I wanted to continue to address questions about the future of the United Methodist Church and building a more inclusive church. Each week I’m responding to questions that were raised at our recent congregational meeting. Again, I share a reminder that the United Methodist Church will not make decisions on this until April, 2024. We still have a ways to go before our church makes any changes in its policies and rules.
As my pastor: 1. Do you believed the Bible was misinterpreted in regards to man, woman, husband, wife? Would you marry a gay or lesbian couple?
Let’s remember that the Bible was written over a period of about 1500 years, by many different authors, in many different places. The canon (approved collection of books) of the Hebrew Bible was closed in the year 90 CE and the New Testament around the year 325 CE. The understanding of gender identity and sexual orientation that we have in our modern world was not a part of the ancient world in which the Bible was written. The people and societies in Bible times could not conceive of a committed, same-sex relationship like we see in our world today. I don’t believe the Bible was “misinterpreted” in this regard, but our understanding today has been enlarged. We tend to forget there was more than one understanding of marriage in the Hebrew Scripture. Polygamy was common. There were concubines or sex slaves (Solomon had many). In reality, any slave could be abused sexually. This was not uncommon. Women had a very proscribed role in life, that was limited. What we think of as marriage today has undergone some dramatic changes. Where we are located in a retirement community, many people don’t feel they can remarry because of financial constraints and the loss of financial benefits, but they often want to have a “commitment ceremony” instead of a marriage. That is another variation we see today. Same sex marriage became legally allowed in the US in 2015. I have not been asked to some a same sex wedding. While I am not opposed to same sex marriage, if I were asked, I don’t see myself performing one inside the church here at Lakeview.
If the Bible is infallible, John 10:35, why are we trying to rewrite the Bible? Isn’t this a social problem?
The passage referenced here in John 10:35 includes a statement, “and the scripture cannot be annulled” or cancelled, which we would agree is true. We don’t rewrite scripture, however scripture always has to be interpreted. As United Methodist we do not claim the Bible is “infallible” or “inerrant” but we hold the Bible in high regard. We say it is the divinely inspired words of God. As we reviewed in our recent congregational meeting, we understand and interpret scripture using sources of tradition, reason and experience.
Our UM Book of Discipline says, “While we acknowledge the primacy of Scripture in theological reflection our attempts to grasp its meaning always involved tradition, experience and reason. Like Scripture, these may become creative vehicles of the Holy Spirit as they function within the church. They quicken our faith, open our eyes to the wonder of God’s love, and clarify our understanding. Tradition, reason and our Christian experience help us to understand the Bible in light of it times and the culture in which is was written, as we work to discern under the power of the Holy Spirit, its meaning for today. The Bible is a powerful book because it speaks to all generations. It has a timeless quality. We look to the Bible to speak to our present needs and issues, especially contentious ones, to hear the “word of the Lord” for us in these days. We also have to read issues such as inclusiveness in light of the larger themes of the Bible: “Love one another as I have loved you,” Jesus says (John 15:12). Or “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.” (Matthew 7:1). These larger themes should shape our response.