Saturday, March 9, 2019


I feel lost in the thicket. The Methodist thicket. You feel the same? The thicket is the tightening of rules around human sexuality.

I’ve been “methodist” all my life and ordained as elder in 1965. I've played elder roles in various capacities ever since. I am making a point: I am a vintage Methodist. Absolutely,  okay? 

Male-female, female-female and male-male sexual relationships began coming into focus in my Sunday school years within my congregation I learned 70 years ago to live and let live in regard to sexual orientation. After my ordination to the order of elder ("pastor") in 1965, nothing changed in that regard. About then, some clergy colleagues became explicit about their “gay” sexual orientation. My "live and let live" teaching from childhood guided me.

My attitude was consistent, but something changed within my Methodist church. The church adopted explicit rules that forbad the church-sponsored marriage of gay couples and to forbid clergy to conduct "gay marriages."

Nevertheless, I was aware of a continuing fact that some clergy in my denomination were gay. I supported them. Same-sexually oriented persons continued as pastors in other denominations too: Episcopalian and Lutheran for example. 

This past February, 2019 United Methodist representatives from around the world met in a special General Conference to clarify the status of homosexuality in the U.M. denomination. Voting confirmed the intent of the church to continue forbidding gay-oriented clergy and to forbid all clergy from presiding over weddings of gay couples. It's important to realize that the vote was close. An analysis of the voting pattern revealed that a majority of delegates from outside the U.S. voted  for the Plan. A minority of delegates from the U.S. voted for the Plan. 

What does this mean at the congregational level? Will United Methodist Sunday schools start prejudicing your kids? If, in your congregation, they haven't yet, I sincerely doubt that they'll begin now despite losing the vote. 

Response 1: I'd advise you to continue with your local congregation if and until its orientation fits with the denomination’s orientation. 

Actually, it's totally unclear to me how United Methodists in the U.S. will proceed from here. Therefore 

Response 2: I'm advising that you and your family live the Christian life faithfully as you understand that phrase. If at some point it's possible that you cannot in good conscience continue within the UMC it'll be time to go church-shopping.

Response 3a: for now, take courage from Adam Hamilton, the pastor of the largest United Methodist congregation in the world: Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City, membership about 20,000 persons.  

To single out monogamous, loving homosexuals for condemnation is cruel," Hamilton observed. I am not going to be a pastor in a church that treats gay and lesbian people this way.” Read the full story here:  Washington Post. 

Response 3b: German United Methodist annual conference announces that the rules are unacceptable in Germany and the annual conference will not enforce them. 

Currently lost in the thicket? Well then, Response 4: pray for grace and courage among United Methodist members, pastors and bishops as they/we find our way through the thicket. A prayer suggestion: "God, give us open hands, open hearts, open doors."

Click here to read a news release on upstate New York United Methodist responses.
Click here to read recent news releases related to 2019 special General Conference

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