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Bishops Intentionally Confuse Homosexuality Issue In Pastoral Letter

3 Responses

A Calm Response To A Pastoral Letter to the People of The United Methodist Church From the Council of Bishops November 2, 2005
By Stephen L. Martyn, Elder in the Kentucky Annual Conference

Dear Bishops:

You are right to remind us that the United Methodist Church is to be about the work of making disciples of Jesus Christ with all people and that all persons are of sacred worth. Indeed, it is our responsibility as United Methodists to make our respective congregations places of true Christian hospitality. Thank you for your compassionate stance and for your reminder that homosexuals as well as all others stand in need of the grace of God as dispensed in and through the church.

Your insistence, however, that homosexuality is not a barrier to membership confuses the issue by not distinguishing between homosexual orientation and homosexual practice. In a strict interpretation of your statement, no substantial argument can be made against homosexuality being a barrier to membership. If, for instance, an adulterer, an idolater, or a substance addict were to present themselves for membership and if said persons were repentant of their actions and were genuinely determined in their hearts to follow Jesus Christ, then of course they would be admitted into membership—with joy! Likewise, if a practicing homosexual person presented himself or herself for membership and the above criteria were met, then the arms of fellowship should be thrown wide for them. Your letter, however, leaves itself open to the possible interpretation that homosexuals, whether repentant or not, must be admitted into membership. If this latter potential interpretation is correct then you as a council stand in direct contradiction to the clear testimony of the scriptures, both in the Old and New Testaments. If you are insisting that the door of membership be opened to practicing homosexuals then you are valuing certain behavior as good and acceptable, which the Word of God classifies as “impure and shameful,” and which the church has said is incompatible with Christian teaching.

The greater issue here is whether or not the doors of membership are always open to anyone willing to respond affirmatively to the vows, or if the nature of the good news of Christ is at the same time limiting upon certain behaviors. Even a casual reading of the New Testament reveals that “improper conduct” (see Romans chapter one) should not even be named among members of the church (Ephesians 5.3) much less welcomed with open arms. While the Biblical account is clear that all persons are sinners and in need of the love of God and the ministry of the church, there is no indication in the Word that all behaviors are to be accepted.

Your possible pronouncement of inclusion of homosexual behavior, therefore, raises a greater issue: are there moral standards the church is called to uphold? And if those standards are willfully rejected, does the church have the right to withhold or even withdraw membership from offenders? To make an exception in the case of homosexual behavior is to effectively remove any biblical standard for Christian behavior. Membership into the church thereby comes without responsibility for appropriate life-styles as redeemed persons of faith. Such open-ended morality is not to be found in the biblical accounts.

Secondly, your possible action as a council ignores the historical praxis of our denomination. From the very beginning of the Methodist movement in 18th Century England Mr. Wesley imposed strict requirements both for entrance into the United Societies and for continuation of membership. Those desiring membership in the Societies were asked a thorough battery of questions including: “Have you the forgiveness of your sins?” and “Has no sin, inward or outward, dominion over you?” before ever being allowed into the Methodist family (see The Works of John Wesley, Volume 9 “The Methodist Societies, History, Nature, and Design, edited by Rupert E. Davies, Nashville, Abingdon Press, 1989, pp. 77-78). Moreover, those who flagrantly refused to live by the strict rules of the societies were actually removed. Wesley himself called this “removing the dead wood.” While there was always a way back into fellowship through the “penitent bands” it was clear that normative Christian morality and behavior was upheld within the movement and that those who refused to submit to those standards were excluded from membership. But now, you as a council are potentially requiring us to turn our backs upon our own heritage.

Thirdly, your action actually places us as a denomination at odds with our own polity and discipline. Paragraph #161 of the 2004 Book of Discipline declares, “The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.” In fact, the past nine General Conferences have stated with increasing margins that homosexual practice is not to be condoned by the church. United Methodist pastors are now faced with a puzzling dilemma: you, their Episcopal leaders are possibly requiring that we admit practicing homosexuals into church membership. Yet, our own discipline, to which each of us is bound, states that such practice is incompatible with Christian teaching. The bind created is troubling. Are you demanding we accept un-Christian behavior into our local congregations?

With your Pastoral Letter being a response to the Judicial Council’s ruling upholding a Virginia pastor’s refusal to accept a practicing homosexual man into membership in a local United Methodist church, I am left with a double sense of uneasiness. In the first place I find it distressing that the Bishops of our denomination are coming across as reactionary and as rebuffing the instituted authority of our church. In the second place, I am uncomfortable with the style of leadership that you are exhibiting in this letter. In what appears to be a context of demanding that we embrace what the Word, our tradition and our discipline all enumerate as deviant behavior, your insistence that we pastors are accountable to you “on matters of ministry and membership” is divisive to the health of our church, the unity of our fellowship, and the credibility of your episcopal leadership.

You seemed to have fired a defiant warning shot across the bow of our church. For the sake of Christ and his body I call upon you to stand down from your untimely action and reposition your stance within our polity before you contribute to the shattering of a beloved body.

UM Communications Agency Joins Bishops To Oppose High Court Decision, Church Law And Scripture
Dwain Whitehurst dwhitchc@bellsouth.net


Why do these people keep failing to say that this was not about a mans orientation, but about the fact that he is living in open, unconfessed, willful sin.

It is what he is doing and refuses to quit doing that disqualifies him. If they intend using their work to promote homosexual practice is this in violation of the rule that forbids the use of church funds for that purpose?

UM Communications Agency Joins Bishops To Oppose High Court Decision, Church Law And Scripture
Ed Cope edcope@ptdprolog.net


How sad it is that people who serve our church in leadership positions just fail to acknowledge the truth! Ed Johnson did NOT refuse a homosexual on the basis of his "orientation", it was on the basis of his engaging in genital sexual relations with another man, behavior which he refused to repent of! The Judicial Council was clear on this matter! Such lack of concern for the truth causes one to wonder why such persons are in leadership roles. Who will have any respect for what they say. No wonder the UM Church has been in decline!


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