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Can this church be saved? Split on LGBTQ issues, United Methodists consider divorce

Peter Rowe, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in Religious News

"At the heart of it is holiness, calling people to a new faith or a new conversion but also a character change, to love God and love neighbor," said Benefiel. "It's not just what you believe but who you become."

Methodism's birth coincided with the colonization of North America, and the new faith soon immigrated to the New World. In the following centuries, there were divisions and additions -- the Wesleyan Church broke away in the 19th century, while the current United Methodist Church was created by the 1968 merger of Methodist and Evangelical United Brethren churches.

All are influenced by Wesley and what's called the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. Believers seeking the will of God are directed to four sources: Scripture, tradition, reason and experience.

"We use all of that," Park said. "But I think the traditionalists would say Scripture remains the primary source about what we know about God. My progressive friends also believe that, but they would say a lot of that is contextual."

Context, Rhodes countered, is essential. Bible verses have been used to justify slavery and other practices we no longer accept, he said, so Scripture must be read in light of the author's culture and what we understand today.

"We can take and twist the Scripture to justify some terrible things," Rhodes said.

 

The Old and New Testament combined, Rhodes said, have six verses relating to homosexuality. While all condemn same-sex practices, Rhodes has been influenced by experience and reason. A minister since 2011 and Pacific Beach's pastor since 2014, he has been impressed by the devotion of many congregation members, regardless of who they love.

"I see God's spirit moving in these people, whether gay or straight or bisexual or transgender," said Rhodes, who is straight and married. "Who am I to question God? If God is empowering and enriching and sustaining gay and lesbian people, who am I to say God is wrong?"

Under a previous pastor, Pacific Beach UMC became a "reconciling church," adopting a formal statement welcoming believers of all sexual orientations. That meant more to Ron Jessee than the overall denomination's stance.

"What's important to me," said Jessee, the church's music director and a gay man, "is what is this congregation doing."

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