Some thoughts on conservative compromise…covenant, discipline, and vows.

Compromise-1I started this particular series of blogs here, and continue in the same basic vein. As always, I can not represent anyone but myself, but I do think that these opinions are shared by many and might serve as an answer to some of the questions that I have been asked over the past several months. As before, the reference for my comments will be a selection from 1 Timothy 5: 19-25, but the ideas found here can also be found in the other epistles, especially the pastoral epistles, as well as various places in the Old and New Testament.

“Do not receive an accusation against an elder except before two or three witnesses. Those who sin, rebuke before all, so that the rest also may fear. I charge you before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that you guard these things without prejudice, doing nothing by partiality. Do not lay hands quickly on anyone, neither be partaker of the sins of others. Keep yourself pure. Drink water no longer, but use a little wine for your stomach’s sake, and for your frequent infirmities. Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment. And some they also follow after. Likewise also the good works of some are manifest beforehand, and those who are otherwise cannot be hidden.” (1Ti 5:19-25 MKJV)

In the UMC, a pastor makes a vow to uphold the Book of Discipline (the book of both law and much of the doctrine of the UMC) as well as confirming their faith in God, Christ and the basic Christian faith. This is not a terribly unique approach in protestant circles and i imagine that it is much the same in other denominations as well. To start exploring the issues and reasons that some conservatives believe that increased discipline is required, we must first go the what the qualifications of a pastor in the UMC is to begin with. They can be found here. The relevant portion is reproduced here for convenience.
j) Be accountable to The United Methodist Church, accept its Doctrinal Standards and Discipline and authority, accept the supervision of those appointed to this ministry, and be prepared to live in the covenant of its ordained ministers.”

So, before any vow is taken, the basic qualifications involve accepting the doctrinal standards and Discipline of the church and to be prepared to live within them. This is followed by the vow taken during the ordination service itself (found here) the relevant section reads as follows: “Will you be loyal to The United Methodist Church, accepting its order, liturgy, doctrine, and discipline, defending it against all doctrines contrary to God’s Holy Word, and committing yourself to be accountable with those serving with you, and to the bishop and those who are appointed to supervise your ministry?” The response being “I will, with the help of God.”

Some believe that the disobedience to the BoD they exhibit is in keeping with their vow to God above their vow to the church. This tends to be publicized as performing same sex weddings, but extends to teaching and preaching contrary to the doctrine of the church and other less publicized things as well. The problem with that line of thinking is that is artificially separates the vow to the church from a vow to God. There is only one vow that the ordained pastor is making and that is to serve God through the UMC. If you try to separate the single vow into two separate parts, then the vow has already been broken and the pastor in question has shown themselves to be unqualified as they can not live within the Discipline of the church. They have broken the singular vow made at ordination as well as shown themselves to be unqualified from the beginning. They have lied, and in doing so claimed that they were led by God to do so. Think on that. God led them to lie. I, and many, can not believe that. Mind you, this is not applicable to those who are working to change the stance of the church through the process that they have agreed to, but rather to those who are knowingly and willfully breaking the Discipline of the church and in doing so breaking the vow they made to God through the church.

First, the accusation is brought. The model in Timothy has two or three people bringing it and is consistent with the Old Testament on matters of accusation against teachers. This matters greatly so as to prevent slanderous accusations against pastors and prophets alike. Second the accusation, if found to be true, there is then rebuke before all so that the rest may fear as Timothy says. This is not a terribly pleasant teaching to be honest, but it is echoed in both the Old and New Testaments as well. In Deuteronomy, the rebuke could even be stoning, though I am not suggesting that we stone anyone these days. The purpose is two fold here. The first part is discipline. There are some who have suggested this is retribution as opposed to reconciliation, but that is not the case. Let’s face it, none of us enjoy discipline, but there is a subtle difference between discipline and punishment. Punishment is a penalty paid for actions that are not in accordance with the rules, nothing more or less. Our legal system has unfortunately drifted into that realm it would seem. Discipline however is actions designed to lead one back to proper behavior. For those of us who have children, we do our best to not punish and instead to discipline. Yes, discipline sometimes takes the form of unpleasantness so as to lead us back to the proper path, but it is discipline none the less. Often how it is seen is a matter of perspective. Those who wish to see a thing as discipline and those who wish to see a thing instead as retribution. The challenge for us in the UMC is to see it as the church using discipline to bring a pastor back into the fold. To bring a pastor back into alignment to the vow they made to God through the church. Keep in mind that the pastor being disciplined has already agreed to it before hand as that was a part of their vow as well.

The second part of the rebuke is as a warning to others. A warning that the teaching or action is improper and should not be allowed as well as a warning that the church takes the matter seriously enough to take action. Quite honestly in the UMC I think that we have largely failed in both of these areas, but that is a topic for a different blog I suppose. A pastor in the UMC has agreed to be in covenant with other pastors and the Church in general. Alan Cairns in his Dictionary of Theological terms defines covenant this way: “Both the Hebrew berith and the Greek diatheke denote a compact or an agreement between two parties, the obligations of which are mutually binding.” This should not be confused with the theology of covenants in the Bible, but it should be viewed in a very serious light. The implication here is that it is more than a promise (I will do this) and more than a vow (I will give my word on it) but rather a mutual agreement and understanding. It is not you or I promising a thing individually, it is rather you and I agreeing together to abide by a set of things. It is community in it’s truest sense. If our pastors can not model that effectively, then what hope is there for us laity types? If our pastors can not live in covenant community with each other, then is there any hope that we can? The example set is vital to the continuing health of the church, and if the example set is broken covenants between people, then that is certainly not a model of the covenant theology that Christianity is rooted in. It is certainly not a model for us to live by.

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50 Replies to “Some thoughts on conservative compromise…covenant, discipline, and vows.”

    1. Mike, originally the Reformation was not about schism, but about reforming. It was only when Luther refused to heed did he have to leave. His original posting was actually within normal protocols for dialogue.

      1. I agree re Luther and the Reformation; however, I believe—without any “proof”— that the great majority of LGBTQ presently within our communion wish for reformation, not schism.

        1. No doubt, Mike. I’m just commenting on the illogical and completely baseless line of reasoning by using Luther. Reformation is different. But, Luther actualy left when he couldn’t reform, rather than staying and attempting to destroy the church from within

          1. Excuse me! Luther “left” the Roman church 3 months after he was condemned to hell.

          2. I am convinced, unfortunately, that the “battle lines” on LGBTQ and several other issues, principally how to apply Holy Scripture in today’s world, are so firmly fixed that no equitable compromise can be reached. Accordingly, I think the UMC must split along conservative and progressive lines. I think the schism should be amicable, e.g., if this split is of God, one of the two—conservative or progressive—will thrive; or perhaps both will thrive. We’re now in a position that neither conservatives nor progressives—for the the most part—are truly listening to each. Each side has fired its volleys but neither side has surrendered. The arguments, conservative vs progressives, have become tiresome and ineffective vis-a-vis the opposing side. That is, the arguments only reinforce the original positions of each side. I do not see a schism as failure but an opportunity for both side to continue their ministry.

          3. Scott and I have interacted several times on Facebook forums, for the most part in an amicable manner despite our theological/doctrinal issues. His most recent post (“Then you are not happy with UMC doctrine……) illustrates the problem that I think must lead to schism: Scott believes UMC doctrine based on his interpretation and application of Holy Scripture re LGBTQ issues and SSM is correct. I do not. We each have our reasons and, after several exchanges of beliefs/opinions, we cannot reconcile our positions: It ain’t a problem with eloquence and rational presentation because we’re operating on two different premises. I have previously stated that I agree with Scott on his point that, if UMC ministers cannot keep their vows, they should resign their positions within the UMC. A schism would be the logical outcome. I am well aware of the tremendous good our denomination has done with its ministry to our worldwide brothers and sister. For instance, I am a strong verbal and financial proponent of UMCOR. I see no reason why, after the schism, such ministry cannot continue and even become stronger.

  1. I am just going to copy paste what I already replied to you in a different forum about the same basic comment.
    “Starting with the obvious, there was no option in the Christian tradition for Luther outside of possibly Eastern Orthodox. That is not at all the case today. I’d also point out that the purpose of Luther was academic debate and conversation that would hopefully lead to change. This was the vehicle available to him and he made use of it. He did not act outside the rules of the church at any time until after he was labeled a heretic and thus no longer a part of the Catholic church.
    Secondly, the Catholic church had no realistic vehicle for change while we have the GC and a process that allows any member of the church to push for change. If you note above, my comments we based in the UMC actually having a process that allows for change, The same is true about the American revolution as we had no representation in the governing authority. Your examples do not reflect comparable situations to what I said really.”

    1. I acknowledge your points; however, I still think you’re wrong in your response. Now, I may be wrong about the following: You seem to put the UMC BofD on the same level as Holy Scripture. Furthermore, I think you violate the spirit of Quadrilateral. I agree that a process, often long and convoluted, exists to change the BofD. I try to be a realist, not a pessimist: Regardless of how the General Conference acts on LGBTQ issues, people who fervently oppose that action probably will leave the communion. I’m reminded of the civil rights struggle I lived through in the 1960s. Segregationists in the UMC claimed that, because Holy Scripture sanctioned slavery, we did not (should not) integrate our churches or society in general. I well recall the profound opposition many of our black brothers and sisters expressed when counseled to work within the system and to be patient for change. I think many of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters have lost patience with the UMC. Similarly, our brothers and sisters who do not want to change the BofD on LGBTQ issues mistakenly place an inordinate emphasis on maintaining tradition at the expense of basic human rights. To paraphrase Mr. Bumble: If adherents of the current BofD on LGBTQ issues maintain their current position, then we can say, “The BofD is an ass.”

      1. I have already stated clearly in the piece that the BoD is not at all on the level of scripture. If you can not read that, I can not help you.
        As to the Quadralateral, how in the heck have I violated the spirit of it pray tell? This is the third statement you have made about me absent any supporting evidence. Quite honestly, it is a bit insulting and is in poor form. If I have why does it matter anyway? The Quad is not a part of our doctrine as Methodists, and was not a part of Wesley’s theology either.
        You can say that I am wrong all day long in my response, but saying so does not make it so. You saying I am wrong with no supporting evidence is not terribly helpful in conversation. The history of the events you referenced do not at all parallel the position that the church is in today nor the position that I have expressed. Your bias toward a preconceived position is showing badly. Try reading a titch more objectively maybe?
        The BoD does not in any way shape or form deny any homosexual basic human rights. Saying it does shows either a lack of understanding of what is actually said, or a willingness to lie about the church and it;s beliefs. I hope it is the first. It has been my experience that a good number of people who are complaining about the position of the church do not actually understand the position of the church.
        Trying to equate the position of the church in practicing homosexuals and slavery makes absolutely no sense at all. The BoD says that the act of sex between two people of the same gender is a sin. Having sex is a choice. The ethnicity one is born into is not a choice.
        All in all you have said a lot about homosexuality and really nothing about what I actually wrote, other than a claim absent evidence that it would have prevented the protestant reformation somehow. I don’t mind having a chat, but it would be grand if we could actually keep it to the topic.

        1. Did I hit a nerve? I’m sorry if you think I insulted you or your opinions, which certainly was not my intent. We can agree to disagree on the analogy of civil rights for our black brothers and sister re our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. Let me ask you a question that can be answered, at least initially, with a simple “yes” or “no:” Do you believe the BofD should be changed to allow full, and I mean full, inclusion of LGBTQ persons in all aspects of our denomination?

          1. When you call a theological position discrimination, it is insulting, especially as your examples include slavery. The obvious implication is that those who maintain a more theological position than you are akin to slave holders. That is insulting. Saying that sex between two people of the same gender is a sin is no more discrimination than saying that telling lies is a sin.
            The nerve that you hit is ignoring the topic, that is to say pastoral covenant breaking, and trying to bring all sorts of unrelated topics into it. Sexuality, racism, the protestant reformation, etc. What hits a nerve is your unwillingness to discuss the topic and the need to change it to something different.
            My personal position on full inclusion has absolutely nothing to do with what the post is about, so I see little reason to discuss it here. As I said above, I am great for a chat, but there is a topic at hand, and my personal thoughts on an unrelated matter have nothing to do with pastoral covenant breaking.

          2. I believe in full inclusion of all people and the ancient understanding of celibacy in singleness and faithfulness in marriage. That’s the stand of not only the UMC, but the Orthodox and Catholics as well.

            Now, If you believe UM elders should have greater sexual freedom, then gather the votes to change the Discipline for the sake of community. Progressive hotdog logic about only answering to a higher authority is becoming so tiresome.

            Also Mike you aren’t addressing Scott’s argument concerning covenant and community.

          1. OK but that has absolutely nothing to do with anything in the piece that I wrote, or the churches position in general. I have told a lie. Telling a lie is a sin. That is not the church discriminating, it is the church guiding in personal holiness…one of those nifty Wesleyan distinctive things. Perhaps that violates the spirit of the quad too….

  2. The practical problem is that over one-half of the US membership of our church believes that same sex marriage is okay. So your proposed “increased discipline” will be hard to enforce in some places and damaging in others. Where people stop accepting a law, the local officials tend not to enforce it (see “desuetude in law”). Of course we are a global body and the global south tends to be more conservative that the US. I merely suggest that the state of the UMC within America makes your proposal impractical. And we have ample evidence that this disconnect and on-going conflict is harmful.

    The simpler approach will be to remove the handful of references in the Book of Discipline that insult and discriminate against gay Christians and the faithful pastors who minister to them fully (as they understand the UMC Constitution in Paragraph 4). Let’s return to the historic approach of trusting pastors to decide whom they will marry and letting annual conferences decide whom they will ordain.

    It is time we end this unsuccessful 20-year old experiment of criminalizing same sex marriage in our Book of Discipline.

    1. I would say that the practical problem is that the US membership of the church has the idea that it gets to make the decisions exclusively. We are global, so it does not really mater the percentage of US Christians who think anything, rather the GC as a whole. That is nothing new. The practical problem is the arrogance of Christians in the US who think they know better than the church.
      You say that my proposal is impractical? It is impractical to expect that a pastor when they say something actually means it? Really? It is impractical that I actually expect a pastor to not lie? If that is true, then we are all in far more trouble than any singular issue.
      As for the discrimination bunk…it is just that, bunk. You insult both the church and everyone who maintains the same theological position when you continuously call things discrimination. Here’s a hint, if you want your positioning on scripture to be considered as valid, and would like your thoughts to be considered, perhaps quit insulting everyone who disagrees with you.

      1. Wasn’t trying to insult you Scott. Certainly I did not call you “incompatible with Christian teaching.” I didn’t call you a homophobe or a bigot, and I trust you are neither. I appreciate that you quite explicitly are not calling for stoning anyone. Also, I wasn’t attempting to malign any other person. I grant that many hold views like yours based on your interpretation of the Bible (or GC’s interpretation of the Bible if you prefer). I’m just stating facts when I say the BoD is discriminatory in practice (no matter the intent or the basis) because it says one class of members (straight) can get married in the church whiles another class of members (gay) cannot. We should be able to say so without giving offense.

        I realize that my comment was more in the practical vein and perhaps ill-fitting here if you mean your blog to be more in the spirit of editorial commentary as compared to practical legislation. My apologies if I read it wrong.

        I’m coming at this from my perspective on the delegation from Minnesota Annual Conference. In that role, I feel compelled to seek practical solutions that will actually make the church more successful. It strikes me as quite practical to revert to our pre-1996 system where we trust pastors rather than coerce and punish them regarding their officiating choices where legal civil marriage is concerned. The opposite approach to “increase discipline” — so far as read in the petitions to General Conference — aims to increase penalties and/or tie the hands of bishops in leading their episcopal areas. It will be up to GC to accept/reject those proposals. But if they are enacted, there will be even more clerical disobedience because our clergy in many cases feel so led, and their parishioners in many locations expect it because, in both cases, their understanding of the example of Christ (and the Bible, and the UMC Constitution in the BoD, and their vows). Increasing coercion will only increase conflict and harm our disciple-making mission.

        1. So to start, I have said that I do like the CUP plan, I proposed no such increased discipline in this posting at all. I pointed out what currently exists is all.
          Second, why is it more practical to change our doctrine than to expect pastors to keep their word? Seriously. You are saying that it is more practical for our doctrine to change than it is to expect a pastor to keep their word. Seriously? We are going to base theological decisions on what is most practical then?
          I have said to you specifically and to others that I support changing the language in the social principles to reflect our theology or to eliminate that specific language all together. I have also said this to you specifically before and to others in general. The position of the church when you take the BoD as a whole is that the act of sex between two people of the same gender is a sin. The position of the church is that marriage, as a rite of the church is properly understood as between one man and one woman. All your insult language can stop anytime now, at the very least with me. You claim no offense then say that the BoD insults people…if you then believe that the BoD is correct, you in turn insult them. That is pretty simply logic and easy dots to follow. Please stop it.
          I have proposed no legislation anywhere. and did not propose legislation here either. All I did was show some of the reasoning why what is currently in the BoD is considered important by some conservatives, namely me. I have no idea what legislation you are talking about as everything I mentioned exists already in the BoD. Nothing new there.
          You did an excellent job however of demonstrating my point in how discipline and punishment are seen from the same event. The purpose of the church is not to punish for breaking the rules, although that rhetoric is popular with those on the left who seek to insult and slander her. The purpose is discipline in order to bring the pastor back in line with the beliefs of the church that they made vow to uphold, to bring the pastor back into covenant with his peers, and finally to restore the trust and relationship between the pastor and the church.
          Like another who has commented, you have not at all spoke to anything that was actually written, and instead tried to change the subject to same sex marriage when indeed the pastors who break their vows. I am not speaking anymore to SSM or LGBTQI subjects here as they simply are not a part of the conversation. If you would like to chat about pastors who break their vows however, I would be happy to.

          1. Scott, first let me apologize/explain in that I don’t always allow myself time to read all of your, or anyone else’s, posts; hence, I’m often caught by the accusation that either I didn’t read or pay attention to what people have written. Also, I know from first hand experience that my threads on Facebook and my blog posts (www.MikeFrosolono.com) often lead to discussions off of the original topic, which is OK with me.

            So, you want to talk about UMC pastors who “violate”/don’t keep their ordination vows and you don’t want to discuss LGBTQ issues because they aren’t on the subject of your original post. That position seems rather narrow to me: What in today’s UMC is the primary issue behind pastors violating their vows at ordination? I suggest that primary issue is simply LGBTQ full inclusion in the UMC.

            I believe the decision for a pastor to violate, or to adhere to, an ordination oath is personal, hopefully led by the Holy Spirit and in fellowship with the Community. No, I do not consider the BofD either determinative or absolute in all respects. Furthermore, I firmly believe the Community of Believers is more full and more complete than Holy Scripture; hence, the Community of Believers is much fuller and more complete than the BofD. After all, at Pentecost the New Testament did not exist but the CofB—ed by the Holy Spirit—converted 5000 people to Christ. Similarly, the early Christians converted vast swatches of the Roman Empire without an “authorized” version of Holy Scripture.

            The CofB, hopefully led by the Holy Spirit and in prayerful contemplation, evolves in its understanding and application of Holy Scripture. I’ve talked and corresponded with several UMC pastors who have, or who contemplate, “violating” their ordination oaths. (Yes, my sample is too small for statistical analysis.) All of these pastors have expressed the firm believe that “violating” an ordination oath results, in their specific cases, from a conviction that they have an allegiance/obligation to a higher principle than the BofD. Yes, a process does exist for changing the BofD but that process takes a long time and people who want change are becoming increasingly impatient.

            What, therefore, should determine our principles and actions on any given issue covered by the BofD? Does the BofD determine our positions or do our positions determine the BofD?

            For the sake of argument, I’m willing to postulate that Holy Scripture means exactly what it means in the context of the times at which Holy Scripture was written. That is, any number of issues with which we presently deal are “sinful.” My postulate notwithstanding, I believe: God transmits all truth to humans through the aegis of the Holy Spirit and God’s revelation to humans did not end with the Book of Revelation. Yes, some truths revealed in Holy Scripture are immutable; yet, revelation continues and some interpretations change as Christian societies change—a process I call spiritual evolution.

            I am convinced that what we’re observing in the UMC is an aspect of spiritual evolution and some pastors are acting in concert with what they believe as the UMC evolves. I would, however, be “happier” if pastors who are led to violate their ordination oaths simply turned in their ministerial credentials.

            I accept your position that you don’t want to discuss LGBTQ issues in conjunction with violation of ordination oaths as defined by the BofD. I wonder, however, (and keep in mind that I don’t have the time to go back through all of your previous posts) if you don’t want a discussion of these issues because the result might lead to an understanding (1) that Holy Scripture is simply wrong on these issues in view of currently available data—a position thoroughly in keeping with the Quadrilateral and/or (2) that the BofD needs amending on these issues. That is—no disrespect intended—keeping the focus on pastoral oath keeping is simply an obfuscation intended to hide primary principles.

            I remain convinced: It is highly probable that the UMC will split on LGBTQ issues regardless of how General Conference rules. I don’t see this outcome as a reason for despair, only regret; but, what is the higher principal—remaining together as the UMC loses membership, including pastors—or accomodating spiritual evolution?

          2. Yes. Like I tried to acknowledge in my follow up post, I sense we are talking past each other a bit in addressing related but distinct topics. You are are addressing covenant-breaking and focused on the ecclesiology, scriptural basis and theology of covenantal unity across UMC’s clergy. What I picked up on was only a secondary point in your post related to calls for “increased discipline.” While only secondary in your post, it is for me, related to the heart of the matter where we have unnecessary (meaning should not be necessary for unity) prohibitions unsupported by so many members as to create a crisis of disobedience. So I chose to comment on it from what I see as a practical objection to that desire for increased punishments etc.

            I think you know my position on the other matters from previous threads, but since you ask directly here…

            Our previous discussions identified our disagreement as turning on the multiple covenants pastors make. You are focused only on the ordination vow and specifically the part where clergy agree to uphold the BoD. I feel like other covenants also come into play and are in conflict with the prohibition on officiating same sex marriage. Such as (1) the clergy person’s call, (2) the General Rule to “do no harm”, and (3) the Baptismal vows that they (and we lay people) make including the promises we make to a baby who later grows up and finds themself to be gay. Even within the ordination vow’s promise to uphold the BoD, I see a conflict in that Paragraph 341.6 conflicts with Paragraph 4. You chose to anchor on the specificity of Par.341.6’s prohibition whereas I anchor on the broader promise of inclusion in Par.4. (You are not alone in anchoring on that because for the last two decades the Judicial Council saw it that way, and until fairly recently all bishops saw it that way too).

            So while I feel a clergy person should ignore Par.341.6, it is not because disobeying is his/her individual prerogative but rather because that is only way to uphold the higher value of Par.4.

            This raises the “stay or go” question. I gather you believe if a clergy person sees irresolvable conflict between Par.341.6 and Par.4, then they should just resign from the UMC. If so, we disagree on that too. I feel the more just course of action is to stay and work to change it. Further many of us believe that the proven inability of our majoritarian legislative process to protect the rights of minorities. So we have a large and growing group of clergy who have concluded since 2012 that “Biblical Obedience” is a moral way to encourage the institution to change. While we agree that is not for the secular government to dictate rights to a church, we disagree as fellow members of the UMC whether our denomination should treat gays and straights alike with respect to accessing that rite of our church. I’m not sure if you would agree ecclesial disobedience (akin to civil disobedience) is ever a moral action, but obviously we disagree on its applicability to the current situation.

            So many complications and so much conflict arise within our connection because of that prohibition added to the Book of Discipline by the 1996 GC (a mere 20 years ago!) following the 11th hour insertion of the “incompatibility clause” at the 1972 GC. Let’s reduce the pressure stressing our connection by a few simple deletions to restore historic prerogatives for clergy and annual conferences. Let’s not double down with additional punishments and hamstringing our bishops in their own episcopal areas.

  3. For some reason, I would feel more comfortable with the argument, if it was based on a foundation other than the Pastoral Epistles.

    1. I’m sorry that you don’t like the Bible? Not sure what foundation other than the Bible would make you more comfortable.

      1. Didn’t say I didn’t like the bible. I just realize how it was formed. The pastoral’s, having been written well after Paul died, well into the time that churches were actually formed, well into the time churches had clergy. Based upon that logic, we should all be Roman Catholic.

        1. OK so only certain parts of scripture are authoritative. Got it. You also apparently missed the numerous times I said that while I was using Timothy as it had all of the points together in one place, that the concepts presented were consistent from the OT through the NT.
          As for the authorship of 1 Timothy, there ware a whole lot of scholars who would disagree that Paul was not the author, but that is another topic entirely.
          Since this is a hang up for you how about Jesus instructing during the sermon on the mount that when you say yes, it should mean yes and when you say no it should mean no? That work better for you? If a pastor has said that yes, they will uphold the BoD, the it should mean exactly that. Is the sermon on the mount authoritative in your world?

          1. Ok. My only point originally was that the Pastoral’s were not a good foundation for your argument. Ok. You don’t agree. So, I suppose you support the 1 Timothy texts in all ways? I would hope not.

            1 Timothy 2:9-15 9 also that the women should dress themselves modestly and decently in suitable clothing, not with their hair braided, or with gold, pearls, or expensive clothes, 10 but with good works, as is proper for women who profess reverence for God. 11 Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. 12 I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing, provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.

            Eddie Fisher “How the Hell did I wind up singing on a bus to the moon.”

            Waiter, “Must have been All them women, Mr. Fisher!”

            Conclusion, read it in its historical context, not by today’s standards.

          2. Gary and Mike
            So we are again on to a topic that has nothing to do with anything and ignoring what was written.
            I’ll bite, what part of the scriptures that I used was out of it’s historic context again? It is precisely because of it’s historic context that it is still applicable. I also agree that we should read the scriptures in light of their historic context. Amazing how that same context leads to completely different understandings isn’t it. Yes, I do agree with what is in Timothy, as well as the rest of scripture. I imagine that we would have very different understandings of what those things mean however. Funny how you would try and use a literal understanding of scripture to prove a point when you do not at all proscribe to a literal interpretation of it. I do not either in the sense that you are trying to use it. Not knowing at all what interpretive method that I use, I don’t see how you can make such claims. Equally odd how some claim that conservatives are so terrible and completely misunderstand scripture then claim to know the correct interpretation of scripture themselves outside of the teaching of the church. Mind you, I am not at all a progressive revelation sort, rather a once and for all delivered to the saints type, nor do I believe that anything other than scripture gives us a clearer picture of Christ, and through Him of God.
            As to the LGBTQ stuff, nice try, still not biting. It is not a narrow view to exclude it from the conversation when it has nothing to do with the conversation. Contrary to popular belief, many of us are not single issue types but rather deal with the larger issue. This post is dealing with the larger issue of violating the vows of ordination. You are trying to twist things to say that the position of the church is what has caused the problem when that is simply not true. What has caused the issue is that there are those violating their pastoral vows. That is what is causing the discord. As for the history of the church and the language it has used, your summation is inaccurate.
            The church, as a whole, and the UMC specifically, has never allowed same sex marriage, so to say that it was only forbidden 20 years ago is false as it has always been forbidden.
            Saying that the church only recently sad that sex between two people of the same gender is a sin is inaccurate. That has been the consistent position of the church until rather recently (the last 50 years or so) when some have changed the position. In the UMC specifically, the act of two people of the same gender having sex was considered to fall under the broad category of sexual immorality. Two pastors that I know of were defrocked before the language was added in 1972 specifically for engaging in sex with people of the same gender. One was in Texas that has been fairly widely publicized as it was witnessed by one of the authors of the social principals, and one in Pennsylvania that was witnessed by my grandfather. All of the language that has been added, has been in response to challenges to what the church has taught all along. Those things can be disagreed with of course, but they should not be treated as something new. This is not new, it is indeed a very old teaching. What is being challenged is not some new teaching of the church, but is in fact a very old teaching of the church. Presenting it otherwise is simply not honest and paints the church in an inaccurate light.
            The UMC is not denying rights to anyone. If you believe that marriage and ordination are rights, then you are mistaken. They are indeed rites, but that is a different thing entirely.
            So what has occurred in this particular part of the thread here is a complete avoidance of the actual topic of the blog. Vague attempts to discredit it have been made, and there has been attempt to shift the blame, but the reality is that neither of you has actually dealt with the problem of pastors violating their vow, instead you have tried to say that the section of scripture I used was a poor base without any evidence or try to shift the responsibility from the shoulders of those engaging in disobedience to the church which has not actually changed it’s teaching on the matter. So, for the last time, we can chat about the actual topic, and that is fine, or you can continue with a bunch of stuff that has nothing at all to do with anything.

          3. Scott, with all due respect, you have stated your positions and I have stated mine: We simply have differing opinions about the issues and their importance. I find your arguments and theological opinions unconvincing to say the least. I see no benefit in my expending energy by contributing further to this tread. You can have the last word.

  4. after reading several post in this thread, I have come to the conclusion that if a pastor in the UMC makes a vow before the Lord and the Church in general and then breaks it, they are no better than a person at their wedding takes a vow before the Lord and then disgraces themselves in adultery. I then have to ask the question can I trust such a pastor to lead me toward Christ in my journey.

    1. I agree. I do think that there is always room for forgiveness and for us all to move forward as none of us are perfect people all in all, but the question is fair and should be asked of any pastor quite frankly. If the pastor is not demonstrating a pattern of holy living, then why should any of us trust them to instruct us in the same?

    2. To Charley — When a pastor in the UMC vows before the Lord and Church to be in ministry to all persons, they are honorbound to be in ministry fully to gay persons as well as straight to persons. Sometimes the gay person’s path towards holiness includes marriage. Thus for the pastor it can mean officiating at a same gender wedding.

      1. Except that it does not in the UMC as the UMC does not recognize SSM as being a part of holy living. The pastor is violating his vows to uphold the BoD as the rule of action and also violating his vows to uphold the doctrine of the UMC. The divide you create between vow to God and vow to church is artificial. The vow is to God through the church, not two separate vows. Break it to one and break it to both.

  5. This all seems very convoluted, and steeped in religious legalism. So, let’s go back to the original documents about the LGBTQ question. The Bible is quit clear, in both the Old and New Testament, as to the view God holds on this issue. Are we above God to think that we can sanction something that He opposes? Let’s keep it simple. If the UMC accepts LGBTQ and adopts it into it’s doctrine, then it does so outside the bounds of scripture.

    1. To Levitigus — There’s nothing in the Bible that says same gender marriage is wrong. The Bible opposes sexual sin of both same gender and opposite gender varieties. But marriage is about holy living. Jesus and Paul point to marriage as the place where sex belongs. There is no prohibition of same gender marriage in the scripture, rather it only the traditional interpretation of scripture that reads such a prohibition into it. Remember that tradition has been wrong before (as in women’s leadership in church and slavery etc). Old Testament includes ritual barriers to transgender/eunuch persons (Deut 23:1) but this is reversed in New Testament (Acts 8:36) and the gender binary made irrelevant (Gal 3:28).

      1. All of those statements are pretty much directly contrary to Wesley’s NT comments, thereby making them contrary to the doctrine of the UMC. Those may well be your understandings, but they are not even close to the understandings of the UMC and it’s sources of doctrine. What you are now talking about is not changing the stance on SSM, but changing the doctrine of the church in numerous places to accommodate it as well. How much doctrine do you need to change before you have begun a new faith entirely?

        1. Where does Wesley talk about same gender marriage?

          Please explain which items I’ve talked about in today’s comment are “directly contrary” to Wesley’s NT comments.

          I grant that we have a disagreement whether scripture condemning same gender sex outside of marriage has any meaning whatsoever for same gender sex within monogamous same gender marriage. But same gender marriage is not specifically mentioned in the Bible. So you are interpreting that omission as forbidding it, and I am interpreting same gender marriage as a good thing for the same reasons as opposite gender marriage is a good thing.

          I have previously been under the impression, Scott, that while you and I have strong opposing opinions about same gender marriage, I thought we both agreed that said difference of opinion was a non-essential matter for Christian doctrine.

          1. Wesley spoke about marriage period. Again, SSM marriage is an artificial separation. The Bible speaks about marriage as it exists. So, Wesley speaks about what marriage is.
            “Matthew 19:4
            He said, Have ye not read – So instead of contradicting him, our Lord confutes them by the very words of Moses. He who made them, made them male and female from the beginning – At least from the beginning of the Mosaic creation. And where do we read of any other? Does it not follow, that God’s making Eve was part of his original design, and not a consequence of Adam’s beginning to fall? By making them one man and one woman, he condemned polygamy: by making them one flesh, he condemned divorce.”
            One man, one woman, one flesh. That is marriage according to Wesley’s NY comments, therefore a matter of UMC doctrine. I am not interpreting the omission of same gender marriage as forbidding it, I am accepting that marriage is defined inn scripture, and that a marriage blessed by God must fit that definition. There is no need to forbid something that exists outside of an established parameter.
            Your comments about Galatians are contrary. “Galatians 3:28
            There is neither Jew nor Greek – That is, there is no difference between them; they are equally accepted through faith. There is neither male nor female – Circumcision being laid aside, which was peculiar to males, and was designed to put a difference, during that dispensation, between Jews and gentiles.” Nothing there about the gender binary being lifted or made irrelevant, rather all being equally accepted through faith.
            I said nothing about SSM being essential for Christian doctrine. I was rather clear that I was speaking of UMC doctrine, being of the UMC persuasion myself. From that, I asked a valid question. At what point, IE how much doctrine must be changed or thought of differently, before one can no longer properly be called a United Methodist?

          2. I’m happy with UMC doctrine as it is. The only thing I’d like to see changed are non-doctrinal matters in the Book of Discipline as regards to treating straight and gay people exactly alike with respect to marriage (meaning each can marry persons of their own choosing without the heterosexual only provision) and ordination (celibacy in singleness and fidelity in marriage). That’s it. I do not see any reason for (and many reasons against) that simple change necessitating a new denomination.

      2. I challenge your world view here sir. It’s hard to misread Romans 1:27 “And likewise the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in there lust one toward the other…” The idea of course I’d that God made a natural use for the woman that these men forsook. I find it fascinating that you equate this issue to abolitionism and women’s suffrage, as if they were the same thing when they are not in any way. The only way in which one is born gay is in the sense that we are all bien with the propensity to sin. It is no more right to act in this way, in any context, then it would be for me to solicit a prostitute, no matter the context of the former, it’s moral sin. There is no reading into anything, the text in this area if clear, and we don’t get to reason out of these guidelines. Our duty as Christians, when the Word of God is clear, is to form or heart to scripture, not as in outward work, but from the inside out through discovery of what lie we believed that allowed this sin, any sin, to lay hold of our life and take us captive.

          1. It’s possible, so let’s just go ahead and look at it. In this portion of Romans 1 Paul is making an argument for the righteous standard of God and saying that many had been given over to a debased mind. So vrs 26-27 is an example of the vile lusts of that debased mind.
            It should also be noted that there was no such thing as “gay marriage” in these days. To the Greeks marriage was about procreation, in general, while their homosexual union was about enjoyment of the flesh. So that leaves us with nothing more then the very act of men listing after men and women after women as an example of impurity. There if no marriage context, and no where in scripture does any writer make concession for us to fine ourselves over to such passions.
            The bottom line, God calls us to lead our hearts, not act in the way our wicked hearts dictate to us. Instead we ate expected to crucify our flesh of its lusts and passions.

          2. Except you are reading it via a plain sense reading, something St. Paul rarely gives. This is the voice of St Paul’s interlocutor, the one St Paul is challenging. The diatribe you see in this section of Romans is in the mouth of the Jewish speaker (a set of insults actually pretty common among Jews of the time), the one who believes Gentiles cannot be saved. St. Paul answers this stupidity beginning in Romans 2.1

        1. I certainly don’t want to get involved in this discussion, but again, reading in historic context, I think your comment “It is no more right to act in this way, in any context, then it would be for me to solicit a prostitute, no matter the context of the former, it’s moral sin.”… This is probably not a good foundation for argument. “No matter the context”, I think God told Hosea to marry a prostitute, not solicit a prostitute. Although symbolic, I don’t think “marry”, and “solicit” are interchangeable. Otherwise God committed a mortal sin (symbolically, of course).

          1. Hello Gary, welcome to involvement : ). It’s not likely that Helga was a prostitute at the time of Hosea’s marriage to her, other wise this would have violated Lev. 21:7 and it’s not likely that God would command Hosea to violate the law.
            The story of Hosea is a story of redemption. Like Israel, Helga went astray. After some time of playing the harlot Hosea was told to buy he back for 15 sheckles of silver and 1 1/2 hones of barley, just as Jesus Christ would pay the price for us to be redeemed to God. So as to your rebuttal sit, they really aren’t compatible. Good bless you.

          2. Are we talking about the same bible? (Symbolically, not abstractly 🙂 )
            “When Jehovah spake at the first by Hosea, Jehovah said unto Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredom and children of whoredom; for the land doth commit great whoredom, departing from Jehovah. 3So he went and took Gomer”.

  6. Then you are not happy with UMC doctrine…you can say it is not doctrinal, but that does not make it so. It is the teaching of the UMC that marriage is one man and one woman. It is the teaching of the UMC that sex between two people of the same gender is a sin. I do not see that requiring a new denomination either, but it does require that pastors uphold their vows. You can not say that SSM is an act of ministry in a church which says it is not with any sort of integrity. These are doctrinal issues despite your claims to the contrary.

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