A Case for (Traditional) Marriage

From Ireland, a brief argument in favor of leaving the societal definition of marriage alone, while offering protections to gays and people in other loving relationships.

I’m sympathetic, but dubious about the prospects for retaining a traditional definition of marriage in a society that has become unmoored from its foundations. Essentially, society has been deconstructing itself for the past couple of generations, questioning all its institutions. I’d be very surprised if marriage is where it says, “enough.”

(The Christian institution of marriage is a separate matter, of course, and cannot be defined or redefined according to what is or is not popular, be it in society generally, or within a denomination specifically. The church is a body, not a democracy, and Christ is its only head.)

(Link via Kevin DeYoung’s Gospel Coalition blog.)

Lesbian Clergywoman Cleared of Charges by Highest PCUSA Commission

From the Christian Post:

The highest commission of Presbyterian Church (USA) has cleared a clergywoman of charges that she violated church law when she opted to marry her partner in 2009.

Well. I guess that settles it then. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.

Sigh. (Note the date of the marriage: at that time the “Fidelity and Chastity” clause was still church law.)

Calvin began with just two notes of the church: the proclamation of the Word and celebration of the Sacraments. Later, he sort of reconsidered and sort of added discipline. This is why.

Accordingly, as the saving doctrine of Christ is the soul of the church, so does discipline serve as its sinews, through which the members of the body hold together, each in its own place. Therefore, all who desire to remove discipline or to hinder its restoration–whether they do this deliberately or out of ignorance–are surely contributing to the ultimate dissolution of the church. (Institutes IV.12.1)

Connectionalism When It Suits Us

I confess I’m puzzled about the “Statement of Gospel Obedience” recently issued by the UMC’s Western Jurisdiction (basically the mountain time zone and parts west).

From the news report, the statement emphasizes that the UMC is in error on the subject of “homosexuality’s incompatibility with Christian teaching.” I think I understand that. I probably disagree. I mean, I probably agree with the UMC as a whole and not with the Western Jurisdiction. Probably. I need to become more familiar with the UMC’s doctrine to see what they mean by “incompatible.” (Jesus demonstrated how being paralyzed or blind and even robbery and adultery are compatible with Christian teaching.)

What I don’t understand is this part:

Retired Bishop Melvin Talbert was asked to oversee a Western Jurisdiction grassroots movement that challenges bishops, clergy, laity and local churches and ministry settings to operate as if the statement printed in the denomination’s law book—Paragraph 161F—“does not exist.”

That’s the part I don’t get. I understand freedom of conscience. But that freedom should mean the freedom to disagree and leave. Or to disagree but advocate for change and only leave when you despair of succeeding — but obeying in the meantime.

The problem with connectionalism is that too many people use it as a club to tell churches how to behave, but they aren’t willing to let the same club be used on them. Sauce for the goose.

Sigh. It’s probably for the best. I think post-Christendom means post-denominational as well.

(Notice the response of the Western Jurisdiction is to come out in favor of “Extravagant Hospitality.” It’s outmoded thinking: all about getting people to come (back) to church. It would be a lot more effective to think about the problem missionally: how to get the church to go out where the people are.)

Anyway, as denominations wind down in North America, the only “connectionalism” will be looser associations of truly like-minded churches in flexible networks. (And no, I don’t have a clue how churches with an episcopal ecclesiology will survive that.)

Homosexuality and Preachers

Last week the United Methodist General Conference rejected two motions that would have relaxed the church’s teaching about homosexuality. One of the results was a decision not to vote on related motions. From the Washington Post:

The UMC’s policy remains that ministers cannot marry same-sex couples and churches cannot host same-sex weddings. Clergy in same-sex relationships are likewise banned. … About 1,200 United Methodists clergy have agreed to break church rules and marry same-sex couples, surveys show young Christians favor expanding gay rights and other mainline Protestant denominations have adopted gay-friendly policies in recent years.

But what’s with that last part?

Can clergy disobey the teaching of the church?

Continue reading →

Andy Stanley, Liberal

Al Mohler, the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote a blog post earlier this week asking “Is the Megachurch the New Liberalism?” What got his dander up was a sermon series by Andy Stanley, pastor of North Point Community Church in Georgia. It’s a megachurch, all right: it’s the 2nd-largest church in the country. In the series, Stanley talked about a couple who got divorced when the wife discovered the husband was in a sexual relationship with another man. What concerned Mohler was:

The inescapable impression left by the account was that the sin of concern was adultery, but not homosexuality. Stanley clearly and repeatedly stressed the sin of adultery, but then left the reality of the homosexual relationship between the two men unaddressed as sin.

Rick Warren, who leads the 3rd-largest church in the country, tweeted that Mohler should apologize:

A TITLE questioning1000s of churches’ orthodoxy due to size is unChristlike.U need to apologize to pastors Al.

But Warren’s complaint was the use of “megachurch” as a broad brush. In a later tweet, Warren said he agreed with Mohler’s article.

I don’t. Different studies suggest that homosexuals make up no more than about 3-8 percent of the population. That means there were between 11 and 30 heterosexuals at North Point for every homosexual. (Possibly even more, if homosexuals avoid churches more than the public at large. But why would they do that?)

The easiest thing for a preacher to do is condemn the behavior of people who aren’t in the room. Andy Stanley did the much harder and more honest job of talking to people about adultery. If that’s liberalism, then sign me up.

Methodists Retain Existing Language on Homosexuality

I’m still figuring out the Methodist side of things at Jewel Lake Parish. But there’s a Methodist conference going on, and I’m trying to learn things as I go. I saw in the news that the Methodists are sticking with their existing teaching about homosexuality. They retained, by a 61% majority, the current wording of their Book of Discipline:

The Social Principles section of United Methodist teachings on sexuality in the Book of Discipline states: “The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching;” and “Although all persons are sexual beings whether or not they are married, sexual relations are affirmed only with the covenant of monogamous, heterosexual marriage.”

An amendment to these statements would have added the sentence: “As a denomination, we are conflicted regarding homosexual expressions of human sexuality.”