Methodist Divisions Over Gays Intensify

Discussion in 'Religion and Ethics' started by 5stringJeff, Oct 24, 2005.

  1. 5stringJeff
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    5stringJeff Senior Member

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    Copied the whole thing because NYT is subscription. Link:http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/21/national/21methodist.html

    Methodist Divisions Over Gays Intensify
    By NEELA BANERJEE
    Published: October 21, 2005

    WASHINGTON, Oct. 20 - In Virginia, the pastor of a United Methodist church is challenging a decision by his peers to suspend him for a year without pay because he barred a gay man from joining his congregation.

    In California, a regional conference of the church voted to protect openly gay clergy members from discrimination and dismissal. And in Pennsylvania, the Rev. Irene Elizabeth Stroud is fighting a ruling by the church to defrock her after she disclosed to her congregation that she was a lesbian in a long relationship with another woman.

    The confluence of the cases underscores the intensifying debate within the denomination on the role of gay men and lesbians in the pews and in the pulpit. The highest judicial body of the United Methodist Church is expected to rule on them when it meets in Houston for one of its two annual gatherings, starting Oct. 27.

    The United Methodist Church, the country's third-largest denomination, has struggled for 30 years to define and then further refine its stance on homosexuality. But in its effort to accommodate disparate views, it has fashioned a position that some clergy members say is ambiguous, even contradictory, and people are demanding clarification.

    The church's official policy is to welcome all people, regardless of sexual orientation, into its congregations. Gay people can also serve in the clergy, as long as they are celibate. But church rules ban "self-avowed, practicing homosexuals" from the ministry.

    "I'm sure there will be more of these cases and they will accelerate because the issue is not at all resolved in the church," said the Rev. Richard S. Parker, a retired Methodist minister in Babylon, N.Y.

    Mr. Parker, a former chairman of the church and society committee in the denomination's General Conference in the 1980's, when the church articulated rules on gay clergy members, said, "Those of us who support full inclusion of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people are not interested in backing off."

    Neither are those who would like to limit the involvement of gays in the church. In Edmonds, Wash., for example, about 200 people left the Edmonds United Methodist Church in late 2003 because of its support for an openly gay music director, said Cathy Bihler, one of those who left and a board member of Good News, a conservative Methodist group.

    "Those of us who agree with the authority of Scripture and traditional Christian doctrine cannot condone a practice incompatible with church teaching," Ms. Bihler said.

    The Judicial Council will also review a case filed by Ms. Bihler and her minister, the Rev. Rick Vinther, pastor at Woodinville Community United Methodist Church in Washington, that opposes a resolution passed by their regional conference this year asserting tolerance for the plurality of views about sexual orientation.

    Ms. Bihler and Mr. Vinther maintain that such a resolution contradicts Methodist teachings. The Rev. Dean Snyder, pastor of the liberal Foundry Methodist Church in Washington and the moderator of a Web log, www.untiedmethodist.com, said that on his site "there is increased attention to the issue, an increase in openness to gays and an increase in resistance, all at the same time."

    The Rev. Thomas W. Ogletree, a Methodist minister and professor of theological ethics at the Yale School of Divinity, noted that at the church's last General Conference in 2004, a coalition of churches was beginning to emerge that threatened to leave the denomination because of its tolerance toward gay men and lesbians.

    When Ms. Stroud, 35, revealed to her congregation in April 2003 that she lived in a long-term relationship with her partner, Chris Paige, she acknowledged in a sermon that she risked losing her credentials as an ordained minister. But she added, "I have realized that not telling the whole truth about myself has been holding me back in my faith."

    In December 2004, a jury of 13 clergy members in eastern Pennsylvania found her guilty of violating church law and ordered her defrocked. An appeals committee overturned that decision in April because of legal technicalities, and Ms. Stroud's bishop took the case before the Judicial Council, akin to the Supreme Court and made up of nine clergy members and lay people.

    Church experts said they thought the council would probably strip Ms. Stroud of her ordination. But even if she wins, Ms. Stroud says she does not expect the larger question of whether to exclude practicing gay people from the ministry to be addressed. Instead, she said, a victory would probably rely on technicalities like the vagueness of the church's definition of practicing homosexuals. She said she expected the next General Conference in 2008 would move to close such loopholes.

    The rule to keep practicing homosexuals from the ministry has passed by a slimmer and slimmer margin at each General Conference, said Mr. Snyder, indicating a dwindling of resistance. But some, like the Rev. Edward Johnson of South Hill, Va., are standing firm against a change in the rules.

    Mr. Johnson refused to admit a gay man into the congregation of South Hill United Methodist Church, said Carole Vaughn, a spokeswoman for the church's Virginia Annual Conference, its regional governing body. After trying to persuade Mr. Johnson, the church's pastor for six years, to change his mind, his peers in the conference voted in June to place him on "involuntary leave of absence" for a year. If he loses his appeal before the Judicial Council and does not change his position, he will probably be let go, Ms. Vaughn said. Mr. Johnson could not be reached for comment.

    The Judicial Council will also be looking at the legality of a resolution made by the clergy of the California-Nevada Annual Conference to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation anywhere in the church, including among clergy.

    The conference stated that sexual orientation should be considered an innate characteristic, like race. Bishop Beverly J. Shamana, head of the California-Nevada conference, who does not vote on issues, said the resolution was only a guideline and did not challenge or supersede church law and it was being reviewed as a matter of course. But other clergy members and lay people said they saw it as a jab at church policy.

    In the shadow of these cases, anxiety is growing among some Methodists that the church could split over homosexuality, as it did over slavery in the mid-1800's. The likely outcome, some clergy members said, is that those who oppose liberalizing the church's position on gays will leave.

    "I wouldn't be surprised if a split happened over this," Mr. Ogletree of Yale said. "The Methodist Church will get through this, of course, but we will have a big challenge holding things together."
     
  2. theim
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    theim Senior Member

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    I'd suggest that Methodists look to the Bible and what it says to sort out this mess but hey--what do I know.
     
  3. 5stringJeff
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    5stringJeff Senior Member

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    The Episcopals split over this issue, and I imagine the Methodists will too.
     
  4. Mr. P
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    Mr. P Senior Member

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    Ya see, even folks of the same faith can't get along, there's no hope. :cry:
     
  5. Hobbit
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    Hobbit Senior Member

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    No conflict here. I'm in the south. Now, apparently, despite all their self-proclaimed intelligence, greater wisdom, and superior culture, them yankees can't read. My stance:

    The Bible very clearly condemns homosexuality as a sin. God doesn't burn two cities to the ground and petrify a woman just for looking at the flames when they didn't do something horrid. It's not called Sodomy for nothing. This means that those who believe there is nothing wrong with homosexuality have no place in positions of leadership within the church. It's like electing a KKK member as president of the NAACP. The leaders of the church: pastors, deacons, Sunday school teachers, etc. should align themselves with the principles laid out in the Bible, and the teaching that homosexuality is a sin is one thing taught straight out of the book the religion is founded on.

    That being said, however, this is the same book as "He who is without sin, cast the first stone." Anybody should be welcome in a church congregation. The doors of the church should never be closed to any who do want to come (unless they mean harm). Charles Coleson, an ex-con who served time in association with the Watergate scandal, has one of the most successful ministries in the country, and his audience is all prisoners, who are, by nature, sinners, as Jesus commanded that we "Obey those put in authority over us, for that authority was given to them by God." Sinners are the very people Christianity is supposed to help. Hospitals don't close their doors to cancer patients because they're just "too sick." Churches shouldn't close their doors to homosexuals because their sin is just "too bad." No sin is unforgivable. Give them a chance.

    Edited for grammar because I was half asleep when I wrote it.
     
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  6. dmp
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    dmp Senior Member

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    well-said, Hobbit.
     
  7. Avatar4321
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    Avatar4321 Diamond Member Gold Supporting Member

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    Not being a methodist, they are free to decide how they want to run their church.

    With that said, part of what I find rather ironic about all this, is those who generally support compromising Christian values to allow Homosexuals good standing in Christian churches as the same people who find Christians hypocrites for not living their religion. Basically its a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation.

    I agree with Hobbit. Mainly because his view is rooted in scripture and the words of Christ. And it is the words of Christ that teach us what we need to do. Christ invites all men to repent and come unto Him to be healed regardless of whether one is confused over their sexual preference. The standard of repentance is the same for everyone. Chastity before marriage, Fidelity afterwards. This is particularly true for the ministers. The ministers are supposed to help lift people to Christ. How can they lift others if they are not first on high ground spiritually? How can they teach the people the principles they themselves don't live?

    You can't be living in a sinful sexual relationship, whether gay or straight, and teach the principles of Christ Gospel that center around family life. You can't teach people to honor their bodies as Temples to the Holy Spirit if you don't honor your own Temple, nor the Temples of those you supposedly "love." In fact, how can you teach about the true love of Christ if you can't tell the difference between love and lust? The powers and knowledge of the heavens cannot be taught or handled except through the principles of righteousness. If these ministers want to be teachers of righteousness, they need to repent and become righteous through the Atonement of Christ so that they will not be hypocrites to the faith.
     
  8. Bullypulpit
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    Bullypulpit Senior Member

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    It's all much ado about nothing. It clearly shows what happens when one attempts to decipher the intentions of and unknowable, eternal, omnipresent entity. In such a case one can make up anything one desires and claim that it is the will of one's favorite deity. But that's what makes religion what it is.
     
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  9. LuvRPgrl
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    LuvRPgrl Senior Member

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    DING DING DING DING DING DING DING DING DING DING DING DING DING DING DING

    YOU JUST WON THE GRAND PRIZE !!!!!!!!!!!

    Another thing I find fascinating is how all homosexual "rights" supporters always ignore the fact that about 80% of all homosxuals have their first sexual experience as a very young teen with an ADULT,,,,

    knowing that, would you prefer your pastor being helping little Timmy with his personal problems behiind closed doors with your homosexual pastor????

    MOST of the crap going on in the Catholic church with molesting is due to the recent influx of homosexual priests.....
     
  10. Hobbit
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    Hobbit Senior Member

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    I'm afraid the Bible is quite explicit on homosexuality. However, it's also quite explicit on murder, lawlessness, forgiveness, and, to a certain extent, non-violence, yet there are still abortion clinic bombers and people who kill gays the same way lynch mobs used to kill blacks. Go figure.
     

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