In my previous post, I complained about a clergy colleague who, in a blog post, said that theological conservatives don’t “believe that God does new things outside of the knowledge base of those who wrote the scriptures under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.” In other words, when the authors of scripture condemned homosexual behavior in the strongest terms possible, they weren’t condemning homosexual relationships as we understand them today—as loving, consensual, monogamous, and covenantal. That wasn’t part of their “knowledge base” concerning homosexuality.
The Bible, therefore, has little to say about the issue that risks splitting our church today. So we are free to interpret this momentum to change our church’s doctrine on sex and marriage as nothing less than the work of the Holy Spirit.
He then argues that the Bible isn’t an exclusive repository of all truth (a point that no one, to my knowledge, disputes). So why are we Methodists hitching our doctrinal wagon to something about which scripture is silent?
In my brief reply, I wrote:
No. What revisionists on this issue ask us to believe is that the Holy Spirit is “showing us something new,” which contradicts what the Spirit has already shown us.
Arguments about truth outside of scripture are beside the point. Quantum mechanics is beyond the scope of the Bible. Sex and marriage are not.
To these brief words, another clergy colleague said, “Brent- really not sure anyone is asking you to believe anything. ”
His point is that under the changes that many people within the UMC are proposing, progressive clergy will be free to solemnize gay weddings just as conservative clergy will be free not to. We’ll all have freedom of conscience on this issue.
Aside from the fact that I was using “asking us to believe” as a figure of speech, and that I was using “us” collectively—to represent not only me but the church as a whole (I assume that progressive clergy will try to persuade their congregations to see things their way)—is my colleague’s statement even true?
For one thing, we are a “connectional” church. I could be appointed to the same local church as a progressive pastor or deacon who opposes the traditional view that I hold. Am I supposed to be O.K. with their teaching or preaching something to my congregation that I believe is deeply in error? Am I supposed to tell the congregation that, despite what they’ve been told by my well-credentialed colleague, he or she is wrong? Or vice versa?
Or am I supposed to ignore the issue in the interest of peace and harmony? (Not that most United Methodist clergy aren’t already doing this.)
To say the least, this would create great confusion among the flocks that we shepherd.
So, yes, even if we change our doctrine to reflect an “agree to disagree” position on this subject, the church would be asking me to believe something important: It would be asking me to believe that the issue of homosexual behavior is a matter of theological indifference, or of merely secondary concern next to the main task of making disciples of Jesus Christ.
Never mind that from my perspective we’re not making disciples properly unless we’re teaching them to repent of their sin, which includes all sexual sin, and to obey God’s Word, which includes his words about sexual complementarity as one prerequisite for marriage.