A commentary by
By Ron Biggerstaff
February 10, 2007
(Used by Ron Biggerstaff's permission on CR's Range)
I think the whole issue of the homosexuality thing hinges around whether we consider it a sin. The majority of the UMC body says it is not to be condoned. The issue of sin doesn't lend itself to splitting behavior from orientation. They’re can both be wrong, or both be right. You can also have good behavior masked by bad orientation. That orientation comes to be at the heart of the issue of homosexuals being able to join the church.
In the last couple of years, the homosexual community has dedicated substantial resources toward ensuring people understand that homosexuality is a "natural" condition, therefore something approved by God.
This is a specious argument in the face of believers that homosexuality is sinful. Point being no one cares if it's natural or not, if it's sinful that's where the rubber meets the road.
Homosexuality is only one sin among many. No more, no less. It is a form of compulsive behavior, and needs to be viewed and dealt with in that light. Alcoholism, overeating, gambling, all these are forms of compulsive behavior. So is homosexuality. Do we worry whether the reformed alcoholic of 20 years still has the urge to drink or no?. Not particularly. We do hope he doesn't succumb to the urge to do so. Anecdotal accounts from many report the urge never goes away. So, we're really dealing with sins of desire when compulsive behavior is considered. And, many report that, although the behaviors are modified, the desire rarely vanishes. What's important is that the sinner wants God to take the desire away.
Could God relieve them of that burden? Sure. Does the fact that they're not relieved of that burden make succumbing to its related bad behavior OK? Of course not. So, we see from this that there may be a dichotomy between orientation and related behavior. You don’t have bad behavior without bad orientation. You can have good behavior with bad orientation. What counts is if there is a desire on the part of the sinner to embrace the bad orientation.
So what about the situation where there's a lifetime of the alcholic wishing he/she didn't want another drink? Well, our term for that is "that's their cross to bear". More important, though, is that this alcoholic we're considering WANTS to change! He's not a self avowed "I like being drunk and I'm never going to change" guy. Repentance is there. It may remain unrequited, but it is there. That's important, along with desire to change.
Now, what about homosexuals joining the church and/or becoming pastors?
As to joining the church, repentant homosexuals should be accepted by the church. They've acknowledged what they're doing is wrong, and have expressed a desire to change, with God's help. They're asking for God's Salvation.
A church is a group with a stated purpose. No more no less. So, why would anyone with a stated purpose diametrically opposed to that of the group goals want to join that group? The only answer has "ulterior motive" lurking about, somewhere.
Why would such a group want to include a person whose stated goals are antithetical to the group stated purpose? It would be an irrational thing to do.
Now let's address the issue of homosexuals becoming pastors. There are two things here, one invisible to the congregation, the other quite visible. If the homosexual is secretly unrepentant, that's between he and God. We know he can never validly partake of the sacraments, because for that to work right you need to be in a state of Grace. However, bear in mind that the person who takes the pastoral mantle under a cloak of deception is almost sure to be caught out at some later time. This is because their motive is ulterior. For an ulterior motive to bear fruit, there must be future actions in align with that motive. This is when the sack of beans rips and beans come spilling out on the floor.
The other aspect of this is that our pastors have positional credibility. What positional credibility means is that the person in that position has a degree of credibility we imbue him/her with, regardless of how charismatic, articulate, intelligent, etc, he/she is. That's positional credibility. To have any pastoral incumbent who openly embraces a sinful position totally destroys his/her positional credibility. It results in a logical inconsistency.
I cannot see how a Bishop, who is remote from congregations, could in any way be justified in routinely overriding local pastoral decisions on church membership qualifications. Who takes the applicants through the course of studies in preparation of membership and has dialogue with them? The pastor! Who knows the candidate best? The pastor. Not the Bishop!
The Bishop does not. The implications of the Judical Council decision on this issue were "Hey Bishops---keep your mitts off the decision process." I have to echo that. It isn't an issue of power or position, it's an issue of the local pastor being the one with the knowledge that the decision situation requires.
For any who want to respond to Ron, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org