Late last week, I read an article about a woman in the United Methodist Church who had applied as a candidate for a clergy position. (Please forgive me if I get some of the details wrong. I am not a member of this church, I am not familiar with their doctrine, and I do not know all the “rules” about leadership within the church. And as I am writing this from family camp, where internet service is sketchy, I am not able to look up all the details at the moment. I just want to write it out while I am thinking about it.) The way I understood it, she was approved as a ministerial candidate in Florida a few years back, before she came out as gay, even before she admitted to herself that she was gay. She now lives in Texas and is in a committed relationship with a woman. The district of the church that she now belongs to is attempting to block her entry into the ministry, saying that a practicing homosexual should not be in leadership position within the church.
I can only imagine the uproar this controversy has caused. I can imagine the reactions of my readers right now. Some of you are in agreement with the church. Some of you think the church is wrong. All of you are wondering which side I am on in this. (OK, so maybe not all of you are wondering. Some may have even stopped reading by now. But it’s fun to dream sometimes….)
My opinion may not mater, but I am going to share it anyway. I think the district is right in trying to block this woman from the ministry.
Nothing against her personally. I don’t know the woman. I know that her name is Mary Ann, and that she has served the United Methodist Church for a few years now. I am sure she is a good, kind woman with a heart full of love. I am not even going to suggest that she hasn’t been called into the ministry or question her relationship with God. Those are things that she and God will have to work out. It’s not a conversation I need to be a part of.
What I take issue with is anyone—man, woman, gay, straight, whatever—who is actively engaging in sinful behavior serving in a leadership position within the church.
Nearly ten years ago, a woman I know who has a wonderful relationship with God began dating a man that perhaps wasn’t the best choice. The relationship became physical and she became pregnant. They did not marry (which was probably a good idea, but that’s another story.) At the time, she was on the church board and she served as part of the worship team. She gave up both positions, because she knew she had done something against the church’s teachings and she needed to get her heart and her life right with God before she could lead the church in any way. Not sure if I ever told her, but I really admired her decision. I know there were some hurt feelings at the time, mainly because of the way that some members of the church treated her because of her pregnancy (Christians stumble too, you know) but she handled it. She didn’t let the bitterness eat her up inside, and she has grown into an even closer relationship with God than she had then.
There are people—many, from the Tweets I’ve seen—that think it is wrong for the United Methodist Church to block Mary Ann from completing her study to be in the ministry. They are calling it discrimination against her because she is a lesbian. It is discrimination, but not because of her orientation. It is discrimination against sin. Which is what the church is supposed to do.
Don’t believe that homosexuality is a sin? Read I Timothy 1:8-11. The New Living Version says, “We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for the lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.”
I won’t get into the whole “she didn’t choose to be gay, God made her that way” debate. It’s not one that is going to get anyone anywhere. But I’d like to drawn attention to the words in bold above, for those practicing homosexuality. This verse makes it very clear that practicing homosexuality is a sin. And is it right to have someone who is sinning, who is consistently living a life that goes against Biblical teaching and has no intention of ending that sin, in a leadership position within the church?
If Mary Ann was married to a man and actively cheating on him, would she be considered for a ministerial position? If she had children and was abusing them, would she be considered for a ministerial position? If she was a murderer, would she be considered for a mistrial position? If the answer is no to any of those questions, why should it be different for practicing homosexuality? If the Bible says all of these things are wrong, why should someone doing any of them be in a leadership position in the church?