We’re on the verge of requiring a genitalia check for someone to get ordained.
Among other things, we dare not let in any possible clergy who may have been born with ambiguous genitalia because no one even knows how to define their biological sexuality.
The UMC has defined “a self-avowed practicing homosexual” as one who has genital to genital contact with a same-sex partner. So . . . how do we prove that they are or are not? And what about celibate marriages among self-avowed practicing heterosexuals? Are we going to make sure that couples are having regular sex? That’s biblical as well.
What about the sexual histories of the applicants? Many young people experiment sexually before settling down with life partners. Should the various Board of Ordained Ministries learn to perform virginity tests on their non-married female applicants?
Men, as usual, get exempted since there is no visible sign of their sexual behaviors. On the other hand, men with damaged genitalia were unable to serve as Hebrew priests. If the Bible, and only the Bible, is our guide, they may need to drop their tidy-whities for a quick BOOM inspection as well.
And let’s be honest, the vast majority of sexually predatory behavior comes from male heterosexuals. They may be the ones that need to be weeded out, not faithful same-sex couples.
Clearly, the above scenarios border on the ridiculous. But if we define holiness and fitness for ministry primarily by sexuality, they are not as ridiculous as they look.
We no longer live in the clean/unclean world–and God knows that.
Holiness and fitness for service demand a far wider base. A holy use of our sexuality is certainly part of it. However, only if we are going to enter into the ancient Middle Eastern custom of rigidly defining everything, and I do mean everything, as a binary “clean or unclean,” can we rightly remove from ordination those who are living in sexual faithfulness to same-sex partners.At the time when the early Israelites were in the process of forming their fledgling nation, living out the clean/unclean classifications made sense. It helped them separate from the forms of worship they were leaving behind to worship the one true God.
Jesus, while an observant Jew, also made it clear that the clean/unclean separations had passed. He healed on the Sabbath, ate with sinners, touched the leper and the unclean woman. Do not read this lightly: such were scandalous actions. The religious leaders, faithful to their rules, heaped condemnation upon Jesus for them.
Will the UMC start requiring kosher kitchens and demand that all UMC members quit wearing clothes made of blended fabrics? If so, there may be a reason to stick with the “Either you are hetero or non-sexual or you are out” current stance. But in our day, that bucket no longer holds water.
The UMC is not yet dead. But it is dying under the weight of its institutional clutter.
Because of the current crisis over sexuality that threatens to destroy this once-vibrant connection, we are at the ideal time to clear away the clutter, clean out our closets, and rid ourselves of anything but the essentials of serving together.