Ray McDonald's Blog

Thoughts and Reflections

Some Thoughts On The UMC And Homosexuality

Colossians 2:8

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

With the recent news about the Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church – and the cases they are hearing this week and next – I’ve been asked for the church’s stance on the subject of homosexuality. This is a hot topic and not an easy answer.

I will start by saying the United Methodist Church strives to have open hearts – open minds – and open doors. This is not just a slogan but rather a desire to be open to all people – even in our sin – and trying to be a place where we can all find grace – forgiveness – and spiritual growth.

Having said that – the church is not a place to condemn or condone sin – that is above our pay grade so to speak. We can name what we believe is sin – but not condemn the person(s) caught up in it. We can love the person dealing with sin without condoning their sin(s). I know for some – that may sound like double talk. For me it isn’t. I can love a person without accepting or condoning their behavior/sin (as I hope people can do the same with me). I can minister to a person (and do all the time) caught in an area of sin – trying to help them (and me) see the sin in their (my) lives (life) and helping them (me) to see God’s redeeming grace in the midst of their (my) lives (life). We are to shine the light of grace on our sin so that we are convicted or compelled to confess and repent of it and move away from it. We are not to accept sin or condone it or live in it with no attempt to change.

On the hot topic of homosexuality – a topic where the church and the society do not agree – the United Methodist Church has had varying opinions for over 4 decades. Each General Conference for the last 40 plus years has debated this issue and the UMC has over and over again reaffirmed their stance that the act of homosexuality is not compatible with Christian teaching. Here are two paragraphs from our Book of Discipline that speak to the church’s official stance.

¶ 304.3 – While persons set apart by the Church for ordained ministry are subject to all the frailties of the human condition and the pressures of society, they are required to maintain the highest standards of holy living in the world. The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals1 are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church. (1. “Self-avowed practicing homosexual” is understood to mean that a person openly acknowledges to a bishop, district superintendent, district committee of ordained ministry, board of ordained ministry, or clergy session that the person is a practicing homosexual. See Judicial Council Decisions 702, 708, 722, 725, 764, 844, 984. 2. See Judicial Council Decisions 984, 985.)

¶ 341.6 – Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.

I know well intended Christian friends who agree and disagree with these statements in our Discipline. I know pastors who have performed same sex unions and I know pastors who refuse to do so. This is a hot topic partially because the society in which some of us live (the USA) – has openly accepted persons with diverse sexual preferences. Yet some societies where UMC persons live do not have such an openness to diverse sexual preferences. The United Methodist Church is a worldwide denomination – not a USA denomination.

The reason this is an issue right now is that the Judicial Council of the UMC has been asked to rule out of order an election and consecration as bishop a person who is homosexual and in a same sex marriage. The jurisdiction where this election took place is in the western part of the USA and a very liberal jurisdiction. They have openly rebelled against the laws of the denomination and are testing the Discipline of our Church. For 40 plus years they have tried to change the Book of Discipline through General Conference. Failing to do this – they are now being openly rebellious to the laws of the church and flaunting their beliefs in the face of the denomination.

I know that we have homosexual persons in our local congregation and have heterosexual couples living together outside of marriage – just to name two areas of sin. I strive to minister to all persons the same. Their sin (or my sin) doesn’t change our sacred worth. Knowing that I am a sinner – redeemed by Christ’s shed blood – helps me to understand that we should neither condemn nor condone. That doesn’t mean we should not strive to call all persons to holiness.

It is my belief that the church of Jesus Christ is meant to help transform the society we live in – not the other way around. Paul writes that when we are in Christ we are transformed. 2 Corinthians 5:17 – Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

Paul also teaches that we are not to allow the society to change truth – Christ is the transforming agent working through His church – not the other way around. 2 Timothy 4:2–4 – 2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

Our theology should not be determined by social norms. It does not need to fall in line with the latest belief or craze. If the survival of the denomination is more important than Biblical truth – maybe the denomination should split or die. I don’t want it to split or die – I love the United Methodist Church – being a third generation Methodist pastor – with a fourth generation behind me.

Too many decide what they believe on this issue and others by emotion rather than a searching of God’s Word. We have children or other relatives or friends who are homosexual and we see them as loving and caring and acceptable. Folks – I hope I am loving and caring and acceptable – but my sin cannot be condoned by me or the church. When we condone sin and live in it and with it – we are making a mockery of all that Christ did on the cross. Whatever our sins are – we need to work through the process of confession and repentance – grieving our sin and turning away from them and turning toward Christ.

I know expressing my views may not make me the most popular pastor – even in my own church – among some members and friends. But remaining silent is not an option either. Please know that I love you – even when we do not agree on small and even significant topics like this one. I also believe that the United Methodist’s divergence from Biblical truth on this issue and others has been the reason we have lost so many members over the last four decades. I believe that if we return to sound doctrine and theology – we will draw people – not because of some social issue but because of the truth of God’s Word.

Just something for us to think about today as we go on our way.

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April 28, 2017 - Posted by | Build, Church, Community, Daily Devotion, Denomination, Discipleship, Encouragement, Evangelism, Faith Journey, Family, From the Pastor, Holy Spirit, Leadership, Marriage, Personal, Prayer, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

3 Comments »

  1. I agree it is not our job to condemn or condone sin, but to discern how sin is defined in the Bible, which is also what the church leadership is to do as part of the Discipline, and as part of their leadership; God will define sin and we are to live by reconciling ourselves to God’s plan and not God to our wishes or desires to interpret sin as not sin is to condone sin
    if one sin is publicly acceptable, and our discernment reflects societal preferences, then another sin that is so approved by society must later be defined as not sin which obviously leads to the absence of sin I do not think that is God’s plan

    Like

    Comment by Richard Reynnells | April 28, 2017 | Reply

  2. Pastor Ray, this is a powerful piece. I am glad you posted your thoughts. I agree with your words. The Methodist church needs to return to holiness IMHO.

    Like

    Comment by JR | April 28, 2017 | Reply

  3. Thank you for this clear and strong statement of our foundational call. I am encouraged by your words and pray that those who may not agree will gain new understanding.

    Like

    Comment by mary alice | April 28, 2017 | Reply


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