I had the opportunity to join the United Methodist Yellowstone Annual Conference in Billings, MT this past weekend. It was a little bit of a retreat for me, with a room full of clergy and wonderful people whom I have grown to love since becoming a member of ST Paul’s, UMC in Helena a few years ago. We sang songs at morning services and even danced a bit. And, I sold a few books.
I learned a new phrase too, “biblical obedience.” When I first heard it, that same old fear came creeping up the back of my neck, and I wondered if I really wanted to be there. I immediately thought of all the evangelical Christians who would condemn me to hell for their literal reading of certain selected passages of the King James Version of the Holy Bible. As I sat amongst the members of the Reconciling Ministries Committee, I stifled the urge to fight or run. I knew they did not accept a literal reading of scripture that conflicted with Jesus’ command to love one another. I listened instead.
As I sat in a meeting of predominantly clergy members, I began to understand that it was they who would assert “biblical obedience,” and Jesus’ command was exactly what they were referring to. They would obey this command, rather than the Methodist Book of Discipline, which states that “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” ¶ 304.3. In fact, many of the Conference’s retired pastors have publicly resolved to perform same sex unions.
One Pastor, my friend, Lyle Hamilton, has written a poem echoing this sentiment called When Persons Reach out Heart to Heart. It concludes:
They honor truly who they are
As ones marked by God’s grace;
Deep love looks though the lover’s eyes,
and looking back – God’s face.
Not only is this kind of “biblical obedience” new to me¸ it is, in one form or another, a common theme emerging amongst many Christian denominations. As pastor Marianne wrote in Sunday’s bulletin, they “effectively ‘come out of the closet.’” They are Episcopalian (http://www.integrityusa.org/#), Catholic (http://www.fortunatefamilies.com/), Lutheran (http://www.reconcilingworks.org/#), etc. (see also, http://www.gaychurch.org/Find_a_Church/find_a_church.htm).
I guess we are changing the world!