Holding our church together

Should the United Methodist Church talk about stuff that is divisive?

I've noticed there are many blog posts in the Methoblog concerning annual conference amendments.  This week, there have been a flood of Swine Flu posts as well.  Thats good though- wholeness and health should be an important concern for Methodists (holiness, anyone?).

One issue I don't find much among the Methodist blogs is the recent judicial council decision to uphold the Discipline with regards to gay marriage.  You can find the official UMNS Article here.  Sure, there are important things going on in our church - but this issue doesn't seem to be touched by anyone many people INSIDE the church.  If you'd like to see how many people are talking about it on twitter, go to search.twitter.com and try "gay methodist" and just look at the wealth of people who have taken notice of the decisions we'd like to think are trivial.



The simple lack of material this past week concerning this judicial decision tells me there is a reason folks don't want to bring this topic up.  Sooooo, I've decided I'm going to touch the issue of Gay marriage within the United Methodist Church.  Not because I'm intelligent, but because I love my church and I want it to stay together.  It hurts sometimes, but just bringing the issue up will hopefully help.

On my weakest days, I do not want to look at the issues that will divide us.  Its easier to just keep my head down, be about ministry, and ignore what my ears are hearing.  On my better days I engage the people around me.

What issues are most divisive?  I think the discussion of what is sound theological teaching is what is really being discussed here.  For me, the issue isn't whether homosexual marriage should be considered in our congregations.  The issue isn't whether the sanctity of marriage is being destroyed somehow - the issue for me is why does this separate us?*  The divisive issues are the ones that separate us.  In their maturity, it leads to a break in fellowship.  In Christianity, these very rarely have anything to do with Jesus and everything to do with how the Church is the body of Jesus.  I mean, really, how many churches have left Christendom because Jesus ate with sinners or proclaimed grace to those who don't deserve it?  Our divisive issues are almost always not problems with God but problems with other humans. 

Is the marriage of two homosexual persons so important that we must break fellowship over it?  Can Christ not bring together all who love him?  If you cannot imagine a church where a person who is pro-choice and pro-life stand hand in hand before our God, then either your church is too small or your God is too small.  The same would go for blue collar/white collar, young/old, pro-homosexual/anti-homosexual, republican/democrat, liberal/conservative, auburn/alabama, etc.etc.etc. - you get the idea.  Aren't these things trivial in relation to the goodness of the love of our Jesus?

I don't know how anything could bring these people together other than Jesus.  So maybe we just need a priority change.  How do we bring more into the Kingdom of God without placing heavy burdens on believers' necks?  In a word, I believe the body of Christ is inclusive.

What is the right way to be inclusive?  Here is what I mean - surely God's greatest gifts are love and forgiveness through Jesus Christ.  To offer Jesus to those whom he loves, we in the UMC are careful to always offer Jesus first and let God sort out the rest.  This is most clearly seen (for me) in the idea of the open table.  Communion is not something we will deny someone, because it is not our place to 

Which is better?  Exclude someone in uncertainty?  Or include someone in uncertainty?  Would you rather deny someone Christ because they do not measure up to what you think is important to Jesus, or would you rather include someone that you aren't sure about?

Maybe holding our church together is not the correct priority in the first place.  If it isn't, God help me, because I'm devoted to bringing people together, not tearing them apart.

And with that said, I'll offer my advice to you:

Speak your heart in love that only Christ can offer.

If you hate that the UMC is missing a golden opportunity to change its ways, I'm sorry.  I hear you.  How are you going to win others over in the name of Christ?  Can you get over your own pride and hurt to love those who think differently than you?

If you praise the UMC for upholding its stance (or even think it hasn't gone far enough), congrats.  I hear you, so how are you going to remind your homosexual brothers and sisters in Christ that you love them and include them?

Sometimes, yes, this love will be tough and it may divide us, but I hope that you use it not as a means of exclusion, but a means of inclusion.  A means of grace and not condemnation.  I am not screaming "peace peace!" and hoping to maintain an oppressive system.  I'm screaming "peace peace!" and hoping we will align ourselves with the Prince of Peace.

* Maybe I will someday post about whether I think the UMC should marry homosexuals - and I promise you, I do have a stance on this subject (although I must admit it moves sometimes), but this is not that post.  I'm simply trying to align myself with Jesus and get the rest of you to join hands with me, dagnabbit. 

Comments

  1. Thank you for addressing this issue. Not much has ever come from ignoring an issue. So maybe we need to have an open conversation about it.

    The Bible, which I believe to be the divinely inspired word of God, makes it clear that homosexuality is a sin. To me, it is not even debatable if it is a sin or not. If you tell me it is not a sin, you lose credibility with me because you obviously disregard a part of your bible.

    However, the fact that we are willing to exclude people based upon one specific sin is ludicrous! I firmly believe the church will be held accountable for our treatment of homosexuals. Our kids and grandkids will look back at this time in history and compare it with how we treated African-Americans and Women. We treat homosexuals like they are not a full citizen or a full member of our church.

    Homosexuals deserve as much of God's Love as I do. I am a sinner. A homosexual is a sinner. We both have grace through Christ. Homosexuality is wrong. But telling someone they are unfit for the Love of God is as far from the truth as you can get.

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  2. Well, Mr. Jimmy said it perfectly.
    I am not sure on the whole marrying part because well, I have never really put much thought into it because I am not gay, is it PC to say gay?

    I personally have no problem worshipping with anyone who is not the same sexual orientation as myself because ultimately we all love and worship the same God and we are all loved and forgived by the same God for all of our sins. I personally don't see levels of sin. A sin is really just that, a sin. No one is greater than the other, except for blasiphemy and denying Christ.
    I am starting to ramble.

    On a personal side note, every girl should have at least one gay male friend in her life, she will be greatly enriched by it. Really, she will.

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  3. Thank you for even addressing this important issue. As you say, many people just want to shut their eyes and hope it goes away, but gay Christians (including me) aren't going anywhere, so we've got to figure this thing out.

    Here's a video of a sermon by a preacher who, I think, is about where you are. I'll be honest, he doesn't go as far as I'd like, but it's a good middle ground for now.

    http://bit.ly/4Pm6Y

    jimryanjackson: No, the Bible doesn't make it clear that homosexuality is a sin. There are several reasons, some having to do with the culture of the time and some to do with language and what a word meant when the Bible was written. I won't bore you (or me) with all of it, but I'd encourage you to rent the documentary "For the Bible Tells Me So" and check out the resources at soulforce.org. (Rev. Hamilton also addresses some of it in the video above.)

    Collier Chronicles: "Gay" is actually preferable, though that varies by region. The word "homosexual" has become a weapon of the Religious Right to keep the conversation very clinical, rather than talking about people and their lives. On the other hand, they're both right, so I figure it's best to go with your gut!

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  4. Matt Algren: Rather than my gut reaction that you have no credibility like I said I would, I went to SoulForce.org and read. There is a lot of info there.

    "Imagine the suffering that could be avoided if the church could say this to their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender children: "We don't understand your views about sexual orientation, but we love and trust you. As long as you love God and seek God's will in your life, you are welcome here.""

    This was my favorite part of SoulForce.org

    I think that is what the church is missing.

    However when I read this I was disappointed:
    "Often, the Holy Spirit uses science to teach us why those ancient words no longer apply to our modern times."

    My bible may be ancient, but it is living and active. It still holds true today. It addresses issues we still have today. And it still has answers for today.

    This site was really interesting. It really makes you reevaluate what the Bible says about homosexuality. But I think it makes quite the stretch in how it says homosexuality is not a sin. I believe the interpretation is much less complicated and I believe homosexuality is a sin. SoulForce seems to try to justify homosexuality by comparing it to other sins or "outdated" laws. But our sin is never justified, it is placed on the back of our Savior. He bears that punishment.

    You and I can go back and forth about whether living a gay lifestyle is a sin. But let's not make that the conversation between straight Christians and gay Christians. I will stand before God one day and be responsible for my stance. So will you. And I don't want God to ask me "Why did you persecute my people?"

    Like I stated in my previous comment: The fact that we are willing to exclude people based upon one specific sin is ludicrous! I firmly believe the church will be held accountable for our treatment of homosexuals. Our kids and grandkids will look back at this time in history and compare it with how we treated African-Americans and Women. We treat homosexuals like they are not a full citizen or a full member of our church.

    We need to love each other despite our flaws. I know the church has been wrong/is wrong in the exclusion of gays. The church should no more exclude gays than it should exclude any other sinner. But that doesn't change the fact that homosexuality is a sin. It just seems that homosexuality has been the favorite sin the Church likes to pass judgement about.

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  5. I agree with jimryanjackson that homosexual behavior/sin has been singled out for exclusive condemnation by churches. Why isn't the church putting the same emphasis on pre-marital sex or divorce, not to mention pornography and adultery or those "little" sins like greed and slander?

    Yes, we are all sinners and need the grace of God. However, as followers of Christ we are commanded to repent of our sinful behavior and turn away from it, no matter how small or how big. When we see our sister or brother in Christ sinning, we are called to lovingly correct them, just as they are called to correct us.

    In the broader debate, I think it is perfectly fair to say that people who choose to live a homosexual lifestyle (being gay is not a sin, acting upon those desires is) have also exclusively chosen a particular sin to ignore. Having sex with whomever you please and ignoring the ordering of God's creation and what is best for us as His children, celibacy in singleness and chastity in traditional marriage (how sad is that I have to put the word "traditional" before marriage), is not a "right" or a "need." It is giving in to the fleshly desires of this world.

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  6. The bible is clear that God hates relationship w/ same sex, we don't need a bible scholar to know that, besides a true christian is a new person in Christ "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come (2Cor 5:17)".

    So homosexuality should not be an issue for a true christian since he should be real man when he received Christ in his heart

    The word love must be used in a biblical way & meaning the way Christ teaches it, do not twist & bend what is clearly written in the bible.

    When God says no, then its NO period.
    A homosexual must turn around 180 degrees & say I'm w/ Christ I am a true follower & disciple of Christ, I am a man.

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  7. Thank ya'll for all the comments.

    Why is everyone who is posting here commenting on the correctness or incorrectness of homosexuality? Is it so hard to move past that?

    I would like to point out that "what is clearly written in the bible" is not as clear as you might want to believe. God is too complex (and certainly less static) to simplify all of the written, living, breathing, moving Word of God into the word "NO" - You'd be more accurate to concentrate it into the word, "love." The Hebrew and Greek that the Bible was originally written in has many different words for love. And even there, none of them completely articulate the goodness of Jesus Christ. To use it in a way that Jesus would use it, it would most accurately probably be "agape" - or Godly love. Which I am trying every day to understand more fully how God loves us.

    I hope, Joe, that all of us can become new creations through Christ - and that in clothing ourselves with Jesus' righteousness, grace, and peace, we can not only see ourselves differently, but those around us as well.

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  8. No, Joe, the Bible is not "clear that God hates relationship w/ same sex". (See above)

    The Bible says little to nothing about loving same-gender relationships, but the point is quite clear that God loves and honors loving relationships.

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  9. I am reminded that we are not to judge. We are called to love one another. Let's leave the judgments to God.

    I hope that as Christians we can all agree that all people, regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation or disability, deserve equality (even when it doesn't jive with our views). The Kingdom of God is about things being turned upside down. The last will be first, the meek shall inherit the earth. It's crazy from our human perspective.

    Should we support equal rights for our gay brothers and sisters? I think so, even if you don't think being gay (or "living a homosexual lifestyle" in ut3rdgen's words) is in line with Christian beliefs. I think that if more Christians would support our gay brothers and sisters in the political battles at least, it would go a long way toward showing our love.

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  10. @ A united method: The fact that you are condoning what is viewed as sinful behavior by the vast majority of the Christian world, and has been viewed as such for over 2000 years and longer if you include the Jewish tradition, is probably the reason why we can't just "move past it." Unity across the body of Christ means not trying to reinterpret what has already been decided by the early Church just to fit in with today's secular culture.

    @Anonymous: As Christians, we are supposed to judge one another. We are to hold each other accountable and help each other emerge from sin. That is a principle of Christianity and it is in the Bible (or should we just reinterpret that as not applicable for today?)

    One of the biggest problems in the Christian tradition today is that we live in a "non-judgmental" secular culture and that has passed into our Christian community. Sin is never exposed, never dealt with, which means that life-giving transformation doesn't happen. Is it any wonder that the Methodist church is aging out and contracting?

    Also, please explain to me how advocating for sin via "equal" rights shows love?!?! How can we possibly show people we love them if we say, "Yes, go and live in sin even though it will hurt you!" People who choose to live a homosexual lifestyle (yes, it is a CHOICE to have sexual relations) have no more rights than I do to get married. They have the right to marry a willing member of the opposite sex, who is not already married, and who is not a close relation. Posing this issue as one of "rights" is intellectually dishonest.

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  11. @ut3rdgen
    I think we can all agree that inequality is bad. Doesn't matter the reason behind the inequality.

    We live in a secular society, yes. We are called to be salt and light, yes. But how is telling people they're sinful and don't deserve equal rights showing the love of Christ? Because this is a secular society, we should not be trying to use the legislative system to enforce our religious beliefs.

    As to judgment... I believe we are to be accountable to each other (Christians) and to bring those sins to light. However, with unbelievers, it's a bit different. If we do nothing but point fingers and call out individual sins/sinners, we are no better than the Pharisees of Jesus day. Outsiders do not see that as 'love', they see it as hate. If we can be respectful and say 'I don't agree with your lifestyle, but I believe you deserve equal rights' that shows love.

    How about we care more about marriage, supporting it and working toward reducing the divorce rate? Until we've figured out our own issues, how can so many call for 'sanctity of marriage' when 50% of marriages fail? Seems the sanctity has already left the building.

    You have to admit, there's some irony there.

    Is it any wonder that the Methodist church is aging out and contracting? I'd recommend the book UnChristian. It's written from a more baptist/evangelical standpoint, but it does put into perspective the generational differences in and out of the church. I think the church needs to address these changes to be able to reach younger generations. One of the things brought up in that book is the view of outsiders that Christians are only 'against' things. And well, with all the talking heads (Pat Robertson, Al Mohler, etc), I can see where that comes from. Many of the younger generations are ignoring what Jesus has to offer because they see the church as only against, never FOR anything.

    That's part of why I say that standing for equality for everyone will go toward showing our love.

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  12. I have a sincere, honest question for those who insist on equality for all regardless of "sexual orientation": What about pederasts and pedophiles? They insist theirs is a "natural" sexual orientation, a gift and that they are in loving relationships that they wanted as young men and/or boys. I am not fabricating this for the sake of argument. Check out the North American Man-Boy Love Associaiton and recent issues of the scholarly homosexual journals on the topic of "inter-generational sex and love." Pro-homosexuality folks may argue that there is no biological basis for pederasty and pedohpilia (those guys would disagree). But the more we research the biological foundations of homosexuality the more we learn there is no biological determinant. The human genome has been mapped, identical twin studies by the tens of thousands have been conducted, and they conclude homosexuality is not hardwired.

    Also on the issue of "inclsuiveness" and "equality," what about loving plural marriages? If we accept homosexuality how do we exclude plural marriage?

    I am really at the stage of pondering these issues and would appreciate some hones answers, stripped of agenda driven reasoning. Thanks and blessings.

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  13. Anonymous 7:48AM:

    Whether it's genetic, biological, spiritual, whatever, we know that homosexuality is inborn. It is not a product of environment or upbringing. It is not a product of religion or culture. It is present in every culture, every Church, every race, every gender, every society. More to the point, it has no inherent negative component.

    Child rape, however, does have a negative component. It creates a victim who doesn't have the mental, psychological, physical, or spiritual maturity to make a decision regarding sex. And because child rape (like all rape) creates a victim, it should never be accepted in the culture or the church. (Curious: Why did you specify child rape? Why not just rapists in general?)

    Not sure what twin studies you've seen, but the ones I've read about have concluded that if one twin is gay, there's an increased probability that the other is as well. It's not a certainty, but it is an increased probability.

    I'd love to see the recent scholarly homosexual journals that you're referencing. (Not so much NAMBLA, thanks.) I didn't even know there were scholarly homosexual journals!

    I have to say, I'm always a bit stunned when people pull out the "what if" arguments. It's just so contrary to Jesus' teaching. He never said "If I love this person, I might have to love that person too, and who wants that?" I know Liberty Live has been pushing that meme for the last few days. If you're getting your information there, you'd be better served to do research on your own.

    With that, I think it's time to bow out. I'm in danger of just repeating myself over and over, and that's no fun for anybody.

    Thanks again to our host for even opening up the floor. It's helpful to all involved.

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  14. @Anonymous 1: Well, we both agree that the Church need to clean house when it comes to Christians getting divorced, committing adultery, etc. as I mentioned in my first post.(This will be my last.)

    And yes, non-Christians can't be held to our God-given morals because they are still blind. However, what happens when a gay married couple converts and wants to join the church? What then? If homosexual behavior is not acceptable before God, we can't support their marriage if they want to join the Church. Your "loving" support gets thrown back in their faces and becomes confusing and misleading.

    I am that "younger generation" and I don't think that compromising what separates us apart from the rest of the world is worth it just to reach out to more people like me.

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  15. Hi Matt,

    Here are some of the words from the bible that says homosexuality is not acceptable to God, i'm sure theres alot more.

    You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination. (NASB) Leviticus 18:22

    If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. (NASB) Leviticus 20:13

    Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?
    Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God. (NASB) 1 Corinthians 6:9

    But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous man, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers . . . (NASB) 1 Timothy 1:8-11

    In ending this, Some homosexuals say that God only condemns unloving same sex relationships. But that is not what God said. God calls same sex relationships sin. In fact, homosexuality is grouped with a number of other sins in Leviticus 20:11-16: a list of perversions such as incest, and bestiality (sex with animals). Homosexuality is a serious sin!
    The principle that God gives us is that a male with a female relationship within the bonds of marriage is God’s divine standard for human sexuality. Same sex relationships are a serious sin in God’s eyes. He has called it “unnatural, ”repugnant,” “strange flesh,” “a senseless act” and a “dishonoring passion.” There are some sins that God appears to especially hate. This is one of them. But it is also a sin that God will forgive if the individual wants Him to. It is a sin we must forgive as well.

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