How religious assumptions can mislead us: 4-27/28-19
SCOTUS is getting it wrong on the death penalty: 4-30-19

New ruling leaves Methodists in a quandary: 4-29-19

In late February, when the United Methodist Church's international governing body narrowly voted to keep the denomination's ban on LGBTQ pastors and on allowing any pastor to officiate at a same-sex wedding, I wrote this piece expressing my disgust and sorrow about the decision. (In that post, I coupled the Methodist decision with other disappointing developments in the Catholic Church.)

UMC-logoLate last week, the Judicial Council, or top court, of the United Methodist Church ruled that the so-called "Traditional Plan" adopted in February was, with some small exceptions, constitutional and could be regarded as official church policy. The pieces of the plan it ruled unconstitutional were comparatively minor and did not make the whole plan unconstitutional.

If you are interested in the details of what the Judicial Council did, here are links to three articles that will help explain the action. This one is from Religion News Service, this one from the Chicago Tribune and this one from the UMC's own news service.

I am disappointed in the Judicial Council's ruling although certainly not surprised. But now that the council has made its ruling, the 40-some UMC churches in the Kansas City area (and congregations around the U.S.) each will have to figure out how to respond. I wrote in this recent Flatland column about how several local gay-friendly UMC churches were wrestling with what to do.

I am not in the business of telling Methodists how to order their polity or live their lives. But as a member of a Presbyterian Church whose denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA), decided in 2011 to allow ordination of otherwise-qualified LGBTQ folks to ministry and to allow our pastors (who want to) to conduct same-sex weddings, my hope is that many American Methodist churches will do one of two things:

Stay within the UMC and continue to work to change the newly affirmed regressive rules or leave the denomination and partner with other Methodist congregations that want to do the right thing by LGBTQ people. The other option, of course, is for advocates of "The Traditional Plan," which passed in February, to leave the denomination and quit fighting with people who didn't want that plan.

Churches that stay in the UMC but do nothing to reverse the February decision and the Judicial Council's confirmation of that decision would be telling LGBTQ people that they aren't welcome in their congregations. What a terrible message.

As I note in this essay, there is no biblical reason not to welcome gays and lesbians as church members, no reason not to ordain them as pastors if they are otherwise qualified and no reason for pastors not to officiate at same-sex weddings.

The traditional readings of scripture on these points are, I firmly believe, simply wrong and misguided.

Adam-Hamilton-2The Rev. Adam Hamilton (pictured here), founding pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in suburban Leawood (and now elsewhere, too), will have to take (and is taking) a leadership position among congregations unhappy with the February decision.

In fact, in this long Facebook post, Adam lays out what he sees as the future and talks about a Methodist gathering in this area later in May to try to discern a way forward.

It's a carefully written, clear piece. If you care about this issue, I hope you'll read it.

No analogy is ever perfect, but this fight reminds me of what many churches and denominations went through over the issue of slavery in the 1800s.

And, yes, I'm drawing a parallel between keeping black people in legal bondage then and LGBTQ people in social and ecclesiastical bondage now. How sad that some Christians didn't learn from that earlier experience.

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Besides increasing security, what are synagogues, mosques, churches and other houses of worship supposed to do to protect themselves from violent extremists like the one who murdered a woman and wounded a rabbi and two other people in a synagogue near San Diego this past Saturday? I'm essentially out of answers except to continue working to promote religious literacy and interfaith understanding. If that task interests you (as it should), join me tomorrow night at the annual Table of Faiths dinner sponsored by the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council.


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