For those of us who profess to be Christians, the Bible is our best resource on how God expects his people to think and live. We are guided by the Ten Commandments in the Old Testament, the beatitudes and the teachings of Jesus from the New Testament.
As a young boy in a rural community in southwest Fulton County, Georgia, I walked several miles to elementary school along one side of the road, and our black neighbors children walked to their separate schools on the other side of the road. We spoke and were respectful, but we did not associate socially. There were no conflicts, we thought this arrangement was very normal. Several decades later, I attended Ga. Tech in an all-white, male only, student population. This all changed in the late fifties, but it was a normal tradition while I attended Tech through 1954.
We have all lived through several cultural traditions that seemed at the time to be normal, correct and in keeping with God’s will. However, we must confess that over time, traditions change and we learn to adjust what we think is right or wrong. Please examine attachment 1 – a list of historical traditions. Remember, it took the best minds of the Christian church over two hundred years to admit that Copernicus was correct that the earth orbits around the sun rather than the ancient tradition that the earth was the center of our solar system. Please recall, that our beautiful democratic nation existed for more than one hundred years under the premise that – all peoples are created equal – before women in 1920 were allowed to own property, hold a bank account and to vote. It was a tradition, back then, that society should be dominated and controlled by the male population.
We have all been brought up believing in a series of traditions that for the most part served us well. For many years during my younger life, I was taught to believe that homosexuals were misfits, abnormal and unacceptable members of society. I was culturally conditioned to believe that homosexuality was evil and outside God’s will. Please note the attached list of alleged problems associated with homosexuality (attachment 2). It would seem, however, that in today’s world these are outdated statements.
Well, what does the Bible say about homosexuality? We find statements in I Corinthians, and Romans in the New Testament and Leviticus in the Old Testament that homosexuality is a sin. To the extent that any evidence exists that deviate sexual conduct is associated with homosexuality, I agree, it is a sin! But one must carefully evaluate the conclusions of the medical profession regarding homosexuality before passing judgment on it as a sin. Please note the attached summary, gained from the medical profession regarding homosexuality (attachment 3). If these statements are true, then regardless of what the Bible says – homosexuality is not a sin! To classify as a sin, any act or condition must meet the test of free will – a deliberate act against the will of God.
In the midst of these considerations, one might ask the question: “What would Jesus say about homosexuality?” I’m not sure, but I think he might say:
- Anyone who is not guilty of sin, let him cast the first stone.
- Judge not that ye be not judged.
- God is the only one who should judge a person’s sins, beliefs and conduct.
- Inclusion offers hope for redemption, exclusion isolates and condemns.
- Be sure one is correctly plowing his own fields, before he seeks to teach others how to plow.
- “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass and tingling symbol. And though I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge and though I have all faith so that I can move mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.”
So how shall our Christian churches address the sensitive issues of homosexuality with so many different perspectives among its loyal and sincere members? First, our United Methodist Church accepts and supports any and all homosexuals as full members of our faith. Thus far, the major controversial restrictions appear to be:
- Ordained ministers may not marry persons of the same gender.
- Homosexuals may not become ordained ministers.
Harsh punishments apply to any ministers that ignore or disobey these strict church doctrines.
As time passes, sides are being drawn within the clergy and also the active laity, with some defending the current church doctrine and others feeling a less rigid position is needed. Some church leaders have concluded that strong unyielding positions on both sides could lead to a structural split in the Methodist church at large.
With due respect for both sides, one has to ask: “What would be accomplished by dividing a large and very successful church organization into smaller parts? Is there a way to seek a logical reconciliation that will satisfy a majority – fully recognizing that compromises must be made? Are we “head locked” by tradition or shall we seek the power of the Holy Spirit as our guide? There is no doubt about it – traditions die slowly and beliefs and past history often cloud our vision of the future. I have no magic or simple answers but here are my final thoughts:
- God cares for and loves all people – the rich, the poor, the educated, the uneducated, the normal and the not normal, and the able and the disabled.
- Must all church doctrine be rigid without flexibility?
- Should our church leadership listen more to their hearts than to some selected, ancient Biblical text. Paul was not always correct in his assessment of rules for living.
- Within reasonable bounds, could the church leadership find ways to accommodate both sides by giving some latitude to individual pastors and their church congregations?
- I believe in playing win/win – not win/lose. When we play win/lose on serious issues – everybody loses.
- As an active layman, I seek to judge others by their character and their conduct – irrespective of their race, gender, theological beliefs or sexual orientation.
- Hey, I’m old and mostly a “theological traditionalist” – but praise God, I’m still growing and learning and looking for new and more inspiring interpretations of God’s Word.
- It is my sincere prayer that compromise shall prevail and any thoughts of splitting will be avoided. Jesus said: “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free”.