By the time you read this, there’s a very good chance that the members of the United Methodist Church (UMC) that my husband I attend will have already cast votes over whether or not to disaffiliate. Let me tell you why we believe this United Methodist divorce is necessary.
Let me start in the New Testament. In Luke 5:32, Jesus tells us, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Jesus spent a lot of time with sinners, and that was pretty unsettling for the religious Jews of the day. How could this guy who was whispered to be the Messiah make Himself unclean by associating with criminals, and prostitutes, and tax collectors?
Jesus’ ministry made people uncomfortable. Talking about sexuality is uncomfortable, and for years we’ve avoided talking about it in church for that very reason. But let’s get right to the elephant in the room—the ordination of practicing homosexuals and same-sex marriages sanctioned by the UMC.
Listen to this excerpt regarding human sexuality from the UMC Book of Discipline:
- We affirm that sexuality is God’s good gift to all persons….
- 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 affirm that all persons are individuals of sacred worth,… and all persons need the ministry of the Church 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 considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.
Let’s re-read one of those last bullet points: “All persons need the ministry and care of the Church as well as the spiritual and emotional care of a fellowship that enables reconciling relationships with God.”
What does it mean to be in a reconciled relationship with God? When we sin, we rebel against God and we push Him away. In order to be brought back into a good relationship with Him—in order to be reconciled–we have to repent of our sins. And to repent, we have to identify and acknowledge sin. We should never celebrate it or sanction it.
Some Progressive voices in the UMC believe that we Traditionalists aren’t showing the love of Christ and that we want to exclude LGBTQ+ persons from our church. They say that we are judgmental. But what we truly believe about judgment is stated in the Apostles’ Creed:
…On the third day He arose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
Did you read that? HE shall come to judge us. We believe that we must leave judgement up to God because He alone will judge the earth.
The truth is that both Traditionalists and Progressives believe the same thing about judgment. And here’s another surprise—we both love and welcome the LBGTQ+ children of God. No kidding.
Where we differ is that we Traditionalists support our Book of Discipline which states that the practice of homosexuality is not compatible with Christian teaching.
We also stand firm on the Scriptural definition of sin and repentance, and the Scriptures are consistent in their prohibition of same-sex unions in both the Old and the New Testaments.
Therefore, we believe that an unrepentant practicing homosexual may not be ordained as a minister, nor may a same-sex marriage union be condoned by the church. To do so would be putting the church’s official sanction on sin.
Progressives, in contrast, want to remove any restrictive language about LBGTQ+ individuals from the Book of Discipline. They don’t just want to ignore the sin–they want to sanction the active practice of homosexuality so that it is no longer called a sin.
As Christians, we are called to speak the truth in love. We’ve been conditioned to believe that showing tolerance and love is the same thing as being Christian. But it’s not. Showing Christian love also means holding one another accountable to the Scriptures.
The truth is that today’s UMC is made up of two groups with very different opinions existing within one church. We see the inspiration and the authority of the Bible differently. We have different sexual ethics. We disagree on marriage and ordination. We understand our mission differently. These are not small matters that we can overlook any longer.
I view disaffiliation as the best way forward, a way that allows two very different perspectives to continue worshipping as their beliefs dictate. And I pray that the inevitable United Methodist divorce can be amicable.
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