CELEBRATION?

by David Sisler

The vote was eight for and five against, and the majority lost.

Omaha United Methodist Church pastor, Jimmy Creech, was suspended from his position as pastor last year for performing a same-sex union ceremony. His case was heard by a jury of thirteen United Methodist clergy persons. Nine votes were required for a guilty verdict.

Every four years since 1972, the quadrennial General Conference [the ruling body of Methodism] has stated that as a church "United Methodists affirm homosexuals as people of sacred worth, but find the homosexual lifestyle incompatible with Christian teachings." In a move that can only be described as civil disobedience, Creech decided that the long history of the denomination, the 1996 United Methodist Book of Discipline, and an even older book, the Bible, were wrong, and he was right. Immediately after Creech claimed victory, 135 UMC clergy out of the denomination's 50,000 said that they, too, would begin celebrating same-sex marriage services.

My dispute is not with homosexuals as individuals, but with those who affirm and sanction them in their homosexual lifestyle and with those who try to overturn the clear Word of God.

The Apostle Paul's statements in the first chapter of his letter to the believers in Rome are disavowed by those who promote a homosexual lifestyle. His teaching is soundly supported by those who proclaim that homosexuality as a life-practice is wrong.

Follow me, if you will, in my own literal translation of part of that historic chapter, and notice the lifestyles, the wilful, deliberate practices, which, the Apostle says, condemn their practitioners: "Those who are replete and crammed level with every form of wrongfulness of life, act or character; those of either sex who act the harlot, indulging in unlawful lust; those who practice depravity; those who are driven by avarice, practicing fraud and extortion; those who shrivel up and wither because of their own ill-will, jealousy and spite; those who continually wrangle every situation to their benefit regardless of the risk or potential harm to anyone else; those who plant decoys and traps calculated to hurt others; those who whisper secret detractions; those who promise one thing and then act treacherously towards their compacts they deserve eternal punishment."

However, that same Paul, writing to the believers in Corinth said, "And such were some of you." In other words, some believers in Jesus Christ (then and now) had once practiced patterns of living which were contrary to God. Habitual patterns of living excluded them from citizenship in God's eternal kingdom. Through personal faith in Jesus Christ, they were born again, and with the intervention of His grace, stopped practicing unrighteousness and began to practice the righteousness of God.

There is another group of people, which Paul tells the Romans, will also reap eternal punishment, and they are the ones who "think in common with, or feel gratified with those who practice such wicked things."

Suppose I approach my pastor and say, "I have decided to leave my wife and take to my bed another woman who is not my wife, and I want you to perform a service which blesses that relationship." Suppose I approach my pastor and say, "I have developed a scheme which will bring me fabulous riches, but in the process it will defraud thousands of people and cost them their own livelihoods, but I want you to perform a service which blesses that plan." Suppose I approach my pastor and say, "I know I gave my word when I signed a business deal, but I have decided to break my contract and defraud those to whom I had pledged my honor, and I want you to perform a service which blesses that maneuver."

If he were to perform such ceremonies, he would be affirming me in those illegal and immoral practices. He would be saying, "I support you in a lifestyle which, if you continue to follow it, will cause you to lose your eternal soul, but you are obviously sincere in this and dedicated and committed to it, so let's celebrate!"

How can a man or woman who takes the oath of ordination, promising to uphold the entire counsel of Scripture, place his or her blessing on the habitual lifestyle of an individual, knowing that according to God's Word, such a habitual practice of sin will cause eternal separation from God?

To ordained clergy of whatever denomination you serve, may I respectfully suggest, that before you bless any habitual practice, any lifestyle, which God says He opposes, you prepare an answer to that question. Your answer certainly does not need to satisfy me, but it should be one which will convince the Lord God Almighty, that in violating His Word, you did right.

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Published in the Augusta Chronicle 3/28/98

Copyright 1998 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.

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