Could this be the tipping point for some in the United Methodist Church?

There is no doubt that the subject of homosexuality and same-sex marriage is a hot topic in the church these days, and it have hit fever pitch for some in the United Methodist Church.

Yesterday, suspended UMC pastor Frank Schaefer was reinstated as a pastor.  The Pennsylvania minister was suspended about six months ago after officiating his son’s same-sex marriage.

The move had some cheering; and others mad as, well, you know.

First, he was just suspended by a jury of Methodist pastors… for just 30 days.

But when he refused to promise that he would not ever perform another same-sex marriage, he was defrocked.

This is personal for Schaefer.  Three of his four children are gay.

Now, according to the LA Times, a nine-person panel of clergy and lay members has determined that that ‘defrocking’ was unlawful.  Here’s why: Revoking his credentials “cannot be squared with the well-established principle that our clergy can only be punished for what they have been convicted of doing in the past, not for what they may or may not do in the future” according to the panel.

Schaefer will be moved from PA to the California-Pacific conference where he will work in Student Ministry.

You can tell the amount of acrimony in sectors of the UMC just by reading the Bishop of the California-Pacific Conference’s release on Schaefer’s reinstatement and move to her conference:

I am aware of the fact that these steps on our journey to wholeness may be troubling to some among us.  This burdens my heart, but we must be the church of Jesus that excludes no one.  I will continue to hold up for all of us the need to be servants of Christ of the highest moral character whether we are straight or gay.  At the same time, we must not judge each other on the basis of our gender identity, for we are all created by God and loved by God with the very gender identity God has graciously bestowed upon us.

Rev. Schaefer has much to teach us about what it means to love the children God gives us who happen to be gay.  I pray that we will make space for him and his family in our lives and in our hearts as he comes to labor among us.

For those on the other side of this issue, I doubt they feel that Schaefer has anything to teach them.  She doesn’t seem to understand that there are a good share of her tribe that feel that it is not possible to live under the highest moral character if you are a practicing homosexual.

We have a lot of United Methodists that read this blog… many on both sides of the issue.

My question… will the Schaefer case turn into some kind of a tipping point ultimately for or against gay marriage in the UMC?

Your thoughts?

Todd

14 Comments

  • pietrosquared June 25, 2014 Reply

    Methodist here (but new one)…

    This won’t be the tipping point, I don’t think…

    …but… It continues to amaze me how many people are making something that isn’t addressed in the classic creeds of the church a litmus test for faith. There are other things the Bible is far more concerned about, and we don’t march and protest against those, do we…?

    Greed, Gluttony and Gossip anyone?

    • Bart June 25, 2014 Reply

      Neat to see how “classic creeds of the church” seem to be more of a concern than Biblical writing. Any Biblical passage regarding the physical homosexual relationship is referred to as sinful.
      However, to tell someone they are condemned to hell because of their sexual attractions shuts off any communication regarding their need for Christ.

      Am I wrong in thinking that someone’s greatest sin is not accepting Christ? That once they accept Christ, the Spirit working in them will bring them closer to Christ, and that the traits in them that grieve the Spirit the greatest will be the ones that the Holy Spirit will address with greatest effort?

      We all need to realize that our sinful nature, if it is Gossip, Greed, Gluttony, Pride, Sexual, whatever it is still sinful.

      I know I am guilty of greed, gluttony and gossip. I just hope I can surround myself with people who help me overcome them. It is way too easy to fall in a crowd (in church) that practice them also, and even though we try, we still sin.

      I just pray my church does not come out and say ‘You are wired to gossip and lie, your nature is prideful, Embrace it, Be proud of who you are’

      • pietrosquared June 25, 2014 Reply

        Bart, the Bible is important, and that’s why the classic creeds of the Christian faith assert and attest to its being the inspired word of God.

        But if we are going to pick and choose scriptures, why not stone to death people who talk back to their parents or wear a polyester blend?

        • Bart June 25, 2014 Reply

          Can you pull up one line in the Bible that upholds homosexual relationships.

          Give me one that gives a hint that homosexuality is right.

          Polyester? how did that come into the discussion?

          Creeds, I had a Lutheran minister tell me he had to uphold the creed of his denomination, regardless of what was in the Bible. I thought Luther’s thoughts went the other direction.

          • pietrosquared June 25, 2014

            Not the point I’m trying to make, you’re doing a great job of missing it, I think.

            The point I AM trying to make is how this particular behavior gets elevated by some to the level of “unpardonable sin”.

            Those same people conveniently avoid other commands that are routinely violated. The Bible has a lot more to say about the sin of Greed… and yet we don’t march and protest against it.

            The “polyester blend” thing comes from a command in Deuteronomy which Orthodox Jews still interpret to mean that you can’t wear a fabric blend. And Jesus didn’t specifically reverse the OT command to stone to death disobedient children.

          • Bart June 25, 2014

            Unpardonable sin? That is beyond our pay grade to make that call. Side note – I thought that was choosing to walk away from Christ after accepting Him.

            I will agree, the conversation seems to boil down to “Unpardonable sin is something you do. My sins – they are Righteous sins.”

            Excuse me – to commit one sin is to be guilty of all.

            No wonder we as believers get a bad reputation.

            Jesus did say something about causing a little one to sin and a millstone around the neck

        • John M. Harris June 25, 2014 Reply

          Because of the New Covenant, under which Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 6.

          As Bonehoeffer said “Only those who believe obey, and only those who obey believe.”

          It’s not about who you “once were” (again, 1Cor 6), but about who you are now in Christ.

          Those who continue in the active lifestyle of the ones described in 1Cor 6 are not a part of God’s Kingdom.

          So, that’s why. Thanks for playing.

          And yes, to answer you predictable conclusion, I would apply the same criteria to the other lifestyles listen in 1Cor 6.

    • Leonard June 27, 2014 Reply

      Peter, you have asked this question more than once here, what is your response? Do we ignore it? Should we shout out other sins more often? Should we only preach the creeds? Should we just be silent on this issue in the church? What do you suggest?

      • pietrosquared June 27, 2014 Reply

        I enjoy asking the questions, but admit that I’m not going to post my own answers in a public forum…

        Except to say that I believe someone can legitimately, in good conscience, be a Christian believer and disagree with me on this… and I can remain in loving non-judgmental fellowship with them.

        This issue does not and will not define me as a Christian either way. It’s not an essential to me.

        • Leonard June 27, 2014 Reply

          Seems a bit odd that you would challenge others opinions but refuse to offer yours.

          The problem is not that we hold this sin too high, it is that we hold all sin too low. Truth be told in my church circles, I hear much more about greed and gluttony and pride… The problem is that if I call greed a sin, you would not withhold an opinion, you would just agree… even though greed is not in the creeds. However If I call homosexuality a sin I am told I am a bigot (not by you) but in our culture.

          This is a subject that hits very close to home in our family and we love dearly our family member, they just had a wedding. If I were not in India, I would have been there but not because I agree, rather because I love them so much.

          Not arguing, just a few thoughts on my head.

  • Alberto Medrano June 25, 2014 Reply

    Not sure, but but if the pcusa is anything to base this on, it’s likely. Since the pcusa has chosen to allow for same sex marriage, many churches in that denomination have, are, and will be splitting from it. There’s a financial cost, and as well as the cost of losing people. Leaders on both sides of the issue have recently stated that within this decade, churches will have to make a public stand and churches will split. I do believe this is the decade we’ll see the most church splits in history. I don’t know. It may turn out to be a schism. It isn’t something that churches will just turn a blind eye to.

  • jubilee888 June 30, 2014 Reply

    Celebrating and participating in activities (sexual or otherwise) that God’s word clearly calls sin is always SIN!
    Period.
    We all sin, but we all don’t celebrate our sin, have parades about it, shove it down the throats of others, force others to participate via lawsuits that violate their freedom of religion and freedom of conscience, etc. like this gang does.

    There is no possible way (short of being deceived or deluded by one’s own stubborn desires) to read Rom. 1:18-27 without seeing God’s total condemnation of ALL homosexual acts, unless one is reading one of those awful bastardized “paraphrases” of the Bible (like the Message) that totally twist and water down what God’s word actually says in this area among others. (Their agenda is obvious.) Those acts are forgivable through Jesus, but only of they are acknowledged as sin and repented of.

    No Christian is ever directed by Scripture to ignore/ accept/ celebrate ANYTHING that God clearly calls sin. If we do that, we are no better than the Corinthians, who thought they were such hotshots for “accepting” the man in their church who was unrepentantly committing incest with his father’s wife. On the contrary, God through Paul directs us in 1 Cor. 5 that unrepentant sexual immorality by those who consider themselves Christians defiles the Church and must not be tolerated. Not only are we to NOT celebrate sin, we are to have nothing to do with unrepentant sinners who consider themselves Christians – we are clearly directed to purge them from the local Body of Christ unless/until they repent and change their ways.
    Before you all go screaming that that is “unloving”, please remember that 1 Corinthians 5 is still part of our loving God’s revealed Word in the New Testament.

  • Rev. Prescott Jay Erwin July 1, 2014 Reply

    Interesting turns of phrase from the Bishop of CPC:

    “I am aware of the fact that these steps on our journey to wholeness may be troubling…” Is that what the Christian walk is, a journey to wholeness? I’m not sure how Wesleyan that is.

    “…we must be the church of Jesus that excludes no one…” because Jesus said the Kingdom excludes no one right? No one will be left in outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched? Because Jesus will never say to some, “Well done, enter into life. Come you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you” and to others, “Depart from me, you who practice lawlessness. Depart from Me, you accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for you.”

    “I will continue to hold up for all of us…” That’s pretty dictatorial. I guess she can overrule whatever the rest of the UMC decides to do?

    “…the need to be servants of Christ of the highest moral character whether we are straight or gay. At the same time, we must not judge each other on the basis of our gender identity…” “Gender identity” is not the issue; holiness living is.

    “…for we are all created by God and loved by God with the very gender identity God has graciously bestowed upon us…” This is interesting: all through Scripture when making self-references, the Lord uses male pronouns. When the Lord is incarnate in flesh, he does so as a male. When Jesus talks about the promised Holy Spirit who was to be sent, He uses male pronouns. God chose to reveal Himself using a gender identity, but God is not allowed to do that. (Oh, that’s right, the Bible is patriarchal propaganda. I forgot.)

    “…Schaefer has much to teach us about what it means to love the children God gives us who happen to be gay…” Why is it considered more loving to ignore someone’s sin and allow them to be cast out of the Kingdom than to point it out and snatch them out of the fire? (Jude 23).

    The reason this has become such a big issue is not because traditional Christians are so unloving, but because homosexuality is one of only two sins for which there are advocacy groups demanding that it be accepted, affirmed, and even advanced by the Church. If that was not the case, it would receive no more or less attention than any other.

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