In her recent sermon at Foundry United Methodist Church, Karen Oliveto, a pastor at Glide Memorial United Methodist Church in San Francisco and a prominent activist in the LGBT-affirming Reconciling Ministries Network, made a bold charge to the Methodist church: fight the exclusivism of morally conservative Christianity. Oliveto’s sermon, entitled “Can I Trust You With My Dignity?” concluded that the LGBT community cannot trust the church, leading to its eschewing church involvement.
Is the church off track in this area? Is moral conservatism akin to pharisaical legalism? Oliveto says that it is.
Her sermon equates the LGBT community to the man with the withered hand of Mark 3 and likens those asserting the incompatibility of active homosexual lifestyles and Christianity to the hard-hearted Pharisees who oppose Jesus’ Sabbath healing. Referring to the passage in Mark, Oliveto says: “Jesus is casting sacred tradition aside and throwing rules and regulations out the door. He is defying church law…[He] upsets the status quo created by those in power.”
Certainly there is some truth in these statements. Jesus is consistently portrayed in the Gospels as being deeply distressed at the stubbornness of the Pharisees and forthrightly speaking against their hypocrisy and legalism. He even overturns some ceremonial Mosaic laws, such as eating regulations.
Her further eisegetical interpretation is where Oliveto goes wrong. Jesus did not loosen, but strengthen moral laws. Looking on a woman lustfully is now equivalent to adultery; hating one’s brother is now equal to murder. It does not follow, then, that Jesus ever intended to condone a practice that Romans 1 calls degrading, improper, and a result of suppressing the truth in unrighteousness and exchanging the truth of God for a lie. Paul is abundantly clear!
For further confirmation, take a look at the words of Jesus below. (Many will claim that these words apply only to divorce, but their teaching clearly details Christ’s view of marriage and gender.)
Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate (Matthew 19:4–6 NASB, emphasis added).
God created them male and female (not any sort of mixture!). What God has joined, let no man separate. Yet Oliveto implies that the UMC, in fighting the homosexual agenda in the church, is a house that is both divided and “willing to let some suffer so that others can be comfortable.” I, for one, can say that it is far from comfortable to speak God’s truth in the face of such audacious opposition.
Oliveto goes on to question whether the church has a full revelation of God’s love: “If we are a people who believe in what scripture tell us [sic], that God is love and love is of God but refuse to let same sex couples be married by their pastors in their churches, are we still a vessel of the love of God?”
She goes as far as to say that “the love between two same-gender loving people is God-given,” and questions whether the church is “being the church” if it refuses to bless, honor, and recognize same-sex relations and marriages.
What the Bible condemns as sinful behavior is “God-given”? What of James 1:13: “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone” (NASB)? This passage makes clear that God neither condones sin nor implants sinful desires.
Oliveto likens the LGBT agenda to the civil rights movement, saying, “When there is an unwritten law in this country against walking while black…it is time to shake up the status quo.”
I agree completely that racism is an immoral and a horrible reality and that the church should be at the forefront of racial reconciliation. The comparison of the two movements, however, is logically flawed. There is no essential difference between a black and a(n) ______ (fill in a race) person’s ability to participate in the political process. There is a vast difference between the benefits endowed on the state by same-sex “marriages” and heterosexual marriages.
The fact that the institution of homosexual “marriage” as a whole (that is to say that, this is true of every same-sex parenting couple) guarantees that a child will be either motherless or fatherless and guarantees that no children will be in the environment most conducive to their physical, emotional, and mental development means that it does not and cannot endow the same benefits on the state that the institution of heterosexual marriages as a whole can.
When did parenting become focused on the parents’ happiness at the cost of the children’s well-being? How is supporting same-sex relationships and parenting “what it means to be a disciple of Jesus,” as Oliveto says?
Sure to capture her entire idea of social justice into her brief sermon, Oliveto draws abortion into the conversation: “And when men tell women we can’t be trusted with our reproductive rights, it’s time to shake up the status quo.”
I would like to see some scriptural references of a continual “right” to murder the innocent unborn. Certainly there is war in scripture, but it is our job to “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute” Proverbs 31:8 ESV.
Wake up, Church. Your voice is needed now perhaps more than ever. Speak the truth in love, show compassion on the very real feelings and desires of the LGBT community, and do not condemn homosexual sin as worse than others. Above all, stand firm and do not back down.