The Bible is either God’s Word, or it is not
John 1:1-5 (NRSV) 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
The United Methodist Church has reached the point in time when we are neither united, nor are we truly Methodist. In six weeks, delegates from all over the world will meet in St. Louis to decide basically upon whether we will follow God’s Word, or we will modify His Word to reflect the current world culture.
Three plans will be presented for a vote. Plan one, the Traditional Church plan, states we will continue to adhere to our Book of Discipline. Actually, it purports to give legs to the Discipline which will begin to be enforced. The Discipline includes the questionable paragraph that states “a homosexual lifestyle is not compatible with Christian teaching.”
Why do I call the paragraph regarding homosexuality questionable? Well, for me it has always seemed odd that this one sin is singled out in our Discipline. Is homosexuality the unforgiveable sin? No. But the problem with homosexuality is that those who practice it will not admit it is a sin. If we refuse to admit our sin, we will not repent of it nor turn away from it. If we fail to repent, can there be forgiveness of that sin?
Those who want to exit our churches if the Traditional Church Plan passes will be allowed to do so, and will be able to take their property and all assets with them.
The second plan is termed the One Church Plan. In this plan, the Book of Discipline will be changed to eliminate talk of homosexuality, and those practicing this lifestyle can now be ordained to preach and homosexual marriages can now be performed by our pastors in our churches. Supposedly, churches within the different Conferences can choose to either accept this practice, or they can refuse to perform homosexual unions or receive a homosexual pastor. But, if both the state and the church says it is legal to marry people of the same sex, and a pastor and/or church refuses to do so, does that open the parties up to legal action? Very likely it will. If churches who can not tolerate these changes decide to exit the United Methodist denomination, they may do so but must forfeit their churches and assets under the “Trust Clause.”
The third plan, termed the Simple Plan, offers a way for all of the churches to remain loosely connected. The churches can choose how they want to interpret the Bible, but they would be connected by continuing to pay their tithes to the Conference and remaining under the Episcopal system of government.
For those of us who do not endorse the One church plan, we have been accused of failing to love our fellow Christians, and worshipping the Bible rather than the God who in essence wrote the Bible. We have been told the Bible is archaic and does not reflect the culture in which we now live.
I have to say that, to me, the issue surrounding the One Church Plan has little to nothing to do with love, and I do not even think it is about human sexuality. Loving people is not difficult when we pray that God will help us love people the same way He loves them. Human sexuality is a complex issue. I personally do not believe sexuality is a choice, but it is something we are born into. When I was a teenager, there was a saying that “God don’t make no junk.” What happened to believing God creates each of us in our own unique way?
Am I conflicted about homosexuality? I admit that I am. I am not sure why sexuality plays such a huge part in the way we live out our faith. Is a homosexual lifestyle sinful? The Bible says it is, just like the Bible says adultery is sinful, gluttony is sinful, and gossip is sinful. Am I so perfect that I can pick up the stone to shatter someone’s life and their faith? I think not.
While Jesus addresses divorce in the scriptures he says nothing about homosexuality. Does the absence of Jesus’ speaking of homosexuality somehow validate such a practice? Personally, I do not base my theology on what is not in the Bible, rather what is clearly stated therein. Both Moses and Paul said that laying with some of the same sex is a sin. Why didn’t Jesus either validate Moses or correct his understanding? When you look at Jesus’ teaching, you will see that He only corrected those laws that were misinterpreted. “You have heard it said…but I say…” were the familiar words spoken by Jesus when he corrected the misunderstanding of the law. He never did so with homosexuality.
The issue is, and always has been, holiness.
The One Church plan removes the onus upon us to strive for holiness. When God said “be thou holy” it was not a suggestion. Yet, men and women have knowingly lied about their sexuality in order to receive ordination. Such action should make them unfit to serve, yet the conferences prefer to focus on whether local pastors are allowed to wear stoles. Shameful.
Whether or not the One Church Plan passes, our Church has become Humpty Dumpty, never to be put together again. I mourn for our Church and for those whose ill-advised mission has torn our Church apart.
For those of you who believe God will step in and heal the deep divisions within the Church, I remind you of Heb 6 which says if we are enlightened, but then turn away, it is impossible to be restored. We have traded God’s wisdom for our own understanding, and in doing so we have destroyed Methodism. We have made an issue of homosexuality, when the true issue is do we believe the Bible or not? We need to acknowledge that regardless of the culture, the Holy Spirit will not contradict God’s Word. If we believe He will, then God help us.
When Jesus told us in Matthew 28 to go make disciples, He did not qualify the type of disciples to whom we should minister and invite into the fold. Instead of living out our purpose of letting people know who Jesus is and what He can do in our lives, we have become distracted. As a pastor, it has been my job to proclaim the Word. It is not my job to monitor the way people live out their faith. Perhaps the answer is to pray for people, minister to people, love people, and let God sort out our differences.
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Father God, the world in which we live has begun to impact our Church and our beliefs. We know we are charged with loving You and loving others, and we have. We pray that during this time you would give us direction and understanding. We pray for guidance covered by love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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