Austin Adkinson

April 12, 2019

United Methodist Queer Clergy: Gospel Can Affirm Polyamory

Media coverage of the recently concluded United Methodist General Conference in St. Louis might give casual readers the impression that the denominational fight is centered upon homosexuality and – once everyone gets on-board with the “new thing” – everyone can return to the “real” work of the church.

United Methodists in the LGBT-affirming Reconciling Ministries Network and other allied unofficial caucus groups are careful to police their messaging, but occasionally someone speaks candidly about the next new thing. And that new thing discards the idea of a “committed, monogamous relationship” for “open relationships”, “non-monogamy”, and “alternative love”.

“In my denomination, the prohibitions that we’re fighting against are self-avowed practicing homosexuals, the people who want to be discriminatory don’t even know the range of things that they should be trying to prohibit,” disclosed United Methodist Pastor Austin Adkinson in a June 2018 interview.

A member of the leadership team of the United Methodist Queer Clergy Caucus, Adkinson was recently a member of the Pacific Northwest Conference’s General and Jurisdictional Conference delegation and is a member of the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference Board of Ordained Ministry. Even if he holds radical views, he was elected to represent his conference and should not be dismissed as a fringe voice. At the recent General Conference, Adkinson supported the failed One Church Plan. (As an aside, Adkinson also serves on a Westar Institute committee, which readers may recall is behind the Jesus Seminar, a longtime effort to debunk the Gospels’ supernatural message about Jesus’ divinity and miracles).

Adkinson appeared in June on the podcast Multiamory to discuss “shifting values around sexuality and non-traditional relationships” specifically polyamory and Christianity. He reveals the current debate around human sexuality not as a slippery slope, but as an incremental agenda in a predetermined direction.

“There’s nothing in the Bible that’s going to say polyamory is good because there’s no such phrase for that, but challenges of who we love and who we’re supposed to love and really loving everyone is at the center of things through all of Jesus’ teachings,” Adkinson asserted. “That’s what I try to focus on. I’m less of a rigid, ‘here are the rules that Christians are supposed to follow,’ and more focused on how do we focus on loving the people around us better and seeking justice and caring for making the world more like God intends it to be.”

“We have solid academics behind how none of that [scriptural prohibitions against homosexual practice] is a real condemnation of a loving, committed same-sex couple in our current context,” Adkinson claimed, referring to such verses as “clobber passages” and “the text of terror.”

Adkinson was joined in the podcast by gay Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) youth minister J.D. Mechelke, who offered more support for alternative sexual arrangements. Noting symbolism in the Last Supper and the biblical imagery of the church as the bride of Christ, Mechelke also called attention to an Evangelical praise song:

“There’s this very intimate, individualistic relationship that people have with God and it’s very erotic sometimes. My favorite example is this old song. It’s not old, but ’90s, ‘In the secret and the quiet place, I want to touch you.’ You start to think, ‘That’s kind of erotic and yet it’s evangelical.’ It’s that we’re doing that, which is fine. There are queer theologians that are taking that and saying, ‘Maybe we have this erotic thing going on with Jesus.’ Also thinking about it, ‘This is my body.’ You’re taking somebody’s body in your mouth, and so there’s some phallic-.”

“It’s either erotic or cannibalism,” interrupted host Jase Lindgren.

“Who’s to say not both?” Adkinson suggested.

Later in the interview, Mechelke offers: “Some would say that the Last Supper, Jesus is proposing to the twelve friends and so it’s very gay and very polyamorous.”

There is plenty more in the interview, including Mechelke’s writings on “creating a kinky doctrine of sin” and “putting the Christian symbolism into different roles, ethics in the BDSM [bondage, discipline/domination, sadism, and masochism] community.”

You can listen to the podcast or read it all in entirety here.

Regardless of the merits of Adkinson’s appraisal of biblical support for polyamory, he makes one assertion that few in the United Methodist Church will dispute: “a lot of pastors are more concerned about job security than about bringing change.”

46 Responses to United Methodist Queer Clergy: Gospel Can Affirm Polyamory

  1. David Allen says:

    Look no further than recent debacle in the ELCA for proof of this. A new set of guidelines for pastors and deacons was proposed that made “marriage” the standard for both heterosexual and homosexual leaders. Full marriage equality, in other words. The LGTBQIA lobby rejected it with outrage, insisting that marriage not be the only option.

  2. Phil says:

    Another reason why no real Christian should pay attention to these servants of Satan.

    • Diane says:

      Satan is a figment of an unbridled imagination. My colonial ancestors were quite certain Satan was at work when their horse, cow, and dog died. They accused their neighbor of demonic possession; she was accused of witchcraft and executed. I give no credence to the existence of some master-minded “Satan”. It’s all overwrought superstition.

      • Palamas says:

        Just like all this ridiculous Jesus nonsense, right, Diane? I mean, who could really believe that claptrap about a dead man coming back from the grave? Sounds like a cheap horror movie.

        • Diane says:

          I am not a five or six year old who would be developmentally expected to have a literal understanding of a narrative text. Mature readers have sophisticated comprehension skills that are not dependent on a literal reading of a narrative text. With millions of other Christians – and non-Christians – I celebrate and embrace a resurrection faith – without relying on a literal understanding of a decaying corpse rising up after a few days.

          • Phil says:

            Atheism all but in name.

          • Palamas says:

            As previously noted. If you’re too smart to believe the biblical accounts, just go ahead and admit you’re not a Christian. I’m sure God will be very impressed with your intellect when you face Him and explain what REALLY happened.

          • td says:

            That’s all fine that you don’t believe in the resurrection. However, without the resurrection, it means that christ lied to us when he predicted his resurrection and that the whole religion has been a conspiracy from the start.

            Did christ lie to us? Did his disciples make it all up? Why even bother founding christianity? Why the martyrdoms? The pagans in ancient times were nice enough people and had politically correct morals for the times. Why did the early church even bother standing against them and start the church?

            Was it all a big conspiracy? And to accomplish what?

      • Spoken like a non-Christian who disagrees with Jesus and the Bible. Thanks for proving our points.

      • Loren Golden says:

        “Satan is a figment of an unbridled imagination. … I give no credence to the existence of some master-minded ‘Satan’.  It’s all overwrought superstition.”
        How wise you must be, madam, to know more than the Lord Jesus.  After all, He was tempted in the wilderness for forty days, and He identified Satan (the Devil) as His tempter (Mt. 4.1-11, Mk. 1.12-13, Lk. 4.1-13).  Likewise, He taught and spoke of Satan as if He believed him to be a real spirit and a real threat in the lives of His followers (Mt. 10.25, 12.24-29, 13.24-25,36-39, 16.23, 25.41; Mk. 3.22-27, 4.3,13-15, 8.33; Lk. 8.4-5,11-12, 10.17-20, 11.15-22, 13.14-17, 22.3,31-34, Jn. 6.70, 8.44, 13.2,27).  Likewise, He taught that demon possession or affliction was real, and that demons could be cast out (Mt. 7.22, 10.8, 12.24-29,43-45, 17.19-21; Mk. 3.13-15,22-27, 6.7, 9.28-29,38-41; Lk. 9.1,49-50, 10.17-20, 11.15-26, 13.14-17; Jn. 6.70, 8.48-49), and He is recounted as having cast many out Himself on numerous occasions (Mt. 4.24, 8.16,28-33, 9.32-34, 12.22-29, 15.21-28, 17.14-21; Mk. 1.32-34,39, 3.15, 5.1-20, 6.13, 7.24-30, 9.14-29; Lk. 4.33-36,40-41, 8.2,26-39, 9.37-43, 11.14-22, 13.10-17).
        So then, do you judge Him of having created a “figment” out of His “unbridled imagination” and “overwrought superstition”?  Or do you just judge Him for “personifying evil” and “creating a scapegoat”?

        • David says:

          I Samuel 16:14 “An evil spirit from the LORD tormented him [Saul].”

          • Loren Golden says:

            “But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him.” (I Sam. 16.14, KJV)
            “Here is Saul made a terror to himself (v. 14): [The Spirit of the Lord departed from him.]  He having forsaken God and his duty, God, in a way of righteous judgment, withdrew from him those assistances of the good Spirit with which he was directed, animated, and encouraged in his government and wars.  He lost all his good qualities.  This was the effect of his rejecting God, and an evidence of his being rejected by him.  Now God took his mercy from Saul (as it expressed, II Sam. 7.15); for, when the Spirit of the Lord departs from us, all good goes.  When men grieve and quench the Spirit, by wilful sin, he departs, and will not always strive.  The consequence of this was that [an evil spirit from God troubled him].  Those that drive the good Spirit away from the do (sic) of course become prey to the evil spirit.  If God and his grace do not rule us, sin and Satan will have possession of us.  The devil, by the divine permission, troubled and terrified Saul, by means of the corrupt humours of his body and passions of his mind.  He grew fretful, and peevish, and discontented, timorous and suspicious, ever and anon starting and trembling; he was sometimes, says Josephus, as if he had been choked or strangled, and a perfect demoniac by fits.  This made him unfit for business, precipitate in his counsels, the contempt of his enemies, and a burden to all about him.” (Matthew Henry, Commentary on I Sam. 16.14, in Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, New Modern Edition, Vol. 2 [reprinted, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1991], p. 288)

      • Peanut gallery says:

        I may be wrong, but I learned in history class that there were 20 people killed due to witchcraft accusations in Massachusetts and mostly because of 2 young teenage girls who had been scared by a woman servant who self-labelled as a witch. I am not excusing the senseless acts, but it was hardly action condoned by all New England Christians. May not be a really good choice to uphold your argument, Diane.

  3. James says:

    Whatever you want to call it, there is extreme evil in this world and much of it is organized by someone or something.

    • Diane says:

      James, I agree there is and always has been evil. I don’t believe it’s necessary to personify evil because that tends to create scapegoats. God is spirit, best exemplified in that which lifts up (or resurrects) creation. That which puts down and destroys is not of God. I apologize for this somewhat simplistic understanding, as I’m intrigued by neurobiological differences within humans. Those differences, coupled with factors that may be outside our control, can lead to destructive behaviors which are often identified as “evil”.

      One of the things we too often, and I include myself, neglect is how we’re “wired” and how that accounts for differences in theological thought and understanding. There was a neurobiological study done several years ago that concluded some of us are wired to welcome challenges that require an openness to new ways of thinking – ways that lead to replacing or adjusting our worldview. Others are neurobiologically wired in such a way as to shut down when feeling threatened by information or new ways of thinking that challenges our deeply held understanding of the world. There are lots of examples of such – Galileo’s understandings were a tremendous threat to theological thinkers. In colonial times, those Christians who challenged the primitive notions of witchcraft (which caused innocent people to be executed) were excommunicated from the church. I think we might develop greater compassion, mercy and openness to human difference in re to theological debates within the faith community if we drop the terms “evil” or “sin/sinners” and question whether the root cause of our diverse perspectives have more to do with the reality that we differ significantly in how we’re neurobiologically wired.

      • James says:

        Yes, you raise some interesting points and we are getting into some deep areas of thought. Faith is simple. Theology is another matter. The current crisis in the United Methodist Church is centered on behavior, especially that of our leadership and what behaviors we will accept from them, adding in questions of the definition and identification of “sin” and issues of redemption, forgiveness and grace. I have no problem with using the word “sin”, defined as that which displeases God, the final arbiter, not man. At the same time we do have an intuitive sense of what is good and what is bad or not beneficial.
        As an Anthropologist I tend to look at things from the cultural viewpoint. We can discern sometimes rather complex behaviors in other species that we term instinct or innate behavior. There is still much to learn regarding genetic and biological influences in the human species and that is certainly an unproven element in the sexual discussion. It has been traditionally the role of the church through a Biblical basis to help us make those determinations regarding behavior and to avoid that which is not beneficial. Despite that we are all fallible for whatever reasons, perhaps biological. It really doesn’t matter, as there are many examples of people having the will to overcome whatever innate drives urge them toward certain behaviors.
        Independent from, although sometimes influenced by religion, society has also made determinations. The legal system enforces conformance through punishment and society rewards through a variety of other means including acceptance. Throughout history, the church has sometimes stood in sharp contrast or opposition to what is acceptable by society and at other times they have bent to it. We are in a time where the views of society have changed, and when the latter position of the church seems to be prevalent here in the United States.
        The Christian religion cuts across numerous Cultures in many countries. That is part of the problem in dealing with the current turmoil in the United Methodist Church. Those foreign congregations are now being questioned by many of our leaders including bishops and clergy for upholding beliefs that our missionaries taught them and which have indeed been the position of the Christian Church for hundreds of years. Beliefs concerning sexual matters are only a small part of what seems to be a reversal of thinking and questioning of church discipline in many areas, even including the divinity of Christ, the authority of the Bible and the sanctity of life among others. If the Christian Church does not uphold morality and truth, who will? How can we accept the trust, leadership, and authority of those who now tell us their teachings for hundreds of years are now wrong? We can see the downhill trend of those churches that have made wrong choices when it comes to matters of faith.

      • td says:

        Just to be clear, god is not simply spirit. God is the father, son, and holy spirit. God the son is fully man and fully god- he is not simply spirit. He physically walked and lived among us in time. It was an unreasonable claim proclaimed by ancient believers in ancient times. Why should it be any more reasonable today?

  4. Palamas says:

    Reading this makes me want to get take a shower. And I pity the church that employs J.D. Mechelke, who sounds like a sex abuse case just waiting to happen.

  5. William says:

    We are split. Now again, what’s holding up making it official?

  6. Lance Thomas says:

    Waiting for Adam Hamilton’s contextual justification for this type of behavior.

    • James says:

      That will be interesting! Adam Hamilton may be the pastor of the largest UMC congregation in the United States, but he doesn’t represent many of us. He has played a major role in creating the problems the church is now facing and is now speaking unity in a denomination he helped divide and continues to weaken.

      • William says:

        And he, therefore, has the largest UMC congregation of the deceived in the United States.

        • John Smith says:

          The point is he has the largest congregation. To the UMC his threat is real. The true significance of the church is measured by bottoms in the pews and dollars in the plate. Have you not seen that the last several campaigns and a major argument by the LGBTQAI groups is that they will all increase the size, or at least slow the slide, of the UMC? If they are so deceived that they give more money to the UMC the better.

          • jeff melcher says:

            Rev Hamilton has been in the church he founded for a very long time. It reminds me much of Wallie Amos Criswell, of Dallas Baptist.

            I grew up in a Methodist congregation which taught the tradition of “circuit riders” and a pastorate in the iteneracy. We, the congregation, and our various boards, were responsible for ourselves and each other. The pastor — of the moment — was an important resource person. But so is the communitie’s pharmacist, or undertaker — there are reasons the Methodists don’t call the guy at the pulpit “Father.”

            One wonders if the UMC church in Leawood will follow the fate of Dallas Baptist when Hamilton follows Criswell to whatever final reward awaits.

  7. Jim says:

    This would be at one level be laughable were the eternal destiny of men and women’s souls at stake. Add to it comments from people like Diane who make up their homemade theology as they go and you have a recipe for spiritual disaster. Adam Hamilton is as much the spiritual fraud as Joel Osteen, Benny Hinn, Joyce Meyers, Creflo Dollar and others preaching their non-biblical “gospel.” Adam is more slick and more a wolf in sheep’s clothing. These “queer “ Methodists at least don’t Don the sheep’s costume.

    • Bruce Willis says:

      There are three types of people in this world I once was told by a very wise man. Sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs.
      Mr. Hamilton which one are you.
      Sheep don’t believe there is any evil or Satan in this world. Wolves prey on the neive sheep. Sheepdogs see the wolves for who they are and have the ability to protect the sheep.
      Feed my sheep protect my lambs were the instructions for Peter from the Lord Jesus Christ.

  8. Tracy says:

    It’s more than official, we are not on the same page or even in the same Bible! A former high school student of mine, asked if the liberal Methodist group is next going to want advocate for the “full inclusion” of Therians and Otherkins too? (By the way, I had to look that up too.) He also told me that is just the beginning, there were groups that were trying to change our perception of pedophilia and “normalize it”. He watched a Ted talks video (2018) that the speaker stated “that pedophilia is an unchangeable sexual orientation, anyone could be born that way.”
    I did not say that all were not welcome and loved. We are all sinners and called to repent and ask forgiveness. But we are not to lie to each other, as brothers and sisters in Christ, and make everybody “feel better” and tell them sin isn’t really a sin since we are now “enlightened” by the contextualization of scripture and theology.

  9. Diane says:

    The No Religion folks will one day define your legacy. Latest surveys indicate they’ll probably take over at some point. Will be a good thing. Meaningless Orthodox Christianity has run its course.

    • Loren Golden says:

      Madam, the rule of atheists, agnostics, irreligionists, etc., will ultimately prove to be not quite as benevolent as you suppose, as the failed experiment of the Soviet Union has abundantly proven.
      Also, Orthodox, Evangelical Christianity is far from meaningless, having its referent in the Eternal God, and not in the passing desires of this very ephemeral world.  And it is that God, and not some idol fashioned by the device and genius of man, to whom we will have to give an account of our all our wicked thoughts, all our carelessly spoken words, and all our foul misdeeds, when we stand before Him on Judgment Day.  “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Heb. 10.30)
      The world ignores Orthodox, Evangelical Christianity to its peril, for its message is the message of the Cross: “We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (I Cor. 1.23-25)

    • John Smith says:

      If orthodox Christianity is meaningless it should indeed be put out of its misery whether by the Nones, Mormons, Muslims, Buddhists, Atheists, or the arc of history, it does not matter. Of course if it is meaningless the pale LGBTQAI imitations have no point either.

      If it is not meaningless then its course will never run out despite all the efforts to destroy it.

  10. Jim says:

    I don’t at all disagree with your statement about no religion topping the polls. That day is surely coming. Of course, the true followers of Jesus Christ are not big proponents of “religion.” It was the religious hierarchy that could not tolerate Jesus. BTW, “no religion” is in fact “a religion.” You just worship your own god. Diane, just be warned when the day comes that God withdraws the restraining power of the Holy Spirit upon this earth, calamity will prevail the likes of which this world has never known. So if there are young people in your life that you care about, you may want to reconsider your hardened heart position. You may not care about yourself, but what of the little ones?

  11. DW says:

    This thread certainly illustrates why the hand of God closed the door on the ark when it started raining. The days of Noah indeed!

  12. Charles Horton says:

    All you people who want to be Christians yet affirm polyamory: the 2 are opposed to each other. Go back and read and meditate on Romans 1, the latter verses. When you affirm polyamory, you are exchanging the eternal image in which God made you for an image of your own making, the fruits of which are, e. g., polyamory – being involved in the unnatural use of the body instead of its heterosexual use in marriage between one man and woman and raising children. This is God’s desire for his children, and rebellion against it, as you are doing, twisting the scriptures to fit your own self-image, will not bode well for you. Friends, repent of this now, and turn back to God now. Don’t wait till you have to stand before his judgment when it might be too late for you to change. Start changing back today. Again, Romans 1.

    • Charles Horton says:

      “We cannot live by bread alone, but only by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Jesus: quoting Deut. 8:3.

  13. Richard S Bell says:

    “’We have solid academics behind how none of that [scriptural prohibitions against homosexual practice] is a real condemnation of a loving, committed same-sex couple in our current context,’ Adkinson claimed”. This is revisionist fatuity, if not dishonesty.
    But, solid scriptural interpretation proves that God wills the Church marry homosexuals just as it marries heterosexuals. For proof, tested by many mature and learned Christians but not impugned by any, ask me for a copy of my essay by email:

    • Charles says:

      Your essay is a rehash of various attempts out there to legitimize homosexual behavior in God’s eyes, twisting scriptures to say what they don’t say. The only biblical mentions of homosexual behavior is negative. Christ, in his silence about it, affirms the OT teaching about it, also affirmed by Paul, and Christ confirms that God created them from the get-go as male and female so that they would come and cling together. The interesting tweak in your essay that homosexual activity should be saved for homosexual “marriage” is not supported by Scripture. Your basic assumption that homosexual activity is supported by Scripture isn’t, but it’s difficult for some people to see it.

    • Charles Horton says:

      Your essay is a rehash of many attempts out there to make homosexual behavior acceptable to God, to make the scriptures say what they don’t say. Jesus silence on the matter affirms the OT teaching on it, and Paul, who knew Jesus better than most, was not silent about confirming it. The few mentions of it in Scripture are all negative. Your essay’s interesting twist that homosexual behavior should be saved for homosexual “marriage” isn’t backed by Scripture. Neither is your basic assumption that God is good with homosexual behavior. But this is difficult for some to receive.

  14. Lee D. Cary says:

    This debate has crossed into the Land of Bizarre.

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