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
Category : Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)
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.
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.
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.”
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).
(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.)
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.
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.”
— Kendall Harmon (@KendallHarmon6) April 28, 2017
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.”
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.
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.
….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….
Bishop Melvin Talbert, retired from the Western Jurisdiction, said he wasn’t sure he would ever live to see the day when the church would elect an openly gay bishop.
“This means our church ”” at least part of our church ”” has finally come to the realization that there is no longer any place for exclusion. We are all children of God regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or abilities. We would be blessed to invite all God’s people to their rightful place at the table.”
In a statement issued following Oliveto’s election, Bishop Bruce R. Ough, president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, said, “This election raises significant concerns and questions of church polity and unity.”
Ough clarified that the Council of Bishops does not have constitutional authority to intervene in the election, but “is monitoring this situation very closely.”
He acknowledged that some in the church will view this election as a violation of church law and a significant step toward a split, while others will consider it a milestone toward being a more inclusive church.
“Our differences are real and cannot be glossed over, but they are also reconcilable,” Ough said. “We are confident God is with us, especially in uncharted times and places.”
Read it all from UMNS.