By Bill Shelton
MARYVILLE, Tenn. (March 6, 2018) – A few weeks ago, I was contacted by a reporter from The Daily Times. She was writing a story about a couple who said they had been denied membership by a nondenominational congregation in our area. I sent her an email with information in response to questions on how the United Methodist Church and St. John United Methodist Church would have handled a situation like the one that occurred at Faith Promise Church.
The story, “Broken Promise: Couple told they can’t be members of church because of sexual orientation,” was published Feb. 28. Unfortunately, the reporter only quoted a small portion of my email, which led to the article giving an incomplete and distorted picture of United Methodist Church doctrine and how St. John seeks to operate and live within the framework of all that doctrine.
Here is the information that I emailed to The Daily Times prior to the reporting of the story:
The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.
Although all persons are sexual beings whether or not they are married, sexual relations are affirmed only with the covenant of monogamous, heterosexual marriage.
The church states elsewhere that marriage should only be between a woman and a man. It forbids the performance of same-gender unions in the denomination’s sanctuaries and by its clergy in any setting.
It is also acknowledges that "every person is of sacred worth,” and also, the following:
We affirm that God’s grace is available to all. We will seek to live together in Christian community, welcoming, forgiving and loving one another, as Christ has loved and accepted us. We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons.
At St. John United Methodist Church, we seek to operate and live within all of this doctrine. In an effort to be open and honest, I would share the UMC doctrine upfront with people who have shared with me that they are gay.
So everyone is welcome at St. John -- welcome to take part in church worship services, events, activities, ministries, and missions. As far as teaching is concerned, the issue would be that everyone is asked to teach in a way that is consistent with scripture and with our United Methodist doctrine. Thus, if someone doesn’t agree or comply with scripture and church doctrine, in any area of life, they would not be able to teach.
We certainly acknowledge that there is much difference of opinion on this issue. Rather than avoid the issue, we seek to engage all people, without excluding or avoiding anyone. We seek to interact with all people in ways that honor Jesus Christ, especially by treating every person with dignity, respect and love.
We always seek to affirm that every person is of sacred worth and value – no matter who they are or what they have done. We also believe that honest and respectful dialogue, even in areas of disagreement, is never a bad thing.
Our ultimate goal and heart’s desire at St. John is to make Jesus known – in all His Grace and all His Truth.
The Rev. Bill Shelton is senior pastor at St. John United Methodist Church in Maryville, Tennessee.