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Dateline: April 26th, 2001
Rev. Kent L. Svendsen
Northern Illinois Conference
United Methodist Church
UNITY MUST BE BASED ON TRUTH
A recent United Methodist News Service article made this statement:
"A United Methodist agency is proposing a series of dialogues on homosexuality and church unity in response to a mandate from last year's General Conference. The dialogues will be aimed, in part, at bringing together people with different viewpoints on homosexuality, engaging them in civil conversation and exploring what their differences mean for the unity of the church. General Conference, the denomination's top legislative body, issued a resolution last year calling for the United Methodist Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns to develop the dialogues." The entire article can be found at: http://umns.umc.org/01/april/189.htm
I applaud such efforts if the dialogues are based on a honest search for truth rather than simply accepting as true the propaganda of each side. Let me explain what I mean by this. For some within our denomination "truth" is what they decide they want everyone else to believe regardless of how well it is based on facts. My concern is how controlled the presentations will be and what guidelines will be used to determine what material will be presented and what will be excluded. It would also be very interesting to know how the "different viewpoints" will be represented. This leads me to ask a very important question: "Will we sacrifice truth in our effort to find a way for everyone to get along?"
A case in point was a "diversity dialogue" I attended some time back within my conference. The idea was similar to that which is talked about in the news story. However, in my not so humble opinion, the result was not encouraging. While the event offered both sides on the issue, both sides did not get equal time. It also becomes quite apparent to me that some of the information was inaccurate and that there would be no opportunity for rebuttal. I also came to the conclusion that one of the goals of the event was to educate people into rejecting our Book of Discipline and its biblical stand on homosexuality. When I asked why the dialogue was no unbalanced, I was told that they could not find enough presenters from the pro-discipline side of the issue to provide equal time. (They made it a requirement that the presenters be from our conference.) Since I had offered to be one of the presenters and was turned down, I took exception to that contention. I was told that I was "too high profile" (whatever that means) to be a presenter. I am still unsure of what exactly removed me from consideration. After all, I had spent considerable time in doing research on the subject and had written a number of articles sharing that information. So just what makes a pastor from a small rural church with little status within the annual conference "too high profile"? Could it be that truth was sacrificed in an effort to provide common ground on which to find unity?
Now I realize that we have changed and modified our stands on various issues throughout the history of Methodism. We made those changes after many hours of prayer, study, and dialogues similar to that which is being purposed here. But it is probably a safe guess to believe that some of the people involved in the planning for these dialogues have for their goal a desire to use this process as a tool for changing our official stand on the subject of homosexuality. My concern is that those same individuals do not attempt to control the process in such a way that truth is suppressed in their zeal to push forward their agenda.
It is here that I would like to suggest a good resource for our denominational discussion of the subject of homosexuality. Its a book entitled: "HOMOSEXUALITY: THE USE OF SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH IN THE CHURCH'S MORAL DEBATE" by Staton Jones PH.D. and Mark Yarhouse PSY.D
This is a good resource both for those wishing to be in dialogue on the subject and for those who wish to form supportive ministries for those who are attempting to change their sexual orientations. Here is why in the words of the authors this book is important.
Rev. / Chaplain Kent L. Svendsen