Thursday, August 8, 2019

A Better Way


{Author's Note:  After posting my previous piece (A Reason for Separation?) it seemed important to me to share my thoughts regarding the worth and value of people along the LGBTQ+ spectrum, and what ministry with persons along this spectrum might look like in traditionalist settings.  This was published in the South Carolina Advocate early in 2019.}



            As we approach the called General Conference in February 2019, I find myself reflecting on the differences between traditionalists like myself and the progressives who wish to alter our current standards.  I freely admit right up front that I am in the words of Tom Berlin et al a traditional non-compatibilist.  I stand on our Discipline the way it is currently written.  The standards regarding sexuality were the same when I was certified, licensed, commissioned and finally ordained.   At each point along the way I agreed to uphold those standards, and I freely admit now that those are the standards I will continue to live by regardless of what happens at the 2019 General Conference.  But according to many of my progressive friends there is no problem here.  Under the One Church Plan I can continue to live by those standards, and they can choose to live by a separate set of standards.  So it seemed wise to me to try and articulate for my progressive friends some of the differences we have as I see it, and perhaps to help them see why I can’t agree to live by a separate set of standards regarding human sexuality and still say we exist under the same umbrella of authority.
Let me begin by saying I think many progressives are right in thinking a lot of traditionalists just don’t want anything to do with the LGBTQ+ community.  I have always thought this.  I fear many traditionalists write off the possibility of transformation in the life of homosexuals to the same degree the progressives do.  And in this I will admit the progressives have us beat.  They do care about the homosexual.  I wonder if they are really helping this community, but I do think they care.  And for that they must all be commended. 
But I also think there are still a lot of traditionalists who believe there is a better way to engage this community than simply saying, “It is okay.  You were made this way.”  We believe God has a better way.  We believe God’s call regarding sexuality is straightforward and clear in Scripture.  We believe people struggle with all manner of issues regarding sexuality and identity and the issues faced by the LGBTQ+ community are not to be treated as some kind of especially heinous or gross sin.  We believe homosexuals, and those dealing with questions of gender identity, need a loving supportive community of faith where they can be loved and belong and not inappropriately judged.  We believe their questions and struggles will not automatically or instantaneously go away by submitting to Scripture’s prescribed means of sexual expression.  We believe they will fall into temptation and will need the community of believers to help them trust in God’s forgiveness and move forward with a new resolution, strength and will to live victoriously in Christ.  We believe having faith in Jesus brings justification; that they are fully accepted and justified before God by simply believing in Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.  We believe they will spend a lifetime being sanctified and growing in their understanding of grace.  We believe these are people who have something valuable to share and teach us about the grace of God.  We believe that the grace of Jesus Christ, found in the loving community of the church ought to bring about transformation in the life of the person who currently identifies as LGBTQ+, in the same way we believe it for every person who turns to Christ for salvation.  These are some of the things we believe.  But perhaps it might also be helpful to share some things we traditionalists don’t believe about life as a LGBTQ+ person.
We don’t believe LGBTQ+ persons are just willingly living sinful lives.  In other words we do believe orientation, as a way to describe what one feels inside, is a real thing.  But we don’t believe orientation is the defining factor in anyone’s life.  We don’t believe this struggle is solved by simply “committing to a life-long monogamous relationship.”  I know some will think me crass for bringing it up, but I think progressives need to understand this.  To many traditionalists the idea of a committed monogamous relationship for the LGBTQ+ person sounds like arguing for polygamy for those who have committed adultery and will not be faithful to their spouse.  To us it really just sounds like using the grace of God as a license to do what you want as long as you can rationalize it in a way that seems acceptable in your own eyes.  We don’t believe the LGBTQ+ community ought to be kicked out of the church.  And we don’t believe that being born that way means that it is God’s best for anyone.
Because we do see issues surrounding the LGBTQ+ community in this way, we do find it hard to understand why we would be encouraged to ignore our conscience regarding the practices of those who will lead our churches and ministries, and hence we wonder if the United Methodist Church cares about our concerns anymore.  We wonder if you want us around to talk about these things, or if you just want us to give up the ghost so to speak and accept and believe what you’ve come to believe.  We wonder if after all the years we’ve spent listening and debating these things and seeing the value of your care and concern if you can even begin to see the value in our concerns?  What we hear you telling us is that God doesn’t have a better way, and we just can’t accept or tolerate that.      

Wednesday, August 7, 2019


A Reason for Separation?

{Author’s note:  This is a rework of my previous piece, Teaching Heresy.  It was adapted to be printed in the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate.  I'm hoping it will appear in September's issue, but I share it here because I do hope it speaks to a broader audience, and that it will be shared with folks who will give it honest consideration.}

Dr. David Watson in a recent speech to the Evangelical Fellowship of the Virginia Annual Conference boldly proclaimed that “expressive individualism” has “run amuck in the United Methodist Church.”( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WtY1_M51_78)  He was very clear that this “expressive individualism” has supplanted ecclesiological authority in the message and actions of many United Methodist leaders.  He even mentioned an experience with one pastor who refuted the Incarnation by quoting Marcus Borg saying, “a finger pointing at the moon is not the moon.”  The pastor was saying Jesus was not the very Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, but just a man pointing people to God.
            This is not the Christian faith.  This progressive teaching is a modern blending of some of the heresies that have plagued the church throughout our 2000 year existence.  Antinomianism, Arianism, and Pelagianism are just some of the old heresies raising their respective heads in the progressive teaching within the church.  Pelagianism, as it was understood by the church, taught moral perfection as a result of human determination and will.  Grace was not needed in order to achieve salvation.(Shelley, “Pelagius, Pelagianism” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd ed., 897)  It was an heretical attack on Original Sin, the doctrine that humans are born with the infection of sin through our first parents, Adam and Eve.  Interestingly, progressive teaching turns this on its head telling us people are born oriented toward homosexual behavior, but failing to acknowledge Original Sin as the most biblical and theological answer for this orientation.  Believers are expected to accept that a person’s homosexual orientation, and/or their gender dysphoria, is a result of the way they were created rather than an anomaly caused by the infection of Original Sin.  It is a complete denial that sin’s infection, working to turn our thoughts and emotions away from God’s good purpose, is part of the human condition.  Original Sin levels the playing field where humans are concerned and equally locates us in need of salvation through Christ.
Arianism, was an attack on the nature of Christ as the unique son of God, the second person of the Trinity.  Arius taught Christ was created not eternal and thus not God in the flesh.(Walter, “Arius, Arianism” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd ed., 95)  This is seen in statements like Dr. Watson encountered where Christ was equated to “a finger pointing at the moon.”  According to progressive teaching the faith Christ taught was not a faith that looked for salvation in his life, death and resurrection, but only in the teachings and lifestyle he espoused.  His death was only an example and his resurrection just a spiritual reality with no basis in historical fact.  Former Bishop Joe Sprague of the Northern Illinois Conference faced charges of heresy in 2003 for teaching such views.(https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-2003-02-19-0302190091-story.html)  He was acquitted but even he acknowledged his views are not orthodox.
When this false teaching about Christ’s nature is fleshed out we begin to see how neatly it fits with the revival of Pelagianism and its refutation of Original Sin.   If there is no original sin there is no need of salvation in the historical death and resurrection of Jesus.  People are essentially good without the infection of sin and have no need for a cure.  One’s orientation or dysphoria is simply the result of their birth.  The problem is not sin’s presence but the refusal of others to affirm the goodness of this state of existence.  This fits well with a neo-Arianism which does not provide salvation.  There is only an example to follow, which encourages emotional spiritual expression and work for societal acceptance, but little personal behavioral transformation and in the end no real social transformation.
This all of course has given birth to Antinomianism, which views grace as a license to sin and discards concern about the moral law.(Linder, “Antinomianism” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd ed., 70-71)  John Wesley attacked the antinomianism prevalent in the church in 18th century England.  Whether among some Moravians who dispensed with all the means of grace until the Spirit moved them, or among some of the Calvinist teachings he thought encouraged it, Wesley countered antinomianism by demanding Methodists seek personal, behavioral and social transformation through participating in all the means of grace.  Methodists were to look to the Spirit to grant power to fulfill the moral law.(Heitzenrater, Wesley and the People Called Methodists, 106-107)  When entire Annual Conferences pass resolutions to resist orthodox Christian teaching and affirm all expressions of sexuality across the LGBTQ spectrum there is little doubt antinomianism is alive and well and we are out of step with our historical and spiritual fore-bearers of the faith.(https://www.umnews.org/en/news/conferences-mull-denominations-future)  Where is the call to turn to Christ for healing and salvation?  It has been replaced by a blanket acceptance that all is good and should be affirmed.
This is not the Christian teaching which says the power and presence of the Holy Spirit are given to generate new birth and energy for holy living.  It is heretical and regressive, not progressive and new.  The time has come for traditionalists to stand up and speak out against it.  Many people are calling for separation.  It may be necessary at this point in the church’s life, but it should be made clear there is no basis for separation except heresy is being taught.  If the presenting issues are just a difference of opinion as Dr. Lovett Weems has suggested in a recent video calling for institutional continuity, we have no basis to call for separation(https:/www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOEG4LK-J5c&feature=youtu.be)  He is right to call for continuity if he believes this to be just a difference of opinion.  But if it is only a matter of opinion, why not call for adherence to the Book of Discipline as the will of the church?  Differences of opinion should not facilitate institutional disobedience of the magnitude we are seeing.  Only two options are available; separation because some form of harmful teaching is afoot or obedience to the Discipline.  Many on the other side of this issue think we traditionalists are harmful in our stance and are calling for separation.  Traditionalists are clear where we stand, and we hope like-minded United Methodists will join us.
Finally, it goes without saying that reviling individuals is never our prerogative, but condemning false teaching is the responsibility of faithful Christian leaders.  Did not Paul condemn any gospel that refuted his own even if it should be taught by an angel from heaven?( Galatians 1:8)  He urged Timothy to “command certain men not to teach false doctrines,” and to “correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction.”(1 Timothy 1:3 and 2 Timothy 4:2)  Even Jesus instructed his followers to “beware of false prophets” and find ways to provide correction to one another.(Matthew 7:15; 18:15-17)  It is the duty of all Christian leaders not only to treat everyone with dignity and respect but to speak out against teachings they understand to be heretical and harmful.  It is our duty to inform faithful United Methodists about what exactly is at stake.



Saturday, July 20, 2019

Teaching Heresy

{Note from the author:  this piece should in no way be understood as my take on the worth of anyone within the LGBTQ spectrum or even an understanding about ministry to and with people along the spectrum.  I have written about that previously and would be glad to share if you're interested.  This is a piece that strongly critiques the progressive teaching taking place in the church today.  It is meant to inform those who are unacquainted with these ideas and to provoke further action and dialogue among those who are already thoroughly informed.}



            I recently encountered a perspective which I have considered for some time.  While watching David Watson’s speech to orthodox evangelicals in the Virginia Annual Conference he boldly proclaimed that “expressive individualism” has “run amuck in the United Methodist Church.”  Prior to listening to Dr. Watson I had many thoughts about why I was concerned and opposed to progressive teachings in the United Methodist Church.  His message helped to crystallize for me why we orthodox Methodists are so concerned and why we need to be bolder in our denunciation of progressive teachings.  The general tenor of the message Dr. Watson shared in Virginia pointed to the reality that this “expressive individualism” has supplanted ecclesiological authority in the message and actions of many United Methodist leaders.  He even mentioned his experience with one United Methodist pastor who refuted the incarnation of Christ by quoting Marcus Borg saying, “a finger pointing at the moon is not the moon.”  The pastor was saying Jesus was not the very Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, but just a man pointing people to God. 
            This is not the Christian faith.  Progressive teaching is a modern blending of some of the heresies which have plagued the church in one form or another throughout much of our 2000 year existence.  Antinomianism, Arianism, and Pelagianism are just some of the old heresies raising their respective heads in the progressive teaching within the United Methodist Church and other denominations.   First, let me say I know many United Methodists, even traditional United Methodists, who have a hard time thinking of Pelagius as a heretic.  There are many reasons for this, but one of their main issues is the concept of “perfection,” which Pelagius seems to share with John Wesley.  I believe there are major differences between Pelagius and Wesley regarding their understandings of perfection.  Wesley’s concept of perfection is rooted in grace, whereas I think Pelagius’ ideas were more rooted in human determination and will.  Some disagree and are likely to tell you differently, so I don’t want to belabor the point by making too much out of the person of Pelagius.  The point is that whether Pelagius was a heretic or not the teaching known as Pelagianism, as it was understood by the church, was heretical.  It taught moral perfection, as a result of human determination and will, was possible.  Grace was not needed in order to achieve salvation.[i]  Pelagianism was and is an attack on the doctrine of Original Sin, the teaching that humans are born with the infection of sin through our first parents, Adam and Eve.  Interestingly, progressive teaching turns this on its head when it tells us people are born oriented toward homosexual behavior.  It fails to acknowledge Original Sin as the most biblical and theological answer for the nature of such an orientation.  Such teaching expects believers to accept that one’s homosexual, bisexual or transexual orientation at birth, and anytime thereafter really, is a good gift of God.  This doesn't agree with the Bible which plainly states that certain sexual desires can be and in many instances are "an exchange of the truth of God for a lie.”[ii]  It is a complete denial that sin as an infection is part of the human condition we all have to deal with, and the reason we stand in need of salvation through Christ.
Arianism, was an attack on the nature of Christ as the second person of the Trinity, the unique son of God.  Arius taught that Christ was created and therefore not eternal thus not God in the flesh.  He was merely someone, created prior to the rest of us, who pointed us to God.[iii]  We see this in the statements of people like the pastor Dr. Watson encountered who equated Christ to “a finger pointing at the moon.”  According to much of progressive teaching we are supposed to believe the faith Christ taught was not a faith that looked for salvation in his life, death and resurrection, but only in the teachings and lifestyle he espoused.  His death was only an example, and his resurrection only a spiritual reality not rooted in historical fact.  This was the heretical position of former Bishop Joe Sprague of the Norther Illinois Conference in the 1990s and early 2000s, for which he was charged but acquitted. 
When this false teaching about Christ’s nature is fleshed out we begin to see how neatly this fits with the revival of Pelagianism and its refutation of Original Sin.   If there is no original sin then there is no need of salvation in the historical death and resurrection of Jesus.  People are essentially good without the infection of sin and have no need for a cure.  This fits fairly well with a neo-Arianism which doesn’t provide one.  There is only an example to follow, which encourages emotional spiritual expression and work for societal acceptance, but little personal behavioral transformation and in the end no real social transformation.
This all of course has given birth to Antinomianism, which primarily views grace as a license to sin as it discards any concern about the use of the moral law of Scripture.[iv]  John Wesley attacked the antinomianism which was so prevalent in the various teachings of the church in 18th century England.  Whether it was among some of the Moravians who dispensed with all the means of grace until the Spirit moved them, or among the Calvinists whom he thought encouraged it, Wesley countered antinomian teaching by demanding that Methodists seek personal, behavioral and social transformation through participating in all the means of grace, and looking to the Spirit to grant them power to fulfill the moral law.[v]  When entire Annual Conferences pass resolutions to resist orthodox Christian teaching and affirm all expressions of sexuality across the LGBTQ spectrum there is little doubt antinomianism is alive and well in United Methodism and we are out of step with our historical fathers of the faith.
This is not the historic Christian teaching which says the power and presence of the Holy Spirit are given to generate new birth and new energy for holy living.  It is heretical and regressive, not progressive and new.  It is time orthodox Christians come together and condemn this heresy which plagues the church.  Separation is desirable and necessary at this point in the church’s life, but on what basis can we call for separation unless we’re willing to say this non-orthodox teaching is heretical?  If it is just a difference of opinion, as one leading seminary professor has suggested, we have no basis to call for separation, and I’m afraid won’t get much of a hearing from the average person in the pew.  But if we explain it and call it what it is then we have a solid foundation on which to stand and I believe faithful United Methodists will rally to us.
It goes without saying that condemning people is never our prerogative, but condemning false teaching is the responsibility of faithful Christian leaders.  Did not Paul condemn any gospel that refuted his own even if it should be taught by an angel from heaven?[vi]  He urged Timothy to “command certain men not to teach false doctrines,”[vii] and to “correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction.”[viii]  Even Jesus instructed his followers to "beware of false prophets" and find ways to provide correction to one another.[ix]  It is our duty not only to treat everyone with dignity and respect but most certainly to condemn such teaching as heresy and to inform faithful United Methodists about what exactly is at stake.



[i] B. L. Shelley, “Pelagius, Pelagianism” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd ed., ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids, MI:  Baker Academic, 2001), 897.
[ii] Romans 1:25
[iii] V. L. Walter, “Arius, Arianism” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd ed., ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids, MI:  Baker Academic, 2001), 95.
[iv] R. D. Linder, “Antinomianism” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd ed., ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids, MI:  Baker Academic, 2001), 70-71.
[v] Richard P. Heitzenrater, Wesley and the People Called Methodists (Nashville TN: Abingdon Press, 1995) 106-107.
[vi] Galatians 1:8
[vii] 1 Timothy 1:3
[viii] 2 Timothy 4:2
[ix] Matthew 7:15; 18:15-17

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

My sermons on SoundCloud

https://soundcloud.com/brandon-fulmer-423196179

Unfortunately, I can't just add a hyperlink in the body of the text here(if anybody knows how I can do that please inform me, I'm not the most tech savvy guy), but you can access it one of two ways.  You can either copy and paste it into your browser and go straight to the page, or you can highlight the address then right click your mouse and select the "Go To" option.  Either way I hope you take a listen.  Currently there is a series from the book of Revelation up for you to listen to.

Thanks.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Save The Center

This Annual Conference season in the United Methodist Church has seen a stark increase of centrist/progressive delegates to GC 2020. It is generally believed that UMCNext is trying to change the decisions from the special called General Conference in February 2019. I’m beginning to wonder if it isn't also part of their plan of separation.

What I mean is that there is a true United Methodist center, and it isn’t the clergy who call themselves centrist or moderates. There are thousands of laity in the pews who are not nearly so plugged in to what is going on beyond their local church. If you were to interview them, they would mostly be traditional, but for many of them they are primarily United Methodist Christians. This is their identity as Christians. The UMCNext folks know this, which is why they are so desperately trying to establish their position as the real United Methodist Church.

Unfortunately, UMCNext is controlling the narrative right now. With the help of local and national media outlets, as well as local Annual Conference publications, they are making the case that they are the real United Methodist Church.  And by electing a large contingent of our American delegation they will be the loudest American voices at GC2020.  They’re out in front on this, and I’m afraid many of these unengaged United Methodists sitting in the pews are hearing their narrative, not the classic Christian message traditionalists are standing firmly upon. I’m trying not to be too skeptical, but I’m real concerned about leaving people behind. I’m concerned about how to get the message out so that people in churches served by so-called centrist pastors aren’t led astray. I mean let’s face it the folks at GoodNews, the IRD, the WCA, and Chris Ritter’s blog post UM Fallout are about the only places you can go to get the traditionalist side of the story. Meanwhile UMCNext and their allies have CNN, NPR, PBS and nearly all the major news outlets helping to tell their side of the story. By doing so they are beating traditionalists to the unengaged United Methodist center. I’ll even say that having true far left progressives like Dorothee Benz and Chett Pritchett bow out may help their case. They can say, “See, we are the true center, not too far left, not too far right, just loving of everyone."  And of course they can add, "look what the traditionalists do to people," as if we’ve done anything but stand on the word of God. Many good people won’t know much more because as I’ve said that’s the only side of the story they’re going to get.

I’m just saying I’m concerned about what’s going to happen with these folks in the center. I don’t want to see them left behind because they aren’t getting the whole story. I know we have to trust God, but it seems right to me that we have to fight for them. We have to try and get the message out there in greater quantities. We have to start thinking about saving the center.

Monday, June 4, 2012


Pictures from Some Trips I've Made....Just Fun Stuff

We've got me in Savannah and some pics from trips to the mountains and to the Charleston area.

This is Ethan Anderson.  He's the oldest son of my friends Sean and Michele.  He's much older than this now, but I like this picture a lot.  This was about 10 years ago I think, I'm not sure.  I like the picture because at the time it seemed like a reminder to me that God would bless me with a child of my own.  I couldn't imagine how much my I would enjoy my little girl.  I'll post some pictures of her sometime.