By the Rev. Carol Cannon
ORANGEBURG—St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church had a successful four-week study on The United Methodist Church and human sexuality during the month of April.
We used the book “Living Faithfully: Human Sexuality and the United Methodist Church,” published by Cokesbury in 2017. One strong attribute of the book is that it gives a balanced presentation of both the traditionalist and the progressive viewpoints on the matters of the practice of homosexuality, same-sex marriage and ordination of practicing homosexuals.
Our purpose was three-fold. Our first purpose was to build trust and relationships among the members of the church around the issues of human sexuality, particularly homosexuality. We were aware that there are differences of opinions among members of the congregation on this matter, and we wanted people to talk with each other, not at or about each other.
Second, we wanted to look at the current stance of the UMC on these matters.
Third, we wanted to explore the work of the Commission on a Way Forward and how its recommendations might affect our congregation.
Several elements contributed to the success of the study. First was the participants’ openness to engage the material, each other and the Holy Spirit. Each person came to participate and learn, not simply to observe or to argue their own viewpoint. Second, each small group was mixed by age, gender, Sunday school class and perspective (traditionalist/progressive). This was done to ensure diverse perspectives were presented at each table.
Third, we used the Wesleyan quadrilateral as a tool to explore the controversy over the statement in The Book of Discipline that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” Participants discovered that both traditionalists and progressives use Scripture, tradition, reason and experience to support their very different points of view. They looked at how supporters of each perspective made their cases using these elements of the Wesleyan quadrilateral. This process helped people look carefully at both viewpoints and helped them to understand and respect viewpoints other than their own.
Fourth, we showed a video (vimeo.com/217081225) by Tom Berlin, a member of the Commission on a Way Forward. In this video, Berlin discusses four perspectives among United Methodists in the United States surrounding the issue of homosexuality using the terms traditionalist, progressive, compatiblist and non-compatiblist. This video proved very helpful. It helped people understand both the One Church Plan and the Connectional Conference Plan from the Commission on a Way Forward and the Council of Bishops.
The participants appreciated the study and found they benefited from it both as a group and individually. They discovered new things about themselves and each other.
For more information on the study, particularly the Wesleyan Quadrilateral exercise, feel free to contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org or 803-534-6636.
Cannon is pastor with her husband, Robert, of St. Andrew’s UMC.