Hillary Clinton’s Church Problem

We Catholics constantly deal with questions about pro-abortion or pro-“gay marriage” Catholic politicians and their conflict with Church teaching. The likes of a Nancy Pelosi or Andrew Cuomo or Kathleen Sebelius are regularly called out. During the 2004 presidential race, Democratic nominee John Kerry, a lifetime Roman Catholic, was strongly criticized for his support of abortion policies. Kerry arguably lost the presidency because he lost the votes of people of his own faith.

And yet, few seem to have noticed that the presumptive 2016 Democratic nominee for president likewise faces a major conflict with her faith. That nominee is, of course, Hillary Clinton, a lifetime self-proclaimed “old-fashioned Methodist” who has long raved about how she is “so comfortable” and so content in her denomination, the United Methodist Church.

Two particularly significant things just happened at the major conference of the general assembly of the United Methodist Church, two crucial moves that stand in direct opposition to Hillary Clinton’s longtime militancy for “abortion rights” and her growing radicalism for the “LGBTQ” agenda, including her recent conversion to the same-sex “marriage” movement.

Every four years the United Methodist Church general assembly meets, where “truth” is, in plain fact, effectively determined by democratic vote among those assembled. I’m not exaggerating. There is no Magisterium for Methodists. Truth is determined by which side (the church’s liberals or conservatives) succeeds in bringing in more people to vote for their view of doctrine.

To a Catholic, this would be a maddeningly confusing way of determining truth. It has also been maddening for traditional Methodists. Really, the best line of the entire conference this year came from a delegate who observed, “I believe we are confusing God at this point.”

Yes, I imagine so. Or, actually, I would hazard to say that God understands everything that’s going on perfectly well—all too well.

A battleground at these conferences every four years has erupted between the American liberals who for decades have tugged the church leftward and the more orthodox/conservative African delegation. Two conferences ago, the liberals—those claiming to champion “diversity,” ironically—deliberately held critical votes on the hot-button moral-social matters before the Africans got there. This was an outrage. I know traditional Methodists who since then have worked with the Africans to ensure they are never again blocked out.

As for 2016, we have been anxiously waiting to see if the United Methodist Church would take the dive on same-sex “marriage,” joining the three liberal mainline denominations, the Episcopal Church, the United Church of Christ (which was Barack Obama’s denomination), and Presbyterian Church USA. As for abortion, the United Methodist Church lurched left some time ago, joining the scandalous Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC), a group of left-wing religious believers convinced that Jesus Christ would honor their belief in a sacred “right to choose.” This blasphemous group might well be the single greatest embarrassment to Christianity by Christians—though not to a Christian named Hillary Clinton. As someone who wrote an entire book on the faith of Hillary Clinton, I can attest that one of the reasons she is “so comfortable” in the United Methodist Church has been the church’s abortion liberalism. But alas, that has suddenly changed.

There was great news at the United Methodist Church’s gathering at this conference this year in Portland. The diversity-proclaiming liberals did not succeed in shutting out the huge contingent of African Methodists from their rightful representation—which have been especially unjust given that the denomination’s growth is in Africa, where it is exploding, contrary to America, where it is imploding. One source told me that “overseas delegates” made up 41 percent of the delegates this year, and that the crucial victories would have been “impossible without them.” In a blessed moment, the assembly voted overwhelmingly (and surprisingly) to withdraw from the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. The conference also rejected a resolution titled “Responsible Parenthood,” which would have once again further advanced “abortion rights” in the name of John Wesley.

This is a big, big deal. The headline in the pro-life flagship publication, LifeNews.com, reported it this way, “United Methodist Church Quits Pro-Abortion Coalition After Years of Promoting Abortion.”

But that wasn’t all that the United Methodist Church did. By a much narrower margin, but a majority nonetheless, the church did not repudiate its historic position on marriage, despite angry shouts by “LGBTQ” Methodist activists. The slim majority thereby affirmed the United Methodist Church’s official Book of Discipline, which states explicitly: “We affirm the sanctity of the marriage covenant that is expressed in love, mutual support, personal commitment, and shared fidelity between a man and a woman.” The Book of Discipline also states: “The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.”

To be sure, what the assembly actually did was far from a perfect solution or a triumph of orthodoxy, as it agreed to defer these sexual-marriage matters until after a committee studies the subject. Nonetheless, as noted by Mark Tooley, a veteran observer of these Methodist battles, “what had initially seemed potentially bad” instead turned out to be “mostly on the whole, good.” Indeed, given the recent drift in the church, things could have been far worse. (Personally, I was very pessimistic.) The deferral is probably the best if not only alternative for now. The action taken in Portland might allow the church to hang on until the next blow-up in four years in Minneapolis. By then, the American church will have shed still more members and the international element will be even stronger, increasing the chances of natural-Biblical marriage being affirmed rather than undermined by the nature-Bible redefiners in the Methodist church.

And so, here is this big issue as related to the 2016 presidential race. All of this relates intimately to Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee who proudly calls herself a committed Methodist. Will Hillary now follow the lead of her church and soften her fanatical position on abortion? Will she back off her push to redefine marriage? How does a self-described “old-fashioned Methodist” merrily take the liberty of redefining marriage and advocating unlimited “abortion rights?”

She will not change one bit. Not a chance.

But nonetheless, what happened at the United Methodist Church conference is very important and cannot be ignored. It now places Hillary Clinton’s cultural radicalism in direct and rising defiance of her own church and its teachings.

Editor’s note: In the photo above, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks on the occasion of the 200-year anniversary of the Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C. in September 2015. (Photo credit: Molly Riley / AP)

Paul Kengor

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Paul Kengor is Professor of Political Science at Grove City College, executive director of The Center for Vision & Values, and author of many books including The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis, The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor and Takedown: From Communists to Progressives, How the Left Has Sabotaged Family and Marriage (2015). His new book, A Pope and a President explores the extraordinary relationship between Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul II, and their joint effort to defeat Soviet communism.

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