(Full disclosure, I am more conservative in my theological understanding and practice than other liberal leaning congregants. As such, obvious and hidden biases are here recognized as a possible truism. Further, I mean no malice to the United Methodist Church faithful. This denomination is only one of many continuing to wrestle with changing practices and dogmas.)
By the end of 2023, just over one-quarter of the 30,000 United Methodist churches in America will no longer share the same house this according to USA Today. These congregations are splitting the sheets over issues associated with individuals who are on the LGBTQ+ spectrum of sexuality.
Although John Wesley, the American figurehead and founder of modern Methodism, indeed had liberal views regarding women serving in ecclesiastical roles, it seems self-evident Wesley never intended that human sexuality would breach the line of same-sex unions and the desire for homosexual clergy.
In fact, in Wesleyan Theology, “Nothing is sin, strictly speaking, but a voluntary transgression of a known law of God. Therefore, every voluntary breach of the law of love is sin; and nothing else if we speak properly.” Further, “Whoever abides in communion with him—by loving faith, sins not—while he so abides. Whoever sins certainly sees him not—The loving eye of his soul is not then fixed upon God; neither does he then experimentally know him—Whatever he did in time past.”
Okay, these are a lot of “churchy” words, but essentially, Wesley held that a voluntary disregard for God’s law was sin. So, whether it is in matters of sexuality, ordination, or a host of other revisionist ideas, the foundational bulwarks of moral, ethical, and especially, biblical precepts, are set against the other to the point of irreconcilable difference. It is a sad truth and yet another black eye for Christianity in the modern age.
It is also of interest that the same-sex issue is, perhaps, the most divisive among modern denominations.
So, in a fallacy of argument, let me speak for those who wish to point fingers with a few, “What about you?” counterpoints.
Why haven’t churches split over the issue of divorce and remarriage? This is an obvious problem that seems like low hanging fruit. Should the church only allow for non-divorced couples or single people? Where is the outcry over “living in sin”?
The bible is clear about the management of finances including debt and generosity. Why not push for separate banks accounts from those who mismanage their financial responsibilities? Those who demonstrate good stewardship stay and the rest must go.
What about pride, greed, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony, and sloth? These are bad, right? Shouldn’t anyone possessing these qualities get the boot?
I could go on, but I don’t think the “What About You Game” gets us any closer to resolution.
How about this for the New Year? Let’s commit to study and wrestle with the biblical text both individually and corporately accepting that we may be quite uncomfortable with its diagnosis of our faults. Let’s choose to act on this acceptance and strive toward the shared goal of Godliness. And let us live harmoniously to the extent that we can given the fallen nature of humanity with our eyes fixed upon the author of our faith.
Kent Simmons is the pastor of Canyon Community Church in Kingman, AZ.