This is Pastor Tim’s Article that will appear in the Evening Leader Monday, January 13, 2020
I have had a number of conversations with my parishioners at Wayne Street over the past week who were concerned that the United Methodist Church is getting ready to split. Most of the major news outlets had the story about the impending break-up of what used to be known as the UNITED Methodist Church. Apparently, that word won’t be a part of our new name.
The controversy that has finally broken our denomination apart is over homosexuality. Will we conduct wedding ceremonies for same sex couples and will we ordain openly homosexual people? The UMC has disagreed over many things in our history, including war, abortion, gun control, slavery and politics, but this is the one issue on which we finally came to an impasse.
I have read and reread a letter Bishop Gregory Palmer wrote to make sure we understood what was really happening. My understanding is that a branch of the UMC is going to break off into a new denomination. Any current UMC congregation can vote to join this new denomination. Once this split has taken place, the remaining congregations in the UMC will have a special session to vote where all prohibitions against any of the LGBTQ community will be repealed.
What this means is the clergy and congregations will both have to decide. I will have to elect for myself which denomination I want to join and Wayne Street will also have to decide by vote which denomination they want to join.
This controversy has been a part of the UMC landscape for almost 50 years. Every day since my ordination in 2004, I have prayed that it wouldn’t come to this. But here we are – and I want to be crystal clear about this. Shame on both sides of this argument because everyone is wrong. For the activists who wouldn’t settle for anything less than full inclusion and for Pharisees who wouldn’t allow any room to budge, I hope you both are proud of yourself. You are destroying something that is still sacred to me. My whole life is about ministry in the UMC, it is the love of my life. Now, in March, that institution is one vote away from no longer existing and the selfish arrogance of both sides has destroyed it. Our purpose is to save the lost and we have been cracked right down the middle by well-funded lobbyists on both sides and it quite frankly makes me sick.
Since the 1930s, everyone has had to register with the State before they could get married. Since that time, marriage is no longer a sacred religious celebration. It is a state institution. I say, as long as two people meet a legal definition of an ability to consent, license them through the state to get married. There was a time that the institution of marriage belonged to the Church. That is no longer the case.
Is the definition and state of marriage an issue that needs to be addressed? Yes it does. But, in my humble opinion, if we are going to find an issue we feel so strongly about that we will split a whole denomination, it seems to me like the issue should be something that Jesus mentioned. He never mentions this. Jesus had plenty of opportunity to address this issue, He doesn’t. The Apostle Paul wrote about it, but Paul said a whole lot more about loving each other than he did about homosexuality. That makes me conclude that this decision to split is violating more scripture than it is retaining.
Someday, a generation from now, I am going to be a tired old man and I am going to look into the eyes of a young pastor and I am going to tell her that I remember back to the days when we were the UNITED Methodist Church, a concept she will have only read about in history class. I hope that she will forgive all of us for what we allowed to happen.