An unlikely ally for UMC traditionalists like me

December 12, 2013

I don’t know Gerry Hill, a soon-to-be retired United Methodist elder. I utterly disagree with his characterization of our church’s traditional stance on human sexuality. I resent the premise behind his statement that the UMC “contributes to a culture that would have LBGTQ youth commit suicide before it would fully include them into the life of the Church”—as if “LBGTQ” youth (good heavens, can we at least decide on the order of our initials, or is that discriminatory as well?) commit suicide because of the United Methodist Church! As if it’s one or the other! As if people like me are condoning other people killing themselves! (Why not go reductio ad Hiterum while you’re at it?)

To put it as mildly as possible, if homosexual behavior is sinful, as two millennia of Christian thinkers have interpreted the Bible to mean, it would be unloving—indeed, harmful to the souls of people within our care—to teach otherwise. You may disagree that homosexual behavior is a sin, as many of my clergy colleagues do, but surely you don’t disagree with the principle involved.

So Gerry Hill and I don’t see eye-to-eye, and, to say the least, I don’t think he’s fairly representing his brothers and sisters in Christ who hold to the church’s traditional teaching.

But I give him credit for his newfound integrity. He lists the vows that he (and all of us UMC clergy) made at ordination. Then he writes:

When I answered these questions, I lied about #9. I had studied the doctrines of the United Methodist Church and I found that many or most of them aligned with my understanding of scripture. But, there was at least one glaring contradiction for me: The Church’s doctrine as it relates to homosexuality: “The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.” (Par 161F) I don’t believe this is “in harmony with the Holy Scriptures.” I have always known, to the core of my soul, that Jesus loves and accepts all people. The UMC is wrong on this issue. It’s been wrong since this language was first voted into the Discipline in 1972.

Still, I answered, “Yes.” I guess I thought, “Yes, for the most part. That is good enough. Lots of people in the UMC share my view.” So I spent the next 27 years of my life as an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church.

But he’s had a change of heart. He can no longer in good conscience be United Methodist, so he’s taking early retirement.

Good for him! I’m sure that one of the UMC’s other mainline sisters who have recently changed their stance on sexuality will gladly welcome him into their ever-dwindling fold.

In fact, I could hardly agree more with the following statement, although even I wouldn’t put it so strongly (emphasis mine):

But what I find even more distressing, honestly, are the liberal and progressive UM clergy who are incensed by the Church doing what it always said it would do. It is enforcing the beliefs and policies that it adopted as its Discipline. The people out of integrity are not those prosecuting the offenders. They are, actually, acting in harmony with their view of a judgmental God who withholds salvation from sinners. The are following the Book of Discipline, the same one we all answered “Yes” when asked if we would support and maintain it.

Whether one agrees with the UMC’s recent actions or not, he writes, the church is at least acting with integrity.

For what it’s worth, I even agree with the last part of that second sentence: I do believe in a “judgmental” God who “withholds salvation from sinners.” In the interest of justice and the ultimate defeat of evil, I hope God is judgmental! And, yes, God “withholds salvation” from everyone who won’t avail themselves of Christ’s atoning work. What would you have God do? Force himself on someone, irrespective of their own will?

But God’s forgiveness and saving grace are freely available to all sinners, including even sinners like me.

2 Responses to “An unlikely ally for UMC traditionalists like me”

  1. Clay Knick Says:

    One issue here among many others is our soft universalism. And mix in some MTD and there you have it (with some other things, too).

    • brentwhite Says:

      Which raises the question: How many of the Articles of Religion do people like this guy disagree with? There are larger areas of disagreement than this one issue. Of course, we’ve known that, right?


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