Methodist Bishop Melvin Talbert is in trouble, maybe a great deal of trouble.
The United Methodist Church is, in most places where Methodists worship God, a friendly and open place. And the national Church motto has for some time been "Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors."
One dissenting tract I read was from a pastor in a break-off group. He protested that Methodist open doors needed screens. Keeping out unworthy thoughts was his stated theme. It occurred to me the real message was a combination of keeping out love for the wrong people and especially keeping out those wrong people. As I eventually clicked off, it seemed to me the central idea was that the purpose of screens is to keep out harmful or annoying pests.
I don't meet many Methodists who regard people as insects. Most Methodists I have met embrace the idea of "Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors." Several years ago, I had lunch with an associate pastor who now leads a congregation. At one point, we talked about the issue of gay marriage. It is a burning issue today, and it was then as well. It had nowhere near the support six years ago as it does now. "I don't think gay marriage should be allowed," I told him, parroting a David Brooks line. "I think it should be encouraged."
He jumped up and leaned over the table to shake my hand in agreement. That was something back then.
His agreement was also contrary to a Methodist governing document. It still is. The Methodist Book of Discipline distills the doctrine of the United Methodist Church into a statement of holy law. As a practical matter, it applies to clergy. At least that is where it is enforced. About 40 years ago, a church convention addressed homosexuality directly. "Since the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching, self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be accepted as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church."
The sentence has been there unchanged ever since. A few years ago, as I was considering membership in the United Methodist church, I held back for a while on just this issue. A pastor had come out of the closet, revealing her relationship with another woman. They were committed as life partners. She was, I think, acquitted at a trial. Methodist ecclesiastical juries have tended to be a bit technical. Unless homosexual practice is proven, homosexuality is okay. And homosexual activity is hard to prove without some act of voyeurism. Don't peep, don't tell.
But Bishop Melvin Talbert has gone further. He encourages clergy to perform gay marriages.
Now Bishop Talbert is retired. He has no official duties in regard to gay marriage. Some of us might think that even a retired Methodist bishop might be allowed first amendment speech on a controversial issue. But a tiny group of conservative clergy and members don't see it that way.
There is an organized conservative campaign called the Good News and Confessing Movement. It is trans-denominational, outside any one church or sect. Its goal is to push mainline Christian churches into a more traditional, less tolerant set of doctrines. They have campaigned to get a complaint signed against Bishop Talbert. The total number of signatures they have managed to gather is 70.
I have no idea of how long the Methodist Book of Discipline will go against the core of what Jesus taught: that true scriptural law is fulfilled when we love God and love our neighbor. The arc of the moral universe bends toward justice, but, man oh man, that arc is sometimes way, way long.
Still, out of 12 million members of the United Methodist Church worldwide, 70 signatures strikes me as pretty small. Perhaps some jury will decide that, although the Bishop clearly believes in equality for gay couples, he is not actually practicing free speech.
It is always possible the church to which I belong will end its 40 year journey, and finally arrive at a spiritual realization: that Jesus was in a lifelong life-and-death debate against those who insisted on putting screens between God and man. That the struggle continues. That Jesus tells us in scripture and in our hearts, that our neighbors are not vermin to be kept out.
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"...homosexual ACTS are contrary to God’s design and will."
What about desires?
My faith and traditional sociology tend to support that active homosexuality is deterimental to the basic family unit and society as a whole accordingly.
Are homosexual desires "contrary to God's design and will" just like homosexual acts are?
It is my belief that we are each given a cross to carry… a burden with which we must each struggle to overcome. Whether that cross is same sex attraction, addiction to alcohol or drugs, meglo-maniacal narcissism, greed, lust, or any of the other seven deadly sins, they are there to teach us self-control. They are there to help us become better people, rather than simply to give in to the path of least resistance. These afflictions are actually gifts in so much as if we turn to family, friends, and ultimately to God in order that we may overcome them rather than succumb to them, we will have strengthened our characters accordingly.
Mr. Myste, I love you man, but you are incorrigible. Someday in the not too distant future, I will complete my response to your God accusations, my friend.
Here is my question to you:
"Is that a yes or a no?"
"Mr. Myste, I love you man, but you are incorrigible. Someday in the not too distant future, I will complete my response to your God accusations, my friend. "
I am not sure of which accusations you speak, my friend. I and God have no quarrel.
We are like This/this.
[My fingers overlapped shortly after I typed this.
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