Category : Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

William Abraham–In Defense of Mexit: Disagreement and Disunity in United Methodism

We might immediately take leave of O’Donovan by noting that what we really have to offer here is a new round of listening and theological debate to be carried out by a new commission to be appointed by the next General Conference. There is no chance of that option being proposed or implemented. We have already been down that road, and we are not about to turn the clock back and try that option one more time.

Ecclesial managers may understandably want to hold out for this option, but the days of ecclesial management are over. “Progressives” and others may publicly be in favor, but serious observers may legitimately see this as equivalent to one more attempt at stalling while more boots for change can be put on the ground. However, this is much too abrupt a way of disposing of what we might learn and conclude from an engagement with O’Donovan.

Let’s agree for the sake of argument on several of his observations and proposals. First, in the emergence of the gay movement, we face an unprecedented moment in history. Second, this recognizable novelty calls for sustained engagement with this new consciousness as understood from within the gay world that is inhabited by gay Christians. Third, Christians who are gay should be free to articulate and work through the description and assessment of their experience theologically and morally. Fourth, it may well be that, in the future, their deliberations will offersignificant improvements in our understanding and practice of mission. Fifth, it is indeedimportant to not only read carefully our biblical texts but to read carefully how we should apply such texts to our current cultural situation. However, once we get beyond these important insights, matters become much more complex and contested. For my part, I find O’Donovan’s critical comments on “liberal” forms of Christianity generally accurate as applied to the issues in hand. “Liberal” versions of Christianity have no monopoly on truth or intellectual virtue. Hence it is vital that Christians who are gay not follow their lead uncritically and embrace solutions that short-circuit debate by simplistic appealto immediate moral certainties or that reach for the first weapon of defense that lays to hand. Thus appeals to analogies with women’s ordination, or with racism, or appeals to generic moral notions like equality, justice, and liberation are not enough; we need deeper moral analysis and reflection. While I would provide a more robust role for intuition in the epistemology of ethics, I would entirely agree that we need to reach beyond intuition and try to understand the potential rationales, if any, which inform and undergird our intuitions. There are in-house, epistemological issues here that need not detain us. Having said all this, I recognize that many will disagree with this assessment of “liberalism….”

Read it all.

Posted in Ecclesiology, Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

RNS profiles a Flourishing South Carolina United Methodist Church ahead of the upcoming Special General Conference

(Please note: you may find basic information about this meeting there–KSH).

In November, with the blessing of his leadership team, Kersey sent out a congregation-wide letter explaining the various plans that will be up for a vote at the special session and declaring his support for the Traditional Plan, which would keep LGBT restrictions in place.

Out of a membership of close to 5,000 people, Kersey said he received three emails from people who said they disagreed with him.

Martha Thompson, who chairs the church’s leadership team and is a delegate to the special session in St. Louis, said she welcomed the letter.

“This was new to a majority of our membership. So I was glad Jeff did it,” she said. “There were some who weren’t in favor. But the overwhelming majority of people I’ve spoken to were glad that he did it.”

Thompson cited the success of the monthlong Advent offering after the letter was sent as proof of the congregation’s support. The church raised $313,000 for that one offering — more than many small Methodist churches’ entire yearly budget.

Both Thompson and Kersey said they don’t want to exclude anyone.

Kersey said he recognizes that there are LGBT people attending the church and said he sees them like he sees everyone else — as people of sacred worth.

“On any given weekend here, we see people struggling with adultery, pornography, same-sex relationship,” he said. “We don’t ask questions. Everyone is welcome to come here with the understanding that we’ll share with them God’s best plan for their life, which is based on our understanding of Scripture.”

Read it all.

Posted in Methodist, Parish Ministry, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

(1st Things) Charlotte Allen–Methodist Madness

….the fact that the UMC still officially considers homosexual conduct sinful (“incompatible with Christian teaching,” according to the Book of Discipline) is another surprise. All the other major mainline Protestant denominations—the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the United Church of Christ—have amended their canons over the years to permit gay and lesbian ordinations and same-sex weddings fairly freely (typically with a few hedges aimed at mollifying conservative churchgoers and clergy).

Nonetheless, anomalous as the UMC’s traditionalist stance on sexuality may seem when the other mainlines have capitulated to secular culture, it seems to have helped the UMC avoid the demographically catastrophic schisms that have plagued those other mainline churches. The Episcopal Church has seen breakaways of entire congregations and even dioceses over the past few decades, a trend exacerbated by the ordination of its first openly gay bishop in 2003. When the Episcopalians approved same-sex marriage in 2015, a still-unhealed rift opened in the worldwide Anglican Communion, 55 percent of whose 80 million members live in sub-Saharan Africa and hold highly traditionalist views on Christian sexual morality. The Lutherans and Presbyterians have also witnessed major hive-offs of their church’s conservative congregations into separate religious entities as their leaders have embraced increasingly progressive positions. One result has been a drastic and seemingly unstoppable decline in church membership for those mainline denominations. The PCUSA counted only 1.4 million active members in 2017, down from 2.3 million actives in 2005. The ELCA lost nearly a quarter of its membership between 1988 and 2016 (from 5.2 million to 3.5 million). The Episcopal Church’s number of baptized members fell from 2.3 million to 1.7 million between 2007 and 2017.

By contrast, the UMC, while not immune to declining membership, has held fairly steady at 7 million U.S. members (down from about 11 million in 1968), and there have been no major Methodist schisms. The UMC is currently America’s largest mainline Protestant denomination. Perhaps Charles Wesley’s beautiful hymns have kept the church reasonably intact, but another key factor may have been its willingness (so far) to allow religious conservatives and religious liberals to abide side by side in uneasy peace under a traditional ethos. The status quo is also maintained thanks to avid Methodist missionary work in Africa and elsewhere during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The UMC now boasts an additional 5 million overseas members, most of whom are theologically conservative like the overseas Anglicans and thus disinclined to support relaxations of traditional Christian ideas about sexuality. Proposals to modify the “incompatible with Christian teaching” language in the Book of Discipline have regularly surfaced at UMC General Conferences since at least the year 2000 but have been decisively rejected, thanks largely to overseas votes.

All of that seems poised for change, however….

Read it all.

Posted in Methodist, Other Denominations, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

Preparing for the Upcoming Major Special Session of the United Methodist General Conference (IV): An Article in the Star-Telegram

Dr. David Grant, a professor of religion at Texas Christian University, said the outcome of the conference will have a ripple effect on the entire church.

“The impact on the United Methodist Church will be great,” Grant said. “Whatever is decided, the chances are that a significant number of United Methodists will depart the denomination.”

Dr. Elizabeth Oldmixon is a political scientist at the University of North Texas who studies the intersections of religion, politics and LGBTQ identities. She said it’s too early to say how deep the effects of the issue will be on the United Methodist Church.

“This is the only issue where the language of schism has been elevated to this level,” Oldmixon said. “I don’t know how widespread it would be but it’ll definitely happen.”

She explained that it will be difficult to cater to everyone’s beliefs with the current plans, even if they are amended.

“If you’re a traditionalist, you don’t like that language will be taken out and changed,” Oldmixon said. “If you’re progressive, you’re not satisfied because there’s nothing new that affirms any other sexualities.”

Bishop Mike Lowry is the resident bishop of the Central Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church and oversees more than 300 churches. He noted that whichever plan is voted on will be debated and amended, and whatever decision is made will not take effect until January 2020, at the earliest.

However, he said he stands behind the current practices of the church, which say “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching,” and that “self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.”

“I’ve been clear that I do not endorse any of the three plans,” Lowry said. “I support the current stance of the United Methodist Church. Our understanding that love is for all, and Christian marriage is between a man and a woman.”

Read it all and there are comments by Bobby Ross on the article there.

Posted in Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

Preparing for the Upcoming Major Special Session of the United Methodist General Conference (III): Martin Davie

The first problem, which emerges in the statement by the Commission about its vision for its work, is the way the report uses the concept of ‘contextual differentiation.’ What it means by this concept is allowing people the freedom to adopt different approaches to the issue of human sexuality in different contexts for the sake of the Church’s mission.

What the report never explains, however, is why it is the case that undertaking mission in different contexts may require different approaches to the issue of human sexuality. The historic Christian view point has been that what it means for humans to live rightly before God as sexual creatures is determined by God’s creation of the human race (as described in Genesis 1-2) and that for this reason there is one sexual ethic that applies to all human beings at all times and everywhere. The Commission seems to disagree with this historic approach, but it never says why its preferred approach, of allowing there to be different approaches to sexual ethics among different groups of people, is preferable.

What the report also fails to explain is what it thinks the limits of contextual differentiation should be. It declares that it wants to allow for ‘as much contextual differentiation as possible,‘ but it never spells what the limits of differentiation should be. The furthest the report proposes going is to say that the Christian sexual ethic requires sexual relations to be within marriage, but that marriage can be between two people of the same sex. However, it never says why the possibility of contextual differentiation should stop at that point. Why shouldn’t the Christian sexual ethic be extended to include polyamory, or extra-marital sexual relationships, if that is what is appropriate in particular cultural contexts? If the contextual adaptation of the Christian sexual ethic is appropriate then at what point does such adaptation cease to be appropriate and why? The report does not say.

A second and very similar problem is raised by the Commission’s suggestion that those in the UMC should ‘recognize all contextual adaptations and creative expressions as valid expressions of United Methodism.’ This is problematic because it seems to imply that anything anyone claims to be doing as a ‘contextual adaptation’ or ‘creative expression’ for the sake of mission has to be accepted as legitimate. This would mean accepting that Christian belief and practice are infinitely adaptable.

However, if Christian belief and practice were infinitely adaptable this would mean the concept of Christian belief and practice was meaningless. If any form of belief and practice could be called Christian then there would be nothing that was not Christian and so the term Christian would have no meaning. In addition, for something to be rightly called Christian there has to be some connection back to the teaching and practice of Jesus Christ and this puts limits on the forms of belief and practice that can be regarded as Christian. For these two reasons the report’s idea that all forms of contextual adaptation or creative expression should be accepted valid needs to be rejected.

This problem is not just a problem with what is said in a particular part of the Commission’s report. It is a problem with the argument of the report as whole….

Read it all.

Posted in Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

Preparing for the Upcoming Major Special Session of the United Methodist General Conference (II): Ben Wetherington

There has been a lot of talk of late in my church, the UMC, about schism. How it is a sin, etc. etc. etc. This talk has usually come up in conjunction with the discussion of the ironically titled One Church Plan to resolve our difficulties, which rather than resolving them devolves them down to the Conference and local church level. So, perhaps it would be useful to talk about what the term schism actually means, theologically and ethically speaking. First, a little historical perspective.

Denominationalism is a post-Reformation notion, largely conjured up by the Protestant movement. It is not a Biblical idea, nor will you find its equivalent in the literature of the early Church Fathers. And when there has been talk about schism in the early church (for instance when the Orthodox and Catholic traditions went their separate ways), the issues were mainly theological (the filoque clause), rather than ethical by and large.

Schism was, and is caused, when one group within a church decides that it can no longer adhere to the orthodoxy or orthopraxy that is the de facto official position of a church. On this showing, those who are advocates for gay marriage and the ordination of self-avowed, openly gay persons would be the persons creating the schism today in the UMC. They simply refuse to accept what the Bible says about the nature of marriage and appropriate sexual behavior for various reasons, and as a result refuse to accept what the UMC Discipline says on these same matters.

Read it all.

Posted in Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

Preparing for the Upcoming Major Special Session of the United Methodist General Conference (I): John Lomperis

(Please note: you may find basic information about this meeting there–KSH).

At a press conference earlier today, outgoing Council of Bishops President Bishop Ough said that they would not publicly share the exact numbers of how the Council voted on matters related to this report. But in any case, the report that the majority of active United Methodist Bishops [approved it] confirms what many have long suspected about the liberal biases of our Council of Bishops as a whole. So while there are a number of individual faithful bishops we can appreciate, this report makes clear that at this point we cannot trust majority of the Council of Bishops, as a collective group, to offer much in the way of doctrinally, spiritually, or morally helpful leadership for our denomination.

But traditionalist United Methodists should not worry. This plan should be dead on arrival at next year’s General Conference. Under the leadership of the aforementioned Bishop Ough, the Connectional Table already tried submitting a multi-piece plan with the same basic idea to the 2016 General Conference, and this was defeated in committee after committee. And the delegates to the 2019 General Conference will largely be the very same people as the delegates who already rejected this idea in 2016.

Read it all.

Posted in Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

(Good News) Rob Renfroe on the Upcoming Methodist General Conference–Through a Glass Darkly

What will happen at the special General Conference this February? Right now, it’s anyone’s guess. We see through a glass darkly, not able to predict with confidence what the delegates will do and knowing that God can always surprise us and provide a solution to our problems that none of us imagined. Frankly, that’s what I’m praying for.

However, there are a few options that, at this point, seem most likely. Two that we can take off the board are the Simple Plan and the Connectional Conference Plan.

The Simple Plan goes too far. It redefines marriage as two adults, condones sex outside of marriage, prevents conservative annual conferences from refusing to ordain practicing gay persons, and allows pastors throughout the connection to marry gay couples. Whenever similar proposals have come before General Conference in the past, they have been defeated by a wide margin. The majority of the UM Church has not yet moved this far in a progressive direction.

The Connectional Conference Plan (CCP) creates three jurisdictions, each one with a different sexual ethic. No coalition has formed to support it and no group is doing the hard work of promoting it to the rest of the church. The CCP requires numerous constitutional amendments and there is little likelihood that a super majority of both General Conference delegates and then later of annual conference delegates around the globe will support it.

The plan with the greatest likelihood of passing is the Traditional Plan (TP). It maintains our present position of affirming the worth of and welcoming all persons to the ministries of the church without allowing for practicing gay persons to be ordained or for our pastors to marry gay couples. The Traditional Plan has several provisions that would allow the church to enforce the Book of Discipline more effectively when pastors and bishops violate our policies. Each of these provisions will need to be approved individually.

Why is the TP most likely to pass? Because it is most in line with what delegates have supported at every General Conference since 1972. It was the plan that the majority of the delegates supported less than three years ago in Portland – most of whom will be voting again in St. Louis. Whether all of the enhanced accountability measures can be passed remains to be seen. But it is most likely that a Traditional Plan of sorts will prevail. And a Traditional Plan provides the most hopeful path to a faithful future for The United Methodist Church.

It is also possible that no plan will be approved. If General Conference begins to approve a Traditional Plan, it is very likely that some progressives will move to keep the conference from passing a plan. Some will do so surreptitiously. There will be countless “points of order,” amendments, and substitute resolutions coming from the floor, bringing work on a Traditional Plan to a standstill. Others will be more blatant. In the past, scores of pro-LGBTQ supporters have entered the bar of the conference without permission and have brought deliberations to a halt with their chanting and protests. The bishops have been reticent to remove the demonstrators and the better part of a day has been lost before the protesters have been convinced to leave the conference floor.

Read it all.

Posted in Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

(UMNS) Seeing a Way Forward: The Rev Forbes Matonga on the Upcoming Methodist General Conference

The Rev. Forbes Matonga, a pastor at the Nyadire Mission in Zimbabwe, discusses possible implications that decisions made at the special 2019 General Conference could have for The United Methodist Church in Africa.

Matonga spoke with UM News as part of “Seeing a Way Forward,” a video series featuring different perspectives of church leaders on the work of the Commission on a Way Forward.

Way Forward discussions feel misleading to Africans
The Rev. Forbes Matonga feels the original discussion on The United Methodist Church’s stance on homosexuality has now morphed into a broader discussion of unity.

Traditional Plan is the only “legal” option for African delegates
As same-sex marriage is illegal in almost every African country, says the Rev. Forbes Matonga, the Traditional Plan submitted to the special 2019 General Conference is the only culturally acceptable option for African United Methodists to support…

Read it all.

Posted in Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

The Church of Scotland has moved a step closer to allowing some Ministers and Deacons to conduct same-sex marriages

The General Assembly voted 345 by 170 to instruct the Legal Questions Committee to prepare legislation with safeguards in accordance with Section 9 (1A) of the Marriage Scotland Act.

But commissioners agreed that the committee should only act if, in its opinion, said safeguards “sufficiently protect against the risks they identify”.

The committee will report its findings to the General Assembly of 2020.

The motion calling for legislation to be prepared was put forward by Rev Bryan Kerr, minister of Greyfriars Parish Church in Lanark.

It was amended to ensure the committee had the power to recommend withdrawal following a call from Rev Peter White of Sandyford Henderson Memorial Church in Glasgow.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, --Scotland, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(JE) Ryan Danker–United Methodist Choices

To a Wesleyan believer, whether left or right, holy living is not optional. Perfect love casts out sin, but if we don’t know how to define sin, what is being cast out? What are we being saved from? And what is the empowering grace of God healing?

In the name of this newer vision of holiness, some have decided that they are no longer bound by the Discipline or the Judicial Council. This is schism. Let’s not mince words.

Some have turned away from their ordination vows. They’re tired of the battle. I get it. So am I. But they have undermined the truth-telling ability of the Church, torn our common covenant, and brought into question their own ability to tell the truth.

Some are calling for a “local option.” This is a denial of Methodism itself, not only structurally as a connectional body, but a denial of holiness, that relativizes the Christian life based on geography or local interests.

Wesley flatly denied this approach in his sermon “Catholic Spirit.” Leeway was to be given for opinions and manner of worship, but not to basic questions of how a Christian is to live. He writes against those who “are for jumbling all opinions together,” and writes, “you have quite missed your way: you know not where you are.” He describes an indifference to opinions as “a great curse, not a blessing; an irreconcilable enemy, not a friend, to true catholicism.”

Read it all.

Posted in Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

Good News’ Statement on the Council of Methodist Bishops Decision on how to proceed given the Crisis over the new Sexual Ethics

Good News applauds the Council’s decision to include a Traditionalist Plan in their report. “We are glad the bishops will submit an option that represents the mainstream majority of the church,” said the Rev. Rob Renfroe, president of Good News. “This puts the Traditionalist Plan rightfully on an equal footing to be considered by the delegates to the special session along with the bishops’ preferred plan, the One Church Plan, which has been repeatedly rejected by the General Conference in the past. We believe the Traditionalist Plan holds the most hope for a fruitful future for The United Methodist Church.”

While the Council press release declared that a “majority of the Council of Bishops recommends the One Church Plan as the best way forward for The United Methodist Church,” it acknowledged “there is support for each of the three plans within the Council.” According to the release: “While the bishops recommended the One Church Plan they affirmed that the Connectional Conference Plan and the Traditionalist Plan held values that are important to the life and work of the church.”

The most disappointing news coming out of the meeting is that the full details of the plans and accompanying legislative proposals will be released “no later than July 8.”

Read it all.

Posted in Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

(UMNS) Methodist Bishops propose plan for Way Forward amidst debate over the New Sexual Ethic for Christians

To find a way forward on the denomination’s homosexuality debate, bishops are recommending the church allow more freedom at the conference and local church levels.

Under what the Council of Bishops calls the One Church Plan, decisions about whether to ordain LGBTQ clergy or to officiate at same-gender unions would be made closer to the congregational level.

The plan would remove the restrictive language against the practice of homosexuality in the Book Discipline, the denomination’s policy book. The plan also adds assurances to pastors and conferences who in good conscience cannot perform same-sex weddings or ordain “self-avowed practicing” gay clergy that they don’t have to do so. Central conferences — church regions in Africa, Asia and Europe — could maintain current restrictions.

The plan “encourages a generous unity by giving United Methodists the ability to address different missional contexts in ways that reflect their theological convictions,” said the bishops’ press release.

While the majority of bishops recommend the One Church Plan, the bishops also will submit two additional plans to the special General Conference on Feb. 23-26, 2019, in St. Louis. All three possibilities had support among some of the bishops.

The other two plans on the table are:

  • The Traditionalist Plan would affirm the current language in the denomination’s Book of Discipline, the denomination’s governing document, and seek to strengthen enforcement.
  • The Connectional-Conference plan would allow conferences to choose among three connectional conferences for affiliation. The connectional conferences would align based on theology or perspective on LGBTQ ministry — be it traditionalist, progressive or allowing for a variety of approaches. This plan would require multiple amendments to the denomination’s constitution.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Methodist, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Good News) Rob Renfroe on the United Methodist Crisis over the new Sexual Morality–Respect or Contempt

The bishops have reported that three plans have been put before them. One would strengthen the church’s present position against homosexual practice and would allow progressive churches to leave the denomination. Another, often referred to as “the local option,” would let individual pastors determine whether they will marry gay couples, and each annual conference would be free to determine if it will ordain practicing homosexuals. A third option would create three branches within the UM Church, each with a different sexual ethic, ranging from thoroughly progressive to fully conservative (the latter of which is actually nothing more than maintaining the church’s present position).

The details of the third option have not been made public, probably because they have not been fully determined. And they have probably not been determined because they are numerous and challenging. How will churches and pastors decide which of the three branches they will join? What if there are more fully committed progressive pastors than there are progressive churches willing to receive them? What if there are more progressive bishops than there are progressive annual conferences – must conservative conferences accept a bishop whose sexual ethic is different than its own? Will all churches be expected to pay apportionments to national boards that promote policies contrary to their beliefs? Can a conservative conference live with a partnered lesbian bishop on the Council that oversees the entire church? Or must there be three different councils? This third “multi-branch” option cannot be the plan Bishop Ough had in mind when he called for a plan that was simple rather than complex, with little ambiguity, and few disciplinary changes.

Where does that leave us? Option one – a more tightly-enforced Book of Discipline and liberal churches exiting the denomination – will never be recommended by a Council that leans left and largely believes we need to liberalize the church’s position (there are notable exceptions within the Council). The only plan remaining and the one Bishop Ough seems to be suggesting is the “local option.” Annual conferences vote. Pastors make their own decisions. The church stays together. And it’s done. Simple and with little ambiguity.

Except for one small detail. It will create schism, not unity. At its first national conference in Chicago, October 2016, with over 1400 pastors in attendance, The Wesleyan Covenant Association approved a statement that said, “A plan that requires traditionalists to compromise their principles and understanding of Scripture, including any form of the “local option” around ordination and marriage, will not be acceptable to the members of the Wesleyan Covenant Association, stands little chance of passing General Conference, would not definitively resolve our conflict, and would, in fact, lead to the fracturing of the church.” Good News sent a similar statement to the Commission on a Way Forward. So did the Confessing Movement. So did UM Action.

I’m not troubled that the Council might recommend a plan that conservatives disagree with. I expect they will. What does disturb me is that it appears the Council will propose a plan that all of the denomination’s conservative leaders have said will fracture the church and lead to a mass exodus. Why would it do that?

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Methodist, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Post-Gazette) Lutheran seminary in Pennsylvania faces a leadership crisis over president’s past LGBTQ beliefs

A Lutheran seminary in eastern Pennsylvania is facing a leadership crisis due to a belated disclosure that the president of the LGBTQ-affirming school once directed an organization that said gay Christians should change or at least resist same-sex attractions as a temptation to sin.

The Rev. Theresa Latini, the first president of United Lutheran Seminary, which has campuses in Philadelphia and Gettysburg, now repudiates the philosophy of the group she worked for, saying it was “fear-based, controlling, and particularly marginalizing of LGBTQ+ persons.”

But many alumni and students are expressing dismay that she never disclosed this part of her work history — more than five years of work as director of the group OneByOne, beginning in 1996 — to the search committee that interviewed her.

Rev. Latini said in a Feb. 21 statement that she is committed to working with the seminary in “actively identifying and resisting homophobia and heteronormativity.”

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in Lutheran, Seminary / Theological Education, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

(UMNS) Time running short as Methodist bishops gather in Dallas to try to sort through contradictory views of same-sex unions

The 32-member commission, which last met in January, has suggested three different frameworks for the church’s future.

A traditionalist model would maintain the church’s official stances on homosexuality, which declare the practice of homosexuality incompatible with Christian teaching, preclude clergy from officiating at same-sex unions and prohibit the ordination of self-professed practicing gay clergy.

This model also would emphasize accountability and enforcement of relevant church law.

A centrist model would remove the Book of Discipline’s restrictive language, allowing conferences to decide how inclusive to be, while protecting clergy who could not, as a matter of conscience, perform a same-sex union or support ordination of openly gay clergy.

A third option foresees multiple branches of the denomination sharing a General Conference and certain agency functions. One branch might favor the traditionalist approach, another the centrist, with a third opting for full inclusion of LGBTQ individuals.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Methodist, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(WBUR’s On Point) The Divisions In Christianity Over Sex

Five hundred years ago, Christianity was split in two by the Protestant Reformation. Today, Christians are divided again. But this time, it’s not the authority of the pope or the nature of worship in question, it’s sex. What’s moral, what’s not; what the Bible says, what it doesn’t say. What does it mean to be a Christian in the midst of a culture war? Two sides, with dueling manifestos. This hour, On Point: sex and the future of Christianity. –Tom Gjelten

Read the rest and listen to it all (a little over 47 minutes).

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, --Polyamory, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), Theology: Scripture

Tim Tennant–Uniting Methodists Document and the Local Option (Part IV): What is the New Testament Teaching on sexual morality?

But, for now, it is clear that the Uniting Methodists document requires that we consider all of the language around sexual immorality in the New Testament as either generic, non-specific or only referring to a very tiny slice of sexual immorality; namely, pederasty. Yet, as we have seen, the exegetical case for this is not defensible. If we are being asked to sign off on this option and “agree to disagree” on this issue, then we will need to have a much better conversation about the biblical data which pertains to this question.

I, for one, remain completely unconvinced by the progressive argument and am actually disappointed that they would argue so strongly about their commitment to biblical authority and yet provide no serious exegetical argument for the dramatic changes they wish to usher into the life and faith of the church. To move a named sin from a New Testament “sin list” and declare that we are now to regard it as a sacrament is unprecedented. Christians have every right to resist this doctrinal innovation which is being embraced by a few declining mainline denominations in the western world.

Read it all.

Posted in Biblical Commentary & Reflection, Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

(JE) John Lomperis–Not much Centrism in “Uniting Methodists’” Agenda on Sexual Morality

All of this to say, on the most prominent controversy within our denomination, this so-called “Methodist middle” group is actually exclusively aligned with one minority faction. As one of its leadership team members admitted, “Clearly, I am not ‘in the middle’ or ‘on the fence’ with regard to this struggle which is threatening to split the United Methodist Church.” The same is evidently true for all of this group’s leaders, given the platform they all signed onto.

Read it all.

Posted in Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

(Good News) 2 Large Congregations Exit Methodism

The largest local church in the Mississippi Annual Conference in terms of worship attendance and one of the 25 fastest growing churches in the U.S. has now officially exited The United Methodist Church. According to lead pastor Bryan Collier, The Orchard Church (Tupelo) reached a settlement with conference leaders that made its departure official as of May 19, 2017….

“There was just no question among [The Orchard’s] leaders that this was right move for us,” said Collier. “Our departure was not about the homosexuality issue per se, but about the general church’s inability to deal with it. Unfortunately, its failure became an enormous distraction to the kingdom work our congregation is called to do.”

“The Orchard fully embraces, as it does with all people, its need to minister to those who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered, and with their families and friends as well,” said Collier. “But the denomination was not helping us do that. The Judicial Council’s recent, convoluted decision is emblematic of [the UM Church’s] inability to put the disagreement to rest. We didn’t want to let this one issue distract us anymore. We know the arguments on both sides, we’re clear in our hearts and minds where we stand, and we’re prepared to move forward accordingly.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Methodist, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Scotsman) Church of Scotland moves closer to letting ministers perform same-sex marriages

The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has moved a step closer to allowing ministers to perform gay marriages. The Kirk’s governing body backed calls for a study into how same-sex ceremonies in church could be allowed.

The proposal was outlined in a report by the Theological Forum of the Church of Scotland. It also called for the Church to apologise for its “history of discrimination” of gay people. Convener of the forum, The Very Reverend Iain Torrance, said: “We say that after reflection we can see no sufficient theological reason for the Church now not to authorise specific ministers to officiate at same-sex weddings, if doing so does not prejudice the position of those who decline to do so for reasons of conscience.”

Read it all (another from the long line of should have already been posted material).

Posted in --Scotland, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Presbyterian, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), Theology, Theology: Scripture, Uncategorized

(CC) Bromleigh McCleneghan on the recent decision of the United Methodist Court about a Bishop Married to her Same-Sex Partner

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Posted in Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

(Christian Today) Same-Sex Partnered Methodist Bishop defiant in the wake of challenge to her election

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Posted in Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

(GR) Richard Ostling–After crucial ruling against a Bishop Married to her female partner, what now for United Methodists?

In recent years, the “Seven Sisters” of the old mainline Protestant world have not been making as much news as they have in the past, at least as evidenced in the annual “top stories” polls conducted by the Religion News Assocition.

However, it’s likely that 2017’s religion story of the year will be the April 28 United Methodist Church (UMC) ruling that the western region improperly consecrated Karen Oliveto as a bishop and she should be removed. Reason: as an openly married lesbian, she violated church law and her ordination vows.

That Judicial Council edict produced typically sure-footed stories by The Religion Guy’s former AP colleague Rachel Zoll (The San Francisco Chronicle ran wire copy even though Oliveto led a big local church!) and Laurie Goodstein of The New York Times (a rare treat that this fine, neglected scribe gets 34 inches atop A18!). United Methodist News’s Linda Bloom was a must-read (maxim: always check such official outlets plus independent caucuses left and right.)

Read it all.

Posted in Media, Methodist, Religion & Culture, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

A NY Times article on the Methodist High Court Rejecting its 1st Bishop married to someone of the same sex

Stephen Drachler, a spokesman for the Western Jurisdiction’s College of Bishops, called the Judicial Council’s decision a “mixed bag.” While it was “disappointing and disturbing” that Bishop Oliveto’s consecration was found to be in violation of church law, he said, “she remains a bishop of the church” for now.

He said that the bishops of the Western Jurisdiction, who were gathering in Dallas in advance of a larger meeting of Methodist bishops, would meet on Saturday to assess the decision and respond.

The country’s third-largest religious denomination, after the Roman Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention, the United Methodist Church adopted language in 1972 declaring that “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” may not be ordained because “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” Methodists have debated that language every four years at meetings of the church’s top decision-making body, the General Conference.

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Posted in Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

(UMNS) Review all clergy qualifications, court says

United Methodist boards of ordained ministry must look at all qualifications to determine whether a ministerial candidate is a fitting applicant — including adherence to the church’s position on homosexuality.

That is the ruling of the Judicial Council, the denomination’s top court, in petitions related to the New York and Northern Illinois conferences, where those boards had publicly declared they would not consider issues of sexuality when evaluating a candidate.

In total, the nine-member Judicial Council deliberated on seven docket items during its April 25-28 spring session, including a petition challenging last year’s election of a lesbian bishop, Bishop Karen Oliveto, that drew attention from church members worldwide. About 200 people attended an April 25 oral hearing on the matter.

In that case, the court ruled that the consecration of a gay bishop violates church law, but said the bishop “remains in good standing” until an administrative or judicial process is completed.

One of the qualifications for candidacy and ordained ministry in The United Methodist Church — as stated in church law — is “fidelity in marriage and celibacy in singleness.”

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Posted in Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

(UMNS)–Consecration of Methodist woman Bishop who is married 2 another woman is against church law

The consecration of a gay bishop violates church law, the top court of The United Methodist Church has ruled.

However, the bishop “remains in good standing,” the Judicial Council said in Decision 1341, until an administrative or judicial process is completed.

“Under the long-standing principle of legality, no individual member or entity may violate, ignore or negate church law,” said the decision, made public April 28. “It is not lawful for the college of bishops of any jurisdictional or central conference to consecrate a self-avowed practicing homosexual bishop.”

Read it carefully and read it all.

Posted in Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

(UMNS) Methodist Church braces for ruling on Bishop married to a woman

The Rev. Jeffrey Greenway, a leader of the group, said the timing was coincidental. But he said the hearing is definitely on his mind and that of other WCA members. He’s praying for the various parties involved, but said he hopes the Judicial Council invalidates Oliveto’s election.

“She is a bishop of the whole United Methodist Church, while publicly embracing and advocating a lifestyle that is contrary to our polity in terms of licensing, ordination and appointment of clergy,” Greenway said. “For her to remain in her role would make (denominational) unity exponentially more difficult.”

The Rev. Rob Renfroe, president of Good News, another unofficial evangelical group, agreed.

“There would just be many evangelicals who could not live in a church that allows not just individuals, but one of our episcopal leaders, to adopt a lifestyle contrary to the scriptures,” he said.

Oliveto herself put out a video in an advance of the hearing, noting that many in the church are figuratively holding their breath until there’s an outcome.

Read it all and there is more there.

Posted in Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

(First Things) Paul Stallsworth–A Disunited Methodist Church

Why do our bishops lead in such ecclesiastically unhealthy ways? For several reasons.

First, many of them were theologically and morally formed during earlier days of American Christendom, before secular forces in the culture became dominant. During those days, the church and the culture mostly got along. If they did not, the church simply tried to catch up to the culture. The church and her leaders were seldom at odds with the culture and its leaders.

Second, there are theological reasons for inept episcopal leadership. Liberal Protestantism’s God—the “God without wrath [who] brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross” (as H. Richard Niebuhr put it)—has trouble saying “No” to anything except the racism, sexism, and other isms denounced by progressives. So do bishops who worship this God. As you might guess, these bishops believe this God is all—and I mean all!—about the grace of acceptance.

Third, some key bishops are progressive in their moral theology, or at least they have progressive sympathies. They have clearly taken sides in the current church struggle; they do all they can to support the progressive cause; and they are all too willing to intimidate the more evangelical and orthodox bishops on the Council of Bishops.

And fourth, more than a few bishops lead in this way because of an articulated, or assumed, organizational calculation. This is what they figure: If they play the middle in this disagreement in their church, if they “reach out” to the progressives and the moderates and the traditionalists, if they try to please as many United Methodists as possible, if they create as many moral choices as possible for clergy and laity in the church, if they offend as few United Methodists as possible, if they work hard to “accommodate diversity,” if they talk incessantly about the “unity” of the church (without substantive reference to doctrine, scripture, or truth), then they and their ministries will hold the United Methodist Church together. Instead, their goal of accommodation is leading to a slow, continual erosion of the church.

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Posted in Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

(JE) John Lomperis–5 Ways the new United Methodist Bishops’ Commission Can Foster Trust

….our denominational dialogues specifically on homosexuality have suffered from a skewing of the voices heard.

One should always be careful in guessing at the motives of others. But it seems safe to assume that when Love Prevails demands the inclusion of “LGBT people” as commission members, particularly when Love Prevails declares that it cannot be appeased by the inclusion of some “Queer people who are moderate and acceptable to [our bishops’] vision of polite conversation,” the sort of people it has in mind are not Christians who find themselves to be same-sex-attracted but choose to remain celibate for life, out of their deep personal support for the moral boundaries affirmed in our Discipline.

But such voices are important….

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Africa, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Asia, Ethics / Moral Theology, Methodist, Other Churches, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), Theology, Theology: Scripture