Thursday, May 31, 2012

Response to Charles Worley

This blog post is the article I wrote for the Catawba Current this month, our church newsletter:

          If you didn’t know by now, Pastor Charles Worley of Providence Baptist Church in Maiden has been in the national headlines.  On Sunday, May 13th in response to Amendment One and President Obama’s statement regarding gay marriage, Worley shared his thoughts on homosexuality in his sermon.  Here are his words verbatim: “I figured a way out, a way to get rid of all the lesbians and queers, but I couldn't get it past the Congress. Build a great big, large fence – 50 or 100 miles long – put all the lesbians in there. Fly over and drop some food. Do the same thing with the queers and the homosexuals, and have that fence electrified so they can't get out. Feed them. And you know what? In a few years, they'll die out. Do you know why? They can't reproduce."

The video of his statement made it to the social media juggernaut and has since received national attention, in case you missed it, here it is:

            As a Christian and a pastor Worley’s words grieve me.  I know I am not perfect in what and how I communicate, however, his words were blatant ignorance and foolishness.  I can only hope that he was trying to illustrate a point about how same-sex couples can’t reproduce, however, such a horribly insensitive and inflammatory illustration is inexcusable.

            Statements like Worley’s are what give Christians everywhere a bad reputation.  Worley’s words are known now to millions of people who assume that all Christians believe what he said.  Even if he repents and apologizes (which I think he should) the damage has been done to the reputation of the Christian faith.

            For those of you curious about my stance on the matter, I stand in agreement with the statement found in the United Methodist Book of Discipline.  In case you’re curious it’s found at Paragraph 161G and states:

Homosexual persons no less than heterosexual persons are individuals of sacred worth. All persons need the ministry and guidance of the church in their struggles for human fulfillment, as well as the spiritual and emotional care of a fellowship that enables reconciling relationships with God, with others, and with self. The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching. We affirm that God's grace is available to all, and we will seek to live together in Christian community. 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.

            I like the balanced stance of our denomination.  I think it is biblically faithful, takes a stand and shows grace all at the same time.  We know from the Bible that we are created in God’s image and that God is the giver of all life, therefore all persons are of sacred worth.  However, we also know from the Bible that we have a tendency to go against God’s best for our lives…this predisposition is the power of sin in the world and in our lives.  The practice of homosexuality is just one among hundreds of ways that some people give into sin.

Yes, I believe the practice of homosexuality is a sin, however, so is the practice of heterosexuality outside the holy covenant of marriage.  For several reasons (mainly because of the political debates and votes on the issue of gay marriage) the sin of homosexual practice has been elevated as greater than other sins.  While Paul does make it a point to single out sexual sin as different from other sins (1st Corinthians 6:18) we must be careful in judging people who are tempted by same-sex attraction. 

I have never experienced the temptation that comes with same-sex attraction, however, I have experienced temptation in other ways.  I know what it is like to be tempted because I am human.  I also know how easy it is to give into temptation.  It takes a lot of work to resist temptation. 

Just because I am not tempted by something that tempts someone else doesn’t mean I have any right to think less of them.  What tempts me may not tempt someone else.  I am not tempted by alcoholic beverages.  I do not have to work hard to resist getting drunk.  Many people are tempted by alcohol…even Christians.  And many of them have not yet won that battle…even Christians.  If you think it is your job to call out the sin in others, remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:1 “Do not judge or you too will be judged.”  There’s a big difference between judging someone by their fruit and recognizing them by their fruit.  Let us be careful about judging others and focus on resisting our own temptations by loving God with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength. 


JMS said...

Great post, Rich! Balancing truth and grace is hard, but you do it well my friend.

By the way, just a note on Paul singling out sexual sin in 1Corinthians...I think that this is a place where the NIV botched the translation.

NIV reads: "Flee from sexual immorality. All *other* sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body."

(the NLT, ESV, and a few others follow suit)

The word "other" is not in the Greek text. What Paul actually says is: "Every sin a person commits is outside the body", which was one of the slogans the Corinthians were using to justify their continuing in sexual sin (i.e. Sin is merely external and deals with the body, but one's soul remains pure despite outward sin). The note in the NET Bible is a pretty good summary:

"It is debated whether this is a Corinthian slogan. If it is not, then Paul is essentially arguing that there are two types of sin, nonsexual sins which take place outside the body and sexual sins which are against a person's very own body. If it is a Corinthian slogan, then it is a slogan used by the Corinthians to justify their immoral behavior. With it they are claiming that anything done in the body or through the body had no moral relevance. A decision here is very difficult, but the latter is to be preferred for two main reasons. (1) This is the most natural understanding of the statement as it is written. To construe it as a statement by Paul requires a substantial clarification in the sense (e.g., "All other sins…" [NIV]). (2) Theologically the former is more difficult: Why would Paul single out sexual sins as more intrinsically related to the body than other sins, such as gluttony or drunkenness? For these reasons, it is more likely that the phrase in quotation marks is indeed a Corinthian slogan which Paul turns against them in the course of his argument, although the decision must be regarded as tentative."

For what it's worth, man. :)

Rich Tuttle said...

Okay, Okay so I probably missed on that one. The "slogan" interpretation does make a lot more sense, especially in light of what Paul writes after verse 18. Did you notice that I stole (ahem, I mean borrowed) your phrase of "horribly insensitive and inflammatory?"