HUMAN SEXUALITY – BOARD OF BISHOPS
THE FREE METHODIST CHURCH ON HUMAN SEXUALITY
Board of Bishops
Free Methodist Church-USA
The position of the Free Methodist Church (FMC) is clear and straightforward. We embrace the Bible’s portrayal of marriage as depicted in Genesis, and affirmed throughout the Scriptures. The plan of God from the beginning provides for the heterosexual union of a man and a woman in a bond of life-long covenant faithfulness.
In our Membership Covenant, members of the FMC commit to honor and support God-ordained institutions, among which are marriage and family. The “marriage” cited here reflects that found in our Scriptures (Par. 159, p. 22, 2015 Book of Discipline).
Our understanding and commitments are further elaborated in chapter three of 2015 Book of Discipline (Paragraph 3311.A, pp. 53-54). Several comments in relation to these teachings seem appropriate.
As we are all aware, the Bible’s view of normative sexuality now conflicts openly and directly with the prevailing norms of our culture. Over the last years, the President of the United States changed his mind on same-sex marriage, the Legislatures of many states change their laws, and the Supreme Court ruled that marriage between same-sex couples is legal. Behind these recent shifts stands the assumption that sexual identity, practice and lifestyle now rise to the level of human rights and equal justice.
Along the way, the FMC, not least the Board of Bishops (BoB), has responded consistently in affirming continuing commitment to our Scriptures both on matters of sexuality per se and on our mission in the world God loves and redeems. In relation to these, we offer several orienting comments, a number of resources now available to the church, and note plans for missional responses going forward.
Until relatively recently the church everywhere has understood the Scriptures to speak clearly and consistently, as with one voice, on matters of sexuality. The teachings of the Church across the millennia and around the world have supported this understanding. Even today this view remains unquestioned virtually everywhere except in our part of the world. The global church today, especially in areas where it is undoubtedly the most dynamic and productive, holds to the traditional biblical view.
What accounts for the shift of understanding in our part of the world? It is the culture around the church, to which many churches have now conformed. To be sure, this conformity often traces to an effort to offer pastoral sympathy and ministry to persons with same-sex attraction, orientation and identity. We applaud and share profound pastoral concern but cannot on that basis alter what seems clear in the Scriptures.
In a recently published volume, Homosexuality, the Bible and the Church, edited by Preston Sprinkle, two views affirming same-sex relationships and two views affirming the traditional view are put forward and elaborated. William Loader presents one of the positions that affirms same-sex marriage which, he argues, should now be seen as potentially compatible with faithful following after Jesus. Loader acknowledges that the Scriptures are clear and unified in their negative review of same-sex relationships, and that attempts to reinterpret the biblical materials are not convincing. He contends, however, that we know more than the biblical writers did about sexuality in general and the experiences of persons with same sex attraction, orientation and identity. If those writers and if Jesus knew what we now know, he argues, they would have adjusted their understanding and affirmed the legitimacy of faithful same-sex marriage. Thus, he concludes, on the basis of more “light” it is proper to set aside this teaching of the Bible. This appears to be an honest and transparent line of argument, but it represents a kind of departure from the biblical story that we cannot make as a church committed to the Scriptures that God has inspired and preserved for our understanding and living.
Here is a final and critical orienting observation. The same Bible that reveals God’s plan for human sexuality, also reveals God’s plan and mission to redeem the world and all its people, however they may live counter to God’s intentions. Thus, we will pursue our mission to all persons, not least to, with and for those whose lives reflect different understandings and practices sexually.
Resources Supporting the Church’s Missional Response
From the Board of Bishops
- “Redefining Marriage,” David Kendall
- “Framing a Missional Response,” David Kendall
- “The Free Methodist Church’s Response to Sexuality and Sexual Orientation,” Matthew Thomas
- “An Exegetical Framework for Romans 1:18-32: The Devolution/Decomposition of Human Persons, Relationships, Sexuality, and Culture,” David Kendall, Available for E-3 Conferences and on line.From the Study Commission on Doctrine
- “Homosexuality According to the Bible …,” David R. Baur
- “Homosexuality and the Church Historic,” Bruce N.G. Cromwell
- “God’s Love Expressed and Experienced: An application of Experience and Reason in Caring for Persons with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Orientations and their Families,“ Denny Wayman
- “Sexual Issues: A Pastoral Response,” Denny Wayman
- Plans for the Future
- The Board of Bishops and other leaders of the church will continue to make appropriate and timely responses that are true to our biblical and missional commitments.
- The Study Commission on Doctrine will continue to provide additional resources in support of the church’s mission, including:
- Guidance on responding to Transgendered persons, completed but not yet posted.
- Teaching on spiritual friendship and singleness.
- We will identify or develop age-appropriate curricula for holistic sex education for ourmembers and pastoral leaders.
- We will seek and share insight and counsel from social and psychological experts from within and beyond the FMC.
- We will share stories and practices from our best pastoral practitioners in mission to LGBT persons. We will do this by compiling a directory of practitioners both those with expertise in sociology and psychology as well as proven to be wise and fruitful pastoral responders to the realities of sexual sin and sinners in our culture.