This has been a two year journey filled with hope and at times a quite sadness that tugs constantly at my heart. This is really not about theology. A short definition of theology is sufficient for this subject.
(the study of religious faith, practice, and experience; especially : the study of God and of God’s relation to the world)
It is about God’s word and my interpretation of it. It is important that I stress I have arrived at this point through prayer and honestly seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit. My views stated here are those of a layman who has sought a path out of the turmoil within my church. To be fair I must say that I am responsible for part of that turmoil, which at first I dismissed as a resistance to change. Truth is it would have been much simpler if that were the issue. Theology, that’s something else, such study concentrates primarily upon the texts of the Old Testament and of the New Testament, as well as on Christian tradition. Christian theologians use biblical explanation or interpretation of a text, rational analysis and argument. Theologians may undertake Christian theology in order: … to facilitate reforms in the Christian church. Now that brings us to…church doctrine-
“The written body of teachings of a religious group that are generally accepted by that group, Religious doctrine, creed, gospel.”
Now I believe it reasonable to say not all of us believe the same about everything, it is after all what makes the world go round. The basic Christian beliefs that Jesus Christ is the Son of the one living God and the only way to salvation is through him, well that stands most everywhere. Most all of us accept the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit and it can be found in most church doctrines. So what has led me to this turmoil and a two year journey to find peace among the turmoil?
Everything I was taught in Sunday school, what my parents taught me and the doctrine of the church has formed my faith. I am soon to be seventy-five and the years of examples of the Saints of the church are aways on my mind. Of course among the examples there is always the traditions passed from one generation to the next. It had become a comfortable place to be, with the church being the center of my life. I never saw it coming, the turmoil that has led me on this journey. To me there would always be new ways to do things as the church struggled to keep up with the always changing secular and societal changes in the world around it. Now it must be understood that while the years have brought me to this place I am now at, I have always been a work in progress with no date of completion. However years of study, seeking the Spirits leadership has convinced me that one thing never changes. The word of God as found in the Bible, it is the one constant in this world we live in. The word of God, in it “I raise my Ebenezer, my stone of help.”
It is difficult having something taken from you but I have discovered it is even more so giving something up because of personal convictions and beliefs. There is always the possibility that you may be wrong, or honestly confused. As I have arrived at this place late in life I am seasoned by many poor decisions balanced by the blessing of being able to learn from them, and of forgiveness for my transgressions. Infallibility is not and never will be in the DNA of a Christian. So why is this confession of mine so difficult? Personal beliefs and convictions for most of us change over the years, that I can understand and accept. What I was not prepared for was the blatant efforts of some in the church to find a way around not only God’s word but also church law as written in the Book of Discipline. Even more disturbing was the fact it was influenced by societal change in its view toward same-gender issues, to the point there were some within the church willing to look beyond the word, to allow the church to meet the changing morals of society at large. Our Christian faith is unique, it comes to us through the very voice of God, which comes to us in Jesus Christ. It must be transmitted to other people through those of us who know him.
A recent morning devotional pointed out that as human beings we are prone to seek out information that supports our opinions and positions. I find myself guilty of this. My journey started years ago but it wasn’t until a few years ago I truly accepted the salvation of Christ and the forgiveness of my sins and understanding that forgiveness required repentance. I must change my way of living and do all I could to grow in the faith. I came to the belief that seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit was necessary for my journey of seeking to know the truth through God’s word. For thirty years in the Methodist church I saw a deliberate trend to associate scripture with various social agendas. Sunday school lessons became a tour of the current social issues that were common in the day. I pushed most of these aside and concentrated on studying the word, praying for guidance and becoming more and more involved in the church. I do admit that I feel strongly about the time people spend trying to find a way around the word to forward certain agendas or rationalize their behavior. I will not get into a scripture quoting contest because that is part of the problem. The pulling of and the using of scripture, many times taken out of context to advance beliefs or in some cases a position. To me the least arguable social cause of these days would be the same-gender issue that at this very moment threatens to spilt the Methodist Church.
In the Bible, the written word of God, nowhere will you find any verse supporting such behavior. My feelings had become so strong that I became obsessed to the point of distraction and losing the reason for my journey. You see it is God’s will that we love all people. For me the old cliché, “love the sinner, hate the sin” was more about convenience and less about my Christian duty. I chose to leave the Methodist Church for many reasons that over the years I had allowed to become a distraction, which in a sense is a sin. Do I recommend others take this path? No I do not. My behavior was such that I was doing a disservice to my God, my family and my church. I had to get back to the word and learn why I believe what I do. God’s word must be the foundation for all I do and believe. I will always love the Methodist Church and I do miss all the people I went to church with over the years. Had I grounded myself better in the faith I could have withstood such drastic action.
So I close on this note…… There is no wiggle room in Scripture. Marriage is between man and a woman. We must remember that same-gender practices are just one of many human failings that are sinful in the eyes of God. I just cannot accept that
“Those whom God hath joined together, let no one put asunder.”
The God I serve would never sanction or approve sin…..period.
As point of reference that is still in the United Methodist Book of Worship. (page 137 in my copy) There are also two other options as to the marriage service itself. As far as I am concerned you may marry anyone you wish but I do not accept what is an abomination in God’s eye to ever be with his blessing or approval. I would also like to state that there are more than one issue involved in my decision. The lack of leadership from the “church” to deal with this for so many years, allowing this division to grow and kicking the can down the road to avoid the eventual confrontation is indefensible. The steady decline of Lay participation and input is also regrettable. There is much to celebrate in the Methodist Church and I pray that it will find a way to respect God’s law as written and passed down from the patriarchs and prophets and has been taught all these years. Would I advise you to leave the church? No, I would not. I will always regret that I was not strong enough to find peace among the turmoil. I have so far been able to write this without pulling the usual verses to make a point. To me it is simple…… To me my faith is fed by God’s word and the leading of the Holy Spirit….. In this I find peace amid the turmoil.
Life is Good