Journalist Julie Zauzmer has written an article published by the Washington Post entitled, “The United Methodist Church has appointed a transgender deacon.” On Sunday, June 4, Bishop Sally Dyck commissioned the Reverend M Barclay as a deacon in the United Methodist Church. “Deacons in the United Methodist Church are ordained clergy who lead the church through preaching and leading ministries” the article reports. Read the entire article here.
A friend made me aware of the article and discussion ensued among the group about the standards given by God in the Scripture as to what believers should think about all matters of sexuality and who is to lead the church. Those serious about interpreting the Bible faithfully find themselves in disagreement with such a decision not because of bigotry but because of what the Bible says.
Even those within the Methodist denomination have voiced their disagreement with the Northern Illinois Conference and its bishop who made the appointment. The Methodist Reverend Thomas Lambrecht, along with my long-time Methodist friend having this discussion have voiced their disapproval of church leaders ignoring what the Bible says so clearly about sexuality and qualifications for church leaders. I agree with their disapproval though we all should affirm the call of the gospel to love all people and welcome them to learn from God’s word along with us.
So today a question was asked by a dearly loved friend of mine, “Can’t God use a gay pastor just like He can use a straight pastor?” I think this is a good question because it helps get to the essence of the underlying issue. It moves away from decisions of an individual bishop or denomination’s decision to the more important matter of what God, Himself, thinks. In this brief post I hope to address the issue but certainly a much lengthier discussion would be helpful.
On the one hand God can do anything He pleases. He is God and is totally sovereign. Who is man to tell God what He can and cannot do. We can’t. God can use a donkey to speak to a wayward man, Balaam (Numbers 22). He can use a great fish to redirect disobedient Jonah. He can use dozens of human writers over thousands of years under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to communicate and preserve the exact message He desires.
So my friend’s question is spot on. Can God really do anything He wants? In fact He can. And He has. The question is, are we ok with what God has already chosen to do and say. We must ask the question this way because in fact God has made His choice to do and say exactly what He wants and He wrote it down in the Bible. But will human beings allow God the freedom to do and say what He wants? Or will mere humans attempt to throw their finite weight around against infinite God to limit His freedom to be God?
If God had wanted to use homosexual or transgender pastors to do His work, He would have been completely free to have said so. But, in fact, He chose not to do that and it could be added that He must make this choice because it would be inconsistent with His holiness to choose otherwise. He has declared for all time in the Bible what practices of sexuality are righteous and which are wicked according to His own standard of righteousness – Himself. Homosexual practices as well as other forms of impurity are sin as stated in His Bible (Leviticus 18:22, 20:13, Romans 1:26-32). The qualifications He requires for those who may lead His church are also written down in 1 Timothy 3.
So when, as the article records, the newly appointed Deacon Barclay says, “I understand the rules of the church but here’s the truth: I’m queer, and I’m called to this. I tried to walk away,” church leaders must have the conviction to remain true to what God has already made clear to us. The must respond both lovingly and truthfully. Because Jesus loves us dearly, we must love Deacon Barclay and not judge or condemn. Yet at the same time we must say something like, “I’m not in charge. I’m not making the rules. I’m simply saying what the God of heaven has declared for all time. No. You are welcome to be here and learn with us but you may not lead the church.”
There are tons of thoughts this article will likely bring up which are worthy of discussion. The bottom line that I hope to make clear is that God’s word is sufficient to express His desires to us. He has said precisely everything He desired to say. We must submit ourselves and all our thoughts to the Bible.
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17