Steadier footing: an examination of our stance on inclusive faith and practice

footing

By John F. Yeaman

To understand the current split among Methodists about LGBT people let’s follow the twentieth century Methodist Bible scholar, John Knox, who said to understand Scripture we must plant one foot firmly in the world of the Bible and the other foot firmly in our world – two worlds that often are very different.

For example, during the 18th and 19th centuries church people argued about slavery. The Scriptures overwhelming supported slavery as normal and that it is acceptable to God. But in their world what was the reality of slavery? The recent films “The Butler” and “Seven Years a Slave” show ugly realities church folk came to recognize. During the conflicts over slavery James Russell Lowell wrote:

New occasions teach new duties…

They must upward still, and onward,

Who would keep abreast of Truth…

Conflicts in decades before the Civil War as well as that war and legislative action in Europe—often motivated by Methodists—ended slavery. The realities of slavery trumped those Scriptures.

In contrast to the countless Bible passages supporting slavery, only six passages appear to support opposition to LGBT people. Two passages in Leviticus clearly oppose male homosexual acts because homosexual acts violated male dominance. Those acts are called abominations, as is eating shrimp and many other foods—all are equally abominations!

The New Testament four passages are about pederasty which today is serious sexual abuse punished by the state. They may refer to some Roman festivities’ orgies. Romans 1.26f is very difficult to translate.

But none of these six passages relates to modern LGBT relationships!

Please understand that homosexuality—the word and the idea—began in 1869! Only since did social scientists as well as people begin to recognize that some people are born attracted to and wanting to love people of the same gender. That reality has been very difficult for some Methodists to accept. But it is the reality of people today young and old; how many elderly who have been same-sex partners for decades have recently married? One wrote, “It feels strange after 24 years to suddenly call him my husband, but at the same time it feels good too.” LGBT friends have told me God created me; how can we question their conviction?

So, as that Methodist Bible scholar said, we plant one foot in Holy Scripture that knows nothing about what we mean by homosexuality – not acts, but love like the love of married straight couples and parents! We plant the other foot in our world that increasingly recognizes that “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all … are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Just as with slavery many Methodists cannot stand the fact that LGBT folk are basically just like us: loving each other, being parents. They have been my colleagues and friends, and want the same rights and Methodist embrace we straights have long enjoyed! Let’s pray and work that as with slavery current reality will trump those six verses, while our experience confirms the Scripture’s repeated call to us to love our neighbor.

 

 

John CC1smallJohn F. Yeaman earned an MDiv at SMU and was a pastor for 20 years in SWTexas Conference. He then earned an MSSW and was a social worker for 25 years. His wife of 62 years recently died of dementia; they have a grown son and daughter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

top photo courtesy of @RabbitEarJones

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This story was written by a special contributor to The United Methodist Reporter. You may send your article submissions to
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15 Comments on "Steadier footing: an examination of our stance on inclusive faith and practice"

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
 
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Wes Andrews
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It is an interesting parallel. I have my M.Div. from Iliff School of Theology and an MSW. Yet, I believe in the authority of Scripture. And I believe we don’t need to take away from Scripture to add compassion to it. Mr. Yeaman writes, ”Just as with slavery many Methodists cannot stand the fact that LGBT folk are basically just like us: loving each other, being parents” This statement alone betrays part of what our earning an MSW is about. My training helped me UNDERSTAND others rather than misinterpret them through my own filters. The filter in the case of… Read more »
George Nixon Shuler
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I don’t think scripture can be said to define marriage and sexuality by any reasonable measure, unless one also says it defines slavery as morally right and the universe as geocentric. And even then, it’s all smoke and mirrors. The Bible is not the fourth member of the Trinity!

Was your MSW from a GSSW accredited by the CSWE?

John F Yeaman
Guest

Yes, my MSSW is from then University of Texas at Austin in 72 that was fully accredited then to now. I had excellent training!

james
Guest

Thanks, Wes. Conservatism is branded as “anti everything.” Your response is right on, soft, and classic. Could not have even supposed you are an Iliff grad. For sure that seminary, Perkins and Claremont serve the “lib/prog” mind set. Not sure any of them encourage a conservative view of the umc any more…………………

Wes Andrews
Guest
I had some very hostile and pre-judging professors. I found it quite amazing that the “inclusive” concept was in the eye of the beholder, Just like tolerance. Progressives and liberals who often reference tolerance and inclusivity are often extremely intolerant. I’m an idealist and I believe that love is supposed to be unconditional. I was NEVER confrontational, and I conformed to their requirements of their definition of inclusiveness. I also was honest about my belief. It was a dean who while being progressive was truly inclusive and who championed, albeit quietly, my participation within the community. While my theological training… Read more »
Kevin
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Wes
One sided the article might be but your excellent comments on this thread put some balance back in. Nicely done.

Paul W.
Guest
Why did UMR choose to publish this one-sided “article” that truly does damage to Scripture. Do the editors not care that Mr. Yeaman’s article might cause even one young believer to buy into his distortions and stray from the path of righteousness (cf. Matt 18:6)? Mr. Yeaman, as will we all, will stand one day before God and give an accounting for his words and deeds. Does Mr. Yeaman not fear the consequences if his “interpretations” are, in fact, wrong? Whenever we do damage to the text and jump through linguistic and interpretive hoops to make the Scriptures fit our… Read more »
George Nixon Shuler
Guest

The notion homosexuality is somehow a “practice” may be the genesis of the misunderstanding here. It is many things, but certainly not that, for many reasons. To characterize another’s capacity to love as such is to aggressively pounce on vulnerable people and to demean humanity. The mixing of oil and water is an apt metaphor for the “practice,” to use that term, of using the bible as a cudgel.

Warren Stewart
Guest

found his statements most helpful.as he has exhibited a sound understanding of the Scriptures and the issue of how to read/interpret the Bible.His voice is one of reason and compassion.

Wes Andrews
Guest

In fact, this entire article is quite erroneous……LGBTQI folk are nothing like those who experienced the true oppressive torture of slavery. It is shameful and a misrepresentation of history to make that connection…

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

0000000Hmmm. The Nazi regime specifically singled out LGBT concentration camp prisoners to transport hazardous cargo. Many succumbed to death from chemical and radiation poisoning. Segregation prohibited meetings of LGBTs here in The German-Austrian state and spirited them off the Auschwitz and Dachau. And LGBT Americans and British citizens ,suffered job loss and oppressive “therapies. As usual your apologia is at odds with the facts.

Wes Andrews
Guest

Wow, such misinformation which leads to NO transformation. Progressive again get it wrong, but for them the end justifies the means, so why not twist the truth? It is just patent untruth to suggest that the Scripture supports slavery.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

Sounds more like the preface to the tactical manual of the Institute for Religion and Democracy.i

Kevin
Guest
It would be helpful if he cited the scripture that supported slavery. Slavery is mentioned in the Bible but where is it actually endorsed as proper? Wesley did not think scripture approved of slavery. As to homosexuality being invented in 1869 what about this? In Plato’s Symposium, Phaedrus proposed the creation of an army of lovers, because men behave at their best when in love and that no army could be better than one composed of lovers: “No man is such a craven that love cannot inspire him with a courage that makes him equal to the bravest born.” And… Read more »
George Nixon Shuler
Guest
The notion homosexuality is not “modern” due to certain ancient practices could also be used and refuted vis-à-vis heterosexual relationships, which traditionally involved the transfer of a piece of property, a woman, from her first owner, her father, to the second, her husband. We can stipulate there have existed varieties of each of those and other sexualities throughout human history, but for our purposes today we must address relationships as they are today. LGBT marriages are hardly entered into on whims these days. They merely confirm existing realities. Ancient campfire legends prove nothing. The Adam and Eve metaphor refers to… Read more »
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