Here is the final draft of the response statement to "In All Things Charity." Thanks to all of you who gave your input to make this a strong but compassionate statement. I hope I can count on all of you to endorse it as initial signatories. To do so, please e-mail me the following information:
Your name, position or title, and city of residence. As with all such statements, this information is for identification purposes only.
You are free to copy and distribute this statement to others of like- mind. If you would like a "formal" copy, just include your snail mail address with your correspondence.
James A. Gibson III
The Josiah Journal
United Methodist Renewal Generation
GOD'S PLAN RE-AFFIRMED
For over two decades, The United Methodist Church has found itself in the midst of an
ongoing debate concerning the subject of homosexuality. Often this debate has been shaped
by the language of sociology and the agenda of popular culture. Although the authoritative
witness of Scripture and Christian tradition teaches that the practice of homosexuality is
a sin and that persons who practice such will not inherit the kingdom of God (cf. I
Corinthians 6:9-10), this witness has been diminished, ignored and demeaned by
individuals, groups and organizations within United Methodism who are committed to a
political agenda that is destructive to the Church and to the moral fabric of society.
Despite numerous well- orchestrated efforts by such parties to amend the denomination's
long-held and biblically supported position that the practice of homosexuality is
"incompatible with Christian teaching" (Book of Discipline, paragraph 65G),
successive General Conferences since 1972 have upheld the Church's stance on this issue.
However, within the context of the most recent General Conference (1996), certain
statements have been issued to the public which openly challenge the Discipline, church
tradition and the teachings of Holy Scripture. Of particular concern are the statement
issued by fifteen United Methodist bishops during the General Conference and the document,
"In All Things Charity" (IATC), recently issued by fifteen United Methodist
clergy members. Such statements, while claiming to be "statements of
conscience," appear to represent an attempt to circumvent the General Conference, lay
aside the Discipline, and undermine the authority of Scripture. In the face of this
challenge, we, the undersigned, are compelled to offer the following articles in response.
AFFIRMATIONS AND COMMITMENTS
1. We affirm the United Methodist position on homosexuality, stated in the Social Principles of The Book of Discipline, paragraph 65G. Homosexual persons no less than heterosexual persons are individuals of sacred worth. All persons need the ministry and guidance of the church in their struggles for human fulfillment, as well as the spiritual and emotional care of a fellowship that enables reconciling relationships with God, with others, and with self. Although we do not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian teaching, we affirm that God's grace is available to all. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons.
We believe this to be a biblically-grounded, grace-based statement which holds in
proper balance the necessary proscription against a behavior which denies full personhood
to those who practice it and the unequivocal mandate for all Christians to reach out in
compassionate, loving ministry to those in need. It is false to claim, as do the signers
of IATC (Article 2), that prohibition of a practice diminishes the "sacred
worth" of persons who engage in that practice. A person's "sacred worth" is
not determined by how one lives one's life. "Sacred worth" is a given, for we
are all created in the image of God. However, inasmuch as all human beings are fallen and
in need of redemption, it is the Church's responsibility to reach out to persons of every
condition in life with the saving message of Jesus Christ, to the end that all persons may
be restored to wholeness in their relationship with God and with others. Homosexuality is
but one of numerous sins which denies persons the full recognition of their "sacred
worth." It is the Church's duty, particularly in a day and age of declining societal
morality, to speak the truth in love concerning the sin of homosexuality as part of its
ministry of redemption and reconciliation.
2. We affirm the lifelong commitment between one man and one woman as the only
appropriate expression of the marriage covenant. Scripture teaches that this is
God's plan for humankind from the foundation of the world (cf. Genesis 1:26-28; Genesis
2:18-24; Matthew 19:4-6; Mark 10:5-9). It is unthinkable to even suggest the Church
support "covenental commitments between same-gendered couples" (IATC, Article
3). Support for such "covenants" is not ministry, but an abdication of
ecclesiastical ethics, responsibility and integrity. We will hold accountable, through
such means as delineated in the Discipline (paragraphs 2623-2629), any clergy members who
participate in rituals "celebrating" unions of same-gendered couples. Such
rituals are in violation of the Social Principles (Discipline, paragraph 65C). Moreover,
they show contempt for the holy institution of matrimony.
3. We affirm the Disciplinary standards for ordination which require that all
clergy "maintain the highest standards of holy living in the world" (Discipline,
paragraph 304.3). To that end, we who are clergy are committed, through our
ordination vows and as a matter of personal integrity, to "fidelity in marriage and
celibacy in singleness." We who are laity commit ourselves to holding clergy
accountable in this matter. The exclusion of "self-avowed practicing
homosexuals" from the ranks of the ordained is both justified by Scripture and
necessary to the integrity of the office of the ordained ministry. We will continue to
stand firm against any and all attempts to minimize or eliminate these standards. It is
false to claim, as do the signers of IATC in the preamble of their statement, that there
is a tension between the covenant of United Methodist clergy to uphold the Discipline,
including its teachings on homosexuality, and the ordination vows to consciously represent
"the whole Gospel. . .to the end that all the world may be saved." Both the
Discipline and the Gospel are in agreement that homosexuals are persons worthy of the
forgiving grace of God, but that the practice of homosexuality is a sin. Tension exists
only when there is a reduction of the Gospel, such as the conscious omission of a call to
repentance, and/or when one verbally assents, via ordination vows, to the teachings of the
Discipline and then uses one's set apart status as a vehicle for the dissemination of
4. We affirm and support those ministries of transformation which seek to offer
opportunities for homosexual persons who wish to leave such lifestyles. It is a
testimony to the forgiving, justifying and sanctifying grace of God when one who has
formerly been a homosexual is made a new creation in Christ (cf. I Corinthians 6:11). As
we are given opportunity, we will reach out in love and compassion to persons seeking
deliverance from a homosexual lifestyle, extending to them Christ's offer of salvation.
This is a true ministry of reconciliation--with God, with others and with self--which
brings forgiveness, redemption, healing and full inclusion in the Body of Christ.
Continued discussion and debate over the issue of homosexuality compromises the healing of
many former homosexuals both inside and outside our denomination. Denial of the
possibility of this healing is just one more example of the "marginalization of
former homosexuals" which is opposed in the Social Principles (Discipline, paragraph
5. We commit ourselves to continue the preaching, teaching and living of the
Gospel of Jesus Christ, both to those who are believers, that they may grow in Christ, and
to those who are not believers, that they may find salvation in Christ. Concern
over peripheral issues cannot take precedence over the primary mission of the Church,
which is to make and nurture disciples for Jesus Christ (cf. Matthew 28:19-20). The
continuing debate over homosexuality is a distraction from the Great Commission, which
Christ himself has given us as a mandate. We see no useful purpose in continuing a debate
with persons who, through their accomodation to contemporary secular philosophies, have
abandoned the Christian faith. United Methodist pulpits, boards, agencies, educational
institutions and other affiliated entities are inappropriate avenues for the expression of
viewpoints advocating the acceptance of a practice deemed by the Church to be
unacceptable. Other means of expression are freely available in the public square for
those who feel the need to speak their convictions.
6. We who are clergy commit ourselves to continued study of Scripture and the
Church's historic doctrines. We will teach and instruct our laity in the same, to
the end that future generations of United Methodists will be equipped with a sufficient
understanding of the nature and mission of the Church, and thus be able to distinguish
truth from error. We who are laity commit ourselves to holding our clergy accountable to
proper teaching and instruction in these matters. We, clergy and laity alike, affirm
Wesley's Model Deed, that the laity have the right to correct the clergy in matters
We pray that the Church will move beyond this needless debate over an issue settled centuries ago and upheld throughout history by the unanimous witness of Scripture and Christian tradition. God's plan for humankind is not subject to modification according to the whims of personal experience or opinion. The Church will not abandon its biblical teachings on sin, repentance, forgiveness, salvation and sanctification in order to accommodate a culture at odds with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Neither will the Church diminish its commitment to the sanctity of the marriage covenant and the integrity of the office of the ordained ministry in order to salve the consciences of a constituency which knows not the radical demands of the life of holiness and discipleship.
We call upon the Church to recognize again its unique nature as the Body of Christ, "a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, [God's] own special people" called out of darkness into the marvelous light of God's mercy and grace (cf. I Peter 2:9-10). As a people called of God, let us leave behind this distraction and move forward, shining forth the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ into the dawning of a new millennium.
We stand as servants of Jesus Christ, our Risen Lord and Savior.
Back to UCM Homepage