In A Mirror Dimly-Response to a Series by Bishop Michael Lowry-Part 3

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May 052016
This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series Response to Lecture Series by Bishop J. Michael Lowry

United Methodist Bishop, J. Michael Lowry of the Central Texas Conference, recently addressed a gathering of the United Methodist Scholars for Christian Orthodoxy Conference at Armstrong Chapel United Methodist Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. He has put his address, “In a Mirror Dimly”: The Future of the United Methodist Church”© on his website  as a four-part posting.

Bishop J. Michael Lowry, Central Texas Conference, United Methodist Church

Bishop J. Michael Lowry, Central Texas Conference, United Methodist Church

Bishop Lowry seems to argue that the Methodist Church should (or at least, likely will) split over the issue of the inclusion of LGBT people. As you might guess, given that he’s speaking to people who claim to be “orthodox,” that he is, as southerners might say, “agin it.” And of course, that would mean that, while I don’t disagree a split may happen, I don’t agree with his position on the topic at hand.

Part 3 – Deeper Reflections & Observations in a Fog

Now Bishop Lowry begins to come out into the open about where he is in all this. In the opening paragraph in this part, he says, “First, whatever your position on same-gender marriage & ordination, a decision should not be made on the grounds of losing or gaining members! I cannot say this strongly enough.” (Emphasis Lowry’s) I think we are both in agreement on this point, but our motivations differ. Continue reading »

A Discussions of Pauls Letter to the Romans as Concerns Homosexuality

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Jun 252010

This is being written as a comment to post at The Cloak Room in response to a commenter there.

So, what is going on and who is being spoken to and about in Romans 1?  The book was written as a letter by Paul somewhere between 54 to 58 AD while he was living in Corinth. It was carried by Priscilla  to the church in Rome; Paul would not even visit Rome himself for another five years. The letter was written about twenty five years after the death of Jesus.  Amongst the one million people in Rome were: Jews, Jews who had converted to Christianity and Gentiles who had converted to Christianity.  Jerusalem was about 1,500 miles away, a fair distance for a church plant.

It is believed that both Jews and converted Jews were meeting in the same synagogues and competing for voice and space in the time following the death of Christ. They were arguing and fighting (just as they did back in Jerusalem.)  Discussions  and tensions over  observances of the Law, what to eat, what not to eat and controversy over inclusion of Gentiles escalated to great distur-bances amongst the Jews and Jewish Christians. The on-going fighting resulted in the issuance of the Claudian Edict of 49 AD. Jews, converted Jewish Christians and Gentiles “that lived as Jewish Christians ” were expelled from Rome. This left behind the Gentile converts that were meeting in house churches. The remnant was the weakest of the believers. These were the ones who remained in Rome. These were the ones spoken to and of in Romans 1:18-32.

So imagine, both your family and the ancestors before you had participated in idolatry and god worship and you have now converted to this  religion of one God with all new ways of approaching Him.  Your spiritual leaders had been evicted from the city and  you had been trying to live out this one-God faith in the midst of many-gods Rome. It would be easy to slip back into the old ways?

Traditional worship and cultural behaviors in Rome clashed with the expectations  of the believers in the newly introduced Christianity. Romans deified more than 20 types of gods, goddesses and spirits. They worshiped natural things-animals and trees, gods and godesses, State leaders and they were tolerant of other cultural influences from Greek and Egyptian spiritual practices. Idolatry, indecency and other acts socially unacceptable to a Jew were common within the Roman society.

Verse 26 we quote as condemnation on lesbians. But is it? The people being spoken to and about had known God; they were without excuse, they had experienced conversion. Now, they were worshiping nature, natural things and the gods of the State again. They were involved (again) in idol worship and some of it had sexual expressions. They also participated in culturally acceptable practices to  a Roman, but, not to a Jewish Christian. It was what they had known before. They lacked the modeling and support of the converted Jews and the stronger Gentile Christians who had  been evicted.

Because of  this, God gave them over to their own desires. What is the “this“? What were they doing that forced a Holy God to let go of them?  They had turned from God, having known Him, and returned to their idolatrous worship. Because they had known God and turned their back on Him and returned to pagan worship, God let them  go.

And what kinds of actions were they doing once they turned back to their old ways?  The Word says women had exchanged the natural use of their body for an unnatural use. Please look at the verse for yourself. Does it say women were having sex with women?  It could mean that, but it simply says  women were doing something unnatural with their bodies. Remember this was Paul writing and it is his view as a Jewish convert as to what is unnatural or beyond the ordinary. It could have been sex with other women, sex during menstruation,  oral sex or sex with an uncircumcised man. Any or all of those. All of these behaviors were “unnatural” to a Jewish Christian.

Maybe you still dont’ get that the crux of the sentencing that follows  is turning from God after professing  Him. If we reduce the verses to what the traditional view is, let’s look at the words and see if just the actions of men having sex with men, or women having sex with women is enough to garner God’s eternal damnation. Some Bibles will translate “shameful lusts” as “vile affections” and that does sound bad. You can only get a better concept of this by looking at original language and not translations. “Vile” comes from the Greek word  “atimai” which means infamy, indignity, dishonor, reproach and shame and we further see that it is subjective. That seems interesting, why is that subjective?     Continue reading »

Sep 012008

I am a huge fan of Lewis Black. His stand-up routines and commentaries on the Daily Show almost always evoke a laugh-out-loud reaction from me. One night last week I watched, for a second time, a Comedy Central showing of Black on stage in Washington, D.C. In response to Bush’s comments about Evolution that, “the jury is still out,” Black does a routine about the Old Testament. As is always the case with the best comedy, it made me think about me think about things from a different perspective…about how we Christians use the Old Testament to discriminate against gay people.

Black talks about the first books of the Bible being the book of his people, the Jewish people. He proceeds to make fun of Christians deciding the Old Testament wasn’t good enough, and having to come up with our own book…calling ours “New,” and his “Old.” It really gets funny when he talks about how, despite having to have our own book, Black says, “Yet every Sunday I turn on the TV set, and there’s a priest or pastor reading from my book, and interpreting it. And their interpretations, I have to tell you, are usually wrong. It’s not their fault, ’cause it’s not their book. You never see a Rabbi on TV interpreting the New Testament…do you?”

He notes that if there’s something about the Old Testament we don’t understand, there are Jews who walk among us we can ask. Now Black is making a point about the Creation story, but I find his logic applicable to other areas, such as the religious conservative view of homosexuality. Remember that most of the scripture cited by the krazy kristian kooks to justify their bigotry against gay people comes from the Old Testament. Of course, for the most part, the books of the Christian Old Testament constitute the Jewish Torah.

Black is correct that this is “his book,” and, while I understand there are very conservative orthodox Jews who also believe homosexuality is wrong, all the Jewish people I know have no problem at all with homosexuality. Funny, isn’t it, that most of the passages used to endorse homophobia come from the Old Testament, but the Jewish people…the people of “the Old Testament”…are the ones that seem to have the least aversion to homosexuals. Maybe we Christians should take Black’s advice to seek out the Jews among us, and have them interpret the Old Testament for us.

Jun 242008

I have prepared a resolution on social justice to be introduced at the next meeting of the Administrative Board of Palma Ceia United Methodist Church here in Tampa. It will create an inclusive statement of non-discrimination. However, it goes a bit further. In an on-line conversation I had with a new acquaintance, he made a statement that caught my interest. He said, “People don’t have to pay a price for discrimination against gay people.” I believe this is a true statement. You can’t really change how people feel, but you can change how they behave in public through laws and through action. People who make racists statements pay a price. If they are business owner, they may be boycotted by people who don’t beleive in racism. At work, they may be ostricized, and it can affect their potential opportunities. But for the most part, people don’t pay a price for discriminating against homosexuals. My resolution requires the church to put its money where its mouth is.

I decided that a statement saying we won’t discriminate would be a nice feel good thing, but this resolution goes further and requires that we provide support of time, resources, money and facilities, only to other organizations that have a comparable statement of non-discrimination. I think this makes it a stronger resolution because it calls for a form of direct action on our part.

TITLE: A Statement of Commitment to Justice for All People and a Call to Action for Palma Ceia United Methodist Church

SUBJECT: Equal Opportunity for all persons

REFERENCES: United Methodist Church Book of Discipline ¶161 and ¶162


FINANCIAL IMPLICATIONS: There are no direct financial implications arising to Palma Ceia United Methodist Church associated with this resolution.

Inasmuch as Palma Ceia United Methodist Church has always been a church providing open hearts, open minds and open doors, it is appropriate that Palma Ceia United Methodist Church adopt a public statement of that commitment consistent with Biblical teaching and the Discipline of the United Methodist Church. This includes a call to action to put into practice our belief that people are free and secure only when all of society creates a social climate which believes in equal protection of and equal opportunity for all people. Especially as Methodists, “We believe we have a responsibility to innovate, sponsor, and evaluate new forms of community that will encourage development of the fullest potential in individuals…” ((United Methodist Church Book of Discipline ¶161)) As Plato said, “Justice will only exist where those not affected by injustice are filled with the same amount of indignation as those affected.”

Whereas, Christians have been called from the earliest days of Old Testament teaching to be Just to all, as in Micah 6:8 when the Prophet tells the people, “He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?,” and;

Whereas, the Father of Methodism, John Wesley, wrote in his, “Explanatory Notes on The Bible,” for this verse, “He – God hath already told you in his word, with what you ought to come before him. To do justly – To render to every one their due, superiors, equals, inferiors, to be equal to all, and oppress none, in body, goods or name; in all your dealings with men carry a chancery in your own breasts, and do according to equity. To love mercy – To be kind, merciful and compassionate to all, not using severity towards any. Walk humbly with thy God – Keep up a constant fellowship with God, by humble, holy faith,” and;

Whereas, as described in John Gill’s Exposition of The Entire Bible, “to do justice” or “judgment”; means to exercise public judgment and justice, as a king, among his subjects; to do private and personal justice between man and man; to hurt no man’s person, property, and character, and;

Whereas, Justice is doing what is right. It is living by the Golden Rule and making decisions that are good for everyone. It is building relationships in the marketplace, the neighborhood or the family upon goodness, truth, mercy and compassion. It is living above the culture’s values. Justice is the recognition, according to Tom Ehrich, that life matters, how we treat others matters and the choices we make here and now matter. Our decisions reveal our character and make the world better or worse. Pursuing justice makes it better, and;

Whereas, Justice is also making sure that everyone has a seat at the table, a tenant of Methodism from its earliest roots as the first item of the 1908 Social Creed of the Methodist Episcopal Church says, “For equal rights and complete justice for all men in all stations of life,” and;      Continue reading »

Fighting Gays and Abortion More Important Than Saving the World

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Mar 072007

You heard right. Apparently conversative Christian leaders are mad at the Government Affairs guy for the National Association of Evangelicals (yep, the one Ted Haggard used to head). They seem to think fighting against equal rights for gay people and opposing abortion are more important than saving the world from blowing itself up. From NY Times

Leaders of several conservative Christian groups have sent a letter urging the National Association of Evangelicals to force its policy director in Washington to stop speaking out on global warming.The conservative leaders say they are not convinced that global warming is human-induced or that human intervention can prevent it. And they accuse the director, the Rev. Richard Cizik, the association’s vice president for government affairs, of diverting the evangelical movement from what they deem more important issues, like abortion and homosexuality.

The letter underlines a struggle between established conservative Christian leaders, whose priority has long been sexual morality, and challengers who are pushing to expand the evangelical movement’s agenda to include issues like climate change and human rights.

“We have observed,” the letter says, “that Cizik and others are using the global warming controversy to shift the emphasis away from the great moral issues of our time.”

Those issues, the signers say, are a need to campaign against abortion and same-sex marriage and to promote “the teaching of sexual abstinence and morality to our children.”

The letter, dated Thursday, is signed by leaders like James C. Dobson, chairman of Focus on the Family; Gary L. Bauer, once a Republican presidential candidate and now president of Coalitions for America; Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council; and Paul Weyrich, a longtime political strategist who is chairman of American Values.

They acknowledge in the letter that none of their groups belong to the National Association of Evangelicals, a broad coalition that represents 30 million Christians in hundreds of denominations, organizations and academic institutions. But, they say, if Mr. Cizik “cannot be trusted to articulate the views of American evangelicals,” then he should be encouraged to resign.

Mr. Cizik (pronounced SIZE-ik) did not respond to requests for an interview yesterday, and the association’s chairman, L. Roy Taylor, was unavailable. But the Rev. Leith Anderson, president of the association, said, “We’re talking about somebody here who’s been in Washington for 25 years, has an amazing track record and is highly respected.”  Continue reading »

Dobson Says More Gay Congressmen to be Outed

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Oct 182006

And who would know better than the expert on all things gay, James Dobson. [From Ethics Daily]

Dobson said a congressman has told him that several other gay Republicans will be “outed” in coming days. He said he doesn’t know who they are, but, “They say it is going to be worse than anything that has happened so far.”

“They are dribbling this bad news out so eventually the values voters will get to the point so they will say a pox on both your houses; I’m staying home,” Dobson said. “Folks you cannot afford to do that.”

So let’s get this straight: Dobson wants his followers, the “values voters,” to not be deterred by news of closeted homosexuality in the GOP. Isn’t opposing homosexuality a core issue that defines them as “values voters?” Sounds like a mixed signal to us. Especially when the GOP leadership are apparently drunk on the liberal Molotov cocktail known as “Tolerance And Diversity” and are guilty of “shielding” GOP Congressman from being outed.

As Defcon has been reporting, Dobson’s words were reported from a “Justice Sunday” event to a crowd that was “substantially smaller than a ‘Justice Sunday’ event held two years ago in the same church.” His get out the vote tour is tanking.