Join Pastor Ed on Nov 8 @ 11:15am for a conversation with guests Joy and Bill Watts on this important issue.
Admittedly, this is a HUGE topic to try and cover in ONE blog entry, so I’m not even going to try. What I will attempt to do is provide a concise and focused explanation of:
1. What the United Methodist Church says about Homosexuality and Same Sex Marriage.
2. What the Bible has to say about this issue
Before I go into that discussion, it is important to note that this is a critical issue on a human spiritual level. We care for people deeply, and for those of us who know and love homosexual people we want to know, “Is there a place in church for them? Is there a place in the heart of God for them?”
The Christian faith is one of compassion, love, forgiveness and acceptance, and yet on this issue we so often see the exact opposite. Hopefully our session on Sunday can help us begin creating an environment where all people feel accepted and receive the grace of God.
The United Methodist Church (UMC):
In a word the UMC is conflicted over this issue. Since 1972 homosexuality has been a “Hot Button Issue” at every General Conference (the top legislative authority for the UMC that meets every four years).
Below is a summary of the UMC’s current official position on homosexuality and same sex marriage as found in the denominations 2012 Book of Discipline (sets forth the official doctrine and governance for the denomination), and the 2012 Book of Resolutions (official social policies).
Does the UMC…
Affirm the sacred worth of homosexual persons? Yes
Allow homosexuals to be members? Yes
Allow homosexuals to hold lay (non-clergy) positions of leadership? Yes
Advocate equal rights for homosexual persons and same sex couples? Yes
Oppose homophobia and heterosexism? Yes
Condone the practice of homosexuality? No
Ordain, to be ministers, self-avowed practicing homosexuals? No
Allow pastors to perform same sex marriages? No
Allow the baptism of children of same sex couples? Yes
These positions have been crafted and developed over 40 years. The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision legitimizing same sex marriage in the United States has made this a central issue for the next General Conference that will be held this May in Oregon. At General Conference delegates will review and debate the positions noted above, and make motions to change these positions.
Now, let’s take a look at what does the Bible has to say about Homosexuality and Same Sex Marriage.
I wish I could put this information in a simple "yes/no" format as above, but it is not so simple. The Bible is a spiritual living document that provides us with the mind of God on so many issues, and yet it can also be challenging to fully interpret. When speaking of our 21st century social and cultural issues it is critical to remember that the Bible was written at a specific time, in a specific place, addressing specific issues for a specific culture.
Concerning social issues the challenge is to take the whole of scripture into account when seeking the will of God for our specific time, our specific place, and our specific issues for our specific culture. This isn’t to say that we bend the Bible to our particular beliefs; however, it is to say that Biblical interpretation is far more complex than simply lifting up verses here and there and applying them for today. It is important to consider the entire biblical witness.
This is the case with the issue of homosexuality and the Bible. It is important to consider the entire biblical witness rather than simply lifting out the five passages that deal with same sex intimacy. Yes, the Bible says that homosexuality is wrong; however… The Bible also says that women…
Should be silent in the church
Should not braid their hair
Should not wear men’s clothing
Have to marry a man who rapes them
The Bible also…
Says a Rebellious son should be stoned to death.
Supports the practice of slavery, and even allows a “master” to beat a slave to the point of death.
Prohibits people to wear clothing made of two different types of material (purge your closet of all cotton blends!).
This is only a partial list of “unusual” Biblical prohibitions, but these were written to address specific community and cultural issues of that day. Members of the United Methodist Church would no longer claim that these are valid prohibitions for Christians today.
In the UMC we certainly do not follow the seemingly Biblical position that women are second class citizens, or are subservient to men. On the contrary women provide critical and vital leadership, as both lay and clergy, in the church and have done so for many, many years.
Also, our faith, and our culture, abhors the very idea of slavery, though it was an accepted practice in biblical times by “God’s people.”
Rather than having the position of “God said it and that’s it!” perhaps a more faithful process is to seek to discern God’s Word by asking, “Why did God say that? What were the cultural and historic issues that caused that prohibition?”
What we think as cut and dry concerning God’s Word is not always so. In order to discern God’s Word for today, we need to have a thoughtful Biblical study that includes reviewing the cultural context.
People of real and vital faith disagree concerning God’s position on homosexuality and same sex marriage. Both positions utilize God’s Word to support what they believe to be a faithful Christian position.
Regardless where one stands on this issue it is important to remember that as Christians we are called by God to be a people of GRACE. We are called to love as God loves; to be non-judgmental, and to be forgiving as God is forgiving. When we commit to this calling we are empowered to create churches where all people can experience the love and grace of God.
I look forward to our class on Sunday morning!
In preparation you may want to review the following:
For the UMC official positions please visit:
Adam Hamilton is Pastor of the 20,000 member Resurrection UMC in Leewood, KS. He has written several articles on the issue of homosexuality that are thoughtful and though provoking positions. Here are two (you can also follow links to other articles)…
Homosexuality, the Bible and the United Methodist Church
The Bible and the Supreme Court Case on Same Sex Marriage