Is Methodism For Me

The recent special called General Conference in St. Louis reaffirmed the United Methodist Church's historical stance on sexuality. The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching, self-avowed practicing homosexuals shall not serve as clergy, and same-sex unions are not sanctioned in our places of worship. On these matters, the Book of Discipline has not changed. What is new is the added language that calls for stricter adherence to the rules, closer agreement to church doctrine in the ordination process, and more substantial consequences for those who defy church law. At the time of this writing, new provisions are under judicial review, but clearly, the message from our deliberating body is that the church's position has not changed, and there will be less tolerance of defiance.

It may be fair to say the recent General Conference's actions did not change anyone's mind but left many wondering if there is still room in the Methodist church. They struggle with this understanding of scripture in light of their own experience. By the wording of the discipline, it seems that the church focuses on homosexuality as a "practice" rather than a state of mind. By their own experience or that of their loved ones, they see our hetero or homosexuality as an orientation of life that we do not choose and cannot help. Our Social Principles affirm that "…sexuality is God's good gift to all persons (¶161 G, italics added)." If their sexual orientation is "God's good gift," they reason, does the enjoyment of that gift disqualify them from marriage's blessings? Can God not call them into His service to preach the gospel and minister to others? Those who would ask these questions often feel pressure to keep such musings to themselves, but still, it tugs on their hearts.

Our doctrinal heritage has been to let scripture be authoritative but informed by reason, experience, and tradition. Our tradition demands we "must each work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12)." So certainly, the discussion around this topic will continue, and there is room at the table for everyone.

For those who question whether they can remain in our church, I want to be a pastor you can talk to. I love you all, and I love being your pastor. Now is the time to "make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace" (Eph. 4:3).
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Brian Dale

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