The Call to be Hated
In response to the United Methodist Church voting to affirm the ban on homosexual marriage and clergy some pastors and members have come out to publicly voice their disagreement and displeasure.
Rev. Dan Phillips of Riverview United Methodist Church said, “The fact that we are Methodist may now become a turnoff to people,” he said. “It makes it more difficult to reach out to people because I believe their perception of the United Methodist Church has been soured by these procedures.” [Source]
Rev. Dr. Douglas Ralston of Faith United Methodist Church in Trenton, “I said before the vote even started that, no matter what happened, at the end of it our responsibilities were the same — to love people as themselves, to care for people, to do all the things that Jesus told us to do. That is still our responsibility. That is still our core mission and that won’t change.” [Source]
Mark Holland, pastor and former Kansas City, Kansas mayor called the Traditional Plan “mean-spirited” and said Tuesday’s vote was not only a blow to LGBT members but to the church as a whole. “People see the hypocrites of the church and it’s a turn-off. The discrimination against gay and lesbian people needs to end, and the church needs to be leading in doing that,” Holland said. [Source]
Cheri Jones, a lesbian and Church of the Resurrection member, says the conference’s decision alienates the LGBT community. Jones moved to St. Petersburg, Fla., in 2007, and misses Hamilton and his church. “It’s been tough to find a church that won’t go against me,” she said. “I haven’t been able to find churches that don’t put you down in some way. I’m not saying they don’t exist, but it’s been hard.” Life was particularly hard for Jones 14 years ago, she says, when she came out to her husband, who was a church leader at Resurrection. “He went and spoke to Adam and tried to convince him to be against me,” Jones says. “But Adam told him to let me be myself.” [Source]
Church of the the Resurrection (CORE) with four campuses and 22,000 members is led by Adam Hamilton and is the largest congregation in the United States. He says in his article about the vote, A Way Backwards: Winning the Battle, Losing the Church:
The Traditional Plan just approved reaffirming our existing language that the “practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” It sharpened the prohibitions of pastors from marrying or our churches from hosting such weddings. It also condemned the marriages of every same-sex couple in the UMC, many raising children, as incompatible with Christian teaching. In order for these persons to be compatible with Christian teaching, the leaders of the WCA seem to imply that these couples divorce and break up their family. This idea is repugnant.
It seems these pastors and members object on the basis that this vote is not loving or inclusive, but these pastors have a fundamental misunderstanding of the church’s role to the world. My questions to any Christian pastor or Christian regardless of denominational affiliation are two-fold, “Is it love to lie?” and “what does the Bible tell Christians they can expect in this life?”
Let’s examine a couple of ideas from above: that it is hard for the homosexual to find a church which won’t go against their desires and one where they can remain as they are with no need to change. Two things immediately come to mind:
- Is the church against them or their sin? Sin is supposed to be called out and called out by the body of Christ, the Church. (1 Tim 5:20, Gal 6:1, James 5:19-20, 2 Tim 4:2, 2 Tim 3:1617)
- The Bible tells us to be imitators of God (Eph 5:1) and that He who began the good work in us will perfect it (Phil 1:6) rather than to remain as we were.
Mark Holland made an odd objection saying the vote was a blow to the church as a whole because, “People see the hypocrites of the church and it’s a turn-off.” My question to Mark Holland is quite simple, given the evidence in the Old and New Testament regarding God’s view of homosexuality (Leviticus 20:13, Romans 1:26-27, 1 Timothy 1:10, Jude 1:7, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11), wouldn’t the church’s act of performing homosexual marriages and allowing homosexual pastors be evidence of hypocrisy not the other way round? Maybe Holland and others would argue that Jesus did not address this topic during His time on earth, and they would be correct; but this type of reasoning falls apart very quickly:
- The Bible tells us Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 13:8). We know that Jesus is God, and so if God forbade it and hated it in the past (Genesis 18, 19; Leviticus 18:22, 24-30 ) then it follows He forbids it now and will continue to forbid it in the future.
- If the logic is that because Jesus did not address homosexuality specifically it is now open to acceptance based on current social mores then we should ask what other topics which Jesus did not address should now be acceptable: pedophelia, incest, abortion?
The most common and fervent objections raised in opposition to the Methodist Church’s vote appear to surround the matters of love and inclusiveness—that the greatest act of love would be to remain silent or to endorse a lifestyle of sin. The Methodist Reverend Laura Steele wrote about this idea in her article, Our Pastor: Response to UMC General Conference; Steele had three main points on which she focused, “I vow to lead our church in a way that promotes the unconditional love of God to ALL persons, [sic] I vow to lead our church in a way that shares the call of Jesus Christ for justice, mercy, radical hospitality, and inclusion for ALL persons, [sic] and I vow to lead our church in a way that helps ALL persons realize the gifts of the Holy Spirit working in and through them.”
The matter of inclusiveness is a real problem but only because, by in large, church leadership as a whole created it. Let me explain. It isn’t that pastors don’t speak to the other sins in the church (adultery, pornography, premarital sex, lying, cheating, stealing, etc) but that homosexuals are the only ones who are biblically disciplined. The church often covers up or ignores these other sins while still welcoming without biblical reproof or correction those who commit these sins, yet the practicing homosexual is made a special example of. This has led to very real perception for those inside and outside of the church that homosexuality is the only sin that matters to Christians.
Galatians 6:1, Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.
1 Corinthians 5:9-12, I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?
Let’s zoom out a bit to the importance of calling something sin and whether or not it is love to tell someone that their sin (lying, cheating, stealing, adultery, homosexuality) is not a sin? This may seem okay in our postmodern-subjective-truth worldview, but the importance of this cannot be overstated—without sin and recognizing it as sin, there is no need for a savior. But if we dearly and truly love our brothers and sisters in Christ, shouldn’t we tell them that what they are doing is sin and that they need Jesus to help them change their thoughts and desires rather than espousing the common teaching and belief that God loves them just as they are—that He doesn’t want them to change nor does He expect them to change.
The last thing we will touch on is the apparent concern pastors and Christians have about being liked or accepted by the world. I believe we have forgotten what we are to expect as faithful followers of Jesus and on this the Bible is crystal clear:
John 15:18-20, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.
Matthew 5: 10-12, Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
James 4:4, You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
I fear we have become more deliberate in adopting the morals of the world and more conscientious of the world’s perception of what we say we believe than we are of conforming ourselves to God’s Word; if so, then perhaps it is time to worry about what our goal should be and reconsider to whom we have given our allegiance.
*Note: This matter is far from settled for the Methodist Church. Bishop John Schol, The United Methodist Church of Greater New Jersey, writes, “The legislation that was passed, was again sent to the Judicial Council, the ‘supreme court’ of The United Methodist Church where it is anticipated that much of the Traditional Plan will be ruled unconstitutional for a third time. We most likely will not receive final rulings from the Judicial Council for several months. United Methodists will continue under our present policies concerning homosexuality.