The debate in the United Methodist Church about homosexuality and whether it is “incompatible with Christian teaching” or if “a self-avowed practicing homosexual” should be ordained has continued for many years. No matter where you stand on these issues, I wholeheartedly recommend listening to the following story from This American Life.
The story is “81 Words: The story of how the American Psychiatric Association decided in 1973 that homosexuality was no longer a mental illness.” This change in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has had ripple effects across American society, including The United Methodist Church.
I very much enjoy the story telling style of This American Life and recommend that you check out more information at http://www.thisamericanlife.org/ You can also subscribe to the podcast directly in iTunes.
A few weeks ago, I made a proposal to make publicly available the documents produced by candidates for ministry in The United Methodist Church. To that end, I have published my Doctrinal Papers in regard to Theology, Vocation and The Practice of Ministry for Admission to Full Connection and Ordination as Elder in the Kansas West Annual Conference. You can find the document online at http://j.mp/5DLk3i. I have licensed my work under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License
I hope that you will take time to read some of my responses and share your opinions, thoughts or feelings in the comments on this post.
I stay in the United Methodist Church because:
- I believe the doctrine and general rules of the UMC are aligned with the scripture and God’s work in the world.
- I have experienced the fruit of the United Methodist way of faith in my own life and witnessed it in the lives of others.
- I believe that the United Methodist Church is on the brink of renewal in the United States and that I am called to be part of that renewal.
- I believe the best years for the United Methodist Church are yet to come.
- I believe that the spiritual DNA of United Methodists is strong and yearning to be loosed for a new generation.
I believe that we are saved by grace through faith and that our works as Christians come as a natural result of our faith being lived in our daily interactions. I recently read Of Justification by Faith and Works by William Law and was challenged to think harder about the relationship between faith and works.
Of Justification by Faith and Works: A Dialogue between a Methodist and a Churchman was written by William Law in 1760. You can find the complete text at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library with this link. Law’s best known work is A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, which was a deep influence on John Wesley and others in the Evangelical revival. (Wikipedia contributors, “William Law,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=William_Law&oldid=227402439 (accessed August 11, 2008).
Of Justification by Faith and Works is written in a dialogue format with a Methodist providing questions and a churchman replying with lengthy responses. The content is primarily around the relationship of faith and works in the doctrine of salvation. The Methodist accuses the churchman of preaching “soul-destroying doctrine” of “salvation partly by faith, and partly by works; or justification by faith and works.” The churchman uses several lines of thought in response to the Methodist including:
- Faith is the whole gospel system, including the call to works.
- “It is true of the savior to say, that he is freely given of God, to be the savior of all men; but it is not true to say of salvation, that it is freely given to all men.”
- Repentance and faith are works.
- Christ’s work within us allow us to do any good works at all.
I appreciated the dialogue in which Law chose to write this content. It helped provide a small but important counterpoint to the assertions that he was making. This technique also increased the effetiveness of his argument. In the end, I disagree with several of the conclusions that Law draws in this dialogue, but it made me think harder about justification, faith and works than I have in a long time. I recommend this text to someone interested in thinking seriously about justification and how it relates to faith and / or works. Be prepared for theological engagement and english from the 18th century.