Church trial shines spotlight on denomination’s ambivalence

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United Methodist Rev. Frank Schaefer serves communion to his supporters at the end of his two-day church trial. Photo by Kathy L. Gilbert/United Methodist News Service

United Methodist Rev. Frank Schaefer serves communion to his supporters at the end of his two-day church trial. Photo by Kathy L. Gilbert/United Methodist News Service

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(RNS) The United Methodist Church’s ambivalence over homosexuality was written all over the penalty given a Pennsylvania pastor Tuesday night at a trial conducted to determine his guilt for officiating at a same-sex wedding.

  • Mike A

    In the Quaker tradition, God’s concern for all creation becomes concrete in particular “concerns” that the Spirit of God awakens in the hearts of individual believers. If someone brings a concern to a weekly meeting and finds that concern is shared by others in the church, it may become the focus for communal reflection and action at ever wider levels.

    This is what happened with slavery, which Quakers began to question in the late 17th century long before it became an issue for most other Christians. But in the end the whole Christian community was persuaded of slavery’s evil. The issue of gay relationships and gay marriage seems to be a concern that the Spirit is raising in the hearts of believers across denominational boundaries. I hope Christians will have the courage to address this concern, make it the serious focus of our prayer and study, so as to find what the Spirit is saying to the churches.

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  • Doc Anthony

    No person can serve two masters. Either “God is Lord” or “Gay is Lord”. There is no middle ground.

    Kudos to a very courageous Methodist jury for suspending the unrepentant Schaefer and yet giving him time to reconsider his mess. He needs to be fired right now (and a little excommunication wouldn’t hurt either!), but they are clearly extending him some grace and mercy. Again, kudos to the jury for doing the right things.

    But as Renee Gadoua’s article shows, that’s not the end of the issue. Other so-called clergy have already made it clear that THEY want to play demonic gay-marriage games too.

    So the Methodist Church must decide whether it will take a courageous Biblical stand from now on, or surrender to the gay activists and fail from now on. There is no peace treaty, on this one. Gay marriage is incompatible with Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 6:9-11). Time to make a choice.

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  • Charles Freeman

    You brought up a comparison between slavery and homophobic issues in Christian changes of viewpoint. You also need to recognize that many denominations and churches continued to use their religious interpretations to justify slavery until sometime after the violence of the Civil War finally put a lid on the issue. Note that I didn’t say that the issue was settled. It still isn’t. I have relatives in the midwest who maintain that their racial attitudes are Christian, and deny that the internecine conflict is finished, even after almost 150 years. Religions generally accede to tradition based interpretations of their authoritative texts. So as long as there are Christian churches, there may be unreasonable bias and action against persons with different skin colors, sexual preferences, and beliefs.

  • Charles Freeman

    I guess you’re saying that you may adopt your Christian standards, or, alternatively, that you can value and treat homosexual men and women as human equals, but cannot take both stances at the same time. May I assume that you take 1 Corinthians, which may have been written, in parts, by Paul, as equivalent to a direct quotation from Jesus? This was written, according to bible experts, 25 to 30 years after the legendary Jesus was supposed to have died. Also, Paul had not been acquainted with Jesus. There is no way Paul could have been quoting Jesus. In order to get around this, you have to accept the reality of something like Paul’s claimed miraculous vision on the road to Damascus, and this stretches credulity even more. Belief without reason and evidence yields a morass of very tangled and dead end questions that go nowhere. If you base your attitudes and actions regarding homosexual men and women on such drivel, you deny the human predispositions of equality, fairness, justice and empathy built into our biological structures.

  • Lwolkow

    Quakers (nowadays called the Society of Friends) have always been the rarity among Christian sects. One which always was a champion for civil liberties and ardent supporters of protecting religious freedom by the separation of Church and State.

    They are the only Christian sect which really can lay claim to being a major force in the founding principles of our nation. Our secular government came from them. (Something which would make David Barton’s head explode)

  • Lwolkow

    The real Jesus forgives your Jesus for his bigotry. He would forgive your Jesus, who inspires His followers to persecute those they fear.

    The real Jesus forgives your Jesus for his homophobia. He would forgive this Jesus, who would demand His followers declare some people unfit to love, to care for children, to serve their nation, or to be full members of their society.

  • Charles Freeman

    I have respect for the peace loving attitudes among the Friends. However, I have to recognize that among the early American Quakers existed loud and boisterous folk, many of whom owned slaves. This practice faded after the Revolution. I know that ideas about peaceful co-existing religious sects flourished in Quaker realms, but were also recognized and accepted in other religious venues. The claim of the constitutional idea of separation of church and state can’t be laid at the doorstep of the Quakers alone.

  • Jesus had two commandments, one of which was “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matt 22:36-40. (He does not say to love only those neighbors who are like yourself. Nor does he say, judge your neighbors harshly as the Sadducees and Pharisees do.) When he gives an example of a “good neighbor”, he identifies the Samaritan who cares for the Jew injured by the roadside, not the Jews who pass the injured man by for fear of being made unpure, defiled. Jews hated Samaritans for having different beliefs than theirs: (1. they were left behind in the diaspora since they were mostly peasants, not the upper-crust Jews toted off to Babylonia; 2. purportedly, they interbred with the new colonists settled in Samaria by the Babylonians; 3. their religious practices changed with the influx of other settlers instead of changing in the same way Jewish beliefs did in Babylonia; 4. Samaritans were, therefore, considered unpure, defiled by the Jews.)

    If there was an historical Jesus and, if he could miraculously return today, he would be ashamed of the hatred many Christian sects have spread in his name. He would be in danger of being kicked out of his own church, or crucified again.

  • Mike A

    Thanks to Charles and to Lwolkow for your comments. I’ve received quite a number of insults in these discussions, so I do appreciate your responses, which offer corrections and expansions in a thoughtful and friendly spirit. Would that Congress could carry on in that vein!

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  • Duane Lamers

    plorik, often we hear the phrase “the scandal of Christianity,” which is a judgment on the divisions within this religion, all perporting to embody the truth of that same religion.

    We can pick and choose among the New Testament’s transcriptions of statements made by Jesus. What I think we cannot deny, however, is that, as a Jew, Jesus held to the Decalog. I suggest that the Decalog itself, ignoring the trip up the mountain by Moses to get the tablets, is a compilation and synthesis of the natural law that is respected by all societies. In short, the Ten Commandments do not apply only to Judaism and Christianity but to all peoples everywhere even though various societies have interpreted these Commands in various ways.

  • Duane Lamers

    Mr. Freedman ought to take a look at the stats regarding the growth of the Christian churches, especially the Catholic Church in Africa.

    Also, what constitutes “unreasonable” bias? Or for that matter, bias?

    Do the racial attitudes Mr. Freedman finds among some of his own relatives represent the majority of Christians? Are there any studies that suggest most Christians (or any others, for that matter) in this country want a return to slavery and related issues?