The church and homosexuality [July 12, 2006 {0516}; An e-Review Florida UMNS Commentary by Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker]

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Whitaker’s position unintentionally supports a hypocritical attitude toward gays and lesbians on the part of the Christian community. To advocate treating a person experiencing “same-sex attraction” with love and respect, while affirming the traditional prohibition against same-sex unions, is to live a contradiction. If one has the experience of being “accepted and loved” within a community, while his or her primary relationship is treated as unacceptable and wrong in the eyes of God and of the community, such a person is not likely to feel very welcome and certainly not “respected” in such a place. I was taught in seminary that in United Methodism we are to rely on four sources for authority regarding the Word and Will of God: scripture, tradition, experience and reason. In my ministry of pastoral counseling I know the pain people of faith experience when their deepest expressions of love, and their most important attachments, are judged to be wrong by their religious community and its teaching. I admire those who have taken painful experiences such as this back to a dialogue with scripture. I am convinced, after much study on this issue, that neither Old nor New Testament scripture conceives of that form of homosexual behavior that derives from a fundamentally experienced orientation, and is a loving expression of a deeply held emotional and spiritual bond. When scripture and experience are brought into honest dialogue, scripture can speak with renewed authority and experience can be enriched with the leaven of the Holy Spirit. When people of faith come to understand both scripture and themselves afresh, lives of faithful witness and service can be permeated with confidence and joy.

Rev. John Wallis
Hollywood Hills United Methodist Church

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