This is a current discussion, you may have noticed, in the UMC. I thought I might just think aloud for a moment and ask you for your thoughts.
There are several reasons one can argue for inclusion (the term used to denote ordination to LGBT, etc… inside the UMC). There is usually one used to argue against inclusion — “the bible.”
How to not argue for:
- Please do not suggest that because society is moving in this direction, we should too. The Church is no beholden to society, else we could argue against inclusion and instead for cleansing (i.e., murder) if we lived in Uganda. Society is relative. Society changes. Our society is not superior and thus should not be held as the moral absolute by which to measure the Church. Rather, the Church must push and pull society to a better morality. We must lead the way and not simply follow. If we do this, the Church becomes an appendage of society.
- Do not use the word “justice.” It is a word that has lost nearly all meaning when it comes to social, and legal, concerns because of the overuse. Not everything is justice.
- Do not argue for inclusion because “we need young people,” etc… See bullet point #1.
- Do not argue for inclusion because of “love.”
How not to argue against someone:
- Do not associate them with hate. There is a difference between hating someone and believing their lifestyle is wrong. Mainliners and more liberal Christians have lost the sense of sin. I believe in sin, but I may define it differently. I believe greed is a sin. Excess is a sin. But, do I hate rich people? No.
- Do not conflate all of those against inclusion into one pile.
- Do not marginalize. For the preachers of tolerance, the first thing they want to do is to marginalize those who disagree with them.
- Do not get offended so easily. Some are going to call you apostate, evil, servants of Satan. Let these things glide off your back.
- Avoid words like liberal, conservative, and progressive.
How to argue for inclusion:
- Do not be closed minded. Maybe you are wrong. If you are going to dialogue, dialogue. Discourse. Speak. Listen. Hear. Speak. Repeat.
- Find common ground so that even if you get to the point where you want to throttle another, you will find a place to stand together.
- Use Scripture. If you are a Christian, more likely than not, you will have Scripture as the basis of your faith. The more you perceive yourself as conservative, the more you will focus on Scripture. Therefore, if you are going to argue with someone, understand where Scripture (and what interpretative methodology) they use.
- Use Tradition. Argue for a progressive revelation beginning before Scripture and moving past Scripture. We accept the Trinity, among other things, because of Tradition. Therefore, Tradition is an authority. What has Tradition revealed? Discuss the fact that for the longest, women weren’t ordained. Discuss as well how natural law comes into this. If homosexuality is a sin, it is a sin because of natural law as defined by Rome through Aquinas. Of course, Protestants do not go this route. Help them to understand the role and value in Tradition, and the changes enshrined in Tradition (not to mention the decades of dialogue it took to make that change).
- Use Reason. This includes scholarship. Use theology. You simply cannot use this first. Why? Because Scripture predates scholarship; however, scholarship gives way to understanding Scripture. Be sure to understand both sides of the coin when speaking to a specific passage. Do you just argue why you are right, but argue that the prevailing interpretation is wrong because of X. Show that you know what is said and why it is said.
- Use Experience. Wesley’s experience was that of salvation. Understand this, that not all who say they are a Christian are in fact Christians. However, experience can be used to show humility. This is where the above three legs come into play. The Church has been wrong before. Christians have been wrong before. Are we so sure about this issue that we are ready to make concrete statements, either way? Arminians aren’t saved by Calvinists standards. Before Vatican II, Protestants were still heretics. Fundamentalists view almost all of Christianity as pagan or apostate. We can draw these lines of separation, but if we have the experience of humility — the same humility it took for us to first become Christian — then can we proceed with such concrete statements, either way?
So, what are your thoughts?
- United Methodist Bishop Says That Pastors Who Perform Same-Sex Marriage Ceremonies Should Not Be Punished (patheos.com)
- Pro-Homosexuality United Methodist Leader Concedes: We’ve Lost the Argument in the UMC (juicyecumenism.com)
- High-Profile UMC Panel Discusses Homosexuality (juicyecumenism.com)
- Some reflections on the 2012 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand (cruciality.wordpress.com)