Go Ask Your Mother #UMC

It didn’t take long for each of my five children to discern which parent was the more lenient (read: lazy).   Their mom tends to be more consistent with the rules of our home and is more tuned in to who has done what, when, where, how and why.   So when one of my children want something that they know mom has already said “no” to, they come to dad.   My wife and I are starting to catch on, however, and I am learning to say, if nothing else, “Go ask your mother.”  

I realize that if my wife and I do not get a handle on this and get on the same page, our home will be a dysfunctional one.   Our children, who need boundaries and discipline in order to thrive and feel loved and know that there is some order to their world will be the most affected. 

The United Methodist Church is a dysfunctional home right now because her leaders – bishops and pastors alike – are not on the same page on matters of most importance regarding what it means to make disciples of Jesus Christ.  This needs to change. 

The recent blog post by Bishop Sally Dyck, bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference, is a prime example.   She describes one pastor, a gay couple, and their church as being “caught in the vortex” of our denomination’s “contradictory statements on homosexuality.”    Rev. Hong, the pastor she mentions is the post, agreed to officiate a same-sex wedding despite our denomination’s rule prohibiting such but for reasons unclear to me in the bishop’s post the church decided it would be best the wedding happen in a building that was not United Methodist.    The result?   Feelings are hurt.   Bishop Dyck writes, 

As a result, everyone is hurting. The couple feels betrayed that they can’t be married in their church home by the pastor they know (although Pastor Hong has connected them with another church). The church is reeling with the need to both reach out to the Cook-Graver family with care as well as decide what to do in this vortex now that it’s not an abstract “debate” in the denomination. And Pastor Hong? He is deeply sorry that he has hurt both the couple and in essence the congregation because a Chicago Tribune article appeared on Sunday, May 11, 2014, making many feel like Faith UMC and the UMC is “anti-gay.”

It’s not my intention to dismiss emotions or to say that when we speak truth we shouldn’t do so with love, even tenderness, but when our bishops are seemingly putting emotions and feelings before Scripture and Tradition (and not to mention, the law of the Church), we are in trouble.  The “vortex” Bishop Dyck describes is not caused by contradictory statements in our Book of Discipline, as her post would lead one to believe, but by the failure of our bishops and pastors to be of “one mind” on an issue that is of great importance to making disciples of Jesus Christ.  

There is a young man I am presently counseling who struggles with same-sex attraction.   He is confused, however, because he hears some Methodist pastors teaching that it’s not a sin to engage in same-sex sex and others (like myself) teach that it is.   If anyone is caught in a “vortex” it’s this struggling man who can’t tell what’s up or what’s down because the church he belongs to is divided over what is and is not sin!   How are we as a connectional church supposed to make disciples of Jesus Christ when our church members can’t trust their pastors about what is and is not sexual immorality?  

Bishop Dyck, you and other bishops who continue to show disregard for our Discipline and appeal to everyone’s emotions are making it hard for me as a pastor to carry out my mission of making disciples.   Because you are not on the same page, we pastors are being played against one another like my children play their parents.  If something doesn’t change we will raise up generations of church-goers who view our church law with increasing disdain and something one can disobey when it doesn’t line up with their emotions, feelings or desires.

When Jesus was asked by the rich young ruler what he must do to inherit eternal life, we are told in Mark that Jesus looked at him and “loved him” and then made a seemingly impossible demand upon his life.  It was a price he was unwilling to pay, and we are told 

 he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property (Mark 10:22).

The emotions he felt I’m sure are not unlike the ones of Rev. Hong or the same-sex couple who could not be married in their home church, or the “reeling” congregation.   The difference between Jesus, the head of the Church, and our current leaders of the church, however, is that Jesus does not pander to emotion.   He does not call for more conversation to discuss the merits of his demands or how to best make everyone happy so as to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings.  Nor does he chase down the rich young ruler and bargain with him.   No.  The price of discipleship is a high one, and those who wish to follow Jesus should “consider the cost” (Luke 14:25-33).   

 

The vortex we are in has nothing to do with discrimination in our church law but with your inability to enforce it.   Will everyone choose to meet the demands of Christian discipleship?   No!  If many deserted Jesus we can and should expect the same whenever we are holding up the truth of God’s word against the norms of our culture.   Our General Conference has consistently put forth the rule regarding marriage for those who would be called United Methodists.   My advice to pastors or churches who are caught in a dilemma over what to do when a same-sex couple asks to be married is to say, with love, 

Go ask your Mother. 

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6 thoughts on “Go Ask Your Mother #UMC

  1. … and my question, growing out of your “advice,” is this: how can you, as a male, Christian head of household, allow a woman to hold dominion over you? For it says in the Bible, – okay, no; I’m done with my silly snark. But I think it illustrates my point quite effectively. There are many issues on which the Bible is “clear” and which have historically been codified into church law that have subsequently been recognized as not in keeping with our commands to love one another and make disciples (and have therefore been corrected). There were certainly African Americans who were ‘confused’ – as you describe your parishioner – during the historical Methodist discussions of their humanity and slavery, a change that we eventually got right but which costs us to this day. As well there were women who were likewise befuddled as the men debated their abilities to minister effectively, but we’ve *certainly* sorted that all out now – right? (#WorkInProgress) So to speak and act as if the struggle to really live out Jesus’ commandment to make disciples of all nations, excepting “neither Jew nor gentile, neither slave nor free, male nor female,” is either new or impermissible is disingenuous and willfully disregards what Bishop Dickens is calling for, which is honest discussion around the topic of full inclusion. May we continue on toward perfection, moving away from that dark glass in which it is so difficult to see clearly. Peace …

    • mals2003, being the head of one’s wife in the kingdom of God is to love them as Christ loved the church, to which he became a slave and for which he gave up his life. So yes Chad is the head of his wife as I am the head of mine, but it’s not a relationship of manipulative domination but mutual submission, love, and respect. All of this is Biblical headship. The same logic hold true for the slavery issue. The slavery to which Christ calls us does not allow for using another for one’s own benefit or pleasure. The inherent logic of the gospel undermines the worldly logic of domination and manipulation. All of this IS biblical. That’s why someone like John Wesley, who believed that the Bible was true in the highest possible sense, “as true as God is true” he would say, and that it (the Bible should shape all of our being, was adamantly opposed to the worldly system of slavery that developed in his day. Also with women there are plenty of biblical justifications for women to be able to pray publicly and preach and teach in the church. With homosexual behavior or any other form of sex outside of marriage between one man and one woman this is not the case. The trajectory of Christ’s own teaching led to a much more conservative stance on sexual purity in general. With regards to homosexual behavior both testaments condemn the acts unequivocally because they are deemed to be contrary to God’s design (i.e. against nature gk. para physin). The better analogies to compare with same sex behavior would be other forms of sexual expression that are prohibited in Scripture (i.e adultery, incest, forms of polyamory. Rather than being so suspicious easily dismissive of Scripture you should think about questioning your own thoughts and feelings at least as much.

  2. I bet there were quite a few early Christians who said to themselves (and each other!), “Do you *really* think Peter heard right from God and we can now eat bacon?” …. I am not worried about the struggle or that we are not of one mind on what is sin or not sin. Despite that it may be crystal clear to some! In fact, just 2-3 years ago I remember a certain blogger saying homosexuality is not a sin. I even have those blog posts, if anyone cares to read them! 😉

    • Scott, I have no doubt there were (and are). From the beginning of time people have doubted God’s word, pridefully questioning it’s authority and trustworthiness, asking, “Did God really say?” I was one of them 3 years ago, as you can remember.

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