Can’t We Just Move Beyond the Gay Debate?

Jason Micheli —  May 10, 2016 — 1 Comment

GC2016-logo-color-hi-resThe quadrennial global gathering of my tribe of Christians, United Methodism, begins their ten day exercise in ‘Holy Conferencing’ today in Portland, Oregon.

“Holy Conferencing” most often = Roberts Rules of Order, Democratic Practices, and Political Ideologies Slathered in Prayer

I realize I’m prone to cynical anti-institutionalism, but Bishop Will Willimon assured me that General Conference is not only a gross waste of the Church’s resources and energy but is ample cause for healthy cynicism.

As at every General Conference, the agenda will be consumed with debate about the United Methodist Church’s stance towards homosexuality, an issue over which the Church has been mired in an impasse for decades. While there are proposals before General Conference to move forward and adapt the Discipline’s language, including a realistic, moderate proposal from Adam Hamilton, with which I concur, it’s easy to sympathize with those people, both liberals and conservatives, who wish the Church simply would move on from this all-distracting issue.

I wonder, though, if closing off the conversation, as many conservatives would prefer, belies our own status as Gentiles. By seeing the welcome of gay Christians into the household of God, and into its disciplines of marriage and ministry, as a closed question, do they fail to recognize how their own admission into God’s People is possible only through an act of God’s grace that is every bit as unnatural as they take homosexuality to be?

Here’s what I mean:

In Romans 1, St. Paul writes that homosexual acts are “against nature” (para phusin). Eugene Rogers points out that in Romans 11 Paul uses this exact same phrase to describe God’s act of adopting Gentiles in to the household of Israel. God’s inclusion of the Gentiles into the People of God, Paul says, is “against nature.” God’s grace is such that Christians owe their salvation to God’s unnatural act.

Rogers argues that because Christians have been adopted so unnaturally, they must be a people of hospitality to both Jews and outsiders. He adds that because they are saved by such a strange grace, the adoption of gay Christians in to the People of God must not be a closed question for straight Christians. The salvation of Gentile Christians by the God of Israel proves that no work of inclusion is beyond this God’s unnatural grace.

For Episode 5 of our Crackers and Grape Juice Podcast, Morgan, Teer, and I talk about General Conference and the Church’s welcome of gay Christians with my friend, Andrew DiAntonio, who is now the Social Media Director for the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Conference.

The audio isn’t perfect, but here you go. Be on the lookout for podcasts with Todd Littleton, Tony Jones, and NT Wright.

Subscribe to and download the Crackers & Grape Juice Podcast in iTunes. Just search ‘Crackers & Grape Juice.’ And PLEASE give us an all-star rating- it makes it more likely others will discover the podcast.

You can also find the podcast here: http://www.spreaker.com/user/crackersandgrapejuice.

Jason Micheli

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One response to Can’t We Just Move Beyond the Gay Debate?

  1. One way to move beyond the current stalemate is to find places of agreement that we all can support.
    Our society is crying out of some clear guidance on how our sexuality informs our lives. In addition, there is a place where we could recognize and affirm loving families of the same sex challenge them to live within a holy covenant of agape love. Both of these ideas could be studied and produce a discussion document that would help our congregations grow and become closer to Christ.

    In detail, these ideas would look like:

    First: Form a Study Commission on: “The Role of Sex and the effects of the Sexual Revolution”.

    Sex and Sexuality in our society has been revolutionized beyond imagination over the last fifty years. The issues and concerns go far beyond sexual identity and effect everything from marital relations, dating and the use of medical resources, to the spread of sex crimes, prostitution and pornography.

    The church has not addressed these issues in a comprehensive, theological and grace-filled way. God’s gift of an intimate sexual relationships needs to have a comprehensive study from a Wesleyan perspective.

    Let us bring all sides of our church together for a wide-ranging study of sex in the 21st century in the same way that we produced “By Water and the Spirit” and “This Holy Mystery”. I am sure it will result in a study document that can help heal and unify our denomination.

    Second: Form a Study Commission on “Recognizing Same Sex Families: Honoring the presence of God’s Love and Grace”

    One clear note of compassion and understanding in the debate about Homosexuality in the UM church is the recognition of grace filled and committed relationships between two people of the same sex.

    Is there a way for the church to recognize that relationship even if our Book of Discipline is unchanged?

    Finding the power of God’s grace and love between people is central to our calling. Families have become shattered and individuals are pulled apart for so many reasons in our society that has and is going through tremendous transformations.

    Can our church provide support, compassion and understanding to same sex families if they profess chastity? Could there be some rite of recognition offered by our church for the individuals involved in a deep and committed relationship that is built on Agapé and Phileao love?

    We can draw people from all the factions of our denomination to study the possibilities and problems of such an approach and perhaps draw up some guidelines that will help all approach this topic with dignity and love.

    These ideas could still be brought to the floor to set up these studies. Enabling legislation would also need to be drafted. However, I believe these small steps could be part of a “third way” of action that may lead to healing in our denomination.

    P.S. I have written more extensively about these two ideas at:
    http://pastorterry.blogs.com/esoundings/2015/10/unraveling-the-gordian-knot-of-same-sex-marriage-umc-alternative-initiatives.html

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