Thursday, May 12, 2011

Homosexuality and Ordination

Like everyone with a pulse, I've been interested to read what the Presbyterians are doing with respect to ordination and homosexuality - and am getting peppered with questions about us Methodists. The polity differs in an interesting way: a Presbytery can say Gays can be ordained, but Presbyterian congregations choose their own pastors. In Methodism, if we ordain anyone, that person might become the minister of any Church. So Methodists, predictably, are... more nervous? about such decisions.

We also have debated this every 4 years, and will again next year; the usual outcome is a majority wish to uphold the traditional stance of not accepting homosexuality as a blessed lifestyle, and not ordaining homosexuals. When we did this in 2008, I tried to guide through what I thought was a productive way out of the impasse: to declare that we quite simply disagree on the matter. This was defeated by a 54-46% margin - which left us in the peculiar position of, by a small majority, saying we don't disagree??

Here is my odd thought, and I don't know of anyone else who has made this case: the issue of ordination is totally different from the question of whether we accept homosexuality in general - and I certainly don't mean we might accept homosexuality in general but not ordain. To me, ordination is about God calling someone into holy vocation - so who are we to say God can't call, or hasn't called, or will not call, anybody into ministry? Ordination is the recognition of God's claim on someone for a holy vocation, which isn't about a preference of partners or a lifestyle. To debate lifestyle choices seems like something we ought to do. But to question whom God might call into ministry?

In the Bible, God seems to use all sorts of people, because God quite simply wants to use them. Who am I to say God didn't call someone into this ministerial vocation?
If any of you reading have any thoughts on this notion of the separation of the question of ordination from that of sexual preference in general, I'd love to continue the conversation.

2 comments:

  1. Currently the United Methodist Discipline does not allow practicing homosexuals to be ordained. Until that changes, a practicing homosexual, preparing for ministry would not be allowed to be ordained so why encourage anyone when the door is shut? It would be very difficult for even the celibate homosexual to be a minister in many UMC congregations. The UMC actually has a double standard in that we are supposed to be welcoming everyone when in reality there are some congregations that would not welcome a known homosexual even as a staff member or even congregant. One answer would be for the denomination to drop the statement on homosexuality completely. Let each church decide on that matter. Maybe that would work. There is no doubt that homosexuals have already been doing ministry in other denominations and have enormous respect. How strange we place this enormous burden on homosexuals and practically none on those living in heterosexual relationships outside of marriage. The church is supposed to be a safe haven for sinners and that means all of us! If the truth be known, for those dealing with homosexuality, the church may be the most "unsafe" place to be!

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