Christian Response To Migrant Syrian



(This post is by A.J. Nolte, a Washington, D.C. Anglican writer with a Ph.D. in world politics from Catholic University. He graduated from and has been an adjunct professor at Messiah College.)..

The current controversy over admitting Syrian refugees into the country raises some very challenging questions for Evangelical Christians. On the one hand, for all the trite ways in which many verses about loving your neighbor and protecting the stranger have been used in this recent debate, there is, and rightly ought to be, a very real humanitarian streak in Evangelical foreign policy. On the other, many politicians often trusted by and associated with Evangelicals, Republicans in particular, have shown a deep and immediate skepticism to accepting refugees, with the support of what appears to be a majority of the public. President Obama’s hectoring and rather self-righteous tone, seemingly designed to alienate more than to persuade, has doubtless played its own role in current Evangelical ambivalence. Evangelicals have many reasons to be ambivalent, for both Republicans and the President have handled recent events poorly.

Christians can, and should, take pride in the active role played by organizations affiliated with our faith in refugee resettlement. There is a humanitarian duty for Christians to act—particularly given the way our brothers and sisters in Christ have been driven out of their homes by this crisis—and we ought not to shrink away from that duty. It is difficult to attribute much current, knee-jerk reaction against refugees to any source but fear. Both a Christian sensibility and the evidence of history suggest that policies based primarily on fear, particularly policies adopted quickly and in the face of tragedy, are rarely wise. I’m reminded of the post-Newtown gun control legislation rushed through the New York state house and senate that conspicuously forgot to exempt police. Recent ridiculous and unconstitutional comments by Donald Trump about establishing a database of Muslims [later disavowed] illustrate the dangers of crafting policy on the fly, and in response to public fear. Finally, the response is foolish on pragmatic grounds. As Walter Russell Mead and Noah Rothman have argued, the refugee issue has been cynically manipulated by the Obama administration to distract attention from the failure of our policy with respect to ISIS (more on which below). Every moment Republicans spend talking about refugees is a moment in which they are playing into the politics of division and distraction, and are failing to address the role our failed policies have played in causing the crisis in the first place. Thus, even if they succeed in blocking the President’s policies, Republicans are allowing him to play the aggrieved martyr constrained by xenophobia, rather than admit to and grapple with his own profound policy failures.

Nonetheless there are a few grave concerns Christians ought to express regarding the Administration’s refugee plans. First, there is the question of screening. The refugee and asylum-seeker screening process is arduous, and evaluates claims on a case by case basis. While the number of refugees the administration plans to admit is fairly small, the stated desire to circumvent the normal refugee process is a bit concerning. Indeed, a policy of more refugees and better screening might be preferable to the Administration’s current approach. Additionally, in light of other recent government failures from the VA scandal to the OPM hack, vague assurances that things are under control do not seem credible. Christians are not uncompassionate for seeking a policy that is both humane and reasonably secure.

Two other issues are particularly salient to Christians: the character of the refugees and that of the organizations that provide services to them. Nina Shea and others have thoroughly documented the persecution of religious minorities not only in their country of origin, but in the UN camps in neighboring countries and Europe. Calls to accept only Christian refugees are unwarranted, and would unfairly exclude other religious minorities, such as Alawites and Yazidis, who face equivalent persecution. Yet some provision should be made to give preference to members of persecuted minorities. Contrary to many ridiculous claims that this represents a “religious test,” such a policy is entirely in keeping with past refugee policy, notably the emigration of Russian Jews under the 1970s-era Jackson-Vanik Amendment. The appointment of Knox Thames, a veteran of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, as a State Department Special Advisor for religious minorities in the Near East and South-Central Asia, is a good start, but as Shea reports, the number of Christians and Yazidis admitted since the conflict began is in double digits; this must change.

One issue that has not been discussed is the character of organizations that aid refugees, a majority of which are faith-based. The Obama Administration’s track record of respect for faith-based charitable organizations is poor, to say the least. Even when such organizations are coping with crises such as providing services to victims of human trafficking and unaccompanied minors crossing the border religious organizations have been penalized for acting according to their religious conscience. Faith-based organizations should receive some assurance from the Obama Administration that the President’s other ideological goals will not take precedent over the provision of services to refugees.

Finally, it is essential that all of us, Christian and non-Christian alike, return to the central underlying issue: our failed strategy against ISIS. We must recognize that, without the destruction of ISIS, a political solution in Syria and Iraq is impossible, and hence, the refugee crisis, as well as the broader crisis of annihilation faced by our brothers and sisters in these countries, cannot be resolved. We must also recognize that our current anti-ISIS strategy has demonstrably failed. It is long past time for a reappraisal of this strategy, the flawed assumptions underpinning it, and the necessary strategic changes we must make if ISIS is to be defeated. This reappraisal will be the subject of my next post.

Liberal United Methodists “Not Optimistic” about Future of Denomination


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Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

By John Lomperis (@JohnLomperis)

As more and more liberal United Methodists admit that they are “not optimistic” about the direction of our denomination, they are increasingly mulling over their future options.

“[T]here is there is no indication that given the present structure of our United Methodist Church the official policies and positions” which affirm biblical standards on sexual morality “will change.”

That declaration was made in a resolution adopted in 2012 by the heterodox-dominated New York Conference of the United Methodist Church and reaffirmed by the 2013 session of the same conference last month.

Meanwhile, in its March Katalyst newsletter, the Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN), the main caucus agitating for United Methodist endorsement of homosexual practice (as well as other varieties of sex outside of man-woman marriage), revealed that through a recent large-scale survey, they have learned that now its own constituency is divided in half between those who are committed to staying within the denomination and angrily fighting other United Methodists to the bitter end and others who say, in one representative comment, that they are “[d]one waiting four more years” for the next United Methodist General Conference to  liberalize church policies and that “RMN should be helping people talk about separation.”

Our denomination’s last governing General Conference, which met in Tampa, Florida, in 2012, was dubbed by heterodox activists as “the most conservative General Conference ever,” affirming biblical standards for sexual morality by a GROWING majority, and with many further points of evangelical reform only being stymied (until next time) by indefensibly Machiavellian, anti-Golden-Rule tactics shamelessly adopted by the liberal protest caucuses.

As we have reported earlier, in response to the United Methodist Church increasingly being liberated from the theological liberalism which has oppressively dominated our denomination for decades, last year two of the most heterodox-dominated United Methodist conferences, New York and California-Nevada, adopted identically entitled resolutions calling for “A Study Committee for an Inclusive Conference” to promote structural alternatives for heterodox United Methodists. The California-Nevada resolution openly mentions the creation of a new, liberal Methodist denomination as one option for such an alternative structure, while the 2012 New York resolution drew encouragement from other oldline denominations that have caved in to the sexual revolution.

Liberal New York City-area United Methodists are now making clear that such talk is more substantial and sustained among heterodox United Methodists than a short-lived emotional outburst.

The New York Annual Conference Study Committee on a More Inclusive Church was structured to exclude supporters of biblical teaching on sexual morality. After a year of regular meetings, this Study Committee is maturing into its next stage. Its 2013 resolution, adopted by the Annual Conference session, reiterated the 2012 resolution’s protest of General Conference’s orthodoxy on sexual morality, expressed fear over what future General Conferences may do, and called for all United Methodist congregations in the conference to send a representative to a November 16 forum to discuss the evolving, heterodox-led movement for structural alternatives.

On the one hand, the Study Committee expresses a commitment to making the United Methodist Church more sexually liberal, and neither its report nor its resolutions explicitly endorse schism as a possibility.

But on the other hand, the Study Committee’s report states “We are not optimistic that there will be a timely openness to change that would make greater LBGT inclusiveness possible, given the present disposition of the General Conference….” The report shares that the Study Committee “took comfort and courage from” looking at how John Wesley’s strong prejudice against church schism was balanced with his conviction that he “should be under an absolute necessity to separate from” a body of Christians if the price of remaining was “lying and hypocrisy,” preaching contrary to his own beliefs, or other perceived sins of commission or omission. Thus, the group is “consider[ing] ways we might remain in communion with The United Methodist Church, but with the ability to establish enough room for the inclusiveness to which we are committed.” In these efforts, they are “actively networking with other Jurisdictions and Conferences across the connection that share our goals” of “loyalty to our denomination, tempered by our growing unwillingness to participate in the on‐going and in our view discriminatory exclusion” of homosexually active clergy candidates.

Of course, an independent new denomination could both be “in communion” with the United Methodist Church while doing whatever it pleases in terms of its internal policies on sexual morality and other matters. It is not clear what other long-term, sustainable, and politically realistic options would meet the standard of both “remain[ing] in communion with The United Methodist Church” and “establishing enough room” to have official, sexually liberal policies.

For over four decades, activists in the “Reconciling” movement have devoted massive amounts of time, energy, and money to try to get General Conference to directly liberalize our denomination’s governing Book of Discipline – only to lose a large and growing amount of ground on that front.

A few years ago, such liberal activists eagerly championed the informally nicknamed “Global Segregation Plan,” which would have given United Methodists in the United States some freedom to set their own policies without the input of largely orthodox African United Methodists. But that plan went down in flames as evangelical United Methodists in America understood why sexually liberals were so eager for it while United Methodists in Sub-Saharan Africa understood that its primary practical effect would be to drastically squelch their voice in denominational affairs. An effort by the Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA), a liberal caucus group, to revive a version of this plan at the 2012 General Conference received a grand total of five supportive votes in a committee of 62 delegates.

At last summer’s Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference, a liberal clergywoman’s resolution to “Eliminate Jurisdictional Conferences” was referred to that jurisdiction’s College of Bishops. At last month’s New York Annual Conference session, the conference Study Committee on a More Inclusive Church submitted a resolution “expressing concern” that the Northeastern bishops have not prioritized this and demanding to know why they are taking so long. But even if cleverly framed as an effort “to eliminate jurisdictional conferences,” such proposals to create a new national US-only church structure devoid of international input amount to little more than thinly disguised attempts to resurrect the already rather dead Global Segregation Plan.

In any case, it will be interesting to see what happens with such conversations increasingly taking place throughout what can already be fairly described as the Not-So-United Methodist Church.

Disciples of Christ Denomination Affirms Sexual Liberalism, Transgenderism


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Members of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) met July 13-17 in Orlando. (Photo credit: Jennie Adams/Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Members of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) met July 13-17 in Orlando. (Photo credit: Jennie Adams/Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Contact:  Jeff Walton 202-682-4131, 202-413-5639 cell

“By embracing sexual liberalism and Gnosticism,  the Disciples have further sidelined their church. Exalting Western notions of radically individual moral autonomy above shared understandings of the faith alienates many of the denomination’s own members.
-IRD President Mark Tooley

Washington, DC— The General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has joined with several other oldline Protestant denominations in embracing sexual orientation and gender identity as specially affirmed categories in the church. At their meeting July 13-17 in Orlando, Florida, the church’s governing body passed a resolution listing sexual orientation and gender identity alongside race, age and other categories to which the denomination is “striving to become a people of grace and welcome.”

The resolution also affirms the “faith, baptism and spiritual gifts of all Christians regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity” and states that neither is “grounds for exclusion from fellowship or service within the church” but celebrated as “part of God’s good creation.” This statement implies affirmation of clergy sexually active outside traditional marriage. The Disciples have a very congregationalist polity with nearly all ministry decisions made at the local church.  So the new denominational stance is mostly symbolic.

The Disciples of Christ are the smallest of seven Protestant churches historically classified as Mainline. The denomination has lost two-thirds of its once nearly 2 million membership since the 1960s and currently lists 639,500 members. Prominent members have included Presidents Ronald Reagan, Lyndon Johnson and James Garfield.

IRD President Mark Tooley commented:

“While the resolution calls for the ‘welcome of and hospitality to all,’ the Disciples of Christ include far fewer members than at any time in their modern history.

“The mainstream of U.S. and global Christianity still holds strongly to traditional Christian teaching upholding the marriage of man and woman as the standard for Christian sexual behavior.  Universal Christianity also rejects the Gnostic idea that “gender identity” is fluid and self-determined.

“By embracing sexual liberalism and Gnosticism, the Disciples have further sidelined their church. Exalting Western notions of radically individual moral autonomy above shared understandings of the faith alienates many of the denomination’s own members. The Disciples of Christ now follow the United Church of Christ and the Episcopal Church on the road to even greater theological marginalization, internal division and accelerating membership loss.”

Institute on Religion & Democracy Live Stream

Dr. Phillip Bethancourt, Director of Strategic Initiatives at the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission will discuss how Christians should approach the often troubling violence found in the Old Testament.

The live stream will begin at 12:00pm Eastern Time.

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