Holy Conversation

As part of the response to Bishop Young Jin Cho's request that the Virginia Conference Common Table for Church Vitality facilitate conversation around the conference on the subject of human sexuality, this blog page has been set up to allow Virginia United Methodists to post their opinions and continue the "Holy Conversation" begun on the Nov. 22 "Day of Holy Conversation."

Click here to read news report of the Nov. 22 event.

Click here to view video of the Nov. 22 event.

The guiding question for the panelists and presenters in the Nov. 22 Day of Holy Conversation was:

“In light of concerns being expressed in different areas of the connection of The United Methodist Church and in society as a whole regarding human sexuality, how can we move forward in mission and ministry together?”

You are invited to post your thoughts and response to the above question. Click on "Post a New Story" to add your comments. Please include your name and church affiliation. (Note: It may take a few hours before your comments appear on the page.)

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Homosexuality & Scripture

It bothers me that those advocating the more traditional interpretation of Scripture on homosexual practice accuse those who don't of being un-Scriptural.  As long as one group of Christians sees those of differing viewpoints as being un-Biblical, they have skewed an honest difference of interpretation into a Right-vs-Wrong issue that's dangerous to the unity of the church.

I can understand someone who says "I haven't seen such research" or scholarly interpretations , but that doesn't mean there are none.  One fair book is The Bible and Homosexuality:  Two Views (Robert Gagnon & Dan Via), in which two Biblical scholars read and comment on the same passages.  A reader may not agree with Via -- I don't agree with Gagnon -- but it's harmful (if not arrogant) to say there is no legitimate Biblical reading that justifies a more progressive approach, and that the right is clearly on our side.

In my opinion, a careful reading of the Leviticus texts, for example, reveals that the passages speaking against homosexual practice are rooted in a section that deals with cultic law, not moral law.  There's much before and after those verses that we deem as irrelevant today; cherry-picking particular verses and saying they're different from the surrounding context is not right.

Similarly, a careful exegesis of Romans 1reveals Paul using homosexual practice as an example of pagan behavior that Jews criticized.  He could have chosen other behavior -- and indeed he lists other behaviors at the end of the chapter -- but he explicitly chooses a behavior that Jews would condemn as being particularly sinful.  He then springs his trap in 2:1 -- "Therefore YOU have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others."  He uses verses about "degrading passions" and "rebellion against God" to serve his greater purpose of saying "All have sinned and fallen short" -- to convict everyone of their need for a Savior, and NOT to single out a particular behavior for greater condemnation.

Furthermore, "lusting" and "rebelling" and "degrading passions" and "exchanging" one's "natural" inclinations are what draw Paul's condemnation.  If a same-sex relationship is grounded in faith, gentle, loving, committed, non-coercive -- and doesn't require one to exchange one's natural inclinations for unnatural -- then it's NOT what sits under Paul's condemnation in Romans 1.

Thanks for reading this far.  I just want to make the point that good Biblical grounding and advocating for same-sex relationships are not mutually exclusive.



Amen to the Comments of Mr.Wilms-the Bible is objectively true

Mr Wilms states that God's Word is "as valid.....today as the day it was put to parchment". Indeed, this is correct because the writing of the scriptures were superintended by the Holy Spirit of truth. The Bible is objectively true from Genesis 1:1 to the end of Revelations, and The Word of God has authority because it is true. Jesus confirmed this when He said "Thy Word is truth" (John 17), and He was referring to the whole of the scriptures.

Will the Church point towards God or towards itself?

Honestly I don't feel very strongly about the issue of homosexuality. If people want to join into same sex marriage or practice homosexuality, it doesn't affect my life that I can see. It's not that particular issue which bothers me, but rather the relationship that our church seems to have with our own scriptures.

The Bible holds high standards for sexuality, and teaches that many types of sexual practices are harmful, including homosexuality. I do not read any ambiguity on the subject, and the scriptures appear as moral teachings, rather than the more ceremonial dietary law that Jesus enlightened us about. Furthermore, thousands of years of believers have come to the same conclusion. If we are to reverse that and proclaim the scriptures incorrect or incorrectly interpreted, this is an extraordinary claim that requires extraordinary theological evidence. I have not seen that evidence presented.

If there is no strong theological basis for rejecting what the scripture says, then what basis are we using? To me it seems we are using popular sentiment, or our own sense of social justice. This is an age old trap, that we know better than God. God asked Adam and Eve to trust Him that the fruit of the tree would harm them, but they evaluated the situation themselves and did not see anything wrong with eating the fruit. Despite God's warning, Israel wanted to have a human King rather than judges, to be more like neighboring nations, with disastrous results. I fear we have forgotten who is the Master and who is the servant.

In an effort to be more relevant in our society, we risk becoming completely irrelevant. I trust in the church to help shepherd me towards the perfection of Christ as John Wesley taught. However if the church's teachings are simply to mirror popular sentiment, then what do I need the church for? And if we are to single out scriptures as invalid or old fashioned because they clash with our societal norms, and without properly justifying why such a change in our teachings is warranted, then what do I need the scriptures for?

So it's not the particular issue of homosexuality that concerns me. I would be equally concerned if the church was pushing sexuality outside of marriage, or gambling, or any number of other things that our society condones but the scriptures teach as harmful. We are not the first to deal with these issues. The early church in Corinth lived in a society where prostitution was celebrated as an act of worship. Paul warned the Corinthians against being shaped by their society's norms. Despite our iPhones, we all have the same basic human nature, the same temptations, and the same need for God's grace as millennia of His children. And I trust God's word to be as valid to guide my life today as the day it was put to parchment.

Christopher Wilms

Providence United Methodist Church, Richmond VA



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