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Last updated March 17.

March 17, 2014 issue

Hearing both sides

By Scott Smith Greensboro, N.C.

Opinion pieces appearing in Mennonite periodicals today include exhortations for patience as the church transitions from believing homosexual intimacy to be a sin to rejecting that belief. As I read I Cor. 5:9-13 I’m not sure Paul would agree with Glenn Balzer’s suggestion that “leaving, or expelling, is the sin that should concern us most” (“Don’t Leave the Table”). But regardless of whether we should take Paul seriously, thus far there have been few, if any, proposals for accommodating both views of homosexuality in the same body. I would like to encourage practical suggestions for ensuring that both sides get heard to see if that is even possible. I’ll start off by suggesting that if congregations or conferences decide homosexual intimacy is not a sin, members with a dissenting viewpoint will be able to periodically announce during services or conferences that it is a sin (of course, other behaviors could also be announced as sins). If unity is going to be our highest priority, we need to start seeing some practical solutions.

Comments

  • Scott, regarding "proposals for accommodating both views of homosexuality in the same body," the proposal that does this best is one that leaves much space for the exercise of pastoral care at the congregational level.

    We've done that with the issues of military service and divorce and co-habitating heterosexuals, for example.

    Of course, we've retained a clear teaching position against each of those practices, even while recognizing the many people who fall short.

    We can do the same with regard to same-sex relationships; indeed, that is probably the only way we can stay together.

    - Berry Friesen (mar 17 at 12:13 p.m.)

  • If unity if going to be the highest priority, Scott’s suggestion that “if congregations or conferences decide homosexual intimacy is not a sin, members with a dissenting viewpoint will be able to periodically announce during services or conferences that it is a sin”.

    That statement, to me, implies that there would not be any strong biblical teachings against homosexual intimacy, just a periodical announcement that it is a sin. Okay…so that’s one option.

    On the same premise that unity is going to be the highest priority, here’s another option that should be considered: If congregations or conferences decide homosexual intimacy is not a sin, preachers and teachers, faithfully preach/teach what God has said in His word about the abominations of homosexual intimacy. Members with a dissenting viewpoint will be able to periodically announce during services or conferences that it is NOT a sin.

    Do you see where this is going? There cannot be unity with darkness and light. Ephesians 5: 5-7 exhorts us: “For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them.

    Rather, we are to walk in the light. As Ephesians 5 continues: “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit[b] is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret.”

    Trying to achieve unity to accommodate sin is like trying to make sense of nonsense and mixing oil and water. Who do we seek to please - man or God?

    - Elaine Fehr (mar 22 at 1:26 p.m.)

  • Oops, sorry, in making some hasty last minute changes, I messed up my last post. This is how is should read:

    This is with reference to Scott’s suggestion that “if congregations or conferences decide homosexual intimacy is not a sin, members with a dissenting viewpoint will be able to periodically announce during services or conferences that it is a sin”.

    That statement, to me, implies that there would not be any strong biblical teachings against homosexual intimacy, just a periodical announcement that it is a sin. Okay…so that’s one option if unity is going to be the highest priority.

    On the same premise that unity is going to be the highest priority, here’s another option that should be considered: If congregations or conferences decide homosexual intimacy is not a sin, preachers and teachers, faithfully preach/teach what God has said in His word about the abominations of homosexual intimacy. Members with a dissenting viewpoint will be able to periodically announce during services or conferences that it is NOT a sin.

    Do you see where this is going? There cannot be unity with darkness and light. Ephesians 5: 5-7 exhorts us: “For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them.

    Rather, we are to walk in the light. As Ephesians 5 continues: “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit[b] is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret.”

    Trying to achieve unity to accommodate sin is like trying to make sense of nonsense and mixing oil and water. Who do we seek to please - man or God?

    - Elaine Fehr (mar 22 at 6:22 p.m.)

  • Elaine, if I might add:

    Who do we believe man or God?

    - Pastor Gary Hill (mar 25 at 3:22 p.m.)

  • Very valid point, Pastor Hill! It seems, unfortunately, that with this issue, man is being believed by many over God.

    - Elaine Fehr (mar 25 at 6:38 p.m.)

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