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Commentary


Agreeing By Disagreeing - Bishop Says Let Pro-homosexuality Activists Prevail In The Church But Pastorally Disagrees*

by Mike Evans


Bishop Whitaker in 2006 is considered by many to be the voice of the orthodoxy in an otherwise overwhelming cacophony of progressive revisionist bishops. It is this writer's opinion that with the death of Bishop Earl Hunt went any strong voice that would outright call evil what it was. See Earl Hunt's comments on The Re-Imagining Conference. Yet for many, Bishop Whitaker is one of the few voices of sanity even bothering to defend in public orthodox views. That brings us to his most recent writing "The Church and Homosexuality" found at http://www.flumc.info/cgi-script/csArticles/articles/000024/002460.htm
I appreciate Bishop Whitaker for his attempt at addressing the issue. Unfortunately, it is not what I had hoped to hear. These are some of the problems I have with the article as is:

First, in his opening he says homosexuality is the most decisive issue. Though this is true, nowhere in his opening or anywhere else does he address the radical activism of The Reconciling Ministries Network. Nor does he address the role of activist bishops who in many cases are administrating their conferences as if The BOD had already changed on this matter. The history of the episcopacy is littered with examples of poor administration and enforcement of our rules. Something changed over the years. We went from a society and a church that had no problems expecting repentance to allowing almost anything because we can't judge one another.

Second, Bishop Whitaker makes a point about "same sex attraction" verses gay, lesbian or homosexual. Unfortunately Bishop Whitaker and those that advocate change are not on the same wave length. Like the student doing math in particular fractions, in order to do most functions you have to get to a common denominator. In this case the language that should be used is that of those who are advocating change (The RMN) and thus gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender, queer and other terms should be used. Those who are advocating change are not just struggling with same sex attraction. They are advocating the celebration of same sex action that includes words and descriptions I would prefer not to go into here.

Third, under the section "Theology" that begins, "Theoretically, there is a way that the Christian tradition can change" Bishop Whitaker does not acknowledge that this is already taking place and has been for years. It noted in UM Bishop Watch that administratively bishops have failed to enforce standards in this area and entire annual conferences and one jurisdiction in the past have declared they will not enforce the discipline in areas relating to homosexuality. Yet even in worship change is being forced upon us. The Women's Division in their 2006 meeting in Anaheim California force a pro-homosexual speaker and an openly lesbian singer upon the gathering. And GC 2008 has already appointed two openly pro-homosexual advocates to lead all worship services. The change his is talking about is not theoretically changing. It is taking place already after decades of the liberalization of our United Methodist schools and seminaries.

Fourth, under "Sexuality" Bishop Whitaker discusses "natural desires". Thankfully he does not go as far as the activists equating our natural desires with God's will. The problem is he does not acknowledge that biblical teachings around sexuality quite simple. Sexuality is to be limited to monogamous heterosexual couples. Anything outside of that is off limits and will not be blessed either on earth or in heaven. The problem is the academic community of which the episcopacy are a part cannot accept such simplicity. Yet when a person delves into examples of infidelity it is never without consequence.

Fifth, the most disturbing part of Bishop Whitaker's article is under "Ministry to Homosexuals". It states:

"I believe it is important for the church to take a pastoral approach toward homosexuals. This may include receiving into membership those who are in monogamous same-sex relationships and those who define themselves as “gay” or “lesbian.” As a pastor of people, the church understands there are those who will interpret their same-sex attraction according to the framework of interpretation supplied by the society and surrounding culture. Personal acceptance instead of argument with their adoption of societal identities is the responsibility of a church that proclaims and embodies the grace of God in Jesus Christ. Every one of us begins the Christian life with identities formed by family, class and nation that undergo a transformation over time by the grace of God.

The church understands the grace of God is one grace in several operations: it includes prevenient, justifying, sanctifying and perfecting grace. No person who trusts in the grace of God in Jesus Christ in the beginning remains the same; she or he grows in grace over a lifetime. To bar persons from membership in the church because they are not yet living in the direction God reveals for human beings is to prevent them from experiencing the environment of grace. If this were the case, which one of us would ever be qualified to be a member of the church?"

This is reflective of an "open membership" understanding. You let everyone come in and pray to God they change. The problem with the pro-homosexual activist there is nothing about homosexuality from which to repent. For this group it is not a sickness, not a sin. They were "made right the first time" and thus change is highly unlikely. In this section and in this paper this paper the real issue is skirted; the place of repentance in the life of a believer. This open membership idea is all to common. Whitaker's statements here do not go as far as "The Kammerer Directive" to Rev. Johnson ordering him to let in an openly homosexual person but it comes to close for comfort given that Bishop Whitaker is considered one of our most orthodox bishops.

Last, in the final paragraph Bishop Whitaker says what is needed is calm consideration of complex issues, debate, civil discourse and so forth. We have had that since 1972 and where has it gotten us? Already in the summer of 2006 petitions to change the wording of The BOD are piling up. And these aren't coming from affiliated groups in the church, individuals or even individual churches. They are coming by majority votes of annual conferences.

Because of Bishop Whitaker's (1) acceptance of an "open membership" model for church membership which plays into the hands of the pro-homosexual movement and (2) his statements that accepting the church discipline as guiding them away from homosexuality is virtually optional while they claim there is nothing wrong with the act I am having to count Bishop Whitaker as one of the bishops in support of a pro-homosexual agenda even though he might strenuously disagree.  

* Title provided by UCMPage.org editor

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