I've switched over to the new version of blogger. I like it a lot, because it's easier to make changes and add do-dads and what-nots. But it has come at a price. I have lost access to all those wonderful Haloscan comments that you, the readers, have made over the years. I can get to them through haloscan, but readers will not be able to go back and look at the comments left over the last four years. Hey, don't blame me, blame Marvin; he's the one who set up this blog using Haloscan for comments!
Over at Levellers Michael has a thoughtful series of posts about the full inclusion of GLBT folks in the church. (His first two posts are here and here). I am going to be writing about this topic as well, because I am too impatient and keep "jumping ahead" of Michael's argument! Michael is an excellent theologian, and I hope he finds his way back into the academy. I do, however, disagree with him about this subject, and I wish to differentiate my views from his so that I can understand Michael and myself more clearly. So, I am doing this for my own sake as much as anyone else's.
For starters, here is a newsletter article I wrote about a year and a half ago. It is the only time I have ever expressed my views to my congregation about this subject. I will be saying more in the coming days, but I share this just as "preliminaries."
Wow. I bet that headline got your attention. Everyone wants to read what the pastor is going to say about homosexuality. Or do they?
Suppose the headline had said, “Twenty-four thousand peopled died yesterday from hunger.” Or “Thirty-two died yesterday in Iraq.” Or “One Million People died yesterday who never accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Would those headlines have caught our attention? They should have. Instead, our attention has been captured by a narrow focus on homosexuality. That is wrong. We need to focus on feeding the hungry, offering compassion to the vulnerable, and making disciples for Jesus Christ. We do not need to focus on homosexuality.
Which is why you have never heard me preach about the subject. I thought surely this summer when I was taking requests for sermon topics, that someone would ask for a sermon about homosexuality. But no one did. And I’m glad. However, since the subject is a prevalent issue in our culture today, it should be addressed by the church.
I am in full agreement with the teaching of the United Methodist Church on this subject. If you want to know my views, simply read the Discipline. The Discipline states that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching,” and prohibits any sort of marriage or religious blessing for persons of the same sex. The United Methodist Church does not ordain self-avowed, practicing homosexuals.
The Discipline also affirms, “homosexual persons no less than heterosexual persons are individuals of sacred worth. All persons need the ministry and guidance of the church in their struggles for human fulfillment, as well as the spiritual and emotional care of a fellowship that enables reconciling relationships with God, with others, and with self. We affirm that God’s grace is available to all, and we will seek to live together in Christian community. We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons.”
The United Methodist position may seem complex to some, but the situation is complex. I try to avoid overly simplistic answers. One simplistic answer is “discriminating against gays is just as bad as discriminating against blacks or other minorities.” It is not that simple. Homosexual practice is an act which is subject to moral discernment. One’s race is not an act, which is why it is obviously not immoral to be black, white, red, or yellow.
Another overly simplistic position is to say that “the Bible says homosexuality is wrong, so it is.” Proof-texting (or quoting certain isolated verses of Scripture without reference to how they fit in the overall message of the Bible) does not necessarily lead to a biblical point of view. If it did, we would not be allowed to eat pork, wear certain fabrics, worship on Sunday, keep both of our eyes, allow women to sing in the choir or appear in church without a hat, keep any of our money, emancipate slaves, or do any business with the bank. Rather, what it means to have a biblical point of view is to consider the “whole tenor of the Scriptures.” And the overall message of the Bible concerning our sexuality is that God’s gift of sexuality is meant to be fully expressed only within the lifelong monogamous covenant between one man and one woman. So the church has taught consistently for two thousand years, and so it will continue to teach. It is this theological understanding of marriage that is the basis for the United Methodist opposition to same-sex marriages.
The issue of homosexuality is not likely to go away soon. Remember that Jesus said we would be known as his disciples by our love, not by our views on homosexuality.
- avoid simplistic answers
- love everybody
- remain faithful to the Scriptures
- don't lose focus on making disciples and helping those in need