Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Hot Topic

A few days ago a young lady working on her senior seminar sent me a list of questions about a controversial issue in the church. Upon reflecting on them, I decided to publish my responses here. There are a few things I ask of those who choose to read. First, put aside all your predetermined notions about the topic, and about how you think I might respond. Second, read the whole thing. If you read only part, you might be tempted to misrepresent what I have written, and I would not want that. Third, engage in dialogue, either through this blog, of with other persons. It is through conversation we establish relationship, and though relationship we find a deeper understanding of God. So here goes, by the way the topic, homosexuality.

Have you had any involvement with the issue of homosexuality on the Conference level? (conferences, discussions, etc.) Please explain:

Most of my interaction with the issues of homosexuality have been through informal settings. Often this has come with gathers of young people. Yet, nothing in a formal, or “official” setting.

Do you view homosexuality as a sin? Please give any biblical or theological basis you may have.

I believe it is impossible to answer this question with integrity. Not because I do not have an opinion, which I will give later, rather because I think it is impossible for me to know with certainty. God and God alone is the one who will make such determinations, not humanity. It is not the business of people to make those distinctions as certain proclamations. God is concerned about us, and that includes or sexuality. The intention is that our whole life would be a life of Holiness. We as humanity do not get full rights as what that looks like. As for my personal understanding, based on my study, prayer and reflection, homosexuality is part of the area our scriptures refer to as sexual immorality. This does not cause a person to have less value than anyone else, nor does is grant permission to disqualify someone else from full humanity.

What do you believe to be the origin of homosexuality, are homosexuals created that way? Please give any biblical or theological basis you may have.

The only real answer I can give here is, I don’t know. It is apparent homosexuality has been part of humanity for centuries, as we have the writings of the Torah addressing what would today be called homosexual intercourse. At the same time, to say with certainty the origin of homosexuality is quite arrogant. This arrogance is shown by many different contributions to the debate. The reality is, no human being knows the origins of homosexuality, or many other aspects of humanity.

From your perspective, what do you currently see the United Methodist Church doing in order to address the topic of homosexuality?

Unfortunately the church seems to be focused on legislation at General Conference. Really it is not surprising, as that is how institutions work. Currently, the leadership is by their fear of persons across the spectrum of understanding, unwilling to foster healthy interaction and relationships among people from various perspectives. Thus highlighting the divide, which need not be a divide in the life of the church.

In your opinion, what should the United Methodist Church be doing in order to address the topic of homosexuality?

First, I think they need to encourage the leaders of the denomination to end the useless and hurtful squabbling around the issue. That is not to say this is not an important issue, as it is. Rather I would find greater investment in helping to focus on the commonality of humanity rather than the division. So much of our time and energy gets devoted to something none of us can fully reconcile. Why not let God sort out those kinds of things while we, humanity, get about the business of living the lives we are called by God to live. Lives where hungry are feed, naked are clothed, the widow and the orphanage are cared for. I cannot help but wonder if all the energy around this issue was channeled into the mission of God in the world what might be accomplished for the sake of Jesus Christ.

Where do you foresee the church going (if anywhere) with the topic of homosexuality, given their current state?

I see us continuing to pour all kinds of money and resources into the distraction of this issue. Unfortunately, institutions are slow to change, if they change at all. My hunch is there will be no official change out of fear that many will leave the denomination and therefore putting the institution at risk. I can imagine more and more people working this issue out in their corner of creation. My hope is that all people will be able to embrace the call of God in their lives, and allow God to transform us into the people we have been called to be. I am not sure the United Methodist Church as an institution is ready to do that.

Is there any else you would like to comment on regarding the topic of homosexuality in the church, specifically the United Methodist Church?

I have spent considerable time with this issue in my own journey. I was at one time on what might be called a very conservative, possibly fundamental stance around this issue. I am now at a place where honestly I have no idea. My heart often tells me homosexuality is sinful, and my heart rises to challenge my head. I am greatly grieved by the hurt and destruction this issue has caused in the Body of Christ. Further I am grieved at how my actions may have extended that pain. I wish the United Methodist Church would stop trying to play God, and let God do that part. No human being really has the right to determine who is “qualified” to be considered godly or not. If that were the case, we would all be in trouble.

1 comment:

Beth Bouwens said...

Having traveled through the conservative time with you, I can see how much more open you are to possibilites and ready to move on to the real mission of the church: making disciples for Jesus Christ.