Still Pondering the State & Nature of Church
If you’ve followed my last two blog posts, you’ve likely picked up that questions about church unity are on my mind. Why is the United Methodist Church a single church body? What keeps us together? What differences can we have and still stay together? At what point do people/groups within the church diverge so much from the church’s traditions that they should leave? I have responses to these questions, of course, but there are rarely clean answers to these sorts of questions. So I just keep asking!
Human Sexuality–The UMC’s official theological stance
In exploring those types of questions, one question has come into focus for me lately: what is the United Methodist Church’s theology of human sexuality? Does the official theological stance reflect what we actually believe? Is it rooted in Scripture and the traditional teachings of the church universal? Now, of course, my first question was easy to answer, since I clearly memorized every single word of the Book of Discipline for United Methodist polity/doctrine class and for my ordination process (tongue firmly in cheek). But seriously, it’s easy to find, it’s in our Social Principles, which is part of our Book of Discipline. It can be found here on the official website, and I copied it below for everyone’s convenience:
We affirm that sexuality is God’s good gift to all persons. We call everyone to responsible stewardship of this sacred gift.
Although all persons are sexual beings whether or not they are married, sexual relations are affirmed only with the covenant of monogamous, heterosexual marriage.
We deplore all forms of the commercialization, abuse, and exploitation of sex. We call for strict global enforcement of laws prohibiting the sexual exploitation of children and for adequate protection, guidance, and counseling for abused children. All persons, regardless of age, gender, marital status, or sexual orientation, are entitled to have their human and civil rights ensured and to be protected against violence. The Church should support the family in providing age-appropriate education regarding sexuality to children, youth, and adults.
We affirm that all persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God. All persons need the ministry of the Church in their struggles for human fulfillment, as well as the spiritual and emotional care of a fellowship that enables reconciling relationships with God, with others, and with self. The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching. We affirm that God’s grace is available to all. We will seek to live together in Christian community, welcoming, forgiving, and loving one another, as Christ has loved and accepted us. We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons.1
1See Judicial Council Decision 702
Starting a Conversation
I could offer some theological/biblical responses to this official statement, and I normally would. But as much as I like blathering myself, I want an open conversation about these issues. So, especially for the Methodists reading this, what do you think? To what degree is the statement biblical? How much of it reflects sound theology, how much is bunk, and why? What parts of this statement reflect our faith in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? How does this statement reflect a perspective of human sexuality rooted in our common faith in the crucified and risen Jesus Christ? How much of this statement do we all agree with, and how much of it divides us? Are those divisions reconcilable?
Seriously, I’m inviting comments. I normally respond in to comments pretty consistently, but I’ll try to refrain this time unless asked to jump in. If you do not feel comfortable sharing your views openly, message me privately on Facebook/Twitter, and I’ll post it as “Anonymous contributor,” and your identity will be confidential. As we discern our future as the United Methodist Church–a process that fills me with both hope and trepidation–we should discuss more than just structure and process. I truly believe in a transparently open dialogue about who we are as followers of Jesus in the United Methodist tradition, including how much we have in common, and how much we need to have in common to stay whole. Since our views on human sexuality divide us most clearly, let’s start there. Let’s start now.