UM Sponsored Biblical Authority Consultation More Pro-homosexuality PropagandaModel For Bishop's Call To Christian Conferencing
Note: All names and organizations designated by an asterisk* are formally affiliated with the pro-homosexuality Reconciling Congregations Program which promotes disobedience to Church law as well as doctrines contrary to the United Methodist Book of Discipline. The names were taken from the Reconciling Congregations Program website. Even the Bishop and General Church Agency Sponsoring the Event is a member of this Pro-homosexuality organization!
|Homosexuality issues underlie consultation on biblical authority
Dec. 10, 1999
UMNews Story - #664
NOTE: For related coverage of the consultation, see UMNS story #665.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) The "authority of Scripture and the nature of Gods revelation" was officially the topic for a consultation in Nashville, Dec. 7-9, but as one participant observed, "the monster under the table" was homosexuality.
That observation came as no surprise for the 33 participants, who understood that the underlying reason for the consultation grew out of dialogues on theological diversity held in 1998 and 1999, in which homosexuality was identified as the most divisive issue in the United Methodist Church. The participants of those earlier dialogues concluded, in a paper titled "In Search of Unity," that much of the debate on the volatile issue hinges on how one reads the Bible and understands God's continuing revelation.
As a result, the United Methodist Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns* and the Board of Discipleship jointly sponsored the consultation on Scriptural authority. Most of the participants were members of the two agencies' governing boards.
While he did not characterize the problems related to homosexuality as a "monster," the Rev. Bruce Robbins*, staff executive for the Commission on Christian Unity, did speak of what he termed a crisis in the church.
In a summary near the close of the three-day event, Robbins* said many United Methodists feel "deep levels of distrust and a sense of betrayal." People on both sides of the issue are distressed at the "huge expenditure of energy on the issue at the expense of mission and ministry," he said.
When the denomination's top legislative body meets May 2-12 in Cleveland, he said it will be "yet another General Conference where homosexuality will be front and center in our discussions."
On one side of the division are people who believe proscriptions against homosexuality force them to participate in "exclusion and bigotry," Robbins* said. On the other side are members who believe they are forced to support a church whose leaders and actions are an "offense to the gospel" because of their support for homosexual causes, he said. People in this group often point to a statement issued at the 1996 General Conference by 15 bishops who said they disagree with the churchs official stance on homosexuality. The church's official policy in its Book of Discipline includes a statement that "the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching."
Robbins* expressed concern that people in the middle are feeling increasing pressure to move to one position or another, possibly leading to a split in the church.
He wondered aloud how the Roman Catholic Church has avoided schism throughout its long history, and remarked that "splitting is a very Protestant solution." Some participants suggested that focusing on ecclesiology, "who we are as a church together," would provide an answer to that question. Instead of the authority of Scripture and Gods revelation, they suggested that the event should have dealt with ecclesiology.
Robbins* said some in the church keep hoping that new evidence on homosexuality will emerge so that debate will no longer be an issue. Others hope that the issue will diminish as it becomes less important to one side or the other, he said. "There is the thought that the liberals will give up or that the conservatives will be worn down," he said. Still others in the church hope the Holy Spirit will "move or convert" people in one direction or the other on the issue, he said.
Consultation participants did not develop a statement of consensus or a document of any kind, but they appeared to accept Robbins'* general observations about the meeting and the issues related to homosexuality.
He offered several options for trying to resolve the impasse in the church, including a process for continued dialogue across the church and models for creating "safe space" for ministry and mission. Despite the large amount of time spent on issues related to homosexuality in the church, he said, "I think the need for dialogue is urgent."
He noted that the Council of Bishops is planning such a dialogue and that many annual conferences have conducted "Christian conferencing."
The Rev. Rebekah Miles*, a faculty member at Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, encouraged participants to identify areas of consensus regarding the authority of Scripture and to "avoid unnecessary polarization." On many theological issues, she said there is "quite a lot of commonality." The authority of Scripture, she suggested, may not be the dividing point for homosexuality.
The Rev. Stuart Greene of Duluth, Ga., noted that issues such as the Virgin birth and the resurrection of Christ are not dividing the church. However, he expressed concern that any attempt to redefine the authority of Scripture on the issue of homosexuality will cause people to fear changes in the churchs position on foundational beliefs. "If our desire is unity, Im not sure that is the best way to pursue it," he said.
The Rev. David Lull*, a United Methodist staff member of the National Council of Churches, said the divisive issues before the church are not limited to homosexuality. He pointed to two controversial events: a "Re-Imagining Conference" held several years ago in Minneapolis, and the "Jesus Seminar," a group of theologians who meet periodically to explore who Jesus was. He expressed concern that "some said you couldnt be a United Methodist clergyman and participate in those two events."
Much the same concern was expressed by Bishop Roy Sano*, Los Angeles Area, president of the governing board for the Commission on Christian Unity*. "Those of us who feel the Discipline should be changed (regarding homosexuality) ... are often panned as being unbiblical," he said. "The Bible has been central to my life. When Im dismissed as unbiblical, its a very serious offense."
The Rev. Joy Moore, a faculty member at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Ky., observed there is considerable agreement within the denomination concerning the authority of Scripture. "We are a people of the book," she said.
However she and others expressed concern that the consultation did not focus adequately on the nature of revelation. "What are the new revelations? We cant pinpoint them." She said many in the church are concerned that people might assume that Gods new revelations say there is another Christ or that the atonement didnt really happen, or that "fundamentals are no longer fundamentals."
Five presentations were given during the consultation:
* Members of Pro-homosexuality Reconciling Church Program
**Ariarajah has advised the General Board of Global Missions to abandon Christian conversion as a goal of missions!
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