University United Methodist Church of Salina is providing a study of the issues facing the denomination regarding sexuality and service. The dates are January 19, 26, February 2 and 9. The book being used as a reference is Living Faithfully: Human Sexuality and The United Methodist Church Revised and Updated published by Abingdon Press.
The first three chapters are in regard to compatibility to Christian teaching and the fourth with where we are now.
Guidelines for participation are taken from the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching at the University of Michigan and follow:
Listen respectfully without interrupting,
Listen actively and with an ear to understanding others’ views. (Don’t just think about what you are going to say while someone else is talking.)
Criticize ideas, not individuals.
Commit to learning, not debating. To sharing information, not to persuade.
Avoid blame, speculation, and inflammatory language.
Allow everyone the chance to speak.
Avoid assumptions about social groups. Do not ask individuals to speak for their (perceived) social group.
Where we are now is facing a probable split of the denomination into a group for total inclusion and another for restricting areas of service based on one’s views on sexuality.
It is a question like that facing the early church. “Shall we let gentiles become part of us with all the privileges and responsibilities?”
Scriptures of how God revealed the answer is in the book of Acts, chapters 10 and 11. It begins with Peter visiting at a place that could be considered off limits…a tanner’s house of business. He is a guest and hungry. He goes to the roof for a bit of fresh sea air and to pray.. There he has a vision. A great sheet and in it were all kinds of living creatures, reptiles, beasts of prey, and birds. A voice says “Peter, Rise, Kill and Eat.” Peter says, “No, Lord, I never have eaten anything unclean.” Then the voice says, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” It happened three times. Peter ponders. Then, a knock at the gate. The Spirit says, “Look, three men are searching for you. Now, get up, go down, and do not hesitate to go with them; for I have sent them.”
They are Gentiles, sent for Peter by Cornelius, an Italian commander of a Roman group of 100 soldiers. Peter goes and takes 6 Jewish believers with him. Cornelius’ family and friends are waiting to hear what God gives Peter to say. Peter begins by saying it is against the law for him to be there but God has shown him that he should not call anyone profane or unclean, “I truly understand that God shows no partiality but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” While Peter was speaking about Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, the Holy Spirit came upon the listeners and Peter said, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”
When Peter gets back to the mother church in Jerusalem, he is criticized by the circumcised for going to the house of uncircumcised people and eating with them.
He tells the story and says, “I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, ‘John baptizes with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?”