Is the United Methodist Church moving towards acceptance of Homosexuals?

It seems so from the case of Rev. Karen Dammann.

In February 2001, Dammann was wrote a letter to her conference bishop, Bishop Elias Galvan of the Pacific Northwest Conference, stating that she was ready to return to work after an extended time of family leave. In her letter, she told Galvan that she was involved in a “living in a partnered, covenanted homosexual relationship with another woman”.

United Methodist Church law that forbids the appointment of “self-avowed, practicing homosexuals” as pastors. Therefore, Galvan said, he would not allow her to return to service. However, she was officially still recognized as being in good standing with the church. Church Law also says, in effect, a pastor in good standing can’t be denied an appointment for which they are qualified upon returning from leave.

Originally the church’s supreme court was asked to rule in the case. The Judicial Council dodged the issue by saying that she could not be blocked from returning to service because she was still officially in good standing. The court directed Galvan to file a complaint with the conference’s committee on investigation to have her declared not in good standing.

Late in July, the Conference committee dismissed the complaint against Dammann in a 3-3 vote and one member abstained. A vote to send the case to trial required five committee votes.

Rev. Sanford Brown of Everett, Wash., who voted against sending the charges to trial, said the committee faced a difficult decision because the Book of Discipline rule against admitting homosexuals to the ministry conflicts with the mission of working “in the hope that God’s work of justice, reconciliation and healing may be realized in the body of Jesus Christ.”

A showdown between acceptance and intolerance seems inevitable following this case and a similar one less than two months earlier in which the same panel cleared Dammann’s successor, the Rev. Mark Edward Williams, who declared himself “a practicing gay man” in June 2001 at the annual meeting of the denomination’s Pacific Northwest Conference, which includes Washington state and northern Idaho.

The 2004 General Conference may be contentious. Will this lead to a schism?

MHO here: I think the homosexuality issue will be the issue to split the whole church, not just the Methodists, dividing who will follow God’s word and who will follow the world.

Um, pardon me, WV_Woman, but don’t you mean “who will follow one interpretation of God’s word, and who will follow another”?

Unless you’ve had some sort of verifiable divine revelation to the contrary, there is some debate as to what God’s will on this issue really is.

God’s word being?

If I recall correctly, Jesus said

Paul echoed that with:

The author of James also agrees:

As did Rabbi Hillel who preceeded Jesus:

Seems to me that your condemnation is a form of Pharisaism.

As a Methodist, this immediately caught my interest, Homebrew.

I really don’t think that this issue will split the church. Historically, the Methodists have displayed great solidarity in the midst of social upheaval. During the American Civil War, for example, all the major denominations of Christianity split into two camps (Methodists included) over the issue of slavery. Once the war was over, the Methodists immediately reincorporated themselves into one group. Baptists never got back together. And another group (Presbyterians?) got back together sometime in the 1930s.

But I don’t think homosexuality will split us. If you look through the OP, none of the remarks made by the reverends was especially vitriolic. And my experiences with homosexuality (and liberality) in the church have been quite positive.

My pastor is a woman. She was at one time a single mother, following her divorce from her first husband. She is now married (to another Methodist minister) and is my preacher. She’s a sweet woman, and a great orator and listener. People grumbled at my church when they first heard that the new pastor would be female, but that was two years ago.

And no one is complaining anymore - and no one left our church, either. (We have about 1500 members spread over 3 services.)

We also have several open, out of the closet homosexuals in our church. To my knowledge, no one has ever gone out of their way to make them feel unwelcome. We’ve never had a sermon that preached that they were evil. We’ve also never had a “if that group continues to do this, they’re going to hell” sermon either.

Fear of hell and damnation is not the Methodist way.

That was from http://www.umc.org/abouttheumc/beliefs/experience.htm and is a statement of the UMC beliefs about change in societal values… at least, I see it that way.

If you have any questions about Methodism, feel free to ask.

—Fear of hell and damnation is not the Methodist way.—

Good music is the Methodist way.

Good food is more like it! :slight_smile:

Good food is more like it! :slight_smile:

Good food is more like it! :slight_smile:

Evil hamsters!

The Methodist church I used to attend was what is called a ‘Reconsiling Congregation’ which means they are in active support of homosexuals. But there were also many older people, kids, young couples etc.

It was not controversial in my area, but while the hierarchy accepts these kinds of churches, they aren’t thrilled with them. There were definitely some local church vs. mother church conflicts.

And square dancing. :wink:

Esprix, former Methodist, now Unitarian Universalist

Square dancing? I thought that was a Southern/old-timey thing, not strictly a Methodist thing… (Though now that you mention it, an inordinate number of people at my church do it… :eek:)

Good Methodists eat evil hamsters?!?!? :eek:
To respond to Homebrew’s basic question, the United Methodist Church has the right to interpret Scripture as it sees fit, and to make church regulations based on those interpretations. It has done so; for it to decide that no person engaging in gay sex under whatever circumstances may remain in the ministry is its privilege.

Note, however, that in the case in question there is an effective non-issue. The Methodist Book of Discipline is a massive compendium of ecclesiastical law, second in my experience only to the Catholic canon law despite their 1700-year head start. Under the procedures spelled out in that lawbook, the people appropriate to make the decision as to whether to call her actions to account or not, chose not to.

Only if those who find legalism more profitable than brotherly love wish to push the issue will it become a divisive issue at the 2004 General Convention. And both Jesus and Paul have words to say to those who would choose to do so, if they would only listen.

C&P, et tu, eh Poly?
Interesting the difference of responses it is.
[sub]No, I haven’t been drinking. Why do you ask?[/sub]

I’m a Methodist and one of the pastors quoted in the article is my pastor – who, though remaining nameless, I will vouch for as being generally an awesome person, committed to doing God’s work.

I do think there is a chance that the issue of homosexuality will cause a schism in the Methodist church. It is true that the United Methodist Conference invests a lot of importance in keeping the Church together – realizing it was no mean feat to get it together in the first place, and we are undeniably stronger (and more effective) together than apart – but there are significant doctrinal differences in Methodism, that basically break down regionally, the most immediate of which is the acceptance of homosexuality.

This board chose not to send this pastor to trial, but this is Seattle – very liberal, religiously. This is not, say, North Carolina, where I believe it can confidently be predicted a board would have sent the matter to trial. And, like it or not, this Board ignored the clear direction of the Book Of Discipline in order to vote their consciences – and good for them, but they will undoubtedly be criticized for failing to follow the Book. There are deep and fundamental differences of opinion on the subject, and I for one will not be surprised if it causes an eventual schism.

And WV WOMAN, IMO Christians can also be divided in two: Those who dare to speak for God and tell other thinking adults what His will is, and those who wouldn’t presume to do so.

For those who think this is not a big deal and the UMC is of one united mind on the issue, here are some links from the 2000 national conference, including pictures of the protests held, during which the convention center was blocked and several people (including, I believe, three bishops) were arrested.

photos

newspaper article

another newspaper article

You gotta give kudos to the UMC news service for having the integrity to post pictures of protests at it’s own General Convention.

That and more, Homebrew. I have to give credit to the whole religion, for debating the issue in the public eye. I would much rather it be a non-issue; for me, it’s obvious that gay people deserve the same treatment from the church as straight people get. It’s disturbing to see that protests are part of the acceptance process; I’d rather nobody have to go to jail.

But they acknowledge that it’s an important issue, and they debate the pro and con sides in public, and they are at least contemplating change. And for that, I’d like to thank all the Methodist congregations out there. Thanks for at least talking about it.

Are you sure about that? I live in VA, and my church (described above) is about 30 minutes from the NC border.

However, that said and as much as I would like to think to the contrary, that is just my church. There are some more conservative churches out there within the same conference (for those of you who aren’t aware, the UMC is divided up into districts within each state called conferences).

But the discussions of the situation happened in Seattle, not the good ole South. And, as already pointed out, the Methodists have been very public with their issues of faith, and haven’t been afraid to report upon them. I really don’t think that this will completely divide the church. I think that one day, our governing bodies will issue a statement announcing their intention to accept homosexuality within their churches and clergy. Yes, it will cause an uproar in some of the more conservative parts of the church, but I also think that these people are open-minded enough to realize that the UMC has done an awful lot of good in the past decades - why tear that asunder over an issue that ultimately boils down to loving your neighbor, as we were instructed to do?

Jodi, I remember when that national conference was held, and I remember the uproar. It’ll be a long road ahead of us, but it won’t destroy us.