Several weeks ago, a fellow pastor offered a weekly devotion in the Footsteps to Follow column. Generally well done. He nonetheless took the occasion to criticize the United Methodist Church for policy decisions made at a February 2019 general conference.
Those decisions, two in particular, defined policies dealing with the relationship of the gay and lesbian communities with the church.
His argument was that we, (the church) having been given the directive by Jesus also to His Disciples to “love one another as I had loved you,” that the actions of the United Methodist Church at the general conference were not loving!
I have to assume his idea of “acting lovingly” toward another person means agreeing with whatever they do or stand for! This, of course, is not to be found among Jesus’ actions. Take for instance His reaction to the Sadducees and Pharisees as he criticized them harshly for acts and policies which suited them, but badly affected other people. Even His cousin, John the Baptist, bewailed both groups. Yet, Jesus does not suggest John did wrong.
This dear pastor, having children, certainly did not condone everything his children wanted to do, but I have no doubt continued to love them!
As for gays and lesbians, the United Methodist Church includes them in a statement in our 2016 Discipline (rule book) by saying “all persons are of sacred worth.” All means “all” — not some! This is certainly a loving statement while not, in this instance, agreeing with homosexual and lesbian sexual actions.
The church made two definitive decisions. One was that no same-sex marriages could take place in any of our churches. Now, I know this bruised some feelings! But let’s remember that likely all earthly organizations have a rule or two which could exclude a person from being in that group. I can recall being invited to join more than one organization, but finding some particular “rule” I disagreed with, made joining no longer possible on my part and theirs. I didn’t ask then to change their rules!
Such a restriction on same-sex marriages does not prevent gays or lesbians from joining a congregation in worship and fellowship. In fact, they were/are welcomed along with everyone else.
The second decision affected clergy in that it was made policy that no United Methodist clergy could perform a marriage service for same-sex couples regardless of where the service was to be performed. Argument for this was in deference to the Scriptures which indicate that marriage is between one man and one woman. (Matthew 19:3-6 as stated by Jesus.)
Basically, that’s it. No gay bashing or name calling! Two rules for the church which loudly professes love for all. We make our choice to obey or disobey them.
No one insists that every decision made, personally or by an organization, is going to be agreeable to everyone. We all have differing values and live by the strengths and weaknesses of those values. We can take solace however in the action of the United Methodist Church applying the old adage of “loving the sinner, but not the sin.” That’s good, for after all, all of us are “sinners” and all our immoral, wrongful and selfish decisions all get to be labeled “sins.”
Just a word of clarification!
THE Rev. Dr. David A. Keller
United Methodist Church, retired
Submitted via email