them to account — otherwise we would be treating them differently than we treat each other — which is discrimination.

  2. Marilyn Belcher

    I think it’s time to leave the United Methodist Church, the church I have devoted my life to for the last 58 of my 65 years. The majority of our United Methodists don’t want to change, and maybe I should just go elsewhere and rejoice in a faith I can believe in and be proud of. I am weary of feeling such anguish about this issue all the time, so weary of trying to better inform those who do not want to even listen or learn more about the human condition. I just think it’s time………………and it just hurts to have to say it.

    1. Rev Anne Clement,Oklahoma

      Dear sister, I share your pain and your struggle. I feel I have devoted my life and ministry to something that has turned very dark and mean- spirited. I am appalled at the spiritual bullying. Still I seek the reason to believe that love, compassion and justice will prevail. I have come to the radical acceptance, however, it will not happen in my lifetime. I am now 78 years.

      1. Angel Alt

        Hello, my name is Angel Alt, and I am an alcoholic. I became an alcoholic at the age of 13 and lived in that deception until the age of 44. God loved me as an alcoholic and because of His undying love for me He wanted to deliver me from the dark hand of Satan. Sacrificing something that was such a huge part of my life and my soul love and comforter was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.
        I did not have the privilege of growing up in the church. Someone in my community loved my family enough to get our children involved in church. Over a four year period the sound doctrine of this United Methodist Church, convicted, converted, and saved me from my life of sin. That is the love of Jesus Christ! I am still an alcoholic who by the grace of God has been healed and put into remission.
        Within five days of conversion, I took my last drink, smoked my last cigarette, and started living my new life as a new creation in Christ. Has it been easy? At first no! I wanted what I had always lived and was comfortable with. But God has called me to fulltime ministry in the United Methodist Church. I had to be transformed and now continue to be sanctified by the truth of God’s word to live out God’s calling on my life faithfully through the Holy Spirit.
        God wants me to share the love of Jesus Christ. I am not equal to anyone who desires to continue living in sin. Not because of anything I have done on my own but because of Jesus Christ who sets me apart from the world to sin no more. Jesus says that we will be hated, “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world (John 17:14 NKJV).” I choose to be sanctified by the truth. I am a true follower of Jesus Christ not just an admirer, and I lay my life down for Him each day so that He may rise up through me to rid this world of the evil one.
        Angel Alt: Born on August 8th 2010

        “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness (2 Corinthians 6:14 NKJV)?”

        “What one generation tolerates, the next generation will embrace.”
        ― John Wesley

        1. Karen Furno

          God bless you, Angel, for finding the loving strength and support from the people of the UMC, and from a God who loves us deeply. The challenge for us as LGBT Christians, is to remember that we were fearfully and wonderfully made, and our ability to form lifelong bonds of love and commitment to one of the same gender is not a sin, but a special gift from the Creator. Not everyone accepts that understanding, but we who carry God’s Spirit within, know it to be the truth. Godspeed and thank you for you beautiful testimony.

        2. Angel Alt

          God’s loves for me has never changed, but I had to change in order to receive the fullness of God’s love. You cannot live in the deception of sin and be in communion with God through Christ. I did not want to give up my love, desire, and lust for alcohol, but God would not have it my way! Was I born an alcoholic? I honestly cannot answer that question truthfully; I just know that I was born physically into a broken world of sin. In my second birth through Jesus Christ I became a new creation. I no longer want to live out the life of sin because I now allow myself to be more Christ like every day.

          I could have chosen not to listen to God and still be thinking that I am a Christian living out the life I wanted to live out. I am a true follower of Jesus Christ, He did not tell anyone I will love you just the way you are. Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. “Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”

          Karen, everyone has to deny themselves and lose their life in order to find it.

          “I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case unless they hold fast both the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out.” ~John Wesley

          I am a United Methodist with a mission to transform the world by sharing the transforming love and truth of Jesus Christ to the ends of earth, by sitting the American church back on its biblical foundation. I know I will be hated for what God is calling me to do, because Christ Himself was hated by the world, because I am like Christ and not of this world.

          Angel Alt

        3. Michael

          As the adult child of a recovered alcoholic, your post disgusts me.

        4. Christy

          Michael, your comment is sad for me to read. Good news: Jesus is in the healing business. I hope you find peace and healing from the pain you have endured as a result of sins of another. I am so sorry for your pain, even if it is in the past and no longer in the present. As the child of divorced parents, I know that your pain is real even if it is different from mine. I wish for you a lifetime of better choices than those who preceded you.

          Angel, may you be encouraged by the truth of the Word. And may it give you peace when others come against you and hate you in this world. Truth offends.

          Peace and grace

        5. pastorsmate

          Michael, I am so sorry for what you apparently have endured. Your reply to Angel was obviously born of enormous personal pain and bitterness, and I find it not hard to understand how such pain could produce that kind of thought, so I do not condemn you for it. I pray that God’s great grace will engulf you and heal the pain of your past and present, freeing you to celebrate His glory, and the truth of His Word. I wish you peace and the joy of healing in His embrace.

        6. pastorsmate

          Angel All, thank you for a beautiful an dprofound personal story of Goid’s great grace. Hold onto the biblical truth which introduced you to Jesus and to saving faith, and do not allow yourself to be swayed from the truth of The Word of God.

    2. Mary Orange

      Your not the only one Marilyn. There are others of us looking at our options. I don’t want to wait another 20 years for change. And for Steve, Jesus never said a thing about homosexuals. Don’t get to lost in the Word because Jesus broke the Jewish laws when he felt they were harming people.

      1. Steve

        Ok, so I assume, Mary, that you deny Paul was speaking with any authority when he wrote:

        1 Corinthians 6:9-10
        English Standard Version (ESV)

        9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous[a] will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,[b] 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

        But you only pick and chose, right? Because you would pick out homosexuality and say that’s really ok, but not sexual immorality (or would you?), or adulterers, or thieves, etc. So only SOME things he wrote were wrong…but other things were right?

        And how would you respond to this, in Jesus own words?

        Mark 10:6-9
        New International Version (NIV)

        6 “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’[a] 7 ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife,[b] 8 and the two will become one flesh.’[c] So they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

        Which effectively proscribes marriage as between a man and woman…again unless you wish to put words in Christ’s mouth that it could really be any two persons.

        Jesus broke the laws that were put in place by the Pharisees…NOT God’s law. For he said about God’s Law that he was the fulfillment of the law, and that every part of it, to the very smallest, would come true.

        1. Mary Orange

          Steve at the bottom you said Jesus broke the laws that were put in place by the Pharisees. Read the start Mark 10:2-12 for the question and answer.

          “Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” They did not ask is it lawful to divorce your wife and by the way what do you think about homosexuals. And Jesus answered the Pharisees questions about divorce. Jesus was very specific that divorce is wrong. He did not address what is marriage just that getting a divorce is considered adultery.

          And as far as Paul goes he was speaking to what he felt was correct through his prayers and studies. We are human and sometimes our interpretations are wrong and then our laws become the laws the Pharisees practiced.

        2. d

          This is exactly why the church is so confused.
          Wrong understanding of scripture.
          The Pharisees and the Jewish people belived in the Prophet Moses and all that he wrote and said.The Jewish people understood Moses to be the closest man to God for Moses had seen God face to face. Jesus broke no law of God and what the Pharisees were after was to see if Jesus would discredit the teaching of Moses, the one closest to God.
          The Scribes and Pharisees had added to the Laws of God over the many centuries.
          The Laws of God had incorporated pagan belief, pagan law, and extremes over the centuries. A people without a homeland.

          We really need some people that are able to teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ in context in the Christian Church. It would end a lot of the confusion.

        3. Karen Furno

          Paul appears to have invented the word arsenokoitai which has recently been translated as homosexual, but had been translated as effeminate. Either way, scholars are still unclear what Paul meant to say, as the word does not appear until Paul’s writing. The idea that covenent-based, same-gender love is sinful, cannot be supported from the questionable modern translations of the only 6 verses in Bible ever used to clobber LGBT people. What God has joined together, let no one separate.

        4. Mary Orange

          Interesting Karen. Thanks for posting.

        5. Wesley Steinbrink

          Karen Furno,

          We all have verses that “clobber” us all the time. Jesus said what sin was in Matthew 15:19 and Mark 7:21. Included in the list was sexual immorality. The word in Greek is pornea. That word includes homosexuality. Paul’s words and Jesus’ words are explored more in a web site of Luke Plant’s (Plant, 2012) His web site also talks of how easily Pau’s words can be understood. God created and ordained marriage in Genesis 2:24 to be one man and one woman. And He said it was good.

          Plant, L., (2010 June 7), “Why Eating Shrimps is not Like Homosexuality”, Retrieved May 14, 2012 from: http://lukeplant.me.uk/blog/posts/why-eating-shrimps-is-not-like-homosexuality/

        6. Karen Furno


          I am not a bible scholar nor a theologian. I am merely pointing out some differing understandings that anyone with an internet search engine can discover in just a few minutes of objective looking. There are numerous United Methodist pastors and teachers who can address this far better than I can. I am an engineer grounded in science. I’m sure the theologians of Galileo’s day had a perfectly constructed exegesis for why his scientifically grounded understanding of astronomy was sinful. The earth is still revolving around the sun, and I am still lesbian and unable to change who I am. The science is clear for those who accept it (also a simple internet search). I acknowledge the desire of those who wish to embrace belief over data, but please hear me that to do so is incredibly hurtful and is driving LGBT people like me away from the church and from Christianity. There are Christian gays and lesbians, and to any who doubt it, I suggest you get into a respectful relationship with an LGBT Christian. You will see Spirit that has thrived through the fires of hell and persecution, and a God who is moving with power and grace. Please stop erecting walls against the tidal wave of Love Eternal.

        7. Wesley Steinbrink


          You make a good point that there needs to be objectivity – with looking at both sides on the Internet. I believe before we continue to discuss it would seem best to do just that. I am reading these web sites in that vein:

          The previous:

          Plant, L., (2010 June 7), “Why Eating Shrimps is not Like Homosexuality”, Retrieved May 14, 2012 from: http://lukeplant.me.uk/blog/posts/why-eating-shrimps-is-not-like-homosexuality/

          A link off of that web site:

          B., Ron, (2003), “Love that Does Not Count the Cost”, Retrieved May 18, 2012 from: http://www.gaychristian.net/rons_view.php

          And a link off of that web site:

          Justin, (2003?), “What I Believe”, Retrieved May 18, 2012 from: http://www.gaychristian.net/justins_view.php

          and finally,

          Whitehead, N. E., (2011), “Neither Genes nor Choice:”, Retrieved May 18, 2012 from: http://www.mygenes.co.nz/whitehead_twinjhs.pdf

          (from the parent web site:

          Whitehead, N. E. & B., (2012), “Homosexuality and the scientific evidence”, Retrieved May 13, 2012 from: http://www.mygenes.co.nz/)

          Hopefully this will provide a good background for discussion. If you have another, (as long as it is not extra long) that would be good also.

        8. Wesley Steinbrink

          Or it could be long, just let me know.

        9. Michael


          1 Corinthians 14:34-35 “Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.”

          Was Paul speaking with authority? If so, how dare you remain in a denomination that ordains females!

        10. Beverly Hemrich

          And if men would stand up and be the men that God intended them to be – the head of the households, then women wouldn’t have to speak up so much. Look at your church population. Where are the men.

      2. PerryA

        But Jesus did talk about homosexuality, when he spoke on sexual immorality defiling man. Any sexual relationship outside God-sanctioned marriage is sexual immorality.

    3. Judi D


      I am with you. My father, a UMC minister (50+ years) is probably rolling over in his grave thinking the same. Sadly, while we say we open our hearts, minds and doors to all, we fail to teach the transfers the United Methodist beliefs….

    4. PerryA

      So the question is, are you serving the church or are you serving the Head of the church? I welcome everyone with love and offfer God’s grace to all, but I would be remiss if I did not love one enough to speak the truth of God’s word. Sometimes speaking the truth involves speaking on sin and the truth can hurt, but God gives us grace to overcome hurt. I pray that people will find the truth.

      We can’t run from sin. No matter what denominational body one runs to or from, the truth of God’s word will always be the same. If one chooses to leave a denominational body to go to another, is that person running from the truth?

  3. Steve

    Perhaps it is, Marilyn. As it would have been for me to leave if the UMC had gone against the teaching of the Word and allowed for and supported homosexual marriage, and allowed Ordained, practicing homosexual leaders in the Church.

    And just because we disagree doesn’t mean that I am the one who is uninformed, doesn’t listened, and doesn’t want to learn more. Prehaps it’s because I have been informed, I have listened, I have learned…and I instead believe and trust in God’s Word instead of man’s (and woman’s) “wisdom”.

    1. Michael

      Yet, you didn’t leave when the UMC violated Paul’s teachings that “women are to be silent in the churches”. It reveals your unhealthy and inordinate obsession with gay sex.

  4. Ray Neuman

    Very well said Steve. While I affirm the value of all people, that does not translate to valuing their, or my sin. As we are all sinners, saved by grace. I have studied both sides of this homosexual coin, and have come to my own conclusions. They happen to agree with the UMCs. I also watched my church General Conference with interest, as I would have felt the need to reluctantly changed denominations had they changed the stand. I have listened, questioned, read and prayed over this topic, and feel that we ALL are “born into sin”, just some of us struggle with different sins. All the same though. In the end, we either trust and obey God, or man.

  5. John Johnson

    The church is currently comprised of about 40% US churches and 60% Outside US churches. By the next general conference in 2016, Outside US churches will make up the majority. Which means delegates from Africa and the Philippines, who HATE gays, will make sure that the church NEVER accepts them. This was the turning point for the church to accept equality and love thy neighbour, like Jesus said, however, the Church choose to go the other way. There are dark times coming to the UM Church and I wouldn’t be surprised if woman’s rights in the church become limited in the next general conference because of the conservatism of Africa and the Philippines.

    1. Roger

      Yes. That would be the same Africa and Philippines where the church is growing, correct? Is it possible that there is a correlation?

  6. Tyler

    The root of this issue lies at how people view the Bible and how they discern it. The only way someone can justify homosexuality is if they deny the authority and accuracy of scripture, and if they read it without discernment. Thats why liberals cant understand why we don’t observe Old Testament rituals and why we ordain women. We find places in the New Testament that abolish the O.T. rituals, and give grounds for ordination of women. (Peter with the blanket of animals, phoebe the deacon). This was the case in medieval Catholicism. Martin Luther cited scripture for his beliefs that the Catholic church was in doctrinal err. It was VERY CLEAR that He was right. But., because medieval Catholicism elevated tradition over scripture, the Church refused Luther’s teaching. We can’t pick and choose. God wrote the Holy Scriptures and the day we deny its authority and accuracy is the day we condemn ourselves. I’m in no way perfect. I sin EVERY SINGLE DAY. And as far as it hurting homosexuals to hear their lifestyle is sin, yes, I’m sure it does hurt, It hurts anybody to hear that they are sinful and deserve nothing but hell. None of us deserve to be in eternal communion with God. But because Christ died, and offers deliverance and forgiveness, we can have eternal life. Just like Angel had to face the fact that she was an alcoholic, and accept the fact that she was wrong, and just like I had to accept the fact that I was a liar and I was living in sin, so ddo homosexuals. “Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me. Jesus never said it would be easy. Heck, the world just might kill us.

  7. d

    This whole situation is like a bad marriage.
    There will be no agreement on this issue.
    There can be no compromise.
    There is no way to compromise without compromising scripture or compromising scripture and accepting practicing homosexuals.
    It would be better for the church to make a final judgement and end the conflict one way or the other.
    It is not right to hold either side hostage by trying to walk the fence.
    The Catholic Church has a set aside ministry exclusively for the gay community.
    Thet will not change their historical position or doctrine but they do minister to gays.
    Maybe that is what the UMC should do.

  8. MC

    The posts above are sadly primitive in their comprehension of biblical texts. How did UMC become this hypocritical about “open hearts, open minds”? The sentiments of most of these posts is, frankly, tribal: Exclude people perceived as outsiders, utilizing customs and prejudices which are dressed up as God’s divine words. Human beings wrote the texts we have come to identify as the Bible. I think that Jesus, who turned over the tables at the Temple, would not recognize as his followers the people who think the kindest course is to have a “set-aside ministry.”

    1. d

      The positions are not primitive
      Where has sin been redefined?
      What is you basis for new theology? Maybe we need to look back to Leviticus 19:18 and get the complete text on what neighbor was and how Christ explained love your neighbor. The definition does not include love the sins of your neighbor. It is not primitive or historical readings of scripture that is dividing the Christian church. What is killing the church and causing division is ignorance of what the Bible teaches and what Christ meant.

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