Should we agree to disagree?

No doubt there will be much discussion and debate of sexual morality at the General Conference over the next few days.  Four years ago, some called for the church to simply adopt no official position at all, but "agree to disagree" on sexual issues.  At first glance this seems an aftractive option to many.  Here is a commentary from Good News Magazine that examines the merits and problems of "agreeing to disagree."

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Blogger Nance said...

I was watching this morning as they debated that proposal again this year.
Coincidentally, I just had a related post go up on my blog: http://nancehixon.blogspot.com/2012/05/5-things-christians-need-to-stop-saying.html

10:15 AM, May 03, 2012  
Blogger Daniel McLain Hixon said...

I recommend other readers check out Nance's post. I left a comment on it and part of my comment is relevant here:

Rev. Hamilton has brought a "compromise" petition to GC this week that acknowledges our disagreement while maintaining the church's historic position. He asserts that some (those in favor of legitimizing and accepting homosexual practice and marriage) read the texts on the subject "like they read those on slavery and women's ministry" - implicitly stating that the Bible supports slavery and opposes women in ministry. This is why I reject his amendment - I think he is wrong on both counts.

4:19 PM, May 03, 2012  
Blogger Methodist Monk said...


I love you man, but you got to stop reading the Good News Mag. :)

Hopefully by now you have read my lengthy Facebook message. I would guess you found we are on different sides of this amendment. I believe you can read biblical texts and come to different opinions.

The Bible can be used to support slavery and it has in the past. The Bible can be used to reject slavery. The Bible can be used to reject women in the ministry, and many denominations still do this. The Bible can also be used to uphold women in the ministry and many denominations including ours subscribes to this interpretation.

Irony would have it that the reason Hamilton/Slaughter's amendment failed was because of the more liberal side. The conservatives/moderates by and large thought this was a decent middle ground.

I believe the future of the church (not just our denomination) depends on us being able to recover a sense of holiness AND grace. One thing I noticed is that by and large we either get holiness and demand it or we want grace and demand it. Where is the Extreme Center as Bishop Jones would say? Where is the outpouring of love from the right that would cause the left to take long difficult looks at how their lives are lived? We have recover the tension of the early church.

Right now I am only seeing Pharisees and Pagans...

10:30 PM, May 06, 2012  
Blogger Daniel McLain Hixon said...

Surely Stephen, as a moderate, you would not want to shut out the voices of the Good News Magzine folks from the discussion just because you see them as wearing a certain label? Do you think their points are invalid or logically flawed? I like Good News b/c they actually make arguments and also run alot of articles from UMReporter and other sources (I know of another conservative renewal group that seems to use sensationalism, name-calling, and scare tactics as much as argumentation, and I don't read them as much anymore for those reasons).

It seems to me that if Hamilton's amendment had been adopted the Social Principles of the UMC would be on record as implicitly stating that the Bible is in fact just as clearly pro-slavery and anti-women in ministry as it is clearly prohibiting homosexual sex and we as a church simply chose to ignore (interpret away?) those texts. He does not seem to be saying that these texts are ambiguous. The precedent and trajectory that this sets is in my veiw very bad.

7:57 AM, May 07, 2012  
Blogger Methodist Monk said...

LOL I told my wife last night next to you I probably look like Nancy Pelosi and next to Katie McKay I look like Rush Limbaugh. :)

Please note that a smiley face was used to connote humor.

I would never dream of silencing any voices at the table. Which is weird because right now the voices tend towards debate instead of dialogue.

My broader point is: I am not quite sure that we can reach human sexuality view using only individual scripture sets. The UMC already has a different understanding of divorce than the biblical texts do. We also have a different understanding of human life than the biblical texts do. I guess what I am wondering is can a Christ follower read through the Bible (the scope of scripture/not just the text of scripture) and come to different opinions on issues?

BTW I will tell all the conservatives their best argument isn't Leviticus or Romans 1 or even 1 Timothy. Their most compelling story is the Genesis story of creation, life as seen through the lens of Christ and the Church. It is the one that keeps one of my feet firmly on the right side.


Looking forward to Annual Conference. Johnny's!


10:01 AM, May 07, 2012  
Blogger Daniel McLain Hixon said...

Ah, my apologies if I've responded inappropriately to the intent of your comment. It is hard to interpret smileys sometimes


I agree with you Stephen that the Genesis texts that give us one of the strongest arguments for "traditional marraige." Interestingly God created them male and female and the two became "one" (Hebrew: ehad) flesh. This is the same word used to describe God's own Nature in the Shema (Deut. 6) Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is "One" (ehad). This word implies a coming together of complementary persons into a unity. I believe that here we have in the Hebrew language itself, by the inspiration and plan of God, a hint and image of the nature of the Triune Life - the unity of divine persons out of which flows creation itself. So a man and woman come together (with the theoritical potential for new life coming from their union) as an image or icon of the Trinity Himself.

If we view it this traditional way, we may (ironically?) also address some of the fears of feminist theologians that "traditionalists don't believe that the feminine represents the divine" - since it is precisely the coming together of Male AND Female that gives us this picture of the Trinity.

I would not say, however, that we are all that far from the Scriptural teaching on divorce (though, I suspect in many cases we are too "accepting" that it is just "gonna happen" and do not encourage people to fight for their marriages). The OT allows "no-fault" divorce, Jesus "raises the bar" but still allows it in cases of infidelity, and Paul allows it in some cases when the spouse does not share the faith. So in principle (cotra the Roman Catholic position) divorce is theoretically possible for the Christian, in certain circumstances. The question is what circumstances warrant it. I beleive we UMC folks are quite right to see abuse as a form of "infidelity" that would fall under Jesus' exception. We also affirm that God's plan is for life-long marriage and so we discourage divorce in general. I think we are on the right track with our official teachings, even if they could be perfected. I did see one petition for GC that would have disallowed divorce altogether, but even Jesus doesn't go that far.

2:13 PM, May 07, 2012  
Blogger Daniel McLain Hixon said...

and I am mis-spelling things left and right (my apologies again!)

2:15 PM, May 07, 2012  

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