Grace for All
The big news at this year’s Pen-Del Annual Conference was a proposed resolution that would affirm the right of homosexuals to become members of the United Methodist Church. There was a church in another conference, where membership was denied, and this would officially disagree with that decision. Unfortunately, it didn’t pass. This doesn’t mean that gay people can’t join our churches, it just means that they aren’t guaranteed the right.
This really frustrates me, because we don’t generally deny membership for any other reason. I suppose there are churches that don’t allow cohabitating unmarried couples to join, but that isn’t the case in most United Methodist Churches. If we care at all about outreach, we allow addicts and criminals and mean people to join. We don’t (in policy anyway) prohibit people of different ethnic backgrounds from joining, although perhaps we don’t really try hard enough to include them anyway. When it comes down to it, excluding gay people feels like a decision made out of prejudice, and fear or need for control.
When we confirm 12 and 13 year olds, or people of any age for that matter, we don’t know their hearts. We trust that God’s Prevenient Grace has brought them to this point, and pray that God’s Justifying Grace will transform them into the image of Christ. If you believe that homosexuality is a sin, telling a gay person that they can’t join church is like saying that we won’t support them in their spiritual development until they are transformed on their own. Or it is like saying that we don’t trust them to have their own relationship with God; people need to be empowered to discern God’s will for their lives, and too often we try to decide for them.
Personally, I think that if the issue of homosexuality was so important to Jesus, he would have said something about it himself. But he did say a lot about was acceptance. When we make a bunch of rules that exclude people from being part of our community of faith, we are doing exactly what Christ came to abolish. Jesus came so that we would not have to live and die by rules, but that all people would Live together through grace.
“But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father." So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.” - Galatians 4:4-7