25 July 2008

1993 Resolutions on Human Sexuality

I have just received some summary documents from The Annual Conference of The British Methodist Church. I note that one of the resolutions we passed was
'...the need to transcend the common habit of discussing the 1993 Resolutions as if they were solely about homosexuality.'
This got me wondering how many Methodists have actually read the resolutions? Because homosexuality isn't really their main focus. They are - as the title suggests - about human sexuality.  

Here is a link to the resolutions on the official Methodist Website:
Human Sexuality The page also includes a bit of further discussion and some links.

As I understand the 'debate' about reviewing these resolutions within our denomination, there are people on 'both sides' of the homosexuality issue who want the possibility of individual interpretation closed on the matter of homosexual acts. Some want a clear condemnation of all homosexual acts. Others want a clear permission to bless Civil Partnerships in church.

Why were these resolutions not reviewed?  I was present at Conference when the possible review of the resolutions was discussed. Conference had asked for written responses from the Methodist people and the response was huge by normal standards.  I don't remember the exact number, but David Gamble said that on most consultations if they received 5 responses from churches or Methodist members, this could be considered 'a deluge of opinion'. There were apparently hundreds of responses to the consultation request on Human Sexuality ('Pilgrimage of Faith') and the results indicated that views were about equally divided on both sides of the homosexuality issue.  Results also indicated that most respondents did not want to review the Resolutions.

In light of what is happening at Lambeth, our decision not to review might seem contentious, but it didn't seem that way at the time at Conference.  The mind of Conference seemed to be that the most preferable solution was to hold Methodism together.  

I agree with this decision because I believe that the ability to live peaceably with those with whom we don't agree is actually a more important issue of discipleship and behaviour than the sexual activity (or not) of members.  Sex is, of course - er - a 'sexier' topic than reconciliation and being able to get along with each other.  Of course, as human beings, we resist being disciplined for the sin of refusal to reconcile because we all want to save other people from themselves.  And we all commit the sin of non-reconciliation.  

(And before anyone asks, yes, this does mean that I hold myself accountable for civil interaction with people with whom I disagree.)


Anonymous said...

Sex is, of course - er - a 'sexier' topic than reconciliation and being able to get along with each other.


At the defense of my thesis (about the Eucharist) it was put to me that being able to get along with each other (i.e. ecumenicsm) doesn't work (for long) if we don't iron out the deeper issues. What's your view on that Pam.

PamBG said...

Lorna, I agree with 'ironing out the deeper issues', but that requires of different views sitting down and talking to each other.

I think that 'Sitting down and talking to each other' is a completely different thing than the British Methodist Church deciding at conference that it's going to either condemn homosexual acts or support Civil Partnerships.

I expect the talking will be/would be painful. It seems that it would take a long time for the entire denomination to speak to itself. I don't see the point of jumping one way or another now.

Although I have to admit that when people are shouting at me there is a great temptation to say 'Let's split so I can stop having to try to be nice to people who apparently hate me because of my views.' I'm not sure that's a very Christian impulse, though.

Rev Tony B said...

Lorna, the problem is in defining the deeper issues. I have often been told I can't be a Christian because I don't share a given view of biblical inspiration or the timetable of the second coming. Which of course is utter rot, and a sectarianism of the same kind as that of the caricature of the Pharisees in the Gospels. I generally work back to the first creed, which was "Jesus is Lord." That is the fundamental "deeper issue" - yes, it opens up a lot of questions, but that is what Lord Soper used to describe as 'the fellowship of controversy.'

In the context of the eucharist, I would quite happily share communion with a Roman Catholic; we would utterly disagree on how it works, but we would both agree that in that celebration we encounter Christ. "Jesus is Lord." The fact that most RCs won't share communion with me is their problem, but that makes it my problem, because they are part of my family in God.

In the context of sexuality, I do not understand why homosexuals are homosexuals. Neither does anyone else. It's a given. So when I meet homosexual Christians, I have to accept them as I do heterosexual Christians, with love and pastoral care. That is an issue of varying degrees of discomfort for me and most of the Methodists I know. But if we allow that to be a source of schism, we've done far more damage to the witness of the faith than doctrinal and ethical purity can ever repair or repay.

I was a Conference rep in 1993. I was in that debate. And I felt that the whole move of the Spirit in that group was to find the way to stay together rather than split. I still think that is God's leading.

PamBG said...

Tony, thanks for your perspective as a Conference rep in 1993. I've heard similar things said from other people who were there. I remember a conversation in my 'sending circuit' by two people from opposite opinions on homosexuality. They both said they felt that the discussions had reached a 'holy place' (my paraphrase)