The Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church gave its approval to the decisions of the General Council in February to reaffirm the denominations stance against gay marriage and gay ordination and strengthen the penalties on those who violate these rules. They also approved guidelines that make it easier for dissenting congregations to exit the denomination, taking their property with them. Immediately, the trustees of one UMC related school—Baldwin Wallace University in Berea, Ohio—voted unanimously to sever their ties with the denomination; and Ohio Wesleyan, another UMC school, placed its relationship on a one-year hold. More school and many churches are expected to take similar action.
Evangelist Franklin Graham is in a public war of words with Democratic candidate Pete Buttigieg. Buttigieg has been forthright with his identity as a gay person and has talked about how his gay marriage brought him closer to God. “It can be challenging to be a person of faith who is also part of the LGBTQ community and yet, to me, the core of faith is regard for one another. And part of God’s love is experienced …in the way that we support one another and in, in particular, support the least among us.” Graham fired back: “I believe the Bible, which defines homosexuality as sin, something to be repentant of, not something to be flaunted, praised or politicized. The Bible says marriage is between a man and a woman—not two men, not two women.”
Two prominent New York Times columnists are in the news this week. Nicholas Kristof interviewed Serene Jones, the president of Union Theological Seminary. In the published record of their conversation Jones raises her doubts about heaven and hell, the virgin birth of Jesus, and the resurrection of Jesus, while Jones describes his own convictions and asks, “Am I a Christian?” Christian journalist Sarah Pulliam Bailey interviewed David Brooks about his journey of faith; in his latest book The Second Mountain: The Quest for the Moral Life, Brooks described himself as “a wandering Jew and a very confused Christian.” He traces his conversion to faith (from atheism) to the trauma surround his divorce and his romance and marriage to Anne Snyder, a devout Christian herself. Brooks also cites the influence of New York pastor Tim Keller and the late C. S. Lewis, a scholar of Oxford University.
Lori Gilbert Kaye stepped in front of her rabbi at the Chabad of Poway synagogue in San Diego as a lone gunman took aim at the worshippers gathered for the last service of the Jewish celebration of Passover. She was shot and killed, and Rabbi Yisheol Goldstein and two others were wounded in the second synagogue attack in six months (the other, in Pittsburgh). More than 700 gathered for her funeral during which Kaye’s daughter stood to eulogize her mother, saying, “Her light has reached all crevices of our planet.” The gunman posted a long defense of his attitude and actions, a document which demonstrated both his active Christian practice and a sophisticated theological rationale for his violence against the Jews. Anti-Semitic assaults in the United States have doubled during 2018; and these two attacks on synagogues are the only two such attacks on Jewish houses of worship in the 397 years Jews have been at worship here in the United States.
Eight young teenagers completing the confirmation class at the First United Methodist Church of Omaha, Nebraska, surprised everyone by reading a letter in response to the decision of United Methodist at their General Conference in February. “We are concerned that if we join at this time, we will be sending a message that we approve of this decision,” the confirmation class wrote. We want to be clear that, while we love our congregation, we believe the United Methodist policies on LGBTQ+ clergy and same-sex marriage are immoral,” they said. And in a related story: Matt Easton used his speech as the valedictorian of the graduating class of Brigham Young University declare “that I am proud to be the gay son of God.”
copyright@2019 Dwight A Moody