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Thoughts On A Recent Ruling

  Filed under: News 

“The times they are a changing.”  So wrote Bob Dylan.  And the times will likely continue to change at an ever more rapid pace in our modern world.

An example that affects our United Methodist Church is the recent ruling to restore the ministry credentials of Rev. Frank Schaefer.  Rev Schaefer, a pastor in Lebanon, PA., had his credentials revoked by the Board of Ordained Ministry of the Eastern PA. Conference for presiding over the same-sex wedding of his son.  Now those credentials were restored by a church appeals panel of nine persons.  The panel ruled that the jury was in error for requiring him to promise that he would never preside over a gay wedding again.  That means he can once again be appointed to a local church.

According to the United Methodist Book of Discipline, “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching,” and that “self-avowed practicing homosexuals may not be ordained.”    Any change must come at a General Conference, which next meets in 2016.  There are currently 7.5 million lay members of the United Methodist Church in the United States.  There are also 4.4 million members in Africa, Asia, and Europe, where in some the issue is taboo.

Again the call for a division in the United Methodist Church is raised.   The opposing groups have been labeled by some as “progressives” and “traditionalists.”  In their view, amicable separation is the best course to follow.  Others disagree, and some offer alternatives toward a middle ground.    In the meantime, we face the ever rising levels of discontent.

Change will always carry some element of fear.  And fear is often expressed in hostility.  This is true for all of us.  The challenge we face is how to prayerfully seek and discern God’s will as we wrestle with our own feelings and viewpoints.  And, I might add, this issue in not unique to our denomination.   Our Bishop, Peggy Johnson, has issued a statement on this ruling which I encourage everyone to read.  You can find it on the Conference website.

As I’ve stated, if current social trends are any indication, this painful issue will likely remain until the next generation takes the mantle of leadership.  They have an entirely different perspective.

Whatever the future holds, the times will continue to change and we will be ever more challenged to seek and discern God’s will.  To me, that is a good thing.

— Pastor Tom