Dear church family,
It is the responsibility of church leadership to keep you informed as best we can in regard to the issue of human sexuality, how it affects our denomination and the local church. The Disciple Newsletter will continue to keep you informed on this issue. I love this church and each of you and out of love I will do my best to give you the Truth.
Pastor Mike Ellson
United Methodist Church at the Crossroads
General Conference 2016 – Human Sexuality and the Ministry of the Church
This article was written and modified to speak to our church body by the expressed permission of Pastor Mike Morgan, Marion First United Methodist Church, Pastor Mike Ellson, Pastor Andrew Happ, and Ken Graham.
American culture has, in our own assessment of history, been partaking in a “sexual revolution” over the past several decades. The conversation regarding how to think about and live our human sexuality has changed during the course of our lifetimes…consider for example what comes into our homes through TV in contrast to just 30 years ago. Human sexuality – likely because it’s on our mind so much – is consistently raised in the pages of Scripture. Thus, in real ways the current conversation about sexuality is not new, simply an extension of the ongoing human experience.
As the reader knows, the world is not of one mind regarding how to think about and express our sexuality, so it should be of no surprise that the church has struggled with issues surrounding sexuality as well. The United Methodist Church has struggled now for over forty years with homosexuality. We as the church have marched around this mountain too many times. I know this sounds like human sexuality is the problem here, yet this is only the symptom of a much deeper issue….a deeper issue of living under obedience. We live in a culture and in some cases worship in churches that place moral conviction (feelings) over the authority of God’s Word…and the UMC Book of Discipline. Because the General Conference of the United Methodist Church is the only body that can “speak for the entire church,” and or change the language of the Book of Discipline, the recent 2016 General Conference in Portland was a focal point of this conversation.
It is VERY IMPORTANT that the baseline of this conversation is this: God loves all people. Scripture is clear, God made humanity in His image, breathed His breath into us and treats each of us as His precious, valuable, creatures that He desires to spend an eternity with. So this much seems clear – the people of God are here to love people. On this United Methodists are of one mind. While we all agree the person is of infinite value and worth, we are often not of one mind on specific issues that a person might bring forward in their living.
For the purpose of informing you regarding General Conference and our church, human sexuality, specifically homosexuality, is one of those issues which deeply faithful Christians are not of one mind…we simply do not agree.
How should the church move forward or how can the church remain faithful to God’s Word from such differing viewpoints?
Before we go there, it is important to share with you the current positions of the worldwide United Methodist Church regarding human sexuality homosexuality.
The 2012 General Conference affirmed the Book of Discipline as stated below:
In the Book of Discipline under paragraph 161F) Human Sexuality – We affirm that sexuality is God’s good gift to all persons. We call everyone to responsible stewardship of this sacred gift. Although all persons are sexual beings whether or not they are married, sexual relations are affirmed only within the covenant of monogamous, heterosexual marriage….
The Discipline continues in paragraph 161F: We affirm that all persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God. All persons need the ministry of the Church in their struggles for human fulfillment, as well as the spiritual and emotional care of a fellowship that enables reconciling relationships with God, with others, and with self. 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 will seek to live together in Christian community, welcoming, forgiving, and loving one another, as Christ has loved and accepted us. We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons.
The UM policy regarding ordination: 304.3 While persons set apart by the Church for ordained ministry are subject to all the frailties of the human condition and the pressures of society, they are required to maintain the highest standards of holy living in the world. The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.
The UM policy regarding same sex unions: 341.6 Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches. (United Methodist book of Discipline 2012).
So where does that take us? It should take us to a place of compassion…to a place of careful discernment of God’s Word. Gallup polls and the National Opinion Research Center agree that about 3.8% of the populace considers themselves LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer). This is a number of people to whom we are pledged to do ministry with and to have compassion for as they consider how to be faithful in the midst of this ongoing conversation.
It should take us to a place of humility. This is a very difficult conversation, one in which longtime friends, family and church members are not of one mind. Handled poorly, this conversation could implode the church or divide it in such a way that it loses its vibrant mission and vital voice.
It should take us to a place of seeking God. You know how you would vote as a delegate to General Conference and you likely know that your leadership would vote to hold our current positions as stated in the Book of Discipline. We must all seek God to hear what God would have us do, how God desires us to move forward as individuals and as His church.
By God’s grace alone we are able to come to Scripture, study, prayer and discernment.
With all of this the Center Point United Methodist Church leadership invites you to engage in further conversation. This can happen through:
* Face to face conversation with anyone of leadership
* For more detailed information as it becomes available, please send your email address to Ken Graham @ firstname.lastname@example.org
Loving His Church with you – Church leadership
Resources for you on the Ministry Table
The Bible NLT (New Living Translation)
Culture Shock by Chip Ingram (Both the book and the DVD)
How Should We Respond by Joe Dallas – An exhortation on loving the homosexual.
Out of a Far Country by Christopher Yuan – A Gay Son’s Journey to God.
The Gay Gospel by Joe Dallas – How Pro-Gay Advocates Misread the Bible.
The United Methodist Book of Discipline 2012
The Good News Magazine
Resources for you on the Web
What do you Believe about Homosexuality? (Culture Shock both the Book and the DVD available on Ministry Table)
Sexuality and Gender Atlantis Report – John Hopkins University
Recap of 2016 General Conference
Bishop Ough calls for special 2019 Conference.
Reflections on the first meeting of Bishop’s Commission On a Way Forward
Rev. Rob Renfroe responds to election of openly gay Bishop.
Why the Wesleyan Covenant Association.