Northaven’s Steps Toward Same Sex Marriage

This morning at Northaven Church, our Emeritus Pastor, Rev. Bill McElvaney, announced his intention to perform same sex weddings.

Bill has led our church, our city, and helped lead our denomination, for forty years. He continues to lead us now. The people of Northaven gave him a five-minute standing ovation at the conclusion of his remarks today, so grateful and thankful were they.

CrossI would like to address the specifics of what Bill said concerning where these services might take place. The current reality of our polity is that there are technical prohibitions against these services being performed by our clergy and in our churches.

This second part —that the services may not take place in our churches— is the part that is most insidious and, frankly, evil. Evil, in that it attempts to bar churches from ministering to their members in one of the most fundamental ways.*

There have always been regional differences in our United Methodist Church. In our part of the world, it’s essential that we make a statement and move forward, to support same sex marriage. But that we also be wise about what we do. In this, we are guided by the words of Jesus:

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16)

As Bill alluded to in his statement, for some months now I have been in conversation with the pastors of several neighbor churches near Northaven. They, in turn, have been in conversation with their lay leadership.

I am pleased to announce that two of our neighbor congregations are eager to invite Northaveners to celebrate same sex weddings in their sanctuaries. They are doing this as a way of standing in solidarity with Bill (and perhaps with other pastors as yet to be named) with Northaven, and with Reconciling United Methodists everywhere.

The churches are Midway Hills Christian Church, and their pastor Rev. Arthur Stewart; and Central Congregational Church, and their pastor, Rev. Christine Ng. We are, in fact, also still talking with a third congregation, but we can’t announce anything about that this morning.

Both of these pastors have been in discussion with their lay leaders, their “Board of Trustees,” if you will. And this morning on MLK Weekend, as Bill read his statement at Northaven, they also issued a public invitation to Northaven from their pulpits, as a sign of solidarity with Bill, with us, and with Reconciling United Methodists everywhere.

Additionally, Rev. Ng has informed me that their church will wave all building use fees for any weddings that might take place.

Again, I realize that this is not an ideal situation. I realize that this should only be seen as a temporary solution, at best. Bill says it makes him want to hold his nose.
I don’t really like it, either.

But it does two important things; one prophetic and one pastoral.

First, it allows us to prophetically lift up in the insanity of the current United Methodist polity on same sex weddings.
I invite all United Methodists reading this to meditate on the following sentence: We no longer have to travel across town to find a church who will host a same sex wedding. Two of the geographically closest congregations to Northaven in our North Dallas neighborhood are willing to host them.

This clearly shows how out of step the United Methodist Church has become with the leading of God’s Holy Spirit in God’s Holy Church.

Secondly, this allows us to provide some measure of pastoral care to our own members, now. Which is deeply important. I have previously written of the pastoral necessity of embracing same sex marriage in churches like Northaven. But now, I can put actual data to support the claim…

Recently, we did a survey and discovered that and we now have fourteen same sex couples at Northaven who are legally married under civil law; under the laws of seven different states and other jurisdictions.

Therefore, this is another point for United Methodists everywhere to hear: Same sex marriage is a pastoral necessity of this congregation right now. Not in some future theoretical era. But now.

The inability to perform same sex weddings creates an inability to reach the mission field  God has called Northaven Church to serve.

For several General Conferences, we have heard the United Methodist Church say that we must respond to the people God puts in front of us. We must minister to the people God’s Holy Spirit sends to us. We must reach out to our own, unique mission field.

I could not agree more. It is past time for us to change our polity, to allow churches in every city and town to reach the people God is calling them to reach.

Now, I want to finish by echoing Bill’s words: we have no idea whether any of our couples actually want this. They may not have any desire to have a church-wedding, either at Northaven or anywhere else. We hope that the fact that we did not “pre-arrange” a wedding announcement today will indicate that this is done out of prophetic and pastoral duty, and not as some “publicity stunt.”

c55df-evans-jack-george-harrisAt the conclusion of the sermon this morning, I asked “George and Jack” to come forward. On this very day, Martin Luther King Sunday of 2014, these two beautiful people are marking the 53rd Anniversary of their relationship together.
(The congregation also expressed their support of them in an ovation as well…)

United Methodist pastors across this land, in almost every city, are waking up to the reality of the “George and Jacks” in their congregations. They are realizing that same sex marriage is an important pastoral rite that must not be denied to the people of God.

I will close with two points. And I have made them before. But they bear repeating on this day…

First, legal, civil, same sex marriage is coming to the United States of America. Every single state. And if you don’t believe me, believe Nate Silver. Read the blog at that link, or take a look at the bottom line data in this picture.

And simply remember: Nate Silver is rarely, if ever, wrong about the politics of a situation.

But the second point is the one I am authorized to make, as a minister of Christ’s Gospel…

Same Sex Marriage is coming to the United Methodist Church. Not as a political stunt, but as a pastoral reality.

God wants the Church of Jesus Christ to embrace same sex marriage. And whether the Church of Jesus Christ, or the United Methodist Church, realize it, it’s coming, through the working of God’s Holy Spirit loose in our land today.

Our theme at Northaven this morning was “Follow Your Heartbreak,” a five-week series where we are attempting to discern what breaks our hearts about the world, and what we are called by God to do about it.

Let’s keep trusting that on the issue of same sex marriage, God will turn our heartbreak into joy.

* I make an assumption here that, I assume, everyone will get: that it’s possible to call certain policies and procedures of the United Methodist Church “evil,” without calling the people who believe them “evil.” The limited sense of calling the policies “evil” is the sole intent of the use of the word here.

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Eric Folkerth is a minister, musician, author and blogger. He is Senior Pastor of Kessler Park UMC United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas. Previously, he was pastor at Northaven UMC in Dallas for seventeen years. Eric loves to write on topics of spirituality, social justice, music/art and politics. The entries on this blog reflect that diversity of interests. His passion for social justice goes beyond mere words. He’s been arrested at the White House, defending immigrants and “The Dreamers,” and he’s officiated at same sex weddings in his churches, in defiance of what some believe is Methodist teaching. Eric is an avid blogger and published author, and 2017 recipient of the prestigeous Kuchling Humanitarian Award from Dallas’ Black Tie Dinner. (Human Rights Campaign) Eric has led or co-led hundreds of persons on mission trips around the globe, to places such as Mexico, Haiti, Russia, and Nepal. He has worked with lay persons to build ten homes, and one Community Center, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dallas. He’s a popular preacher, and often tackles challenging issues of social justice in his writings and sermons. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, is a State District Judge for Dallas, County. As judge of the 303rd Family District Court, she consistently gets high ratings from area lawyers, and was named “best judge” by The Dallas Observer. First elected in 2004, she was the first Latina ever elected to a county-wide bench in Dallas County, and is currently the longest service district judge in that district. She was re-elected for a fourth term in 2018. They have the world’s best daughter, Maria, and an incredible dog, Daisy. Find links to Eric’s music-related websites, at the top of this site’s navigation menu.

19 thoughts on “Northaven’s Steps Toward Same Sex Marriage

  1. Love me some Nate Silver. Thanks for that link. Thanks for your witness, Texas is my original home but I have immigrated to Ohio where I have been a UM pastor for 24 years. Keep the faith my friends!!

    1. Cheri: It’s really really important blog. And, as I said, Silver is rarely wrong about anything.
      Given the inevitability of civil marriage for same sex couples, we should really be working toward a change now in the church as well.

    2. Eric, Let me start by making two statements here. 1) I am one who is deeply invested in having a loving conversation on this matter, and 2) I do not believe same sex marriage to be an appropriate expression of the Church’s function in disseminating God’s love and revealing Jesus Christ to the world. However, I do agree with you on one point, and that is your assertion that the Church is called to minister to all people’s, including (but not limited to as this very loud conversation sometimes seems to suggest) folks who have chosen to live out a gay lifestyle. Please note I put the choice in “living out” because regardless of our view on the root of homosexual desire, it is nonetheless a choice for one to live it.

      Here is part of my problem, and it never seems to get resolved, no matter how much I read and try to understand the reasoning behind this movement: You have demonstrated what I have seen over and over again an argument “for” same sex marriage by pointing to past errors in Church polity that created vast injustices for groups of people such as African Americans and Women. There is some validity to such a tact, however, it leaves way too much on the table and opens the door to similar reasoning by other groups such as NAMBLA, who make the same claim to having a genetic bent to their attractions as the LGBTQ community makes. And before you go there, I am not comparing the two in any way shape or form, and would be hard pressed to open my community to embracing anyone claiming that having sex with minor boys (or girls for that matter) was justifiable. I do not have such issues with embracing gay couples and loving them in Christian brother/sisterhood. I just don’t agree that an openly gay lifestyle is appropriate to the pulpit, nor to I condone same sex marriage. The point here is that if there is no biblical tenet arguing for same sex marriage, while at the same time there is no argument that there is scripture speaking as to the inappropriateness of living such a lifestyle, then doesn’t this leave a huge hole in Church doctrine that stretches back over five thousand years? I believe in the Bible as a living document, but not to be discarded at the fancy of every minority that feels it has the right to be who they are, despite historical understandings of God’s will to the contrary.

      One thing you said is intriguing, and I am not sure I have a good argument for it. You mention that the Holy Spirit is guiding this issue and made a statement that “God wants the Church of Jesus Christ to embrace same sex marriage.” While I agree that the anger expressed in another response to this forum seems excessive to a degree, I would agree that such statements need to have some justifiable source, which I don’t think you answered, or at least it was not answered very clearly. I would counter that it is a movement of the Holy Spirit that the African contingent just happened to gain its full voice at a time when the UMC in the United States was faltering on its commitment to biblically sound doctrine; only one of which by the way is this issue of same sex unions. I am not trying to incite or deny here, I am simply trying to have a conversation that might help me understand better.

      Having said all of that, I will be one of the quickest to the pulpit to admit to the Church’s many and varied abominations in carrying out “justice” over the history of Christianity. And I think the way it has treated all groups it considers sinners is condemnable and without excuse in so many ways that I won’t even begin to go there. I believe great love, and even reparatory actions need to, and should be made towards those in the LGBTQ community. I would wager we stand united in that respect. But I fear the division over the sanctity of marriage may indeed be one that cannot be resolved because it involves very deep-seated and biblically based assumptions about how God’s love ought to be expressed in and to the world.

      1. Ted,

        First, I thank you for what I read as a sincere desire to discuss issues in a careful way. As I said, I generally delete comments for being either factually incorrect, or because they slur and entire group of human beings. I find some of what you say to be “factually incorrect” Specifically that homosexuality is any kind of “choice.” I don’t want to get lost in the weeds of that here. But I want you to know that I was on the fence with that part of your comment today, simply because I find it to be factually incorrect.

        With that initial caveat, let me respond to some of what you’ve said. I am happy that you see “some validity” to the example that the current struggle of gay and lesbian persons for marriage is at least metaphorically related to the struggle of African-Americans and women. Whether you agree with that view, I appreciate you noting it has “some” validity.

        You seem to become concerned with it, however, as perhaps (and these would be my words describing your position) leading to a kind of “slippery slope” that ends up with NAMBLA.

        Again, this is close to a kind of slur against LGBT persons, in that there is no evidence that the sickness of NAMBLA is connected with LGBT persons. “But, what if that’s the next step in marriage,” I hear people say. You claim this “never gets resolved.”

        Here’s my response: Nonsense. Never gonna happen. Not legally possible under any conceivable situation. In fact, this “theoretical NAMBA marriage” is already answered definitively and for all time.

        Let me be bluntly specific as to why. Marriage, whether same sex, or opposite sex, takes two “consenting adults.” A child cannot give their consent under the law. They cannot do this in marriage. They cannot do this in any legal situation.

        BTW, chickens, dogs and cats can’t give their consent either. Which is why marriage between “man and chicken” is not possible. Again, this has nothing to do with sexuality, or gender, or even species. It has to do with legal definitions of consent, which apply to all kinds of situations in courts of law.

        Every legal marriage has the “Do you want to get married to this person?” moment. In the church, we call this the “Declaration of Intent.” Marriages must have it, because they must involve “consent.

        The bottom line: The “This leads to NAMBLA” argument is a logical red herring, as are virtually all the other “slippery slope” arguments I have heard, because they posit kinds of theoretical marriage where one party is not a consenting adult.

        The second issue you raise concerns the idea that this is a movement of “God’s Holy Spirit loose in the world today,” an idea you clearly would differ with. You then raise the issue of Africa as an example of a problem with this view.

        Let me answer the first, and although this will sound repetitive, I will return to the previous argument I was making about women and slavery. The Bible has very clear and very bluntly affirmative passages condoning slavery. There’s an entire book whose subject is a runaway slave. Jesus told parables where slaves were characters.

        There is ample Biblical warrant to continue to claim that “The Bible says slavery is OK.” And yet, no Christian alive today would claim this. We face a similar situation with women, and with LGBT persons. In fact, there are still, to this day, denominations and persons who would argue against allowing women to be preachers, or to have “authority” over men. In fact, I visited with a woman in my office, who was fleeing from another church in Dallas….because the staff had asked her to stop teaching a “mixed gender” Bible study (men and women) because the Bible said women couldn’t teach men about the Bible. (This is a very large megachuch in our city, btw…)

        So, these issues are still with us.

        Loving, same gender relationships fall into the same category.
        No, Jesus never said “Lesbians can marry.”
        But he also didn’t say “Women can be clergy” either.
        Or, “Slavery is absolutely wrong in all situations and times.”

        In every generation, as you note, Christians have seen the Bible as the living, breathing Word of God.

        As for Africa, I first reject that my position is at all “faltering on Biblically sound doctrine.”

        In fact, I and most other Reconciling Methodists I know, believe we are living up to the true meaning of what the Bible teaches us.

        But, Africa is indeed a different culture.

        Let me throw this out here: The Methodist Church would have never existed —from the 1930s to the present— without the presence of the five regional jurisdictions. The jurisdictional system was a tacit and clear admission that Methodists did not all agree in the 1930s…or 40s….or today. But, somehow, even with those differences, we found a way to stay “United.”

        I believe with all my heart that what is now needed is for us to take that metaphor of the jurisdiction and apply it to the the global United Methodist Church. Africa has cultural specifics that we do not have. So does Asia. So does Europe.

        The Church of Jesus in every land will be, culturally, different. The American United Methodist Church is absolutely ready, past ready by about a decade, to change the language in the Discipline.

        It’s time to not ignore Africa, or Asia, or anybody. But it is time for us to apply the regional model that kept the Methodist Church together during our lifetimes, to the issue of homosexuality.

        My own and very sincere desire is for a “live and let live” environment to thrive, where churches and clergy that wish to perform same sex marriages can do so, without penalty. And those that do not, can continue not to do so.

        No clergy is forced to perform a wedding, ever. They can turn them down for any reason whatsoever. And if a clergy makes it clear they are against same sex marriage, it’s seriously doubtful a couple would desire for them to do the wedding anyway.

        But those of us who see same sex marriage as a growing pastoral necessity, to minister to the mission field God has set before us, deserve the right to offer this rite to our people.

      2. Hey Eric,

        I am learning some things from you, even if I disagree, to which I hope to be able to build on and perhaps strengthen the conversations I am and will be engaged in surrounding this issue, and for that I thank you. I do want to be clear, and tried to state this succinctly in my original post, but I distinguish between the “condition” (for lack of a better word) of homosexuality, and the “choice” to engage in same sex sexual behavior; just as I would distinguish between the “condition” of heterosexuality and the act of sexual intercourse. I in no way meant it as a slur, just a statement of fact. I am sincerely sorry if it was taken in that way.

        Language can be such an inadequate medium for expressing ideas at times, especially for those like myself who tend to be ungracefully blunt more often than not. I think you may have mistaken my analogy to NAMBLA, as I was not really speaking to a slippery slope as much as I was looking for a distinction between the states of desire as they relate to a God given right to marriage, which you answered pretty well by the way. Indeed there is a matter of choice in marriage, to which definitively animals cannot make, and arguably children cannot make either. Though it bears noting that there have been historic cultures where giving children in marriage was customary and in which it was the parent who made the contractual decision. But, as a matter of American culture, I cede that is not possible under current laws, and therefore distinguishes the contextual claims.

        As to the movement of the Holy Spirit. I remain unconvinced, and here is at least part of why. The arguments that you put forth regarding the issues of slavery and the authority of women in the Church have been, and frankly continue to be errors of interpretation and conditions that were products of culture, not scripture. Granted we could write books on the reasons why, and I am sure you are aware that many have indeed been written on precisely these issues. The point is this, Jesus spoke to freedom and equality for all of God’s children and used women in ministry Himself (i.e. the Samaritan woman at the well). Paul spoke to slavery only as a condition of one’s predicament, stating that if one were a slave, they should be a good one and honor their masters to the best of their ability. That is not a statement condoning slavery, but an acknowledgment of the societal condition and God’s call for everyone, rich, poor, slave, or free to live in Christ in all things and in all ways. And Paul, as did John Wesley 17 centuries later, used women of strong faith to advance the Gospel, while being carefully mindful of the cultural biases against such practices.

        The real problem I and many others who sincerely seek a loving relationship with anyone desiring a relationship with Christ have, is in equating those calls to freedom to the condition of homosexuality. I most definitely welcome and love anyone, and strive to always continue with that attitude period. I might add that I have very a good friend (in fact is one of my wife’s very best friends since they roomed together in college) who is gay and has lived in a committed relationship for over 25 years. I have no issues whatsoever with remaining friends and loving them as Christian sisters; and the feeling is mutual. But this is where we just seem to part ways. I am unable to reconcile your views on inclusiveness of same sex unions with my understanding of Christian marriage, which is in part a call to go forth and multiply, as well as a call to separate from parents and form a single entity in sacramental union.

        Having said all of that, I do appreciate your commentary and willingness to dialog. If there is ever going to be hope of reconciliation, that will have to be part of the deal. So again, I say thank you.

        1. Actually, I have no children of my own.

          Hypothetically, Obviously, I would still love always him but I would likewise tell him I could never approve of his behavior. To take it a little bit further, hypothetically, if I was an Ordained Elder in a church and he asked me to marry him to his same sex friend, my answer would yet remain absolutely positively not. It would have nothing to do with how I feel about him but everything to do with my own relationship with God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, my considered study and understanding of applicable Bible Scripture as I stated in my previous response. Could I hypothetically hold the line — yes, hypothetically, very much so (Joshua 1:6 – 9). I fear more what God could do to me than what my son could do to me while we both yet alive and well (Matthew 10:28, 32, 34-39). While this may sound cruel and inhuman to some and abhorrent, repugnant and uncaring to others, it is a completely hypothetical situation so do not judge me.

          However, my 32 year old niece is bisexual with three children. Lesbian since the age of 14. For several years she was in an interracial same sex relationship.

          My response: always affirming my absolute and unconditional non judgmental love for her anytime I talked to her but NEVER, NEVER approving of it. All she cared about was that her Uncle loved her and always would regardless of what she did. She would always be, and she knew it and believed it, accountable to God. My sisters and I always prayed for her. Now, and for the last 18 months she is no longer in the same sex relationship but is now going steady with a man with three children of his own. All appears to be going quite well between them. Perhaps one day (in God’s time) who knows!

          We all believe strongly in the power of prayer. We prayed for her and God heard our prayers as we all steadfastly believed God would!!!

          I cannot do not will not accept homosexual behavior. I cannot, do not will not believe in same gender marriage. However I will seek to understand. I will seek the Lord in prayer, I will not hesitate to serve them, I will not hesitate to fulfill Mark 12:28 – 35 because these are what my God and my Savior require of me and I choose obedience over emotion (Mark 10:35-45).

          On Mon, Jan 20, 2014 at 10:40 PM, Wheneftalks wrote:

          > Ted Fine commented: “Hey Eric, I am learning some things from you, > even if I disagree, to which I hope to be able to build on and perhaps > strengthen the conversations I am and will be engaged in surrounding this > issue, and for that I thank you. I do want to be clear, and t” >

      3. Ted,

        Thanks for your second reply, and your continued conversational tone.

        Biological research is confirming that homosexuality is a natural tendency in almost every animal species in nature. Given this, and given the fact that I am not primarily concerned with genital sexual behavior (meaning, I don’t care to meditate to deeply on what ANYONE does with their genitals) I don’t tend to obsess on the differences you have made here between “choice” and “condition.”
        LGBT copules, by in large, at least the ones I’ve seen, are who they are, just as I am who I am. At Northaven, we have couples who have been together ten, twenty, thirty…and as this blog notes, even 53 years!

        There should be no penalty for them and their natural sexual attraction, any more than there should be a penalty for my being attracted to my wife.

        I’m glad you liked the point about “consent” being a compelling answer to the mythical “NAMBLA” wedding. Let me push the point again, however, since you say that it’s not legal now, but could be. To change the legal concept of “consent” would change not only marital law, but also a fundamental code in our law, across the board….criminal, civil, family….etc…

        It’s virtually impossible to conceive of this fundamental part of marriage being changed in the future. Therefore, I repeat my assertion that the theoretical “NAMBLA” or “man/chicken” or “man/animal-of-your-choice” wedding is a red herring. I would strongly urge everyone to stop using it, since because it is so totally impossible under the law, holding it up is little more than emotional manipulation.

        Finally, you say this:
        “Paul spoke to slavery only as a condition of one’s predicament, stating that if one were a slave, they should be a good one and honor their masters to the best of their ability. That is not a statement condoning slavery,”

        I’m not sure how you get around the idea that this doesn’t condone slavery. It absolutely condones slavery. It assumes slavery is a natural human condition that people have no need to be freed of. Jesus similarly condones slavery when he tells parables. Slaves are characters in his parables, and nowhere in his parables is there one that escapes slavery as a part of the story.

      4. Actually Eric, Paul indeed does try and confront a situation of slavery with his letter to Philemon concerning Onesimus. And in fact the way he does it is through soothing words and public coercion. It is actually a fairly high minded letter and approaches the secular condition of slavery from a principled, but loving stance. But I respond more to thank you again for a good conversation. It is the first I have had that did not devolve into name calling.

        1. You have a funny definition of “not condone,” since the entire tenor of the book is that a runaway slave should return to the condition of slavery.
          Beyond this, of course, there are scores, literally at least 50 passages (not just single verse, passages) that deal with the owning or regulating of slaves, or that assume that slavery is simply a part of God’s created order.

          Including these, just as examples I’m sure you know:

          “slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling” (Ephesians 6:5)
          “tell slaves to be submissive to their masters and to give satisfaction in every respect” (Titus 2:9).

          Now, you can say that these are superceded by other passages in the Bible pertaining to love. And I would agree with you. I would, in fact, venture to guess that our method of dealing with the Biblical passages pertaining to slavery is quite similar.

          I simply believe it also applies to loving same gender relationships.

          Let me say it succinctly here:
          Just as the Bible does not seem to conceive of a world where slavery is morally repugnant, so too the Bible could not conceive of loving, monogamous, same-gender relationships.

  2. “God wants the Church of Jesus Christ to embrace same sex marriage. And whether the Church of Jesus Christ, or the United Methodist Church, realize it, it’s coming, through the working of God’s Holy Spirit loose in our land today.”

    Pray tell me ….

    What passage of the Bible does this come from? Chapter and verse please!!! Please be specific!!! Where does GOD specifically say this is His will for His people? No verses which allude to it. I want to see “and the Lord said ….” “Jesus said ….” God said to His prophet ….” that marriage is between same sex ….! WHERE IS IT? ARE THEY?

    You likewise point to the scripture … “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16)

    Pray tell me do you know what wolves do …. they are pack predators. Are you telling me or implying that I am and the host of other Bible believing Methodists are predators who spends their days deliberately going out into the wilderness in packs to hunt and feed off of “gays and lesbians and so on?

    Your use …. nay ABUSE of Scripture is wholly OFFENSIVE! My objections could not possible be stronger. You likewise throw words around like ‘evil’ ‘Evil’, ‘Insidious’ ‘Insanity’ so callously and so judgmentally. There are those of us who are trying to have conversations and trying to understand but your tossing these words like so much salad greens does nothing but turn those who want to understand wholly against you and unceremoniously slams the door in our faces.
    You drive wedges between us instead of being the bridge builders you would have us believe you try so hard to be. Your HYPOCRISY is a stain for which their is no detergent or process to clean and I do not care how many laundry brushes you bring with you to try or strength you use.


    I fully expect that someone will take complete offense to this comment and summarily remove it.

    Have at it! Let your hypocrisy and immaturity shine through!

    1. Thomas,

      I actually thought about deleting it. But upon re-reading it, it doesn’t fit my usual criteria for deleting a comment… that is, something either factually inaccurate, or something that slams an entire group of people.

      Despite its over-th-top anger, your post really doesn’t do either, and I thought it would be helpful to my readers of all kinds to meditate on the anger you have here, and what it might mean.

      A few answers.

      I will not answer your question about “where in scripture” my assertion comes from. But I will ask you a question (which answers it) in return…
      During the time of John Wesley, “Where in scripture did it say that God wanted there to be a Methodist Church with ordained clergy?”

      During the time of the abolitionists, “Where in scripture did it say that God wanted there to be freed slaves?” (In fact, there were, and are, many passages to the contrary…)

      Fifty years ago, “Where in scripture did it say that God wanted there to be women preachers?”

      Now, before you rush to answer any of these three hypothetical questions, I’d remind you that if you do, then you’ve also pretty much answer your own question too.

      My use of the Matthew passage and my use of the word “evil” are both things I absolutely stand by. I am sorry if you find them offense, or as if I am throwing molotov cocktails.

      The prohibition against same sex marriage in UM Churches has two parts: a prohibition against clergy performing them, and against them happening in our churches. It is that second part, and only in that context, that I used the word “evil.” (Please go back and re-read it again if you missed that…)

      I say this because this prohibition limits churches in their ability to reach the people God has called them to reach, the “mission field” that God has placed in front of them. The General Conference has made it crystal clear that God calls each congregation to minister to its specific “mission field.” It also makes it clear that these will be quite different, that they should be different, and that our major work is to find that mission field and reach out to it. (Wesleyan theology, through and through…)

      However, the prohibition against having weddings in churches is not only binding the hands of some clergy (thousands of clergy, actually) but also binding the hands of congregations, who desire to offer same sex marriage as a pastoral rite for their members.

      Hope this helps. Given how angry you sound, I’m not sure it will.

      God’s blessings on you anyway.

      1. And, btw, there are Bishops who also agree with me about the prohibitions limiting our view of the “mission field.” Specifically, Bishop Sally Dyck has written eloquently on this:

        “Not allowing space for people who long for an open church is counter-productive to fulfilling our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ.”

        Read that last sentence over and over until it sinks in. Part of why we are unable to fully reach this generation is because of these policies, not because we cling to them. She continues:

        “The church and its leaders long for “more people, younger people, and more diverse people.” But with “more people, younger people (and not so young), and more diverse people” come people for whom the matters of human sexuality aren’t a stumbling block in faith but quite the contrary. When we aren’t open and welcoming of all people, our statements on human sexuality are an impediment, causing many within the church to become disappointed in the UMC and to feel that we are being hypocritical in what Jesus would have us be and do. We need space so we can grow and be vital.”

        You can read it in context here:

        She, of course, does not use the word “evil” as I have. But I still stand by it, in the limited and careful sense that I used it in the blog.

        1. Brother Eric,

          Over the top ‘anger’ …. again I am being misjudged. It is not over the top anger but frustration.

          I find your response very interesting and very thought engaging and I thank you for responding to it in so timely a manner – much appreciated, much welcomed. God bless you for that.

          However, I had hoped, even prayed that you would engage me in some level of dialogue about what the Bible says about these clearly highly contentious issues. I am very interested in how you and the Reconciling Ministries in general see and frame the issue Biblically. The living and transcendent wisdom from the Word of God is something that I highly value as I move toward the finish line. For me, the wisdom of man must find its firmest foundation in God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit for me to incorporate it into my own journey (Psalm 118:8-9). The absence of God’s living Word from any process of my own discernment is telling me that if I follow that path of man’s wisdom to the exclusion of God’s Word and God’s wisdom, I am turning either to left or to the right and not following the straight path of God (Joshua 1:6-9, Matthew 7:13-14).

          Personally, If I fail to take the time to fully acknowledge Jesus Christ and fully love what He did for me and everyone else who come to believe in Him, if I just seek to follow the crowd like Peter did in the courtyard of the Chief Priest, then deny him and all He is three times, then suddenly look up and square into His piercing eyes the moment of that final utter denial, that magnitude of that kind of betrayal would rip me to shreds (Luke 22:54 – 62, Hebrews 4:8 – 16).

          I am going to fail my Lord and Savior …. that is an inescapable fact. But when I do, the desire of my heart is that when I look into the eyes of my Savior Jesus I can do so without having to feel destroyed and run away in complete, utter shame. I would much more desire the conversation be at a park bench somewhere with His hand upon my shoulder and listening to His Words of wisdom and peace and grace and forgiveness. I was the splitting image of ‘doubting Thomas’. But I do not doubt anymore (John 20:24 – 29). 28: Thomas answered “My Lord and my God!”

          Personally, I do not believe in same sex marriage for the very reason that for me it turns the transcendent wisdom of God as I understand it from Genesis 2:18-25 and Mark 10:5-8 upside down.

          This is my own personal statement of witness drawn from the God’s wisdom within the Bible.

          God’s peace to you.

          On Mon, Jan 20, 2014 at 10:37 AM, Wheneftalks wrote:

          > ericfolkerth commented: “And, btw, there are Bishops who also agree > with me about the prohibitions limiting our view of the “mission field.” > Specifically, Bishop Sally Dyck has written eloquently on this: Not > allowing space for people who long for an open church is coun” >

  3. Thank you Eric for taking the time to have such deep thoughtful conversations with those who do not understand the Reconciling adherence to Biblical obedience. For me, it comes down simply to Matthew 22:36-40

    New International Version (NIV)

    36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

    37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

    If all of the law hangs upon loving your neighbor as yourself, then the Book of Discipline is clearly not in adherence.

    1. Absolutely, Kirsten.
      I think I mentioned recently that our friend, Frank Schaefer, intended to use the story of the Good Samaritan in his defense. Not only is this an example of how we are to love (stop and support the wounded) it’s also an example of how the religiously observant.

      The Priest and the Levite walk by not because they are uncaring, or because they have “important” things to do…but because Jewish law forbade them to stop.

      They didn’t help the wounded, did not love their neighbor, because they were following the Book of Discipline of their day.

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