A case study of the debate on homosexuality within the United Methodist Church
Joaquim, Neusa Marta Pedro
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Of all the Christian denominations in the United States, the United Methodist Church (UMC) is one of three probably experiencing the greatest amount of conflict over the rights of its members who practice homosexuality. History shows that United Methodists have always maintained a great diversity of opinion on many matters within the Church. Having dealt with its racist and sexist policies in the past, the UMC is now tackling its homophobic beliefs. Scripture, tradition, experience, and reason have been used as tools to deal with this debate, which has become one of the most divisive in the church and society. At present, there are two main positions concerning the debate on homosexuality in the UMC: the rejecting and accepting positions. Although the UMC - as set forth in its book of discipline - finds the practice of homosexuality incompatible with Christian teaching, its debate on homosexuality seems far from over. First, there is a majority conviction supporting the current position of the church. Second, there is a steadily growing minority conviction that maintains that the responsible practice of homosexuality should be accepted and homosexuals should enter into full membership with the church. Third, the UMC upholds basic human and civil rights. Nonetheless, gays and lesbians are not ordained into the ministry. Fourth, the UMC acknowledges that our human understanding of human sexuality is limited and a combined effort with other sciences will help us understand human sexuality more completely. One can see the church’s struggle in search for a Christian sexual ethic. It seems difficult to foresee any form of consensus that could bridge the big differences of opinion and conviction behind the two camps in the struggle: "rejection" of homosexuality (non-punitive) and "full acceptance". They simply do not seem to be compatible, rationally and ethically. It is the task of this mini-thesis to explore the United Methodist Church's struggle in the search for ethical discernment on homosexuality.