MCS response to UMC’s repeal of the ban on gay clergy

Photo credit: Benjamin Lee, Eyeconic Studios

Original Article Here (English)
Original Article Here (Mandarin)

Last week, the United Methodist Church (based in the United States) lifted its long-standing ban on gay clergy, which had already begun in practice. What does this mean for Methodists in Singapore? The following is a response from The Methodist Church in Singapore to the Methodist community.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

The United Methodist Church’s (UMC) General Conference was adjourned on 3 May 2024. Held in Charlotte, North Carolina, the twice-postponed General Conference deliberated on over a thousand petitions over two weeks. The delegates voted to institute significant legislative changes to their polity and their Book of Discipline (BOD), including:

  1. The removal of the ban on the ordination and appointment of “self-avowed practicing homosexuals”, which was a prohibition dating back to 1984;
  2. Making sexual orientation a required category for mandated diversity on church commissions and agencies; and,
  3. The revision of the UMC Social Principles on marriage, which broadens the definition to include “two people of faith, an adult man and woman of consenting age, or two adult persons of consenting age into union with one another”.

Let us all, as fellow Methodists, continue to keep the UMC in prayer.

The Methodist Church in Singapore (MCS) has been autonomous from the UMC since 1968. We have our own BOD which embodies and preserves our core Methodist beliefs, order and rules. Since our founding, the MCS BOD has been based on biblical, spiritual teachings and values exemplified by John Wesley, the founder of Methodism.

Our views on marriage remain unchanged from our clarifications previously published in 2021 and 2022. For example, the MCS BOD, which includes our revised Social Principles, expressly states that:

  1. “Since the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching, self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be accepted as candidates … or approved to serve in the Methodist Church in Singapore.” (¶535)
  2. “We affirm the sanctity of the marriage covenant which is expressed in love, mutual support, personal commitment, and fidelity between a man and a woman.” (¶84.1)
The MCS BOD thus articulates a biblical, theological, ethical and historically well-framed Christian practice. This practice is derived from Scripture and from the wisdom of our Wesleyan forebears. The examples cited show that in practice, our moral stance is not merely exclusionary. While it forecloses certain acts, it simultaneously upholds a vision that exemplifies the fittingness, goodness, and beauty of Christian morality in promoting true human flourishing.

This Christian morality cannot simply be theorised. It must be lived.

John Wesley’s reminder that all holiness is social holiness means that we all, without exception, need each other in the lifelong journey of being perfected in God’s love. It is precisely in a capacious and hospitable Church that we learn the rhythms of sacrifice, bearing one another’s burdens and through which, we present an open invitation to abundant communal life to all around us. We take comfort that salvation does not rest finally in human ingenuity but in the fact that

“The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in love.
The Lord is good to all;
he has compassion on all he has made.”
~ Psalm 145:8-9 (NIV)

May the people called Methodists forever emulate the Lord, who is “all compassion, pure unbounded Love!”

This response has been endorsed by the Bishop of The Methodist Church in Singapore and the Council of Presidents, comprising Presidents of the Trinity Annual Conference, Chinese Annual Conference and Emmanuel Tamil Annual Conference.

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