by Nathaniel Torrey
In a post on the blog of the Reconciling Ministries Network, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary senior Michael Overman says that despite passing his ordination to become at minister at the United Methodist Church(UMC), he is looking to be ordained elsewhere. This is because of a policy that would require him, as a homosexual, to remain “in the closet” in order to be an ordained minister of the UMC. Mr. Overman writes:
The committee certified me, and I felt no joy. It had been made clear what I would have to do and how I would have to portray myself in order to receive clerical credentials in the UMC. While it was never articulated so directly, the message was clear: You cannot be ordained here as a whole person. You have to split yourself. We don’t want all of you. Only part of you is truly worthy of this calling. You have to hide. You have to lie. You have to be someone other than you.
This concern that somehow we won’t be “true to ourselves” or “authentic” when we become Christian puzzles me. As Psalm 51 one says, “Behold, I was shaped in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” We all have baggage as we step into Church. If being Christian required us to be perfect before our baptism, no one would get baptized.
However, this does not mean that we are given license to be however we like and still expect salvation and forgiveness. We are asked to confess our sins i.e. admit that we have fallen short of the standard God has for us. There is a part of us that is ugly and sinful and there is only part of us that is worthy. Jesus teaches this in Matthew 5:30, saying, “And if your right hand offend you, cut it off, and cast it from you: for it is profitable for you that one of your members should perish, and not that your whole body should be cast into hell.” Whatever causes us to sin must be left behind. Any lifestyle, friends, relationships, or possession are best cast aside in the pursuit of salvation. This is of course easier said than done, but it is nevertheless true.
I don’t think that Mr. Overman would disagree with anything I just said. He would probably want to contest whether same sex attraction is one of the things we should cast aside. A detailed explication of why homosexuality is a sin is not my purpose here; it is sufficient to say that the Holy Scriptures and the Tradition of the Church for approximately 2000 years have affirmed that it is.
The condemnation of same-sex attraction is a stumbling block for most people because it is something that seems in born. It has the semblance of being part of our identity, like our hair color, or our tastes and predilections. It seems unfair that something we did not choose could be something for which we could be condemned.
However, homosexuality is not the only predilection toward sin with which one could be born. There are people who are inclined to steal, inclined to have indiscriminate sex with multiple partners, inclined to lie, inclined to vanity, and in extreme cases, like serial killers, inclined towards monstrous acts of violence and perversity. The message remains the same. Christ says in Luke 9:23, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” There are no exceptions. We must be prepared to fervently pray for the grace to follow him and deny our natural inclinations, no matter the intensity, every day of our lives.