United Methodist Bishop Melvin G. Talbert, retired, speaks during the Memorial Communion at the 2012 Western Jurisdictional Conference in San Diego, California. 


By Patrick Scriven | Photos by Patrick Scriven

As delegations prepared themselves for jurisdictional conference, many people anticipated that the Western Jurisdiction would respond in some way to the reluctance of the General Conference to acknowledge the diversity of opinion that exists on the topic of human sexuality. Since the defeat of the Hamilton-Slaughter Amendment (Click to read) some have hoped for and sensed a growing passion for a ‘Church in the West’ that embraces a more progressive, prophetic, vision for what the church could be.

Since the Western Jurisdictional Conference concluded there has been significant interest in the “A Statement of Biblical Obedience” petition that was passed overwhelmingly by the body. At the Western Jurisdictional Conference it was announced that Bishop Melvin Talbert will lead the Western Jurisdiction’s College of Bishops in its Strategic Plan for Gospel Obedience. Given Bishop Talbert’s strong support of GLBTQ rights prior to and during the 2012 General Conference, progressives are likely to appreciate this choice. During that event, Talbert spoke to the “Love Your Neighbor Coalition” saying,

that the derogatory language and restrictive laws in our Book of Discipline are immoral and unjust and no longer deserve our loyalty and obedience.”

Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño

It isn’t difficult to hear his influence upon the ‘Gospel Obedience’ statement and given Talbert’s encouragement of obedience to God over “derogatory language and restrictive laws” (read here) the jurisdiction might expect bold action as it moves forward. Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño also expressed the WJ College of Bishop’s clear support for working toward a more inclusive church during the Episcopal Address. The text of The Statement of Gospel Obedience follows, along with the paragraph of The Book of Discipline that is referenced and the relevant portion of the Episcopal Address.

[tabs tab1=”Statement of Gospel Obedience” tab2=”¶ 161 F) Human Sexuality” tab3=”Section of Episcopal Address”]

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In response to our common belief that God’s grace and love is available to all persons, the Western Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church states our belief that the United Methodist Church is in error on the subject of “homosexuality’s incompatibility with Christian teaching.”

We commend to our bishops, clergy, local churches and ministry settings, the challenge to operate as if the statement in Para. 161F does not exist, creating a church where all people are truly welcome.

The secretary of the Western Jurisdictional Conference will submit this statement of Gospel Obedience to the Jurisdictional College of Bishops, each Annual Conference, and chairpersons of Boards of Ordained Ministry for discussion and implementation.

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We affirm that sexuality is God’s good gift to all persons. We call everyone to  responsible stewardship of this sacred gift.

Although all persons are sexual beings whether or not they are married, sexual relations are affirmed only with the covenant of monogamous, heterosexual marriage.

We deplore all forms of the commercialization, abuse, and exploitation of sex. We call for strict global enforcement of laws prohibiting the sexual exploitation of children and for adequate protection, guidance, and counseling for abused children.

All persons, regardless of age, gender, marital status, or sexual orientation, are entitled to have their human and civil rights ensured and to be protected against violence. The Church should support the family in providing age-appropriate education regarding sexuality to children, youth, and adults.

We affirm that all persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God. All persons need the ministry of the Church in their struggles for human fulfillment, as well as the spiritual and emotional care of a fellowship that enables reconciling relationships with God, with others, and with self.

The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian teaching. We affirm that God’s grace is available to all. We will seek to live together in Christian community, welcoming, forgiving, and loving one another, as Christ has loved and accepted us.  We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons. 1

1. See Judicial Council Decision 702.

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We also stand before you to unequivocally give witness to the fact that we your College of Bishops are of one mind. We believe that our beloved United Methodist Church has been less than faithful to the biblical mandate to accept all God’s children including our LGBTQ brothers and sisters.   We assume responsibility for preaching and teaching in every place we serve, this good news of Christ Jesus who welcomes all. We pledge to you that we will continue to work for that day when we The United Methodist Church can truly live up to our logo of open hearts, open minds, open doors. And we covenant before God and you, that we will challenge statements or actions that offend, denigrate, or exclude any person because of the color of their skin, their economic circumstance, their political persuasion, their gender or their sexual orientation. We pray that we will together build the home of God’s own vision and hope for God’s all inclusive family.  Full Text

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What bold action might mean is yet to be determined. Critics of similar legislation passed by the Northeastern Jurisdiction (NEJ) argue that jurisdictional conferences are not empowered to take such action (link). The Northeast Jurisdiction Evangelical Connection (NEJEC) of United Methodists released a statement shortly after the NEJ’s vote challenging the authority of a jurisdictional conference “to speak in a manner contrary to the General Conference.” The NEJ Statement and a response from its evangelical caucus can be found below.

[tabs tab1=”NEJ Statement of Principle” tab2=”NEJEC Response”]

[tab id=1]

Be it Resolved, that the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference affirms its commitment to the civil and ecclesiastical rights and privileges of all persons, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons, and declares its passionate opposition to continued distinctions of church law that restrict the rights and privileges of LGBT people in The United Methodist Church; and be it further

Resolved, that the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference, acknowledging the grave pastoral crisis facing the church at all levels with regard to the pastoral care of LGBT people, acknowledge that clergy, lay persons and congregations encountering institutional discrimination that inhibits equal access to the means of grace for all persons may feel bound by conscience to offer the ministries and sacraments of the church to all persons on an equal basis. Those who so act according to conscience do so in a way that is consistent with the principles of this jurisdictional conference; and be it further

Resolved, that the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference acknowledge that leaders of the conferences that comprise our jurisdiction, including cabinet members, bishops and members of boards and agencies of the annual conference, while bound to the Book of Discipline, are also bound to exercise their consciences and are bound by Jesus’s commandment to stand with the marginalized and the oppressed in our midst when called upon to enforce unjust laws, policies and procedures to the detriment of gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender individuals wishing to participate fully in the life of The United Methodist Church and those who minister faithfully to them; and be it further

Resolved, that the jurisdictional conference recognize that individuals who take punitive actions against others for offering the sacraments and rituals of the church on an equal basis do so contrary to the highest ideals of the United Methodist Church at the risk of causing grave harm to LGBT persons, their loved ones, their sisters and brothers in Christ, faithful clergy and the United Methodist Church itself.

Adopted by the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference, July 19, 2012.

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[tab id=2]“The NEJEC is disappointed with the “Statement of Principle” concerning LGBT issues that was adopted today by the Northeast Jurisdiction (NEJ) of the United Methodist Church. This statement stands in opposition to the doctrine and discipline of the United Methodist Church. A Jurisdictional Conference does not have the authority to speak in a manner contrary to the General Conference of the denomination. Therefore, we do not believe this statement can be implemented or enforced in any way. The position of the United Methodist Church on human sexuality has not changed. It remains consistent with 3,000 years of Judeo-Christian ethical tradition and continues to reflect the overwhelming consensus of opinion by Christians of all denominations world-wide. We call on all bishops and clergy members in the Northeast Jurisdiction to be faithful to their vows and continue to uphold the doctrine and discipline of the denomination.”[/tab]

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The Discipline does clearly delegate the role of speaking for the denomination to the General Conference. The jurisdictional conferences, while tasked with several roles including the election and assignment of bishops and defining the borders of Annual Conferences, has little authority to change the rules even when its leadership perceives that it is in the best interest of the mission field. Jurisdictions are not like Central Conferences, who are permitted by Paragraph 543.7 of the Book of Discipline to

have power to make such changes and adaptations of the Book of Discipline as the special conditions and the mission of the church in the area require ….”

That said, the work of the jurisdictional conference could be of significant importance if its will is reflected by the actions of its college of bishops, annual conferences, appointive cabinets, boards of ordained ministry, clergy and lay people. While the General Conference does indeed speak for the denomination, these other groups are responsible for the action of the church. These groups have to decide how to live faithfully in a world where the ecclesial powers may be in conflict with a developing sense of God’s kin(g)dom that includes gay and lesbian people. These leaders will need to be the change agents — moving beyond hope to courageous action; willing to risk reputation for the mission field. They will also need to do so while remaining in dialogue with those within their annual conferences who have a different understanding of God’s vision for human sexuality.

Most church leaders will recognize this dynamic. Local churches are filled with people who know the right words and lead based on their ability to manipulate the rules and committees they serve on. But they also possess, albeit in more limited quantity, people who act from a place of deep affinity to the mission of that community — a love and sense of God’s vision. These are the saints who can move people and change hearts with a few words; those who embody discipleship, not membership.

The Rev. Jeremy Smith (First UMC, Portland, OR) offered these thoughts as a pastor who has just arrived in the West.

Having served in three jurisdictions now, I feel there is value in naming that though we are united in mission we are not uniform in expression of that mission. The obvious fear is that we are going at it alone, individualistic in our beliefs while expecting to remain in a churchwide relationship. Thus, the Jurisdiction might be the best place for legislation that opens our mission field and opportunities for all to serve God in God’s churches. We are not going at it alone, but are serving our area of the country as faithfully as we know how.”

Bishop Elaine Stanovsky preaching during the closing worship at the 2012 Western Jurisdictional Conference.

While it may be true that the jurisdiction has limited authority to change the rules of the games, so to speak, it was also apparent that it is united in its desire to be obedient to the Gospel for all, even if that puts it in conflict with a church that refuses to admit that diversity of opinion exists in its ranks. From the preaching of its Bishops to the legislative action it took, the Western Jurisdiction’s appreciation of diversity is deeply rooted and multifaceted. While it is likely that the actions of the Western Jurisdictional Conference will provoke a response from those in disagreement, one might also hope this embrace will lead to constructive conversations about the nature of the connection, the importance of the mission field, and of faithfulness to a God that is still at work in the world today.

 

59 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for taking a step forward. It is long overdue. What would you say to a lifetime church member who is openly gay and wants to have a Masters in Divinity?

    • I would tell that lifetime church member that there are plenty of clergy (me, for one) who would love to hear more about their sense of call in an atmosphere of safety and support.

      Thanks, Patrick, for the report.

    • Bill, what I would say to that openly gay lifetime church member is come to the Western Jurisdiction. We will ordain you, and we will be open about it now. That’s what changed last Friday night. It used to be that we would ordain you, but not be open about it. We have more integrity now…We do what we say we do, and I think that’s important.

    • I would say “repent” and ask God’s forgiveness for your sins and live according to the owner’s manual, the Bible. If you love Jesus, follow His commandments and forget about living according to the flesh, which is the enemy of your soul.

      • @Bill, have you remained unmarried, as recommended by the Apostle Paul (1 Cor. 7.8), so that your mind would be fully devoted to the affairs of the Lord rather than of your wife (1 Cor. 7.32-33)? Or did you marry because you could not practice self-control and would otherwise have remained aflame with passion (1 Cor. 7.9)?
        If you had to marry to ensure your freedom from sin, why does the church refuse to allow LGBTQ persons the same possibility? The passages that the church has used to justify its anti-LGBTQ policies, read in context, actually deal with the Bible’s condemnation of sexual abuse, abuse of power and idolatry and only incidentally with same-sex activity (regardless of the teachings of others to the contrary; as they follow a model of biblical interpretation that is fear-based rather than one that is sensitive to the purposes of God in creating varieties of sexuality, just as God created varieties of gender, skin and hair color, types of plants and animals, and a myriad of other created things).
        Perhaps, then, it is you and others like you who need to “repent” and ask God’s forgiveness for your sins according to the Owner’s Manual, the Bible, in which God says to love your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22.39) and to refrain from judging others, lest you yourself be judged in like manner (Matt. 7.1-2). That means that you must put yourself in the shoes of an LGBTQ-identified person and figure out what they would experience as being an expression of the love of God for them, and then act in that way towards them – not in the way you as a heterosexual person would think to act, especially a heterosexual person who thinks an LGBTQ person to be somehow inherently more sinful than yourself, regardless of how they behave. (I say this, because the person to whose question you responded said nothing about being sexually active, only saying that he – or the person in whose behalf he was asking – was “openly gay.” I, myself, am “openly gay,” am an ordained UM pastor, and am celibate. Would you tell me, too, to “repent”?)

      • And if you love Jesus — his greatest commandments, when pressed by the ultra-pious Pharisees, was to first Love the Lord your God, AND then to love your neighbour as yourself.

        And these are recounted in at least 3 of the gospels, Matthew Mark John.

        Jesus called out the Pharisees as hypocrites, following old religious traditions or form in spite of them hurting people with greed, hate, and the whole “do as I say not as I do” failures of living a good example of a life.

        http://www.frame-poythress.org/the-greatest-commandment-the-very-heart-of-the-matter/

  2. Thank you! This is a great way for me to introduce this to the church I serve. I’m hoping that because of the numbers of gay and lesbians who are coming to church, that our congregation will say yes, to the Marriage Equality Law and also to having weddings in our sanctuary. That is my prayer.

  3. thanks Patrick…this is a great tool for sharing a sense of the vision and passion at western jurisdictional conference and an invitation to those of us living within God’s love to make God’s welcome clear.

  4. Thank you, Patrick, for an excellently written summary of the Western Jurisdictional statements regarding homosexual people. As some readers will remember, I as a heterosexual person frequently spoke to the annual conference’s plenary sessions against the barring of homosexual persons from our church and its ministries. Doing otherwise is contrary to a Christianity that calls us to follow the Jesus way of life. I add the point that John Wesley set the Methodist movement within the church on that inclusive path. Grace and love, he declared are the same in that they are “free in all and free for all.” Gratitude, he argued, called not merely for belief, but for responses in terms of social justices for everyone without restrictions. Allow me to add that in today’s United Methodist Churches, we must provide full accessibility in facility and ministry not only for homosexual people, but also for all of those who cope with disabilities of one or another kind amongst the laity and the clergy.

  5. “Gospel Obedience” Really? 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.”

    • Susan, I want to be sensitive to your differing belief in faith you are interested in dialogue. I would offer that those who would agree with the phrase “Gospel Obedience” might submit that faithfulness to God isn’t the same as faithfulness to a specific way of interpreting or reading the Bible.

    • @Susan, do you know that the Greek words that in the translation you cite here are “malakoi” and “arsenokoitai” and have no agreed-upon translation in English? The English word “homosexual” was not in use until the mid-19th century, and even then, its use was restricted to the medical literature. It came into more general usage in the 20th century. However, depending upon the biblical translation consulted, “malakoi” has been variously translated as “effeminate,” “male prostitutes,” “catamites,” “boy prostitutes,” “men kept for unnatural purposes,” “perverts,” and the catch-all terms “homosexuals” and “sexual perverts.” “Arsenokoitai,” on the other hand, is variously translated “abusers of themselves with men/mankind,” “men who have sexual relations with other men,” “sodomites,” “practicing homosexuals,” “homosexual offenders,” “men who lie with men,” [one who] “behaves like a homosexual,” “liers with mankind,” “pederasts,” and, again, the catch-alls “homosexuals” and “sexual perverts.” After all that, the question is, are those who are condemned – the “malakoi” and “arsenokoitai” – men who are in loving, mutual, committed relationships (note the absence of a reference to women in relationship with one another and the near-obsession with men), or are they men who are simply focused on engaging in sexual acts with one another, having no love for each other, and perhaps even having only a desire to dominate the partner sexually, or to be demeaned by the partner?
      Because of the difficulty of translating passages such as this, it is important to decide whether to interpret what they say in the ancient, foreign tongue in a “generous” way that acknowledges our lack of direct knowledge of what it meant to the original writer and readers/hearers, or to impose our modern values on an ambiguous text so as to attempt to give some sort of “divine justification” for our own moral outrage and hurtfulness simply on account of our own emotional discomfort.

  6. I’m sorry but this is rediculous. This is not a GLTBQ issue, but a discipline issue. For a jurisdictional conference to come out with such a statement in opposition to General Conference is faithless. If you disagree so strongly, then work the process as Discipline provides or go elsewhere. To backfire it this way goes against the vows taken as laity or clergy.

  7. I am a lay member of a reconciling congregation in Oregon. It gives me great hope that we are not the only jurisdiction to have officially expressed a desire to be truly open and inclusive to all. I pray for the day that the word “Christian” can truly become synonymous with “Love”, for that is what Jesus Christ’s life and death was ultimately about. Thank you for this article, Patrick, and thank you for your respectful reply to Susan.
    And, Adam, as a lifelong United Methodist, it isn’t entirely comfortable to take a stance against the Book Of Discipline. However, all due processes have been followed and change has been too slow in coming. I honor and admire those who have been brave enough to stand up and declare “It’s Time!” It takes courage! My experience and observations lead me to understand that every single person who had a voice in this movement has done so after a lot of prayerful consideration. I thank God for moving our hearts and voices toward this change that honors all of God’s children.

    • The one and only God, Jesus Christ, is full of “grace and truth”. You can not exclude truth while enjoying grace..It must balance out. The message of Jesus Christ is clear “Grace and Truth”. You can’s exclude one from the other. They must go together.

  8. While I was a part of the Western Jurisdictional discussion and voting, it was only afterwards that I realized that we had taken a step in alignment with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from the Birmingham Jail. In that letter, he stated that there were (quoting Dr. King) “two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that ‘an unjust law is no law at all.'” Additionally, in his letter he cited another truism: “privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily” which leads to the need for those who are privileged to stand up against unjust laws, statements and positions. Mark me as one VERY proud, lifetime UM, who, while vastly privileged, chooses to speak out and vote for righting wrongs whether given permission to or not!

  9. I want to remind us all that we, even as we disagree, are the body of Christ. I am happy to post comments that offer differing opinions and views; I’ll even submit to a little proof texting recognizing that it is the way some people approach these issues.

    I’m not a fan on censorship but I will moderate comments that use inflammatory words and/or angry rhetoric. These do not give honor to the integrity of the positions you seek to represent.

  10. Having sadly left the church following GC, 2012, this gives us great hope.

    We have always been proud of our Oregon-Idaho Connection, and now the leadership of the Western Jurisdiction is taking a noble and resolute stand for justice. We would love nothing more than to have added reason to return to the church we KNOW it can be.

  11. The interchanges above are, it seems, in good spirit, as is my comment that follows

    Just a point re a previous post: a. Corinthians (Pauline literature) is NOT Gospel….Mark et al are; and they contain no clear stance/direction from Jesus.; and b. my bibke says …”homosexual offender”…and not simply …” homosexual”…: Monogomous, faithful same-sex relationships may well be outside the term…homosexual offenders.

  12. I suspect this comment will not be well received, but I feel it must be made anyway.

    The scriptural documentation that engaging in homosexual acts is a sin is
    overwhelming.

    1 Corinthians 6:9, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,”

    Leviticus 18:22
    Leviticus 20:13
    Romans 1:24-27
    1 Timothy 1:10

    Scholars can weasel with the words to try to make them into something they are not, but it doesn’t change them. The words are plain to read, for anyone to understand. Engaging in homosexual acts is a sin, period.

    So now, what does that mean for the Church. Do we refuse to allow them in the door? That is silly. If we did that, we could not allow anyone in the door, because we can also read these scriptures.

    1 Kings 8:46 “for there is no one who does not sin”
    Romans 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”

    Jesus worked with the sinners, that is where he was needed. But he still recognized their sin. This is what we need to do. We need to welcome all sinners into our Church, regardless of their sexual proclivities, or any other matter. But we need to recognize there sin. And try to help them overcome it, with God’s help.

    Now, there is the matter of church leadership. Do we ordain unrepentant sinners? Paul says we do not his his first letter to Timothy.

    1 Timothy 3:2 “Therefore an overseer must be above reproach…”

    This is the matter in the Church that troubles me most. The Church is ignoring Biblical doctrine, in the name of being obedient to Biblical (Gospel) doctrine. The Church will not stand if it does not follow the Word of the Lord. It will not stand if it tries to redefine the Word of the Lord.

    • David Chamberlain said, “This is the matter in the Church that troubles me most. The Church is ignoring Biblical doctrine, in the name of being obedient to Biblical (Gospel) doctrine. The Church will not stand if it does not follow the Word of the Lord. It will not stand if it tries to redefine the Word of the Lord.”

      I suppose he realizes that the identical argument was used in 1860 to defend slavery. I suppose he also realized that the identical argument was used in the Methodist Church in th 1950s and 1960s to defend segregation.

      Mr. Chamberlain also said, “Scholars can weasel with the words to try to make them into something they are not, but it doesn’t change them.” In other words, good scholarship is trumped by tradition.

      It is our fault that Methodism is dying in America: We have not been good stewards of the knowledge we gained at our seminaries. We’ve been afraid to teach biblical criticism. We’ve been giving our church members what they want rather than what they need. We’ve ended up feeding their prejudices rather than their souls.

      We’ve let them pick and choose what they believe with biblical proof-texts. We let them disregard much of Leviticus, but hold on to the homosexual passages, and we’ve let them think that’s all right.

      We should have taught them the that scripture concerning Sodom – Genesis 18:16- 19:29 – was about rape, not homosexuality.

      And we’ve let them disregard the words of Jesus our Lord, in favor of Paul. (Yes, I know Paul and Timothy were probably talking about male temple prostitution, but if we tell our conservative brothers that, they may again suggest that we’re scholars weaseling with the Truth.)

      It’s our fault, clergy and worship leaders.

      • Mr. Toole wrote:
        “good scholarship is trumped by tradition.”

        Mr. Chamberlain replies:
        No. Bad scholarship is trumped by the very easy to understand Word of the Lord.

        And so on…
        ” And we’ve let them disregard the words of Jesus our Lord, in favor of Paul.”

        Jesus is God, for sure. Paul is not, also for sure. However, what Paul wrote is the Word of God, unless the Western Jurisdictional Conference is going to choose to ignore this part of the Book of Discipline as well.

        Article IV, The Confession of Faith, The Book of Discipline:
        “We believe the Holy Bible, Old and New Testaments, reveals the Word of God so far as it is necessary for our salvation. It is to be received through the Holy Spirit as the true rule and guide for faith and practice. Whatever is not revealed in or established by the Holy Scriptures is not to made an article of faith nor is it to be taught as essential to salvation.”

        I’m going to pull a quote out of that specifically.

        “reveals the Word of God”

        It’s not the word of Paul, or even the word of Jesus as documented by Matthew, Mark, etc. It is the Word of God. All of it.

        The moment you discount one word of it, you discount the entirety of it. If I can ignore Paul’s words on homosexual acts, I can certainly ignore his words on adultery. Or anything else. Perhaps the writers of the gospels didn’t accurately portray the words of Jesus.

        The Bible as the true, unequivocal Word of God is one of the founding principles of Christianity. Start disregarding any part of it and you will shake those foundations.

        • @David, I used to be in a Bible study with someone like you – “If I can’t trust that the whole Bible is true as I understand it, then I can’t trust that any of it is true” (paraphrasing you, of course; the operative phrase being “as I understand it”).
          When I buy a container of blueberries at the store, if I find some mold on a few of them, I don’t throw the entire contents away; I throw away the bad ones and enjoy the rest. Your attitude towards the Bible is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater – or the good blueberries out with the moldy ones.
          The reality is that the two passages you cite from Leviticus, when read in the context of each of the chapters in which they are found, deal – like the story of Lot in Sodom in Genesis 19 – with sexual abuse, not with homosexual sex per se. If this were not the case, why would God have had to have been so explicit that the man (not a woman, by the way) who is being addressed not have sex with his mother, his aunt, his daughter-in-law, a woman and her daughter, an animal, etc.? It doesn’t make sense, unless one realizes that the man being addressed is the head of a clan, and in that culture, the head of a clan was both responsible for the well-being of all the other members of the clan and yet had unlimited power, which it was necessary for him to have if he were to fulfill his responsibilities to the clan. For the Canaanites against whom God is railing at this point, many clan overlords took advantage of their position of power and, rather than using their power for the benefit of all, used it to please themselves and to “put others in their place,” “showing them who’s boss.” The point of those passages is to say, “Don’t abuse the members of your household – whether women or men or even animals – nor sacrifice your children to other gods, because all of those things are abominable to me.” (Note in Lev. 18.30 that EVERYTHING in the previous section is referred to as an “abomination,” not only the man lying with a man the lyings of a woman.)
          In Paul’s writings, as well, though the references are ambiguous as to what behaviors he was condemning, it is likely the sin to which he refers in the Romans passage is that of idolatry, with the RESULT being doing whatever people want to do, having no love for one another in the doing of it but only “lust” for one another. Don’t we condemn lust among heterosexuals in our day? Of course we do. So we can also condemn lust among LGBTQ persons without feeling the need to condemn mutual expressions of love in committed relationships. Those who can’t make such distinctions – as it is and has been obvious that many cannot, so you are not alone in that regard – perhaps need to ask God for the gift of discernment (1 Cor. 12.10), so that they are no longer swayed by the limited thinking of those who are focused anxiously on the flesh alone but who ignore the Spirit.

          • I’m going to address this in two parts, as to not confuse the two issues. Part 1.

            What you’re really saying then, with your blueberries analogy, is that God’s Word is flawed. Some of it good and some of it is bad.

            A perfect God could not produce a flawed Word, therefore God is flawed, and it is up to US to determine what parts of his Word are flawed or not. Putting us above God.

          • Part 2.

            As to your Leviticus and Paul arguments. I’m sorry. I can read the words. “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman.” This is about rape? Is the next verse about rape also?

            “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; Again, no mention of rape.

            Paul’s writing. I here a number of phrases like “ambiguous” and “he is likely” writing about this or that. No. “For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men…” There is nothing ambiguous there. What Paul is likely writing about he is very clearly writing about.

            1 Timothy 10 “the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality,”

            There is no ambiguity here, save that of what you wish to introduce.

          • @David An elementary student of the Bible, who pursues the reading of the text with the pursuit of truth not dogma as his/her goal, can see numerous errors. Who first saw the risen Christ? How many years old is the Earth and what shape exactly. The Bible reflects both divine inspiration and human attempts to reach beyond what they know.

    • If you are going to quote Leviticus — then quote and live ALL of it. Quit cherry-picking!!!!

      Leviticus (and others such as Genesis) talk frequently of extramarital sex (see Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar), polyganous marriage (Abraham’s son Jacob married to both sisters Rachel and Leah) and King Solomon with his 700 wives; leverite marriages; and sodom-gomorrah was not about sexuality but about inhospitality towards strangers.

      Leviticus et al also endorsed slavery, and was used for centuries as a justification of the horrid practice, even by Christians.

      Also stoning as capital punishment — Americans bemoan every time Islams stone someone, but Biblically, that is what is said to do…so the Islamists have it right – if you follow this belief of strict adherence to the Old Testament Bible when you cherry-pick the percieved homosexual passages.

      As soon as Christians stop eating shrimp, and pork/bacon/ham – as Leviticus et al prohibit – and return to polygany like the Muslims or the Mormons….

      then get back to us about the homosexuality verses.

      We are not called Paulians – we are called Christians! Paul wrote some great stuff, but he also wrote in the style and culture of his era, and society has changed.

      Also, translations vary from the original texts to the various languages of King James English, modern american english, french, spanish, etc etc.

      But I prefer to follow Christ, who did not say a single peep about homosexuality at all, whether its ok, or bad….just, nothing at all.

      Jesus said that the greatest commandments were to Love God first, and second to Love your neighbour as yourself. This is recounted in at least 3 of the gospels matthew, mark, and john…and reiterated again in First John
      http://www.frame-poythress.org/the-greatest-commandment-the-very-heart-of-the-matter/

      This article also points out that people clinging to old beliefs that hurt people or that are not based on love, are hypocrites, just like the so-extremely-pious Pharisees.

      Quit cherry-picking the Bible, especially Leviticus, if you can’t follow ALL of it, and if you do it outside the context of love of God and people.

  13. So the logic presented by the WJ and NEJ is that any time anyone in good conscience disagrees with the Discipline they can disobey it and recruit others (whole congregations, conferences etc) to openly rebel, to ignore the Discipline, to refute the connection (as long as we SAY we still respect it) and to call ourselves JUST in doing it. Please tell me in such anarchy who is to decide what parts of the Discipline are to be obeyed and what parts disregarded? Please tell me who has the authority to make that decision? Please tell me who then is allowed to discipline ANYONE under these circumstances? For I expect that these bishops expect THEIR authority to still be respected at a price of great consequence for certain things like refusing an appointment or apportionments DUE TO CONSCIENCE (this is the great hypocrisy). Is it to be expected that the mob mentality take over and hold the denomination hostage DESTROYING BOTH DISCIPLINE AND CONNECTION as long as ANYONE can call it just?

    • what do you mean “anytime”? we’ve been working on these matters since the offensive language was imposed into our BOD in 1972. 40 years is hardly capricious or whimsical.

        • @dan, there is, as Harvard legal scholar and professor Lani Guinier wrote in the title of her 1994 book, such a thing as “The Tyranny of the Majority.” Our nation was founded on throwing off such a tyranny, so when the General Conference imposes such a tyranny on the UMC, we North American Christians stand in a long and venerable tradition when we resist such an imposition, especially when we judge it to be contrary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If you can demonstrate how the “incompatibility clause” and subsequent supportive legislation that flowed from it is consistent with the Word of God that commands us to “love your neighbor as yourself,” then please, tell us how that is the case. Otherwise, join us in resisting the tyranny of the majority in the UMC.

  14. I can only echo the comments of Dan and David Chamberlain. I noticed that in several items I’ve read about this issue, it is spoken of as being prophetic…in a positive way. Can someone explain this to me? I see a prophetic tint to this issue, but it would not be a positive thing…

    • Not sure if this was a real question or more rhetorical but let me try anyway. The examples of prophets most often found in the Scriptures tend to rail away at the prevailing religious ‘wisdom’ of the day; having or holding a view, or revelation if you like, of God that was rooted in the tradition, in a way, but new, different, and threatening to the status quo. We tend to look back at these ‘prophets’ and go “of course” but the Bible more often than not speaks of the resistance by the people of God to these new ‘words.’

      I suspect many people would find a man like MLK, Jr. to be a prophet, or prophetic, in this way. I believe this is a fair way to represent how some people feel about these words and those who will be willing to work to bring them from paper to action. Now some people believe God stopped speaking when the final author of a Biblical book set their pen down ( or perhaps the final inspired redaction or interpolation 🙂 while others believe God continues to move and challenge God’s church today through the Spirit, grounded but not limited by what has come before. Ultimately, just as history is written by the victors, prophetic words become such when a future church looks back and sees that someone or some group was a bit a head of the curve in seeing where God was leading the church to go.

      • It was an honest question and thank you for the explanation. I think I understand your explanation. I am not a biblical scholar, but I have read and do study the bible. This debate concerning homosexuality and Christianity troubles me on several different levels. I’m pretty sure that you and I have differing opinions on the subject, but that doesn’t mean the discussion can’t be helpful. My recollection is that most (if not all) of the prophets served to call the people back to God….away from conventional ignorance, if you will, instead of conventional wisdom. I’ve read a great deal about the “clobber” verses and how they are in opposition to the theme of love throughout the new testament. I believe in the entire bible, but I think the bible is also clear about the relationship of the old testament to the new testament. I cannot read an acceptance of homosexuality into the new testament based on a commandment of love when homosexuality is (in my mind at least) clearly addressed in scripture within the new testament. I read an example earlier today saying that Jesus did not condemn the woman at the well…but it left off the part where Jesus instructed her to go and sin no more. Just because there is love, does not mean that there aren’t rules.

        I mentioned that I’m troubled on different levels…it bugs me that those who make the same argument that I do now spend so much time on the “law” verses in the old testament. We don’t live by that law now. (Right?) It bothers me that the debate generates such hatefullness in the one institution here on earth that should be free of it….and that hatefulness is on display from Christians from both sides of this argument for the unbelieving world to see and use to form their opinions of Christianity. It bugs me that we focus so intently on this one issue while ignoring equally destructive behavior such as heterosexual promiscuity, drunkeness, infedelity/divorce, and so on, not in society, but within the church. It bugs me that it seems so many involved from both sides of this debate seem to have such a shallow understanding of the faith they profess (to me anyway…maybe there are things I am yet to see too) that they are able to rationalize almost anything. I am sympathetic to the secular issue of equality and support it to a certain degree. But I cannot in anything I’ve read reconcile homosexuality as an acceptable Christian behavior.

        I am concerned that this is another example of the church watering down the gospel for the purpose of inclusiveness…to be more attractive to our cuurent culture. Aren’t we called to be holy? Separate? I have two young daughters and one of the first (and I consider most important) lessons that I’ve tried to teach them is Mark 12:30-31….but the lessons can’t stop there. It has to continue with the rest of the bible so that they grow into a full mature understanding of the Truth that their faith is founded upon. I want my daughters to know the difference between biblically acceptable behavior and biblically unacceptable behavior…for example they will need to understand that God expects them to save themselves for marriage, despite whether our culture thinks that’s important or not. But I also expect my daughters to learn to know the difference between the person, who is a child of God, and the behavior.

        I pray regularly for knowledge, wisdom, and discernment, and one of my greatest fears is to be convicted in a false belief…but I can’t help but believe that this issue and others like it are moving us toward the culture that is prophesied about in the end times. I used to read the book of revalation and wonder to myself how some of those things could happen. It doesn’t seem as far fetched to me anymore…that’s why I asked you about the prophetic thing….

        • Thanks for the response, honesty and openness to dialogue. I suspect that a church that regularly modeled that behavior would look less foolish or backwards to those in the larger culture. I’ve found that most people expect, and even appreciate some diversity of opinion and even some good debate. Healthy people aren’t looking for a church with all the answers and they certainly aren’t looking for another place of divisiveness in their lives. When they see ugliness they run for the hills.

          I also wanted to acknowledge with you that the ugliness does reside on both sides of the issue. People responding from places of fear, hurt and lack of understanding often respond in similarly destructive ways. Strange as it might seem I find that people who converse from a place of deep, resolved conviction, even when it is firmly on one side or the other, are less likely to lash out with angry rhetoric. None of us are perfect; but are tradition calls us to move in this direction even as we discuss what perfection might mean.

          I don’t really believe that this conversation is about homosexuality so much as it is about how we faithfully read the Scriptures and relate to our tradition. Some people look to the Bible for the rules of life and try to apply verses to situations that weren’t covered, or understood in the same way, in Biblical times. Others seek to understand the Spirit that undergirds the responses faithful people gave to the situations they encountered. A silent partner in this approach is the need to try to understand what one can about the larger, popular understanding of the world the writer had and how these ‘understandings’ influenced the ‘faithful responses’ of the day.

          It is clear for example, that Biblical authors believed the Earth to be the center of the universe and while not believing the world to be exactly flat, had an understanding that was radically different than our contemporary one. People with birth defects were understood as cursed or the result of sin, women most often were treated as property. We would understand these things – I hope – in a different light today in part because of progress in the realm of human knowledge (science) partnered with voices in the church engaged in the task of prayerful listening and creative revisioning.

          Again, I expect this debate about human sexuality is more about the relationship between our perception of the ‘real’ world, as formed by experience and knowledge, and how we allow these things to live with our interpretative work of the Bible. For me, I had to leave behind some things I was taught as a younger Christian because they no longer ‘worked’ when I took an honest look at them. We can choose to ignore these inconsistencies, deny them, or work to broaden our understanding beyond the box a faithful and inspired writer unintentionally put “God” in when they worked to transform their culture.

          I believe the Bible has truth for us today and can challenge us in many, many ways. I also have daughters upon whom I hope to impress a high level of self value and worth so they don’t engage in “biblically unacceptable behavior” before they are ready to make such decision with the required maturity. 🙂 Many in the church simply have a very different understanding of what it means to respect and take the Bible seriously. These views are very different and perhaps irreconcilable unless faithful people learn how to talk with one another in ways that honor and assume integrity.

          One final thing, for what it is worth. Conservative people, of which I was one, often look at acceptance of homosexuality as a giving into the larger society, an accommodation if you will. I would be in agreement that the church should be set apart and resist accommodating to the society in an attempt to be “cool” or relevant. We accommodate far too much in our attempts to be an ‘attractive’ church particularly, in my opinion, around the areas of wealth, war, and challenging each to a higher level of personal piety.

          But the church also needs to be reflective and discerning of when it might be defending an accommodation of the past rather than the love driven world God would have us create. There are many homophobic people who know nothing about the Bible and who aren’t Christian in the loosest sense of this phrase. They distain and hate because it is different, viewed as weak from a part of the brain that my understanding of God tells me is quite unhealthy (the return violence for violence part). I know good Christians who have problems with homosexuality and carry real, faithfully grounded reservations but the comments and inflammatory rhetoric that quickly seeps into this conversation tells me that it is about something deeper and darker for a good number of people. The church needs to struggle with this and decide whether it is accommodating to this societal pressure or at the least, defending a previous accommodation to some innate homophobia that is part of a larger brokenness or intolerance of what we don’t understand.

          Thanks again for your reflection.

  15. Please refrain from quoting random fundamentalist non-denominational pastors on this thread. If that is the tradition you feel most comfortable with, Godspeed. But quoting them to make a non-constructive point, designed to inflame, somehow seem insightful does not serve anyone well.

  16. Having been more or less un-plugged all summer, I am just catching up with this now. I so appreciate the jurisdiction’s faith-full action and this faith-full conversation, with all of its complexity and diversity. We continue in labor toward the new creation it seems. Go God! Thank you Patrick and all.

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