Why the UMC cannot change its view on sexuality

Here is a good post over at the Methodist Thinker blog discussing a book, Staying the Course, which includes a series of essays from prominent United Methodist theologians and pastors all arguing in favor of the current teaching of The United Methodist Church with regards to our classical understanding of sex and marriage and homosexual behavior in the Christian Church:

“The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching. We affirm that God’s grace is available to all.” (¶161F, The Book of Discipline—2008)

Seminary professors from Duke and SMU (including my own Theology professor, William Abraham) are quoted in the blog post, among others. I recommend you give it your consideration.

I have long believed that it is the duty of Methodist clergy - especially bishops - not only to uphold the official position of the Church, but also to attempt to explain it to skeptics both within and beyond the membership of the Church, especially among young persons who have grown up in a culture with radically un-Christian views of love, sex, and marriage. It may be that much of the fighting in the Church takes place when individuals reject (or indeed, defend) our official position without having ever truly understood the theology of sexuality. So the teaching office is crucial here. We have at times failed in this teaching duty sometimes perhaps because we the clergy don't actually believe it, at other times because we want to avoid contention, or don't know how to hold this position graciously. I am glad that this conversation has remained lively and (oftentimes) thoughtful in books and blogs.

I occassionally post on this topic because I believe it is of great importance in the life and vitality of the Church in our current cultural context (and for the Church, life and vitality are finally dependent upon fidelity to God and his Word). Agree or disagree with what you read there, the ideas put forward in the Methodist Thinker post should provide fodder for thoughtful discussion if nothing else.

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