Flawed #UMC Arguments Against Altering LGBTQ Policies

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I’m geeking out a bit more than this guest short article.

Rev. Dr. J. Philip Wogaman is a titan in United Methodism–and he has a Wikipedia web page! A fellow graduate of Boston University College of Theology, he’s been a seminary professor, dean, seminary president, senior pastor to presidents, and a lot of other inspirational roles more than his lifetime. When Dr. Wogaman is retired, he is involved in the politics of United Methodism adequate to want to speak out against errors in logic from his lengthy knowledge as a Christian ethicist.

The following is an original essay from Dr. Wogaman that he submitted for publication at Hacking Christianity. Love.

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Flawed Arguments Against United Methodist Modify on LGBTQ Policies

J. Philip Wogaman

The not too long ago concluded specific United Methodist Basic Conference voted against removing policies against Gay and Lesbian ordination and forbidding clergy from presiding more than identical-gender marriages. The “traditional plan” not only referred to as for preserving these policies but growing enforcement.    The votes had been pretty close, with about 10% separating traditionalists and progressives.  The final outcome of the conservative modifications awaits choices by the church’s Judicial Council as to their constitutionality.  But, as it stands, the Basic Conference has reinforced current teaching and law.  Progressives had hoped for a unique outcome, offering a way forward for the denomination.  With a different Basic Conference set for 2020 an quick split inside the denomination seems unlikely, at least for now.  But the conflict remains, now exacerbated by the 2019 Conference.

I have followed the debates inside the church, prior to and just after the Basic Conference, with specific interest.  As an ethicist I have been struck by considerable flaws in the reasoning of the traditionalists, led by the UM Fantastic News and Confessionalist movements.  Right here are some of them:

Flaw #1.  Biblical literalism

A single of the church’s current Social Principles asserts that “The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.”   In the 46 years due to the fact this was adopted, the church has under no circumstances specified why this is “incompatible with Christian teaching.”  On the other hand, in defending this position, “homosexual practice” is repeatedly labeled as contrary to biblical teaching.  It is, in reality, accurate that there are a few—perhaps seven—biblical passages condemning identical-gender sexual relationships.  The most considerable of these is in all probability the words in Romans 1:26-27  that speaks of how these who rebelled against God had been offered up by God” to dishonorable passions.  Their girls exchanged organic relations for unnatural, and the males likewise gave up organic relations with girls and had been consumed with passion for one particular a different, males committing shameless acts with males and getting in their personal persons the due penalty for their error.”  A condemnation in Leviticus even calls for identical-gender sexual acts to be punishable by death.

            These
passages are definitely there, along with some identifications of marriage as
involving man and lady.  (Of course, in
the case of Abraham, Isaac, David, and Solomon, it wasn’t just one particular man and one particular
lady but polygamy on a grand scale!) 
Efforts have been created by progressive 
Christians to re-frame these passages or to counter them with
other people. 

            I am much less interested in that then I am in the bigger assumption:  If a moral teaching is in the Bible, it is, for no other explanation, binding upon faithful Christians.  In the case of the Confessing Movement, it is the reality that these biblical teachings are repeated all through a lot of church history.  Accurate adequate.

            But
that type of reasoning is deeply flawed. 
It passes more than the a lot of points at which taking scripture actually is
not intellectually sustainable.  There
are, inside scripture, unique versions of the identical occasion and descriptions
that could not possibly be factual, offered what we know scientifically about the
planet and universe.  Additionally, the Bible
includes ethical teachings that most United Methodists do not take into account
binding.  For instance, I Timothy two:11-14
and Ephesians five:22-24 which mark the inferiority of girls to men—and harsh
teachings in element of the Older Testament, such as Leviticus. 

            Do members and especially leaders of organizations like the Confessing and Fantastic News movements take into account themselves to be literalists?  I doubt it.  But insofar as they permit biblical literalism to be a critical ground for the harsh Traditionalist Strategy, we have to query the integrity of the legislative work.

            Possibly
it ought to be added that progressive United Methodists do take scripture really
seriously.  I am reminded of an early 20th
century Methodist minister who was accosted by a layperson with the query,
“Do you take the Bible actually?”  To
which he is supposed to have replied, “I do not take it actually, I take it
seriously.”  To take the Bible seriously
is to be led and inspired by its deep theological messages, in particular about
the significance of appreciate, along with a fantastic dose of humility in face of the
grandeur and grace of God.

Flaw #two.  Ignoring Information

A failure to take essential details into account.  Moral judgments are at the intersection of values and details.  Our values are grounded biblically and inspired by generations of faithful Christians.  But they ought to be translated into the factual planet and universe — context matters.  The deep scriptural values at the heart of our faith ought to not be captive to the factual views of biblical writers.  Some of these writings convey views that stay valid, even thousands of years later—particularly these dealing with human nature and our tendencies toward self-centeredness.  In dealing with sexual problems, the United Methodist Social Principles are on strong factual ground in warning against the moral dangers of sexual exploitation and disconnecting sexual expression from appreciate.  But our traditionalist good friends overlook factual realities in identical-gender relationships.  What are these:  In the very first location, there is a increasing physique of proof that sexual orientation is, for most individuals, a offered and not a decision.  The biological basis remains unsettled, but a lot of (I consider most) LGBTQ individuals speak of this as one thing they have often knowledgeable.  Additionally, there is a settled consensus amongst most members of the psychological professions that efforts to modify one’s sexual orientation arei generally futile.  Tragically, LGBTQ individuals who have attempted but failed have been led to self-hatred and often even to suicide. 

            Possibly the most essential reality is that there are gifted, grace-filled Christians living morally disciplined and relationally caring lives.  When the 1988 Basic Conference established a Committee to Study Homosexuality, it hoped that all of the factual scientific queries could be unearthed.  That didn’t pretty occur, but in its different research and hearings, the Committee metC with numbers of gay and lesbian Methodists who had been evidently really fantastic individuals.  Increasingly that is getting found now in big numbers of churches and households with LGBTQ kids and grandchildren.  It is a mystery to me why the Traditionalists can not see that proper in front of our eyes!  At the really least, that reality ought to lead to higher humility in categorizing all LGBTQ individuals negatively.

Flaw #three.    Labeling  Homosexual “Practice” as necessarily sinful

            The line in the Social Principles that treats homosexual “practice” as incompatible with Christian teaching does not, as stated above, give precise factors.  But its point is clearly to recognize this as sin—always and necessarily a sin.  We’ve currently pointed out that such a judgment can not be primarily based on biblical literalism.  But that language pushes us to consider much more clearly about what “sin” is.  There is a fantastic deal of theological assistance for the view that sin is in what separates us from God.  That can not imply ”literally so” simply because God is currently present everywhere.  Nor in Christian faith can it imply that sin is our failure to earn and deserve the grace of God.  God’s grace is present all the time, pretty apart from our deserving.  But sin is actual.  Possibly the ideal way to phrase this is to speak of human actions and attitudes that make obstacles to our getting that divine grace.  Can sexual actions and attitudes be sinful?  Of course!  But they do not attach to sexual orientation per se. 

Flaw #four.  Legalism

            The “Traditionalist Strategy,” largely adopted by the specific Basic Conference and advocated by the Confessing and Fantastic News movements, not only continued current legislation prohibiting  the ordination of LGBTQ candidates for ministry and created it a chargeable offense for clergy to officiate at identical-gender weddings, but it sought to rigidify enforcement of these prohibitions.  Some of that has been ruledr unconstitutional by the church’s Judicial Council, but the Traditionalists clearly want to enhance legal controls.  The standard rationale appears clear adequate:  Our covenant with one particular a different is expressed in our laws, and everyone ought to be accountable for obeying them.  But not so rapidly!  Do church laws associated to LGBTQ problems authentically express the deep which means of our covenant?  Legalism is law essential for its personal sake, just simply because it is the law, and not simply because it expresses an underlying theological or moral truth.  John Wesley himself disobeyed Anglican church law when it conflicted with his conscience.  When church law is rigidly enforced, it dangers creating it hard for individuals to adhere to the top of the Holy Spirit in acts of ecclesial disobedience when church law is deemed to be incorrect.  The traditionalists want to prescribe definite and harsh penalties, removing all discretion from bishops and church courts.  We do effectively to don’t forget St. Thomas Aquinas’s admonition to rulers not to enact laws that a lot of oppose.

For the sake of fantastic laws we ought to
be cautious in imposing laws that are not supported by a clear consensus.

Flaw #five.  Pastoral Insensitivity to the Hurt of LGBTQ People today and Their Loved Ones

            As noted above, the traditionalists and the present “incompatible with Christian teaching” take into account identical-gender sexual relationships to be sinful, and in the Book of Discipline, such relationships are singled out for specific condemnation in church law.  In spite of rhetoric about loving the sinner when hating the sin, LGBTQ individuals are stigmatized.  In some components of the church, such stigma gets translated into rejection by the community—despite the Social Principle imploring us not to reject or condemn.  Truth is, that takes place and is deeply felt by these who are hurt by it.  A single in particular poignant illustration of the challenge happens to me.  I have recognized kids of gay or lesbian couples.  Is the church telling these kids, in impact, that their identical-gender parents are living in sin?  How are these kids to be regarded in Sunday College and youth groups?  And when two individuals of the identical gender clearly appreciate every other why shouldn’t the church recognize and celebrate the moral dignity of their union?  When such recognition is denied by way of church law, is not that a profound statement of rejection?

            This
stigmatizing of identical-gender appreciate and the accompanying rejection of a person’s
inherent sexual orientation translates as individual rejection.  No quantity of pastoral solicitude can overcome
the wider church’s condemnation, while we can be grateful that numbers of
pastors and lay fellow Methodists have sought to be completely inclusive and
caring. 

Flaw #six.  Rejecting the Views of
Younger United Methodists

            Pretty big numbers of young individuals have turned away from American churches.  In element this could just reflect anti-institutional feelings.  But young individuals generally have gay and lesbian good friends and just can not comprehend why the church is stigmatizing them.  When young individuals often judge the church as hypocritical, this generally is cited.  No doubt, there are also young individuals who completely accept present UM teaching about identical-gender sexual relationshps, especially if they have grown up in much more conservative churches.  But even these youths are not most likely to stay in these churches for the rest of their lives. 

In some measure, the problems now confronting the church are generational in character.  And, say what we will, the younger generation is the future of the church.

                                                                                                J. Philip Wogaman

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