Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Response from Dean Snyder

Dean e-mails with regards to our recent conversations. Posted with his permission:

Dear John

Thanks for emailing me. I hope you and everyone on the blogroll are well. I especially hope seminary is a good experience for you. I miss being part of the Methoblogging community but the demands of life took me to other places.

It is interesting to read your blog and other's comments. Proclaiming my sincerity seems to me futile, since those who doubt it would also be likely to doubt my claims to be sincere. I can say a few words about how we got to this place.

Given my experience in ministry and my biblical and theological understanding, if I were not a United Methodist I would almost surely celebrate or solemnize same-sex unions. But I am a United Methodist. I am a United Methodist for many reasons that I believe to be good reasons. I love our heritage and I love our church. I don't think we are perfect but, thankfully, perfection is not a requirement in order to love or be loved.

I was appointed to my first appointment in 1968. I have lived through a time when official policies of our church were racist ... and not just moderately so but about as blatantly racist as an institution could be racist. I didn’t love our racism but I still loved our church. I’ve lived through our struggles to include women fully in the leadership of the church even when it was hard for some to reconcile some verses of Scripture with this decision. I witnessed some people badly wounded during those times and did not love the attitudes about gender that caused the wounds, but I still found myself loving our church. So it remains today.

More than three years ago a group of Foundry members started to meet to discuss how they felt about the lesbian and gay members of our church who were obviously living in caring and committed relationships, some of whom were traveling to Canada or going to churches of other denominations to have their relationships solemnized. It felt wrong to them that we encourage and support and reinforce commitments between our straight members and not our gay and lesbian members when their relationships also demonstrate the fruits of the Spirit.

At the same time we were uncomfortable with the idea of breaking the covenant that the Book of Discipline is. So the question became: is there a way to not just ignore the commitments of our lesbian and gay members while celebrating the commitments of our straight members? (And we really do celebrate the commitments of our straight members. We have oodles of weddings. We have several pre-Cana weekends annually to help couples prepare for their vows and weddings, and they almost always reach the maximum number of participants we can handle. Weddings are a big deal here. We believe in marriage.)

But it seemed uncharitable to make such a big deal about the commitments of our straight members and do nothing at all to even acknowledge or try to support our gay and lesbian couples in their committed relationships.

So the attempt was to come up with a way that we could at least acknowledge and honor the commitments of our gay and lesbian members without violating our United Methodist covenant. This is what we are trying to do.

Ours is not a very adequate solution. It feels separate and unequal. I feel it does not adequately honor the commitment and caring that our gay and lesbian members demonstrate in their lives. But we decided it was better than nothing.

As a result of the work of the original study group, I asked the congregation to help me figure out what we ought to do in my annual State of the Church sermon in November 2006. There were many discussions. In my State of the Church sermon in November 2007, I read the letter stating my intention to make myself available to lead worship services that recognize and honor the committed relationships of our lesbian and gay members and constituents without conducting, celebrating, or solemnizing same-sex unions. I asked the congregation to have further dialogue with me about this before I took this step.

I did not ask the church to take any official action because matters having to do with worship in the United Methodist Church are the responsibility of the pastor. Foundry’s Council chose to support my decision with a resolution, and I am grateful they did this even though I did not request it. The timing was based on the internal work of our congregation. My personal hope was that no one would much care about this outside our congregation, but I am also aware enough to know that others might be bothered by this decision. I worried about when would be a good time to do this in case it got a negative reaction outside our congregation but finally decided that there really is no way to figure all that out, and we moved when it made sense internally, largely shaped by November being the time when I do my annual State of the Church sermons.

I hope this is helpful to you, John, and to anyone who wants to get a sense of how we have come to this place. Stay well. (And I hope your rabbits are doing okay, too.)


UPDATE: John Meunier has a roundup of responses, as well as his own. Also, Amy Forbus weighs in.

42 comments:

Michael said...

I would not be so presumptious as to question his sincerity; in fact, I believe such would be more counter-productive than anything else. However, this is not the issue, is it?

The bigger question is to ask why the Discipline and the Bible prohibit homosexual acts. It is an act of witness to the congregation and to the larger community. As for the use of the word "love", whom do we love more: man or God? The decision rests entirely upon this. God said "no". Do we love Him enough to trust Him in this? Apparently not.

Snyder's intentions may be sincere and even noble given his context, but I believe such acts as "celebrating" these unions is still splitting hairs. I also believe that churches that make similar moves are only surrendering to the larger, worldly community and its standards and desires rather than serving as a sanctuary away from the world.

The Church is not called to be like everyone else; She is called to something much greater. And I don't think this is it.

Elizabeth said...

John, I appreciate your getting Dean's response on this. (Does make me wish he were blogging again!)

gavin richardson said...

thanks for reaching out to get dean's response. i too wish he were still blogging, though i can only imagine the chaos on his blog around this time if he were.

i could agree with michael that some of this is splitting hairs, but i am the person that says, this isn't as clear in scripture as people want it to be. the discipline is clear though on what it says so it seems only appropriate that one lives within the tension.

not to mention, if one wanted to celebrate unions in the way he describes.. is that really worthy of having some notes of real change? just do it. the discipline is pretty clear on not doing the wedding ceremonies, not some celebrations or recognition of couples in worship...

Todd said...

I really want to know what the difference is between "recognize and honor" and "conducting, celebrating, and solemnizing?" If we are talking only about services that join a persons in a union to define "celebrating and solemnizing" then there is a clear distinction.

But Snyder leaves me with the impression that outside of services of union, Foundry will be recognizing and honoring committed relationships in the same manner regardless of gender orientation of the relationships.

And I am not going to cast Snyder's sincerity out the window. But I question his discernment and wisdom. He states, "My personal hope was that no one would much care about this outside our congregation, but I am also aware enough to know that others might be bothered by this decision." I don't understand how anyone, especially someone who has been within the blogging universe, could be so lackadaisical toward current United Methodist and mainline church climate.

Earl said...

This statement is a well written explanation of how Foundary decided to stick its thumb into the eye of fellow United Methodist by ignoring the clear intent and expectation of The Discipline. Of greater concern, it demonstrates a lack of integrity as regards the covenant relationship. It demonstrates a disregard for the obligations of that relationship. It seeks to accommodate behavior and lifestyle choices that are clearly condemned in Scripture. Justification for all of this is offered by use of an illegitimate comparison as this issue is not at all comparable to the justice issues referenced. The timing of this action is suspect given the volatile nature of the subject and the upcoming meeting of the General Conference. That this action will have any positive outcome is impossible. It will only exacerbate the ongoing debate that shows every sign of leading to the UMC being a "house divided." Finally, we are warned in Scripture to be cautious of those whose words or conduct bring about division within the body. Such would clearly apply in this situation.

John Wilks said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Wilks said...

I really want to believe him that the timing of all this was driven by internal pastoral concerns at Foundry.

But if someone wanted to do something guaranteed to raise the issue and rally the troops before Ft. Worth, they couldn't have picked a more opportune time.

Elizabeth said...

The petitions to GC are already in, the issue will already be raised. It doesn't even make sense for Foundry to do this for their own benefits at GC John, because this will likely only cause a reactionary narrowing of our policies yet again. So I don't think distrusting motives of timing even makes logical sense.

John Wilks said...

Petitions get killed silently in committee every quadrennium. If an issue is to make the floor and if change is to be made, delegates need something to rally around or rally against. This news will certainly do both.

Again- I want to believe Dean. I'm just saying that the LGBT crowd and the IRD crowd have and will jump all over this.

Elizabeth said...

Well, this story is certainly already on IRD's website, but not on the Reconciling Ministries website. That's what I'm trying to say - the group that will run most with this story probably isn't the LGBT community, therefore, I don't see it as a particularly strategic move on Foundry's part.

Mark Winter said...

Wonder what would happen if a conservative UM pastor, in all sincerity, decided to suspend apportionment payments, using verbal gymnastics to defend his/her deed? Would there be tolerance, dialogue, understanding and an invitation for "holy conferencing"?

Ha.

Joon said...

Isn't The United Methodist Church the church of Open Doors and Open Minds? Does this mean "you're welcome to come in as long as you believe what I believe?"

John B said...

Since when has sincerity been the mark of truth? All of us could come up with a long list of despots who were very sincere in their beliefs. I'm certainly not comparing Dean to a despot, what I am saying is that sincerity doesn't necessarily validates a belief as something good and honorable.

John Wilks said...

johnb- this isn't about ideological agreement. This is about faithfulness to the system which we clergy have chosen to work. There are things I don't like in the Discipline either. But I don't get to do an end-run around it- I have to work within the boundaries. There are right and wrong ways to express disagreement and work for change.

cometothewaters said...

I'm pretty sure the Rev. Snyder believes he is working within the Discipline.

Some folks are saying he's breaking the spirit of the rules, which seems to concede that he has not broken the letter.

Now, we can argue that it is not good to live in the space between this distinction, but it appears to be a stretch to me to argue that he is violating the Discipline.

I'm trying to figure out what would be acceptable. This Sunday I attended a church where the pastor conducted a remembrance of baptism and prayed with "families." At one point, he made an open invitation for friends who care deeply for each other to come up. His address was to a pair of old widows who had bonded since their husband's deaths.

But what if a pair of middle age lesbian women had come forward. If the pastor had prayed over these women that their care for each other be strengthened by God - as well as praying for 75 to 100 other families - would that violate the Discipline?

Would people say that is a violation of the spirit of the polity?

John said...

I'm pretty sure the Rev. Snyder believes he is working within the Discipline.

Some folks are saying he's breaking the spirit of the rules, which seems to concede that he has not broken the letter.

Now, we can argue that it is not good to live in the space between this distinction, but it appears to be a stretch to me to argue that he is violating the Discipline.


I'm curious: would you accept such verbal parsing of the pastoral requirement of celibacy in singleness and fidelity in marriage? What about the prohibition on child abuse?

If a pastor sincerely believes s/he is not violating these regs, would that be enough, in your opinion, for a free pass?

John said...

I'm pretty sure the Rev. Snyder believes he is working within the Discipline.

Some folks are saying he's breaking the spirit of the rules, which seems to concede that he has not broken the letter.

Now, we can argue that it is not good to live in the space between this distinction, but it appears to be a stretch to me to argue that he is violating the Discipline.


What I find absurd about this line of thinking is:

1. That Dean isn't violating the letter of the Discipline by holding gay weddings.

and

2. It would make the slightest bit of difference if he were keeping the letter of the Discipline.

Is that what we want from church leaders -- people who will try to get away with anything that they can?

John said...

Joon wrote:

Isn't The United Methodist Church the church of Open Doors and Open Minds? Does this mean "you're welcome to come in as long as you believe what I believe?"

Where are the limits to this train of thought, Joon? Should we allow pastors to teach do anything in the name of openmindedness?

Earl said...

The advertising phrase "Open doors...minds...hearts" is not a doctrinal statement. The vows of membership clearly summarize what is expected of UMC membership. While we rightly celebrate our diversity. Within our covenant framework we are free to act and believe as we will. Again that is within our covenant framework. It may be that with integrity one may come to that moment when within that framework one can no longer affirm those fundamental tenets that constitute Christian faith. In such a situation it is incumbent upon such a one to step away from what is already a broken covenant. It is illegitimate to expect that others will violate Scripture and conscience to tolerance of that which is contrary to both.

Anonymous said...

Ivan Walters says that I think I've determined the major problem with the United Methodist Order of Elders -- They can't read or understand the English language! When 2702.1b says that a pastor may not conduct"ceremonies which celebrate homosexual union" and Rev. Snyder can't understand or follow such a clear and concise directive, we have a big problem.
What is proposed at Foundry is exactly what was comtemplated as being forbidden by the discipline.
Obviously seminaries need to require more undergraduate English courses.

greg hazelrig said...

I've read this post and the comments. And all I know is that I don't have an adequate solution of how to minister effectively to those I believe are sinning when they believe otherwise. I can say love the sinner and hate the sin all I want. But the fact is still that they don't believe it's a sin. And I wonder if we've made it a bigger issue than God has.

I appreciate the fact that Dean replied. I do think he is sincerely trying to do what God wants him to do. Is he misinterpreting what God is calling him to do? Only God knows for real. But the truth of the matter is that as we preach against sin, we have to figure out a way to show the love of Christ at the same time. I believe it was the mere fact that we couldn't do this that made Dean leave the blogosphere. I know he said that other things got to be more important. But I also remember when he left it was because he was so beaten up that I believe he gave up. Dean, if you read this and I'm wrong, then I apologize.

The question has to be, "how do we rebuke sin in a way that we don't put a wedge between us and the people who are sinning, not forgetting our own plethera of sins as well? I wish I knew. I guess at some point or another we have to just live with people where they are and build a relationship of trust and earn the right to share honest open responses. Oh how I wish we would all invest that kind of time in the lives of those we are trying to minister to.

Just my two cents worth. Sorry so long.

JD said...

(sorry that this is long and sort of wanders, but the overall theme is the UMC doing Christians a dis-service when they not only ignore the BOD, but all of scriture and the balance of love as well as confrontation.)

In the original post that started all this, I wrote:

"As a lay person in the church, I always find it relatively interesting the conversations the ordained and seminarians have about this, about the BOD. Whether changed or not, the bible has already told us the answer to this whole debate."

John replied:
"Heh. Yes, sometimes in seminary I have to remember that quoting Wesley isn't as authoritative a response as quoting the Bible."

But even more perplexing, John, are comments from ordained Elders, like this one from Dean's letter:

"Given my experience in ministry and my biblical and theological understanding, if I were not a United Methodist I would almost surely celebrate or solemnize same-sex unions. But I am a United Methodist. I am a United Methodist for many reasons that I believe to be good reasons. I love our heritage and I love our church. I don't think we are perfect but, thankfully, perfection is not a requirement in order to love or be loved."

I truly understand that the United Methodist church is a church of "Open Minds. Open Hearts. Open Doors.", but that does not preclude us from reminding each of our Christian brothers of their sin.

Paul writes in Galatians 6:1-6,10:

"Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load.

Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor.

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers."


In addressing this specific issue, Paul writes, in 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8:

"It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit."

This goes for all sins of sexual immorality: masturbation, pornography, adultery, homosexuality, bestiality, etc...you get my point. Most denominations today, except for the Catholic church, have adopted this strange stance of being non-confrontation toward sin in each of our lives. For the sake of membership and "self esteem," we focus on the warm fuzzies of Christ, but not the condemnation of habitual sin that, in the grand scheme of things, destroys our relationship with God more than "breaking" the guidelines in the BOD. Habitual sin is an affront the Holy Spirit and to God. This is not about making judgments about a person, or a person's heart, it is about calling all Christians to task about their sin.

Paul writes, in Galatians 5:16-26:
"So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other."


Let us be quite clear, we are called as Christians, and by our church discipline, to understand the following as John states in 1 John 4:20:

"If anyone says, 'I love God,' yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen."

Pointing out sin IS loving your brother and it is foolish for us not to be open and honest with our fellow Christians when we see them walking down a path that they may "think" is right, but in reality truly mocks God and the Holy Spirit. While we may fall from time to time, to consciously behave or live a sinful life is a grievance to the Holy Sprit, an unpardonable sin. For in the end, we as Christians, pastors, seminarians, Methodists, "We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him." 1 John 5:18(NIV)

PAX
JD

Nathan Mattox said...

michael said
God said "no". Do we love Him enough to trust Him in this? Apparently not.

God said "no" to shellfish and ham and later (we believe) said "yes," God said "no" to uncircumcised men and later (we believe) said "yes," Jesus said "no" to divorce, and now that it has become culturally acceptable, we have decreed that "the spirit of the Bible" allows us to err on the side of grace and say "yes."
So, this issue is the one thing in the Bible that is static and permanently prohibited? Jesus doesn't even address it.
Now some may be hearing God saying "yes" on this issue (and hearing the spirit of the scriptures trying to tell us "yes" all along), but many in the community don't believe that is possible. Read the Bible! It's possible! "Do we love God enough to trust him in this?" I hope so.

I observed the Social Concerns committee process at the 04 GC where this issue was in committee. It became apparent to me that until we standardize the committee process, the Spirit's voice will be hampered. What I observed was a committee of about 70 people or more, and when the chair of the committee began taking volunteers for different groups of petitions (all the sexuality petitions were in one grouping) the whole committee clamored to be in that subcommittee. The chair pleaded with everyone to give attention to other petition groupings, and some relented, but the die hards wouldn't budge from the assignment of the "hot button sexuality" petitions, and it still was about 4 times the size of any other "subcommittee" weighing other issues. (Some petition groups had no volunteers, and again the people had to be talked into going through them. I remember one subcommittee consisted of 2 people). I'll never forget the sight of people clamoring to have a seat in the subcommittee so they could register "their" opinion on the issue.

So, our hallowed process of writing the Book of Discipline isn't so Spirit filled anyway in my opinion. Why not draw straws for subcommittees when those situations arise?

From what I've heard of Foundry's proposed service, I don't think it adequately steers clear of "celebrating homosexual unions," but then again I'm jaded by the lack of integrity of the instrument used to judge this action. (the BOD :)) Also, I'm persuaded by Dean's email that the process of developing this service has come out of the discernment and prayerful consideration of that church, not simply an "activist pastor." How do we expect churches to bring the light of Christ to their own contexts and communities if the denomination is constantly closing the door on them?

decaf owl said...

For what it's worth - according to the Washington post, in an
article
on February 15, 2008, Bishop John Schol, of the Baltimore-Washington Conference, said the services do not violate church law.

Gord said...

Here's the thing.

MAny Christians do not find sexual orientation to be a category of sinfulness. Period. End of sentence.

If there is no inherent sinfulness in being gay, straight, bisexual or somewhere inbetween then it is inappropriate for the church to deny blessing of relationships to people based on the gender of the couple involved.

THat is the crux of the matter. YEs, I believe a case can be made that Dean is in violation of UMC polity. BUt we sometimes have to violate polity to get it discussed (in the UCCan that has been a reality around sacraments in some minds). ANd if we find God calling us to a different understanding, and calling the church to a different understanding, then where does faithfulness lie?

John Wilks said...

Gord,

Is that supposed to be a serious argument?

According to some surveys out there, many Christians can't name the four Gospels. More than half think the phrase "God helps those who help themselves" is in the Bible. There are entire groups of Christians who are convinced that Jesus spoke English and that the KJV contains His exact syntax.

Christianity is not a democratic enterprise and Christian doctrine is not based on consensus. Jesus called us sheep for a reason. We depend on God to reveal truth to use because we just flat out miss the mark on our own.

Michael said...

Nathan points out some of the OT/NT conflicts in which what was once prohibited has now been declared ok. Some inconsistencies have specific NT references in which the seeming conflicts are addressed, but there is no such inconsistency with regards to sexual immorality regardless of whether one is referring to homosexuality, beastiality, adultery, fornication, etc. The prohibitions and warnings are all consistent.

To suggest that Jesus "never said" anything with regards to homosexuality, however, is a stretch. It is highly presumptious that every single word ever uttered by Jesus is recorded in the Gospels. These are relatively short accounts of roughly 33 years of life focused predominately on 3 years of ministry. I doubt that every word uttered during these last 3 years alone is recorded.

Then it could be something as simple as being a no-brainer. Man and woman were made to be physically compatible and to procreate. Jesus, assuming that ALL His words were recorded, could simply have figured that Scripture is already clear in this one particular matter.

Greg said it best: advocates refuse to call homosexuality "sinful". With the Bible's plain references, there are other sins we ignore because society has pretty forced the Church into submission. And is this not the entire point of this discussion? Dean may have meant well, but his actions do nothing more than reflect the will of the prevailing culture. The Church has surrendered its rightful claim to moral authority.

One last, quick point: none of this makes any among us perfect. We are all hypocrites to one degree or another, but the Church should stand firm because she is Christ's Holy Church - not ours.

Mark Winter said...

Man and woman were made to be physically compatible and to procreate. Jesus, assuming that ALL His words were recorded, could simply have figured that Scripture is already clear in this one particular matter.

It is clear in scripture (not sure why Gavin said it isn't), and Jesus did say something about human sexuality in Mark 10:6ff.

John said...

Decaf owl: I noticed that. Bishop Schol is wrong.

John B said...

cometothewater said:

This Sunday I attended a church where the pastor conducted a remembrance of baptism and prayed with "families." At one point, he made an open invitation for friends who care deeply for each other to come up. His address was to a pair of old widows who had bonded since their husband's deaths.

But what if a pair of middle age lesbian women had come forward. If the pastor had prayed over these women that their care for each other be strengthened by God - as well as praying for 75 to 100 other families - would that violate the Discipline?


I doubt whether these two dear widowed friends, who are caring for one another, are having sex. Can't believe you don't see the difference in that.

Elizabeth said...

johnb, I think you totally missed cometothewater's point...

what he's asking is: if we're to be in ministry with all people, where's the line? If we can't bless relationships, what kind of blessings can we give to same-sex couples. We can bless friendships, pets, motorcycles, inanimate objects of all kinds, but we can't bless a commitment two people have made to one another. What kind of ministry can we do, then, for same sex couples? Where's the line?

John Wilks said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Wilks said...

elizabeth- there are things we bless and things we don't Certainly there are things your wouldn't bless- like, say, a crack pipe. Certainly there are relationships you wouldn't bless- like, say, an abusive marriage.

There clearly need to be boundaries.

The question is, where should the boundaries be?

We're going to have disagreements about how to answer that question. But in our disagreements, an argument like the one you just made only confuses the issue. I'm sure your heart is in the right place, but that argument is all pathos and no logos.

Michael said...

Elizabeth,

The short answer, according to the Discipline, is that we do nothing for same-sex unions. I think this is abundantly clear. There is too much thought and energy, in my humble opinion, given to how individual pastors can circumvent the Discipline's line and not enough to how we can stand AGAINST the world, not with it. It is, again my opinion, the world demanding the blessing of same-sex unions, not the Lord.

Elizabeth said...

JohnW -

Where the boundaries are is exactly the question I am asking others to respond to. I'm not confusing the issue by asking questions - I'm pointing out that the issue is already not so black and white. Of course there are boundaries. But what are they, where are they? Those are questions to be asked. That's logic, not emotion.

Craig Moore said...

I just decided to hold polymists weddings at my church, if Dean can do his own thing as a UMC, why can't the rest of us? Since the Bible and Discipline is ignored by him and his congregation, can't we follow Dean's rebellion and do what feels right in our own eyes too?

John said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John said...

Craig-

One could argue that the Discipline and the Bible are less certain and clear about polygamy than homosexuality. You'll have to come up with a more extreme analogy to represent the absurdity of UMC pastors performing gay weddings.

John said...

Beth wrote:

what he's asking is: if we're to be in ministry with all people, where's the line? If we can't bless relationships, what kind of blessings can we give to same-sex couples. We can bless friendships, pets, motorcycles, inanimate objects of all kinds, but we can't bless a commitment two people have made to one another. What kind of ministry can we do, then, for same sex couples? Where's the line?

Where do we draw the line? Somewhere above acts explicitly forbidden by the Discipline.

There is a lot of gray area, as you suggest. But this is one of the black and white areas.

decaf owl said...

John:
you said:

Where do we draw the line? Somewhere above acts explicitly forbidden by the Discipline.


Drawing what line for what purpose? If the line is being drawn for the purpose of taking official action agianst someone, charging and bringing them to trial, and punishing them, then the line must be exactly at the point of the acts forbidden by the disciple. This is part of that little thing called "rule of law". Under the rule of law we don't punish someone if what they are doing is not against the (letter of the) law. Under the rule of law someone is free to disobey the spirit of the law as long as they don't cross the line into what is actually forbidden by the law. If the legislature (the GC) feels that this is serious enough to warrent changing the law, they should change it; but until they do, we must officially allow them to do it until the law is changed.

This is why it is important whether or not what he is doing violates the letter of the law or not. It matters to him ("can I be charged?"), to the bishop ("can I charge him?"), the GC ("do we need to change the law?"), and to the rest of us ("is the rule of law important?").

There are reasonable arguments on both sides as to whether these services violate the law as currently written; that question is not nearly as clear as you pretend it to be. But the general principle of the rule of law, and thus the particular question of whether these services do in fact violate the law, is important.

John said...

There are reasonable arguments on both sides as to whether these services violate the law as currently written; that question is not nearly as clear as you pretend it to be. But the general principle of the rule of law, and thus the particular question of whether these services do in fact violate the law, is important.

No. There are no plausible arguments that these ceremonies do not violate the letter of the law. Paragraph 2702 makes that abundantly clear.

Anonymous said...

Wow. What a judgmental and litigious crowd. I'm a member of Dean's church, and our church stands squarely behind him. I find it fascinating that everyone is instantly taking this to the political end of what would happen at General Conference, etc...None of you have stopped to think of the very basic and human side of this, which is that Dean is ministering to his flock. He is not violating the discipline, and this is frankly not a wholy acceptable solution, but this is about serving ALL of the congregation.
You can pontificate all you want about deadlines, church politics and your larger debate...but this is about our minister taking care of our congregation. Thank God for him.