The recent news about the Methodist pastor who lost his credentials for defying the Book of Discipline by marrying his gay son is not only a sad commentary about the rigidity of the United Methodist Church polity, but it is another story in a long saga of discrimination and hypocrisy by church officials. They haven’t followed a “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy; they have said it is acceptable to lie and ignore your conscience but not to tell the truth. It seems a strange irony that the new Pope appears to be assuming a more charitable and rationale approach to this ecclesiastical controversy, while the leaders of this Protestant denomination continue to insist on compliance with the letter of the law. Didn’t Jesus free us from the Pharisees?
It seems to me to be more an issue of church politics than addressing a moral dilemma. Jesus didn’t say anything about homosexuality even though he condemned divorce, which is acceptable in the United Methodist Church. Those who choose to proof text a few verses of scripture to support their position of hatred and discrimination risk penalty themselves for not loving the poor and the needy as the Bible tells us to do. “Love the sinner, but hate the sin” is a cop-out in that it presupposes that what God has created is sinful. It really doesn’t matter whether homosexuality is a question of choice or not. Our response to homosexuals in the church is an issue of evangelism in that Jesus commanded that we love one another without conditions and that we bring the good news of salvation to the entire world— not just to some who meet our criteria.
Our government is coming to see homosexuals as having the same civil rights as others and that discrimination against a persecuted minority is wrong. During the Inquisition the church killed people in the name of preserving dogma. Today we are again seeing a human power play to persecute those who might challenge their episcopal authority. It is not merely a difference in how to interpret the Bible. The church went through that regarding slavery. Today we face the question of fulfilling the promise of making this earth more like the Kingdom of God and thereby following the commandment of Jesus to make fellowship with him available to all—not just to some. The Jewish Christians had to struggle with including the Gentiles; we are struggling with the issue of sexual orientation and gender identity. Those psychological terms were not a part of the 1st Century vocabulary.
The real tragedy is this: we are responsible for those who have been lost to Christ because of the church’s condemnation and unwillingness to include them in the good news and mercy of Jesus. We may not have directly killed those who chose to take their own lives because they could not reconcile their core inner selves with the judgment of some church officials, but we certainly bear some responsibility. Let God be the judge—not me.