I pity the poor UMC centrist

March 4, 2015

… if there still is such a thing. In this fine blog post, “The Squeezing of the Middle in the UMC Sexuality Debate,” Chris Ritter puts his finger on a problem that I’ve noticed as well:

Once it is allowed that there might be a legitimate reading of the Christian scriptures that somehow permits homosexual practices in the life of the church, there is tremendous pressure exerted by our culture and its chaplains to accept only that reading.  Never mind that the hermeneutical gymnastics needed for such an interpretation require multiple contorted leaps from the starting point of an established agenda (the very definition of eisegesis).  Never mind the two thousand years of unanimous Christian thought about those texts.  The exotic reading of the text must become the exclusive reading and all else abandoned in light of the new orthodoxy.  I sometimes think that the most stressed person in our denomination right now must be Adam Hamilton.  He has opened a door for a reading of scripture that allows for legitimacy of homosexual practice while not yet stating whether he would perform a same-sex wedding if allowed to do so.  He will only feel the tightrope narrow under his feet.  The victim of absolutism is moderation.

17 Responses to “I pity the poor UMC centrist”

  1. Grant Says:

    That pretty much echoes my thoughts on the matter.

  2. Josh Says:

    There is no such a thing as a UMC centrist. There is no middle ground in this sexual ethics debate – you either affirm thousands of years of traditional Christian belief that the only place for sexual intercourse is between a man and woman joined by the holy covenant of marriage or you ignore history, scripture, tradition, and reason and go with the flow of a sexually perverse culture. There’s not much wiggle room there.
    I do know what some are saying . . . that the church needs to not be selective in what sin it condemns. But you can’t use that argument to affirm homosexual behavior. That’s like saying, “Well, you’re sucky in this area so you should just accept being sucky in this area too.” Dumb.
    I really don’t feel too sorry for these folks who call themselves “centrists.” It actually offends me. It’s like they are saying that they are above everybody else and everybody just needs to believe like they do and we’ll have peace in the valley. But then, they refuse to affirm belief about anything at all. A lack of conviction about something important as sexual ethics is not something they should brag about.
    The other day I went to the site of some of these so-called “centrists” and it seemed that their beliefs leaned a little further left than advertised. So, no . . . I don’t really feel sorry for the so-called centrists.

    • brentwhite Says:

      The “centrists” in the North Georgia Conference are, in general—at least among clergy—merely theological liberals who are willing to bide their time for a little while longer.

      Buy why? Why are they willing to be a part of an institution that causes all the harm they say our doctrine on sexuality causes? They’re part of the problem! Their hands aren’t clean. If they really believe what they say, why wouldn’t they break church law or (preferably) join one of the many mainline denominations that “welcome and affirm” the LGBTQ, etc.?

  3. victorgalipi Says:

    Adam Hamilton and his Bible revisionist friends can interpret, re-interpret, and twist the Scriptures all they want. The word of God is not subject to their interpretations.

    “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” (2 Pet 1:19-20).

    The word of God says what it says. God speaks plainly, it is we who confuse and complicate things because we can’t handle what He is saying.

    God’s word is clear: homosexuality is a sin.

    The collapse of the middle is no surprise, because it was an illusion to start with, an illusion created by Bible revisionists who were just trying a different tactic. A tactic that was not working.

    They were never interested in coming to any sort of compromise or peaceful coexistence. If this wasn’t evident it should have been, with all the bullying, hateful language, and disruptions of meetings and conferences by the Bible revisionists. This stuff didn’t just start happening yesterday. Just participate in some “holy conferencing” or “dialoguing” about homosexuality, and everything from presentations to the flow of the gathering will almost certainly favor those in support of unconditional full inclusion of unrepentant homosexuals in the full life of the church.

    Now, with GC 2016 approaching fast, and more and more people, including young people, embracing the orthodox and traditional view, Bible revisionists are becoming desperate.

    That’s why the increase in clergy officiating and participating in same sex unions with no significant consequences, unrepentant homosexual clergy being ordained, and more rules and legislation and resolutions in defiance of the Discipline.

    We who want our denomination to follow what the Bible says
    need to stand our ground and stand on the word of God. It is vital that we do so if we are to be true to God, be faithful witnesses to the world, and be able to loving reach out to homosexuals by giving them the truth they need and not the lies some think they need. For the truth will make you free.

    • brentwhite Says:

      Hold on, Victor… Are you saying that it’s possible to love our homosexual friends by telling them the truth that homosexual behavior is sinful and destructive? According to our liberal friends, the only loving thing to do is to tell them that they’re fine, just the way they are—that we’re all fine, just the way we are.

      • victorgalipi Says:

        Brent, don’t you mean that they say we’re all fine just the way we are, unless we are evangelical, orthodox or conservative, in which case we are hateful, homophobic, Bible-thumping right wing extremist bigots?

        Personally, I don’t see how you could be more hateful to a homosexual or to anybody else than to lie to them and tell them that their destructive sin that separates them from God is not a sin but is given to them and blessed by God so there is no need for repentance, freedom from sin, reconciliation with God and eternal life.

      • brentwhite Says:

        Yes, but what about divorce and remarriage? The Bible also says women can’t speak in church! And what about slavery? Leviticus says you can’t eat shellfish, but I bet you do that! You say marriage is between one man and one woman, but there were really many “biblical” kinds of marriage. We all pick and choose what parts of the Bible to believe!

        Besides, Jesus never said anything about it, and Paul had no concept of homosexuality as we understand it today! Why would you deny love and sexual fulfillment to someone, especially since God made them that way? Sodom and Gomorrah was all about a failure to show hospitality, not homosexual practice. We’re all sinners, so who are you to judge? Besides, don’t you know that gay kids are killing themselves because of hateful Christian bigots like you?

        Sorry, does that about cover it, or am I leaving something out?

  4. Josh Says:

    I hate to comment too much in one thread but I think those who call themselves “centrists” are not “central” to anything. They are just “company guys” who want to keep the “machine” together. They would be fine with a BOD amendment that would allow churches/individuals to choose-their-own-adventure with the issue of homosexuality because it would preserve the bureaucracy. When I worked in a factory, we called them suck-ups. They would tell the union people what they wanted to hear and then go tell the supervisors what they wanted to hear. They wanted to keep the favor of everybody and ended up losing the respect of all. I don’t want to stereotype or cast too wide a blanket but I have already encountered way too much of this suck-up mentality. Suck up to the DS, suck up to the bishop, suck up to the pastor-parish committee . . .it’s nothing but guile, a work of the flesh.

    • brentwhite Says:

      There’s probably an element of that. I only wish we were all as committed to the authority of God’s Word as we are to the institution of the United Methodist Church!

  5. Grant Essex Says:

    Satan seeks every opportunity to divide and destroy the Church, the Body of Jesus Christ. He has to be loving what this issue is doing to the church. The problem is that there are well meaning people on both sides of this debate, and they can’t both be right. I’ll go with God’s word and not with the modernists and their “inclusiveness at the expense of all else approach”.

    • brentwhite Says:

      There are well-meaning people on both sides. And I need to remind myself, despite how often I get my feelings hurt by personal attacks, that people on the other side are not my enemies. But you’re right: we do have an Enemy who is using this issue to harm the cause of Christ.

      Grant, this issue is personal for me, not because I’ve struggled with same-sex attraction, but because I used to be on the other side of the debate. I remember how lightly I regarded the authority of scripture back then, and I’m ashamed of it.

      Not everyone is as bad as I was back then, of course… But I do believe that this issue comes down to the authority of scripture. Can we trust what the Bible says, or can’t we? Is God telling us the truth through scripture or isn’t he?

  6. Grant Essex Says:

    Not to mention transgender, bi-sexuality, and all the other perversions of the natural order of God’s creation. Polygamy seems mild by comparison……..

  7. […] Brent White highlights a posting by Chris Ritter which brings up a great point of the ‘rock and hard place’ spot that many centrist pastors in the United Methodist Church would face if the church would take a theologically pro-position for LGBT persons. […]

  8. Bruce Says:

    We are no longer safe even in the Bible belt state of Florida:

    Here is some guidance that Florida Bishop Ken Carter provided to his pastors after reminding them that they could not officiate at same sex marriages in UMC facilities:

    “If invited, and if your conscience leads you, you may provide pastoral counseling, read scripture, offer a prayer, or give the homily at a same-gender service held in an alternative setting. Whether to do so, or not, is an act of conscience. You can be pastorally present to your people in these ways, and, in my interpretation, these ways of proclaiming the gospel do not compromise the promises made in your ordination.”

    Four of the nine general superintendents in the Florida conference endorsed Adam Hamilton’s progressive “A Way Forward for the UMC” as did Bishop Carter’s top aide David Dodge and other key staff members.

    • victorgalipi Says:

      Well, Brent, as to divorce and remarriage, I believe it is wrong where the Bible says it is wrong. However, two wrongs don’t make a right. Just because standards on divorce and remarriage have been lowered doesn’t mean we should just lower all the standards on everything. Besides, not everyone has lowered the standards, I certainly haven’t.

      The “women being silent in the Church” are another tired excuse used by Bible revisionists. We no longer say that, so why should we any longer say homosexuality is a sin?, the argument goes.

      The verses from which some have claimed women are to be silent in the church are clearly taken out of context by those who make this claim. 1 Cor 14 for example must be read in the total context of 1 Cor 11-14 relating to the Body of Christ and public worship. In chapter 11 we are already told that women are prophesying and praying in church in a way that does not indicate disapproval. So clearly 1 Cor 14 must be speaking to certain women in a certain context, just like 1 Tim 2. Also, in the larger context of the NT, it is clear that there were women leaders in the church.

      The point is that it is not all clear that women speaking in church is a sin, but the Bible is clear that homosexuality is a sin.

      The same is true with slavery. One sin does not justify another, and if you read the Bible carefully, there are even OT passages which call for both an ease in freeing slaves and for treating them more as hired servants paying off debts than slavery as we think of it from pre-Civil War days. The Book of Philemon alone is a good argument from Paul for an end to slavery. There is nothing like this that puts an end to homosexuality.

      As to my beloved shellfish, in the Gospel of Mark chapter 7 Jesus declared all foods clean. Nowhere did Jesus declare homosexuality not a sin, and neither did anyone else in the Bible.

      Speaking of Jesus, He did say something about homosexuality when He condemned adultery and fornication, which covers sex outside of marriage between, as He says in Mt 19, one man and one woman. Which He also says in Gen 2. Yes, Jesus said it because Jesus is The Christ The Son of God, Who with The Father and The Holy Spirit have authored all of the Scriptures. So in every passage about homosexuality in The Bible, Jesus the Christ spoke about it, as sin.

      To say Paul had no concept of homosexuality as we understand it today first of all reads our modern understanding back on Paul and what he, inspired by The Holy Spirit wrote, and that is eisegesis. Also, this only shows that “our” modern understanding is faulty, not Paul’s understanding.

      As to different kinds of marriage in the Bible, there was only one God approved of, as Jesus makes clear in Mt 19.

      A sinful relationship cannot be a loving one since sin is utterly opposed to love, and thus it cannot be a satisfying relationship.

      And to say God makes people so that they have to do something He says is sin is a mockery of God, a setting up of God in one’s own image, an idol.

      Sodom and Gommorah was all about homosexuality, as is made clear in the story and in what the Apostle Jude says about it in his book of the Bible.

      Concerning judging, the Bible says we are to know people by their fruits, and that we are to exercise discernment.

      Tragically, gay kids, and adults, do sometimes kill themselves. That may sometimes happen because of hateful bigots, but those hateful bigots are no more Christian than my Honda CR-V is a Rolls Royce. I love homosexual persons, and it pains me when they commit suicide or self-harm, but usually they do this because they know what they are doing is wrong. The stories of these poor souls and their tragic relationships and lifestyles are untold, as the stories of the many homosexuals who come to Christ and leave homosexuality behind, are untold by those who are more concerned about political correctness because their stories just don’t fit.

      If anyone is being hateful toward people who are homosexual, it is those who lie to them and tell them that they are not sinning and God blesses what they do. This encourages them to remain in a sinful and self-destructive lifestyle instead of repenting and turning to God for full salvation, forgiveness and freedom from sin.

      Did we miss anything, Brent?

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