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FIRST-PERSON: Homosexuality & the United Methodist Church

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–In Bothell, Wash., a United Methodist pastor has been acquitted of charges that she violated church law by living as a homosexual while serving in her role.

Karen Dammann was on leave as pastor of First United Methodist Church in Ellensburg, 95 miles east of Seattle. She and her partner of nine years were among hundreds of couples illegally “married” in Portland, Ore., earlier this month.

UMC law prohibits the ordination of self-avowed, practicing homosexuals. A jury of 13 pastors, however, managed to rationalize their way to the conclusion that Dammann was not guilty of violating the law. Her church lawyer, Robert Ward, had asked the jury to ignore church rules and “do what is right.”

His reasoning? “We need to be careful about creating rules that exclude people.”

Such is the upside-down thinking of our lost society, including many church members: “Excluding people” is the sin; homosexuality is just how someone feels.

And in this society, nothing trumps feelings. Not just anyone’s feelings, of course. My feelings. Not yours or anyone else’s. Just mine. It’s irrelevant that the UMC’s church law actually reflects God’s opinion about homosexuality. What matters is how Dammann feels.

One press report quoted Dammann as saying, “God called me into ordained ministry, and I just can’t believe that God makes a mistake.”

She’s half right. God doesn’t make mistakes. But if we base truth on our feelings, people often do.

Ms. Dammann has a feeling that she interprets as God’s call into ordained ministry. She also feels sexually attracted to people of the same sex. In her mind, she is, therefore, a homosexual minister.

The problem is that people have all kinds of feelings. Some of them are high-minded, like a desire to serve in pastoral ministry. Others are subhuman, like a rage that drives someone to rape or murder.

Dammann and her lawyer argued that she ought to be free to draw a paycheck from the United Methodist Church because she feels a call to ministry. But prisons are full of men who did nothing more than act on their feelings. If her feelings matter more than the rules, why don’t theirs?

Dammann’s opinion — shared by many these days — is that “excluding people” is wrong. But she can’t give a reason for why it’s wrong other than her own feelings.

You see, people who define truth by what they feel also reject the idea that there are any absolute truths against which our feelings are measured. Truth for them is what seems true to each individual. All of us, they say, have to discover what is true for ourselves.

But if truth is personal opinion, why would one person’s opinion be any better than another’s? Ms. Dammann has her opinion, but Methodist church law reflects another opinion. Why should the one opinion be changed just to suit her?

A society must have a standard by which everyone’s feelings and opinions are judged. Otherwise, everyone just does “what is right in his own eyes,” and no one has the right to tell anyone else that his opinions and feelings are wrong — no matter how foul they are.

Unfortunately, that means having rules. And having rules means some people’s feelings and opinions are “excluded.” So you need to have a really good reason for the rules you choose to live by.

The UMC rule against homosexual ministers is based on Scripture — the only place people can turn for a reliable word about what is right and wrong. That’s because Scripture is not just a collection of various people’s opinions; it’s the collected wisdom that Creator God has chosen to give us.

The reason Ms. Dammann can’t explain why it’s wrong for UMC law to “exclude” homosexuals from clergy roles is that she doesn’t accept any truth higher than her own feelings and opinion. UMC law — and God’s own Word, for that matter — are irrelevant to her.

Those 13 Methodist jurors held the course of a denomination in their hands. They could have upheld a rule based on the Creator’s intention, but they chose to push open a door for chaos in the United Methodist Church.

If a Scripture-based rule against homosexual clergy can’t be upheld, why would anything else be off limits?
Mark Kelly is the author of “Proof Beyond Reasonable Doubt: Why Christian truth is the only hope for just, free society,” available only at http://kainospress.com.

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  • Mark Kelly