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Pastor's Corner
January 23, 2020, 1:32 PM

(The following Pastor’s Note is my perception and is not an official statement by the United Methodist Church.)

             The United Methodist Church was in the news a few days after Christmas. Much is reported about the upcoming agenda in 2020 regarding decision making about human sexuality. I am still reading what the United Methodists have actually put on their website, which certainly provides more information than is available from other news sources. The General Conference will be meeting in May to vote on proposed changes. The Book of Discipline particularly has wording that prohibits and punishes people who are in non-heterosexual relationships, or who do same-sex weddings. A lot of fear and anxiety has been generated after years of inability to see a way forward.

Biblically in Acts 10:34, Peter said: “I really am learning that God doesn’t show partiality to one group of people over another…” The passage continues of course, but we need to stop at this sentence to consider our relationship with any and all who are different from us. The passage continues in Acts 10:35 “Rather in every nation (i.e. race, ethnicity) whoever (that includes women, men regardless one’s sexual orientation) worships Him and does what is right (a possible application putting God first as in the 10 commandments and not idolizing a form of human sexuality to the exclusion of others) is acceptable to Him.”

Human sexuality is a conversation that makes us uncomfortable. True, we have disputable texts on this subject – not very many - and each with questions of application and implications that we could discuss. These are often treated with an absolutism that does not cohere with scripture, nor with human experience. Again, fear of the other is a larger issue for us and if we are honest, we can admit that. True, we can still read and interpret the text differently and ask different questions. All of us should struggle with scripture. Your interpretation may be different from mine and you may be right! Maybe you had experiences that I did not have. People growing up in a multicultural area and one that sees more differences in people’s sexual orientation may well have a different outlook on the Bible, God, and others who are also God-loving, church-going people.

Sexual immorality of course, in any form, must be taken seriously and dealt with. But one’s sexual orientation is not a moral issue. How they behave and are treated however, is a moral issue. Deviancy, unfortunately, exists across persons of every sexual orientation. But just to look at same-sex persons only because that is who they are and punish them for that is wrong! Recalling what happened to Matthew Shepherd in Wyoming should horrify EVERY Christian. For United Methodists, it may help to rethink our Book of Discipline. Shepherd is only one among many brutally killed.

We should note that the Cabinet of the Pacific Northwest Conference has no desire to impose a minister on a church that is uncomfortable with a differently gendered preferred person. It is a “live and let live” type of change that is being sought. “God doesn’t show partiality to one group of people over another” (Acts 10:34). It should also be noted that the United Church of Christ, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Episcopal Church, Christian Church Disciples of Christ, American Baptist Churches USA, and Presbyterian Church of USA, have all moved away from prohibitive measures based only on the differences of one’s sexual orientation. Also, many Evangelicals, not all, have become more open and affirming as well.

A change in the Book of Discipline does not mean you must change your conviction, only that we stop punishing people for whom they are. A change in the Book of Discipline does not mean imposing a person in ministry on a church that will not accept them. Churches may remain United Methodist and be neutral, allowing a freedom in Christ that can give breathing space to all.

Over my years of ministry, I have observed many people change their views as we (1) learned more about human sexuality, (2) befriended persons who were same-sex, and (3) discovered the image of God in people of different sexual orientation. With this newsletter, I include the Bishop’s recent response. She is gracious and forthright. Please find this insert within this newsletter.

Together with you on the Way. - Pastor Don Dunn

 


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