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The Last Word on Same-Sex Unions

by Tom Anderson

The debate about homosexual behavior and same sex unions within the United Methodist Church is over. After more than thirty years of Bible studies, Task force reports, speeches, sermons, articles, and Conference floor fights there is nothing new to be said. As with the impeachment trial, there is a weary sense that every stone has been turned. A signal that the debate is over is the act of rebellious pastors in performing same sex unions. It should be clear to all United Methodists that these rebels can not and will not ever live within the boundaries of the Discipline. Likewise it is assured that loyal United Methodists donıt want a change. After three decades of voting one wonders how much more strongly this could be underscored. With the dialog over, it is now time to talk about the end game.

It is time for schism. United Methodists should be those who want to keep the name and carry on a ministry that is in harmony with the statements in the Discipline. United Methodists are tired of proving just how much they desire this through their consistent voting and eloquent scholarship. United Methodists have taken a strong and consistent position on sexual ethics  and it is time for the incessant, time-wasting, mission-diverting partisanship to end.

Increasingly, pastors and congregations are reluctant to financially support revisionist agendas in United Methodist Boards, the Womenıs Division, campus ministries and the like which label themselves reconciling and openly promote anti-United Methodist behavior. One whole congregation in California abandoned the denomination. A smattering of pastors have resigned. Many more potential candidates for ministry have turned to seek ordination in other, more orthodox denominations. Angry conversations waste Bible Study time and poison Administrative board meetings. Apportionments are withheld or at best very timidly promoted. Members quit or transfer in disgust. Potential members look elsewhere. The hidden costs on ministry are enormous.

A number of solutions could serve as an end game. One option would be to replace the apportionment system with designated giving. This would allow churches and pastors to be faithful in supporting those ministers and ministries that are truly United Methodist. No United Methodist should be forced to support voices and actions that undercut or soft-pedal United Methodist sexual ethics.

Option two is schism. In this case rebel pastors and churches could be offered their property and pension in exchange for giving up the United Methodist name. This option has already been foreshadowed by those congregations who have renamed themselves "reconciling² United Methodists--although this has finally been declared illegal by the judicial council. The desire for a modifier in front of the words "United Methodist² is a clear signal that these ministries are anti-United Methodist.

A third option is to do nothing believing that somehow a miracle will make it all go away. It this case congregations and pastors will increasingly assert themselves while trust and regard for denominational officials will  diminish until everything from the bishop to the Book of Discipline becomes  irrelevant. This is the scenario of a creeping, de facto congregationalism with much membership erosion along the way.

The mark of unity is joy. But increasingly United Methodists do not rejoice or weep together. Some rejoice at same-sex unions while most weep. Most rejoice at the Disciplineıs faithful wording while others weep. Some rejoice in their courageous sexual chastity and purity while others long to loose the passions of their bodies. When we can neither  rejoice nor weep together, itıs time to separate. At a deeper level thoughtful people will find the disunity is not about sex, it is about two very different religions. One is historic Christian faith, the other has yet to name itself.

Tom Anderson :

  • pastor of Houghton Grace United Methodist Church, Houghton, Michigan
  • is an elder in the Detroit Annual Conference
  • serves:
    • on the Board of Ordained Ministry
    • Emmaus/Chrysallis
    • Marriage Encounter
    • Conference camping.
  • has a B.S. for Michigan State '80 and an M. Div Garrett/Evanglical '84
  • served 14 years in Michigan and in Northern Ireland
  • has a wife Karen and I have been married 19 years and have two children.

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