Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Al Mohler on the UMC's struggle to make sense of homosexuality

Albert Mohler, a leader in the Southern Baptist Church, summarizes and supports an evangelical United Methodist pastor in his discussion of sexuality. Thanks to Brian Bill for the link.

18 comments:

JD said...

Jason,

I find it interesting that you posted that article. I made mention of this in one of my comments a month or so ago about my church and a church a little north of Houston leaving if some of the stances on homosexuality were not cleaned up...Woodlands United Methodist Church is the other church.

I appreciate the Holy Spirit working through Renfroe to share and explain such a divisive topic. In looking at some of the other articles on the Good News Magazine website, it looks like there is even more fire coming at the next general conference. I still think that the UMC is about to go the route of the Episcopal church because of this one topic and some Christian's inability to recognize that God does not change, we change...as Renfroe discussed in his first point.

Thanks for trolling the net for us. :)

PAX
JD

Armando said...

Jason,

Homosexuality is indeed a symptom, not the main problem. In pastoral care, we identify this as the manifestation of inner wounds. I believe something similar has to do with the structural issues risen by the article.

Well, the challenge for the Methodists is not to split as the Anglicans did on this particular issue. Honestly, I believe that this is the time for prophetic voices all over the world. Prophetic voices challenging the believers to come back to the unchanging God of the Bible.

I still believe that accepting homosexuality as a viable Christian option is closing the doors of the Church to those who struggle with unwanted same-sex attractions.

Blessings,

A

JD said...

I have always looked at it this way, whether it is "genetic" or a choice, or both, the "feelings" are not what is the biggest problem, acting upon them is.

Similar to a heterosexual couple. To be attracted to the opposite sex is not wrong, to engage in sexual activity, outside of marriage, is. Since the act of sex is a sacred act to take place between a man and a woman for procreation purposes,(yea it feels good, we'd die off if it did not. it is an expression of love, but should always be open to life...Catholic in thought, but there non the less) those that are "homosexual" and act upon their feelings in a way that is not open to life, which is every act, then those sexual acts, no matter how loving, are wrong...just as wrong as a man and a woman having sex before marriage.

I have read some blogs that state condemnation of homosexuality is a fallacy because it was in Exodus and Christ came to free us all from sin. Ok, yes, but He also said he came to fulfill the law and not abolish it. Too many Christians today do not realize 2 things: 1. God and His commandments are unchanging and 2. Even though most of the Christian faith is based in the New Testament, the Old Testament still does exist...it has not been abolished.

Stirring the pot :)
PAX
JD

JD said...

Oh...I am not saying that the church not minister to homosexuals, that would be like saying se should not minister to all sinners, adulters, thieves, etc. What I am saying, and what most of the issues are, is that if the Discipline of the church says a pastor, that is a "practicing" homosexual, is still practicing and known to be, then they should be removed from their pastrol duties. I feel the same for a pastor that is involved in a known adulterous affair. Pastors, and Jason, you can correct me on this, are held as an example in the church. Deliberately breaking commandments and not setting a Christian example, affects the congregation as a whole.

IMHO....
PAX
JD

Nick Draper said...

I haven't really landed on any of these issues yet, so I'll do my best to break the motonony.

Righteousness is indeed determined by God's unchanging character. But since when have we understood all of righteousness? Back in Jesus' time, if anyone had a handle on righteousness, it was the Pharisees, but they completely missed the point of the Tanakh. So I'm not willing to say that my take on righteousness is 100% in line with God. I do my best, but I'm often wrong. When I find out I'm wrong, my understanding of God's righteousness changes.

The Bible does indeed contain truth for all people in all times. But it was written at a particular time, and in a particular culture. (Just give the average layman a copy of what we have of the Bible and see how far he gets. Most people I know haven't had training in ancient Hebrew and Greek.) What this means for us is that in order to understand all of its impact, we should try to understand the culture it was written in. Wanting to understand more of the context of the Bible certainly does not silence it. It has strengthened my respect for the authority of Scripture considerably.

For the third point, I'll again reference the NT period. I'm quite certain the religious authorities would say that the work of Jesus contradicted the Scriptures. He didn't - everything he did was the fulfillment of God's plan, but that was pretty hard to see at the time. A guy claiming to be the Messiah without bringing the eschaton was a blasphemer at best.
And then there's Paul, who said that Christians didn't have to follow all of the Torah. That was crazy revisionist even for the other apostles, yet we accept his teachings as inspired today.

And I really fail to grasp the connection between one's position on sexuality and one's position on the work of Christ. And I'm not sure I quite understand what "plain teachings" he's talking about. Is he talking about the one where men can have multiple wives, or the one where a widow who hadn't consummated must marry her dead husband's brother to bear progeny? Do we really defend those? Yet we claim to be under the authority of Christ.

If we're really to be under Biblical authority, then I suggest we take a little more care when saying that we have a clear handle on what it's saying.

JD, you've done an outstanding job commenting on this. I just have a couple questions about your third post.

Too many Christians today do not realize 2 things: 1. God and His commandments are unchanging and 2. Even though most of the Christian faith is based in the New Testament, the Old Testament still does exist...it has not been abolished.

So if the commandments in the OT still apply because God is unchanging...then why aren't we following all 613 laws in the Torah?

I don't have an answer to most of this...I just want to know what a consistent position can look like.

JD said...

Nick,

That is a good question. I think a great deal of my comment is wrapped around 2 things:

1) the 10 Commandments are unchanging. I challenge you to read The Sinai Summit: Meeting God in Our Character Crisis by Rick Atchley. It really delves into how Americans, and Christians, have begun to water down or misrepresent the 10 Commandments.

2) As far as the OT, I see your comment about the Torah, but raise you with this thought. Christ came and continually scolded the Pharisees for being to, for lack of a better word, “lawy – to be burdened by laws.”(yes I made it up) He taught that He was the way to life….that it was by your faith that you were saved. But, he also was a man, though against being too “lawy,” still practiced his Jewish faith, attended temple, read the Torah and followed the law, except through civil disobedience. I believe Christ came to say, the laws are real, should be followed, but should not be the basis for what you do. Follow the Commandments because you love Him, not because you think that it will help you get somewhere. So when there are commentaries on morality and even sanitation, such as in Exodus, those commentaries that deal with sexuality, morals, and are not about taking 3 steps forward and 2 back, should still be lived out.

You may disagree with this and in reading the OT, I realize that there is a great many rules that some Jews and Christians follow, and others do not, but if it is re-emphasized by Paul in the New Testament, I really think it to be important.

This all, of course, is MHO….

PAX
JD

Larry B said...

Nick,

"So if the commandments in the OT still apply because God is unchanging...then why aren't we following all 613 laws in the Torah?"

In my opinion it's not that unclear.

Don't forget the letter from the Jerusalem council to the gentile believers in Acts 15.

It clearly denoted what from the Torah applied to gentiles - only 4 particulars. abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meat of strangled animals, and from sexual immorality. This was a direct reference to the sexual ethics of the Torah.

Even Paul, who is sometimes characterized as dismissing the law , agrees with this and staunchly defends this later by telling the Corinthians to expel a brother who had been sexually immoral.

So either Paul is inconsistent and not to be trusted, or he is consistent in both his teaching and practice.

Calling today's Christians to Paul's standards shouldn't be an unrealistic expectation.

JD said...

Larry B,

I had forgotten about the decision and really the first split in the church from Acts. Thanks for sharing that.

PAX
JD

Nick Draper said...

larry b,

Good call on the Jerusalem council decision. I'd forgotten what all was involved with that. Thanks for clearing up things with refernce to Torah obedience.

And yes, I think that aside from normal healthy spiritual growth, Paul is extremely consistent.

Coming back to the homosexuality issue. The church's stance on this has always puzzled me a bit. I definitely agree that we should be doing all we can to root out sin. What confuses me is why we defrock a pastor for engaging in homosexual activity, but not one who gets a divorce - a direct command from Jesus about sexual morality.

-Seeking helpful advice from people who are wiser than I am.

JD said...

Nick,

Not sure about that one (Jason, you out there?). My stance has always been equal treatment on both sides of the aisle, if a pastor is having an adulterous affair, defrock them too. Whether we want to admit it, pastors, guys like you and me that post, and other lay members of church communities, have an example to put forth. Now, I am not saying I don't screw up, cause the Lord knows...I SCREW up, but as leader of a community, there is the supposed higher standard. Heck, I would expect a single pastor, living with a person of the opposite sex, without being married to be defrocked. Not setting an example.

As for divorce, depends on the reason (a) and depends if it was ever really a marriage to begin with (b). Coming from the Catholic background, that is really important (the marriage or not for annulment thing). I knew a man in college that had been divorced from his wife. It was not his choice, but he kept God's Word and never re-married, or even dated to re-marry. Very spiritual and wonderful man.

Anyway, back on point. Nick, I will not say that I am wiser than you, probably just a little more opinionated and vocal about things. I also enjoy these discussions because they challenge me to pray and re-read scripture in order to get a better understanding of these subjects.

As a final comment, my WHOLE beef with all this goes back to...well, I was going to try to name one of the points Pastor Renfroe made, but I will have to take them all, especially 1 and 2.

Anyway, got to get up in about 2 1/2 hours.

PAX
JD

Jason Woolever said...

hey guys, great discussion. i've been thinking about this issue for about 8.5 years and i'm at this point:
1) the bible seems to clearly speak against homosexual sexual behavior.
2) when we spend more time talking about about homosexuals than talking to them about their predicament, we engage in enflamed rhetoric which strengthens our opinions but makes us less tender-hearted and Christlike.
3) the divorce thing is a great point. we as a culture have accepted divorce and remarriage, so we nearly unanimously accept it within churches. yet Jesus did speak specifically about it. in other words, if we can get a consensus to let one thing from the bible slide, we just let it sit there, ignore it, and don't talk about it much any more. the same should be said of materialism in the United States. we've done a bad job of looking the other way, bashing gays, and accumulating nicer cars, bigger houses, juicy retirements, etc, while thousands of people die of starvation and treatable diseases everyday.
4) i'm not ready to embrace the ordination of practicing homosexuals, but i feel the church needs to change our posture toward homosexuals and stop scapegoating them so we can avoid dealing with other sins. i also think we need to be willing to speak the truth in love about the divorce issue and the materialism issue.
Maybe a starting point would be to begin to show the same understanding toward gays that we show to remarrying people and rich people.

Nick Draper said...

Jason,

I really think that's the wisest and most Christ-like point I've heard since I was old enough to start hearing about church issues.

It's been my own experience (I won't say this is necessarily true in general) that as one gathers friends in the LGBT community, understanding and empathy begins to creep into the conversation. (I'm really only talking about 2 people - one being myself - but we both came from a hardline judgmental position to...well, I don't know how to articulate a position but it's not really an issue for us anymore. Sort of similar to how divorce and materialism [to use your examples] aren't looked at like stigmatizing traits in America.)

Just wondering if that's been your experience too.

JD said...

One other thing was a conversation I had with one of my students the other night after FPU class. We talked about the article and she brought up that she is torn because her nephew and another family member are homosexual. We talked about being Christ-like and focusing on the "love the sinner, hate the sin," mentality. And as Nick said, it brings the humanness into it.

My biggest issue with the whole situation stems, partly, from the political side of things, but I have told myself that I would not discuss these issues on my blog or other blogs, but....

Compassion should extend to homosexuals in your church community who are struggling with the same things that heterosexuals are struggling with...money issues, relationship issues, following Christ's call. I believe it just as difficult as dealing with alcoholism, pornography addiction, or infidelity as working through homosexuality (I am not going to go down the political route on this). The church, as Jason stated, brings that compassion to the aforementioned individuals, and offers services, but I think a tough question for the church to answer is: What backlash would we, the UMC, receive if we started 12 steps programs for homosexuals? What if we looked at their struggles and tried to deal with them from the spiritual side, rather than the political? Do we have the courage to do so?...obviously not, since the General Assembly continues to take up this issue.

All these sins have existed since man began to sin. There is a great deal of historical evidence of this. In fact, and I cannot remember the article specifics on this, but the concept of homosexuality was not a moral one until the Jewish people brought it to the forefront. Before that, homosexual acts were thought of as a normal part of an individual’s sexuality. It was a sign of power to be the "penetrator" and a sign of submission to be the “penetratee,” regardless of gender.

Focus, Jeremy! When we, as Christians, begin to discard traditions, scripture, truth, etc for the mores and folkways of a current culture, we do not only do an injustice to ourselves, but to our faith. (Jason brought this up here)

What am I getting at?
1.) Love the sinner, hate the sin
2.) Look for ways, no matter how controversial and seemingly insensitive and non-politically correct, to meet the needs of the homosexual community in your church.
3.) Continue to stand behind God’s word as inerrant and unchanging to fit a culture’s mores and folkways.
4.) Keep the conversation open so that these opinions can help the church grow and minister to a difficult, and often misunderstood, section of our church community.

Hope this brings my thoughts full circle without completely contradicting myself.

PAX
JD

Jason Woolever said...

yeah nick, that's really been my experience. when you know a gay christian and hear the pain they've struggled with trying to figure out why they are the way they are, it really makes your heart melt. many teenager have tried to commit suicide because they couldn't change their orientation. i really wish the bible didn't speak clearly against gay sexual intercourse and that it was a non-issue. i'm torn in two by it, wanting to be fully accepting of gays into church leadership, but not able to reconcile it with God's revelation in Scripture. i think we have to be fair enough to let the issue say that there are many issues that we all need to be held accountable for, and address those as well. when we focus on this issue, we allow ourselves to turn a blind eye to infidelity among clergy, divorce and remarriage, materialism, etc. the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction and there are many (of us) who take it. the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life and there are few who take it.

Dana said...

Trusting God means obeying Him even when we don't want to, or when we don't understand why.

This is often difficult, and rarely fun.

JD said...

Oops!

"I have read some blogs that state condemnation of homosexuality is a fallacy because it was in Exodus and Christ came to free us all from sin."

I meant LEVITICUS...L-E-V-I-T-I-C-U-S you hear :)

Also, link to the other post: Scriptual Basis for What I Believe

PAX
JD

Larry B said...

If I can add a late comment here,

In particular regarding divorce, in most cases, the persons involved don't actively deny their sin and usually seek forgiveness. The defrocked homosexual pastors usually refuse to acknowledge the sin and seek forgiveness. It's a crucial difference.

I won't deny that there is probably a lot of "cheap grace" for some of those who engage in divorce, but that's not for me to sort out.

I agree with Jason et al. that having mercy and compassion on someone isn't contingent on their state of sinfulness. In other words ministering to homosexuals shouldn't be viewed as a problem.

From personal experience with a close friend, I know that church can transform someone from homosexuality . Whether it's true in all cases, I don't really know. But it clearly should be the preferred path. The church seeks (or should seek) transformation from all other forms of sin, so why not this one?

Anonymous said...

Dear brothers,
I was intrigued by this post and the discussion but I wanted to add my thoughts as yet I do not believe anyone writing here has yet hit the nail on the head.

I believe homosexuals are born homosexual - that it is their nature and their inherent desire. As Christians we should actually understand this because it is nothing more than the truth of Original Sin.
All along God's problems with mankind goes far deeper than our actions.
The things we do wrong are what the bible calls our 'sins' but the real problem is what the bible calls our 'sin'. We have inside of us a corrupt and sinful nature that is set against God and that cannot do what it right. The real problem of the chruch today is that most people no longer believe in original sin, and so emphasize free will and the ability to 'choose'.
However we sin because we are sinners not the other way around.
A homosexual is homosexual because they were born with this sinful nature within. Just as we all are, except it manifests itself in us in different ways.

The Old testament (the law) was given in order to show us that we have this 'sin' problem. It is the mirror we must examine ourselves in and when we try to keep the law it shows us that we are incapable to do so. If I may say it reverently, God gave us the law in order becuase he knew we would brake it. He did so in order to show up our sinful nature so we would realize our need for a savior.
God still demands and expects us to obey the law, the problem is we are unable. This is why Jesus came.

Now if we become one with Christ, by faith alone, we are born again and recieve a new holy nature. Our old nature was put to death at the cross of Christ and we recieve this grace through the working of the Holy Spirit in us. See Galatians 2:20

God works in only one way, by putting Christ in our place as our substitute. He died in our place at the cross to save us from wrath and judgment, and he is now to live in us to continually deliver us from sin and fulfill the righteous requirement of the law in us as we walk in the spirit.

If you follow all this through you will see that homosexuals are in need of the gospel - our job is to call them to repent and believe just like all other sinners. Then the Holy Spirit will convict them and draw them to Christ. If only the church would return to simple preaching of Jesus Christ and Him crucified! That is the need of the hour!

Levite
http://swordofthelevite.typepad.com