Andrew Thompson has written a great article on the relationship between the Holy Spirit and Scripture. Many people claim to be following the Spirit, but what does that mean?
The Word and The Spirit
Many of the more contentious arguments in the church today are over social issues. That has certainly been the case for the United Methodist Church — the church I call home. Nowhere have the UMC’s internal debates over such issues been on clearer display than during its recent General Conference in Portland, Oregon.
The General Conference is the representative body of the 13+ million-member UMC. It meets once every four years. General Conference equips the general church for ministry by ordering its life and funding its ministries. It is also the body within the church that has the authority to write or alter canon law, which for Methodists is held in our Book of Discipline. So at least theoretically, the General Conference can vote to change everything from the church’s doctrinal understanding of the Trinity to how a local congregation handles estate bequests (though in the case of core Christian doctrine the bar on any substantive change is much higher and more complicated than a simple majority vote).
Recent sessions of the General Conference have tended to be galvanized by debates around how to understand various expressions of human sexuality and sexual practice. Because of some specific language used in the Book of Discipline, the presenting issues are almost always related to either the definition of marriage or the qualification for candidates seeking ordination as a deacon or elder. The language preferred by left-leaning reformists in these debates centers around advocacy for “full inclusion.” It is a somewhat vague term that certainly implies changes to the church’s teaching on marriage and ordination but could also relate to any number of other issues.