United Methodists and Gays

In a New York Times article under the byline
of Neela Banerjee, the debate about gay and lesbian ordination and the
disciplining of a pastor in Virginia for refusing a gay man membership in a
local congregation is reviewed.

A New York Times article by Neela Banerjee this morning presents a balanced review of the discussion occurring within The United Methodist Church about the ordination of gays and lesbians.

Two days ago Bishop Scott Jones of the Kansas Area spoke cogently about the need for the church to pay more attention to poverty and less to the issue of gay marriage. He made the point that the Bible says more about poverty than about this divisive issue of human sexuality and that the church needs to recognize this biblical priority.

Eventually this will be sorted out. I believe it will be sorted out in a way that is both biblically sound and affirming of all peoples who are genuinely searching to live faithfully.

The description of the discussion in the Times reveals a dialogue that is deep, yet one that has focused on issues and principles. I take more than a little hope in this. United Methodists have not gone the way of personal attack and invective. The debate remains centered on important issues of biblical interpretation and moral values. We see these differently, to be sure. But we don’t conclude that those who differ are in some way less faithful. This is one of the great gifts these people who are called United Methodist are offering to the public dialogue.

In its own way this dialogue embodies inclusive community. Yes, it is strained. Yes, we are living in tension. And yes, it could lead to division. But, at this moment at least, we are still struggling together.

On the other hand, while women and children are traumatized in Darfur and Iraq, families huddle in the cold in Kasmir and the people of the U.S. Gulf Coast struggle to rebuild their lives, the people of The United Methodist Church are present with them, offering shelter, comfort and support. On the important issue of meeting human need, we stand together. We know that it is urgent that we take seriously the biblical call to compassion and justice. We are addressing critical human needs in a biblically faithful way.

In light of these clear challenges to faithful discipleship, is it is possible, as some who are quoted in the Times article say, that a great denomination would divide over this issue?

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