Why I Changed My Mind about Homosexuality and the Church

As a delegate to the United Methodist General Conferences in 1984 and 1988, I voted to reaffirm and expand the restrictive language regarding homosexuality. I did so out of sincere conviction as the right thing to do, even though the issue was an abstraction to me. I knew no one who was admittedly gay, and the notion of same-sex attraction was foreign to my experience.

I now deeply regret those votes! Over the intervening thirty years, I have changed my mind and now support the removal of all restrictive language in the United Methodist Book of Discipline here. The following are the factors that contribute to my change of mind.

First, I got to know people who fall into the category of “homosexual.” I came to realize that many of them had long been in my circle of relationships but were afraid to share this important component of their identity. Some are beloved members of my own family!

Many are faithful, devoted, life-long church members who can’t be open within the body of Christ for fear of rejection and condemnation. Some are parents of LGBTQ children who shared stories of bullying and abuse of their kids.

A few were colleagues on the staff of congregations I served, and their ministries reflected the qualifications identified by John Wesley—grace, gifts, and fruits. Many were exceptionally gifted, devoted seminary students whose call to ordained ministry seemed evident to me.

Some are people in same-sex marriages who are committed Christians and faithful to the church, faithful to one another, and faithful to Christ, and who possess “the gifts of the Spirit.”

Hearing the painful stories of these beloved children of God cut me to the quick. The issue of sexual orientation was no longer a theological or ethical abstraction. It became embodied in people I loved, from whom I learned, in whom I experienced God’s grace-filled presence!

Secondly, the evidence is overwhelming that sexual orientation is not a choice. I have yet to meet a heterosexual who can tell me when he/she decided to be attracted to the opposite sex; nor have I met a gay person who decided to be attracted to persons of the same sex.

Sexual identity and desire are complex realities with biological, social, environmental, and psychological components. While the Discipline labels “the practice” of homosexuality as “incompatible with Christian teaching,” the implication is that a person’s being is contrary to the Christian gospel. That is incompatible with our doctrine of creation.

Thirdly, by the 1992 General Conference I had not only begun to change my mind about the language of incompatibility and exclusion, I had become convinced that legislation is the wrong way to deal with the issue.

The pivotal decision was made in 1972 when the language of incompatibility was added to  Social Principles Study Commission Report, by an amendment from the floor with limited debate.

The consequence of that political parliamentary action has disproportionately dominated subsequent General Conference agendas and expanded legislative restrictions. It now threatens to split the denomination.

We have legislated ourselves into a box, maybe into a regrettable schism. Whatever our position on this issue, legislative action will not resolve it!

Fourthly, I came to realize more fully the meaning of Martin Luther King’s words in his letter from the Birmingham jail:

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

During my first eight years as a member of the Council of Bishops, I was deeply immersed in the Initiative on Children and Poverty. I felt that the persistent discussion of homosexuality within the Council and other denominational circles was distracting us from fully addressing economic injustice.

I shared my concern with a friend, a theological consultant to the Initiative. His response lodged my conscience: “But, Ken, you can’t portion God’s justice for one group and ignore it for another.”

I realize that some injustices are beyond our ability to remedy immediately, but to ignore those that are within our immediate sphere of influence cannot be excused. By removing the discriminatory language, we can take an immediate step toward correcting an injustice inflicted on our LGBTQ brothers and sisters.

Fifthly, I’m convinced that the discrimination against LGBTQ people is being justified by inadequate biblical interpretation. I’ve read arguments from the Bible used by southern preachers to justify slavery, and I see a similar hermeneutic operating in support exclusion of gay persons.

Using the Bible to support misguided causes is a long-standing scandal in the church. Scripture has been used to justify such evils as the Crusades, genocide, slavery, the subordination of women, persecution of scientists, and burning of “heretics.”

I firmly, unapologetically believe in the primacy and authority of Scripture! What we mean by “the authority of Scripture” determines how we use it.

Here is my understanding: The authority of Scripture lies in its authentic witness to God’s mighty acts of salvation supremely in the life, teaching, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and in its power through the Holy Spirit within community to transform individuals, communities, nations, and the entire cosmos into the likeness of Christ.

The test of commitment to the authority of Scripture is this: Is it shaping us into the likeness of Jesus Christ and enabling us to love as Christ loves and to witness to his present and coming reign of compassion, justice, generosity, hospitality, and joy?

The influence of the Gospel over the centuries has enabled us to see Scripture through the lens of the Word-Made-Flesh, Jesus Christ. Such a lens enables us to avoid misusing  some troubling passages in the Bible.

Three glaring examples: massacring of religious opponents as did Elijah with the prophets of Baal (I Kings 18:40); slavery which was taken for granted in many Old and New Testament narratives; women keeping silent in church (1 Corinthians 14:34).

Finally, my understanding and experience of what it means to love as Christ loves has deepened and widened over the years. People whom society relegates to the margins have taught me about the nature, depth, and expanse of God’s love. I have experienced profound faith among the incarcerated, the homeless, the frail elderly, orphans, immigrants, the poor, and LGBTQ persons.

I have met the Crucified and Risen Christ in my relationships with those whom society treats as “outcasts.” I know from experiences with them that Christ has broken down ALL dividing walls between us. Paul makes it clear:

“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

ALL includes gays and straights, LGBTQ and heterosexuals, “progressives” and “traditionalists.” Christ died for ALL, includes ALL, and invites ALL to “love one another as I have loved you.”

It is the quality of our love and its imitation of Christ’s love that is definitive, not gender or sexual orientation. As committed couples, our LGBTQ brothers and sisters should be able to love each other in ways mutually fulfilling to them, as surely as we who are heterosexual.

I’m still growing in my understanding and my ability to love as Christ loves. God grant me the humility to keep learning and growing toward the fullness of God’s perfect love!

175 thoughts on “Why I Changed My Mind about Homosexuality and the Church

    • I’m sorry, but this sounds like someone who simply wants to ride to current wave of popular opinion, and is trying to express his change in attitude as some sort of spiritual awakening, and not simply the desire to fit the Church neatly into the dark pit of popular culture. One thing that stood out to me was his statement concerning “sexual identity”. Homosexuality is not a “statement”, despite all the rhetoric claiming that it is. Homosexuality reflects that act of homosexual sex- that being sex acts with a person of the same sex. You can’t separate homosexuality and sodomy, they’re inextricably tied together, both in the bible and in the real world.

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      • I appreciate your reading my reflections but I regret that you have chosen to question my motives and dismiss my journey as “trying to express his change in attitude as some sort of spiritual awakening, and not simply the desire to fit the Church neatly into the dark pit of popular culture.” Such a judgment fails the test of mutual respect and the humility that reflects “the mind of Christ.”

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      • I dunno, Andrew. I think you can separate homosexuality and sodomy. The contemporary definition of homosexual, is not primarily someone who engages in sodomy. It’s someone who is attracted to members of their own sex.

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      • On the contrary, my faith in Scripture has led me to my conclusions on this issue. We may disagree on specific passages, but please do not dismiss my conclusions by assuming I do not have faith in Scripture. My supreme faith, however, is in Jesus Christ who is God’s eternal Word and in the work of the Holy Spirit active in the Christian community.

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      • Okay I do not wish to be dismissive. Do you have a blog post that explains how it’s possible for you to believe the opposite of what Scripture says at face value?

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      • There is the rub stasisonline, the Holy Scriptures cannot be taken at “face value” – they are to be prayed, mulled over, prayed again, and again, and again. Other than Jesus’ own direct words, ( some of which are not that clear at first reading ),very little of Scripture makes sense at face value.

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  1. Thank you for this honest & heartfelt reflection on this very controversial & sensitive issue. The God that I serve has always been far more inclusive than exclusive therefore I believe that I should be as well.n

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  2. You have expressed what I’ve been unable to adequately put into words. I hope every soul will read this and consider the validity of your interpretations. Thank you!

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  3. Bishop thank you so much for being so open with your in your understanding that this is not a choice but for numerous reasons genetic and nurture they identify themselves as lgbtq. The pain they have felt from not being accepted and loved by family, classmates, and perhaps worse of all the church where we are taught God loves all the chikdren if the world have left many feeling very wounded and unloveable. I have known quite a few who feeling unloved have committed suicide. We must not just understand and believe that we are one family but we must demonstrate this in every way. When we say no to a service of consecrating love between two persons we are again saying this is not a holy relationship. I think there is a place fir blessing and consecrating, families, all staff serving the church with different language fior each, and all committed relationships. The language needs to be soecisl fir each but surely the words can be found. Again Bishop I thank you that you have stepped forward and spoken the truth. May your words be understood and may we join you in letting every person that they were born in the image of God, filled with God’s Spirit and Love and Everday we have the opportunity to live together as God’s family loving one another. With God’s help may we do this.

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  4. Thank you Bishop Carder for sharing you thoughts and how you came to change those thoughts over the years. As you know I have not always been United Methodist. I was raised to believe that members of the LGBTQ community were damned to hell! I would love to be able to use your blog when having discussions on the with my churches. God bless you, my friend.

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    • I appreciate your question and obvious commitment to the authority of Scripture. I, too, strongly and firmly believe in the authority of Scripture and its authentic witness to the final Word of God, who is Jesus the Christ. Each passage must be interpreted in the light of Jesus, the Word made flesh. I also believe that God does speak through science and through prophets such as MLK.

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      • To say MLK was a “modern day prophet” is beyond a stretch. It is well documented that MLK took part in countless orgies, affairs, prostitutes, drugs, and many other disgraceful acts. So, to say that he was a prophet, or even a true follower of Jesus is a very tough case to make. Plus, we start quoting and affirming our beliefs based upon men…then our actions & beliefs will reflect the sinful desires of man…hence your stance on homosexuality. It’s one thing to love those that associate themselves with being a homosexual, but it’s another thing to put them in a leadership role to be a shepherd of a body of believers.
        Then to says He speaks to us through science states that science has the same authority that the Bible does…which it does not. Science changes everyday, but God does not…His word does not. God spoke to us through His word. Once His word does not align with something, then we make a choice…believe in Truth, or lies. My friend, you have chosen lies.

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      • Sir, the Book of Discipline got right! Homosexuality in my opinion according to the word of God is incompatible with Christian teaching. I had a Methodist pastor tell me years ago that Methodist leaders like you would bring shame on the church. God help you, Sir.

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      • I’m sorry you feel as you do and judge me as bringing shame on the church. May God help us both and may we all seek God’s guidance in a spirit of humility and mutual respect.

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    • In response to Trey, all I have to add is that St Paul (Saul) wasn’t so squeaky clean, and he ended up writing a big part of the scripture – also he was just a ‘man’. Why should we then dismiss the words of MLK?

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  5. Thank you so much for your eloquent and thoughtful discussion on this topic. I really don’t think that most United Methodists have any idea that no matter how the church votes to go on, that it will probably not be the church we have always known. We need to start living up to our motto, “Open doors, open minds, open hearts,” and follow Christ’s example of love and inclusion for all.

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    • But was Christ inclusive of all? He welcomed all, but called people to follow him. He said that some choices can meant you’re not fit to be his disciple. In the same way, the UMC welcomes all, including gay people, if they will follow God’s ways. EG not get into gay marriage etc.

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      • Do you choose to be heterosexual, assuming that you are, or is it just who you have always been? Gay people do not choose to be gay, and I don’t remember any passages where Christ mentions expression of one’s sexuality as excluding one from the kingdom of God or from following his teachings. I don’t think the UMC will ever accept gay persons as full members with all the rights of other members, so along with some other struggles I was having with some theological teachings, after 56 years of faithful service to the UMC, I have left. I am still following this controversy, but have little faith and real change will come in my lifetime.

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      • I agree that gay people do not choose to be same-sex attracted. Likewise adulterers don’t choose to be attracted to people other than their spouse. Almost all of us experience illicit sexual temptations.

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  6. Thank you, sir. Your well expressed thoughts and wisdom, the best I’ve seen during our current difficulties, should be shared widely. Perhaps those on the margins can be convinced of the need for acceptance of all.

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  7. Thank you Bishop Carter for sharing with us some very deep thoughts on this extremely divisive issue in the Church . I only wish we had not waited until it is almost too late to dialogue with each other and understand each other better. You have always encouraged us to think outside the box. You are a model humanitarian. I see and hear Jesus in you.. I know you will do all you can to keep us all together and to go forward together.

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  8. Bishop Carter, thank you for your caring and loving statement. It brought me to tears. So long I have grieved over the rancor in our beloved church. I am a fourth generation Methodist minister. But reading your statement made me feel hopeful.
    Blessings and may Jesus be with you in this crusade.

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    • “Decided on a homosexual lifestyle”. You missed one of his main points entirely. I would never have chosen this for myself. And I’d rather die than be miserable for forty+ years in a sham marriage to a man. So would you, would JESUS, rather have me alive, or dead?

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      • Maybe Jesus made you the way you are so you would pick Him and live your life for Him. Maybe Jesus was being selfish with you and all like you and wanted you to be in the closest relationship possible with Him and Only Him. You can’t have a miserable life if you dedicate it to Jesus!! Many Blessings!!!

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      • Jesus would rather have you surrender your life to Him so you can live a new life in Him.

        Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will find it.
        Matthew 16:24‭-‬25 HCSB

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      • Alive! And whole! May you be blessed by a loving relationship AND by the open doors of a grace-filled church that values your unique gifts and treasures you as a beautiful, beloved Child of God.

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  9. Are we to ignore the parts of the Bible that refer to this issue? How can we have a scripture based faith if we don’t agree about the very validity of said scriptures? Isn’t it just cherry picking sections that make us comfortable? How would be stop the complete erosion of our faith if anyone and everyone can declassify their sins as misunderstandings?

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    • I appreciate your perspective and thank you for your response. I am not ignoring scripture or cherry picking sections. Rather, I interpret each passage in light of the WHOLE Scripture and through the lens of Jesus Christ who is the Word Made Flesh. As I state, I believe firmly in the authority of Scripture in matters of faith and feel that my position is in keeping with the Scripture.

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      • Were 2000 years of Christians (st francis, martin luther, john wesley, etc.) and the apostles NOT interpreting scripture in light of the whole revelation of God? Did they all come to the wrong conclusion but you know better?

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      • Thank you for reading my reflections and taking the time to respond. Your sarcasm and expressed arrogance in this and an earlier response fail the test of humility and openness to genuine dialogue.

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      • First let me say Bishop that I respect your position on homosexuality ,and I harbor no resentment against them and I wish they would all feel welcome in the church ,I suspect part of the reason they do not might stem from the guilt of their sin and the perceived sense of rejection, I don’t know anyone in my church that would try to keep them from participating in the life of the church. I view Gal 3:28-29 as Paul speaking to the issue of human equality and not sexual orientation .I believe that you have liberally used eisegesis in your interpretation .I would try to put the statement in perspective by suggesting you read Gal 1 6-9 where Paul says 6. “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel. 7. Not there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and what to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8. But even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaim to you , let that one be a accursed! 9. As we have said before, so now I repeat, if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed.
        Gal 1:10 adds am I now seeking human approval, or Gods approval? Or am I trying to please people ? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ. I would also quote Gal 2:17 But if, in our effort to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have been found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin ? Certainly not! The real issue is the authority of scripture and the fact that bishops such as yourself are laying hands on professing homosexuals that have sworn by God to uphold the discipline of the church and all of this is done in the name of God !

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      • I appreciate your thoughtful response. An underlying issue is how we interpret Scripture and what is meant by “the authority of Scripture.” I an committed to the primacy Scripture and I define what I understand that authority to mean. The test of our commitment to Scriptural authority is the character produced in us and the church by that commitment. Does our commitment to Scripture form us in the likeness of Jesus Christ and produce in us “the fruits of the Spirit.” We may not agree on the specific issue of homosexuality but I am no less committed to Scripture than you, and you may be assured that I upheld the Book of Discipline in my twelve years as an active bishop.

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      • There is an unspoken issue with the church: we like to judge. Only God can judge a souls commitment to Christ because none of us are perfect. I don’t understand same sex attractions but I acknowledge that they exist. Sometimes their marriages are conducted on a greater level of fidelity than those of heterosexual orientation. What you have to ask is whether or not the fruits of the spirit are manifested in their lives. If so, back off. We all stand by the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ and we all shall be judged for the lives we have led. Let God be God.

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  10. Thank you Bishop Carder. It is always comforting to hear your thoughts on difficult issues. I too have changed my mind on this issue over the years mainly because of some very nice people I have met over the years who share some common goals with me and who also happen to be gay. I have heard you say more than once that we need to have a poor friend in order to help us understand poverty. I think maybe we also need to have a LGBTQ friend to help understand this issue.
    As this issue relates to the UMC there is one more thought that occurs to me. I am a bit rusty here so you have to help me. I am not sure that Father John Wesley wanted to ordain ministers for the church in America; but he could see that if he did not ordain for the American Church they would be lost to Methodism. So he ordained because God made it necessary. The same thing could apply here.

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  11. You posted this on my birthday. I couldn’t have asked for a better gift than a bishop in my church bravely opening our doors for my friends and family members, a little wider than they were the day before.
    Peace.

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  12. So grateful to you. As a friend of Bishop Mel Wheatley in 1972, I am well informed about his written minority statement in response to the Bishop’s letter where his name was printed when he had not signed the original letter. He had your same rationale…as we know, love, parent same gender loving people we learn they could not be excluded from the Kindom or God’s love. That surely makes us re-look at scriptural pieces used to justify exclusion and look again at Jesus’ commandments: Love God, Love Others, Love yourself. No room for excluding anyone.

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  13. Thank you for sharing with such clarity and humility. It affirms what I have been learning in my faith journey as a United Methodist.

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  14. I have long struggled with this myself. I am 66 years old and for about 50 of those years I felt the same way about homosexuality. It was an abomination! After years of soul searching I have come to this conclusion. I still believe it is an abomination! Yes, when used as a sinful act, pleasure to do something different for lack of a better term. In other words when a heterosexual has sex and is unfaithful to his wife, or an unmarried man has sex with a bunch of different women, it is also an abomination! So therefore if a heterosexual has sex with the same sex person just for the fun of it, that is where it is an abomination! This is why I believe this way. I have known children from birth who were girls that always disliked dolls, pink colors, wearing dresses and such. Then in later years ended up with a girl partner. So I ask myself why would God have had her born this way only to condem her to hell through no fault of her own!.? Same with little boys! I have decided to not make judgement on any ones preference. That is for God to decide not me! I will love everyone and leave that between them and God!

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    • But if someone is born with a proclivity to anger, that leads them to murder, or a proclivity towards rape, or in poverty and with an inclination to steal, do we likewise conclude that there is no divine punishment … for anyone?

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      • Thoughtful question! But consider this: the examples you have given are harmful to others. If homosexual behavior is not harmful to another, then why do we seek to interfere or are we judging things we have no right to.

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  15. If God made a man attracted to other men (i.e., homosexual), why does that same man has a body that can only reproduce with a woman? Homosexuals are to be loved and treated with dignity, but there is nothing condoning of homosexual behavior in Scripture. Likewise, we are all sinners and are to be loved and treated with dignity, but we are not to condone the sin. Jesus calls us to be more. We all struggle with sin. So, I cannot cast a stone. However, Jesus says to the woman whose accusers dropped their stones: “Go and sin no more.” So, resist sin. Resist lying, resist pornography, resist adultery, resist idolatry, resist unrighteous anger, resist homosexual behavior. One who practices these as a part of everyday life is not being faithful to Christ. As James 4:7 says, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Love has boundaries. If my child wants to do something to harm himself, I will prevent it out of love for that child. In being married, I will say, “No” to other intimate relationships. Love does not say, “Anything goes.” Love without boundaries is not love.

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    • What about couples that can not have kids? There are men and women that are unable to reproduce children, they aren’t any less. Love knows no boundaries, and if u think they do, your the one that knows no true love. Love is God…God is Love. God is perfect, which means makes no mistakes, we are all “children of God”… God didn’t write the Bible, it was inspired by him. Man wrote it and dropped in his own 2 cents. Get a grip man and just love… it will serve you better-

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      • Well put J. The concept that love – The Love ( which is where one must start from ) – has boundaries is utterly alien to a true concept of Christianity, and thus God. The ‘inspirations’ of God the Holy Spirit have been twisted from the very outset, ( we all know, I hope, that the universe was not made in seven days ), and just about every translation of the NT has flaws, and some very significant errors. Man’s, ( and woman’s ? ), 2 cents’ worth over the centuries have done a lot of damage to the Word, as well as causing a lot of damage to humankind. Bishop Kenneth’s very gracious and thoughtful article is a wonderful and wise response, clearly to years of contemplation – something we should all be grateful for, not least those of us who are members of the LGBTI part of the Church, and I hope too, those outside the doors, especially those who have had the doors shut in their face.

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  16. Thank you so very much for this, Bishop. I read this with a heavy heart. For you see, I married my husband just last month. The night before the wedding, my oldest son and my sister/family notified me that they would not be attending as this would show their “acceptance” of our marriage, something with which their religious beliefs did not agree. I’ve not spoken to them since that night. I have sought counseling and am in the process of forgiving them for the hurt they caused. Parts of your blog I would like to include in my communication with them. Thank you for your words and your acceptance and your love.

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    • Thank you, Brent, for sharing your story! I can only imagine your pain. I deeply regret that our church has contributed to the hurt of so many people, and continuing to do so. I repent of my own complicity in the hurt by being silent or failing to fully understand. May your family know the reconciliation already brought in Jesus Christ.

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  17. Thank you. I have reposted this article to all my Facebook friends especially we Methodists. I live in Alabama and am trying to reach those who still do not understand what you have put so eloquently. They are not evil people and truly believe they are upholding God’s desires. Only by the warming of their hearts as yours has been warmed can they understand that God’s love goes beyond such boundaries.

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  18. Thank you for these wise, thoughtful words. You were bishop of Memphis when I was coming out. I was on staff of one of the churches in Memphis, and I chose to leave the UMC because I couldn’t be true to myself or God. I planned to leave the church universal altogether, but God had other plans. Though I am no longer a United Methodist, my daughter and other family members are, and they grieve over this issue, wondering if they will still be comfortable in a church that clings to an old interpretation of God’s law and love.

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  19. Bishop Kenneth L. Carder, your post has given me food for thought. My heart has changed as I have aged, I find myself more open to accepting those around me. But I will be honest, being open does not mean I am not still uncomfortable with that which I have become more open to.

    I have also come to realize how much of a sinner ALL of us are and sin is sin.

    Without the sacrifice of Christ we couldn’t even be in His presence.

    I am so very thankful for His forgiveness. And I am always reminded of my responsibility to turn from sin towards Him. The Bible says homosexuality is a sin along with all sorts of other things. And He loves us in spite of our sins to the point of sacrificing His Son so we might have a relationship with Him.

    Part of what I believe the LGBT community desires is the acceptance of their lifestyle. And what I believe you are stating is your stance on the acceptance by the church has changed towards acceptance as well.

    Yet the Bible, God’s Holy Word, says homosexuality is a sin.

    As well as so many other things. Immoral sex, coveting, stealing and on and on.

    The church has a history of calling one sin out while ignoring another and this is an issue which the LGBT community is calling the church out on as well.

    Yet isn’t a Christian church blessing the marriage of a homosexual couple doing just the same?

    Is this not saying the same as “you can’t portion God’s justice for one group and ignore it for another.”

    Giving an “spiritual” endorsement from the church to an act which is considering a sin by what we call God’s Holy Word yet continuing to preach sin stands in the way of our relationship with God seems to be no more hypocritical than using the pulpit to support slavery.

    Would you be willing to endorse and bless an out of wedlock relationship or condone looting a store just because? Would selling pornography in the church bookstore be allowed?

    We HAVE to be more loving and accepting to ALL people regardless of where they come from or who they are. We all share common bonds. We are HIS children and we are sinners. My sins and yours are different, but I don’t believe the church should endorse either one.

    The struggle is trying to understand how to love someone whose sin is the desire to love someone of the same sex in a whole way a heterosexual couple is supposed to. And why that desire is a sin. God says it is a sin. It isn’t one which precludes entry from His Kingdom though. Neither are the sins you, I or anyone else for that matter commit, as long as we believe His Son died on the cross and rose again for the forgiveness of those sins and accept Him as Lord and Savior.

    I do believe we need to be more loving and open and inviting and inclusive, but not at the expense of ignoring or watering down the standard of God’s Word.

    Thank you for the dialogue and thought out expression of your heart. I hope we can all grow spiritually enough to be the loving, open expression of Christ He desires us to be.

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    • Thank you for your very thoughtful response and your obvious openness to continuing the dialogue and the struggle to understand. I will respond briefly, although a more complete conversation is needed. Many biblical scholars and historians contend that homosexuality as we now understand it was not so understood in the world of ancient times where the assumption was that sexual orientation was a choice. From my perspective, sexual promiscuity and exploitation must be resisted as sin, whether by heterosexuals or LGBTQ persons. Science is discovering more and more about the complexity of sexual identity and desire; and that all of us are on a continuum in our sexual identity and orientation. At the heart of the biblical vision is covenantal faithfulness and sexual expression within that covenant. I do believe that such covenantal faithfulness is possible for LGBTQ couples as surely as heterosexual couples. I hope the entire church can continue the dialogue and that “we can all grow spiritually enough to be the loving, open expression of Christ that he desire us to be.” Again, thank you!

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      • I would be interested in what scientific discoveries you have found regarding “sexual identity” and “desire.” There is increasing “scientific evidence” also suggesting the paedophilia is hereditary and people are born with it. Does this legitimize relationships between men and consenting children? Do we affirm when a kleptomaniac has stolen something because he has a legitimate problem? Or is there a better way to have compassion and not affirm his theft? Similarly alcoholism has been linked to genetics (with stronger evidence actually than sexuality), so do we encourage someone with such a propensity to drink and be merry?

        I am also interested in if you would consider it possible to have covenant faithfulness within a polygamous relationship (such as a man and two women)? Or how about covenant faithfulness between a man and his daughter? Why or why not?

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      • The word Homosexuality is a modern definition and you will not find it in the bible but the bible does condemn same sex practices which is homosexuality .

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      • Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)

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      • in the OT scriptures homosexuality is called an “abomination” or toebah (Hb), something which God detests – a word mostly reserved for idolatry and sexual sin (ex Leviticus 18 and 20).
        in the NT Romans 1 says homosexual behavior is the direct result of a culture of idolatry and self-worship. Paul uses it to explain the depravity of man and need for a Savior.
        1 Corinthians 9:10 and 1 Timothy 1:8-10 say that people who practice homosexuality are destined for Hell.

        Those are the most explicit passages, but it is more important to recognize a few things:
        – God designed us in His image (actually the Bible uses trinitarian language in Genesis there – quite important, since God is relational and so are we)
        – we are broken because of the Fall and because of our own sin, born sinful and separated from God. Ephesians 2 says we are children of wrath who have rebelled against God.
        – the word “sin” describes activity or inactivity contrary to how God designed us to be (for example murder is sin because we were made to live in peace with one another)
        – God designed sex with purpose – certainly for procreation but also as an expression of the unity within marriage, which is meant to reflect both the Godhead and the relationship between Christ and His Church
        – Marriage is between one man and one woman, Jesus affirms it in places like Mark 10:6-9.
        – Sex outside of marriage is described as sinful (through words like porneuo) throughout the Bible. (some people will argue that the Bible condones activities like polygamy because Solomon did it, but while the Bible is “descriptive” it is also “proscriptive” – good thing to understand the difference between the two)
        So while there are only a handful of scriptures that speak of homosexuality explicitly as sinful (though… how many scriptures do you need? if it only said murder was wrong once would that make it less true?) the Bible is consistently affirming the above (God’s design for marriage as between one man and one woman, sex outside of marriage as unfaithfulness to God)

        The Bible is extremely clear, it has been consistently the teaching of the church for 2000 years. The 2nd to the last book of the Bible (Jude) warns explicitly of false teachers who would twist the grace of Jesus into “sexual freedom.” The good news that such false teachers won’t tell you is that
        – sex isn’t everything! you can have a fulfilled life without ever having sex (what?? yes)
        – one can struggle with desire (I struggle with lust) and not act upon it. The battle for the soul is waged here. true strength is not embracing and validating every desire, but allowing desire to come under the reign of Jesus.
        – the most important relationship you will have is not to a lover it is to Jesus Christ.
        – Christians do not have a sexual identity – our identity is in Christ.
        – All that stuff Paul says about our bodies as sacred is true, what we do with them matters to God because He made them with purpose.
        – it isn’t unloving to help one another flee from sin
        – all sins are equally offensive to God. We break His heart! it is not cherry picking to call homosexuality sin. We should also call adultery sinful, premarital sex sinful, and we should flee from all sin.
        – Jesus has abundant grace for every sin!!!! He takes it upon His shoulders at the cross and offers forgiveness. Not so we can be unrepentant and without remorse over our sin, that is cheap grace (read the fist part of Bonhoeffer’s Cost of Discipleship please(!), read Paul’s letters, especially Romans.
        – The Spirit is real, He helps sanctify us (make us holy). For some people who may struggle with homosexual desire it may mean that the Lord will rid us of that desire, for some it may be a lifelong battle in which He walks with us and gives us strength
        – just as it is not social justice to fight for a paedophile’s right to have sex with children, nor is it social justice to fight for a man’s right to have sex with his daughter or sister, it is not social justice to fight for the legitimacy of homosexuality. Because people feel marginalized does not legitimize their claim. If it is indeed a sin, we trade temporary “social justice” for eternal justice before the One who gave us life.
        – Read

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  20. Bishop Carder, how have you dealt with Paul’s instruction in 1 Corinthians 5:9-13? Paul makes it very clear that we (believers) are not to associate with people who claim to be believers, yet live a life of sexual immorality (fornication). Paul says we are not even to eat with such a person.

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  21. Thank you. I fear, though, that the UMC will not follow your lead, but we must make a stand to love all people and to quit segregating people into touchables and untouchables. God’s love and our love for our fellow persons are more important than the title “UMC,” should the break come to pass.

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  22. Thank you, Bishop Carder. I’ve been a Methodist since infancy. While I’ve never been a theologian, nor a true scholar of Scripture, I have always gone with my gut feeling that God does not differentiate based on our sexual orientation. Your interpretation makes sense to me. All, in fact, DOES mean all.

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  23. Ed, can you explain this more? I feel I am missing something: “Maybe Jesus was being selfish with you and all like you and wanted you to be in the closest relationship possible with Him and Only Him.”

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  24. Kind sir, What then do you say in response to Romans 12:2 and 8:5? I contend that there are many who struggle (in church and otherwise) with same-sex attraction. Perhaps some have acted on the attraction, perhaps not. I personally am convinced that in close, intimate relationship with Christ, one has the power to overcome. I believe that a Christian person who pursues Christ in intimacy, finds that there is simply no way to live comfortably a lifestyle in conflict with scriptural teaching. Anything that does not match up in my experience leaves one In pain and is powerfully unsettling.
    I struggled for a long time with feeling sad for those who would be alone for life simply as a Christian with homosexual ideation. I felt like God would surely not require that person to live a life without physical intimacy. I have read many accounts of those who are sold out to living Christ-like lives and have chosen to follow Him and forsake their needs and rights. There’s beauty in that decision, I believe.

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  25. Over a year ago I was diagnosed with Rectal Cancer, one of my employees, a nurse held my hand through the entire ordeal, went with me to chemotherapy treatments, allowed me to call her 24/7 when I was scared or had questions. The cancer is gone and I watch her with her patients, she treats the very wealthy the same as the very poor. She is compassionate, loving and respectful to each patient and what they are going through. She has a wife and they have taken two brothers who had no love adopted them and are raising them with love, discipline and “boundaries”. The boys are kind and respectful. This nurse’s mother was a devout catholic and what breaks my heart is this beautiful woman longs for a relationship with God but feels she is not worthy or welcomed because of her choice in partners. I am a conservative Christian, we were given the commmandment to love, not to judge. That is God’s purpose. And furthermore who are we to decide which sin is not tolerable. We can be glutenous and walk into church with no condemnation but if we are gay..
    If Jesus came to visit us today, he would be hanging out with these “ sinners” and some of us self righteous Christians may be thrown out of His Temple.

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  26. Thank you for leading, teaching, loving and listening. I often picture meeting Jesus and he asks me where I stand on this issue. I am not foolish enough to hold up The Discipline as the book I followed! Whoops, wrong book! Not making light of an extraordinarily important issue but sometimes think we accept and feed complexity and miss the clarity of the mandate. You have described it beautifully, with an articulation that makes the gospel shine on all of our lives.

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  27. I believe this discussion should begin with a better Clarification about the issue. “The United Methodist Church is addressing whether or not to change its rules to allow same-sex weddings and LGBTQ clergy”. I think the church “should make no changes to the current discipline”. One of my best friends is a gay person, I worked with gays and lesbians throughout my career and think just as highly of them as any of my other co-workers and friends. I served in the military with some of them. I am a United Methodist Church Member and I don’t hate, shun, or disrespect LGBTQ’s They need to be in our church and we should actively recruit them because they are sinners just like you and me. However their lifestyle according to the teachings in the scriptures is sinful and detested and therefore our church should not promote same sex unions or allow them to become members and leaders in our church until they have repented of their sins and started a new direction in their lives of trying to follow the teaching’s of Christ. If you substituted another group of people such as Drunkards, Murderers, or Theives, in place of LGBTQ, the situation would be no different.

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  28. Yes homosexual orientation tends to not be a choice. Yes homosexuals face discrimination and injustice. But scripture teaches that sex between men is sinful. And it seems to say that’s the case irrespective of circumstances. I don’t see how someone can claim otherwise, while still claiming to respect the authority of scripture.

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    • Please reread my definition of the authority of Scripture. Each passage must be read and interpreted in light of the whole Bible and in context of the times in which it was written. I appreciate your perspective but we differ in how we understand and interpret Scripture. The Bible is also very clear about divorce, even clearer than on homosexuality.

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      • I’ve re-read what you wrote about the authority of Scripture lying in its witness to salvation and to transform people into the likeness of Christ. Honorable comments, but I don’t relate to them explaining the authority of scripture.

        And I would think that transforming into the likeness of Christ would equate to how we see him in Scripture. And how do we see him? We see him calling for sexual morality, for one thing. And in the context of Scripture, homosexual relations is illustrated as being sexual immorality.

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      • Are you saying that “the words that were inspired by God yet written a long time ago” are no longer relevant for us today? I do agree with you that the Bible is pretty clear about divorce too. Have those instructions, also inspired by God, changed too? Who had the authority to make those changes and when were they changed?

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      • It is clear to me that you have read Holy Scripture with care, with prayer, and great love Bishop Kenneth. My heart goes out to those who seem not able to do that – and I most sincerely hope I am not being judgemental in saying that. There is no literal interpretation of the Scriptures, there can never be. The Word – in whatever context – can only be approached through prayer. I have now read your article three times, ( in the method of Lectio Divina ), and find it full of love and grace. Thank you for writing it.

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  29. Thank you, Bishop, for writing about your journey! Reminds me of a similar piece written by our friend and bishop, Jack Tuell. Adapting to new realities has never been easy for the Church. Galileo ran into a buzz saw of theological opposition to his scientific support for the Copernican idea that the earth is not the center of the universe. Centuries later, the Church confesses its mistake. Many members of the UMC continue to anathematize anyone who disagrees with their view that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian faith. That, to me, is a tragedy. I am praying that the 2019 GC will adopt a plan that allows for divergent, yet faithful, points of view regarding homosexuality. Your comments, I pray, will move us toward that goal.

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  30. Thank you, Bishop, for this wonderful article. It’s thoughtful and well written. You make me proud to be a Christian. I know you love as Christ wants us to.

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  31. I respect your beliefs, but I cannot agree:

    “Two things are always simultaneously true of Jesus, then and now. He never hesitates to call sin “sin,” and he never hesitates to embrace people. The only two things Jesus cannot abide is calling sin “not sin,” and failing to embrace people. Whether it be the fierce legalism of the religious elite or the audacious license of the cultural zeitgeist, Jesus will always call sin “sin.” It’s like calling cancer cancer. In the same way a human body cannot tolerate cancer, a human being cannot tolerate sin. Both mean death. When sin is called “not sin,” it is akin to looking at a malignant tumor and calling it benign.

    “Somewhere along the way the extravagant embrace of the gospel in the name of Jesus became twisted into the radical doctrines of political correctness in the name of “inclusiveness.” In this ideological framework, the only sin is to be intolerant of sin. It breeds a culture of death. This is how tolerance in the name of love actually kills love.

    “The embrace of the gospel always leads, sooner or later, to the exclusion of sin and ultimately to the end of death. It’s because the gospel is about salvation, which means healing which means the eradication of the cancer that is sin and death. This is how Love wins.” https://www.seedbed.com/difference-extravagant-embrace-radical-inclusiveness/

    Furthermore, what I know as a lifelong Methodist/United Methodist who is now 65 years old, is that the Methodist/United Methodist Church has not been in possession of a single, clear cut , and robust theology of who God is and who we are for almost a century. I know this because several years back I became so broken, lost and confused, I wandered away from church and discovered a God who is truly worth worshiping. I finally stand in the wide open space of the triune God’s amazing grace and finally understand that I am not who I thought I was. I got to this place by embracing the age old teachings of John Wesley and The Heidelberg Catechism along with several modern books about the Heidelberg. I learned just how relevant those older teachings are right here and right now. Just for the record, John Wesley did not come up with anything new for Methodism. Rather, he embraced 1700+ years of Christian teaching.

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  32. Anything outside of God’s will and design is sin. Sin keeps us separated from God. Sin will send us to hell.

    God is clear homosexuality is sin. He is also clear overeating is sin. Lying – sin. Disrespect to parents – sin. Stealing- sin. Pride -sin. As with any sin we ought to hate the sin and not the sinner.

    It’s always been interesting to me that the sin of homosexuality is one that keeps people out of church. Aren’t we all in sin? Isn’t that why we’re all desperately in need of a relationship with God and belief in Jesus as our one and only way to salvation?

    Your comments regarding being born with the predisposition to homosexuality…again sin is in all of our genes. We are all born with a sinful nature. It seems just as likely for the devil to tempt a man to lust after a woman as it would be for him to tempt a man to lust after another man. In scenario where sin is involved God is clear the best action is to flee from sin, to stand against temptation and the devil.

    Do I believe people who identify as homosexual belong in church? Absolutely! Do I believe if they’re in a true relationship with God and believe in Jesus they can stay that way? Well none of us can stay the same – regardless of the type of sin we’re in. God promises to heal and restore us all to himself.

    When Jesus returns and finishes the full restoration in us we will all see many many areas where we fell short and why we were in dire need of a Savior- a Savior from sin, from ALL sin.

    Lastly, you mention how many individuals close to you identified as homosexual you never knew about yet you believed they had a heart for God. I found that in my own experience as well. Many people I love identify the same way.

    One of the reasons this continues to be a touchy topic is because of the hidden nature that has surrounded homosexuality. Anything the devil can keep hidden, secretive, and fearful of can continue to take root. Boy! Are we ever discovering the root homosexuality actually has.

    I think as Christians we ought to bring it out in the light. In the light of Jesus! Let’s bring everything, including homosexuality to the light of Jesus!

    But if we live in the light—just as he is in the light—then we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from every sin. (1 John 1:5-7)

    Not talking about it, keeping homosexuals out of church continues the issue. Let’s draw it out into His light, address it and then strive to live in the will and design of God, knowing His work in us is still incomplete while we’re on this earth.

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