UMC today and tomorrow

2 weeks ago

To the editor:

The United Methodist Church just eliminated the 52-year-old stance that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Now the UMC redefines marriage as a sacred, lifelong covenant between two people of faith, of consenting age. It also repeals its ban on LGBTQ clergy, as well as prohibitions on ministers from officiating at same-sex weddings.

The overall atmosphere within the denomination is jubilant. But some are grieving. A new report from the Religion and Social Change Lab at Duke University said 24 percent of North Carolina UMC clergy disagree with allowing LGBTQ people to get married or ordained within the denomination. Perhaps less New England clergy are opposed to same-sex marriage, but I am concerned and conflicted. 

I believe the church should welcome all people. But there is a distinction between welcoming and affirming. The church is called to love our LGBTQ neighbors, defend them when under attack, support them, invite them into our home, but not to compromise a biblical vision for sex and marriage. 

About 25 percent of UMC congregations in the U.S. have left the denomination over this issue. It would be easier to leave, but I believe the biblical vision is to reform the church, not to abandon it. 

John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement, is a shining example. His original vision was to bring spiritual renewal to the Church of England. Both he and his brother, Charles, were ordained in the Church of England despite the growing tension between Wesley and the institutional church. Though his movement was not well received, Wesley remained as clergy in the Church of England, insisting that the Methodist movement lay well within its tradition. In his sermon Catholic Spirit, Wesley famously said, “If your heart is as my heart, if you love God and all human beings, I ask no more: ‘give me your hand.’”

Today I make a vow anew to love God and love my neighbor. I commit myself to “do all the good I can, by all the means I can, in all the ways I can, in all the places I can, at all the times I can, to all the people I can, as long as ever I can,” as Wesley said.

Rev. SeungRi “Victor” Han