Posts Tagged ‘Bible’

I Will Persist; A Response.

April 30, 2017

One might consider this writing an addendum #2 to my previous writings in regards to our United Methodist Church’s continued mishandling of our stance on human sexuality, and in particular LGBTQ persons, both lay and clergy, and their role in our church. It can seem, at least to me, I have written about this too many times, but alas, as an ally and the lead clergy of a Reconciling Congregation, I refuse to be silent.

This current writing is a response to the recent United Methodist Judicial Council ruling in regards to the election of a gay or lesbian clergy to the episcopacy. I have hesitated in my response in part because I wanted to respond as best I could and not simply react. I have hesitated in my response in part because the ruling is not simple nor is it easy to understand. I have hesitated in my response because not only am I still heartbroken and weary, I am frustrated and I suppose still a little angry as well. I have been inspired and encouraged by colleagues and others who have written responses and analysis in clear, concise ways that have done a good job of keeping the emotion and anxiety at a minimum. I confess, I am not there yet, but I feel compelled to respond nonetheless.

I am not going to try and explain the ruling other than saying this, if I understand it correctly, while the Council found the election of Bishop Karen Oliveto violated church law, she is still a bishop in good standing, however now the Western Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church, who elected her, will now have to seek resolution to the complaints that have been filed against her. It is entirely possible she could be defrocked, forced to retire, or there could be a just resolution and she remain bishop. It could be seen as a bit of both/and, there is still work to be done.

There is still some remnant of hope, at least for me, Bishop Oliveto will remain and serve faithfully and gracefully as a bishop in our United Methodist Church. However, the Council also set a dangerous precedent, if I understand it correctly, in a directive that Boards of Ordained Ministry be required to inquire as to ministerial candidate’s sexual orientation and also their practice. As a result, this decision and ruling was not just about Bishop Oliveto and bishops to follow her, this ruling does harm to all LGBTQ persons in our church, both lay and clergy, as well as LGBTQ persons in our society and culture at large when we deny God might have the audacity to call them into ordained ministry.

I am not surprised by the Council’s rulings; however, I am deeply heartbroken, and yes even angry. It is beyond me why a clergy in good standing, regardless of their sexual orientation, elected to the office of bishop in their respective jurisdiction is the concern of anyone other than their electing jurisdictional body. It is beyond me why a group or individual from a different conference and jurisdiction would feel the need to challenge the election. And I believe, this is the will of the Discipline, and the intent of the Western Jurisdiction’s reasoning at the hearing.

That being said, there are those who would say this is only a symptom of a larger problem of biblical authority and interpretation. Perhaps surprisingly, I would agree, and am continually frustrated by our insistence on the authority of the Discipline versus careful and good scholarship regarding our scriptures. Careful study of the scriptures would show the understanding of same gender relations in our canon of scripture and the passages used to condemn the children of God who are LGBTQ are limited to purity laws and abusive, nonconsensual, promiscuous, unequal, and non-mutual practices. These passages used to condemn LGBTQ children of God in the world at large and in our church, have nothing to do with mutual, consenting, committed, loving relationships between two adults, whether they be same gender or opposite gender. Condemnation for loving committed same gender relationships is not in there.

In my own journey in understanding the faith and in particular in relation to LGBTQ children of God, there is too much denial going on within the people of God, and in our context, the UMC. In regards our UMC’s current raging storm of how we are to move forward as a relevant church in the world my study of the scriptures, tradition, my own experience and reason has led me to three understandings of those who would deny LGBTQ person’s full participation in the church. Either one has not had the opportunity to do, study, or hear good critical biblical scholarship regarding same gender relations, one refuses to do, study, or hear good critical biblical scholarship regarding same gender relations, or one has done the study, hearing of good critical biblical scholarship regarding same gender relations and chooses to deny its veracity.

All of this to say while I am disappointed and disheartened at the Judicial Council’s ruling, I am still hopeful. While this points our denomination in a direction I would prefer it not travel, there is still important work to be done, in particular by the Bishop’s Commission on a Way Forward. This ruling by the Council makes the Commission’s work even more critical and crucial if we are to move forward in a relevant, compassionate, inclusive, and loving way. There is still hope.

In the meantime, I hope you will continue to persist with me, hope with me, engage with me, speak up with me, and pray with me that our church will preserve and prevail in love and welcome of all God’s children. For I am convinced grace and inclusion, welcome and love are The Way forward into a future where all God’s children are welcome on all sides of the table of Jesus Christ as we transform this world into a more compassionate, passionate, and just world. We shall overcome.

 

Peace and Light for Our Journey,

Rev. Kent H. Little

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God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines

May 21, 2014

ImageI remember the day the young man I had never met came to my office with an idea about a presentation. His enthusiasm and passion for his life and topic were rather contagious, though I admit I was a little hesitant to agree to his idea as I did not know him well at the time.

 
Matthew had left school at Harvard to immerse himself in research regarding the bible and homosexuality. He wanted to make a presentation at our church and invite the whole community. I suggested I visit with our church board but I was sure it would be more than welcome in our community of faith.

 

After several visits it was decided he would present his research to our church members first, as a rather practice run if you will, I shared with him our community at College Hill United Methodist Church would be very open and interested in his research and journey. Once we had that event under our belt we would promote a larger event to invite the larger community with the hopes of having persons attend from not only a progressive theological lens but also conservative.

Both events went very well and I can say Matthew’s research and presentation is one of, if not the, most thoroughly researched presentations regarding the passages in the bible that address same gender relations I have ever heard or read.

His new book God and the Gay Christian is not only an extension of that excellent academic work of his first presentation but is accessible and readable by all manner of persons regardless of their academic training. Matthew presents his research in a personal way that invites the reader in to really hear what the bible, its culture, language, and writers had to say in those ancient texts as well as what they might have to say to us today.

Matthew’s book invites us into ways of thinking and understanding that are both faithful to the biblical text and compassionate. Our churches must move into a more graceful posture rather than continuing to do harm to persons of “inestimable dignity and worth,” as Vines says. His words struck a sobering cord with me as I read, “In the final analysis, it is not gay Christians who are sinning against God by entering into monogamous, loving relationships. It is we who are sinning against them by rejecting their intimate relationships.”

If you care about the church and its future, if you care about those around you who are children of the Divine, if you want to know what the bible actually has to say about same gender relations, or wherever you are on the theological spectrum regarding “God and the Gay Christian,” this book is a must read. I highly recommend it. Thank you Matthew for this gift to the church! Mostly thank you for you and your commitment, grace, and witness to the love of God for us all.

Peace and Light for Your Journey,

Rev. Kent H. Little, senior pastor
College Hill United Methodist Church
Wichita, KS