For 50 years the United Methodist has been arguing about the language and policies in the Discipline over issues of same gender weddings and ordination of self avowed, practicing homosexuals. And after all those years we have has not moved one way or the other. The two sides are just as far apart as we were in 1972. What is preventing us from coming together? Why can’t we find some resolution so we can get this issue behind us? I believe that the basic problem is that we are not talking about the same issues. We come together in acknowledging the same presenting issue – same gender marriage and ordination of self avowed practicing homosexuals – but we come at it from very different directions.
Some believe this is a matter of social justice. The church is rejecting some people simply because of who they are. That makes the issue no different than racism or sexism. And it is believed that all the isms need to be erased. The position come from a very solid Biblical position. “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 1-:13, Joel 2:32 NIV) or in the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35 NIV)
Those who see injustice in the church know that they cannot walk away nor can they give up the battle. Justice needs to be restored and they will do whatever they can for as long as it takes to rectify the situation. They have taken vows in the United Methodist Church, but a vow of much greater consequence has been made to God. Therefore, compromising on a justice issue is unthinkable.
Others believe this is a matter for being true to the word and will of God. They do not believe the issue is on par with sexism or racism. When they look to the Bible they only see one race – human. And when someone says that men need to be in charge, they can quickly turn to Miriam, Deborah, Ruth, Esther, and Mary of Magdala. They turn to Paul’s letter to the Galatians, “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26-28 NIV)
When some look to the Bible, they see passages from Genesis to the Revelation that condemn homosexual activity, but none affirm it. That leads to an understanding that homosexual behavior is against the will of God, which is stated in the Discipline. Where as this supposed sin is no worse than any other, the desire to continue living the lifestyle cannot be sanctified in marriage nor be the lifestyle of a pastoral leader. If one believe they are called to pastoral ministry while maintaining that lifestyle, there are options beyond the United Methodist Church. Therefore, compromising on the word of God is unthinkable.
When individuals with a traditional, orthodox theology see a proposal for full inclusion in the church, they see culture invading and influencing the Word of God rather than allowing the Word of God transform the culture. They cannot allow that to happen, not out of anger or hatred, but because of their understanding of the Word of God. When those with a liberal or more progressive theology see others standing against full inclusion in the church, they must fight against that attitude, not because they want to tear down the church, but because of their understanding of the Word of God.
One believes that the will of God is that all persons be included in the church. Others believe that it is the will of God that not all human actions should be allowed in the church. And Amos 3:3 reminds us, “How can two walk together unless they are agreed.” Therefore, no resolutions to these issues will be or can be found.
~~Chuck Sprenkle, President-Susquehanna WCA