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United Methodist Mud Wrestling & Teens


The pain was prevalent. Implied insults were piled upon multiplied injuries. As United Methodist author and pastor Chris Ritter tweeted, “The folks back home cannot ‘unsee’ this.” Last week was a frightful mess.

If you are not United Methodist, you no doubt at least heard the news of last week’s “Slug-Fest in St. Louis”. And if you are in the UMC, you likely have read multiple articles and blogs.

Allow me to offer some thoughts, not as a church politician or partisan, but as a counselor—one who has worked with prostitutes, pedophiles, sexual addicts, abuse survivors, and, yes, people very much involved in every aspect of the LGBT community.

Now already some of you are fuming because I have placed “LGBT” folks in the same sentence with sexual addicts and pedophiles. But please hear me out.

I’ve never been to a mud wrestling match, but I’m guessing those closest to the fray walk away a bit muddied themselves. Anyone feeling spattered?

Though I watched from a distance, I was certainly glad the Traditional Plan won out. Not for the sake of the African delegates who voted for the traditional view, nor for the US congregants who have sighed with relief.

I am thankful the traditional view won out for the sake of those who struggle with sexual brokenness of all varieties. Especially our teens.

Adolescence is a turbulent time. Do you remember? Our bodies were changing, our minds were racing in lustful directions, and our emotions were at times caught up in the chaos.

Though I’m an old guy, I still remember my confusion. As a sensitive young Christian, I felt something certainly must be wrong with me.  “Why do I keep having these intense feelings about girls?” And when I discovered my first explicit porn magazine along a highway, gasoline was added to the blaze.

Today kids have multiple challenges. On average, they stumble upon internet porn at age nine! Friends are texting pics of their private parts. And they are awash in a movement to discover what shade of gender they are by sifting through the shifting sands of feelings and attractions.

Kids need clarity from the Church. Absolute clarity.

This past weekend, I taught a series of seminars at a church in Attica, Indiana. One nearby school promotes an LGBTQI+ youth club to encourage exploration of orientation. And kids in that small midwestern town have formed a “sex club” where they can experiment with each other. Like all teens, they are trying to navigate life through the foggy bog of puberty. But early experimentation has consequences for one’s sexual development.

As a counselor who is helping people recover from past sexual indiscretions and distorted messages, I know this to be true: The Church needs to send a clear signal about sexual matters.

Arguments were framed as though the debate was about whether or not the Church loves gays and lesbians. There’s no question we are to love all people. But the root issue is how has God created us as sexual beings. That is where the Church must speak with one voice.

As many kids walk through those teen years, they will have some degree of sexual fluidity and gender confusion. To send them on a scavenger hunt for their identity is a travesty. If the Church is silent or sending mixed signals, we only add to their bewilderment.

God never intended for us to look inward to find our sexual identity. Core truths about God, ourselves and the world around us are revealed from God, not discovered within. And there is certainly no hint in the scriptures that parents are to let kids feel their way through this morass.  Encouraging them to make unalterable changes to their bodies is irresponsible.

Most United Methodists, I believe, would gladly give up mud wrestling for disciple making. But there are teens who are disciples-in-the-making. They need clear guidance. If every pastor and congregation simply “does what is right in their own eyes,” our kids will eventually collide with reality. And one day they will be seeking counselors to pull them out of the wreckage.

In April’s blog, I will address the two worldviews which were dueling in St. Louis. Then in May I’ll share a glimpse of how this muddied mess distresses Christians seeking freedom from their sexual sorrows.

Angry with my take on this? Leave a “mud-free” comment.

In the dark about the UM mess? This link sheds some light: 


Photo Credit:  lejoe <a href=”″>Washing in mud</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a> <a href=””>(license)</a>

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