“The issue of homosexuality was first openly debated in the church at the 1972 General Conference, four years after the Methodist and Evangelical United Brethren churches joined to form The United Methodist Church. Issues related to sexuality have continued to be debated at General Conference gatherings since then. General Conference last met in Portland, Ore., in 2016 and will next meet in a special session in St. Louis, Missouri in 2019.” (http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/human-sexuality-backgrounder

This is another one of those blogs that I have started over more than once. This is an issue that I have always believed to be driven by social and organizational agendas and having no standing in the church. Here I will get a few raised eyebrows, as I believe God settled this issue long ago. Having gained no significant ground over the years it sought a more universal platform, one that would produce a large enough angst among a larger more focused group and then there was the Methodist Church, just one among many.Here is the thing, if you were looking for a way to reach a lot of people who were passionate about something, you need look no further. Next, you need controversy, the more the better. Nothing, absolutely nothing, draws a crowd better than controversy. It was, to use a time-worn phase, “a marriage made in heaven.” So I have come to the conclusion that this same-sex issue has kidnaped the Church and Christianity. Now the Methodist church was an obvious target due to the fact that they are so vast, serving all over the word and taking seriously the charge to “do good whenever you can and wherever you can.” The Methodist church has had a social agenda for a long time, well-funded and active. in Romans 14:1 -15:13 we find Paul dealing with issues within a small church in Rome. Paul’s discussions of the different opinions that separate them is remarkable in that Paul in this section of scripture uses no identifiers such as Jew, Gentiles, circumcised or uncircumcised. He briefly lists the matters that divide them and focuses on the things that bring them together. To put this in context with today’s same-sex issue is not that hard and we must acknowledge that this issue is not the only one facing the church of today but it is the one at this time that seems to be capable of splitting the church. Paul takes these issues concerning the early church and makes it one about opinions, and as you know, everyone has one. The interpretation of scripture is one of the driving forces of this same-sex issue which is  changing church doctrine today. The issues may be different but he stays with the theme of the commonality of the faith. There are people of diverse backgrounds coming to join the people of the one God and acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Messiah. The church at that time was very much still Jewish in many of its practices and these Gentiles were of a different opinion concerning the matters of worship and faith. At that time the big issue was what you could eat and what not to eat, being circumcised or not  being circumcised. Paul knew that the problem was between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians and there were strong and weak in both as to their adherence to the faith. Here is a point that would help us with this issue in the church today….Paul does not condemn either for their opinion. Paul is worried that the matters that have arisen will threaten the united worship of the one God. Paul is concerned that this worship of all sorts of people will be impacted by social or cultural influences and the insertion of Jewish law into this new “way” for God to be reconciled with his people would impact the church’s growth. Paul knew the elements that were involved here, but wisely chose to not emphasize them, he did not want to be drawing lines in the sand, he preferred to insist that it was possible for people of different opinions to learn to live and worship together.  

Now it gets a little sticky here on. Here again is my opinion, yours may differ. Paul equates “strong or weak” in the faith to a matter of maturity. We should not disqualify people for their opinion, because opinion is not a requisite of Christianity. Can we recognize that people whose faith is anchored by the belief that Jesus Christ, the risen Messiah and Lord belong together in the same family……the “Family of God”? What is the standard for exclusion from the “Family of God” and who makes that judgement? I must make this plain. The research material I am drawing from divides this segment of scriptures (Romans 14: 1 -15- 13) into three segments. In 14: 1-12 we read that the weak and the strong are made aware that they each have the same Lord. He is the Lord of all and we all will be judged and held to account by him. It is not right that any Christian should pre-empt God’s right in advance. Verses 13-14 present a real problem for many of us. Can we cope with the need to not condemn others opinions? Can we learn to respect and not make demands on one another’s consciences? When we get to the verses in chapter 15 there is an insistence on a mutual welcome to all people. Jews and Gentiles, following the risen Christ, the Messiah through whom our God will give the hope and power to be one in the Holy Spirit.

For over thirty years I sat in a pew in the Methodist Church and then a little over three years ago I found another pew. To my beloved church and to my brothers and sisters, I beg you not to leave as I have. We are one in Christ and we should not let opinions and other views drive us from the “Unity of Christian worship.” Judge not, Believe, Respect, Love and Honor God’s call to Unity. 

Life is Good

jk 

Advertisements