How Wide is the Middle Path?

Thinking about the middle way solutions offered by some for the current crisis over sexuality that we face in the United Methodist Church, I can’t help but wonder and ask, how wide is this middle path?

 

Highway

The middle way solutions seem to have as the common ground that this current debate is an indifferent matter on the level of clerical dress and modes of baptism. That is that we are still walking in the same direction and should continue to walk hand in hand while we “agree to disagree” over this particular issue. As if sex, the very thing that connects us to the continuation of God’s good creation like no other, is not really that big a deal. This may be somewhat of a simplistic caricature, but this seems to be the practical implication. On the other hand, it may not be too simplistic because we do have leaders and others who compare this disagreement to disagreements over vestments and modes of worship. Some actually do seem to find more ire for Methodists with different views and practices of baptism and holy communion than those who refuse to abide by our covenant and the Bible with regards to sexuality and marriage. A few months ago someone posted a blog to which many of my colleagues said, “amen” that listed a whole slew of things that we United Methodists ignore in the Book of Discipline, including things like not having a UMW group. Any honest person would have to admit though, that none of those other issues have quite the same powerful caucus groups and well-financed political forces behind them to encourage open defiance, subversion, or legislative change. If it’s not really that big a deal, then why is it so obviously such a big deal?

It seems to me that the middle path solutions should really be the worst of solutions from the perspective of the right or the left. Simply claiming the middle doesn’t automatically place one in the center of God’s will.

At the Festival of Homiletics in Minneapolis earlier this week, Dr. Craig Barnes, President of Princeton Theological seminary, said that everyone claims the middle path. That is no one is saying they are representing the lunatic fringe position. I think a better way to say it might be that everyone in this debate believes they are representing the faithful and reasonable position. He also said that no one is arguing that Scripture is just wrong, but each contingency is reading Scripture differently. It is he said, simply a matter of hermeneutics. This is not true, however, because there are some who have argued that Scripture just got this thing about homosexuality wrong. The way Tex Sample put it, for example, was that Paul can’t be expected to be right on everything, while he got a lot right, he missed it on a couple of things, namely homosexuality and women. Tex would go onto to argue, “graciously”, that we should give Paul a break because “he wasn’t Jesus after all.” Of course he would then, as is the custom of some, go on to make an argument from Jesus’ silence on the subject for his tacit approval of homosexual unions and ordination. Barnes also neglects Phyllis Tickle whom I heard argue in a lecture, basically that it’s a fool’s errand to try to argue that the Bible doesn’t condemn all forms of homosexual behavior. She too argues that Paul, and Leviticus for that matter, just got it wrong.

In the Cokesbury store at the Festival of Homiletics I skimmed Adam Hamilton’s new book on Scripture. While I haven’t thoroughly perused it yet, from what I gathered in my skimming and from what Adam has blogged about it previously is that Adam is now throwing his hat into the same ring. He seems to be arguing that the Bible was inspired in the same way that God continues to inspire sermons today, especially his I guess, and that it wasn’t inspired infallibly in all respects. Hence his bucket three for those passages that he says don’t reflect the heart and character of God, which claim seems to assume that that is the only purpose of truly inspired Scripture.

So there are some and more and more who seem to be arguing that Scripture just got this wrong. That is basically the view presented by Dan O. Via, in the book he did with Robert Gagnon entitled, “Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views”. But I digress.

The point is that whether you are a traditionalist or a revisionist of the persuasion that we have just misinterpreted Scripture for 2000 years on this topic or that Scripture just got it wrong, it doesn’t make any sense to throw this into the category of “indifferent matters.” If you believe the traditional position and that Paul was writing by the Spirit when he argued that homosexual sex or sexual immorality in general among other things could exclude one from the Kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-10), then you can’t in good conscious accept the idea that this issue is not really that big a deal. On the other hand, if you believe that homosexuals were created by God just “to be who they are” and should not be condemned for just being who they were created to be in the same way as you wouldn’t agree to disagree over the condemnation of people with green eyes for having green eyes, then it doesn’t seem to me that one in the progressive camp could really be comfortable at all with rendering this a matter of opinion on the same level as modes of worship or baptism. I think it is quite obvious that such a person would vigorously continue to stand against what they clearly see as unjust oppression, and rightfully so IF their premise is correct. How could such a person abide in an agreement that allowed such supposed oppression to continue without trying to stop it and condemn it? On the other hand, how could a traditionalist who believes that the real cruelty would be to allow people to find their identity in behavior that they believe could exclude them from God’s kingdom abide in a covenant without trying to call all people to find a new identity in Christ and become a new creation in him by living a traditionally chaste Christian life sexually? These are two competing directions and compromise is not only impossible, but for both should be seen as irresponsible, at least it would seem to me.

So how wide is the path that says, none of this really matters anyway, any more than robes or mode of baptism? I believe it’s probably the widest path of all. Is this indifference not what John Wesley called “the spawn of hell, not the offspring of heaven.” Wesley also says, “this unsettledness of thought, this being “driven to and fro, and tossed about with every wind of doctrine,” is a great curse, not a blessing, an irreconcilable enemy, not a friend, to true catholicism” (See Sermon 39 “Catholic Spirit” III:1).

So what is the path to unity? Well, I don’t believe we have to guess. It’s already been laid out for us in our own Book of Discipline and certainly in the Bible.
Be faithful to the covenant that we have already established and settled upon with regards to sex and marriage even after over four decades of debate. If you disagree with that covenant then you may continue to work to change it through legislation, but otherwise abide by it. Bishops and Annual Conferences should seriously enforce it, as vigorously as I’m sure they would if the tables were turned. After two or three admonitions, if a person or group continues to openly defy the covenant then they should be removed from leadership but still welcomed to receive the ministries of the church and to receive the gospel. If a person cannot abide by the covenant and the teachings of the church then they should seriously consider joining churches that teach differently.

In the current situation, however, this no longer seems to be feasible because some annual conference have already created schism by refusing to seriously enforce and hold clergy accountable to our covenant. In effect by a fiat of sorts they have for all practical purposes created a covenant of their own. Because of this schism is no longer a theoretical possibility but a practical reality. We cannot honestly say that we “with one voice glorify God” (Romans 15:6 ESV). At the Festival of Homiletics, which was clearly dominated by progressives, people who think like me, who aren’t eager to dance in the progressive parade, were called “wet blankets” (by Brian McLaren) and identified with the legalism of the Pharisees (by Mike Slaughter ). We do not with one voice glorify God, instead we bite and devour one another (Galatians 5:15).

Of course there are people who are truly confused and conflicted over this whole issue, but there is no doubt that there are two strong and very entrenched camps that are not. The later I don’t believe is the case because they have not listened to each other deeply enough or dialogued long enough. It’s been over forty years! Indeed, I think these two camps have listened to one another and have understood one another, and in reality they both know that they are marching in different directions to the beat of two different drummers.

Sure we could stay together in name only, but rest assured that we will continue to bite and devour one another and how much more of this can we take before we are all consumed. For me unity for unity’s sake is idolatry, because the same Bible that encourages us to unity also commands us to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness” and not to associate with those who promote sinful things and refuse to repent (Read all of Ephesians 4 and 5 not to mention Matthew 18). There are times when a separation is the necessary and healthy thing to do for all involved.

There is plenty of sin in both of these competing camps. I don’t believe we are in the current mess we are in only because of one side. We all need to repent! But with regards to this particular issue, which is not an indifferent matter, these two camps or sides or whatever you want to call them are diametrically opposed to each other with regards to some pretty major core issues when it comes right down to it. Both sides could be wrong but both can’t be right. If we continue as we are, competing with one another, biting and devouring one another, pretty soon we will all be consumed by one another (Gal 5:15). It seems to me that the only two viable possibilities is that we agree to abide by and promote what the official denominational stance sees as Christ’s call to chastity for his disciples, that is celibacy in singleness or faithfulness in marriage traditionally understood; or we seriously consider a gracious and merciful amicable separation. Ideally this would happen through the biblical process of accountable discipleship, but it looks like that can’t be expected to happen in some quarters where a different practical and unofficial covenant is being forged through disobedience and intentional neglect. Honestly, this seems to be such a unique mess that I don’t know what the answer should be. Whatever the right answer is though, its discovery will mostly likely come at the end of much repentance, fasting, and prayer.

Nevertheless, many of the so called middle paths don’t seem to me to be biblical, in keeping with our Wesleyan tradition, reasonable, gracious, or merciful. Sure, it may keep the denomination together in name only, but the biting and devouring will continue until it is all consumed. The middle path plans may seem to be the easiest, although obviously with inherent difficulties of their own. They may allow us to avoid the really difficult issues, to kick the proverbial can down the road again, and pretend like this really isn’t all that big a deal. Yet the reality is that there are two strong sides that are diametrically opposed who from each of their perspectives should responsibly seek to call the other side to repentance. To repent means to turn around and go in an altogether different direction. Both of these alternative paths could be the wide path, but both can’t be the narrow path. The widest path of all, however, may be the so called middle one.

Matthew 7:13-14 (NIV)
13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

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29 thoughts on “How Wide is the Middle Path?

  1. Very good question. I have heard so often lately….”So what if different people believe differently? What harm does that do?” Well…wouldn’t it mean that some people are wrong about God? God does not change who He is when different people believe differently about Him. We are who we are no matter what people believe, and God is who God is no matter what people believe about Him.

    Individualism masquerading as unity seems to be the wolf in sheep’s clothing in these times By this I mean…. it has become fashionable for people to read the Bible and ask, “What does this mean to me?” While that question is important, a much more important question is, “What is God saying?” It does not require any study of the Bible to answer the question, “What does this mean to me?” Any passage of Scripture can mean any number of things to the person reading it. We must realize that God did not write the Bible so we could tell Him what we thought about it.

    We have to get from, “What does this mean to me” to “What does this mean?” Only when we know what the Scripture means should we then go back to, “What does this mean to me,” and figure out how to apply the Scripture in our lives.

    I think logical thought would say unity does not mean a truce. 
Sadly, one way that some people suggest we become “unified” in the Church is by ignoring the difficult issues and “just getting along.”

    Someone might say, “Do we have to talk about it?” Frankly, at some point we do have to talk about what we believe if we are going to have genuine unity. Ignoring what we believe by agreeing not to discuss it may prevent fighting in public, but it does not produce unity in the faith. A truce is not unity. A truce is when enemies agree not to fight, and it can look a lot like unity

    The narrow road to true unity is paved with humility. To be humble to the truth we must value finding it above our pride, our insecurities, and our friendships. We know that pride will keep us from truth and unity. 
Pride always gets in the way of truth, and it does so in lots of different ways. For one thing, it is deceptive.

    Obadiah 1:3
….The pride of your heart has deceived you.

    There is a great big pride filled lie floating around many denominations today. The idea that salvaging the precious denomination no matter what the cost…. is unity.

    Matthew 10:34-36…. “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.
(35) For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
(36) a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.”

    What is it about Jesus’ message that would even divide households?

    By the way, Chad…thank you so much for that recommended sermon link you gave to me. It was incredibly powerful.

  2. Cliff, thank you for cutting through all the noise and offering this excellent diagnosis of the problem before us.

    I was reading the journal of a Methodist preacher from the early 1800’s. Several things I read there made the truth of “there is nothing new under the sun” become more real to me. One line was this:

    “I soon learned that this hostility was not against me but against the cause, and farther, that he who dares to declare himself on the side of God has virtually declared war against earth, hell, dead formality, and especially ambitious ministers of the gospel.”

    He “learned this” after watching a colleague be brought up on trial by other Methodist pastors because they did not like the brand of holiness he preached. To catch him in his “blasphemy” they ordered he preach a sermon from manuscript in front of the assembly so they could then vote to see if he was fit to keep his license to preach. After preaching, they devoured him, picking apart piece by piece of his sermon and charging him with being anti-Wesleyan and preaching a different gospel than the Methodist way. He listened to their charges without saying a word, and when they were done and prepared to cast him off he said,

    “Gentleman, the sermon I preached to you was word for word, from the greeting to the final Amen, one from John Wesley himself.”

    p.s. Duane, I’m glad that sermon blessed you! It continues to challenge me and wake me from the malaise I can so easily fall into.

  3. I don’t know people advocating for a middle path who view this discussion as “indifferent.” I have argued, and will continue to argue, that this is not a central matter of Christian conviction, and any attempts to make it so reflect not classical Christian convictions and priorities but the 21st century’s utter fascination with sex. Of course, the funny thing about a comparison to arguments about baptism and communion is that these things are actually in our doctrinal standards (the sexuality clauses are not, another way we know they are not as important). Some of the pastors advocating schism are in clear violation of these doctrinal standards, for various non-approved practices like refusing infant baptism, rebaptizing, or rarely-to-never offering the Eucharist. And yet they still pontificate about loyalty to the BOD. How sad.

    As to how wide the middle path is – probably pretty wide, just like God’s mercy:

    “There’s a wideness in God’s mercy
    like the wideness of the sea;
    there’s a kindness in his justice,
    which is more than liberty.
    There is welcome for the sinner,
    and more graces for the good;
    there is mercy with the Savior;
    there is healing in his blood.”

  4. Pingback: Was Wesley against the middle way? #UMC | Unsettled Christianity

    • My reply to the charges in the article above: Joel, I don’t believe for a minute that Wesley would arbitrarily choose a middle path between two extremes that wasn’t itself in harmony with the clear commands and teachings of Scripture simply because it was a middle between two positions that are antithetical to each other. You know yourself, or you should, that Wesley had to defend himself against charges of enthusiasm, in other words extremism. Being true to the tenor of Scripture was what was most important and he said himself that one clear command of Scripture is enough for a believers wholehearted obedience. If you just go back and read the rest of either of the sermons that you quote from you will find biblical teaching there that many in Wesley’s day and ours would find extreme.

      • Good response, Cliff, and very true. I’ve learned that there are many within our church who read Wesley the same way they do Scripture – as it appears right in their own eyes. I’m reading Asbury’s and Wesley’s journals this week and it’s ludicrous to think either of them would encourage Methodists to go take the sacrament on Sunday from a Church that was condoning sin. Wesley wished to reform a sleeping church (which embraced a middle way – a way that is susceptible to being lukewarm at best) which is of course commendable. If all we were facing was lack of zeal or even outright vice that would be one thing, but when our preachers and bishops are encouraging sinful behavior, that’s quite another.

  5. Cliff, excellent and insightful article!

    While I agree that the middle way is not viable, as well as not being Biblical, a big unknown is how large the group who fall in this category really are. To this point, we’ve only been hearing from the sides who have strong feelings about Biblical authority and/or sexual politics.

    The middle way group would include all of those who do not feel strongly about sin or the authority of the Bible but also do not fully buy in to the homosexual civil rights arguments. This lukewarm group values unity primarily for the sake of not rocking the boat and maintaining the status quo, and includes those who mainly view the UMC as their family church and social group, those who view “getting along with and accepting everybody” as a core spiritual virtue, and those who care mainly about specific social projects that their congregation supports. In my experience, this would describe around 60-70% of the members who show up to vote at the church council meetings.

    I saw a post from Tom Lambrecht (Good News) today that indicated that changing the UM constitution to allow a split would require a 2/3 vote. That’s why the existence of this middle group cannot be dismissed even though their theology is deeply flawed.

    Blessing to both you and Chad!

  6. Thanks, Paul. Good questions about the middle way folks. I also wonder how many are really just progressives who just want more time to continue to try to force their will on the rest of the denomination. At any rate, being lukewarm is definitely not a Christian virtue and will not bring about genuine unity. Only the truth of the word of God and sanctification will do that. Thanks again for the comment and best wishes to you as well.

      • Drew, I can just take your comment before this one as a case in point. You say sex is “not central” and even “not as important.” By those statements you don’t mean it is an indifferent matter? You refer to “doctrinal standards.” The articles and confession and other standards should be understood as secondary to Scripture itself. Those doctrinal standards are founded upon Scripture and say that Scripture contains all things necessary for salvation, and nothing outside them are to be held up as necessary for salvation (obviously my paraphrase).

        So now we are back to Scripture, and Scripture indicates that same sex intercourse is contrary to God creative intent and is described as a particularly egregious case in point of rebellion against the creator, an exaltation of one’s own desires above the will of the Creator (Rom 1). While Romans and Corinthians both indicate that there are matters where we can differ with regards to certain practices such as food and certain holy days, and still remain in fellowship and “with one voice glorify God”, even a cursory reading shows that sex is not in that category. Sexual immorality in general and homosexuality, both for the active and passive partners in the act, particularly (that’s 1 Cor 6:9-10), un-repented of can exclude some one from the kingdom. There are many similar warnings. So you may choose to believe that salvation really isn’t at stake, and it’s not that central, but I think Scripture reveals something very different.

        Someone may say that Paul only meant exploitative forms of homosexuality but there is plenty of evidence that even liberal scholars, some of whom are themselves homosexual and activist at that, who acknowledge that the Bible in general and Paul in particular condemn any and all forms of homosexual relationships and that Paul would have been aware of what we would call lifelong committed same sex relationships. In other words, for Paul there would be no way to engage in same sex relations and it still not be against nature, God’s creative intent.

        Someone then may also say, as many have and many more now are, that Scripture and Paul in particular just got it wrong, and to many of us that makes it all the more a central issue for a variety of reasons. At any rate, we may agree to disagree on this issue, but it is not an issue where we can do that and still have genuine fellowship. Whether we like it or not it creates a real separation whether we have one on paper or not. Scripture also commands us not to associate with those who unrepentantly practice, condone, or promote sin, and sexual immorality tops those lists. Now someone could then say, well the Bible just got that wrong too because unity (no matter how disingenuous) is the most important thing. Okay, that’s fine, but there will still not be genuine fellowship between those who believe that all scripture is inspired by God and vital for doctrine, reproof, and correction so that God’s people may be prepared to do God’s good works (2 Tim 3:16-17).

        Of course then someone could come along and say, well maybe that verse in second Timothy didn’t really mean that? At what point do we not rightly ask, is this not the whisper of the serpent still resounding from the garden?

        I don’t know man, we just have a big mess. I’m not trying to belittle you or anyone else and I’m not just trying to prove that I’m right for some prideful ego trip. I’m just trying to tell you what I believe to be true and to be faithful to the word of God. Just because there are two antithetical views doesn’t mean that a synthesis is the right answer or the extreme middle which is to be seen as the correct way to go. We all walk by faith and not by sight and we all have to choose what we believe to be the right path. Some choices with regards to truly indifferent matters may put us in a different place on the straight and narrow, but we can still walk together, but other choices that differ with regards to other matters place us on divergent paths altogether, whether it is recognized officially or not. I don’t believe an agree to disagree compromise and retaining nominal fellowship with regards to the sexuality issue will make any difference whatsoever in terms of genuine unity. We have hashed this out for a really long time. We have a covenant on this issue forged by the worldwide church. I believe it is faithful to Scripture. Unity can be found in faithfulness to the covenant we’ve forged.

        Maybe lukewarm isn’t the best description for you, but it is for some. But I also wonder if some us can’t be red hot on many issues, but not so much with the issues where there’s the most heat. I think there is so much heat around the sex issue because it really is much more central than you might think.

        Grace and peace to you and yours, Drew.

        Cliff

  7. Pingback: Can We Agree to Agree to Repent, Fast, and Pray? | umc holiness

  8. My struggle now: Though I will not claim total confidence in my position on the same-sex marriage issue,(I am not perfected in grace and wisdom yet) I am clear enough on the matter to speak the truth as best as I can see it. The covenant of marriage is a crucible given by God for creating healing, redemption and true holiness in the creation, in humanity, and in individual human beings. This great grace is given for those in male/female pairing, and it only does it’s work in that male/female covenant. The marriage covenant is not designed for, nor is it effective outside the male/female pairing. God provides other avenues of healing, redemption and true holiness for those who are not in the male/female bond,
    Here is the difficulty for me, and involves “the middle way.” I have no Godly imagination for teaching or claiming the “left” side of this debate on homosexuality, but I do struggle with whether I am to give my efforts toward amicable separation or continuing to find some other way forward that would leave the United Methodist Church in one piece (not necessarily one “peace”).
    Here are points of thought: 1) Is the matter of homosexuality worth separation? Possibly not…. in and of itself. I would have no problem walking in the same church with people who are unclear on the issue, I would have great difficulty staying with a church that championed the other side of the debated issue. 2) Though it could be possible that a position on homosexuality is not at the central core of doctrinal essentials, many of those on the “left” side of the debate have revealed some dreadful accommodations and deconstructions to essentials in their efforts to reinforce their case and their own beliefs. To stem the collateral damage inflicted on the Gospel and future generations of our UM church by these accommodations and deconstructions could be worth our separating. 3. Will more respectful dialogue help us find a way to hold together? I doubt it. It is more possible that respectful dialogue will only keep us talking until everybody has accommodated to our rapidly changing cultural wisdom on the matter, or even worse…our dialogue will be pirated by hidden champions of the progressive side. This has already happened in the Common Table’s announced efforts at respectful dialogue. 4. There is a high cost to continuing to walk together with such divided minds. The longer this happens, the more hurtful words will be said, by the left and the right” that will keep us from binding together in a way that generates the love-power our church needs to engage the world. I believe our United Methodist church has become a “love-anemic” church.over years of lacking clarity of purpose and passion. This has fostered a endemic distrust that deadens our affections for each other and for our church.. This is a weak foundation from which a church can engage the world with a powerful witness to Christ’s love.
    Having said all of this, I still find it hard to “pull the trigger” and go ahead and work for amicable separation. What is your will for me, O Lord? And give me the love and boldness to do it as soon as I see it.

    • Thanks for the thoughful questions and insight, Jay. I do think from a Biblical point point of view some kind of seperation is required when people engage in and promote sin as benign. How we get there in the current mess is another story. That perhaps only God knows.

      • Yes Cliff, I agree. A church is accountable to God for what it teaches.and that is why I cannot teach a “progressive” view of homosexuality. I wonder if I can be a part of a church that has some sort of a neutral teaching about it, or a silent absence of teaching? Two questions are in mind. One is for the progressives: 1). What, exactly, are you expecting the church to teach about homosexuality? Right now the progressive side tries to speak the loudest on the love inclusion and fair equality issues, but I have not heard straight speech to the middle way folk about what other teaching about homosexuality is to become the course content for the UMC Church. Are we to teach that same sex attraction is fully genetic? Are we to forbid talk of male and female as being complementary (a statement rejecting “heterosexism” has already slipped into our social principles without any definition of what is meant by the term). Are we to teach that the presence of a dad and a mom in a home is no longer to be preferred to aide in the healthy holiness development of boys and girls? Before I would ever contract with progressives on this issue to change our discipline, I would want more talk about what exactly the progressives would expect the rest of the church to teach. 2) Second question, if some sort of middle way is promoted that hopes to hold us together, I would ask of the extreme middle, what would be the content of our UMC teaching on this issue? Would the declared content be simply that we disagree on whether the practice of homosexuality is compatible with Christian teaching, and therefore remove all prohibitions against same-sex married clergy and officiating same-sex weddings? If so, would that mean that those on the conservative side of the issue will be offered special protection in holding their views? Would they be no prejudice against those who think the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching from the Board of Ministry? Would a local church have a right to say we don’t want a pastor in a same-sex marriage appointed to our church? Would those on the progressive side be all right with our UMC having a stance that neither affirms or prohibits same-sex marriage, while never giving affirmation (except by calculated silence) to how the practice of homosexuality IS compatible with Christian teaching?
        Who knows what we can come to live with in the UMC…but more importantly, God, what do want us in the UMC to live with…and live without?

      • Great questions, Jay. I have yet to hear any good theology coming from the left (or the middle for that matter) which addresses both a positive sexual ethic as well as a clear teaching on why two groups who disagree on what does and does not shut one out of God’s kingdom should be in fellowship with each other and think they are making disciples in the same way.

        Another question that needs to be addressed, I think, is where does the slide stop? In a few years when the next wave of sexual expression, be it polyamory or consenting adult incestuous relationships or any variety of things that can be argued from a standpoint of “we love each other and aren’t hurting anyone,” what do we as a church have left to say? Drew has already pointed out the hypocrisy about divorce, so what will his argument be to a brother and sister who come to his church wishing to be married when they are routinely marrying same-sex couples?

        Essentially, when we move away from Creation and what Jesus said God intended marriage to be from the beginning (one man and one woman) we lose all authority to speak clearly on any issue that might present itself now or in the future. I’ve yet to hear anyone in the progressive camp or middle camp offer any biblical/theological reflection about this. Your last question though is all that really matters: What does God call us to live with and live without ? Apparently for too many UM’s that answer is too gray for anyone to say, or it’s whatever seems right in their own eyes.

  9. It a long journey from “not central” and “not as important” to adiaphora. I by no means think sex is unimportant, I just don’t think that a) it is as important as core doctrines like the Trinity and Incarnation, and b) that the church’s obsession with homosexual sex is defensible on Biblical grounds. The right would be taken more seriously, perhaps, if they seemed concerned about heterosexual sex and/or divorce.

    Peace, Cliff.

    • Yes we should be concerned about other issues and I don’t think it’s fair to say that we aren’t. I know that this conservative preacher has step on way more hetero toes than homosexual ones from the pulpit. I know that Rob Renfroe and others have as well. Again the push to sanctify those other things is not the same although they are hanging on to the coat tails. So there is a big difference I believe.

    • “The right would be taken more seriously, perhaps, if they seemed concerned about heterosexual sex and/or divorce.”

      Really, Drew? You would take those on the right more seriously (which I thought was the middle way to begin with, but I digress) if they showed more concern over other things you think are serious? I find that hard to believe, first of all, but secondly it’s a ruse. If I tell you that I am equally concerned about heterosexual sex and divorce as I am about homosexual sex, will you now take me seriously? If you have not seen my other blog, http://www.desiremercy.wordpress.com then perhaps you should take a look. There you will find blog after blog about sexual immorality and not one blog that even mentions homosexuality, and you will find plenty of blogs about marriage and the sin of divorce and encouragement for couples who are thinking about calling it quits even when they have a biblical right to do so (infidelity). I care deeply about those things. Caring about one does not preclude caring for the other.

      The reason for the so-called obsession is because it has been forced upon us by progressives who insist calling evil, good. I can assure you that should an organized group within the UM seek to say pre-marital sex is not sinful or that divorce ought to be celebrated and encouraged, you would hear much obsession over those issues.

      • But I thought it was about the authority of the Bible? The Bible has not changed its views of divorce. Is it not a de-facto change in policy if we are not batting an eye at Methodists – including clergy – who have affairs, and get multiple divorces? The Disciplinary language has changed drastically vis-a-vis divorce over the last 50 or so years, and yet no one threatened schism. All of which is to say, we have a particular issue with LGBT sexuality that is inexplicable. And Chad, I know these are things that concern you, but these are not things that Good News, Confessing Movement, and the IRD are not fomenting schism over. We have found ways to show grace to and/or ignore scripture when it involves the highest standards of sexual morality for heterosexuals, but any suggestion we do the same for gay and lesbian folks is called apostasy. It makes no sense. I’m not trying to be a jerk guys, I’m just trying to point out that this stuff all fits together – which is why the Catholic or Orthodox position is much more coherent than our own.

        Peace,
        Drew

      • I think Drew has made a very good point here. My simple perspective on this is that many churches are simply reaping what they sowed by not addressing the heterosexual sexual immoralities within the Body with any real authority in the past. I was pulling weeds in my garden tonight. I hadn’t been able to do so for a few weeks now since things are heating up over here with the whole Russia issue. These German folks are very particular about how your yard and garden are to look. There were a lot of weeds. I gravitated to the biggest thorny ones while walking by many little ones…..the ones I thought I could live with because from afar they were not even visible.

        For my garden to actually thrive….they all should have been pulled. But I chose to pull out the noticeable ones….not for the sake of my garden, but for appearance sake if I were to be totally honest.

      • Duane, I think you’re right, and I like your analogy. Sometimes, God tears down to build back up. Hopefully we can learn from all of this and should we divide, we will need to be mindful of the many ways we have grown lazy in the comforts of institution. 2 Chron. 7:14 seems to me the only way forward: Repent, and humble ourselves, and turn from our wicked ways, and God will heal our land – and our church.

      • Amen. Our church will be healed. For some reason my eyes want to tear up. Its the depths of sorrow in the midst of the vastness of His joy. You are such an amazing brother…..thanks Chad….for all your words from the blogs. You are a huge encourager in my life….beyond what you know in this life. ….peace.

  10. Drew, so your argument is since we are in error in one area we should let this slide, too? Two wrongs make a right?

    Do you know of instances where clergy are having affairs and their church is happy about it? Or do you know of instances where clergy are saying affairs are not sinful? Please point me to them.

    Regarding divorce, I believe (and I’m in step with the GC here) that there is a faithful, biblical reason to extend grace to those how have gone through divorce as it relates to becoming clergy. I know you agree with that position. The biblical argument for blessing same-sex sex, however, has failed to persuade the church. Thus, you are comparing apples and oranges.

    As I’ve said several times before, nobody is holding a “Divorce Pride” parade and suggesting it’s a great thing we should celebrate. My hope would be that where divorce occurs, there is some serious soul-searching, repentance and grace. Just as there should be with those who struggle (and fall) to same-sex attraction. I’d be happy to have Christopher Yuan as my pastor, for example.

  11. Unfaithfulness in any other area should not be a reason for more compromise but repentance and seeking to be more faithful not less. There really is more ambiguity to the divorce issue and more room for pastoral discernment but probably not as much leeway as so many folks would like. Boredom and attraction to someone else is definitely not a good reason. No doubt the sexual revolution brought us more problems than same sex issues. If we could ever move on from it maybe we could do a better job in those other areas. I deal with those other issues more in my own ministry as does Chad.

  12. Pingback: WNCCUMC Annual Conference Panel Discusion on Possibility of Amicable Seperation: Recollections and Reflections | umc holiness

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