A Matter of Alignment?

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By The Rev. Paul Graves 

Rev. Paul Graves

I felt and heard the CRACK! of my back as the chiropractor found the right spot on my vertebrae to bring my back into re-alignment. I don’t have this procedure done often, but occasionally one leg seems longer than the other. Others I know have more serious alignment issues.

I recently read a stimulating book about alignment – but not spinal alignment as you might suppose. Not literally anyway, but the metaphor of “alignment” drew me into the fuller story. The Rev. Colby Martin spoke of his being out of alignment with his church, and the Bible. I was intrigued!

His book is UNclobber: Re-thinking Our Misuse of the Bible on Homosexuality. Colby was raised in a “bible-believing” church, and had begun to serve in such a church as a young pastor.  At one point, he firmly believed what he now calls the six “clobber passages” that have convinced many Christians that homosexuality is a grave sin, if not a mortal sin. Now he is out of alignment with that view.

His broader experience with homosexual persons didn’t fit with the dismissive attitude of his church and a few selected verses of the Bible on homosexual behavior. So his spirit felt significantly out-of-alignment. Colby’s book is the story of his biblical research and personal journey to get back into spiritual alignment. His story is compelling. He lost two pastoral positions in large congregations when he was courageous enough to speak his piece of truth: his sense of unconditional inclusion of LGBTQ persons was at complete odds with the congregations he served.

Now the pastor of what he calls an independent, progressive church that welcomes and affirms all persons, Colby Martin knows he is more complete.  What he knows intuitively and through his diligent biblical study is now aligning more completely with what he understands it means to be a follower of Jesus.

This reflection was originally published on April 22, 2017 in my regular spot as a faith-and-values columnist for the Spokesman-Review in Spokane. I wrote as our own denomination was going in for another back-cracking treatment — to get better re-aligned with how to best follow Jesus! I’m not sure if the treatment will take!

For 45 years, we’ve been officially out of alignment when it comes to the complex issues of homosexuality. So on April 25, we gathered for another “treatment”, as our Judicial Council meets to decide whether last summer’s election of Bishop Karen Oliveto is in alignment with the Discipline (our book of church laws).

This particular bishop was the highly effective pastor of one of the largest United Methodist churches in the country. She is also a married lesbian woman. And there’s the rub!

We hope to discover if our church law has the needed flexibility that honors effective ministry. The Judicial Council’s decision came in on April 28. It’s clear we’re still out of alignment with each other, maybe even with God!

Ironically, friends, this column really isn’t about how Christians disagree about homosexuality. I offer these two examples only to illustrate how such disagreement can throw us out of spiritual alignment. Our spiritual alignment issues are often too many to count.

Where do you feel out of alignment with yourself, or with your church or someone who is significant to you? Alignment has everything to do with relationships we have – with our bodies, our emotions, the people we live with and around, the God we perceive, and the Bible we read.

So let’s reflect on a piece of biblical wisdom that has nothing originally to do with homosexuality. But this wisdom applies regardless of what circumstance we are confronting – or avoiding.

Galatians 5:22-23 reminds us directly that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control: against such, there is no law.”

Relationships that heal, that grace-fully include “others”, carry the day when put up against strict adherence to Law. Honoring them requires so much more than law!


The Rev. Paul Graves serves as the chair for the Conference Council on Older Adult Ministries.

A version of this post originally appeared in Religion section of the Spokesman-Review on April 22. Rev. Graves submitted this updated version after the Judicial Council ruling on April 28.

1 COMMENT

  1. We need to change our Mission Statement to get back into alignment. Our doors are not open. Perhaps a focus could get us back to doing mission!

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