For many years I sat in the pew, comfortably surrounded by those of faith and safely ensconced in the word, the good way as inscribed in scripture. The scripture, the fundamental teachings and written record of God’s will and relationship with those of his creation or as I prefer to say, the inspired word of  God. We know it as the bible, to theologians a treasure trove of information for those who are experts in the field of theology. Theology is the study of the nature of God and religious beliefs. That brings us to ‘laymen’ a non-ordained member of a church, a person without professional or specialized knowledge in a particular subject…. That would be me. It seems that the turmoil within the United Methodist Church is not in any way ready to go away. To me the greater concern is the marginalizing of God’s word in order to meet a social and cultural agenda. The attack on this denominations scriptural integrity is not a new thing. This is a decades long endeavor by people who are driven by their social or cultural belief to obtain what they believe is necessary to bolster the many causes of social justice. Forgive me if I sound harsh but at times this movement seems to take on an all about me attitude. As to the matter of hurt, we all have been hurt by this decades old process that has been forced upon the Methodist Church. The greatest victim in all this is the word, the scripture that has been ignored or marginalized by these events.

It is important that I make you aware that after well over thirty years in the Methodist Church, three years ago I left. People change churches all the time for a number of reasons and worst case being they just quit church altogether. My reason was not the church as much as it was my inability to control an obsession I had with the direction the church was moving. My decision to leave was not an overnight thing but a three year process of prayer, talking with other members and following closely the directional signs one can see in decisions made by governing bodies of the church. If you have read this far I hope you will stay with me, as I have been wanting to write this one for a while now. I have written other blogs in the past about this subject, then would put it aside awhile but it always seems to pop up at a later date. I consider this to be a distraction and an embarrassing weakness in my ability to stay focused on that which is important to my serving God and growing in the faith. The number of articles, blogs, comments and denominational news letters about this cancer that has been attacking the faith always draws me back. I strongly feel that the issue now on the table is destroying the Methodist Church and is part of a social justice agenda that has grown into a motivating factor in redefining our culture identity and practices. I have come to favor the term same-sex issues. The discomfort they cause on both sides of the aisle truly hinder any attempt to approach the issue from any point other than that of a debate as to the understanding of our differences. When you engage in a debate someone has to lose. To that point, I don’t believe that this is an issue that belongs in the church, any church. This is a social issue that needs to be addressed within the social and cultural expectations of society at large. On the human rights side to this, any discrimination that lessens a person’s rights or self esteem is of course everyone’s concern anywhere it occurs. 

The real issue within the faith is the disturbing lack of scriptural support that lends itself to their (same-sex advocates) position that this is acceptable behavior in living a Holy Life as we have been called to do. On my side of the aisle is the astounding lack of knowledge as to the Methodist Church and its position governing whom is acceptable and who is not. Let’s start here. The Methodist Church is open to all persons and no one is to be turned away from the Communion Table. Let’s be honest about this. Not all Methodists or Methodist Churches practice this. There is always an element within that just can’t accept people as they are, even though Christ did and even preached the need to love all people. Now to be fair we must go a step farther. The entire Christian Community is guilty of this. The issue is that this debate is about a social and cultural change that has been taking place for some time now and it has become a part of redefining the church as we know it. There was a time when the church changed society and culture but today it has flipped. The church is now being changed by society and culture and to its detriment, in order to make this change the very foundation of its soul, the scripture, the written word of God is being re-defined in order to meet the demands of this changing world we live in. In my research to prepare for this blog I discovered The Free Methodist Church and their position on the issue of same-sex and the place of  scriptural authority in decisions which affect church positions on this matter. The following is from one of their positional papers…

The biblical understanding and evaluation of homosexuality stand at the center of the Church’s response. This centrality of the Bible in the current discussion stems from two considerations. First, the Christian Church in general and the Free Methodist Church in particular hold the Bible to be the ultimate authority in all matters pertaining to faith and conduct. Indeed, the refusal to accept homosexuality in the Christian tradition throughout history derives from the biblical witness. Second, the Bible’s consistent negative appraisal of homosexuality is the primary obstacle to the acceptance of homosexuality by the majority of contemporary Christians and Christian bodies.

There has always been a broad consensus throughout history as to the interpretation of biblical passages dealing with homosexuality. This consensus is now being challenged by a few revisionist voices. From these few a vast amount of writings have emerged that challenge past interpretations.  It is my thought that the real issue is how do we as a church view scriptural integrity? If we believe it to be the inspired word of God are we to also believe it is subject to revisions crafted to meet the pressures of societal and cultural changes of the current day? Without going into great detail, we will just deal with intent. What was God’s intent in the creation of this world? Genesis from the very beginning sets forth the fundamental framework for human sexuality.

The whole of Gen. 1-3 functions as a “foundational narrative,” whose purpose is to set forth not only the origins of the cosmos and more specifically of the human race, but also the divine purpose and design for humanity. (David R. Bauer)   

I do not believe consensus of any kind can be reached amid the level of animosity that prevails concerning this issue. Read carefully this insert: “Paul would object most strongly to heterosexual Christians assuming an attitude of moral superiority and condemnation towards homosexuals. Homosexuality is a sin; but it is one sin among many. And all persons, “Both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin” ( Romans 3:9). It is thus imperative for Christians to embrace a proper perspective regarding homosexuality in relation to the sinfulness of all humanity, and to adopt an attitude that acknowledges and indeed emphasizes their own sinfulness outside of the grace of God rather than delighting in excoriating the sins of others.”(David R. Bauer) 

There are so many sides to this issue that many of us struggle to understand but to me the real motivator is God’s intent and his superiority over his creation. The fact that God created humankind “male and female” means that human beings are meant to be heterosexual. The bible, both Old and New Testaments suggests that  legitimacy of the heterosexual intent and in both books of the Bible the total denunciation of same-sex practices is consistent. This consistency is not subject to specific times or places but applies to all people, in all places and at all times, up to and including now. Until the Methodist Church deals with the issue of sin as determined by biblical definition and ignores the pressure of those who consider social and cultural change the dominant factor, there will be no peace in the church. The real issue is scriptural integrity.

Thanks for being in the pew this week, come back and join us next week.

Life is Good