How can we view homosexuality through the Wesleyan Quadrilateral?

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1 How can we view homosexuality through the Wesleyan Quadrilateral? While we acknowledge the primacy of Scripture in theological reflection, our attempts to grasp its meaning always involve tradition, experience, and reason. Like Scripture, these may become creative vehicles of the Holy Spirit as they function within the Church The Wesleyan heritage, reflecting its origins in the catholic and reformed ethos of English Christianity, directs us to a self-conscious use of these three sources in interpreting Scripture and in formulating faith statements based on the biblical witness. These sources are, along with Scripture, indispensable to our theological task. The close relationship of tradition, experience, and reason appears in the Bible itself In recognizing the interrelationship and inseparability of the four basic resources for theological understanding, we are following a model that is present in the biblical text itself 2012 UMC Book of Discipline, Paragraph 105, Section 4 We must begin with the understanding that this is not an equilateral quadrilateral. Often when the Wesleyan Quadrilateral is cited, we make the assumption that all the sides are equal. That is to say that tradition, reason, experience and scripture all have an equal voice. However, our Book of Discipline is clear that Scripture is placed above the other disciplines. While our theological reflection needs to include wisdom that is gleaned from tradition, experience and reason, these things are never to supersede the primacy of Scripture. It would be impossible to interpret Scripture without reason. We employ reason when we examine Scriptures through our intellect. We examine a text in the original language or we analyze how others have expounded a text. As stated in my presentation at the Circles of Grace on 2/28/2016, when reason is applied to the texts regarding homosexual behavior, the teaching of Scripture is clear. There are no positive examples or teachings regarding homosexual behavior in the Bible. This reasonable interpretation is acknowledged even by many progressive scholars who choose to affirm homosexual behavior. Here are a some examples: Pim Pronk, a self-avowed lesbian acknowledges, To sum up: wherever homosexual intercourse is mentioned in Scripture, it is condemned. With reference to it, the New Testament adds no arguments to those of the Old. Rejection is a foregone conclusion. Against Nature? Types of Moral Arguments Regarding Homosexuality, p. 279 Walter Wink in his review of Robert Gagnon s book The Bible and Homosexual Practice admitted, Gagnon exegetes every biblical text even remotely relevant to the theme [of homosexual practice]. This section is filled with exegetical insights. I have long insisted that the issue is one of hermeneutics, and that efforts to twist the text to mean what it clearly does not say are deplorable. Simply put, the Bible is negative toward same-sex behavior, and there is no getting around it To Hell with Gays? Christian Century, 119:13, pp Luke Timothy Johnson, professor at Candler School of Theology states, The Bible nowhere speaks positively or even neutrally about same-sex love The exegetical situation is straightforward: we know what the text says I think it important to state clearly that we do, in fact, reject the straightforward commands of Scripture, and appeal instead to another authority when we declare that same-sex unions can be holy and good. And what exactly is that authority? We appeal explicitly to the weight of our own experience and the experience thousands of others have witnessed to, which tells us that to claim our own sexual orientation is in fact to accept the way in which God has created us. By so doing, we explicitly reject as well the premises of the scriptural statements condemning homosexuality Homosexuality and the Church, Commonwealth Magazine, June 15, 2007 When experience conflicts with Scripture, Dr Johnson is honest enough to say that he chooses to reject Scripture. Experience replaces the primacy of Scripture. This is a gross distortion of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral.

2 It seems to me that Dr. Johnson is correct; experience becomes the primary reason for acceptance of homosexual behavior. In my conversations and readings, I have yet to encounter someone who has come to accept homosexual behavior based on a reading of God s word. Nearly all have come to the position of acceptance based on their own experience or through their relationships with members of the LGBTQ community. Although I have great empathy for those who feel they were born as homosexuals, and I have sincere compassion for all people, our experiences cannot dictate our theology. Not only is homosexual behavior contrary to a reasonable reading of Scripture, it is also contrary to our tradition. Until this generation, the tradition of the church and particularly the tradition of Methodism has been in agreement that homosexual behavior is sinful. In light of this, one must seriously ask, Has our current culture evolved to such an advanced level of morality, so as to have the ability to redefine moral standards that have been in place for 2000 years of church history? Viewing homosexuality through the Wesleyan Quadrilateral affirms the official position of the United Methodist Church that homosexual behavior is incompatible with Christian teaching.

3 If marriage is defined as one man/one woman, how do we express love to family members who are in same sex relationships? I have a nephew who is in a same sex relationship. I love him and enjoy being with him. We laugh together and work together at family gatherings. We choose not to make an issue of sexuality at all. He doesn t ask me about my sex life and I don t ask him about his. I may talk to him about his spiritual life because that is far more important to me than his sexual orientation or activity. He knows what I believe, so there is never a need for me to judge or condemn him. I simply love him. Family relationships need to be stronger than our disagreements about sin. What is true for family members is also true for our relationships with others outside of our family. This is not the time for us to disengage with culture. We are not called to run away and form Straight Christian communities. We do not need to run away from developing relationships with those in the LBGTQ community. For example, I don t need to avoid purchasing flowers from a florist who identifies herself as a lesbian. Her sexuality has no bearing on my relationship with her as someone in our community who sells flowers. If I go to a euchre party, I don t poll participants about their sexual activity before I will sit at the table with them. I simply enjoy their company and play cards. Rather than ostracizing those whom engage in practices we deem immoral, we can establish relationships with them. We need to see people as whole persons and not limit our perception of them by their sexual choices. I don t want anyone to define me simply by my sexuality; therefore, I refuse to define anyone by their sexuality. We simply love people where we find them. Expressing love to those we disagree with does not mean we are giving approval to their actions. Therefore, if my nephew chooses to get married and he invites me to his wedding, I will probably attend. I could not in good conscience conduct the wedding or take part in it. Although attending the wedding may make me uncomfortable, I will go because I love him.

4 How does one who believes homosexuality is contrary to the Word of God because it is included in Paul s list of sinful activities in Romans 1, reconcile that with Paul s admonition in Romans 2 not to judge? In Romans 1:18-32, Paul gives several examples of the godlessness and wickedness of people. His list includes 23 things that are connected by the phrase God gave them over... That list includes murder, strife, and malice as well as sexual sins. Every item on the list is still considered to be an example of wickedness today. Why would we consider homosexual activity to be the single item on this long list of sins as being the only one that God now chooses to bless? Paul s main point as he moves into chapter 2 is not to call attention to the sin of judgment, but to call everyone to repentance for those actions which are evil. There is no conflict between naming specific sins in Romans 1 and Paul s words about judgment in Romans 2. When Paul moves to chapter two and makes a statement about judging, he is not saying it is wrong to state that certain actions are sinful. He has just made the case that they are many examples of wickedness, with homosexual behavior being one of them. He affirms again that God passes judgement on these sinful things, Now we know that God's judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. Romans 2:2 Would I not be making a statement based on the truth if I say to someone who habitually gossips that gossiping is a sin? Gossip is also included in Paul s list. (Romans 1:29) To state that certain actions are sinful is not to be judgmental. There is a difference between making a judgment based on God s word and being judgmental toward an individual. It is our attitude that makes the difference. If I condemn someone else s sin while ignoring my own that can quickly lead to being judgmental. In fact, this is the point Paul is making at the beginning of Romans 2. He says,...at whatever point you judge the other; you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Romans 2:1 If Paul was engaging in homosexual behavior or any other of the practices listed in Romans 1, it would be judgmental for him to point out that sin in another. We must not accuse others of being sinful if we are doing the same things. Paul is simply saying that we must first examine our own lives. This is much like Jesus words when he says that we should not be concerned about the speck in our brother s eye if we have a plank in our own. Jesus is not saying that we should never call the speck for what it is. He is reminding us to scrutinize our own life first. Jesus actually calls us at times to be judges! Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment." John 7:24 Paul certainly agrees that are times we must make a judgement about sin. For example in 2 Corinthians 5, he begins to write to the church about reported sexual immortally among you. (5:1) He continues by making it clear that the church needed to make clear judgements about sin. He says, What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. "Expel the wicked man from among you." (5:12-13) One can neither call a man wicked or expel him without making a judgement on his behavior. But even in this passage, there is no hint that Paul is being judgmental. He is simply making statements based on his understanding of God s word. On a personal note, I don t believe that judgement and love are opposite extremes in a discussion about homosexual behavior. I believe one can truly love all people and continue to hold to the traditional understanding that homosexual practice is contrary to God s word. As I shared in my presentation, my wife and I modeled this when we invited a known gay man who was homeless to live with us. He stayed with us for six months. He lived with us as family. He ate at our family table. On Christmas morning, he was with our family opening presents that we and others in the church had given him. And in all the months that he was with us I neither condoned nor condemned him for

5 being gay. We gave him a home and encouraged his growth, spiritually, emotionally, and in all facets of his life. We didn t judge him, we simply loved him. Because that is what a loving God calls his people to do! There is no contradiction between accepting Paul s disapproval of homosexual behavior in Romans 1 and his thoughts about judgment in Romans 2.

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