Craig Adams: Remaining "traditional" on sexuality...or not? (3 of 3)
Last summer (2012), the General Conference of The United Methodist Church once again voted (by a substantial margin) to maintain our current stance on homosexual practice (intercourse) as "incompatible with Christian teaching" (drawing on such New Testament passages as Mark 10:1-9; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; Romans 1:18-3;1 Timothy 1:9-11; Jude 5-11).
In recent decades some have spoken as if a liberalizing of Christian teaching on sexuality is somehow inevitable, yet I believe the majority of the world's Christians (even Methodists) will remain fairly traditional on sexual ethics, though this will surely mean deep soul-searching, personal struggle, and real opposition from a culture which seems determined to move in a different direction, and to silence anyone who thinks otherwise.
Why will the church retain traditional teaching even as cultural opposition increases and when we ourselves would prefer not to have this continuous fight within the church?
For reasons that Craig lays out in his post: Why Christian opposition to homosexuality never dies.
The simple answer is that a straight-forward reading of the Scriptural texts - which we Methodists claim to be our supreme authority in faith and in practice (what we will believe and how we will live) - leads us to regard same-sex practice as forbidden for Christians and contrary to God's plan for human sexuality. This view is undeniably reinforced when we use the tradition of the whole ecumenical church across the centuries as a guide in our reading of Scripture - which we Methodists explicitly claim to do - and not only contemporary voices. It also coheres with the experience of the saints through the ages. Though some scholars have presented contorted interpretations of Scripture arguing that again and again and again the text really means essentially the opposite of what it says; yet if such a hermeneutic were applied consistently it would undermine our confidence in every single Biblical teaching upon which we set our hope (as well as all those that make us uncomfortable), and leave the church with no "word from the Lord" left to proclaim.
But we traditionalists must have enough humility to admit we may be wrong. Because his mind is not in fact closed to further insight Rev. Adams followed up that post with another:
What it would take to convince me I am wrong on issues of sexuality.
For those interested in this issue, I commend both of these posts for your pondering. Many in our churches have struggled and yearned for some middle ground on this issue, which Craig discusses some in his second article. I would be very interested to see some truly Biblical common ground emerge on this issue, yet that would appear unlikely the way the two sides are currently framed.
I believe that the great marjority of Christians will remain traditional on these issues, but we will all of us need the continuous grace of the Spirit if we are to be gracious to one another - and welcoming to all people - in the midst of a debate that will likely be with us for the rest of our lives.
Finally some may be wondering how any church can be welcoming to those who feel same-sex attractions if we also hold same-sex practice to be contrary to God's will? It seems to me it has to be the same way we welcome alcoholics or gossips or anyone else who have deeply ingrained desires or habits that are disobedient to God: we do it with compassion and grace, always remembering that here is a person whose story matters to God, who is passionately loved by the Lord, for whom Christ died, and always seeking the power of the Spirit to be gracious and to speak the truth in love.
With this post I'm (hopefully) done discussing sexuality for a while - I hope these last three posts have given you at least one good thought or question to ponder as the debate continues to rage around us.