Yes, Cassondra, you are correct about our approach to loving the sinner. It is hoped that those who are engaging in sin will stop doing so if shown compassion and God's grace in action. We don't openly preach against homosexuality like some churches do, but active homosexuals are counseled privately regarding the Biblical teachings on the subject. Our general sermons are usually upbeat and tend to be more along the lines of how to apply the teachings in a common-sense manner to the average person's life, rather than the "hellfire and brimstone" approach that some churches take. We're the churches that run most of the homeless shelters and soup kitchens. We try to work God's will through the less fortunate in our communities. I guess you could say we take a public service approach to the teachings.
I especially agree with the Methodist Church's position permitting female ministers (I thought I'd throw that in for Keith's sake). In fact, I seek out Methodist congregations with female pastors, and always have. Of course, that's just a personal preference. It's not that I'm a feminist, it's that I feel more comfortable with a female pastor since I do seek pastoral counsel on a regular basis, and it has been my experience that a female can understand my personal concerns and feelings better than a male can. I have also found female pastors to be more compassionate than male pastors (although there is one notable exception).
I agree with you that there are many types of urges common to the human condition which must be controlled and not acted upon, and homosexuality is but one of those many things. That is why we permit homosexuals to become members just as we would alcoholics. It is hoped that being accepted within the Christian community will facilitate change in their life. It actually does help a lot of people turn their life around.
This homosexuality issue has been a great struggle for me, and I appreciate your kind concern. On the one hand, I agree with the teachings of the UMC and with the Book of Discipline, which is why I am a member. On the other hand, this seeming politicizing within the church leadership of the issues surrounding homosexual clergy has been a source of great stress for me. I simply cannot condone it among our clergy. I am basically trying a "wait and see" approach to how it will ultimately be handled overall. It appears that the church is agreeing with me regarding the issue since the last General Conference, but who knows what will happen at the next General Conference. The church seems to be evolving away from the teachings, slowly but surely, even though we already are one of the more liberal congregations. I don't think we need to become any more liberal than we already are.
In the meantime, the church is telling members to not pass judgment, to stick together and allow the church to resolve the issue. However, it is my understanding of the scriptures that, when grave sin is involved within the Christian community, we must rebuke those sinners lest the sin spread to other Christians; and that ministers and teachers are to be held to a higher standard. Yet, the original minister to come forward with an admission of homosexuality still holds the position of pastor, despite being an active open homosexual. I feel the church and its members have a responsibility to rebuke her and take away her position within the church. Of even greater concern is that to permit her to continue in her position while still an actively practicing homosexual could even encourage young church members to sin by acting on homosexual urges. After all, if their minister is known to be a lesbian, and her homosexuality appears to be condoned by the church, the thought will naturally be that it must not be a sin. It's my understanding that, if others are induced to sin through one's actions, that constitutes blood guilt. So, I continue to struggle, and to pray that this will be resolved soon.
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Saturday, December 04, 2004 11:58 PM
Subject: Re: Methodists convict lesbian!
Thanks, Tamara, I think you cleared that up for me. I guess what I perceived
as contradiction lies in our differing approaches to sin. It sounds like
your emphasis on loving the sinner leads you to tolerate the sin, hoping that the
person will change at some point without pressure from others. In my mind,
loving the sinner means doing everything possible to "snatch them from the
fire," and that would include letting them know that they cannot be in fellowship
with God while they continue to practice sin.
By the way, I agree that a person may continue to have homosexual urges and
yet remain pure before God, just as a heterosexual may continue to be attracted
to members of the opposite sex or recovering alcoholics may continue to
struggle with desires for alcohol, etc. The key lies in not indulging our lusts.
The fact that we have lusts, of any sort, simply means that we are human.
I know that you've been struggling with all this upheaval for a while. I
hope that you can arrive at an understanding that communes with truth and frees
your conscience. At its heart, there is nothing more simple and pure than
faith, yet its application often is as tangled as are we.
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Support your local IRS office and ask Keith Sisman to change his vote before another night falls!
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