Living Faithfully: Human Sexuality and The United Methodist Church

Faultlines is a collection of resources intended to inform conversations around human sexuality within the United Methodist Church as the denomination prepares for the 2019 General Conference. The collection represents diverse perspectives and attempts to fill knowledge gaps around the debate, biblical foundations, theological arguments and the impact on The United Methodist Church  and her people. Visit for more information. The following is an adapted excerpt from the Introduction of Living Faithfully: Human Sexuality and The United Methodist Church.

You and your small group may wish to study the ongoing debate about sexuality in The United Methodist Church for a number of reasons. You may simply want to know more about what The United Methodist Church teaches about homosexuality, same-gender marriage, and the ordination of LGBTQ persons. You may have heard about recent events in the life of The United Methodist Church concerning these teachings, and you want to know more about what they mean for the denomination and your local church. You might be angered by the church’s teachings or supportive of them; you may believe them to be unjust and unloving, or you may believe they are true to the way of life Christians are called to live. Or you may be conflicted, uncertain what it means to live faithfully in these circumstances.

Wherever you find yourself, Living Faithfully: Human Sexuality and The United Methodist Church is meant to help you understand and grapple with what The United Methodist Church teaches about homosexuality, same-gender marriage, and ordination of LGBTQ persons. It’s meant to help you have honest, well-informed, and grace-filled conversations with others about these teachings and the various calls for change within the denomination. And it’s meant to help you discern, in prayer and conversation, how you can respond faithfully in love of God and love of neighbor.

This four-session study is organized around four questions designed to invite consideration and debate within small groups. They are formulated based on what the UMC Book of Discipline currently teaches about homosexuality: 1) Is the practice of homosexuality incompatible with Christian teaching? 2) Is same-gender marriage compatible with Christian teaching? 3) Is ordaining practicing homosexuals compatible with Christian teaching? 4) Where are we now? Each of the four chapters includes background on the Bible, Christian theology, history, and United Methodist structure and practice to guide thinking and conversation on each of the central questions. A Leader Guide is included in the book to facilitate small-group discussion based on each of the four chapters.

The first chapter describes the official United Methodist Church teaching on homosexuality and practice, as well as current prohibitions related to same-gender marriage and the ordination of practicing homosexuals. It explores the biblical and theological reasons for this teaching, as well as biblical and theological reasons behind calls for full inclusion of LGBTQ persons in The United Methodist Church.

The second chapter discusses the nature of Christian marriage as taught in existing church law by The United Methodist Church. It explores the rationale that results in prohibiting clergy from officiating or blessing same-gender marriages, and congregations from allowing such marriages to be performed in their churches. It also describes the outlook of those who call for a change in church teaching and practice regarding same-gender marriage. And it gives an overview of why and how people are resisting church law, along with a discussion of the various results of these actions.

The third chapter explores the nature of ordination in The United Methodist Church, including the reasons for the Book of Discipline’s language against ordaining self-avowed practicing homosexuals within that context. It provides an overview of how LGBTQ clergy members and ordination candidates are affected by this language. And it describes the calls for a change in church teaching and practice, and how and why Boards of Ordained Ministry in various annual conferences are resisting this teaching.

The fourth chapter discusses recent events in the life of The United Methodist Church related to homosexuality, same-gender marriage, and ordination of LGBTQ persons, as well as the aspects of our denominational structure and policies that set these events in perspective. It explores how these events reflect larger questions of how to live faithfully and accountably as individuals and a community in the twenty-first century, and shows how The United Methodist Church is struggling with these questions through views about homosexuality and sexual ethics.

Each chapter of the book also includes brief reflections from individuals who represent distinct perspectives within the church’s debate about homosexuality, same-gender marriage, and ordination of LGBTQ persons. Several of these are from LGBTQ persons or their loved ones, who are affected directly by The United Methodist Church’s teachings and practices and long to be fully included in the church’s life. Others are from those who support current church teachings. Though it’s impossible to include every perspective or lived reality, every effort has been made to represent a diverse range of voices. It’s important to remember that these are not merely issues or events to be discussed, but people who are earnestly striving to live faithfully as United Methodists and as disciples of Jesus Christ.

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