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Methodists uphold policy that calls homosexuality ‘incompatible with Christian teaching’

May 4, 2012

TAMPA, Fla.

Despite emotional protests and fierce lobbying from gay rights groups, United Methodists voted on Thursday (May 2) to maintain their denomination’s stance that homosexual acts are “incompatible with Christian teaching.”

Two “agree to disagree” proposals were soundly defeated during separate votes by the nearly 1,000 delegates gathered for the United Methodist Church’s General Conference here.

One proposal would have replaced the “incompatible” phrase in the Book of Discipline, which contains the denomination’s laws and doctrines. Both proposals sought to soften the disputed doctrine by adding more ambiguous statements about homosexuality.

Gay rights advocates in the UMC viewed the compromise proposals as the best chance to advance their cause at this year’s General Conference, which convenes every four years. On Friday, delegates are expected to debate the church’s bans on noncelibate gay clergy and same-sex marriage.

With nearly 8 million members in the U.S., the UMC remains the country’s largest mainline Protestant denomination. But United Methodism is shrinking in the U.S. and growing in Africa and Asia, shifting the balance of power to overseas conservatives. Nearly 40 percent of the delegates gathered in Tampa live outside the U.S.

Thursday’s debate put the denomination’s wide diversity on display ― as gays and lesbians pleaded for recognition of their “sacred worth” and an African delegate, speaking through an interpreter, compared homosexuality to bestiality.

The proposals defeated on Thursday would have acknowledged that diversity, but, some conservatives argued, at the cost of muddying traditional doctrines.

One proposal would have changed the Book of Discipline to say that gays and lesbians are “people of sacred worth” and that church members differ about “whether homosexual practices (are) contrary to the will of God.”

The Rev. Adam Hamilton, a pastor in Leawood, Kansas, argued the proposal would “acknowledge our disagreement on a huge issue that is separating churches in North America today.”

That proposal was defeated by a tally of 54-46 percent.

“I see no reason why we should state (in the Book of Discipline) that we disagree,” said the Rev. Maxie Dunnam, former president of Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Ky. “We disagree on almost every issue we consider.”

The delegates defeated another compromise proposal by an even wider margin: 61 to 39 percent. The resolution would have acknowledged a “limited understanding” of human sexuality and called on the church to “refrain from judgment regarding homosexual persons and practices until the Spirit leads us to new insight.”

The Rev. Steve Wendy of Texas argued that the compromise would cause confusion and lead the church to “stumble in our witness.”

“If you look at our largest congregations, and crunch the numbers, they are all reaching young adults successfully,” Wendy said. “And, overwhelmingly, they teach and proclaim God’s truth without compromise.”

But Jennifer Ihlo, a lay delegate from the Baltimore/Washington Conference, argued in favor of the compromise. “I want to be clear that this is not an abstract issue. This is about people who are being harmed by the church and by the use of the ‘incompatibility’ language,” Ihlo said.

“I am a lesbian and a child of God and I strongly urge the body to support this compromise language so that gay youth ... will recognize that the church loves them and God loves them and the violence and pain and suicide will stop.”

After the proposals were defeated on Thursday, gay rights activists flooded the assembly floor and disrupted the session by singing the hymn “What Does the Lord Require of You?”

Indiana Bishop Michael Coyner, chair of the morning session, told the protesters, “I think you’re actually hurting your point.” When the protesters refused to stop singing, Coyner closed the session, sent the delegates to an early lunch and threatened to bar protesters from the convention hall in the afternoon.

Church leaders and the protesters later worked out a compromise, according to United Methodist News Service. On Thursday afternoon, the delegates shifted their attention to clergy pension plans, leaving key votes on gay clergy and same-sex marriage to Friday, the last day of General Conference.

Editor’s note: the following statement was issued after the vote by Michael Adee, executive director of More Light Presbyterians, an organization related to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) that advocates for the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered Presbyterians in the life of the denomination: “My heart broke as I learned that the General Conference of the United Methodist Church voted to retain the ruling that homosexuality is 'incompatible with Christian teaching.' No person is incompatible with God's creation, love or grace. No person is outside of God's salvation or embrace. Every person is a beloved child of God, created in the image of God and unconditionally loved by God. The truth is that homophobia, like racism or sexism, is incompatible with Christian teaching. Homophobia is an offense to God, God's creation of LGBT persons and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I imagine God's heart broke to see God's own children allowing this harmful ruling to stand. Let us remember that God has the last word. We're all God's children and one human family."

 

 

  1. What does The Word say? The Bible is so entirely & abundantly clear that : " A man shall not lie with a man as a with a woman. It is an abomination. They both shall be put to death." . All have sinned - yes. However, if we are going to coddle & even promote those who willfully 'celebrate' their life of sin inside the Christian church, then we are also in rebellion against God alongside of them - and living the serpent's lie from the garden , believing that WE "...will be like God, knowing good and evil" in this case deciding for ourselves what is good or evil, despite God, which is foolish and fatal in the eternal sense. God Is NOT Mocked! Be Warned! Ez.33:9

    by Reader

    December 24, 2012

  2. This is amazing! All that discussion between the two of you, and no a single Bible reference. You know that the Scriptures is the word of God, only in writting? Last time I check, he still the Lord.

    by Josue Nieves

    May 27, 2012

  3. David, adultery was included in the "etc."

    by richhinkle

    May 9, 2012

  4. I am not surprised to see a comment at the end of this news item by one who supports gay practice as a legitimate life-style. It confirms that within the hierarchy of the PCUSA there is a very strong inclination that way. Fairness would have been to invite a Presbyterian from One by One to comment on what occured among the United Methodist. It is an issue wherein we are greatly divided and if we truly respect each other then the comments permitted would not have been one sided.

    by Eriberto Soto

    May 9, 2012

  5. Rich, I think the difference between our views is that I do not equate a persons behavior with their identity. What I mean is that homosexuality, like heterosexuality, is a part of a individuals personality. Thus neither homosexuality nor heterosexuality are not sinful. However, there are homosexual and heterosexual actions that are sinful. I find it curious in your last comment that you do not seem to equate prostitution with sexual sins and you completely ignore my comment about adultery being a sexual sin. It makes me wonder if you believe there are any sexual behaviors that are sinful.

    by David

    May 8, 2012

  6. Rich, it is clear that I am differentiating between a persons personality and their behavior. It seems to me that based on your comments you are not making this differentiation, and therefore my comments probably make no sense to you. So let me try to clarify it one more time. As I have said, homosexuality, like heterosexuality, is not a sin. It is a part of a persons personality. However, there are homosexual and heterosexual behaviors that are sinful. I do find it interesting that, based on your last comment, you do not consider prostitution to be a sexual sin. Does that mean you do not consider adultery to be a sexual sin? Nor have you bothered to answer my previous question of whether you believe there are any homosexual sins, or if you believe heterosexuals are the only ones who can commit sexual sins. Or maybe you don't believe there are any sexual sins?

    by David

    May 8, 2012

  7. How can you say that, David? In this last post when you say that all of us need to acknowledge our sins and move away from them, it seems to me that you are inferring that homosexuality is a sin. By equating homosexuality with prostitution, usury, drug addiction, etc. and ask if those are acceptable behaviors, you are also inferring that it is a sin.

    by rich hinkle

    May 7, 2012

  8. Unfortunately, Rich, you continue to put words in my mouth, which is both disrespectful and unfair. I did not say homosexuality is a sin, no more than I said heterosexuality is a sin. But there are heterosexual behaviors, which are sinful. Likewise, there are homosexual behaviors that are sinful. Now, if you carefully look at my previous post, you will note that I did include some heterosexual behaviors as sinful, and you seem to not want to view homosexual actions in the same light. So are you saying that there are no sinful homosexual behaviors, and only heterosexuals can comment sexual sins? As I understand scripture, which is our only rule in faith and manners, there are certain behaviors, both heterosexual and homosexual, which are sinful, and faithful Christians are to reject those behaviors, repent of them, and seek to live more faithfully as followers of Christ. Are any of us perfect at it? No, but the key point for me is that we at least acknowledge our sins and seek to move away from them toward God.

    by David

    May 7, 2012

  9. I do believe this debate is occurring in every other denomination that also says it is a church that bars no person from worship. I also believe that anyone who bars another from the church because they are sinners are the worst kind of sinners themselves. How can it be that we call ourselves Christians while we refuse to accept the truth that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God? It is evident that some of our church members are confusing homosexuals with child molesters instead, even though that has been shown to be a domination crime of heterosexual men or the criminally insane..

    by luzmejor

    May 7, 2012

  10. David: the only way your argument, in which you listed several persons entering the church, makes sense is by equating homosexuality with them because you view them all as sins. That is something I categorically reject. Of course, that is the crux of our disagreement, isnt' it?

    by rich hinkle

    May 7, 2012

  11. Rich, I've re-read my comment and I do not believe I used the word hate. That is your terminology, not mine. Let me be clear, I have some good friends who are homosexual. That does not mean that I have to approve of all their actions. However, I think scripture is very clear that those who are called, to what we refer to as ordained offices, are to live their lives at a higher, more exemplary level. So I am opposed to ordaining anyone who brings scandal to the church. I think we are to welcome all people into the church, no matter how messed up and sinful their lives are, nor no matter how much they appear to have it all together in their lives. But just because we welcome them, does not mean we have to approve of their actions. Let me ask a few questions. If a prostitute shows up in your church, will you welcome her? Will you approve of her lifestyle? If a meth addict shows up in your church, will you welcome that person? Will you approve of that person's lifestyle? If an adulterer shows up in your church, will you welcome that person? Will you approve of that person's lifestyle? If a person who practices usury (we have businesses on main street here who offer 30+% loans, taking advantage for the poor), will you welcome that person? Will you approve of that person's lifestyle? If a pedophile shows up in your church, will you welcome that person? Will you approve of that person's lifestyle? Jesus said, "Enter through the narrow gate...For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life." (Mt 7:13 ,14) I don't know how narrow the gate is, but I do know it is not a broad gate into heaven, as some folks want it to be. In my life, I strive for that narrow gate. I believe the church, the Presbyterian Church as well, needs to have convictions. We need to take a firm stance on truth, God's truth. Timothy Lull wrote, "A church that cannot experience heresy probably doesn't have any commitments, any identity, any character. The possibility of heresy is simply the negative expression of a church's having a confession of faith." Over the last 30 years, there has been an erosion of our confession of faith in the Presbyterian Church, and we have rapidly approached the non-committal, incognito, characterless church Timothy Lull describes. The question is, will we go the rest of the way? Will we abandon taking a stance for anything? If some people want that kind of church, I would suggest joining the Unitarian Church instead of trying to turn the Presbyterian Church into another Unitarian Church. If I had wanted to be a part of the Unitarian Church, I would have joined it. But I don't. I feel very comfortable, at home in the Reformed tradition.

    by David

    May 7, 2012

  12. OK, How 'bout we use a word other than "hate"? David, you also state that telling the truth that homosexuality is sin (an assertion with which I strongly disagree) is not hatred. But you also state that you hate the sin. Which is it? Hate or not hate?

    by Rich Hinkle

    May 7, 2012

  13. Interesting comments Mr. Adee says "No person is incompatible with God..." then goes on to say "homophobia...is incompatible with Christian teaching." Beyond the hypocrisy in these words, if you agree with Mr. Adee you are compatible with God, but if you disagree you are labeled as evil and therefore incompatible with God. And Mr. Hinkle does not believe you can hate the sin and love the sinner. Being a parent of four children, I can tell that it is possible. There are many things my children have done, of which I disapproved, but I did not stop loving them. As a pastor, there are times church members have confided in me the sins they have committed, sins of which neither they nor I approved, but I still loved them anyway. I think to be an effective pastor, and in fact a faithful follower of Jesus Christ, it is necessary to look past the sins and faults of others and love them unconditionally. That does not mean, however, we let them stay in their sin. Instead, because of our deep love and compassion, we minister in ways to help set them free from their sins, set them free in a restored relationship with God and others.

    by David

    May 7, 2012

  14. I believe the argument, "Hate the sin, love the sinner," is bogus. Robert, plenty of highly reputable Biblical scholars would disagree with your interpretation of Scripture. As far as gays and lesbians not inheriting the Kingdom of God, Scripture has much more to say about others (liars, greedy persons, lazy persons, the list goes one) not inheriting the Kingdom of God. When those who vilify gays and lesbians, pursue these other groups of persons with the same vigor and passion, then I take their arguments and perspectives with a lot more validity.

    by Rich Hinkle

    May 7, 2012

  15. Perhaps someone needs to get Michael Adee a copy of the Bible, so he could read that in both the Old Testament (where he called homosexuality an "abomination" and said they should be put to death) and the New Testament (where he said homosexuals won't inherit the Kingdom of God) homosexuality is as incompatible with Christian teaching as any of the other "capital punishment" sins (adultery, idolatry, etc.). Telling the truth that homosexuality is sin is not hatred, sexism, racism, etc. -- it is simply the Gospel truth. Hate the sin, love the sinner. Absolutely, anyone can be saved, but acting like it's not sin does a great disservice to both God and the sinner. As long as we support the sinner's in seeking to repent, telling the truth is not a phobia (fear) but is actually the best kind of love.

    by Robert

    May 4, 2012

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