Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Pro-Gay Rally at UMC Conference Center- an attempt at one response to Wesley Blog

Once upon a time the Methodist Church began to be divided into various groups with various ideas, colors, beliefs and theology. Some groups thought that some should be excluded from the church while others thought that other groups should not be a part of the denomination. Some talked about splitting while others talked about withholding apportionments.

One day in heaven, John Wesley asked Jesus, "what do you think about everything that's going on in the UMC?" Jesus said it reminds me of a parable I told a long time ago and it goes like this, "God's kingdom is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field...."

Over at the Wesley Blog, Shane has posted an article about the Reconciling Ministries Network's (an organization that exists to enable full participation of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities in the life of the United Methodist Church both in policy and practice) convocation being held this year at Lake Junaluska- the Southeast Jurisdictional retreat center. Shane is making a strong case that the ecclesial/theological liberals still hold power in our tradition and that this example is "case and point".

According to Wesley Blog, "So what do we do? We're dealing with a special interest group working against UMC teaching, yet it has still been allowed to rent a major UMC facility and is given de facto approval by seven UMC bishops. This just can't be allowed to happen. First of all, I believe there could be spiritual fallout if we allow facilities like this to be used to promote unbiblical causes."

So now I'm stuggling with the question- who get's access to our facilities- to have a voice and space to "practice their faith"? And what does it mean when we begin to exclude "United Methodist" groups from using United Methodist facilities because we disagree with their stances (and how those stance are lived out practically in the life of the church)?

So let's look at some different scenarios and stories:
1. Genesis 19: 1-29: The story of Sodom and Gomorrah. This story has been "interpreted" by most as a story of a city who's destroyed because of it's wickedness and sexual immorality. It is a favorite scripture to use to demonize homosexuality. However another "interpretation" of this passage is that God's judgement falls on the cities because of their unwillingness to show hospitality to strangers. Throughout the Bible God defends and stands for "the other" and it might not be such a stretch here. So what's the implication for the UM to deny hospitality to a group who seeks sanctuary?

2. Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13
This is part of the Holiness Code which explains rules designed to maintain purity, or cleanliness. "A male lying with a male as with a woman" is considered an abomination. Why? One "interpretation" is that this was thought to "pollute" the male and wastes the "seed" which was believed to hold all of the potential life. Such behavior would leave the participants ritually impure. It had nothing to do with sexual attraction or intimacy or mutual relationships. But in this section of the code we find many other rules alongside the sexual practices such as eating pork (punishable by death), touching leather, and having sex with a menstruating woman. Other prohibited actions include sowing a field with two kinds of seed and wearing clothing made of more than one material. The concern here is more about ritual purity than our idea of morality (but in premodern hebrew thought- morality was tied to ritual purity).

3. Romans 1:26-27. One cannot deny that Paul believes that anything other than a woman in relationship with a man and a man in a relationship with a woman is how he believes things ought to be. I like the message version of this passage- Eugene Peterson says, "women didn't know how to be women, men didn't know how to be men. Sexually confused, they abused and defiled one another, women with women, men with men--all lust, no love.

I think a key issue in here is that we live in a creation that is fallen and confused and no one is outside of that confused and fallen nature. Again, one "interpretation" to this passage has been that Paul sees homosexual behavior as behavior that cannot be expressed within a committed loving monogomous relationship but as an "abandonment to relationships in exchange for lust". I'm not ready to speak for Paul from reading one passage but it's worth the thought (and I tend to think it holds a lot of water).

Paul goes on later to say that we all fall short and that nothing seperates us from the love of Christ. This passage reinforces my question- then who ought to actually be excluded from being a part of the Body of Christ? And how do we make that judgement?

4. Since I couldn't find a place in the gospels where Jesus teaches against/for/about homosexuality, I turned to a story he told-

"God's kingdom is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field. That night, while his hired men were asleep, his enemy sowed thistles all through the wheat and slipped away before dawn. When the first green shoots appeared and the grain began to form, the thistles showed up, too.

"The farmhands came to the farmer and said, "Master, that was clean seed you planted, wasn't it? Where did these thistles come from?'

"He answered, "Some enemy did this.'

"The farmhands asked, "SHOULD WE WEED OUT THE THISTLES?'

"He said, "No, if you weed the thistles, you'll pull up the wheat, too. Let them grow together until harvest time. Then I'll instruct the harvesters to pull up the thistles and tie them in bundles for the fire, then gather the wheat and put it in the barn.'"

... and so in the end Jesus looked at John Wesley and said I wish they'd quit arguing with one another and simply see themselves for who they are- my brothers and sisters and know that I'll take care of the judging when the time is right. John shrugged his shoulders and walked away.

I suppose I have to disagree with Shane on the issue of whether we ought to allow RMN to use Lake Junaluska. I'm not sure I want to be in the game of separating wheat from weeds- I'm not sure where I might end up if that were to happen.... and I imagine many others might be in that boat as well, afterall- according to Paul- we're all confused.


Kara said...

A well-written, articulate and compassionate response. thank you

Anonymous said...

Does God parse sin? No. Sin is sin, whatever separates us from Him and from being in His Presence.

How dare we then attempt to parse sin on His behalf? My sin of pride is not so "sinful" as his sin of ... whatever?

The converse of "your sin is worse than my sin" is "my sin is better than your sin." What an arrogant position that would be to take!
What's that? A log in my eye? ...

John said...

So now I'm stuggling with the question- who get's access to our facilities- to have a voice and space to "practice their faith"? And what does it mean when we begin to exclude "United Methodist" groups from using United Methodist facilities because we disagree with their stances (and how those stance are lived out practically in the life of the church)?

If those groups support doctrine in direct conflict with Methodist teaching, then yes.

Shall we open up our conferences to Calvinists?

Shall we open up our conferences to panthiests?

Shall we open up our conferences to heretics?

Where would you draw the line? I'd like to know at what point the expression of a particular point of view at an official UMC conference would become unacceptable to you.

When a good king of Judah would rise to the throne, his first action would be to clear the idols our of the Temple of the Lord. Shall we not do likewise?

St.Phransus said...

If you think there's no Calvinist influence then you forget that part of the Methodist movement was led in part by George Whitefield, a Calvinist, the other part by Welsey whose major influence was Aminian.

No, I don't think our conferences ought to have an "anything goes" attitude when it comes to doctrine. In fact when it comes to upholding the doctrines of the church- i personally want to remain in the center.

Although I also believe that there are individuals who feel marginalized by the structure of the Church who feel the need to organize in order to have a voice- such as RMN- who are made up of gay and lesbians who are simply people who very well could live down the street from me, are my neighbors and friends and feel that they are Christians who participate in their local church but feel excluded from having a voice in the Church.

So I suppose I am writing less from the one who makes structural decisions and more from the one who is part of a local congregation and wants to create a community where all can experience and practice the presence of God.

As far as the whole king of Judah image- I think we, especially as American Christians, have to be careful when using metaphors and images such as this. The only time Jesus cleansed a temple of idols- it was to clean it out of the opresive and restrictive religious artistorcatic money lending system the pharisees and saducees had formed which excluded a segment of the jewish population from being able to experience and practice the presence of God.

Thanks for asking John.

Zoomdaddy said...

John does have a point and you reiterated it. Sin is sin, whether it is sexual sin or economic sin. The issue is how do you address sin when it is present in the church. Sometimes you take a "wheat and tares" approach and let the Holy Spirit do the convicting, sometimes you take a "cleanse the temple" approach when people refuse to listen to the Holy Spirit. The question of the day is, "Which scenario is this conference?"

(BTW, as a side note, the current UMC is the product of Arminian Methodists, so I am not so sure the appeal to Whitefield applied).

St.Phransus said...

i may have been stretching a bit with the whitefield. but i tend to do that. lol.


Anonymous said...

Southeastern Jurisdiction doesn't need opinions. It is obvious that every one has one. How many of you have researched this entire Lake Juanluska scenerio? If all you have done is opinionate, then everything is empty words and all of these highly philisophical blogging debates mean nothing. It is much easier to give an off the cuff opinion than to really research the issue. Until you have, you can never come up with a solution, just more solute. The only difference you are going to make ,is to take those keyboard fingers that we use blogging around, and put them to a telephone or to physically take a visit. This Lake Junaluska issue is serious. This is not just another "gay rally" where everyone expresses their same ole opinion, time after time.

There ARE things out in this world that are holy, you guys. Have you even considered the nobility of holiness? Did it ever
occur to you that Christ is above all,noble? Would a noble Christ reduce himself to having his bride anything less than pure? Would he allow someone to contaminate her? We can use all of the theological jargon we want. A masters in English can get you that. There is nobility and purity in the sanctity of Christ and his bride. How dare any of us corrolate his union with the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, or the pride of life. To even mention that his wife is a whore to the world by rationalization,intellectualism and theological dissection is an abomination. Let's get the facts straight. This is not just another
rally. You know something folks,
Jesus made (he didnt send one of his disciples to fetch it)a cord. He was premediatative and calculating in his action. When the cord was finished, he DROVE the corruption from his holy sight. Didn't nobody go messin' with his holy sights, not what he renders pure.........
Not even Lake Junaluska. So this is not just another blogger article folks. Jesus is kickin'some dirt and takin'some names. We need to make sure we know the real facts about Lake
Junaluska. And when you do, Drop
a line or two. It's the least you can do to help define the real truth. It's time to quit talkin' and draw your line in the sand.

P.S. Reconciling ministries has no, I repeat,no official ties with the UMC. They are an independent not-for-profit organization overseen by a board of directors and staff in the RMN office, Chicago Illinois. They are only a part of the Methodist "tradition" of social concerns and action. They don't even call themselves Christians, they say they are a justice seeking, spirited people.Check the website under WHO
WE ARE. Also, the SEJAC has a
DEED of RESTRICTIONS for property owners in the community protecting them from situations such as this. SEJ has violated their own policy and word to protect their property. The property owners are
humans, with kids, dogs, etc. Yep, no more holy grounds..anything goes, anywhere, anytime, and anybody. There is not enough time nor spaces for nobility and purity. Excuse me, I correct myself. There are not any PEOPLE, noble enough to fight for the purity of a holy site in which his bride resides. I get confused.....

and anonymous...I am not arrogant,
I am full of fury.

St.Phransus said...

wow, anon. tell me what you really think...

St.Phransus said...

I try and listen with an open mind and heart to anyone who opens up on my blog. In fact after reading your last comment the first time I almost decided to apologise for sending you into a "holy rant". But after reading your comment again I decided that your rant is less than holy, in fact you sound rather crass, a bit silly in the head, and quite possibly disturbed in the head.

I hope that I am right becuase if you are actually sane, then I am sure that your opinions (and they ARE DEFINITELY opinions)are an embarrassment to God, and any sensible Christians who are a part of your faith community.

I hope that you get your facts straight soon, but in case you don't, I did a little research too:

According the Institute on Religion and Democracy's online news service:

"Joetta Rinehart, a spokesperson for the Lake Junaluska Retreat Center, said the center occasionally rents to secular organizations but has refused the center to groups deemed to be at odds with the United Methodist "mission."

According to Lake Junaluska guidelines, "Groups using our facilities should have a mission compatible with Lake Junaluska Assembly and The United Methodist Church, its Discipline and Social Principles."

In response to a request for comment, Rinehart said, "We believe we are within the Disciplinary guidelines as referenced in Para.161g, 162h and s and 806.9 and 304.3. We believe our vision and mission encourage us to join the total church in opening our hearts, our minds, and our doors."

The Book of Discipline references cited by Rinehart affirm God's love for homosexuals but call homosexual practice "incompatible with Christian teaching." Human rights for homosexuals are supported, but the church denies ordination to practicing homosexuals, refuses funding for pro-homosexuality advocacy, and will not allow same-sex unions."

I think Junaluska is ok with RMN holding their convocation at their center.

Also, although RMN is not "officially" UM, if you check- the campus organizations, congregations, and individuals who are connected to it ARE, and so are all of the members on the Boad of Directors (including one UM who is a former Baptist, and many who are heterosexual clergy).

Medicated but Sane,
Jonathon Norman

Anonymous said...

Ditto to the medicated but sane.
Glad I got your attention. Back at
cha on th' fury part. Seems like
I heard steam comin' through my
key board. Maybe we could go a
"mission" together. In my own defense,God is not embarrassed, you are embarrassed that I am an embarrassment to you.
I am sorry for that and I will not taint your website with my silly headed low valued opinions again.
And you are right about everything.
I stand corrected.

St.Phransus said...

don't worry bout it. feel free to rant anytime, or just visit and contribute productive discussion.

you're definitely no embarrassment to me. i don't blush easily... lol!

But like I said before, when you leave a rant in my space and stand behind an anonymous identity, i'm going to be lil' bit more critical.

shalom friend,

Anonymous said...

Johnathan, I am over my weepy spell.(the meds kicked in). You are a piece of work......did you know that?

I'll be back for round 2, but I hear the voices in my head...



St.Phransus said...

i think we might be friends. do you blog? look forward to your visits.


Anonymous said...

I saw The Blob...does that count?
What are the rules of engagement to
blog? Obviously I may have tested
some of them.....

No, I am not a blogger. I barely know Microsoft Word.

Fill me in....

St.Phransus said...

just go to www.blogger.com and set yourself up an account, go through the step by step procedure to set your own personal blog up (it's quite simple really), and you'll be ready to post your thoughts in no time.

I hope you do. And let me know when you're up and going.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Johnathan...and my name is Joy.

Answer me this.

This is the quandary.The SEJAC adopted a Rules and Regulations policy for the community of Lake Junaluska. Just like any neighborhood there are restrictive
covenants. No trailers, no mopeds,

In the charter that the SEJAC made
for homeowners and rentors they were bound by those covenants and the SEJAC is bound to them.

I.E. FIRST: That the town in which said land is located called "Lake Juanluska" is a community, the aims, objects, and puposes of which are health, rest, recreation, Christian work and fellowship, missionary and school work, and other opeations auziliary and incidental thereto.

And THIRD: The Grantee will not knowingly rent or lease said lands and premises to any person or persons whose moral character is such as to injure and damage the interest of said community, nor rent or permit the same to be used or occupied for any purpose dangerous, injurious, or harmful to the best interest of said community.

Now with that said...

Wednesday, an article came out in the Mountaineer Newspaper, in Waynesville about this event. The COMMUNITY is very upset about with the context and framework of this
2005 Convo.
They are looking into the covenants and etc. for their protection of their said interest in the community. With everyone having children,retired, etc. and established in their restricted community, I feel the community has a vested interest to protect
their ownership.

Now I understand that we have the continued controversy over LGBT, that is a given. But lets assume that another secular group decides to rent Lake Junaluska (say...
Christian Identity,..or any caucus of "dubious moral character"

My point is that SEJAC has a responsibility to the community particularly if the community deems RMN persons of questionable
dubious behavior. Would SEJAC not be legally bound to the neighborhood to grant the protection set forth in the Deed of Restrictions? And if the SEJAC
does not rescind, why would the greater credence go to RMN?

Remember RMN could be ANYONE.

As for the clergy laity thing....
I apologize for hitting on theologians, I saw where you are getting your masters in it. So obviously you are more informed than myself as to theology. I think what drove that explosion of "mental psychosis" is I get
exhausted reading the same ole rhetoric. This thing is close to me because I am a a couple of hours away, and our area reveres
Lake Junaluska as "family" oriented as well as spiritually
significant. But all I hear for explanations is BOD...BOD...BOD..
Okay enough already. Stick with the 2004 plan.

Johnathan forgive me for taking so much space...edit me out because
I want to give you one more instance of the "insanity" within our own UMC.

At the 2004 Conference, as usual
about 10 million was used up for
the event. What is the arduously
drawn out topic...LGBTs again.

So 3ft. rainbow candles are put on the alter etc. etc.

Now, during this "debate" this is what our Christian brothers of Africa said.(By the way,Methodism is growing and vibrant in Africa)

KASAP 'OWAN from the North Katanga Province said." Before Christianity arrived in Africa we practiced polygamy. And the Christian teaching that we recieved taught that there should be marriage between one man and one woman. And this is Christian marriage. We Africans, we accepted this teaching and we became Christians. Now we are hearing another message in this General Conference, speaking of homosexuality. The Africans here are in confusion."

REV. MULAND AYING KAMBOL from South Congo. "If the United Methodist Church today is passing through a time of confusion, our children wil live through a time of destruction in the church. A large church, as we are today, is it permissible for us to waste so much time speaking aabout sin? And if this is our vision, as the United Methodist Church, our church will surely die. For me, I am discouraged when I see so much time being spent to talk about this sin, when to me, it is very clear that this is sin."

When the floor FINALLY...gave the vote not to change the discipline wording a frustrated delegate broke a chalice that Africa had given to Barbara Day Miller the music director as a gift.

Now Johnathan...our missionaries are out there as Disciples of Christ to theach the Word, facing hardship, honoring their covenant of The Great Commission. At home we are having a "sluggin' it out at Jargon Fest, Lake Junaluska.

That is what infuriates me. We are home deflating everything our missionaries have accomplished teaching others about Christ. And..that marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman.

We all need to throw ourselves upon the alter and seek forgiveness for this horrible confusion.

We are a Global family Johnathan.
What do you think our brothers and sisters in Afirca think? Are they
children of a lesser god that what they have learned is an alturstic
truth, yet we come back to further discuss what has been identified to them as the Word (and works) of God?

You know the Scripture. A double minded man is unstable in ALL of his ways. That is why our leaders in authority must commit the church to a code of conduct and order. We're all whacked out!

That is why I chose to use Christs nobility as a signature of dignity and honor. And the church should be called into a holier relationship with Christ. We need to recognize the ambiguity and address it with nobility. It is not a challenge to slay all of those who do not agree with the
King of all kings, it is a call to set ourselves apart from the lusts of the world, regardless of the nature of our disobedience. But we must be in harmony when Christ comes for his bride.

Africa was taught by our Methodist
Missionaries. Why is it "wrong" to defend our honor in Gods Word.
We cannot ride the fence on this,
playing little demi-gods and act like we have a higher enlightenment than our missionaries that taught
our African brothers and sisters.

I can't imagine how they felt when their chalice was broken.

Jonathan o Jonathan, this hate HAS
to stop. Someone always gets hurt
in a "warfare". But ultimately
God is in control and can heal any hurt regardless of the depth. There are always Christians everywhere to help anyone through anything. But Jonathan, we can't just sit back, blog, and not feel
a finality in what we believe. We have to "heal" each other of these
imaginary strongholds. You know Satan isn't smart. He only uses smoke and mirrors. Unfortunately,
there is great deception that goes along with it.

I guess I am through. I bet you are saying " FINALLY"!

So that is it on Lake Junaluska.
I don't feel that RMN and other affiliates should assemble there because the church worldwide does not condone this act. We are no better to judge than our converts.
Church law is church law. It has, to me, nothing to do with discrimination or meaness, it has to do with covenants. One to God, the other to current church law, and third to the neighborhood in which SEJAC has pledge to protect.

Waiting for a summary.......thanks for "listening". Also, I am so glad you are a theologian. You can give me info.

I am a Clinical Laboratory Scientist, so I have my own anatomical and physiological perspective of what does what, how that works, and what goes where, and analyze the results. Ha.
If you need any clinical advice,
it would be me.

God Bless you Johnathan...

I do believe I have made a friend...

St.Phransus said...

thanks for your honesty. I really value and hear what you're saying. I don't know that I have any good answers for you except that I sympothize with your frustration.

Here are my initial thoughts to your post. I probably won't bring any resolve to your frustrations but I don't think you intend that I might.

I think in some ways the issue of gay christians being fully embraced by the umc is something that at this moment is a rather unique struggle to UMC America. For an African delegate to be frustrated by this is not surprising, it's not necessarily part of his/her context.

I'm not sure that I want to say that it's pointless, or a waste of time to struggle over the issues of gays being welcomed and fully accepted in the umc while missionaries struggle with issues of family abroad.

I have friends and I know young people who have grown up in the church, have been life long methodists, have shown and exhibited that God has been at work in their lives since they were young, and have loving church families around them to continue their faith development. Some of these friends may or may not feel the call to ministry- growing up in a church and being nurtured in such a way really has an impact on being open to God's call. Who are we to say that God has not called that person to ministry or to some form of servant leadership in the church? Our congregations have been the one to nurture it.

I also know very committed gay and lesbian couples who are very much in whole and committed same sex relationships. They are very normal, fairly boring they are so normal (not meant in a deragatory way) and they are very involved in the lives of their local congregations.

I write this to say that family and the idea of family can be wider than what we've traditionally thought in recent times.

I know this sounds a lot like liberal giberish to some. But I think Lake Junaluska sees this convocation as no violation because the people who will be attending this event are pro family, loving Christians committed to the way of Jesus. We aren't talking about a group that is going out and brainwashing heterosexual children (that would be really really difficult to do, but maybe Tim LaHaye might write a book about it at some point), or going door to door asking the community to support their ministry organization.

I think I'll stop here and give this some breath because I've taken the thought further than I wanted. Let's digest this much and see where we go next.