May 15, 2012

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Gay Marriage, the Council of Bishops and a Selective Reading of the Book of Discpline

Religious organizations are adept at practicing forked tongue theology—which is the art of using code words to deny and disguise and resolve the contradiction between their professed beliefs and their behavior.  A classic example of this common institutional practice is the recent ruling against homosexuality of The United Methodist Church’s General Conference, the Church’s top lawmaking body.  The theme of the General Conference’s April 14- May 4 meeting was, “Make Disciples of Jesus Christ to Transform the World.”  Sadly, The United Methodist Church continued to demonstrate its longstanding inability to transform itself, as a majority of some 1000 General Conference delegates, 61 to 39 percent, voted once again to maintain The Church’s doctrinal belief that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” (“Methodists Vote Against Homosexuality Rule Change,” by Laurie Goodstein, The New York Times, May 4, 2012)

Code words allow people to profess inclusion and practice exclusion with a “straight” face.  The United Methodist Church’s governing Book of Discipline is permeated with such code words.  In one breath, it states, “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.”  And in the next breath, without batting an eye, The Book of Discipline goes on, “The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.”  Then from rejection back to acceptance: “We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian or gay members and friends.  We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons.” (Part IV SOCIAL PRINCIPLES, G) Human Sexuality, Page 101, The United Methodist Publishing House, Nashville, 2004)  Code words allow many United Methodist Christians to profess love and practice loathing.

Never mind that dictionaries define “incompatible” as “mutually exclusive,” “unable to live together harmoniously,” “inadmissible,” “antithetical,” “contrary,” “antagonistic,” “clashing,” “irreconcilable” [italics added]  “Incompatible” calls for a paternalistic relationship that relegates the institutionally powerless others to an inferior status.  Such “reconciling relationships with God, with others and with self” are the very opposite of the Jesus-inspired commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22: 39)  Here, United Methodism’s “God,” with homophobic Bible verses to back up “His” paternalism, becomes the most used code word of all.

These arrogant, hypocritical code words, based on a fundamental misunderstanding of psychosexual development, do spiritual and emotional violence to the identity and inherent worth and rights of lesbian and gay persons.  “The ministry and guidance of the church” have been a primary stumbling block to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons “in their struggles for human fulfillment.”  And, instead of “enabling reconciling relationships with God, with others and with self,” The United Methodist Church’s hurtful, actually homophobic beliefs, turn gay and lesbian persons—and their families—into “unpardonable” religiously flawed human beings, and separates and marginalizes and estranges them.


May 15, 2012

Comments (3)

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Rev Alberts gets it right

Rev Alberts gets it right in this hard hitting article. It's tough to hear his criticisms and I agree with him! But, how else can we characterize the official statements from the Discipline, than homophobic? It is obvious that our rules against gays and lesbians are not based on science, reason, experience, or contemporary Biblical scholarship. They are maintained by votes from Africa which has a very different culture in which sexuality may not even be discussed and laws are being passed to criminalize same sex relationships.
The Bishops have gradually shown more compassion to gays and lesbians but as long as their official statements uphold unjust laws without critiquing them in any way, the rest of the denmination gets a message loud and clear:
Conservatives are emboldened to make stricter and stricter rules against gays and lesbians and pastors who dare to marry them;
Gays and lesbians and those who are trying to remove the hurtful rules know they have to do it without the bishops' help.
Thank God for the individual bishops like Minerva Carano, Grant Hagiya, Mary Ann Swenson and others who are speaking out publicly for change.
May their numbers increase! And God help us all.

Jeff Conn more than 1 years ago

Is "Scripture the Final Say," really?

Whether Peter M said it or someone else added the title, some of us strongly disagree with the statement "Scripture is the final say!"

What we do agree with is John Dominic Croissan's views on page 187 of his book THE GREATEST PRAYER which reads as follows:

". . .Christ is the norm, the criterion, the purpose, and the meaning of the book. . .We are not the People OF the Book; we are the People WITH the Book. The Gospel of John does not say, "God so loved the world that he gave us" a BOOK (3:16). The Revelation of John does not say that we are saved "by the INK of the Lamb" (12:11). For over a hundred years Christians have asked WWJD? (What Would Jesus Do?) and not WWBS? (What Would the Bible Say?) If Christ is the norm of the gospel, then he is also the norm of the New Testament, and of the entire Christian Bible. That, of course, is why we are called Christ-ians and not Bible-ians."

And I might add, we aren't called Paul-ians either.

Who knows for sure exactly the culture and context of Paul's reference to "sexually immoral" ? But today in 2012 to label people who follow Jesus' way, exhibit the presence of Christ in their lives, and are in long-term loving and committed same-sex relationshipss as being "sexually immoral" and to suggest they be expelled from the church certainly doesn't reflect the spirit of the Christ. I support Rev. Alberts' call for us to follow the spirit of "the Jesus-inspired commandment to 'love your neighbor as yourself,'" and I hope that the transforming love Christ has for all of us will help us love ourselves better so that we can all follow that commandment and truly love, not condemn or seek to expel, the neighbor.

Mary Preston more than 1 years ago

Scripture is the final say!

What the Methodist are struggling with is co existing with immorality inside the church. Anyone who professes Christ and lives in immorality needs to come under church discipline and either repent or be expelled. Maybe the Methodist church needs to get smaller by way of living out all aspects of holiness & discipline before it can grow effectively.

To rebuke this warped hollow philosophy of embracing immorality "inside the church" the definition of Christian in the biblical context refers to those who repented of "sins" and are walking in grace even if they have not yet been cleansed of inbred "sin".  Paul addressed the believers who were allowing immorality to not even associate with the immoral who professed Christ. 

 "I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people– not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? (1 Corinthians 5:9-12 NIV84)

The immoral are lumped in with other sins that are not to be allowed. May God grant the Methodist and all true churches the courage to face sin "in the church" before we can expect to reach the lost outside the church. Indeed these are difficult days and the Methodist voted well.

Peter M more than 1 years ago


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