If you have not already read my article entitled “United Methodist Church: A Way Forward,” please do so before continuing with this post.
The Book of Discipline addresses the issues around homosexual practices and lifestyles in various places. Here’s a basic breakdown:
¶161G: Although all persons are sexual beings whether or not they are married, sexual relations are affirmed only with the covenant of monogamous, heterosexual marriage….We affirm that all persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God….The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching. We affirm that God’s grace is available to all….We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends. We commitment ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons.
¶304.4 Self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.
¶341.6 Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.
¶2702.1 lists performing a same-sex union or marriage as a “chargeable offense.”
Our beloved United Methodist Church is deeply divided on this issue. There are many who support the continuation of our current position, and there are many who oppose the current position and are calling for the church to be officially inclusive in all ways, including marriage and ordination. While our UMC has debated this issue at every General Conference for many, many years, the delegates have always affirmed what’s in the Discipline. However, as the popular culture, and even the modern church, has eased up on traditional stances on same-sex marriage, the divide within the UMC has become even greater.
To their credit, the Council of Bishops is doing what they can to keep The United Methodist Church united. They’re driven by a commitment to unity, and they believe adopting the ‘Once Church Plan’ is the best option to keep us united.
At the same time there’s a growing school of thought within our church that the upcoming General Conference is quickly moving us in the direction of the inevitable: a split in the denomination. Their thinking is that the divide is so strong that no matter what plan we vote for, half the denomination will be unsatisfied and unhappy with the outcome. To say we’re in a tough place right now would be an understatement. More thoughts in two weeks