To Bring Glory to God: #UMC and Homosexuality Debate

Q: What is the chief end of man?

A: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.

So begins the Westminster Catechism, written in the 17th century as a means to educate the Church in the faith.  It’s worth noting that of the 107 questions and answers it begins by stating unequivocally what our role as humans is:  To glorify God.  We exist solely for this purpose.

How do we do this?  The second question tackles that:

Q: What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?

A: The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.

We exist so that we might glorify God and the only way we know how to do this is through the revealed will of God as stated in the Old and New Testaments of Scripture.

As the United Methodist Church continues to wonder how we can best address the current sexuality debate facing our church, I wonder if it would not do us all well to return to these simple yet profound questions of catechesis.

What is our chief purpose and how do we accomplish it?

Sadly, the chief end of the United Methodist Church appears to be something other than bringing glory and honor to God through fidelity to God’s holy word.  Far too often our chief aim appears to be appeasing the culture around us or a lobby within us or even the noble yet subtly idolatrous goal of church unity.

Today, the Connectional Table of the UMC voted to put forward a proposal to the General Conference, a “Third Way” to move us beyond the impasse in our church regarding homosexuality.   The Rev. Kenneatha Bigham-Tsai, chairperson of one of the subcommittees proposing this “third way”  had this to say about how they came to their decision:

“We believe this proposal will keep everyone at the table, allows for the exercise of conscience, better provides for the inclusion of LGBTQ brothers and sisters, and best maintains the unity of the church.”

Notice what is lacking from the logic behind this decision.   This is but one example of many found in and throughout our church where we – and by “we” I mean both sides of the aisle – have lost sight of our purpose for existence:  To bring glory to God.   Instead we have fallen prey to the always alluring idol of worldly glory, choosing to please the desires of humankind rather than submit to the demands of God.

Unity while forsaking fidelity to God’s rule is rebellion.

This disease is rampant in our church and our current struggle is but one of many ways in which it manifests.   Far too often pastors and leaders in the church organize around the wrong question.  We ask how might we make the folks we serve happy or how we might increase our attendance or how we might slow our decline when the first and primary question we need to ask ourselves is how well are we glorifying God?  How well am I conforming my life, my thoughts, my will, my desires, my hopes, my words to the rule of God as set forth in the Old and New Testaments?   How much am I submitted to God’s ideas over my own or yours?

So long as we make decisions based on polling or money or lobbies or probability of fallout we will fail not just as a denomination but as human beings.  We will fail to live up to our chief end which is to bring glory to God.  It’s fascinating to me that the Westminster Catechism was written as a means to help bring the Church of England into greater conformity with the Church of Scotland.  In other words, their goal was a more unified church.  How did they proceed?  By directing everyone’s goal towards glorifying God.

As we move forward, may we prayerfully consider whether every decision we make and every vote we cast is one that brings glory to God through submission to God’s word.   To do anything else might result in keeping us united but united to the wrong things with the wrong goals and a god that is of our own making rather than the one revealed to us through Scripture.

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20 thoughts on “To Bring Glory to God: #UMC and Homosexuality Debate

  1. Have you considered that rendering glory to God may mean including all the humans created in His image? Including previously excluded LGBTQ persons (Acts 8:26-39)?

    • I have considered that, and even at one time championed such a position. But Scripture is clear on this. All of us are born with desires that are not in line with God’s word. A same-sex attraction is no different. The church can either call people to bring glory to God by submitting to God’s design for how we use our bodies or appease every desire that people have.

    • Acts 8:26-39 has nothing to do with LGBTQI persons. It is about a eunuch.

      Furhermore, there is nothing in this passage that tells us anything about the eunuch’s sexual practices.

      There is really no way that this passage can help you no matter what side of the LGBTQI argument you fall on.

      It is helpful from the standpoint that the Church has always accepted and welcomed those who are physically broken and yet desire to live a holy life. The Church has always recognized the power of the Holy Spirit both to heal and to sanctify those who repent – which is what this story tells us the eunuch did.

      However, the pro-LGBTQI argument is usually significantly different. The usual argument is that LGBTQI persons are not broken, but are created LGBTQI by God and that any sexual practices LGBTQI persons engage in that are an expression of their LGBTQI-ness are holy and acceptable to God.

      This passage is about a broken person who repents. It is not about the Church repenting for excluding someone whom they mistakenly thought was sinning but who was actually righteous. It is not about the Church repenting from excluding eunuchs because they are sexually different.

      In fact, the Church has never excluded eunuchs. This is likely because Jesus INCLUDES eunuchs explicitly in Matthew 19. There are no such explicitly inclusive statements from Jesus regarding those who unrepentantly engage in sexual practices outside of heterosexual marriage.

  2. This is an excellent piec, Chad. However, the current debate about homosexuality is just the latest in a long line of issues where society has pressured the church to change it’s practice. In my memory, I have seen the church cave-in to societal pressure on the observance of the sabbath (one of the BIG TEN as you may recall), the use of alcohol and tobacco by clergy, the acceptance of divorce, tolerance of pre-marital sex, paying well-liked clergy more and more salary (to compete with each other and secular businesses), etc.

    Near the end of my active ministry (in 2003), I began to focus on living with integrity as both a Christian and a pastor. I cultivated my own prayer life, and ran into a clash of cultures as I tried to focus on cultivating holiness in the church. I thought the Finance Chairman should attend worship occasionally, and I asked the volunteer youth director to step back from leadership when I learned she was living with her boyfriend (and all the youth knew it before I did). The DS and cabinet and bishop all came to the conclusion that I should retire. At that point I agreed. I could no longer be proud of being a United Methodist pastor.

    Sadly, I don’t think many pastors will have the courage it takes to leave our corrupted institution. Pastors are too emotionally and FINANCIALLY invested in the institution. Compromise and “tolerance” seem easier than following Jesus out into the world to preach scriptural holiness for the transformation of the world. I hope I am wrong about this. Perhaps the Holy Spirit will come in power again to stir-up a new Wesleyan movement. However, I don’t think the institution of the church can easily accommodate such a counter-cultural movement of THE HOLY ONE.

  3. I gave hope that the Umc will embrace LGBTQ persons as God’s creation. And God saw ALL that he had created and behold it was very good. GENESIS 1:31

    Betty Gray, lifelong Methodist

    • Betty, this is creative, but Genesis 1:31 is BEFORE the Fall. It matters not what side of the LGBTQI question you fall on, it cannot help your argument either way. What you need is a passage AFTER the fall that demonstrates that God accepts the sexual practices (outside of abstinence) of those who identify as LGBTQI.

  4. Many people are excluded from the table because of sin. We should not start accepting the sin in order to open up the table. We should always follow Christ, keep our eyes on Christ. Those excluded can leave the sin, come to Christ and be welcome, but we cannot allow the sinner to place the sin on the altar and expect us to commune with them there.

    • Since when has the church asked heterosexual sinners to be excluded from the grace of Christ that He offers to us at his table?

      • No one is trying to push heterosexual sin down the throats of the American public and the church. Those advocating same sex marriage are wanting to force their view of sexuality upon everyone else and silence anyone who disagrees.

      • Lanny, you have to be kidding that no one is trying to push heterosexual sin down the throat of the American public and the church. Ask any pastor you know, when was the last time that a couple that came to him/her seeking to get married wasn’t already living together? Is that not incompatible with Christian teaching? Yet, I don’t notice that we are doing much about it either pastorally or administratively. Why not? Because acceptance of it has already been pushed down the throats of the American public and the Church, and we’ve decided to accept it. I’m not arguing about what is right or wrong, only that we have two different standards for what seems to me as essentially the same sin.

  5. Genesis 3: “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; 5 for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God,[a] knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.”
    Or maybe a paraphrase, “Now Satan said, ‘That’s not really what God said.'”
    Our two most reliable guides now are the Bible and the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit starts telling us that the Bible is not really what God said, we might not really be hearing correctly.

  6. The bottom line is pretty clear. You can debate it and try to make it fit your way or thinking all you like.

    Rom. 1:26-28, “For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. 28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper.”
    1 Cor. 6:9-10, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God.”

    • You didn’t continue to the next verse, “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” (1 Cor. 6:11). It shows that homosexuals can repent and leave their lifestyle. It shows that their lifestyle is a choice. But there is hope for them. They can be made right through the Blood of Christ.

    • Th8ta#&217;s waht I’ve been hearing, Jackie. There are areas that are better than others. However, with the universities turning more and more to the left, the more that the graduates will be leftist. It’ll creep all across the country in the end. Sorry to seem so negative on this, but education is always one of the first institutions co opted by the left.

  7. Chad, while you undercut and ridicule “unity” you seem to overlook those places in the same Holy Scriptures you exalt, where an extremely high value is placed on unity: John 17 and Ephesians 4. How do you so casually overlook Jesus’ prayer and plea, “…so that they may be one, as we are one…so that the world may believe that you have sent me…”? How do you reconcile “…bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is above all and through all and in all” with potential threats of separation?

    • Randall, I’m not ridiculing unity, only the way in which is it held up as as idol. There are lots of people united around many things, and that is not necessarily a good thing. Jesus prayed for us to be united in John 17 but it was a unity sanctified in God’s truth…not the truth of this world:

      ” I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 15 I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. 16 They do not belong to this world any more than I do. 17 Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. 18 Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. 19 And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth.”

      And while Paul certainly desired the church to be united it was also a unity under the authority of God’s rule. The way to maintain this unity is to practice church discipline as he outlines in 1 Cor. 5 and as Jesus outlines in Matthew 18. We have failed to do this as a church as a whole and are now reaping what we have sown.

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