I had planned to share with you the ever changing saga of the Methodist Church’s continuing discussion of church doctrine centered on same sex issues, notably homosexuality, which is referenced in the church’s Book of Discipline, its governing document, which states that the “practice of homosexuality” is “incompatible with Christian teaching.” This journey has consumed at least 40 years of time at the cost of thousands of reams of paper, countless hours of labour and attention that could have been better spent doing the Lord’s work. According to Ashley Boggan PhD. Student, Drew University, in a list compiled May 2015 and I quote from the article:
“1964: Council on Religion and the Homosexual, an ecumenical organization founded by Glide Memorial Methodist and Rev. Ted McIlvenna, formed in San Francisco, CA: “Ministers acknowledged the role that religion played in the persecution of gays and promised to initiate dialogue in their denominations on the churches’ stand toward same-gender sexuality.”
So we began the journey. From 1964 until 2014 there were at my count thirty such instances that were brought forth for consideration about this issue and related concerns, presented in Annual and General Conferences. There have been numerous petitions also made to the General Conferences over the years. Trust me…there are so many different turns in this Journey To God’s Will and the road so full of well meaning people, I doubt one could hear any prayer for God’s guidance in this matter. Now to bring us up to date on the status of this debate, and that is being polite, it has intensified I believe because over time people have changed. Those who advocate a change see these past few years as being to their advantage, so in reality the church has been put in a no win situation. There are churches leaving the Methodist Church and doing so in increasing numbers. The Pew works hard to not let personal opinion overrule the scripture to advance or influence the advancement of certain agenda driven activities. Today I will step out of the Pew for a bit and share some personal thoughts with you. As I wrote, this debate about sexuality issues has been before the church for over 40 years now. Some years back a vote was taken to allow the Bishops of the church to appoint a commission to re-evaluate rules on gay, lesbian and transgender clergy and marriage. I think both sides were happy with this for various reasons. The vote to establish such was 428 for and 405 no. To me it was necessary not so much to arrive at an answer as just another way to kick the Can a little further down the road and buy time to avoid the mess of imposing discipline on clergy and clergy candidates who disobey the current Book of Discipline which is the law of the governing body of the church published every four years or so.
Consider this…You simply can’t vote what’s right or scriptural correct and like it or not, a vote does not make a right or wrong correct on either side of this debate. We have kicked this can down the road so many times it has more dents in it than a car at Daytona after a NASCAR race. The progressives were happy with the vote the conservatives not so much. Make no mistakes both sides of the issue were exasperated the church is still arguing over it and seems to be closer to a split.
Consider this…There seems to be this attitude that if you don’t agree, just ignore the Book of Discipline and do your thing. This is not that unusual in our current societal reasoning, too many people in all walks and areas of life have been able to elevate this type of behavior to a level that is noble…a means of expressing the worth of your argument…being a victim of unfair treatment. To me it is just another example of a man made law that is inadequate and lacks the divine wisdom of the God we serve. The United Methodist Church is the third largest worshiping body in the United States and claims over 12 million members worldwide. Let that number sink in for a moment. Just think with that number and the enormous resources it is capable of amassing, we are still unable to answer the questions surrounding the issue of how we as a church deal with the “practice of homosexuality” in the Church.There was sometime ago a song titled “Looking For Love In All The Wrong Places”. Stay with me now…what in the world could that possibly have to do with our problem?
Could it be more appropriate to perhaps change our focus and maybe even our position…perhaps we should spend more time on our knees instead of on a soap box. I believe the answer to the issue of same sex practices within the faith lies in God’s Will. I believe such a revelation is of a Divine nature…through prayer, a strong relationship with God in our everyday life and revealed to us through the Holy Spirit. Therefore I believe we have been looking in all the wrong places for the answer to this issue before the church. One web site, Bible Gateway, offers many different ways to study the Bible and has available over 150 commentaries on the OT and NT. For those of us who study and seek to share the word it is of great assistance. Modern day technology gives us a wealth of material with only a pressing of a key on any computer. You can also look to several other points of distribution.
Consider this…The Holy Spirit does not function in turmoil, disagreement and disrespect of others opinions. The Holy Spirit does not accept opinions as fact….or better put…God’s Will. You will not find it in Rainbows, Clerical robes, Bishop’s robes or on the end of a clinched fist, raised in emotional frustration. God’s Will is available to those who earnestly seek it and we all will be closer to finding it when we are on our knees in humble prayer. So to wrap this up…back to some music.
“The answer my friend does not blow in the wind” It lies in God’s Will. What does God expect of us?
He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you But to do justly,
To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?
Life is Good
Laurie Goodstein May 18, 2016
The New Interpreter’s Bible