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Journal of Creation 33(2):113–120, August 2019

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A history of the United Methodist Church’s opposition to creationism and intelligent design

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The United Methodist Church’s opposition to both creationism and intelligent design was reviewed. It was concluded that the membership is generally in support of the creation worldview, but the high-level leadership, especially the bishops, in general, support the Darwinian worldview and oppose the creation worldview. According to its website, the church’s official policy is that all life, including humans, evolved from a common ancestor by the accumulation of mutations selected by the survival-of-the-fittest mechanism called natural selection.


wikipedia.orgjohn-wesley
John Wesley 1703-1791

For much of the last century, the United Methodist Church (UMC) leadership has played an important role in the pro-Darwinian, anti-creation/intelligent design movements. The United Methodist Church was formed in 1968 as a result of a merger of the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church. The 1800s Methodist Church split over slavery is not covered here except to note the split was not only their view of slavery, but also creationism and other topics.1 The UMC organisation is episcopal, consequently bishop leadership plays a crucial role in all major church policies. Some leading Methodists accepted Darwinism very early, and “within a decade of the publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species they had found a way to reconcile evolution with the Gospel”.2

Thomas Yorty, in a review of academic Methodist thought, wrote that “use of the argument from design abounds in the [UMC’s] Review. Significantly, however, the [design] argument after 1877 seems to be used as a way to accommodate or modify Darwin’s ideas.”3 Yorty concludes that after 1877 the accommodationists’ view, often articulated as theistic evolution, or where God used evolution to create life, often dominated Methodist academic thought. The role of God in theistic evolution is often fuzzy or even undefined, but this view is often pure Darwinism with a thin veneer of theism. Church historian Robert Chiles wrote after the civil war, “Methodism gave more and more attention to the challenge of science, particularly as expressed by Darwin and the evolutionists. Methodism’s response [then] varied from outraged rejection to cautious acceptance.”4 The most detailed study of the creation issue in the UMC also confirms this.5 Chiles added: “Darwinism could not be ignored or rejected indefinitely and gradually was accepted by making God the dynamic power immanent in man and the universe.”6

Chiles concluded that the most influential Methodist theologians, including William Warren, argued for the “restatement of the evangelical doctrine of sin in terms compatible with scientific and philosophical tenets. [Leading UMC theologians] Bowne, Knudson, and others accepted many of the implications of Darwinism which led to belief in man’s ascent [evolution from apes] but not his fall.”7 Of course, rejecting the Genesis Fall negates Christ’s sacrifice, and thus guts the core of Christianity. Thus, Darwin’s goal to murder God succeeded by replacing God with another creator, namely natural selection and survival-of-the-fittest, with the less fit perishing.

Professor Dawn Digrius, in a review of how theistic evolution became established in Protestant churches, and specifically the UMC, observed that Rev. Lyman Abbott’s mission was to persuade Americans that “science and faith were compatible and … as he and John Fisk believed, ‘Evolution was God’s way of doing things’ and … there had never been any conflict between science and religion, nor was there any need for reconciliation, because harmony had always existed.”8 As an advocate of evolution, Congregationalist Lyman Abbott (1835–1922) naively assumed the scientific evidence supported Darwinism and focused on accommodation of evolution with Protestantism. Church historian William Warren Sweet wrote Abbott was so important that “no religious leader in the modern period has exercised a more abiding influence” on American Protestantism, including on the Methodist Church.9

Digrius then traces the influence of Fisk and Abbott to Methodist minister Lynn Harold Hough (1877–1971), who supported the accommodationists’ view, and taught that Christianity could assimilate evolutionary concepts without compromise. As a dean at Methodist Drew Theological Seminary, where he had been a professor since 1930, and dean since 1934 until he retired in 1947, he was involved in training thousands of ministers and other church leaders.10 Typical of the accommodationists’ view was Robert William Rogers (1864–1930). As Professor of Hebrew and Old Testament Exegesis at Drew, he reconciled Genesis and geology by stratagems such as the “acceptance that six days equals six eons, and that the Bible was a book of religion, not science”.11

The Hough Phelps affair

As a result of the support by Abbott, Hough, and other Darwinists, “by the 1920s evolutionary theory had been generally accepted by liberal American theologians, who ‘adapted their theological positions to it.’”12 The fundamentalist movement challenged the general acceptance of Darwinism which Hough, in turn, challenged by defending evolution. Hough was known to be a man of unusual insight, winning him distinction for his many pursuits, scholarly and theological.13 Hough was listed as one of “the twenty-five most influential preachers in America” by a vote of 25,000 Protestant clergymen.14 Hough’s seminary training and his “exposure to liberal theology and modernism had left him open to accept the validity of Darwinian evolutionary theory”.15

About this time, William H. Phelps, editor of The Michigan Christian Advocate, wrote that the conviction of John T. Scopes in Dayton, Tennessee, produced “careful thinking on the part of every one of us”. He concluded Methodists should “begin to use evolution a bit instead of abusing the scientists!” and to “welcome every hand, scientific or theological, that offers to help us enthrone Christ”.16

As a result of this statement by Phelps, on Monday, 31 August 1925, formal charges were brought against Hough and William H. Phelps by Rev. Bird led by Dr E.J. Warren of the Detroit Conference. Consequently, the Methodist Episcopal Church was forced to respond to the heresy charges. Congregants who agreed with the views of Hough recalled the enthusiasm with which his sermon was received locally. Although the committee was reticent to have the press present at the meeting, Bird demanded media coverage, and the committee reluctantly agreed. Bird declared he opposed the “encroachments of the evolutionary theory upon religion” and believed that “the doctrine of evolution was going to split the church in two”.17

The UMC committee met and recommended the Detroit Conference refuse to even consider Bird’s charges. When the UMC conference received the report, they responded with “loud and prolonged cheering”.18 Widespread coverage of the heresy proceedings strongly supported Hough over Bird. This event was important in solidifying the Darwinists’ position in the UMC. Digrius asserted that those persons like Hough wish to deflate the conflict, a goal that includes groups such as The Clergy Letter Project. Their goal is to bring clergy and scientists together in an effort to convince them that “numerous clergy from most denominations have tremendous respect for evolutionary theory and have embraced it as a core component of human knowledge, fully harmonious with religious faith”.19 In fact, the project’s goal actually silences Darwin critics in the church.

The acceptance of evolution by leaders of the Methodist Church was by no means unanimous. Among those who rejected the Darwinian worldview were L.W. Munhall and Charles Roads, editor and associate editor respectively, of the Eastern Methodist. They wrote: “As to evolution … it is but a hypothesis, un-sensible, unscientific, and unscriptural.”20

The situation today

An example of one who supported Darwinism is Methodist Bishop, Rev. Kenneth Hicks; he supported Darwinian evolution against efforts to rectify the all-too-common indoctrination of this view in public schools, at the famous Arkansas trial.21 The judge, Methodist layman William R. Overton, acknowledged in his decision, dated 5 January 1982, that those who opposed the law (designed to protect teachers who conclude the science evidence against the view that ultimately genetic mutations are our Creator), included the UMC Arkansas Bishop as well as the Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.22

When the 1986 Louisiana Darwinism anti-indoctrination case designed to protect teachers’ right to objectively present the evidence for and against evolution in the classroom was before the Supreme Court, several UMC bishops filed a brief against this bill. Specific Methodists involved included Bishop Kenneth Williams Hicks of the Arkansas UMC Conference and Bishop Frederick C. James of the African Methodist Episcopal Church of Arkansas.23 The editor of the journal Church and State concluded that the support of 12 clergymen, including the Methodist bishops, was critical in the judge’s ruling that resulted in the termination of the careers of many creationists.24

Other Methodists involved in supporting Darwinism include Rev. Earl B. Carter, minister of the United Methodist Church and program director of the North Arkansas UMC Conference; the Rev. George Panner, a UMC minister and program director of the Little Rock Conference of the United Methodist church; and Dr John P. Miles, minister of St. James UMC in Little Rock, Arkansas. Miles was also vice-chair of the aggressively anti-creationism/anti-intelligent design Americans United for Separation of Church and State in Arkansas.25

Americans United have a long record of opposing those who argue against mandated Darwinism indoctrination in public schools. The senate bill they opposed was framed to help prevent Darwinian indoctrination and prohibit the common problem of discrimination against creationist teachers and professors.26 Conversely, the Free Methodist Church of North America, which split from the Methodist church over the issue of slavery, argued against the Darwinian worldview.27

Wellcome Images/CC BY 4.0fig-1
Figure 1. John Wesley (1703-1791), founder of the Methodist denomination.

The major published histories of both the original Methodist Church and the United Methodist Church, including those that cover doctrine, are largely silent on this issue. Even the word evolution is generally not used except to describe changes in church policies, and the word creation is used as a general term for the natural world, usually in connection with environmental issues.28 One historian mentioned only that after the civil war there existed some “virulent opposition to theories of evolution” in the Methodist Church.29 Hymns written by Wesley (figure 1), the founder of Methodism, touched “on every important biblical teaching [including] creation” referring not to creationism but to the beauty in the natural world.30

The official position is Darwinism

The official position of the UMC since at least 2008 is very clear: theistic evolution, which translates into evolution with a thin coat of theism.

“United Methodist General Conference passed three petitions that accept the theory of evolution. One opposes the introduction of any faith-based theories such as creationism or intelligent design into public-school science curricula. The addition made to 160 F of the Social Principles states in part: ‘… science’s descriptions of cosmological, geological, and biological evolution are not in conflict with theology.’ The Book of Resolutions 2008 [figure 2] includes two resolutions that address the topic: #1027, ‘God’s Creation and the Church,’ and #5052, ‘Evolution and Intelligent Design’.”32

Another example officially supporting evolution is in answer to a question published on the official church website: “What is the UMC’s position on evolution?” The answer was: “the official statement is, ‘We find that science’s descriptions of cosmological, geological, and biological evolution are not in conflict with theology.’”31

fig-2
Figure 2. The ‘Methodist Discipline’, which the church is required to uphold, states: “We find that science’s descriptions of cosmological, geological, and biological evolution are not in conflict with theology.”

Under the subtitle “It’s time for people of faith to accept evolution,” we read that the UMC needs

“… to overcome its qualms about evolution for the sake of our children, each other and the future of society … . in accepting the findings of science. Together we need to correct the misconceptions and discard the myths. Eugenie C. Scott, the executive director of the [aggressively anti-creationist] National Center for Science Education, says that rejecting evolution puts at risk the high level of scientific achievement that has helped propel the United States to a position of economic, technological and political leadership. … Delegates to The United Methodist Church’s 2008 General Conference overwhelmingly passed three petitions clarifying the denominational position regarding evolution. One endorses The Clergy Letter Project that provides resources for churches on this subject.”32

To clarify that he is referring to the same process as non-theistic evolutionists accept, Kuelling added: “Scientists investigating biological evolution have concluded that every living thing in existence today … shares a common ancestry from long ago. Evolutionary change involves different processes, including natural selection.”32

“The concept of biological evolution is the fundamental cornerstone—the glue, so to speak—that binds together the biological sciences. …. Within the scientific community, evolution has long been accepted worldwide. Almost every organization of professional scientists has endorsed the teaching of evolution as an integral part of science education. A 2009 poll of U.S. scientists showed that 97 percent accept evolution over creationism; among life and earth scientists, the percentage is even higher (99.85 percent) … . Biology has shown, like it or not, that we share common ancestors with them, perhaps as ‘recently’ as 10 million years ago. We are distant cousins of the apes.”32

He added: “many churches and religious leaders have officially accepted evolution. Regrettably, in many denominations including The United Methodist Church, the news has not reached the entire membership.”32

The Clergy Letter Project was established by atheist Prof. Michael Zimmerman33 to break down some of the barriers to evolution in the church. This organization

“… has been officially endorsed by The United Methodist Church worldwide! The 2008 General Conference added the following statement to The Book of Resolutions: ‘The United Methodist Church endorses The Clergy Letter Project and its reconciliatory programs between religion and science, and urges United Methodist clergy participation.’ This statement was reaffirmed by the 2016 General Conference. … [as found in a statement] entitled ‘The Rightful Place of Science In Church’ by Bishop Sally Dyck, Minnesota Annual Conference, United Methodist Church.34

Atheists especially see the UMC as ‘useful idiots’ for their support and court testimony because atheists in general are fully aware that Darwinism is the doorway to atheism.35 It is for this reason that they frequently publish articles in their publications in favour of Darwinism. By supporting evolution the UMC has planted the seeds of its own demise, as documented by recent surveys. One Pew research poll found over half of all adults under 30 were atheists or agnostic or, at the least, unchurched. According to a 24 August 2016 Pew research poll, a major reason for people being unaffiliated with a church is because of “learning about evolution” in school.36

As penned by one of the most respected writers in America, Yale Ph.D. Tom Wolfe, functional atheist Thomas Henry Huxley (1825–1895), known as Darwin’s bulldog, created the X Club consisting of a group of nine prominent Darwinists, including Oxford Biology Professor Joseph Hooker, who met every month at a restaurant,

“… and set about—very successfully—stacking influential university science faculties with Darwinists. The X Clubbers had a big hand in creating the pro-Darwinist journal Nature (which thrives to this day). They attacked every Darwin doubter the moment he dared raise his voice. That mode of intimidation only intensified over time, leading to what is still known today as ‘the Neo-Darwinist Inquisition’.”37

Furthermore, “Huxley became such an ardent Darwinist not because he believed in Darwin’s theory of natural selection—he never did—but because Darwin was obviously an atheist, just as he [Huxley] was.”37 Thus, the goal of Darwinism from the beginning was a wedge to force theism out of society by social and legal pressure, and replace it with functional atheism.

Beliefs of the laity

Many Methodists have been active in the creation movement and some prominent creationists are Methodists, although the majority of those active in the American creation movement are probably Lutherans and Baptists. One of many examples is Methodist G.W. Pool, who wrote the book The Origin of Man or Evolution or Revolution, Which? to support creationism.38 Pool evaluated evolution, focusing on life’s origin and human evolution. The problems of evolution he cites include the fossil record, the difficulty of body organs functioning in between evolutionary states, and the problem of interpreting evidence from limited changes to a gross level, such as apes to humans by natural processes. Pool is primarily oriented towards biological and philosophical concerns, although he alludes to theological issues in most of the chapters.

Nor is the anticreationist worldview reflected in older Methodist literature for lay persons (I was unable to find any newer statements on this topic in their Sunday School Literature). David C. Cook, founded as a Methodist publishing house, puts out weekly Sunday School lessons titled Spirit. One issue, appropriately timed to be used at the beginning of the school year, asks: “How did the world begin?”, and answers “The Bible provides the answer to the big questions” such as this.39 The authors of the article proposed several possible answers, including:

The universe always was, always will be, and is continually creating itself.
Ultimately the universe happened by chance, i.e. the critical elements came together at the right place and time, and with much time and luck, here we are.
The Bible’s answer is God created the universe with a specific plan and goal in mind.39

The lesson does not imply the answer is theistic evolution, and is specifically critical of evolution as a whole. It summarizes the basic evolutionary position as follows: “Some evolutionists claim believing that God created the universe doesn’t make scientific sense. The theory of evolution, in its most basic form, says that all living things developed (‘evolved’) from simpler living things. Some even say that life, like the universe, began by chance (the right molecules in the right place at the right time).” The authors concluded “it takes a lot of faith to believe all of that”, writing:

“Scientists have searched for years to find fossil evidence to link one species to another. Genetic changes do occur within each species. But no evidence links one species of life to another. The Bible clearly states what happened at the beginning. The living God created life. He spoke matter into being, then created many different creatures—each after their own kind. We see variety in living beings because God made them that way.”39

They not only point out some of the primary evidence creationists use against evolutionism, but note “lack of evidence casts doubts on evolution’s truth … at least three scientific principles support belief in creation.” They are: 1) conservation of energy; 2) second law of thermodynamics; and 3) evolution’s mathematical improbability. The authors conclude there exist only two options, namely: “it all happened by chance or by God’s choice. In the beginning God created, is not simply a Christian answer to the big question. It just might be the only reasonable answer.”39

Lesson 20 of this series discusses the conflicts that can occur over this issue in schools.40 The author noted: “certain school subjects can also challenge the faith of young teens today. ‘I know my science teacher thinks I’m weird because I don’t believe in evolution’, says Tony. ‘When I told him I believe the world was created, he just gave me a strange look and kept talking. Of course, I have to learn the material and take the tests, but I feel better knowing that I spoke up once.’”40

The lesson, written by Elaine McCalla, stresses both how and why Christian students should speak out about their Christian faith in opposition to Darwinism in their various classes. In the science section, the author states:

“… science easily lends itself to conversations about God. Christian students in biology class have many chances to express their faith. Take the theories of evolution and creation, for example. Christian students can point out the marvelous way things are made and how these [examples] point to a marvelous Maker—as discussed below an organization that does just this was banned. Or, how about a question that is often asked: ‘Is man an animal?’”41

The ironic fact is many UMC leaders are not cognizant of the beliefs and feelings of, not only their members, but often beliefs expressed in their church publications.

The UMC teacher’s manual for this lesson explains the implications of these student workbook discussions.42 It says: “imagine yourself in school … in your biology or science classroom. It’s the first day of class” when the teacher, Mr Hayes, who has a reputation as a tough but likable teacher, enters the room.42 Mr Hayes flips open a huge chart which illustrates marching across the page

“… increasingly complex life forms, beginning with the amoeba and progressing to human beings. You know what’s coming next. ‘Today, class, we’ll get right into our study for the semester: evolution’, says Mr Hayes. ‘We’re going to try to answer this question: Where did it all come from?’ What would be your honest feelings right at this point? Many students will probably express that they experience a sinking feeling. Evolution and the origins of the universe are going to be discussed again from a non-Christian point of view, and they are probably the only Christians in the class. … One of our common reactions to a situation like this is fear. … we suspect it’s not reasonable to believe that God created the world. But there are very good logical and Biblical reasons for believing in Creation. Let’s look at some of them.”42

The unit then concludes that the Bible answers questions about where life and the universe come from, and while science struggles with these questions:

“We have a totally creative God … . How did God create everything? The Bible does not describe the creation process in the same kind of technical terms a scientist might use. However, it’s not unscientific. In answering the question of how God created, science could be helpful—as long as it doesn’t ignore the statements the Bible does make. But just keep in mind one thing. Both the Christian, who says God started it all, and the atheist, who says the world just sort of began, are operating on faith.”42

Another example is the Methodist Holy Baptism for Children, which includes the following words: “In the days of Noah you [God] saved those on the ark through water. After the flood, you set in the clouds a rainbow. When you saw your people as slaves in Egypt, you led them to freedom through the sea. Their children you brought through the Jordan to the land which you promised.”43 Ironically, the church hierarchy has frequently testified in court against this conclusion, and those persons who hold these beliefs.

Contrast this to the UMC Bishop of Indiana who wrote: “four major views of creation exist, Biblical creationism, religious rationalism, scientific theism and evolution science”.44 He then gave his conclusion that “no effort is made to promote one view as superior to any other”. Nonetheless, not all bishops agreed with this view, especially those that served in the past. Bishop Warren A. Candler (1857–1941) was a Southern Methodist Church bishop who considered the scriptures inerrant and railed against those who supported biblical criticisms and evolution.45

A survey of a typical United Methodist Church

To evaluate the claim that the average Methodist rejects the Darwinian view, in March of 2018, with the permission of the pastor and the elders, I surveyed the members of the local St Paul’s United Methodist Church in Montpelier, Ohio, where I am a lay speaker. The survey forms were placed in the bulletin and I explained the purpose of the survey was part of a paper I am writing. The local bishop noted that our church (St Paul’s of Montpelier) is a typical solid middle-class Ohio UMC.46

Most of the congregants are teachers, and professional people including bankers and business owners. Five congregants are, or were, professors at the local college, and two board members of the college attended St Paul’s. The average weekly attendance is close to 124, and a few absent members were given the opinionnaire at the next service. The nearly 100 returned surveys (80% of the total average attendance) was an excellent response. Some did not fill out the one-page form because advanced age made it difficult to read the form, or they did not understand the questions.

The results found 84 of those who completed the form accepted some form of creation, and only 16 accepted theistic evolution. A total of 79 persons accepted biblical creation, 3 supported progressive creation, 2 intelligent design, and not a single person supported choice E, orthodox evolution. Of those who accepted theistic evolution, 6 were college age or younger, 4 young adults (31–50) and 6 over age 50. Of the 79 that accepted biblical creation, 19 (25%) were college age or younger, 10 (13%) age 31–50; 31(39%) age 51–70 and 19 (24%) age 71 and above.

According to my experience speaking in several hundred churches, the results of my survey are typical for many mainline churches. Last, 50 (63%) of the 79 biblical creationists were above age 51. The number in each category was comparatively small, but the results are what was expected from other surveys. The most significant number is the 83% that accepted some form of creation in contrast to the opposition to this view discussed in the next section.

United Methodist conferences

When the creation issue was brought up at recent conferences, all efforts to deal with the current Darwinism dogmatism were consistently voted down. The conference dealt with doctrine, policy, and other church concerns and has occasionally discussed the creation-evolution issue. For example, efforts at the UMC annual conference in Mobile, Alabama, on 4 June 2013, considered creationism.47 Delegates voted down petitions that would have sent requests to the 2016 General Conference regarding creationism and evolution. One petition would have removed language stating “evolution is not in conflict with theology”.47 Another would have added language supporting the teaching of intelligent design along with evolution in public schools. All were voted down after lively discussion.

fig-3
Figure 3. A typical United Methodist Church.

Supporters included Rev. Ralph Sigler of The Harvest UMC in Dothan, Alabama, who correctly observed “Christianity is our worldview”, and the Apostles’ Creed, “our most well-known creed”, references the “maker of heaven and Earth”, and parents who want the theory of intelligent design taught to their children may find that “their church stands against them”.47

Those who spoke against the petition to support teaching intelligent design included recent high school graduate Trevor Warren who opined that the petition goes against the separation of church and state, adding: “We do not send our children to school to learn about religion. I thought that was the church’s job.”47 Senior pastor of First UMC in Pensacola, Florida, Rev. Wesley Wachob, said: “no conflict” exists between science and theology, adding that “creationism is not science but rather ‘bad theology’.”47

Obviously, judging by these comments, the critics not only have very little understanding of the controversy, but a great deal of misunderstanding. The fact is, as well documented by an examination of the textbooks used in public school today, theology is widely taught in our public schools, specifically the anti-creation, anti-intelligent design, pro-evolution worldview theology. The view prohibits the wealth of evidence against Darwinism.

Banning persons who believe what UMC publications teach

The UMC has since then become even more hostile against any opposition to Darwinism, and church bishops are not innocent in this controversy. In 2016, they were given the title ‘censor of the year’ by the Discovery Institute for banning a group of Christian educators and scientists from displaying scientific literature at the Oregon conference, even though many other groups, including some very controversial ones, were allowed space to present their literature.48 The banned scientists were part of the Discovery Institute that produces books and films about the wonders of nature that give testimony to the Creator. The films include topics such as the wonders of bird design, the dolphin’s sonar system, butterfly metamorphosis and design, and even the privileged position our home planet has in the solar system.

Their rejection of these films is ironic in view of the fact that the most common reason people give in surveys for believing in God is the wonders of creation that the films document, and even many theistic evolutionists accept. As Romans 1:20 says: “For ever since the world was created, people have seen … through everything God made, his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.” This view was also reflected in the 2016 UMC Lent program, which says: “Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth, you brought all things into being and called them good. From the dust of the earth you formed us into your image and breathed into us the breath of life.”49

The specific source of the ban to exclude the Discovery Institute from the church’s General Conference is unclear, but the result was to censor discussion of intelligent design. When the Discovery Institute inquired about the source of the ban, they were told only that Commission ‘leadership’ made the decision. The UMC—although its motto is “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors”—refused to disclose who made up this shadowy ‘leadership’ group.48

Many Methodists have expressed the concern described above by leaving the church. This may be part of the reason why, according to official church data, the US UMC has lost 116,063 members in the last two years alone. This is the equivalent to losing a 318-member local church every day of the year. In 1964, the UMC had over 12 million members; in 2015, 7.2 million, and the average weekly attendance is now only about 2.8 million; less than the Mormons, a church founded only in the late 1800s. As of December, 2015, the once-tiny Mormon Church membership was approaching 19 million. Total wards and branches were 30,016, and full-time missionaries were 74,079. Mormon converts last year alone totalled 257,402.

Why it matters

The concerns outlined above were documented by pollster George Barna, who in 2016 completed an extensive analysis of the spiritual condition in the US by means of a large nationwide polling sample.50 The conclusions refer to Protestants and Catholics in general, including:

  • “A majority argues that co-habitation, sexual fantasies, sex outside of marriage, giving birth outside of marriage, divorce, doctor-assisted suicide, homosexual relations, and same-sex marriage are now all morally acceptable endeavors.”
  • “During the past decade alone there have been huge declines in the proportion of people … who claim to have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ.”
  • “Belief in God, trust in the Bible, and reliance on Jesus alone for salvation have all declined precipitously. Fewer than one in five adults believes that absolute moral truth exists and is defined in the Bible.”
  • “The unchurched population is growing like cancer … .”
  • “The Bible is taking a big hit. … Only one out of three adults believes it is accurate in all of the principles it teaches.”

Churches that do nothing to stop this slide into a moral crisis and atheism ultimately contribute to it. Just as the Methodist hierarchy in the past has defended or condoned slavery, and even Nazi eugenics, they now indirectly condone sexual behaviour that is detrimental to health and longevity. They also actively oppose those who openly support the main reason people give for their belief in God, namely the evidence and wonders of creation. In contrast, a 1991 survey found 6% of Americans identified their religious affiliation as ‘none’. By the end of the 1990s, 14% of the public claimed no religious affiliation, a number that rose to 20% by 2012. Today, one-quarter (25%) of Americans claim no formal religious identity, making this group the single largest ‘religious group’ in the United States.50

Conclusion

The Methodist colleges and the church hierarchy have in general concluded that Darwinism is based on solid settled science and for this reason is consensus science. The response has been to capitulate, and rather than risk a Galileo-like confrontation they have chosen to accommodate this worldview, a compromise termed theistic evolution. They have not only chosen to ignore the overwhelming evidence against the Darwinian worldview, but have supported the opposition to the creation worldview by atheists, agnostics, and others. This review is a good example of the conclusions of biology Prof. Willem Ouweneel who wrote: “biologists are generally more willing to listen to and engage opposing arguments than are theologians. This is because biological generalists are often somewhat aware of the weaknesses in the theory of evolution, whereas theologians are not.”51

References

  1. Norwood, J.N., The schism in the Methodist Church, 1844, J. Negro History 9(2):234–235, April 1924. Return to text
  2. Grant, D., Evolution and Darwinism in the Methodist Quarterly Review 1840–1870, Methodist History 29:3:175–183, April 1991. Return to text
  3. Yorty, T., The English Methodist response to Darwin reconsidered, Methodist History 32(2):116–125, January 1994; and Holifield, B., The English Methodist response to Darwin, Methodist History, January 1972. Return to text
  4. Chiles, R.E., Theological Transition in American Methodism: 1790–1935 Abingdon, Nashville, TN, p. 51, 1965. Return to text
  5. Scott, L., Methodist Theology in America in the Nineteenth Century, Dissertation, Yale University, pp 334–347, 1954. Return to text
  6. Chiles, ref. 4, p. 62. Return to text
  7. Chiles, ref. 4 p. 201. Return to text
  8. Digrius, D.M., The un-heretical Christian: Lynn Harold Hough, Darwinism and Christianity in 1920s America, Methodist History 49(4):223–240, July 2011; pp. 223–224. Return to text
  9. Digrius, ref. 8, pp. 224–225. Return to text
  10. New York Times, Dr Lynn H. Hough Dead at 93; A Leading Methodist Educator, 15 July 1971. Return to text
  11. Digrius, ref. 8, p. 231. Return to text
  12. Digrius, ref. 8, p. 226. Return to text
  13. Digrius ref. 8, p 228. Return to text
  14. New York Times, 22 December 1924, Quoted in Digrius. ref. 8, p. 228. Return to text
  15. Digrius, ref. 8, pp. 226-227. Return to text
  16. Phelps, W., To think without confusion, clearly, The Michigan Christian Advocate 52.30, p. 1, 30 July 1925. Return to text
  17. Dr Hough Wins in Heresy Case, Baltimore American, 17 September1925. Return to text
  18. Digrius, ref. 8, p. 237. Return to text
  19. Digrius, ref. 8, p. 239; Klinghoffer, D., Michael Zimmerman of Clergy Letter Project joins atheists in making hay from dubious ‘petition’, siriusknotts.wordpress.com/category/michael-zimmerman/, 2016; and Bates, A., Clergy Letter Project, A circus, siriusknotts.wordpress.com/category/michael-zimmerman/, 2009. Return to text
  20. Digrius, ref. 8, p. 239. Return to text
  21. McLean vs Arkansas Board of Education, 529 F, Supp. 1255, 1258–1264, ED Ark, p. 1, 1982. Return to text
  22. McLean, ref. 21, p. 1257. Return to text
  23. Gilkey, L., Creationism on Trial: Evolution and God at Little Rock, Harper & Row, San Francisco, CA, p. 83, 1985; and Larson, E., Trial and Error: The American controversy over creation and evolution, Oxford University Press, New York, pp. 36, 48, 77, 157, 1985. Return to text
  24. Woods, J.E., Editorial: ‘Scientific creationism’ and the public schools, J. Church and State 24(2):231–243, 1982. Return to text.
  25. Gilkey, ref. 23, p. 85–93. Return to text.
  26. Bergman, J., Silencing the Darwin Skeptics, Leafcutter Press, Southworth, WA, 2016. Return to text.
  27. Hechinger, F., About education; creationists assert they hold a scientific view, The New York Times, Science section, 8 September 1986. Return to text.
  28. Bucvke, E., The History of American Methodism, vols 1–3, Abingdon Press, Nashville, TN, 1964; Norwood, F., The Story of American Methodism, Abingdon Press, Nashville, TN, 1974; and Schmidt, J. et al., American Methodism: A compact history, Abingdon Press, Nashville, TN, 2012. Return to text.
  29. Vickers, J., The Cambridge Companion to American Methodism, Cambridge University Press, New York, p. 104, 2013. Return to text.
  30. Kinghorn, K., The Heritage of American Methodism, Abingdon Press, Nashville, TN, 2008. Return to text.
  31. Found at theclergyletterproject.org, and also at umc.org/what-we-believe/what-is-the-united-methodist-churchs-position-on-evolution. Return to text.
  32. Kuelling, A., It’s time for people of faith to accept evolution, umc.org/news-and-media/its-time-for-people-of-faith-to-accept-evolution, 2011. Return to text.
  33. Klinghoffer, D., Michael Zimmerman of Clergy Letter Project joins atheists in making hay from dubious ‘petition’, siriusknotts.wordpress.com/category/michael-zimmerman/, 2016; and Bates, A., Clergy Letter Project a circus, 3 February 2009, creation.com/clergy-letter-project-a-circus. Return to text.
  34. theclergyletterproject.org. Return to text.
  35. Bergman, J., Slaughter of the Dissidents: The shocking truth about killing the careers of Darwin doubters, Revised version, Leafcutter Press, Southworth, WA, 2012; Bergman, J., Silencing the Darwin Skeptics, Leafcutter Press, Southworth, WA, 2016; and Bergman, J., Censoring the Darwin Skeptics, Leafcutter Press, Southworth, WA, 2017. Return to text.
  36. Why America’s ‘nones’ left religion behind, Pew Research Center, pewrsr.ch/2bOZAJk, 2016 and pewresearch.org/…/why-americas-nones-left-r, 2016. Return to text.
  37. Wolfe, T., The Kingdom of Speech, Little, Brown, New York, p. 48, 2016. Return to text.
  38. Pool, G.W., The Origin of Man, or Evolution or Revolution, Which? The Western Methodist Book Concern, Cincinnati, OH, 1904, reprinted by Forgotten Books, London, 2019. Return to text.
  39. Wanberg, S. and Wanberg, A., How did the world begin? Spirit, David C Cook, Elgin, IL, p. 3, 4 September 1988. Return to text.
  40. Leanne L., Faithful in the Small Things, Spirit, David C Cook, Elgin, IL, Lesson 12, 20 November 1988. Return to text.
  41. McCalla, E., Suggestions for Sharing Your Faith in School, Spirit Speak Out! David C Cook, Elgin, IL, p. 3, 22 January 1989. Return to text.
  42. Woods, P., Junior High Teacher’s Guide for use with Spirit, David C Cook, Elgin, IL, p. 10, 1988. Return to text.
  43. Methodist Holy Baptism for Children, United Methodist Church, p. 3, 2018. Return to text.
  44. Coyner, M., United Methodists are Open to Science, The Journal Gazette, p. 8A, 28 September 2006; Dyck, S. and Bishop Sara Ehrman, Faith, Science, and the Message of Jesus, Abingdon, Nashville, TN, 2010; umc.org/news-and-media/its-time-for-people-of-faith-to-accept-evolution, 2016; and umc.org/what-we-believe/the-natural-world#science-tech, accessed 3 June 2016. Return to text.
  45. Bauman, M., John T. Scopes, Leopold and Loeb, and Bishop Warren A, Candler, Methodist History 16(2):92–100, January 1978. Return to text.
  46. Interview with Pastor Richard Blank, 3 May 2018. Return to text.
  47. McPhail, C., Immigration and creationism at United Methodist annual conference in Mobile, al.com/living/index.ssf/2013/06/immigration_and_creationism_at.html, 2013. Return to text.
  48. Evolution News & Views, Censor of the Year: United Methodist Church Commission on the General Conference, p. 1–2, 9 February 2016; uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/united-methodist-church-rates-censor-of-the-year/. Return to text.
  49. Lent Program distributed to local churches via the internet and printed locally by the individual churches, 2016. Return to text.
  50. The State of the Church, barna.com/research/state-church-2016/, 2016. Return to text.
  51. Ouweneel, W., Adam, Where are you? And why it Matters, Paidela Press, Ontario, Canada, p. 3, 2018. Return to text.

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Readers’ comments

Sue T.
I felt a bit overwhelmed at the start of this article by the strength of the opposition, the number of years the war has raged, and the vast numbers who have been hoodwinked, but Jerry Bergman then counters deftly with conclusive evidence.
It was sad to read "Obviously, judging by these comments, the critics not only have very little understanding of the controversy, but a great deal of misunderstanding." No wonder atheists call them 'useful idiots'! God allows 'those who will not see' to be deceived.
David F.
I am so happy for ministries like yours who uphold the bible when many supposed "christians" call me sinful for believing what the bible says
Matthew T.
The Methodist Church and also many other various denominations have within their hierarchy it would seem very different views than their membership. It often is also the case these same churches have a number of differing beliefs on many subjects besides just the negative or opposite view of creationism. Many beliefs that don't seem consistent with a literal reading of The Bible, just as with creationism. For instance, prophecy and even basic moral teachings like sexual relations, which The Bible teaches is only to exist within marriage, between one man and one woman.
Steve M.
The United Methodist church is on the verge of a major split and next year will perhaps be the final bell. The issue is clergy who continue to practice homesexuality. There is one Lesbian bishop who teaches Jesus was a bigot. She is paid 250,000 a year and they accept her leadership. What a shame.
Bill P.
It is a terrible shame and a "BIG" mistake for those who say they believe The Gospel of Jesus Christ to underestimate the power and glory of The Holy One of Israel. The Lord many times called HIS people Israel stiff necked unwilling to believe. The same is true for ALL the nations of this earth. Heavenly Father please send your Son back soon to establish Your Kingdom and put an end to the lies this world says about You.
Stephen N.
It is discouraging that many of the clergy refuse to support Biblical creationism. This may contribute to the growing number of professing Christians who are either unhappy with their church hierarchy or have dropped out of organized religion completely. One fairly well-known evangelist in the USA is open about the fact that he is not affiliated with any denomination and he gives reasons for his decision, although he does not necessarily advocate this for all believers (he once was a pastor in a church denomination). Not only do clergymen undermine the faith of some believers by their support of Darwinism, but they may also destroy their own jobs at some point in the future.
Alan W.
In this excerpt is found the fundamental error in the thinking that led to the rejection of God's Narrative of Creation, by the ONLY eyewitness to that Creation!
"As Professor of Hebrew and Old Testament Exegesis at Drew, he reconciled Genesis and geology by stratagems such as the “acceptance that six days equals six eons, and that the Bible was a book of religion, not science.”
Fellow Christians express disagreement, when someone, like myself, refers to God's Word as a science book. I explain my reasoning in these few words: In the 4000 years, more or less, beginning with the Book of Job, since the Holy Bible was begun, and completed in the decades following crucifixion of our Savior, the Inspired Word has never required change to accommodate new scientific discovery. On the other hand, the "evolution" story must continuously be modified, seemingly on a weekly basis, to accommodate each new "scientific" discovery.
For example, Io, a moon of Jupiter, is one of the most volcanically active planetary bodies. Were the universe truly 14 billion years old, Io, and every other planet, should have no volcanic activity. How does the "evolutionist" explain the drawings of dinosaurs in caves all over the world, in cathedrals, and the Temple of Angkor Watt? "Dinosaurs went extinct sixty-five million years" BEFORE man appeared on the historical scene? Darwin knew nothing about genetics. The study of genetics, and mutations, the very basis for the "evolution" tale, militates for the veracity of the Biblical narrative, and has, in fact, caused serious reversal of many leaders of the "evolutionary" anti-Bible position, Professor Antony Flew and C.S. Lewis (Yes, Lewis) being just two examples. See Richard Lewontin, "We cannot allow a divine foot in the door."
Yvonne R.
These people you have described were not led by GOD to be church hierarchy - They are there due to a career seeking status. Consequently they have not looked to GOD for truth and understanding. I have had the experience with a Presbyterian Church, when I suggested they invite a speaker on GOD as the Creator from CMI, I was told the elders had discussed this and they told me that would not be possible. They had no understanding of CMI, but why did they reject someone speaking about our Creator. This is just one reason I no longer attend church services. The HOLY SPIRIT is not present within the churches I have attended. There are sermons on the radio that preach who the Living GOD is. I am thankful to accept who GOD is with no compromises of my human making. Praise GOD
Michael B.
I grew up in the Methodist Church. After I was saved God had put a hunger and understanding of His Word in my heart and I didn't understand why I wasn't hearing it from the pulpit and why no one else was bringing their Bibles.
Typically there was a single verse read and the teaching may or may not have had anything to do with it.
What is taught from the pulpit will shape the congregation. One of the best times in the UMC was in a congregation lead by a rock solid believer in God's Word... that unfortunately was a rare exception, the others tended to quote Freud or some new age blend of belief.
I remember how as Christmas approached there had become the regular discussion as to whether or not Jesus was actually miraculously conceived. I wondered how a person could believe in God bringing life back from death if they couldn't believe in Him bringing life from life... of course this all stemmed from lack of belief in God forming man from the dust of the earth and breathing His Spirit into him.
The last teachings I sat in before leaving the Church totally behind were of materialistic explanations for the miracles of Christ and the final one from the pulpit of how much he loved God's Word but you couldn't believe all of it and then spent the next 30 minutes outlining the "contradictions" of the Scriptures beginning in Genesis chapters one and two. I was livid after that message and to this day part of me wishes I had stood up in that sermon and denounced him.
I am much happier out of that damaging environment and praise God for ministries like CMI who faithfully hold to a world view of the Truth of God's Word.
Your Brother in Christ,
Michael
Cowboy Bob S.
Pardon the personal history, but you may like some connections.

My father was a Methodist preacher and was with the organization when they became the UMC. When he was attending Michigan State College of Agriculture and Applied Science (now Michigan State University), he resisted the evolutionary dogmatism of natural science professor Dr. John N. Moore. My father said that to pass the tests, he essentially wrote, "The book says..."

Dr. Moore eventually became a Christian and a creationist. He was important in founding the Creation Research Society.
David G.
The UMC position doesn't just negate Christ's mission and work, but it dislocates the Christian 'worldview'. Genesis 1 tells us a few things about God, our relationship to him, and the world, all of which run counter to materialist view. The dislocation mimics that of myth which must blur references to time and place, witnesses and history to not locate its events in the same existential flow that we are in (and in which God created the continuous reality in which he brings us to fellowship with him). If God and his acts are dislocated, then the conjoining of God's realm and our domain at creation did not happen. The something else that happened is then what defines the nature of 'reality' and our relationship with 'god'. This 'something else' merges immediately with paganism.
Leo H.
It's interesting to read how these things play out in various Christian denominations. I come from a denomination which officially upholds creation and even tightened up the language in its fundamental beliefs on the issue in 2015, but some leaders both at ministerial and education levels support weaker positions, mainly in North America and Europe and to a lesser degree in Australia.

The lay people seem to overwhelmingly support creation, though a growing number of young people don't think the issue to be terribly important or have been influenced by their teachers into accepting mainstream thought on evolution and the age of the earth. I personally know someone who almost lost her faith at a denominational college due to the way the science department dissected the Biblical teachings on creation and the flood, but fortunately she ended up with her faith strengthened after discussions with people who actually believe, going through the evidence for the existence of God.

Bottom line - those of us who believe need to be prepared to engage in reasoned discussion and need to be in good relationships with our young people BEFORE they get into these situations so that they are open to discussing the issues. If we have good relationships with young people and are respected by them they will be more likely to seek out our opinion.

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