The long traditions, laws and world view of Judaism seem to have defined the first decade of the followers of the Risen Christ. But when Paul and Barnabas and Peter testified to their experiences of the Holy Spirit's activity among the uncircumcised the church faced a decision. Would the amazing activity of the Holy Spirit move the early church to override centuries of codified practice supported by their understanding of the teaching of scripture?
The account in Acts 15 marks the beginning of what has been a long, painful, and ongoing attempt to change the the practice of the church as it seeks to align itself with the clear evidence of the Holy Spirit's surprising, and to some, disturbing, activity.
Some of us have seen the Holy Spirit move among LGBT folks we have baptized and confirmed. They, as we who are "straight", are working at creating loving and faithful relationships and are seeking to live lives of committed discipleship and service to God and neighbor. They love God, affirm Jesus as Lord and Savior and the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives and relationships is abundantly evident. Those experiences have led us to prayerfully discern that we can no longer deny these brothers and sisters in Christ the blessing of marriage. To do so would be to hinder the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
In breaking with current United Methodist law and practice, we are aware of the pain and anger our behavior causes brother and sister laity and clergy who believe we are acting to destroy the church. But we also love this church, love it deeply enough and love our LGBT sisters and brothers deeply enough, to prayerfully violate our Book of Discipline. We do so in attempted faithfulness to what we believe is the ongoing activity of the Holy Spirit in continuing the work started in Acts 15. We so attempting to be faithful to the Good News in Jesus Christ.
Similiar activity in the past led to the end of slavery, the ordination of women, interracial marriage, permission to marry divorced persons, and an ongoing outreach to "Gentiles" of varied times and places. Changes in those areas did not come about without tension and pain in the body of Christ. We remain divided from sisters and brothers in other faith communities who still oppose the ordination of women on scriptural and traditional grounds. The Body of Christ remains a broken body. We do not rejoice in adding to that brokenness. But the continuing pain of exclusion felt by LGBT folks cannot be the price of unity.
I personally hope and pray for some Acts 15 wisdom for the United Methodist Church I love and have been privileged to serve for over forty years.
I continue to pray for our Bishop and our Superintendents
and for LGBT folks watching our discussions and actions
as our church struggles with this issue impacting many lives.
God's grace and peace to ALL.
Len Schoenherr, retired pastor and
Privileged to be the support person for Rev. Michael Tupper
during the Just Resolution of the Complaint filed against him
for officiating at his daughter's wedding.