To my last post I received this anonymous comment: “…YOU want to follow culture, not the Bible. You want to have it your way, rather than work together. YOU want to promote a lifestyle that the Old and New Testaments say are abominable… YOU want to change the Bible to fit the modern world, rather than following the Bible in the modern world. Leave. No one will miss you…” The comment goes on to say that I call those who want to follow 2000 years of precedence “bigots” and those who want to enforce vows as “inquisitional.”
I would like to be wrong, but I’ll assume that this is not satire. Therefore, I want to offer some clarification, seek understanding, and invite others into a different vision, using seven points.
- To all who share the views of this comment I want to say, “I would miss you.” As a “centrist” (if we must label) I want to be in a church that honors different perspectives on many issues. This keeps us all humble. It helps us learn how to love with patience and kindness and without arrogance or insisting on our own way (See I Cor 13). Giving this witness is so much better than withdrawing into like-minded camps. This witness, however, does not work if some insist on drawing hard lines that exclude others and don’t allow for other perspectives.
- I am not the one who called the traditional plan “inquisitional.” That description came from the Judicial Council. I do believe that it captures the spirit of this plan (with reasons given in the previous post). To not resist the draconian measures of this plan is to put one’s own soul in danger.
- I did not use the word “bigot” at all. And I have not heard others use it in this way, even though that is a common accusation. I do believe we can all learn from Wesley’s caution against bigotry. It is a part of our doctrinal standards. Bigotry is an “attachment to, or fondness for, our own party, opinion, church, and religion.” Underlying bigotry is always a form of self-righteousness, that causes us to focus on the outward sins of others while conveniently able to overlook the “subtler, but no less destructive, forms of disobedience” within us. Wesley challenges us to be attentive and open to God’s work in others, especially in those who differ from us in religious opinion or practice. That glorifies God! (See my post – “Bigotry in the Church”)
- To the accusation of promoting a “lifestyle” and following culture, let me say that the only “lifestyle” we are called to promote is faithfulness in Christ. We do not promote a secular or political agenda – as some falsely accuse. As a church we ask: “How do we respond faithfully to anyone who desires to live and grow as a follower of Christ and live in relationships where they can grow in faithfulness and love? Many of us are asking, “Is it faithful to exclude certain people based solely on the way they identify rather than on their character and calling?” “Do we welcome some but saying they need to change in ways that we don’t ask others to change?” We want to develop a serious sexual ethic based, not on identity, but on the virtues to which we are all called – monogamy, faithfulness, commitment, and all the characteristics defined by the word love. If we want to talk about “abominations” or “giving into culture” or promoting “lifestyles” that are not of Christ, let’s start with attitudes that cause division, with sexual immorality that objectifies others for personal pleasure, and perhaps with the temptation to judge others as “incompatible” as a way to avoid dealing with our own stuff. We have the opportunity to give a positive witness to the world, based on the things in which we could all find agreement.
- The Bible! In my personal quest for faithfulness I have searched the scriptures and have come to the conclusion that my old traditional perspective, on the issue before us, cannot be maintained without proof-texting, selective literalism, and totally ignoring “guiding passages” that help us interpret the whole – passages centered around what it means to love, with Jesus himself saying that is the key to all scripture. Personally, I cannot see how to affirm the perspective in this comment without abusing what I truly believe to be God’s word. (If you want to share in this journey there is a whole series called “The Way Forward Bible Study”).
- My personal nightmare! I do fear that there will not be enough voices and votes to overturn this plan that does so much harm. Keeping my vows (in baptism, in marriage, in ordination) demands that I speak. Within these vows there is room for principled disobedience. I am reminded that the word “obedience” comes from the Latin, “to listen.” Obedience is not slavery or compliance. It means to listen in respect and allow this to influence us. Sometimes listening deeply to some vows challenges others. Right now, there is a movement calling us to reflect more deeply on our baptismal vow to “resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.” That vow has gotten my attention of late.
- I invite all who hold to positions found in this comment to open your heart to a new movement of the Holy Spirit. It is spreading as sacred fire. This movement is characterized by hearts expanding to make room for all and by the desire to promote unity in love rather than uniformity by law – by judgment and inquisition. In the light of this calling, perspectives are changing by the minute. You are invited to be a part of it. “Holy Spirit, may this post be an instrument of this light.”
11 thoughts on “Lifestyles, Vows, and Obedience (A response to a comment on my last post)”
Yes, sir. Absolutely! Why people are claiming a literal Biblical interpretation on the issue of homosexuality is beyond me when so many other things are overlooked or we have come to understand them in a different light and context.
“…when so many other things are overlooked or we have come to understand them in a different light and context.”
I’d be interested in hearing some of your examples of “other things”.
One example is Deuteronomy 22:28-29 – “If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found, then the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the young woman fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he has violated her.” Do you really want a woman to be forced to marry her rapist?
Thank you, Michael. This is a well reasoned and beautifully written response, much needed and much appreciated.
Well said! Thanks for posting this.
In the debate leading up to the SCOTUS deciding that same-sex marriage (Obergefell v. Hodges), a Miami Herald columnist wrote an article making the case for same-sex marriage. I asked him, via email, if his argument would equally apply to multiple (more than two) persons marrying. For example, 1 male and 2 females, 2 males and 2 females, or some variation involving more than two persons. Today’s variety of recognized genders makes the marriage equation options quite complex.
He responded within two hours, writing “I guess it would.” I commended him for his candor.
Reverend Roberts, after reading section 5. of your post, I respectfully pose the same question to you, sir.
You write: “We want to develop a serious sexual ethic based, not on identity, but on the virtues to which we are all called – monogamy, faithfulness, commitment, and all the characteristics defined by the word love.”
As you know, “monogamy” is not a sustained Biblical virtue, though it is one now codified in secular U.S. law.
Given the presence of multiple partners in marriage arrangements in the Old Testament (AKA: polygamy), do you, sir, rule polygamous marriage as being inside or outside the boundaries of “love”? And, whatever your answer, by what reasoning do you arrive there? Thank you.
Rev. Dr. Lee D. Cary (ret. UM clergy)
Michael, I continue to hear only the sound of crickets when I post this question to One Church Plan advocates.
The crickets continue to be the only sound. Me thinks Mr. Roberts has no response.
“I want to be in a church that honors different perspectives on many issues. This keeps us all humble.”
I grew up in a denomination like that, it did not keep me humble it left me spiritually confused and unsure of myself while keeping me involved in a multitude of activities. Then it became so confusing I was left even more broken, confused and lost than I had ever been. It was the Methodist/United Methodist Church. I hope the LGBTQIA+ persons have better luck with the church than I did. In its current disheveled state, completely unable to collectively articulate anything specific about God, us and the church, the American United Methodist Church has a myriad of ways to hurt all sorts of people regardless of their race, economic status, gender, or perceived sexual orientation.
Your name is Legion, betsypc, for there are many like you – and more coming ahead.