Thursday, April 26, 2012

Homosexuality, Honestly?

In the conversation about homosexuality in the church, nothing new has been said in years. I have heard and read and understand the positions of those who speak from all of the various perspectives in the issues. And honestly it has become so boring that I hardly pay attention any more.

The General Conference has an opportunity to speak the truth, as it does every four years. And the truth is that there is a lack of consensus in the United Methodist Church with regard to the compatibility of homosexuality with Christian teaching. That’s the truth. And that’s what the General Conference should say.

Because here’s the deal - we have got to stop arguing about this. The inter-denominational argument is hindering the mission of the church, and making it increasingly difficult to make disciples of Jesus Christ. It is ugly; it is bitter; it is hateful. And it has to stop.

We have shamefully proof-texted the question until you’d think all that we knew of scripture were those little snippets that we hurl relentlessly at one another to prove our point.

We have accused one another of not loving God or of not loving neighbor with such ferocity as we willfully ignore the inherent irony of our words.

We obsess over this one issue with a kind of ghastly fascination that is in no way appealing or attractive or missional or faithful to who we are supposed to be as the Church.

We must stop; and we must tell the truth. And then, we have to be okay with the ambiguity of the truth. This is not a simple issue. There are multiple distinct positions on the question, and there is simply no consensus in the United Methodist denomination, and the General Conference should say that out loud.

Of course, I understand how unpopular my perspective is. There will be, “But it’s a sin and we should say it’s a sin” and there will be, “But the status quo is unjust and so we have to change it.” These responses will come from the either/or people on all sides of the question.

But this is not an either/or question, and so it shouldn’t have an either/or answer. The question for General Conference is not “Is homosexuality a sin” - the question is “What should the United Methodist denomination say about it.” It would not be truthful to say, “The UMC thinks homosexuality is a sin.” It would not be truthful to say, “The UMC thinks homosexuality is not a sin.”

The honest thing to say, the missional thing to say, the faithful thing to say is just the truth. Some of us think it is, some of us don’t; some think it’s a choice, some do not; some of us are legitimately homophobic, most are not; some think it is a sin but that doesn’t mean we should exclude, some do; and on and on and on. There is no consensus, and we needn’t pretend there is.

Now, can we please focus on the business of helping people become disciples of Jesus Christ who are changing the world, for God’s sake?

(Full disclosure: My personal belief, which is no secret, is that being gay is not a sin. I do not believe the Bible ever describes a mutually loving and respectful covenant relationship between two people of the same gender. Such a relationship is neither affirmed nor condemned anywhere in Scripture. I am hopeful that the United Methodist Church will be fully inclusive. However, I am not intending to write today about my personal theology, but rather what position I feel the General Conference should take.)

This post is also up at Ministry Matters - CLICK HERE TO SEE!

12 comments:

Elizabeth Wilcox said...

Dear Andy,

Kory and I miss you. We have recently felt like we are on an island in a sea of black and white and dare I say conservative thinking at our church here. We love our church, but we miss discussions where open-mindedness and allowing issues to be gray is okay. Just had to tell you.

Elizabeth

June Clark said...

Right on target! I am right there with you.

GW Milliron said...

I have often read your comments. I would like to add that riding the fence is a very political position to take, my friend, if not a principled one.

Cynthia Astle said...

Andy, it seems that this post has been taken down from Ministry Matters. I got an error message saying "Content Unavailable." That being the case, would you allow United Methodist Insight to reprint your excellent post? We're at http://um-insight.net

Andy B. said...

Thank you for your kind words, Cynthia. I have just checked myself, and the post is actually still up at Ministry Matters. Maybe something went wonky with the site for a while or something.

bridger said...

Thanks for your honesty, Andy. I believe there are "disputable matters" within churches and I also believe that sometimes people can be operating with a different understanding the meaning of certain phrases and words. some believe that "being gay" is an actual state of being, like being tall. With that basis, a complete belief system on that premise is developed. Others understand "being gay" as being a set of behavior choices based on a personal tendency toward homosexual activity. Although these sound similar, the first implies that someone who "is gay" can not make choices to act or cannot struggle with the help of Almighty God to live a life according to the teaching of scripture. I have friends who have a natural tendency toward alcohol addiction and others who do not. The combination of how they were born and their life experiences allowed them to find themselves drinking too much. I believe someone in this condition, through much prayer and life choices, depending on the power of God can honor Him in their life by not drinking too much. I believe that someone finding themselves with a tendency toward homosexuality can, through much prayer and life choices, depending on the power of God, honor Him in their life by not engaging in homosexual behavior. To say "I'm gay", accept it, it to say "I do not believe God can conquer this tendency in my life." I believe the church should offer this hope to those in the world in the same way it offers hope to those struggling to overcome other issues and not cower to the position that it is out of our hands. We represent a powerful God who has spoken on homosexuality.

KyleCnowindallas said...

Bridger,

People are born Gay just as people are born tall. To follow your logic is to say God made a mistake and Gay folks are to spend their whole life trying to not live and love as they were created by our Mother/Father. A man who lived such as life as you are stating recently died in Florida, Anthony Falzarano. He was a hateful person and sadly had much self hate trying to live a live you have described for him. Google all he did in the name of love and that is a fact not a judgment.

Being gay is no more a set of choices than being Heterosexual is.
Please find a new argument. In the name of Love it is a very tired one.

PrDonna said...

Andy,
I've been thinking about this post since I clicked on the Facebook link and read it, on the day you posted it. I think I know what I want to say now.
I understand, honestly, the desire to move on and talk about something else, to stop arguing about a matter that is brutally divisive and get back to the work of loving our neighbors.
I can't do that, of course, because I don't have the privilege of being unaffected by the decisions (or lack thereof) made by judicatories and delegates at Annual Assemblies about whether gay and lesbian people are worthy to serve the church.
You are a wonderful person, a terrific friend, and a great ally to LGBT persons in the church. You have spoken out for inclusion and I doubt you know how much it means to those who are fighting for their very lives within the institutional church. I will say thank you, first, and then I must ask you to stay and fight for your sisters and brothers in the UMC who need your privileged voice to speak for them. They can't just ignore the issue and move along; they are "the issue." And believe me, it sucks more to be the object of these discussions than to be forced to sit through them year after year. But justice has a dear price. It is rarely bought by inattention.

Andy B. said...

Hey Donna - I do not want to stop talking about it; I want to stop fighting about it. I want to have genuine dialogue about the issue, effective dialogue. What we're doing right now in the UMC is just trying to win the next vote, we're not really trying to truly change anything. Trust me, I will continue to speak out for inclusion, but I cannot do so in the present climate and hope to have any impact. The question is moot now anyway; at least for another four years we'll be shouting at each other and getting no real change done.
Please continue to keep me accountable, even from a distance! Love!

bridger said...

KyleCnowindallas,
Thanks for your response. It sounds like you heard me say that I don't believe people are born with the desire for homosexual relationships. I actually said just the opposite. If you are born tall, you are hopelessly tall. If you are born with tendencies toward homosexual relationships, there is hope to live against your tendencies. I believe that a person who has made a decision to give themselves totally in submission to Jesus who is alive today, will receive the supernatural power to live a life full of abundance in plan that God has laid out for him.
Homosexuality is a side issue. Sacrifice and Submission to Jesus who is alive and given permission to take control of someone's life is the key to subernatural victory. There are also many examples of this online as well. This is just one: http://www.ldmers.org/LDMers/VictoryOverHomosexuality.htm

Thanks for the open "honest" conversation. May God Bless Your Life.

bridger said...

I am for "inclusion" but not "condoning." We should offer hope and guidance as the worldwide church of Jesus Christ.

KyleCnowindallas said...

http://www.ldmers.org/LDMers/VictoryOverHomosexuality.htm

Very said story and I will repeat my point. People are born gay just as some people are born tall. To tell someone to ignore who they are and pretend to be short when they are tall is wrong and is also staying God makes mistakes. Saying to a tall person" Honey this is your cross to bear. You need to trust God and pray he will make you short, until then try to become a haunch back and stoop over all you can. God will reward you for it. The Bible says so." Change the word tall to Gay and short to straight it is the exact same thing. So many glbt who have been told the sort of lies that this site in this comment suggest have lead very sad lives and many of them have committed suicide with the church covering it up. If you are gay and reading this post, God loves you as you are and if your church does not accept you by all means find one that does.