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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

Not everyone was reconciled to Pacific Beach's status as a reconciling church. Jessee, who has worshipped here for 35 years, estimated that the 15 congregants who left in protest were replaced by another 150, most of whom were not part of the LGBTQ community. "There were a lot of straight people who came here," Jessee said, "because they wanted to be in a church that welcomed their GLBT brothers and sisters."

Despite the focus on sexuality, Park sees a larger underlying issue: theological drift.

"What it comes down to," the pastor said, "is how you view Scripture."

Traditionalists such as Park insist that Scripture is primary, outweighing the other three sides of Wesley's Quadrilateral. While noting that progressives also embrace the Bible, Park believes they've drifted away from a traditional understanding of these sacred texts. Was Jesus bodily resurrected? Did Mary conceive through God's direct intercession or did the Almighty use a human surrogate, Joseph?

While progressives and centrists might question the literal meanings of Biblical texts, Park said, traditionalists don't. Take, for example, the verses on homosexuality.

"We cannot say something is not sinful if that is what the Bible is teaching," Park said. "And we cannot teach something or espouse something if it is not in Scripture."

 

Still, he understands the views of his friend, Rhodes, and other progressives: "They cannot continue to call something sin that they do not see as sin."

Park's congregation contains first generation Korean immigrants plus Korean-Americans whose families have lived here for generations. There's also the entire spectrum of human sexuality, and Park insisted that all are welcomed and valued. He's counseled gay Methodists, urging them to accept their sexuality while living celibate lives.

"I would never try to change their orientation," he said. "Being tempted one way or the other, for women or for men, that is just part of the human condition. We all struggle with human desire. But what we give ourselves to, what we practice, that is the issue."

Traditionalists note that 1972 statement on homosexuality being "incompatible" with Christian practice was prefaced by an acknowledgment of homosexuals' "sacred worth" and need for "ministry and guidance of the church in their struggles for human fulfillment ... "

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