Monday, March 22, 2004

I have to admit I was surprised when I learned on Saturday, that Karen Dammann, a United Methodist minister and avowed lesbian was found not guilty in a church trial of violating the United Methodist Book of Discipline. The Book of Discipline states that homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teachings” and that gays and lesbians should not be ordained as clergy.

I’m surprised because I figured that even though many Methodists out here in the west disagree with that policy (myself included), the jury would feel they had no choice but to convict. What bothers me is the reaction to the verdict. (Jay Voorhees, in his blog “Only Wonder Understands,” has a very thoughtful response to the verdict and its implications for the UMC. I highly encourage reading it.)

Christianity Today was, not surprisingly, not happy with the verdict and dismissive of the jury’s motives and integrity. I’m sure when they get around to it that the Unofficial Confessing Movement’s page will be frothing in anger. The Confessing Movement (Official page) is a very conservative, quite possibly fundamentalist, movement within the United Methodist Church.

I guess I’m not surprised that so many conservative Methodists think it’s fine to welcome gays and lesbians to worship with us and parts of our church community, but that hell will freeze over before they’re allowed to be clergy, or God forbid, be married in our churches. But this “separate but decidedly unequal” policy makes me angry.

What really bothers me is that I think we’re heading down a dangerous road. It seems to me that conservatives are saying that homosexuality is such a grave sin, that those who would sin so cannot be ministers. But isn’t that saying the “sin” of homosexuality is worse than a bunch of other sins? I think that a lot of conservative, evangelical churches preach that no particular sin is any greater than any other. Their theology is that we all deserve to burn for all eternity in hell because of our sin, and that is only through the grace of Jesus that we can be saved.

So are conservatives saying that homosexuality is such a sin that they shouldn’t be allowed to be ministers, or that their sin is just pretty obvious and so we should use that opportunity to defrock them? See where I’m going? This could be the start of a fun, new game for Methodist laity. “Search out sin in your clergy!” We could encourage laity to get video of clergy drinking alcohol, gambling, being greedy, etc.

If some Methodists are really saying that clergy should be without sin, then they should be honest about it. Let’s start kicking out every member of the clergy that admits (or is caught) to one sin or another. Personally I think we should have a conversation about whether homosexuality is actually a sin, but that’s another discussion. I think we’re getting dangerously close to having an expectation of perfection in our clergy. I think that position is “incompatible with Christian teachings” and pretty silly, personally.



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