The Progressive Lie: Gay Children Must Be Protected from Schism

Early on in my theological education I was in an awkward place.   I knew I was called to pastor but because I had been running from God for so many years I didn’t have a church home and therefore did not know where I might one day preach.    So I began investigating different denominations, what they believed, how they did church, who could and could not be ordained within them, what the qualifications were for their pastors, etc.    I quickly discovered that there were several denominations that were not options for me because I have a divorce in my former life.  After crossing those off my list I began pursuing those churches where those things which I repented of (like my divorce) would not preclude me from being a pastor.    Hello, United Methodist Church.

I have much respect for those churches who have a stated covenant – a standard by which they as a church, particularly its leaders, will order their lives – and adhere to it.    There is an integrity about them which I find compelling, even if and when I don’t agree with their standard.    I have an equal if not greater amount of respect for people I have met along the way who feel they have been called by God into pastoral ministry, but for one reason or another they cannot do so in the church they have long called home.   Throughout seminary I met many women who found a home in the United Methodist Church because they could not be ordained in the church of their youth.    They could have stayed, I suppose, and tried to change the covenant of their church.   Many of them even tried, so they said.   But after being rebuffed a number of times they remembered Jesus’ command,

If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet (Matt. 10:14).

They determined to practice biblical obedience by moving on, not casting their pearls before swine, so to speak.

I have much respect for them.   Rather than lobby year after year after year, for 40 years or more, stirring up dissension among their peers and rivalry among the ranks, they chose instead to find a new home.    They brought their charge before others, and when those others would not repent and change their ways, they found a place more amicable to their convictions.

It never occurred to me to chastise these women for leaving women behind in the churches they left.   Nor do I recall the women who did leave worrying about the spiritual well-being, or physical safety, of the women they left behind.    I did hear, however, much respect all around for those who stayed and those who left.   I heard things like, “Many of them seem to flourish in that environment, and they are following their convictions, as I am.  I wish them well,” and other such sentiments.

Churches that do not ordain women on biblical grounds are still thriving, with many women within their ranks who are flourishing.  Beth Moore doesn’t seem to be hurting too terribly by so-called patriarchal domination, and this is true for thousands if not millions more.   No one is forcing them to stay in a church which abides by certain rules.  They are free to leave and find a new home just like the many women I met in seminary and am blessed to be with in ministry today.

My intention by now should be obvious.   The progressive side of our church has been feeding us a line for several years that if they walk out, they will leave stranded many LGBT brothers and sisters who will be left to fend for themselves against a monstrous, bigoted church.   What ever will they do?

One progressive Methodist pastor and blogger, Jeremy Smith, warns against schism because it will create an “echo chamber” within the church where gay children will fall prey to the ever increasing “radical” views of the majority.    Who knows?  We might even  become like Uganda and start killing gay people if the progressives don’t stay and tame our blood-thirst (that was sarcasm, but Jeremy’s post leads one to believe that should the progressives leave, they will have “blood on their hands”).   Jeremy thinks he has stumbled onto something when he writes, “Here’s a startling fact:  Straight people have gay children.”   And then quotes Rev. Ben Gosden, who writes,

It seems progressives who want to split forget that the church they leave will continue to have gay children. And it seems traditionalists who want separation naively think separation will finally rid the church of the homosexual debate, as though gay persons will no longer inhabit our spaces of worship, formation and service…Clearly, schism will not end the conversation before us.

Progressive Methodists, here’s a startling fact:  We who are calling for church law to be upheld and who defend the biblical and traditional view of marriage do not want to rid our churches of gay people.   We only want you to either repent of calling what God calls sin a blessing or to leave.   Period.    

To the first point, I for one want to see our churches – churches which are preaching the full gospel of Jesus Christ – filled to overflowing with gay people!  I want them to hear a word of hope and healing.  I want them to hear that we are all sinners, and Jesus paid the price for that. I want them to hear that they are loved just as they are and that this sort of love will not leave them nor any of us as we were found.   I want them to find places where their struggle with same-sex attraction can be named, understood, and repented of and where they can find loving support in a community of faith committed to helping them walk in sexual holiness and wholeness, no matter how narrow that road might get, how lonely it may feel or how tough it is to navigate.

I don’t want to see gay people leave our church, I want to witness them, along with everyone else, being redeemed in our church.   I want to witness waves of people laying their disordered loves at the altar and being transformed from the inside-out.   But you, progressives, are offering a short-cut which on the surface looks like love but is really not.   When Jesus was tempted by the devil to eat while at his hungriest (Matt. 4) he determined that it would be better to die alone and hungry in the wilderness than to disobey the words of God.    We humbly ask that you repent of offering a short-cut to happiness to our LGBT brothers and sisters which might sound reasonable on this broad road of life but it’s end is destruction.    We could all benefit from your compassionate hearts and skilled means to help devise appropriate support and structures for our LGBT brothers and sisters who determine they will surrender their desires and bodies to God and walk the hard road of sexual holiness.   You, progressives, could help us do that.   I wish you would.

To the second point, if you refuse to do that, then kindly leave.   Please stop blaming those who defend traditional marriage for the break-up of the church you love and take some responsibility for the dissension you have caused by willfully rebelling against church law.  Blaming us for causing schism makes as much sense as an adulterous spouse blaming the faithful spouse for ruining their marriage when filing for divorce.   Why not instead follow the leading of trailblazing women who have found their home in the UMC?  They have no doubt earned your respect for leaving a denomination that would not listen to them and you would no doubt earn the respect of your new colleagues in whichever greener pasture you land.  Shake the dust from your feet and practice biblical obedience by moving on.  Trust the lives of the gay children you leave behind to God, in the same way our women pastors have trusted the lives of other women to God.   Their prayers have apparently been answered, seeing as how Beth Moore continues to thrive.

 

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11 thoughts on “The Progressive Lie: Gay Children Must Be Protected from Schism

  1. Well said. Another part of the progressive lie is that gays and lesbians can’t change. It’s simply not true. In his masterful book on the subject, The Bible and Homosexual Practice, Robert Gagnon cites research to argue that the rate of successful change is about the same as AA’s success rate. Pro-gay activists, however, say that you haven’t successfully changed unless or until you experience no same-sex attraction.

    That’s a rather high standard! Isn’t that like saying to an alcoholic, “You’re not sober so long as you desire a drink”? So what? Don’t get on the wagon in the first place?

    • Better sources for information about change in sexual attractions might be Mark Yarhouse and Warren Throckmorton. The latter sections of Gagnon’s book (unless they have been substantially revised from the days when I read it) do not contain reliable information. The effectiveness of AA (as you may know) is also a matter of some dispute, but, really, I think we are talking about something substantially different. And, I think, there may be quite a bit of variation in what “same gender attraction” is from one person to another. Ron Belgau discusses the literature and some of the claims about change in sexual attractions here: http://craigladams.com/blog/ron-belgau-honesty-about-orientation-change/

      • Nothing Gagnon says in the latter part of the book detracts from his exegesis or hermeneutics in the first three-quarters. But of course everything in academia is disputed. Can you characterize how he’s wrong? Because he certainly cited much peer-reviewed research in the field.

        Regardless, do you agree or disagree that change is possible? That many formerly gay and lesbian Christians report change—get married, have kids, etc.—is beyond dispute. But that probably doesn’t mean they experience no same-sex attraction ever, which gay activists say is the only thing that counts as change. Thus my alcoholic analogy. If you think the analogy doesn’t hold, tell me why.

        By all means, the extent of one’s same-sex attraction is on a spectrum. Change would be easier for some than others. But even saying that differs dramatically from the way sexual orientation is often portrayed: as binary; either you are or aren’t, and you can’t do anything about it.

      • I read your blog post. To my knowledge, Gagnon didn’t cite anything Masters and Johnson said, and if I recall he put the conversion “success” rate at around 30 percent, which seems like something worth pursuing to me! It’s also worth understanding factors contribute to someone’s being gay. Gagnon cited many factors. These things are interesting to know. No one talks about this stuff. In the UMC, among the many clergy I read and listen to, sexual orientation is fixed, we’re born this way, and (therefore) God made us this way and there’s nothing anyone can do.

        Why do women experience orientation change at higher rates than men. I want to know! Someone research that!

        Of course, if acting on same-sex attraction is no problem whatsoever, and even the suggestion that it might be makes you a homophobe identically equivalent to Klansmen, or whatever, who’s going to spend the money?

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  3. Chad,

    In general, I tend not to comment on blog posts (not just yours, but any in the blogosphere). However, this post of yours has me thinking. As one who wishes that a denominational split will not happen, and will work for it not to, I am grateful for people who stay in a system in which they disagree to work out their differences. No matter if I agree with them or not.

    To use your example of woman leaving denominations that prohibit women from being ordained, I wonder if 58+ years ago within our own denomination, would your reasoning be the same. What I mean is, just 58 years ago, our denomination fought over women in pastoral leadership and finally granted equal ordination rights for women as men. Pre-1958 General Conference, much hate speech was shared over the issue. However, among the differences of thought, there was a considerable amount of rigorous theological reflection and discernment. From what I have read and heard, it was messy and painful as many clergy and laity told women to go to another denomination if they wanted to be ordained. I am so grateful that they didn’t. If they had, the women that you speak of would not have a ecclesiastical home to fulfill their call to ordained ministry.

    It’s always easy to tell people with whom we disagree to leave. It requires little change on our part as the “right” party. If “they” just leave, then nothing needs to change in us.

    Whether the call to separate is coming from the progressive camp or the traditional camp, to me this approach is not biblical, nor is it Wesleyan. Romans 14-15 are a prime example. The Jewish Christians believed orthodoxy meant abstaining from non-Kosher foods, so they refused to eat meat in many Roman cities. However, Gentile Christians had no problem with eating non-Kosher meat. The two were at complete odds with each other. The observance of “special days” was another sticky, hot button issue of the day. These two issues may seem minimal for us today, but in Paul’s day, they were the controversial issues, and issues that were driving the church apart. And yet, Paul urges the church to remain together as sisters and brothers in Christ for the sake God’s redemptive body in the world.

    I wonder, what if we in the UMC took such a position as Paul? How might we view those with whom we disagree? In my summation, it would look a little more like the Kingdom and we would not be telling people to leave.

    I would also add that the position of schism, to me, doesn’t seem very Wesleyan. Our movement of Methodism, at least while Wesley was alive, remained as a reformation movement within the Church of England. Wesley was committed to working within the system, not by breaking away. As you know, much has been written on Wesley’s passion to remain within the Church of England, and he never once renounced his own ordination.

    My prayer for the UMC is that of Paul’s….” May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 15:5-6).

    Does that sound naïve? Perhaps. Is it easy? Certainly not. Will both parties have to compensate? Yes. Is it impossible? Well, scripture reminds us that with God nothing is impossible.

    For me, I will live in the tension with those with whom I disagree. I invite you to do the same.

    • Hi Jason, thanks for your comment. I don’t think you sound naive, and I do pray as you that we would be in harmony, and of “one mind.” The only way I see this happening, however, is through repentance. Do you see any other way? Any thing less than that would be mere tolerance, which I don’t think fits the biblical definition of unity or of “one mind” any more than schism does.

      Yes, Paul prayed for unity (and so did Jesus), but how should we reconcile those prayers with Paul’s command to not associate with those who call themselves “brother” while refusing to repent of their sexual immorality (1 Cor. 5) or avoid being guilty of approving of those who practice immorality by not speaking out (Rom. 1:32)? Or how should we honor Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 18 to separate from those who refuse to repent after being told several times to do so?

      These are questions I wrestle with, and desire to be obedient to. I believe the best and only way to avoid schism is really quite simple, and it’s at our disposal all the time; proper church discipline. But this is not happening, and with more and more bishops and pastors breaking their covenant to bless what many United Methodists view as sin, it makes it very difficult if not impossible to just agree to disagree.

      If this is a matter of sexual immorality, what does the bible instruct us to do about members of the body caught up in it and refuse to repent?

      Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. I will continue to join you in praying for peace, and revival, as I know you are doing, and experiencing, thanks be to God.

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