Letters to the Editor Department
Wesleyan Christian Advocate
United Methodist Center, Atlanta
The current debate over same-sex marriages has thus far ignored the most fundamental issue at stake here, namely the role of scripture in the life of the Christian.
Paul made it very clear that if any one were to comply with a pronouncement of scripture as though it were law, then that person would be a Jew (technically speaking) and would have to conform to the entire law, and the merits of Jesus' life and death would be of no avail to him.
The 16th century Martin Luther denied the claim of the Church to instruct the Christian authoritatively with regard to right and wrong; but this resulted in an attempt by some spiritual leaders to reassert the same, Mosaic authority over the liberty of the Christian conscience by means of scripture. It now behooves us to return to Paul's thinking entirely, namely: we know the difference between right and wrong (Genesis 3:22, Luke 12:13-14) and have need merely of the Holy Spirit to possess our hearts and to lead us (which is made possible by Christ's death on our behalf), and which leadership we can personally and authoritatively certify by means of the Golden Rule.
[Often times Paul seems to issue decrees as though he were a legislator; but he is really only making a derivation of an action from the Golden Rule according to an understanding which is so clear to him and his contemporaries that the details need not be given, e.g., it is wrong to murder. Or else: he is having to lead new converts according his own understanding until they can think properly for themselves. But the intended liberty is clearly stated in Galatians and in Romans 14. And thus to assert, for example: "you should not commit murder because the scriptures speak against murder" is an affront to the mature Wesleyan.]
The reformation can now best be accomplished in a Wesleyan methodology: each Christian must seek to implement the Golden Rule according to his or her best understanding as to what is helpful and hurtful to human personality, i.e., his or her own and that of all others. In cases of personal doubt or external challenge, the individual must submit to probing questions by, but not the control of, elders and the church. In the final analysis there can be no coercion on conscience or understanding per the authority of any external source, be that the church, the scriptures or the pastors.
The current debate on same-sex marriage must therefore be conducted in the same way. The immediate implication is that what is good for the goose (heterosexual marriage) is good for the gander (homosexual marriage), and so it is incumbent upon those opposed to the gander to show convincingly that same-sex marriage is a violation of the Golden Rule. Nothing else can be acceptable to the one consciously intending to be led by the Holy Spirit.
It is time for the reformation to be completed or given up. We must either return to the fold of Rome, or we must go forward in the possession and strength of the Holy Spirit. There is no middle way.
Yours in Christ,