Monday, March 10, 2014

Dis-United Methodists? I Seriously Hope Not, But I Have My Doubts. Is A Temple Of Jesus Big Enough For Same Sex Marriage?

        Wow.  Looks like United Methodist pastor Reverend Thomas Ogletree of New York won't be facing a canonical trial after allOgletree recently officiated at the same-sex marriage of his son, apparently a violation of church rules that merited a Methodist Church trial.  The result could have led to his ouster from the ranks of the church's clergy.  An undertaking like this is not to be taken lightly, but then, Reverend Ogletree himself is no particular lightweight either.  Dr. Ogletree, 79, was dean of both the Yale Divinity School and Drew Theological Seminary. He's still a professor emeritus at Yale. From 1978-81 he was director of graduate studies in religion at Vanderbilt University. He's authored several widely-read and  -admired books, including The Use of the Bible in Christian Ethics and Hospitality to the Stranger: Dimensions of Moral Understanding. He's also on the editorial board of The Journal of Religious Ethics.
       Challenging somebody with creds as eye-popping as those makes for a formidable public-relations task.  It comes as no surprise that New York UMC Bishop Martin D. McLee abandoned the ecclesiastical confrontationIf there's a surprise here, it's the unequivocal way that Bishop McLee rejected any further objections to conducting same-sex marriages in the churches over which he has authority. Said McLee, "I call for and commit to a cessation of church trials for conducting ceremonies which celebrate homosexual unions or performing same-gender wedding ceremonies and instead offer a process of theological, spiritual and ecclesiastical conversation."  As a long-standing member of Rapid City's Canyon Lake United Methodist Church, I know that this issue has been percolating for some time.  Recently I had dinner with one of South Dakota's long-admired UMC pastors, now retired (sorry, no names, no genders) and asked if the church was likely to reverse course on this.  The Ogletree matter was just making the news.  "I hope so," said my friend, "if the church knows what's good for it." 
    I hope so, too, but think it will be a contentious process.  The blowback to Bishop McLee's decision in New York has been swift and immediate.  One of the complainants against Ogletree, New York Reverend Roy E. Jacobson, said today, "the settlement agreed to is not, in our minds, a just resolution of our complaint. It makes no acknowledgement of the breaking of our clergy covenant, the clear teaching of Scripture, and our agreed upon way of discipleship expressed in our Book of Discipline. There are no consequences for such violation. It fails to recognize the harm done to our church members, who are seeking to live faithfully by teachings of the church for the last 2,000 years. And it fails to prevent further breaking of our covenant by other clergy in our annual conference."  The red flags attached to this statement are the words "clear teaching of Scripture," which of course is as clear as the mud tracked in by the donkeys who bore Mary into that stable one fateful night in December.  If the teaching of Scripture were so "clear", we probably would have avoided two millenia of conflict among those for whom the "clarity" of the Holy Bible is  indisputably authoritative, versus the competing "clarity" of those who obtain their teachings through another facet of that wonderfully prismatic Book.
     One set of "clear teachings" challenging another set of "clear teachings" of Scripture has been the source of some of History's most egregious catastrophes.  Another schism, we don't need.  I certainly hope the Dakotas Conference of the United Methodist Church can avoid a contentious aftermath of the New York decision, which I embrace wholeheartedly.  I've written before of "cafeteria Christians," who seem to tolerate some sins (like that of adultery committed by divorced people who remarry, per the words of Jesus) but exclude sinners of other stripes from obtaining the sacraments of their churches.  This is hypocritical baloney and ignores Christianity's towering imperative, summed up by poet W.H. Auden:  "love your crooked neighbor with your crooked heart."  I can't outdo Auden, but I can note that the word "love" is the verb that drives the rest of that sentiment. 


  1. Let's see if I can help you out John. Let's use that last sentence and its verb, love. Hopefully love is what generates that gay marriage, just as it hopefully is what generates heterosexual marriage. I would have to guess, that when defining the sins that involve sex, God may have been thinking more about acts that did not involve love. If you want to deny this post I will certainly understand.

    1. To me it just comes down to love and tolerance, which do not necessarily mean acceptance. It's pretty much a love the sinner, hate the sin approach. I think all should be able to receive the sacraments because who can know what's in the heart of the recipient? Sin is sin, whether public or private, so where do those of us who are sinners, each in our own way, get off trying to deny the blessings of the church to those who are sinners in their ways?

  2. God IS Love.

    John 4:8, Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

    Matthew 19:6, What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

    This is the Word of God, right there in the Bible. Marriage is a manifestation, not only of God's love, but of God.

    To deny love is to deny God. To deny marriage is to deny God.

    People can believe what they want to believe, but if they want to put words in God's mouth, words that cannot be found in the Bible, I suggest they be very careful.

    1. I agree. Who knows what the intentions of God are? Given that all are sinners, who are we to pick and choose which sins merit the blessings and the sacraments of our churches and which sins don't.