Toward a Pure and Holy Church



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It is not about rules

It is about what we believe about God and ourselves. Did God create the world with a clear intent for how we are to interact with each other or not? And even if we all say yes God had a clear intent, we still disagree over what that intent is. All this variation of understanding leaves the church with absolutely nothing at all to say. It is impossible for any organization to be effective when it constantly contradicts itself. What is going on in the UMC is like somebody is hired to promote Nike tennis shoes and that person promises to do so. However, somewhere down the road they decided that Reeboks were better and they start promoting Reeboks but still expect Nike to pay them.

betsy more than 3 years ago

The Issue: Official UM Approval

Concerning our practice of any of the other sins that you quote from 1 Corinthians 6, Galatians 5, and Matthew 15 (among others), are any of us petitioning GC for official approval of the ongoing practice of such acts and for the official removal of the label of sin from them?

Francis more than 3 years ago

Your Tougue-in-Cheek suggestion misses the big picture

For the record, but I know you know, this is not just about UMC’s future. Our Judeo-Christian values, summed up not only in ancient written forms, but in the moral code of our civilizations for thousands of years, are under attack. I am one of those who see the churches and synagogues as guiding lights and caretakers of the moral compass which have organized and guided our civilizations. Further, even though I do not know much about Eastern or Middle-Eastern religions, I am certain that none accept LGBTQ lifestyles in official terms. Some, I know, even kill those found in such relationships.

So, to mock our Methodists’ “traditionalist” view of such cultural mores is to mock essentially all religions and cultures throughout recorded time. Indeed, we Methodists have many differences with many religions, even among denominations of Christianity, but there are some very rock solid common denominators among all.

While I really don’t judge what people do in their own lives, I do care what impact those who lead us have on our culture (UMC clergy, for example). I am a sinner and hold every other sinner welcome in the same pew, but please don’t ask me to condone those sins or to ratify or accept or in any way support those things which I believe deleterious to my culture, to the teachings of my society, to the moral future of my world. My “traditional” stance is based more on my belief that the UMC must remain one of the moral foundations of my society. That is more important to me than the UMC itself; I CAN CHANGE CHURCHES. I CANNOT CHANGE SOCIETIES.

My Methodist church was important to me, but I have prayed in many places and found peace. In the Navy, our services were non-denominational, when traveling abroad on business, I visited a variety of churches over the years. I even find a closeness to God when I play golf – a game played among those things of His creation, with very strict rules which I am to obey whether anyone is watching or not. Charity? There are many organizations which do God’s work.

Bottom Line: these are not just “rules” from the Book of Discipline which “progressives” are demanding we Methodists discard, these are rules shared by the world’s cultures and religions over all of recorded history – I’m not going to argue with that!

Reese more than 3 years ago

Just Rules

"Bottom Line: these are not just “rules” from the Book of Discipline which “progressives” are demanding we Methodists discard, these are rules shared by the world’s cultures and religions over all of recorded history...."

Actually, they really are "just rules".

I trained for the Orthodox rabbinate in a traditional, right-wing yeshiva, and so can attest to the paradigm Jesus was trained in, the paradigm he obviously accepted as witnessed in the gospels.

By even the most right-wing Jewish Law and tradition, homosexuality itself, as we know it today, is not an issue. While the Old Testament does condemn male/male intimacy, it nowhere condemns female/female intimacy; in fact, by the most right-wing Jewish Law, it is not forbidden for women to be intimate, even if they are married to men. The rabbonim - going back thousands of years - explain that this means that the issue is not homosexuality but rather two different issues:

1. If a married man is intimate with another man, he will not be able to come home and create life with his wife. Therefore, he will not be able to fulfill the positive mitzvah to be fruitful and multiply. This is a real problem in Judaism.

2. It was considered self-abasing for a man to put himself in the position of a woman, i.e. to be the receptive partner in an act of intimacy. This, due to the general social paradigm everywhere that women were inferior to men.

So, even the most ultra-Orthodox rabbonim hold - again, going back thousands of years - that homosexuality, as we know it today, is not the issue.

While it is true that gay or gay-leaning Orthodox Jewish men do not marry men, there is no crazy stigmatizing hoopala over gay or lesbian activity as there is in many sectors of the Christian Church. It is just accepted that some men are 'made different', for whatever reason, by their Creator, and we let them be.

Similarly, Jewish Law recognizes that gender exists on a continuum so that while the vast majority of us are born distinctively male or female, there are some who are not - and these people are not to be stigmatized, either. They are accepted as they are. So, in many ways, the Orthodox Jewish world is far ahead of the UMC when it comes to intersex and transgendered individuals, too.

Regarding the New Testament: Although certainly not every word of Jesus was recorded, we generally accept that the Gospels record his most popular and 'important' messages. Given this, please note that nowhere do the Gospels imply that Jesus ever said a word about homosexuality.

So, my question for you is, if Jesus didn't trouble himself about homosexuality, why does the UMC? Why do you?

Source: I am an Orthodox Jewish rabbi.

Ben more than 3 years ago

Maybe Jesus thought the subject had been covered in the previous writings and cultural norms?

Maybe Jesus didn't feel the need to cover that or was focused on so many other things - after all, he only had 3 years, no TV, no direct mail and no internet, and a staff of only 12. Anyway, I am certainly not smart or studied enough to know exactly how he did feel on the subject, but judging by the wide range of scholarly opinions, I am not alone.

I just go with what the norms of my culture are and seem to have been since before Moses. And, I am tied to the teachings of my parents, the Boy Scouts, friends, family and my general surroundings since I was born. Again, this in no way says "hate" or non-acceptance of others, but it draws a line on what I will accept as my spiritual leadership and what I will accept the church I fund and fill to promote (gay marriage). I really don't care what others do, but don't ask me to endorse or subsidize those things not of my norm.

I hope there is a split so that we can all get back to worship without debate on ancillary issues. Now, my question to you is why is a Jewish rabbi concerning himself with the UMC - especially if, as you claim, the Jewish faith is so accepting?

Reese more than 3 years ago

Ben's take on Jewish beliefs is a mix of truth and error

Ben is correct that the orthodox Jewish beliefs have, in many cases, reinterpreted the Law in extremely esoteric ways. This is no different than when Christ called out the hypocrisy of the Jewish leaders for substituting their own rules instead of following God's commands. There really is a fine splitting of hairs in Orthodox Judaism when it comes to interpreting or excusing themselves from requirements of the Law. It is not true however that Jewish interpretation of the Law going back thousands of years has not viewed homosexual acts (both male and female) as sinful; this is simply wishful thinking on Ben's part. In many ways, Orthodox Judaism today still emphasizes following rules over the weightier matters of the Law, i.e., holiness of heart.

In his response to my comment, Ben states that we should never judge since we are indicting ourselves when we point out the sins of others, and that we need to remove the logs from our own eyes. This is ironic since he then proceeds to judge us by referring to the prohibitions against homosexual practice in the BoD as "bigoted", never appearing to consider that his embracing or excusing the sin of homosexual practice is the log in his own eye.

Paul W. more than 3 years ago

What exactly is wrong with holiness and righteousness?

I know this is intended as sarcasm, but why would hungering and thirsting after righteousness be a bad thing? John Wesley would not allow those who were living sinful lives or even those who were not growing in righteousness to continue in the Methodist societies. Maybe a return to a serious faith where sin of all forms is not tolerated is exactly what we need today!

Abstaining from sin is a key part of being a true Christian; as Wesleyans, we believe that we are freed from bondage to sin through faith in Christ and that the Holy Spirit empowers us to overcome temptation. This is how we must live: Without holiness, no man will see God. He who perseveres to the end shall be saved.

Paul W. more than 3 years ago

Holiness and Righteousness

There is nothing wrong with "hungering and thirsting after righteousness". The problem is that, while we are busy thirsting, we often turn our attention away from our own sins and lock our attention onto the supposed sins of others.

If we would all remove the logs from our own eyes before attempting to remove the specks from those of others, we would not have any trouble at all. There would be no bigoted statements in our Book of Discipline - or any other church materials, for that matter.

None of us is perfect. Not one of us can point a finger at another without indicting himself.

Ben more than 3 years ago

Bad analogy

While Scripture labels drunkeness as a vice, does it anywhere condemn moderate intake of alcohol as sinful? I do not remember Scripture doing so. In fact Paul recommends a moderate intake of wine. Does Scripture label being female as sinful? I don't think so. Scripture, both Old and New, however, does explicit state active homosexual conduct is sinful.

So while all sinners are welcome in our UMC churches, our pastors, district superintendents and bishops should not be ordained as such if they actively choose to be drunks, liars, thieves, idolaters, sorcerers, slanderers, or engagers of fornication, adultery or homosexual relationships.

Either get the votes to change the Book of Discipline or follow your vows to uphold it. Or did you do that with your fingers crossed behind your back? And if you think it's okay to engage in ecclesiastical disobedience against the Book of Discipline because it offends your personal notions of justice, fine. Just don't be upset when those of us who believe our Church law means what it says and choose to honor thousands of years of Orthodox belief on the sacred meaning of marriage choose to engage in our own acts of disobedience based on conscience by refusing to honor and pay apportionments or even make the decision to leave the denomination, either individually, or by congregations or even jurisdictions.

We don't need a particular denomination, a creation of man, but we all do need God. We want to be His people, set apart, to be an example unto the world and the contemporary culture.

God Bless you and I pray the Called General Conference provides guidance on how we can reorganize so that both or all three divisions can follow their consciences and move on with how best they can do God's work here on Earth.

John more than 3 years ago

No One is Perfect

John, you missed the point entirely. No one is perfect. Given that fact, it is assumed that every single church leader and member will be imperfect, i.e. sinful. If we were to remove every sinful person from the church, there would be no one left.

So, truly, we need to stop pointing fingers at each other. Time to stop the childish nonsense once and for all. Clear the nasty words from the Book of Discipline and other church documents. Stop focusing on what others do in the privacy of their bedrooms.

Ben more than 3 years ago