Sermon Excerpts Regarding Faith and Human Sexuality
John Wilkinson, Pastor
Third Presbyterian Church, Rochester, NY
March 3, 2019 (Transfiguration)
I have been thinking about our friends in the United Methodist Church a great deal this week, as well as our friends in the Roman Catholic Church, and, more remotely, the Southern Baptist Convention, a confluence of news about church leadership and power and human sexuality.
My grandfather, my dad’s dad, was a Methodist until my grandmother won the coin flip at the wedding. My in-laws were United Methodist missionaries. One of my degrees is shared with two historically Methodist institutions. Some of my best friends are Methodist!
I have been thinking about them this week as their General Conference voted to extend prohibitions on LGBTQ ministerial service and marriage equality. I wasn’t going to say much. To put it crassly, it’s none of my church business. We Presbyterians took a very long time to get where we got, and where we are now is far from perfect. And even then, where we got took a toll, a significant toll, churches departing on one end of the spectrum and countless Presbyterians leaving across the years because their conscience would not allow them to stay. Or, staying, deeply closeted, hiding that very core part of who they were in order to serve, in order to persist.
Commentary is all over the place, even within the portion of the church world that disagrees with the decision. Should people stay? Should they go? What will the future look like? I have no wisdom to offer, except to reach out, as I have, either personally or on your behalf, to affected partners.
I always chose to stay, as did the churches I was privileged to serve, and never once considered leaving, or withholding, a theological commitment to unity and a political commitment to change within, and also because my own ordination was never threatened. Others chose to leave, sadly, sad for their own sense of being rejected by the church they loved and sad for the church’s loss of gifted leadership. We pray for the United Methodist Church without hoping to meddle, or condescend.
I was talking to a friend on Friday. He had been a Presbyterian minister, and a good one. He was outed, and then decided to set aside his ordination – a true act of integrity and courage. Later, when we changed our minds, he began the ordination process again, and is now serving, faithfully and well, in a congregation. Think about that story, and his journey, and those of so many others.
Every so often I am reminded that it’s good to re-articulate things, so here goes. Once you believe that people are, in the timeless words of Oscar-winner Lady Gaga, “born this way,” and once you decide that same-gender intimacy is no more or no less sinful than opposite-gender intimacy, and once you believe in baptism, and once you believe that the Holy Spirit calls who the Holy Spirit will call, then the rest is pretty clear, or so it seems to me. That’s not in spite of the Bible but because of it; it’s not a rejection of our tradition but an affirmation of it; it’s not an accommodation to the culture, but a transformation of it.