Wednesday, November 02, 2005

who is in a position to condemn?

"What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us" (Romans 8. 31-33)

While I am not acquainted with all of the intricacies of the judicial council ruling about the pastor who refused membership to a gay man, I have read the ruling (at I am aware that characteristics within the case may have led to the verdict. I am saddened by this outcome (supporting the pastor), which seems to play into the stereotype that the church consists of the righteous, and the role of church leadership is to keep the unrighteous out. In fact, as Solzhenitsyn noted, the line between good and evil runs through every human heart. The church is always an "earthen vesssel", the transcendent power belonging to God and not to us (2 Corinthians 4). I know the last two statements to be true about myself, and every church I have served. The decision seems to make this a "teachable moment".

Of course, all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3). Of course, sexual brokenness is only one of the deadly sins (the others being greed, anger, envy, boredom, pride, etc.). Of course, if God should mark iniquities, who could stand? (Psalm 130). The implied answer: no one. Of course, we are never at our best when we seek judicial answers to human dilemmas. Of course, Jesus asked those without sin to cast the first stone (John 8).

I am convinced that we will only make our way forward if we can stay close to a few core convictions: our doctrine of grace (lest we lose touch with our tradition); the virtue of patience (the mother of all virtues); a posture of humility (all across the spectrum); a reminder that only Jesus Christ is the one in a position to condemn, and that God's ways are not our ways; an openness to James' admonition to be "quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger" (1. 19); a preference for the language of faith rather than political categories or terms that are inherently polarizing.

I am glad that I was received as a member of the church when I was not in a state of perfection, and I am gladdened even more in the good news that "while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5. 8). The very reality of our human imperfection and God's grace is at the heart of the mystery of salvation, and any possibility we have about becoming the body of Christ on this earth. I am comforted in the knowledge that the One who sits upon the throne intercedes for us.


Blogger doodlebugmom said...

I found your blog while surfing around the net. I posted on my own blog a week or so about the UMC defrocking a lesbian pastor.

Doesn't sound like open hearts and open minds to me. :(

I am always reminded, Let he who has not sinned throw the first stone.

12:09 PM  
Blogger John M. said...

Thank you for a clam voice with wisdom.

I was born, raised and am actively Methodist, but as a gay man, am having to struggle with whether I should remain in this church.

However, I try to live by the words that no battle was ever won if you leave the battlefield.

11:16 AM  
Blogger John M. said...


11:16 AM  

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