Diary of a Delegate: Homophobia and the sin of commission

General Conference logo, United Methodist Communications

When speaking of sin, we often separate into two categories: sins of commission (what we have done) and sins of omission (what we have left undone).

It’s about to get real frank up in here.

I asked to be placed on the Church and Society 2 legislative committee for the United Methodist Church General Conference this year. This committee deals with all petitions and resolutions that refer to a very limited portion of the Book of Discipline, mainly the section entitled “Human Sexuality.” Packed into this little section are some of the most controversial and difficult passages of our church polity: our stances on family, marriage, sex outside marriage, health care (yeah, I don’t know how that got in there), pornography, abortion, and homosexuality.

Yep, we’re the sex committee. And I asked to be placed here.

Why? Simply stated, I believe that these little sections contain the worst of our church, and are in the greatest need of reform. There are many places where the United Methodist Church commits sins of omission: we should take a stronger stance on defense of the environment, or in support of more just economic systems. We could better articulate how we live and serve in diversity and discord. We must embrace the 21st century (maybe even the 20th) to remain– or become again– relevant and faithful. But here, in paragraphs 161 and 162 (and select other places), we institute words that wound.

“The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.”

Based on that once sentence, we extrapolate further in these and other sections, calling for legislation to define marriage as between a man and a woman, prohibiting UM churches or clergy from hosting and officiating marriages for gay and lesbian couples, and excluding individuals who are “self-avowed, practicing homosexuals” from serving as pastors or being ordained as clergy. Just the words make my skin crawl. I can’t believe I just typed them. They ooze icky.

yep, you get another Glee screencap.

Why serve on this committee instead of, say, the “Ministry of the Ordained” section, where I could combat the ordination of all people called to service and the ability to officiate at weddings and holy unions for same gender couples? After all, those places effect me and my colleagues more directly. But it all comes back to here, to a (false) theological assumption, buried in polity. And it all comes back to what I see as our fear and discomfort with sexuality in general. We think sex is dirty or embarrassing. We think sexuality has nothing to do with spirituality.

I believe that if you think sexuality and spirituality are not related and interwoven as the most vulnerable, intimate parts of ourselves, then no matter who your partner in either arena is and no matter how you practice either aspect of your being, at least one of those relationships needs work.

Brief (ha!) points:

  • I do not believe it is a sin to be gay, or to live out one’s sexual orientation in loving, mutual, faithful ways.

My “quadrilateral” rationale: My reading of scripture reveals a different place and time and culture, where, just for example, women’s bodies were feared and considered unclean for natural things like menstruation, and where being gay, like being a menstruating woman, rendered one unfit to enter the presence of the Arc of the Covenant, something none of us are about to do anyway, unless Indiana Jones has found it again. Delving into the context of Paul’s letters in the New Testament, we find the practice of homosexuality in Greco-Roman culture to be used primarily for cultic practice (normally heterosexual men engaging in homosexual activity in attempt to sway the will of the gods), or the use and abuse of young boys by older men in relationships that were neither mutual nor consensual. I’d agree with Paul that these forms of sexuality are indeed sinful and abomination.  My position stands in opposition to the current “tradition” of the church, but that tradition is only 40 years old or so; prior to that, our tradition is silent. Current scientific research and reason confirms what we have long suspected, that in nearly all cases, a person’s sexual orientation– regardless on where it falls on the continuum of gay to bisexual to straight– is an inborn characteristic, determined by the mix of hormones in fetal development. My own experience confirms this, as I at no time chose to be attracted to men, and listening to the experience of others yields similar responses.

  • I do believe it is a sin to revile what God has made, to force or coerce people into acting counter to their nature, shaming or despising themselves, lying and omitting and denying parts of the beautiful creation that they are (made in God’s image!), inflicting or justifying violence in word and deed in the guise of theological language. It is not a sin to be gay. But it is, I believe, a sin to teach people– children and youths particularly– who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender… that they are wrong or shameful or evil. That sin is compounded by throwing the weight of Christ’s teaching behind it– a teaching that has nothing to say about homosexuality, and everything to say about the outcast, the marginalized, the despised and what our responsibilities are.
  • I believe that it is a vital part of my ministry to officiate for couples at the sacred moments of their lives when I have the honor of being asked. I have said no to couples before based on the gender of the partners, and I regret it deeply. I have pledged that I will marry loving, faithful, committed couples regardless of their genders, and I will not repeat the mistake of my past. By officiating for a same-gender couple, I may lose the paper that says I’m clergy, but by refusing out of fear I lose what it means to be a pastor.
  • I know for a fact that God works powerfully through the lives and ministries of clergy and lay people who are glbt. We hinder that ministry at our own detriment.
  • I believe we are all created in the image of God, the imago dei, or as it says in the Gospel according to Gaga, God makes no mistakes… I was born this way.

Christians and Methodists of good faith will disagree with me, and I commit to being in dialogue and to lovingly conferencing with you. I look forward to committee work for just that reason. But know that this is where I come from, what I see as at stake in this conversation. I will listen to you and pray with you, ask you what you believe. This is what I believe.

Why Church and Society 2? Why start here? It’s simple.

When we say that United Methodist clergy cannot officiate at weddings and holy unions for gay and lesbian couples, we deny some aspects of pastoral ministry to all men and women called by God to serve as UM clergy.

When we say that persons who openly and honestly practice their sexual orientation cannot be pastors on the basis of that sexual orientation, we deny all aspects of pastoral ministry to some men and women called by God to serve as UM clergy.

But when we say that who a person is can be called “incompatible,” that one’s most vulnerable and intimate interpersonal relationship conflicts directly with one’s most vulnerable and intimate spiritual relationship, when we say that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching, we deny the imago dei itself.

66 Responses

  1. We can at any time choose to dismiss God’s Holy Word by saying “My reading of scripture reveals a different place and time and culture”. We can cavalierly proclaim our own “quadrilateral rationale”. Trouble is, the Wesleyan Quadrilateral defines Scripture as primary, and revealing of the Word of God.

    The Book of Discipline’s position jibes with God’s Holy Word. Those words shouldn’t “make your skin crawl” and “ooze icky”.

    Let’s coexist and love each other, but let’s not lose site of the fact that the Bible is the sacred text of Christianity.

    • Hi Rick,

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Clearly I disagree and I do not believe that it is a dismissal of scripture or its prominence as sacred revelation to read it in historical and cultural context. Quite to the contrary; a deeper understanding of the historical and cultural world in which it is written helps me better grasp the power of Isaiah’s words of comfort, or the political and theological implications of Jesus’ bold claim to be Lord in place of Caesar. We don’t dismiss, but we do take many aspects of the bible, particularly the purity codes from Leviticus, in historical context. Otherwise we would all be Jewish at the very least.

      To clarify, what I find most icky and offensive about our incompatibility clause, apart from the term “incompatibility” (used elsewhere only in cases of extreme violence such as war), is the phrase “self-avowed, practicing homosexuals.” To use that last word as a plural noun instead of an adjective modifying persons or individuals strips humanity and personhood from individuals who are gay or lesbian. My husband is a Special Educator, and the rule of personhood is essential in his field. One says “a person who has a mental disability” or “an individual who is mentally retarded” (if that legal designation applies), but never “retards.” It’s foul. I find the term “homosexuals” similarly foul as opposed to “individuals who are homosexual” at least for starters.

      Our common sacred text cautions us not to call unclean what God has called clean, and Jesus himself, while silent on matters of sexual orientation, consistently called his followers to seek the most broken, most despised in their cultural context and offer and share God’s grace. None of us gets this right entirely, but we have to try.

      Thanks again for sharing a position different from mine. I honestly do believe we can still be sisters and brothers in faith as we discern together how to move forward together.

      Peace and blessings,
      Becca

      • Perhaps the silence before the 40 years of “tradition” was because there was no question that acts of homosexuality were wrong. That would be a cultural and historical context.

  2. I happened upon your post while researching a topic I am writing on and I can’t tell you enough how promising it is to find someone ensconced within the church walls who actually “gets it”!

    We need to remember that the Bible was written by men, human beings such as you and I, and then revised for decades, even mellenia, by more men. Such text, and its many renditions, is bound to lose or confuse via translation in the course of it’s life.

    How would the congregation feel if the church they attend told them how the Bible REALLY feels about divorce? Every church, and many professing Christians outside the church, are remarried for various reasons – justified and unjustified by church standards – and yet the Bible clearly states that once divorced any remarriage is simply adultry. Yet no one, especially those ripe within their second or third matrimonial bliss, would take notice of the fact that the Bible stance on divorce has been progressively quieted over the decades in line with the world’s view.

    I commend you Pastor, on taking a stand that is neither easy nor popular in the confines of the church you serve. The selective hypocrisy of organized religion is the primary reason I left the church. In doing so I have found a much closer relationship with God and a compassion beyond words for my fellow man/woman – regardless of their politics, religion, color, orientation, etc. Keep up the good work – your church is lucky to have you!

    • I’m glad you found this post and stopped by to read and comment! I agree that we within the church are inconsistent in our selection of which parts of the Bible and the Judeo Christian tradition we uphold.

      Thank you for your kind words, and blessings to you on your spiritual journey.

      Peace,
      Becca

  3. .”…By officiating for a same-gender couple, I may lose the paper that says I’m clergy, but by refusing out of fear I lose what it means to be a pastor”…. well said! My spouse and i are both signers to the NEUMC marriage equality statement. We are MCC clergy, but worship with (and are both active in leadership) our local UMC congregation. Thanks so much for sharing the courage of your conviction, and for your faithful witness to justice.

    Grace and peace,
    Sharon

  4. Becca, I think this is wonderfully stated.

    If God knew us while we were still in the womb, then God knew then where a person’s sexual orientation was going to fall. Yet we still keep trying to tell God that God got it wrong, though not nearly as loudly as we tell our brothers and sisters in Christ. May the Church hear the Holy Spirit speak at this General Conference.

    • That’s my prayer too, Julie. And may we each remember that we are fearfully and wonderfully made– and so in the person sitting across the table from us!

      Grace and peace,
      Becca

  5. Please help me see how “our common sacred text cautions us not to call unclean what God has called clean…” applies here. Peter was eating, not having sex with Mark. Further, where is the practice of homosexuality called clean?

    If we are lumping all OT laws in with the blanket from heaven filled with the formerly unclean, then we are okay with witchcraft and murder and other horrors since they, too, were against Torah. Since this argument is ludicrous, I cannot believe you would believe that this was what transpired on the tanner’s roof.

    I choose to love people because God loves me and bids me do the same. I am also aware of the caveat that involves “going and sinning no more.” And, with God’s grace, I endeavor to obey.

    The problem is not that we have mistaken a holy gift for a sin. The problem is in how we have approached the sinner. I abhor the violence committed against homosexuals. I denounce the practice of discrimination based on stereotype and bias.

    But there are some things that we are told not to do. And we cannot justify all behavior with the notion of “doing do in love.”

    Tell me where and how these prohibitions were repealed, and I will seek to better understand.

    How are we faithful to the call when we authorize sin rather than condemn it? How are we faithful to the task of making disciples when we redefine our faith and practice based on a change in culture? I thought our role was to shape the culture, not the other way round.

    If God has declared this clean, I have no intention of refuting God. I’d simply like some clarity on the when and where that took place.

    In short, I find that your hermeneutic begins with the end in mind. I concur with Rick: Your argument requires de-authorizing Scripture because it no longer reflects the culture.

    That is exactly the problem.

    Please help me see your point from a different perspective.

    Grace and peace,

    Joey

    • Joey, thank you for taking the time to comment and lay out your thoughts so clearly. I appreciate the dialogue. I also deeply appreciate your comments regarding the horror of violence inflicted against people who are glbt and your rejection of discrimination. A common place to begin at least!

      If I take seriously what both science and experience teach, that our sexual orientation, whatever it is, is part of who we are and how we are born (and I do), then I believe God names us “clean” in the fullness of who we are in the first creation story in Genesis. Seeing the diversity of humanity, created male and female in God’s own image (not the later story where one comes from the rib of another), God pronounces this “good.”

      The Hebrew Bible laws are not revoked, nor are the prohibitions against touching pigs’ skins, or being near a woman while she is menstruating. Neither are the laws providing for the stoning of children who dishonor their parents, or proscribing a year of total debt forgiveness. Laws about restorative justice, providing for widows and orphans, and prohibitions against divorce and remarriage are strengthened in Jesus’ teachings. Yet all of these we read selectively, factoring in our own cultural context against the context in which they were written: a time when food borne illness was much more common and more likely to be caused by certain meats, a time when women were considered little more than breeding stock (and scary and weird because their bodies do wacky things), and children little more than continuation of a hereditary line, a time with laws we don’t understand or find unnecessary now because grace abounds, or worse because we find them (laws about economic justice and jubilee) challenging to our way of life. In short, we all cherry pick when it comes to what we take from the Bible; our task is to do so in the greatest faithfulness to the overall message of the Gospel.

      Further, I question that what is “prohibited” in the Hebrew Bible and certainly in the letters of Paul is at all the same as the loving, faithful, mutual relationships between consenting adults that we witness today (whether the partners are of the same or differing genders!). I don’t think it means what we think it means.

      I’m not confident that any of that will help with seeing my perspective, but thank you for letting me try.

      In peace,
      Becca

  6. A standing ovation! “Well written” understates my admiration for this piece! Way to step out in faith and speak truth to power! You will be in my prayers as you seek to bring justice to the church institutional for the church universal! Amen!

  7. Love the article, love what your doing. I was completely shocked to read the section that the church pushes further into the legislation realm and goes on to teach discrimination and bigotry.
    I don’t think I ever remember Jesus “hating” so much in the bible, must have been during those “lost years” we don’t have any witness to.

    • Thanks for your comment Wendy, and for your supportive words. I agree that Jesus does not demonstrate hatred. I would further add that while some of the language in our church documents (and in proposed legislation) are laced with hatred, I read more fear in many of them, and in many, many places, a different perspective and way of reading the Bible and the scope of the Gospel that is still seeking to be faithful. I think it’s wrong and am not hesitant to say so, but I don’t think it all comes from a place of hate.

      Thanks again for reading and commenting!

      in Christ,
      Becca

  8. Joey,

    Just a question: How is it that your own theology of sexuality also isn’t “with the end in mind?” Why is homosexuality a “sin” to begin with? How is that thought not a product of the culture that it emerges from itself?

    And why, oh why, has the church chosen to focus on sexuality to the detriment of the outcast rather than focusing on economic justice to the benefit of all when the scriptures focus on economic justice almost all the time even when talking about sexuality? Satan has laid this fog on thickly.

    Peace,
    Rachel

    • Rachel,

      That’s a good question. The answer is quite simple: We believe Scripture to be the revealed Word of God. That makes it prior to the culture, as in priority. Is that arguable? Yes, but it is a priority argument in the United Methodist Church. It is one of our Articles of Religion. Changing our mind on this, based on the argument presented by Rev. Clark, would require that we repeal the Article that describes the way we read and understand Scripture

      I’m not refuting the fact that God changes God’s mind. If it is in Scripture, I’m looking for the exegesis. If it is in prophecy, I’m just looking for the message and the messenger.

      And, by the way, not all of us are focused on this. I’m not typing this from the “Pro-Heterosexual Headquarters” or anything. This is one more issue I address in the course of ministry. A quick perusal of my website and social media will assure you that this isn’t even close to the most often mentioned subject.

      Rebecca’s passionate writing got my attention because I feel that she is going to Conference with an agenda — and one that has merit, might I add. The atrocities committed against homosexuals by hate-mongerers are reprehensible. But that doesn’t allow a delegate to approach an issue of this magnitude based on icky feelings and cultural shifts.

      Rev. Clark, like the rest of the clergy in our denomination, represents the resident theologian in the local church. There is an obligation to demonstrate more than passion. We are trained in theology for a reason. We cannot envision Jesus as a fortune-cookie spouting teacher. At the end of the day, despite the fact that people thought him insane, Jesus himself was speaking from a place in culture rooted far deeper in God’s vision than any religious construct or any cultural whim.

      Jesus spoke of the Kingdom as it should be, not as it was. I’m encouraging the same for all of my colleagues, including myself.

      Thank you for engaging me in the conversation.

      Grace and peace,

      Joey

      • Again Joey, thank you for your very respectful treatment of me and of this conversation. I too hesitate to make everything I say about sexuality, as seeking justice in this area is only one part of my ministry.

        I won’t deny that I have an agenda here– I want to see our denomination’s anti-bullying resolution have more teeth, for example, for churches to be encouraged to be bully free zones and to address the violence against people (for any reason!) that bullying does in the context of worship and witness. I also happen to feel that we need to be consistent in our treatment of the question of human sexuality; I don’t feel that we can denounce discrimination, and call all persons of sacred worth on the one hand, and then set up a double standard based on sexual orientation on another.

        Yes, we do differ on how we read the Bible. I would argue that my reading of scripture with an eye for its context is still in keeping with the Wesleyan tradition, but others have been known to disagree with me on that. This question of the role of scripture lies at the heart of this debate and others, and it’s neither simple nor easily dismissed.

        Peace to you,
        Becca

  9. Becca,

    I understand your points, despite not agreeing with them. Would that more of our colleagues could open this conversation with the passion — and grace — that you have.

    Indeed, humanity was declared good — prior to the Fall. Our sin defiles us, and it is not just sexual sin that does this.

    Granted, the laws that were in place before Peter’s rooftop experience were no longer needed. Jesus himself said so before Peter ever climbed onto that roof. “It is what goes comes out of a person, not what goes in, that defiles.”

    That said, he graced the marriage covenant by attending the ceremony at Cana. He specifically noted that marriage is male-female in a dialogue with Pharisees regarding divorce.

    The roles of men and women have changed and developed, including Paul’s inclusion of women in leadership despite evidence to the contrary in specific verses that seem to speak to particular situations. Lydia was far more than just his financial backer, and Phoebe and Apphia.

    But I see nothing that speaks of two men or women becoming one flesh. I see the gender labels falling away in terms of equality and egalitarian ministry, but, try as I might, I cannot see the tangible shift in thinking.

    Perhaps it is not a tangible shift, and I am wrong. But these are the foundations of my faith. I do not take them lightly. I pray that God’s will might be clearly discerned in your work at General Conference.

    Blessings to you and those to whom you minister. If your passion for this issue is any indicator, God has a powerful witness in your parish.

    Grace and peace,

    Joey

    • Thank you Joey.

      I’m honored to share a faith and a ministry with you. And I echo your first lines– would that more of our colleagues engaged in this conversation with the grace that you too have shown.

      Jesus is silent on a great many things that we now deal with– abortion, stem cell research, climate change, fair trade coffee– you name it. These things didn’t exist in his time. I argue that homosexuality as we now know it and see it lived out didn’t either. Certainly same gendered marriage did not.

      I pray too that the Word and grace of God will move powerfully through all aspects of General Conference and the discernment and prayer of the delegates. My delegation and I pray this every day at noon, and I know that others around the world join in similar prayer.

      Shalom,
      Becca

  10. First, let me just revel in the fact that Maryland has joined the states that recognize gay marriage – go Maryland!

    As to the arguments presented here – ever so politely, I might add that for me, it is much like the current birth control “debate” that is going on right now. The jury just isn’t out on this, and in my humble opinion, the Methodist Church has stayed in this place of polite dissension for far, far too long. I say grow a pair and do what is right. Sorry to be so blunt, but I will celebrate ten years married to the best person I know, who happens to be a woman, in a couple of months and for our family, our four children, for the sake of the all the love that is consecrated by God in our household – for that to be up for ivory tower theological debate, just seems backward and ridiculous to me at this point. Sorry not to be more PC about it. Perhaps I am a little bitter. My family and I made the painful choice to leave the UMC when, in increasing numbers, they were voting to defrock gay clergy and were not willing to perform civil unions. I went back to the church of my childhood, the Episcopal church, and we have found a wonderful place there. But it saddens me every day, that the church that I chose, didn’t choose me back. And yes, it is personal like that.

    The long view tells me that in 100 years, we will have all new people and I am confident that very few of them will be engaged in this debate. No more than those currently who debate a woman’s right to vote or interracial marriage. But then again, we are actually having a somewhat serious discussion about a woman’s right to have access to birth control so who knows? Guess we better keep pressing forward. Thank you Becca for your words of support and love. I continue to hope…

    • Hi Sara,

      I’ll join you in the Maryland high five! One by one, justice rolls out.

      Thank you for sharing your story here. It is a powerful reminder that nothing about this conversation is hypothetical. We are not talking about issues and theological questions, ultimately, but people. And most of the time, the people who are being discussed have been excluded from the table long ago. I’m am sorry for the pain and injustice my denomination has leveled at your family, and I too hope for the day (sooner than 100 years, I pray) when we look back with sorrow and regret, hardly able to believe we ever acted this way, and look forward with hope for healing and seeking forgiveness.

      Deep Peace,
      Becca

  11. I believe what is in the Bible. One mans interpretation vs. another mans interpretation is not an act of God. It is an act of the Devil challenging God. Homosexuality is the Devil winning. Those who follow will put an end to all creation. And sadly those who follow, you are not a true believer of God, you are following Satan. Black is black as white is white. There is no GREY area in the Bible.

    Hi folks, this is Becca, responding within the comment so it appears here instead of halfway down the page.

    I struggled a bit with whether or not to delete this comment. I am leaving it here because 1. the damage has been done– it posted while I was out of signal range traveling and I was not able to delete it in a timely fashion, and 2. it is now part of the discourse on this page for better or wosre. Therefore, it will serve a third purpose, which is to demonstrate the type of language I will not permit and why.

    Betti, you are entitled to your opinion about faith, church politics, and homosexuality. You are entitled to express that opinion however seems fitting to you, and the internet is full of places where this type of language is tolerated. Not here. I ask that in my space– just as I would ask in my house– that you speak respectfully and take responsibility for what you say (this includes the use of “I” statements, as in “I believe homsexuality is a sin”). I further ask that people refrain from throwing the devil around like a playtoy in the midst of reasonable conversation.

    Why?

    It’s not because I don’t want dissent. I think the rest of this conversation demonstrates my openness to differing positions.

    It’s not because you made a personal attack on me, calling me an a follower of satan. I have a thick skin and a pretty solid grounding in my faith and my ministry.

    It’s because this is my virtual space, and I intend it to be a safe and respectful one for anyone who comments or participates here. Your language makes this an abusive space.

    The next comment of this nature will be deleted, regardless of time delay. Repeated attempts at comments of this nature by the same poster will result in my banning your IP from participation.

    Becca

    • I am also very concerned by this, Betti. I don’t agree that there are *no* grey areas in the Bible, but this is clearly not a grey area.

      The Bible says “A man leaves his father and mother and embraces his wife, and they become one flesh.” It calls homosexual sex “degrading”, “unnatural”, “shameful”, “detestable”, “ungodly” and “sinful”. It says that participants in homosexual sex will not inherit God’s kingdom.

      Unlike some Churches, the Methodist Church affirms the authority of Scripture. The Methodist Church values God’s Holy Word, not Lady Gaga’s latest pop hit. The world is broken and can’t be relied on for wisdom and direction. God’s Word can.

      We can’t “reason” our way around Scripture and simultaneously claim to be a Church that affirms it’s authority. We either affirm the authority of Scripture or we don’t.

      I have concerns about changing the Church’s tenets based on the notion that “scientific research confirms that homosexuality is inborn.” That is not correct. The jury is still out on that. There is evidence in both directions. This has been debated by scholars for decades, and will no doubt be debated for decades to come.

      Most concerning to me is that a pastor who took a vow before God to uphold the tenets of the Methodist Church then publicly reversed course and now promises to marry people “regardless of their genders”. That goes in direct violation of her ordination vows.

      And instead of being defrocked for publicly renouncing her ordination vows, she was made a delegate at General Conference.

      So I agree with you, Betti. Sometimes issues are complex but this is not one of them. This *is* rather black and white.

      • Rick,

        My reading of Becca’s statements indicates that she is pursuing what she believes to be right.

        The vows that we both took at ordination were quite clear. Accepting our order and doctrine doesn’t mean that we aren’t constantly examining it for imperfections brought about by the sinful nature of fallen humanity.

        In this case, I don’t think that a mistake was made. Becca does. We are disagreeing amiably and working toward a conversation that will hopefully illuminate our mutual understanding.

        I have no doubt that Becca is exercising her office appropriately. Feel free to disagree, but you might want to find another means of doing so if you find yourself attacking the person instead of the argument. The ad hominem approach is frowned upon in Christian Conferencing.

        An inability to see complexity in an issue does not preclude the existence of complexity. In fact, it may well say more about the vision of the person in question.

        On the theology, I agree with you. You and I share similar opinions on the authority of Scripture and the misleading nature of a fallen world. On your means of sharing that insight, I could not be further from agreeing. You had some good points at the outset. I urge you to return to that tactic. This is no brawl in the marketplace. Hurling insults and denouncing one another is counterproductive.

        There is nothing less than the Kingdom hanging in the balance. What will it profit us to gain that Kingdom having climbed over our detractors with defamation on our lips and vitriol in our hearts?

        I had hoped others would be drawn, as was I, to this discussion by the civil nature of its participants.

        Grace and peace,

        Joey

        • Joey,

          I am not attacking the person, I am decrying her actions. That is not an “ad hominem”.

          Yes, “the vows that you both took at ordination were quite clear.” The vows ask “Will you be loyal to The United Methodist Church accepting its order, liturgy, doctrine, and discipline”?

          Yes, you can “constantly examine doctrine for imperfections brought about by the sinful nature of fallen humanity”, but homosexual marriage was not part of UMC doctrine when you took your vows.

          If you vowed to accept the order, doctrine and discipline of the UMC, but you no longer do, what would the honorable course of action be? To break your vow before God?

          I don’t mean to be impolite, but I think that is a fair question.

          Blessings.

          • RIck,

            Much of what I would say, Joey has coverned. I think it is certainly fair to ask the question of my continued engagement in a church with which I disagree so strongly on a particular point. It may even be worth its own blog post, just devoted to that topic.

            For now, I will sumarize by saying that I have not changed my position. My Bishop and I (all the ordination candidates in fact) had long conversation about the parts of the Dicipline I found to be contrary to the spirit and teaching of the gospel, and what my ordinatoin vows mean in that context. I have indeed examined our Discipline, and I believe our Articles of Religion and systems of polity and governance to be in keeping with Christ’s teachings, if not every letter of every particular policy point. I believe that just as I love my country and its system of government, but do not always love particular laws or political leaders, the same is true for my church. And just as with my country, it is not only my right but my duty to lovingly call those places into question. In short, I consider it part of my vow to uphold the Book of Discipline to challenge and correct it where I believe it to be in error.

            Furthermore, my ordination vows– and before them, my call to the ministry of pastor– insist that I be in ministry to and with all persons. In my prayer, devotion, discernment, and refelction, this vow to God and to God’s children supercedes any promises to the Book of Dicipline. I see my choice to marry any couple presenting themselves for Christian marriage to be not an act of disobedience to my convenant with the Discipline, but an act of obedience to my covenant and vow to God and God’s people. I could say more, but like I said, it probably warrants its own post.

            Peace,
            Becca

            • You don’t have to “always love particular laws” but you do have to abide by them.

              If your Bishop told you that promising to uphold the Discipline means you could conduct same sex marriages, your Bishop was wrong.

              Nobody forced you to take a vow to “be loyal to The United Methodist Church accepting its order, liturgy, doctrine, and discipline”. You chose to. Your own “discernment” does NOT “supersede any promises to the Book of Discipline”. You took a vow before God.

              I will give you the last word, but prayer and honest reflection are exactly what is needed here.

              • Hi Rick,

                It’s a question open for debate as to whether or not one is obligated to abide by an unjust law.

                My Bishop did not tell me I was permitted to marry same gender couples, at least not without potential consequences. She did help me understand that I could make and keep a vow to uphold the Discipline without agreeing with every word of it. She recommended, for example, that I run as a delegate for GC to change language with which I disagreed.

                Your third paragraph reflects either a misunderstanding of what I said or a mischaracterization. I did not say that my discernment supersedes the Discipline but that my vow to God and God’s people to serve in faithful ministry does. It’s not breaking of one vow (to the Discipline) that requires my prayer and discernment, but weighing of two vows (one to the Discipline/denomination and one to God/God’s children) that does. Where I see the two conflicting, as in this case, I err on the side of my deeper commitment to God and God’s people and serve in faithful ministry with all persons.

                Hope that’s clearer.

                Peace,
                Becca

  12. Having read the replies and responses, there are some basic areas that require agreement to go forward: Are we made in God’s image? Does God make mistakes? Is sexuality determined in the womb (not how we act on our sexuality), or is it a conscious choice. Yes. No. Yes. No.

    • Hi Patti,

      Thanks for commenting. I agree that those are important questions, along with questions of the role scripture. Unfortunately, not everyone can agree on those answers, but we press on as best we can.

      Blessings,
      Becca

  13. Becca,
    I echo much of what Joey has shared, though my journey and the way my views have been formed over the past 44 years has its own unique twists. Your candor and passion without being strident or dismissive is appreciated.
    I will not go on at length, but I do want to share that as I strive to humbly lead our congregation, I most earnestly desire that all who come (and those we reach outside our walls) see and feel the love and grace of our Lord. I have changed some of my views on the subject at hand, but more from a cultural, ethical and legal standpoint than theological. Some things we cannot change, for God does not change.
    I hope the committee shares your graceful approach to whatever action is recommended at Conference. It would not serve unity in the Body to settle into another “either/or” confrontation.
    As I prepare to deliver a message on this topic next month, the thoughts shared here will play a part in how I present the message. Thank you for what you are doing! Whether we reach total agreement is not as important as staying in community in the bond of Christ’s love.
    Shalom.
    Carl

    • Hi Carl,

      Thank you for your perspective here. I agree that in addition to the wounding words and injustice that I feel are being done to the glbt community, another tragedy in this is the damage done to the Body as we further fragment and wound each other as well. I pray that we keep the Holy in our Holy Conferencing.

      Shalom,
      Becca

  14. Becca,

    Thanks for sharing and for your ongoing conversation on this important issue. My experience at General Conference in 2008 led me to the place where I am not sure we will overcome in 2012. That is still my prayer and I am glad that you will be representing NEAC in the discussion especially at the committee level. I hope that some of the folks who struggle with our stance will take the time to get to know their lgbt brothers and sisters in faith and recognize that they walk the same journey of faith that we all do.

    In Christ’s Peace,
    Wesley

    • Wesley,

      From a certain perspective, I fear you may be right. In some ways the best we may be able to hope for is to manage to get something like the 2008 majority report of the committee to actually make it to the floor. But I also hope that person by person hearts are changed here and there. We have to hope, right?

      Bless,
      Becca

  15. Thank you, Becca. You have stated your case very eloquently and I completely agree with you. I am a pastor and I will keep your words on hand for inspiration.

  16. Personally this is one of the areas that I hope to see change in the UMC (and the world as well!) There are so many areas that I struggle with on this topic, but to name a few…
    How can the UMC speak of open doors and open hearts… where’s the little disclaimer with all the omissions? I could only imagine the former being said loud and proud, and then the latter sounding like the end of a car sales commercial with all the “fine print.”
    I would be curious to know how pastors would handle all of our questions on the cleanliness of our relations. Boy, I can only imagine those conversations, all the red faced pastors! I suspect that people rarely approach their pastors on these topics… and save those discussions for their physicians. And not to get specific, but it appears that unclean relations can be had by both straight and gay people.
    And one of my favorites… how angry people get about same sex marriages “ruining” the tradition, the sanctity, the meaning (you get the point) of marriage. I can’t tell you how many divorced people have this view and I have to bite my tongue. I think there are far more straight people “ruining” marriage than gay people.
    Ditto for parenting… just turn the news on and you’ll find plenty of horrible straight parents.
    My comments may not be the most philosophical or filled with biblical points, but the way we treat people has too much hate and inconsistency. I believe that our faith guides us to take care of our mind, body and spirit… and to care for the same of others. The principle is the same, but the meaning evolves with time and learning.

    • I agree with you there, Jennifer! All of us struggle to be faithful in our relationships, and heterosexual couples are equally likely to mess up their relationships– if not more so, because there’s a larger pool to draw from, for starters.

      Your question about the disconnect between “Open hearts…” and the UMC’s policy about homosexuality cuts to the heart of my concern as well. I find very little that is loving and open about our current policy, and I believe it drives people further from God and one another.

      Thanks for your comments. I think they were very insightful.

      Seeking grace,
      Becca

  17. One of the best books I’ve read lately–and I always read good books- is “The Bible Now” by Richard Elliott Friedman and Shawna Dolansky. They do exquisite hermeneutical work on what the Hebrew Scriptures do and don’t say about modern social issues. If you are going to enter into any kind of meaningful debate on this subject, you must read what they say. They are clear, concise and careful. They make a frank exposition of what scripture really says and what it does not. They do not deal with the Christians scriptures, but their method is solid and can be extrapolated.

    We are guilty of bias and oversimplification in both directions–and these are not simple subjects. We must take scripture seriously and read it carefully. We cannot dismiss it with claims of cultural relevance or nothing has authority unless we deem it relevant. However, every Christian who has ever believed has made critical judgments about what is authoritative in scripture and no one, including self-styled “literalists” takes everything literally or even “takes everything!”

    I’ve often argued that the Christian Scriptures are an example of the beginning of an hermeneutical process. They show us how the beginning church tries to sort out what from it’s storehouse of sacred texts would be normative for it’s life. Because it is an unfolding process we do not find absolute consistency in the New Testament. Some texts argue for broad rights for women, others for a more male-dominant approach. Paul argues with himself on many issues–to the point where you wonder if even he chooses a clear position! We see the conflicts between those who would keep more of the Jewish law and those who would abandon most of it.

    This process continued in the life of the church. The reformation is an excellent example of a moment in time when this happened with some intensity. We ought not be surprised that it continues today around matters of consequence in human life. Nor should we expect that scripture would deal with the unfolding issues we face today since our world, culture and knowledge are vastly different than the first centuries of the common era.

    So we need to engage in a respectful and transparent process-call me an optimist! Be clear about what your hermeneutic is, why you hold it and use it consistently.

    As an aside–I do not understand why it makes one whit of difference if someone is gay, hetero or bi based on genetics, the way they were raised or even by choice. It seems to me that it does not matter how we arrive at our self identity. I also believe there is a lot less consensus on the idea that we are gay or straight based on biology. By the way, I’ve got another great book on my shelf that anyone who wants to discuss this topic should read: “The Construction of Homosexuality” by David F. Greenberg. Published in 1990 it is an exhaustive study of the sociology of homosexuality.

    • Greg, your commitment to solid exegesis is only one of the many reasons I love you and love being your colleague in ministry. I’ll definitely check out the book you mentioned.

      Bless,
      Becca

  18. I commend you for your prayerful and articulate statements.

    I was raised “old school” and grew up in the northern fringes of conservative Appalachia. For all that, my parents made sure I learned to not be scared of asking hard questions nor going down thought trails where others warned me away. Bless them for that.

    I have great love for my sons, their families and my extended family, including the three known nieces from different branches who are same-gender oriented. Two are in committed relationships – one with a birth child in her home and the other married in Vermont. The third has not openly come out to our family but is not hiding her life. Each is as holy and precious to me and (I firmly believe) to God as the rest of the pack. I watched these girls grow up in different families and know their experiences of family and adolescence is as ordinary as anyone. All attended Sunday School in different congregations over the years, participated in 4-H, played sports and participated in school music programs. Their inherent attractions are not choice or aberration, but the ordinary expression of who they are – and in my understanding who God made them to be.

    As an Elder I will fly the company flag and salute. I will withhold my presiding office from them for marriage, but sit proudly with the rest of our family at those special times in their lives.

    I am a “good soldier” in this regard but it hurt to tell my favorite niece I would not and could not stand with her and her partner, giving them the blessing they wanted to hear from me. My love for them is not governed by the Church, even if my practice of ministry is.

    I offered myself as a delegate at Annual Conference last year. Only those who were District Superintendents, members of Conference office staff or leaders in the Board of Ordained Ministry seemed “good enough” to be elected. I am an ordinary parish pastor serving a tiny, rural charge.

    You will speak for many who are not present.

    • Bill,

      Thank you as well for sharing your story, and the struggle that arises from our conflicting commitments to the people we love. Such a hard road to walk! I’m honored to be in part your voice at General Conference.

      Grace and peace,
      Becca

  19. Folks, I am away from my computer and visiting with my friends out of town, but I am thankful for this conversation and I will respond to each commenter when I have a slightly bigger keyboard (I love my iPhone, but it’s a little tiny for such complex posts!).

    Grace and peace,
    Becca

  20. You hit the nail, for the most part, right on the head. As a seventeen year old high school student, I experience a whirlwind of homophobia every day. Being straight, I realize that you don’t have to be gay to want gay rights/marriage. You have to be human. The Catholic Church’s stance on this controversial topic is what, in part, pushed me away from the Church. Despite this, I will never understand how a country that prides itself on freedom can forbid people that are just the same and just as equal as them from marrying. It makes me physically sick to know that there are people that are ‘holier-than-thou’ and believe that gays, lesbians, transgenders, bisexuals, etc. are utter evil and should be eradicated from society. Well, you know that amazing singer you love so much? Yeah, Elton John? Gay. How about that actor that always makes you laugh? Yup, Neil Patrick Harris. Gay. I could list so many more, but I’ll save myself the trouble.

    • Hello Taylor,

      Thanks for adding your voice to the conversation. It certainly does seem counter to our society and its love of freedom, and counter to the Christian church and its foundation in love and grace to condemn individuals for who they are. And thank you also for lifting the very real and horrible violence of bullying and discrimination that people who are glbt face, particularly teenagers and young adults. It’s shameful.

      Blessings to you, and thank you again for you comments.

      Becca

  21. I have two friends who are formerly Gay. They are both married and one has a new baby. Both are very happy and have a strong, growing relationship with God. They would disagree with the idea that you are born with your sexual preference and cannot choose God’s way when you trust God and believe that his way is what’s best for you.

    We are unique to the animals in that we have been given the power to overcome our nature. We do not have to sleep with every member of the opposite sex that we see in order to spread our seed. I do not have to inflict violence on those who anger me and leave a trail of broken bodies in my wake as my nature ecourages me to do.

    I do not care about the tradition of any church. I care what the Bible says. If it is a question of what version of Bible you are reading as some suggest, I suggest using a site like blueletterbible.com in order to see what the original language meant. In this way we avoid the constant debate of how the language has been twisted to suit the wishes of those in power over hundreds of years.

    I do believe that the position of many churches elevating the sin of homosexuality to the cardinal sin and condoning or at least ignoring adultery in their midst is absolutely wrong. Homosexuality is no more wrong than any other sin. They will all send us to hell. When the sin of homosexuality is elevated to the cardinal sin, it makes it impossible to meet the sinner where they are and show Christs love to them and let Christ work a change in their hearts. My bi, gay and lesbian friends know that I believe the lifestyle is harmful to them and that God has a better plan for them and that, out of love for them, I advise them to follow Christ’s teaching but I do not condemn them. My drunken friends know the same thing. My adulterer friends know the same thing. My friends who are cronic liars know the same thing.

    I was born this way is never an excuse. Many are born alcoholics, philanderers, liars, I personally was born a very violent man. We are not animals to let the way we were born dictate the way we will live.

    The Becca is missing a huge problem. Even if they are able to change the stance of their denomination, The Bible will still remain. It will be much more difficult to convince folks to take out the verses in the Bible which talk about homosexuality. They could take the tactics of some who simply say that it was for a different reason and a different age and a different culture but then we weaken the whole Bible. If we decide that this verse is not true, how are we to know that the rest are? Shall we throw out the portions that deal with salvation? Christ’s finished work on the cross? How about adultery and murder? I’m not a big fan of those, I’d rather live however the hell I want. Or, we could trust that God is powerful enough to include the verses in the Bible that he wanted included in it. Powerful enough to overcome those who would have tried to twist it to their own ends. Going back the original greek and hebrew is vital for this.

    • Ben,

      I’ll admit that this stretches the limits of my openness. If your friends have walked this journey and found a deeper more faithful expression of themselves, then God bless them. But if they, like thousands of others, have been pressured or coerced into a lie about who they are in the hopes of earning the approval of society, then I grieve the violence and injustice done to them. I have not ever met a person in the first category. I’m willing to listen should I ever encounter such an individual. I’ve met a ton of people in the second category and of breaks my heart.

      I don’t think the problem is the translation of the bible that I read which may differ from yours. I think, as Greg pointed out earlier, that this is a question of interpretation, of hermeneutics, a complex and difficult art form. All of us, in all aspects of our lives, selectively interpret in ways we hope maintain the integrity of the gospel and do not compromise the message of salvation. Most of us do not take vows of poverty, despite Jesus’ instructions to give all we have to the poor. Most of us have both our eyes, although I am sure mine have caused me to sin on occasion.

      Finally, I don’t see an accurate comparison between destructive behaviors like violence and addiction on the one hand, and sexual orientation that indicates a gender toward which on is drawn in loving, mutual, faithful ways on the other.

      I work to listen to all perspectives, but the ones you’ve expressed are very extreme to me. I guess I appreciate the challenge of seeing such a vastly different point of view.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      Becca

  22. Reading all of this, particularly your well-reasoned, insightful, patient, and–most of all–prayerful responses, I’ve never wished so profoundly that I lived close enough to be part of your congregation. For now, I’ll have to settle for the podcasts, the blog, and your all-too-infrequent visits to our latitude.

    • Clay, the world is my parish and you are most definitely part of my congregation from afar! I hope to see you soon, and Vermont is lovely this time of year.

      Actually, it’s not. It’s pretty messy and icky. But it’s lovely most of the rest of the year. ;)

      Thanks for the support and the kind words, my friend. Blessings and love,

      Becca

  23. Becca,

    I’ve come across your name and writings before. One of my classmates in Seminary was and I believe still is active in RM. I’ve read the posts here and really am amazed at the politeness and Holy conferencing that seems to have played out. I personally have also met and counseled people who struggle with same sex attractions. Some are living in celibacy, some in relationships with the same gender and others with the opposite. I think it has to do with many things. But from my experience, and you might not like this word, but self control does seem to be part of it. Our society seems to say that self control is not good, unless it keeps violence from happening to others… I don’t know if Jesus would agree. Self control seemed to be an important characteristic in his life.

    Another point is that you mention in your original post

    “Delving into the context of Paul’s letters in the New Testament, we find the practice of homosexuality in Greco-Roman culture to be used primarily for cultic practice (normally heterosexual men engaging in homosexual activity in attempt to sway the will of the gods), or the use and abuse of young boys by older men in relationships that were neither mutual nor consensual.

    But then several times later you say that homosexuality did not exist during the time that biblical events took place. If homosexuality did not exist, how did heterosexuality exist? I don’t think it was delineated as such. Granted culture expected and insisted one married and produced children but as you said earlier that had to do with continuing the lineage, not with heterosexuality or homosexuality or bisexuality or any other ality. Isn’t it a little dis-genuine to use words only when it helps your argument?

    Finally, you say on several occasions that we should not be focusing on discriminating against people who have same sex/gender orientation, but on other issues. 2 comments

    I’m pretty sure the BOD says the practice of and not the person or orientation of… Although it seems that you cannot separate the practice from the person, that is what the BOD is doing. Please say that in your arguments. You may feel and others may feel that the person is being considered incompatible but that is not what it says. Please be clear because those who disagree with you and will be very upset about your agenda (which could be used to focus on poverty, unequal distribution of wealth and diseases that kill millions of people instead) at general conference will feel that you are being forceful and not genuine to not use your words correctly.

    You also could focus on issues of poverty, war, diseases and other things if you chose to. I do not really believe that the Holy Spirit is urging you on to make war against your church. It seems like a political ideology or some since of you being able to save others although you nor I can save anyone. I hate to be crude, but especially considering the numbers are turning against the progressives in America (who seem to come from areas of the country losing the largest percentage of membership). As more conservative parts of our church grow it seems that your fight and the money that you are using which I assume you receive from the church will be a waste of time, one that could be used to focus on issues people across the progressive/traditionalist spectrum can work together on, i.e. poverty, war, diseases, wealth, etc…

    I hope that my questions/comments add to the conversation and do not add more confusion

    In Christ,
    Jon

    • Hello Jon,

      Thank you for taking the time to read, reflect, and comment here.

      I actually agree that self control is a good thing– if a difficult discipline to cultivate. It applies to all of our relationships, and I don’t see its need being limited to our glbt sisters and brothers. I too must exercise self control to remain emotionally, spiritually, and yes physically faithful in my most intimate relationships, especially the one with my husband. However, the UMC does not call for celibacy by itself as a discipline– celibacy in singleness and faithfulness in marriage is our line. I favor giving individuals who are glbt the same standard.

      Your second question is about my statements that homosexuality did or did not exist. I contend that homosexuality and bisexuality have always existed (and will always exist). We see these sexual orientations if you will in many species of animals as well, indicating that they are naturally occurring. However, homosexuality *as we understand it* did not exist in the time of the Hebrew Bible or the time of Jesus. I’ll also state that marriage as we understand it did not exist either. The relationships practiced and assumed in the Bible are very different from modern relationships, which we think of as equal partnerships between spouses, for example, entered into for reasons other than– or at least on addition to– procreation, and almost never (unless one is a celebrity!) for the acquisition of status, land, or wealth. Likewise, relationships between persons who were gay in Greek society for example, were not typically the sort of partnerships that we see between loving, mutual couples of today. So I argue that what Paul or Leviticus condemn is not the same as what I am saying is not a sin. I agree with Paul– the abuse of young boys is an abomination; practicing sex outside the context of a faithful partnership and for ritualistic purposes is sinful. Two adult women living in loving mutual partnership and remaining emotionally and physically intimate exclusively with one another? That’s a very different thing.

      The word “homosexual” was not used until 1869.

      The Book of Discipline does indeed say that the *practice* of homosexuality is not compatible with Christian teaching. However, how can we separate the practice of one’s sexuality from the person, especially in the case of something that is a naturally occurring characteristic? If the practice of writing with one’s left hand is sinful (which it was once considered), how do we– and in particular how does a “leftie”– separate that from someone saying they are somehow wrong or broken or diseased or inherently sinful? A person is absolutely more than their sexuality. But one’s sexuality is an intricate part of who one is as a human person. When I imagine turning the tables, and being told that the practice of heterosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching, that my marriage to my husband is not valid, let alone not sacred or beautiful or to be celebrated by society and by me and by God, and that my marriage, specifically because it’s to a man, along with the family we have built together, prohibits me from living out my vocational call as a pastor– when I imagine that, I can’t separate out the “practice” part and not hear it as a condemnation of my very self. Not that I am my marriage or my husband or my kids– far from it. But those relationships with my spouse and children are so deeply connected to who I am, that I can’t separate myself from them with any integrity. And if we want to be literal about “practice,” then yes, the physical practice of my sexuality I also cannot separate from my relationship with my spouse or from myself, so some sort of sexless marriage wouldn’t solve anything (I have a *lot* of friends who can attest to that…).

      So while the UMC Discipline does condemn only the practice of homosexuality and not persons who are glbt, I see that as talking out of both sides of our mouths. In my opinion it is the denomination that is being disingenuous.

      If you have the time or interest to explore my blog further, you will see that I am not solely focused on justice regardless of sexual orientation in the sweep of my ministry. Half of my posts are sermons– one clear product of my ministry in a local church, where I also teach and counsel and order the life and ministry of the church and administer sacraments. On the right sidebar I have links to topics that are specific ares of passion for me in my calling– mission trips to Ecuador, stewardship of the earth, and combating poverty. On the last point, I am heavily invested in the local efforts of my community to work with individuals who are homeless or marginally housed, and I am the co-founder and president of a non-profit board to organize and shelter our community’s provisions for people’s basic needs. I consistently speak on behalf of peace and economic justice for the most marginalized. I agree that our denomination can make many efforts together in all of these areas, and what we have already done together through our connection is one of my greatest loves of the UMC.

      When it comes to General Conference, however, I am on the Church and Society 2 committee, and human sexuality is almost the entirety of our focus. If I seem a little one-note, that’s because it is the focus of my work for GC. As I said at the beginning of the post, I chose it as my focus for GC because I think it represents our biggest area in need of transformation.

      It is not my desire to “make war” on my denomination, but to help lovingly correct it where I see a grievous error, and to engage in that change in as respectful and holistic a way as possible (hence my insistence upon tones of respect in conversation on my blog, and my intentional engagement with all commenters). To be clear, I spend no money on the efforts to change the language of the Book of Discipline, apart from my expenses for travel to GC (mostly covered by the UMC, as for all delegates), a once-annually contribution to the Reconciling Ministries Network, and my dues to the Methodist Federation for Social Action. The rest of the money I have to give for the transformation of the world, if you will, goes to my church in the form of my tithe, to collections and special offerings of the general UMC, and through donations to the non-profit I mentioned for specific local action.

      Thanks for your questions, and I hope my answers have helped to clarify where I stand.

      Grace and peace,
      Becca

  24. [...] So I dropped back by Rev. Meunier’s blog today. When I arrived, he had a post that took me to another blog. There, I found the writing of Rev. Becca Clark. She had recently written of her intent to approach General Conference in a blog post entitled, “Diary of a Delegate: Homophobia and the sin of commission.” [...]

  25. In re: homosexuality vs. heterosexuality and the social constructs of identity, you may be interested in a book called “Straight: The Surprisingly Short History of Heterosexuality” by Hanne Blank.

    http://www.hanneblank.com/blog/2012/01/30/straight/

    She’s got some great clips on that page, too, from a speech at Creating Change earlier this year. Worth the download wait.

    In an undergraduate course I took on lesbian history, our professor spent about a month of class time engaging us in dialogue about whether or not lesbians could have existed, in named form, based on contemporary language and convention. They *existed*, yes, but weren’t actually *named*. I think that’s worth contemplating when applying Biblical doctrine in the contemporary sphere.

    http://www-bcf.usc.edu/~judithb/leslike.pdf

    Really enjoyed reading your thoughts – really enjoyed the comments (even from those I disagree with). Many of the Christians I see online commenting about these topics come from a place of ignorant rambling hate. It’s refreshing to see that doesn’t have to be the case.

    • Hello KJ,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and those resources. I will check them out– they look helpful for the conversation.

      I would say that not only does it not have to be the case that our conversations and positions about human sexuality come from places of ignorance and hatred, but it *must* not be the case. We must come to the topic and to one another in openness, respect, and compassion, even as we articulate who we are and what we have come to believe and why.

      Thank you for adding your voice to the mix!

      Blessings,
      Becca

  26. I am respectfully checking out of the discussion because I can see from your posts that we will not soon get over the impasse of our basic theological and moral constructs. You make assumptions that I know are taught at some of our seminaries, but I do not accept their validity or harmony with traditional scriptural interpretation.
    May your deliberations be graceful and peace-filled as you consider equally all points of view.
    Thank you Becca.

    • Carl, that is understood. Thank you for the time you have spent engaged in this conversation, and I respect your need to withdraw.

      Grace and peace to you as well.

      Becca

  27. Thank you for explaining your position on this (I hate to use the word, but don’t know a better one) issue.

    I’m not sure where I stand. For every comment one makes for the act to be sinful, there can be a comment one makes for the act to be natural.

    Ex: You say people are born to be attracted sexually to the same sex. I could agree, but then say that people are born with a gene that makes them a higher risk to be alcoholics. Does that excuse someone for becoming drunk?

    I believe we were made in God’s image, but I also believe sin entered the world early on and that generations suffer for sins within the family. I have a hard time believing that being made in God’s image would include depression, alcoholism, addiction, etc. Perhaps because I’ve struggled with depression, I don’t want to believe a loving God would afflict me with something that makes me feel so… crappy.

    Jesus did hang out with some of the world’s designated yucky people. I believe we should as well. But, Jesus did not approve of certain behaviors and often times would tell people to “go and sin no more.”
    There is a difference between acceptance and agreement.

    I could agree that sexuality and spirituality are interwoven, which is why I believe this topic is hard for people. Most of the people I know who believe acts of homosexuality “are incompatible with Christian teaching” are accepting and love those different than themselves. This issue tears them apart because they are compassionate. Some people I know who disagree with the stance of The UMC are pushing for agreement on how people live their lives, not acceptance. If you believe the way you live is right then I could see you fighting for agreement and not just acceptance.

    I’m sure there are people who have already left the denomination because they don’t agree with the Discipline. I’m sure there are people who have already left the denomination because they feel like the denomination is not sticking to the Discipline. If a change is made, there will be people who will find the denomination more appealing and go to church. If a change is made, there will be people who will leave the denomination. And there will still be people in the middle who don’t want to disconnect from the denomination because of the one issue.

    I would love to read a solution that can work with all the beliefs where no one feels like a loser or winner. I’ve yet to see anything and have no idea on what it would look like. I’m sure people are more than ready to feel love and agreement while others are more than ready to stop being made to feel un-loving because of disagreement.

    Prayers to you, the committee and General Conference.

    • Hello Anne,

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful response. I appreciate your wrestling with the nuances of this conversation and being willing to see a variety of viewpoints.

      The question of sexual orientation being how we are born, and then comparing that to a tendency toward addiction, or an illness/mental illness is an interesting one. The argument that I see between sexual orientation and an illness is that professionals in medicine and psychology have found that homosexuality and bisexuality are not illnesses. We find these behaviors occurring in other species as well, which suggests that they are from that perspective quite natural. Furthermore, I would submit that no one is harmed by a person’s healthy and faithful expression of his/her sexual orientation (but I understand that some would say harm is done, spiritually speaking), whereas illnesses harm the person afflicted with them, and addiction harms both the addicted and her/his family/community/etc. I myself have a tendency toward addictive behavior (lots of alcoholics in my family history), and have found that I need to steer well clear of gambling. While others can buy lottery tickets or play video poker just fine, I refuse because I know for me the outcomes can become addictive and do damage to myself and my family. However, my faithful, loving practice of my sexuality harms no one (least of all me!), nor, I would argue, does that of my gay or lesbian neighbors, friends, colleagues, congregants…

      I especially appreciate your paragraph about people leaving/staying in the denomination. I agree with you that there are those to be lost and found no matter what we do. That is quite devastating, but very true. There’s no answer to that; I simply agree with you that this is the sad fact.

      And of course I appreciate your prayers. Blessings to you too,
      Becca

      • At the risk of stating the obvious, the divergence and resulting frustration in these discussions starts with whether or not we begin with the premise that same-gender sex is “sinful”, i.e. does it create an offense before God. If one does not consider it sin by whatever rationale one chooses, then the discussion takes a whole different slant than if we start with the idea that it is sin. The former requires no forgiveness or reconciliation with God, the latter does.

        If we count it as sin, then we stumble into some other thorny theological problems, like: “If this behavior and the urges that it stems from are an intrinsic part of a person, then how do we let the mechanism of expiation do its work of cleansing and sanctification?” If the ‘sin’ cannot be separated from the ‘sinner’, then how do we rewrite our theology to incorporate this new class of people that present us with this unusual situation?

        I’m speaking as a clergy member with a number of close gay friends who I dearly want to include in our fellowship as UM’s, while at the same time staying true to our doctrinal foundation. Is there a way of reconciling these issues, are they “non-issues” or do we need to step back and re-frame the discussion in different terms.

        Obviously those who do not see it as sin have no problem theologically (I assume), but I still wonder how we can move forward with the same doctrinal standards. Would it be more appropriate to first look at our Articles of Religion before we start legislating Social Principals that may not be on firm footing? Have we gotten the cart before the horse in our attempt to be socially relevant?

        • Well said Carl. Yes, it may be obvious, but a key if not *the* key question is whether or not homosexuality/homosexual practice is a sin. Whether we answer yes or no, there are social and theological implications. Since people disagree so widely on the root questions, the implications (let alone the legislations! [it rhymes]) are almost impossible to navigate because we are talking past one another.

          Peace,
          Becca

  28. [...] am often asked, given the outspoken passion with which I disagree with my denomination’s policy on this point, why I don’t withdraw [...]

  29. [...] (rather massive) load of resolutions and petitions. Although I requested this committee because of my strong desire to see our church change its policy on homosexuality, there’s a good chance I may volunteer [...]

  30. [...] (rather massive) load of resolutions and petitions. Although I requested this committee because of my strong desire to see our church change its policy on homosexuality, there’s a good chance I may volunteer [...]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 964 other followers

%d bloggers like this: