A Journey of Faith: The Battle for Biblical Truths in the Modern Church

I grew up in Panama, Central America, and my parents brought us up in the Catholic church. My great grandmother was a member of a Baptist church, and I often went to church with her after Catholic Mass on Sundays. In our extended family, it did not matter how old you were and what you did the night before, Grandma always made sure everyone living in her house went to Mass on Sundays. I was always interested in the things of God. I enjoyed going to church.

In 1976, my parents sent my sister and me to live with our aunt and uncle in Hempstead, NY for two years. I recall putting on my clothes and walking to church by myself during my early years in Hempstead. I have always had a “healthy” respect and reverence of God. I believed His Word. I wanted to please Him and be a good Christian.

I stayed in the Catholic Church until 1986, when I started attending a non-denominational church. I received the Lord Jesus Christ at a Christmas Cantata in 1987 at a church in Brooklyn, New York. I immediately joined the Children’s Ministry and found a group of wonderful women who worked hard to bring a great Bible lesson and activities to the 9–11-year-old students twice a month. This was a special time in my life. I felt remarkably close to the Lord and my walk with Him was extraordinarily strong.

I moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1991 to attend Oral Roberts University. It was there that I met my husband. We married in 1995, and I became a member of a Pentecostal denomination. My faith in God and my walk with God have always been important to me. I have been seeking Him since early childhood, and I always wanted to be sure I was obedient to Him and followed what I sensed was His will for my life.

In 2021, I met a female pastor in the Methodist Church, and she spoke very highly of the Methodist Church being a connectional church steeped in tradition and adherence to Scripture. I was also impressed that the Methodist Church allowed women in pastoral ministry. After all the turmoil with the COVID lockdowns, riots, looting, violence, and so many uncertainties we faced as a community and nation, I was longing to make meaningful “connections” – to feel grounded and anchored in God, and most importantly, to return to a traditional way of worship. I was yearning for an established place to plant myself and my family.

The female pastor connected me to a local United Methodist Church (UMC) pastor in the Spring of 2021. Later, we joined the church, and it was everything I needed. Our children loved attending the children’s ministry. What’s more, on each Sunday I attended, the Holy Spirit ministered to me through the preached Word. I always left inspired and encouraged. I felt anchored, supported, accepted, and connected.

I wanted to serve. I was seeking God to learn His will and my place within the Methodist Church. I asked our pastor to help me find my “place” within the UMC and to mentor me. He agreed. He proceeded to bring me up to date on the controversy about the United Methodist Church’s inevitable split. He gave me the abbreviated history of the schism and the impact on our church. He stated that the United Methodist Church is no longer able to function effectively at the general church level and is now on a path to a denominational divide.

Methodists are irreconcilably divided on their theological views concerning core Christian beliefs like the divinity of Jesus Christ, Scripture as the inspired Word of God, and Biblical authority on matters like human sexuality and marriage. Furthermore, the changes we see today started decades ago with the introduction of liberal theology in seminaries and the church.

Liberals became embedded in the UMC’s agencies and leadership, and the UMC’s core beliefs and doctrines have been under constant attack. These agents of division sought to dismantle the long-held beliefs and doctrines to promote a more progressive theology. They advocated for more liberal beliefs concerning human sexuality.

Over the past twenty years, the UMC has endured unending conflict, rebellion, disobedience, and vitriol. This eventually reached a breaking point, and in 2016 a call for a denominational split was issued. Later, the conflict reached a fever pitch as the progressive and centrist leaders intensified their demands to divide the UMC during the 2019 General Conference meeting.

United Methodist Church doctrine states that marriage is between one man and one woman, and clergy must adhere to it. This is the core of the division in the UMC. In 2019 – at a UMC conference – delegates voted 438-384 to strengthen bans on LGBTQ-inclusive practices, yet many moderates and liberal clergy did not abide by the bans. The differences between the moderate and liberal clergy and the conservative clergy over same-sex marriage and the ordination of LGBTQ clergy have come to be an insolvable problem. Therefore, various factions introduced proposals to allow the UMC to split along theological lines.

As a new member of the United Methodist Church and a new delegate of the Texas Annual Conference (which was held in Houston from May 29 to June 1, 2022), it grieved me to witness the division within the church. As I sat through the meetings, I witnessed secularism invading the church. Secularism is subverting the “core” values and doctrine of the UMC. Secularism might have a place in the culture, but not in the Church. LGBTQ activists are demanding that the UMC marry same sex couples and that they ordain gay pastors, which is clearly against the United Methodist Church’s Book of Discipline.

We have witnessed the heavily funded LGBTQ groups and lobbyists push their agenda within the media, corporate America, K-12 education, institutions of higher learning, government, entertainment, and every facet of our culture. The LGBTQ activists have infiltrated every facet of our culture and have sought to normalize their sexually deviant behavior. The Church – and its long-held traditional values – is the last stronghold these activists need to destroy in order to secure their cultural hegemony.

The LGBTQ activists want the masses to believe that those who do not support secularizing the Holy Scriptures to accept same-sex marriage and the ordination of gay pastors are old, outdated, homophobic people who need to be silenced.

In fact, at the Texas Annual Conference, one of the resolutions that we had to vote on was a policy to prevent hate speech. Below is some of the language of the resolution that was discussed and put to a vote:

“Whereas, we define hate speech as disparaging and/or dehumanizing remarks against people on the basis of age, race, ethnicity, sex, gender identity, gender expression, body size, sexual orientation, disability, education, or socioeconomic status; or speech that in any way contributes to ‘othering;’ Whereas, the use of hate speech and inflammatory language sometimes occurs at gatherings of the Texas Annual Conference, causing pain for many, dismissing Jesus’ instruction to love our neighbor as ourselves, and diminishing our Christian witness to each other and the world; Whereas, the large majority of hate speech and inflammatory language has been aimed at LGBTQ+ persons, past speeches have also included derogatory comments that demean women, body size, and those who experience poverty…”

We heard speeches for and against this resolution, and thankfully the delegates voted it down by a good majority. This stunt was nothing short of an effort to take away our freedom of speech within the UMC. Had this resolution passed, it would have made it impossible for pastors to preach the uncompromised word of God without being condemned for hate speech.

I sat there in disbelief. Had we reached a place where those who disagree on the issue of same sex marriage and the ordination of gay pastors can be silenced in the Church? I asked myself, “What is our Church’s mission? Aren’t we charged to preach the word and make disciples? Aren’t we admonished to be a witness for Jesus?”

I wondered why the sexual orientation of some individuals should usurp what God has already commanded in His word for us as His children. Why is everything reduced to sex and all things LGBTQ?

Since 2015 – when the US Supreme Court voted to make same-sex marriage the law of our land – Americans have seen that the LGBTQ activists did not stop with marriage. Today, transgender ideology and the indoctrination of school-age children on transgenderism is on display daily. We watch in disbelief as biological men compete in women’s sports and take away the chances of biological women winning scholarships, endorsements, etc. Female athletes are expected to sit quietly as a biological male (with all the strength and speed advantages that entails) is celebrated for his achievements in their sport.

It is only a matter of time before transgenders demand to be married, ordained, and hold leadership positions in the church. Where will it end?

As for the United Methodist Church, they adopted a disaffiliation agreement in 2019, which provided a path for churches to leave the denomination through the end of 2023 “for reasons of conscience” related to the practice of same-sex activity, the ordination of practicing gay people, or same-sex marriage – all of which are forbidden in the church’s Book of Discipline. Currently, over two hundred churches have disaffiliated from the United Methodist Church in various states around the nation. We will see many more churches disaffiliate as they seek to promote Biblical values and uphold the UMC’s Book of Discipline.

My journey to fulfill God’s will for my life and to discover my role within my local church and the broader church, found me as a delegate during one of the most controversial times in the history of the Methodist Church. I have always wanted to serve God and make a difference in the lives of others. I am certain there is a reason I joined the Methodist Church during the time of this controversial split. I lament that the teachings of Christ are not respected, honored, and preserved. However, I am encouraged that there are still some pastors and lay people who will make a bold stand for Christ.

On May 1, 2022, the Global United Methodist Church (GMC) was established. The GMC adheres to orthodox Methodist beliefs and doctrines. It will have a strong emphasis on spreading the Gospel, missions, and support of the local church. It will give local churches more authority but also be held to higher accountability. The GMC will have a simpler governance structure, and bishops will have term limits and be accountable to the Church for their leadership.

The United Methodist Church (and the Christian Church in a more general sense) must operate differently than the world. It must be a place where traditions are honored, and where the teaching of Holy Scripture is not considered hate speech. It should be a community of people who are anchored in Christ and connected with each other in the spirit of brotherly love and service.

More importantly, the Church should be a safe place for children to grow in the Holy things of God. If children develop in the fear and admonition of the Lord, we can expect them to live a life of integrity. The godly walk with integrity, blessed are their children who follow them (Proverbs 20:7).

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Dr Deborah Owens

Dr. Deborah Owens is the Executive Director of the Coalition of Americans for Action and Principles (CAAP).  As CAAP’s Executive Director, Dr. Owens has worked to expand the organization’s grassroots outreach, leading the boycott of Nike, gathering support for the confirmations of Justices Kavanaugh and Gorsuch, and launching petitions in support of religious freedom. An author, lecturer, and education consultant, Dr. Owens co-wrote A Dream Derailed with her husband, Rev, Bill Owens. She is also the co-host of CAAP’s online show, “Wisdom for Today.” Dr. Owens received a B.B.A. from Oral Roberts University, M.S. in Education from Christian Brothers University, and Ed.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy from Vanderbilt University. She and her husband, Bill, live in Texas with their two children, David and Charisma.