Homosexuality and Methodism
||The examples and perspective in this article may not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (December 2010)|
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Methodist viewpoints concerning homosexuality are diverse because there is no one denomination which represents all Methodists. The World Methodist Council, which represents hundreds of Methodist denominations, has no official statements regarding sexuality. British Methodism maintains that all sex outside marriage is sinful. American Methodism concentrates on the position that the same-sex relations are incompatible with "Christian teaching", but extends ministry to persons of a homosexual orientation, holding that all individuals are of sacred worth.
African Methodist Episcopal Church
The African Methodist Episcopal Church rejects the ordination of openly gay persons to the ranks of the clergy in the Church. In a historic decision, which marked the first vote on the issue of marriage rights for same-sex couples by a predominantly African-American denomination, the African Methodist Episcopal Church unanimously voted to forbid ministers from blessing same-sex unions in July 2004. The church leaders stated that homosexual activity "clearly contradicts [their] understanding of Scripture." Nevertheless, although the AME prohibits its ministers from officiating at same-sex weddings, the AME does not have an officially binding policy on gay clergy, and some openly gay clergy have been ordained in the AME.
Evangelical Methodist Church
The Evangelical Methodist Church recognizes that the biblical record condemns homosexuality as evidenced in Leviticus 18:22, Romans 1:26-27, and 1 Corinthians 6:9-19. It teaches that homosexual practices are "sin leading to spiritual death and eternal punishment. Nevertheless, homosexuality is no greater a sin than adultery, murder, stealing, among others. As a result, practicing homosexuals are barred from becoming members of the Evangelical Methodist Church. Moreover, practicing homosexuals are prohibited from becoming candidates for ordained ministry. The Church upholds that all individuals are entitled to certain rights and protection of the civil law; nevertheless, it opposes all civil legislation that supports homosexuality as a normal life style. All homosexuals who seek faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord, and cease to practice homosexual acts are welcomed into the fellowship of the Evangelical Methodist Church.
Free Methodist Church
|“||Homosexual behavior, as all sexual deviation, is a perversion of God's created order (Genesis 1-3). The sanctity of marriage and the family is to be preserved against all manner of immoral conduct (Exodus 22:16-17; Deuteronomy 22:23-28; Leviticus 20:10-16), thus the Free Methodist Church does not recognize the legitimacy or participation in the practice of same-sex marriage.
Homosexual behavior is contrary to the will of God as clearly stated in Scripture (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 1 Timothy 1:8-10).
Persons with homosexual inclinations are accountable to God for their behavior (Romans 14:12).
The forgiving and delivering grace of God in Christ is all-sufficient for the homosexual (1 John 1:9; Hebrews 7:25; Luke 4:18; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11). The Church has a personal and corporate responsibility to be God's instrument of healing, restoring love to the homosexual seeking recovery of Christian conduct and life-style (2 Corinthians 2:7-8).
The church opposes legislation which makes homosexual conduct or life-style legitimate.
Methodist Church of Great Britain
At the annual Methodist Conference in 1993 in Derby, following long debate at all levels of the Church's life on the basis of a detailed report, the British Methodist Church considered the issues of human sexuality. The Derby Conference in 1993 passed a series of Resolutions which still stand. These resolutions are as follows:
1. The Conference, affirming the joy of human sexuality as God's gift and the place of every human being within the grace of God, recognises the responsibility that flows from this for us all. It therefore welcomes the serious, prayerful and sometimes costly consideration given to this issue by The Methodist Church.
In 2006, the Church prohibited the blessing of same-sex unions on or off church property; clergy can offer only "pastoral prayers" for same sex couples. This decision was made after "culmination of two years of denomination-wide reflection."
United Methodist Church
As stated in the Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, the United Methodist Church holds that "homosexual persons no less than heterosexual persons are individuals of sacred worth." In other words, all individuals are of worth to God. Nevertheless, in keeping with historic Church teaching, it considers the "practice of homosexuality [to be] incompatible with Christian teaching," For this reason, the "United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality" or allow "self-avowed practicing homosexuals" to be "certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church."
Based on its teaching, the United Methodist Church prohibits the blessing of homosexual unions by its clergy and in its churches. The breaking of this law is a chargeable offense and rebellious clergy are subject to being defrocked, as was the case in 1987, when Methodist minister Rose Mary Denman, was defrocked for being openly gay. Similarly, in 2005, clergy credentials were removed from Irene Elizabeth Stroud after she was convicted in a church trial of violating Church law by engaging in a lesbian relationship; this conviction was later upheld by the Church Judicial Council, the highest court in the denomination.
The United Methodist Church in addition supports "laws in civil society that define marriage as the union of one man and one woman." On April 30, 2008, at the most recent General Conference, delegates adopted even more conservative language, stating that Christians are called to "responsible stewardship of this sacred gift" of sexuality and that "sexual relations are affirmed only within the covenant of monogamous, heterosexual marriage."
As a result of decisions made in April 2008 and August 2009, the United Methodist Church entered into full communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The latter denomination allows individuals in committed homosexual relationships to serve as ministers, while the United Methodist Church requires gay clergy to remain celibate. Despite the fact that full communion allows for the interchangeability of all ordained ministers between the two denominations, Lutheran clergy who are involved in homosexual activity are prohibited to serve in the United Methodist Church in order to uphold the integrity of United Methodist ministerial standards.
Several grassroots organizations not officially recognized by the United Methodist Church have also formed around positions on issues relating to homosexuality. The Confessing Movement within the United Methodist Church seeks to continue to protect the United Methodist Church's current stance on homosexuality, if not make it more rigid. Moreover, another movement, Transforming Congregations, is a Methodist ex-gay ministry whose purpose is to "equip the local church to model and minister sanctified sexuality through biblical instruction, personal and public witness, and compassionate outreach. Meanwhile, the Reconciling Ministries Network seeks to change the United Methodist Church's current teaching on homosexuality in order to make the church more inclusive of LGBT people. At the 2008 General Conference of the United Methodist Church, it was decided that the Church would retain its views on homosexuality.
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